Starry Disaster

March 4th

we are ordered chaos in

a broken cosmos: i dream of

starry disasters, meteorite

collisions 

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100 Books Reading Challenge

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Started a reading challenge project mid-spring. The goal: read 100 books by summer in a year. I’m inching along, albeit at a slower pace than I’d like. Figured posting the list on my blog would hold me accountable–also, I get to share cool books!

So here’s a list of books I’ve reading; I plan to update every 10 books or so. If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them! 🙂

  1. One! Hundred! Demons!, Lynda Barry
  2. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  4. Here, Richard McGuire
  5. Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks
  6. Burned, Ellen Hopkins
  7. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy Kaling
  8. Walking Dead 1, Robert Kirkman
  9. Walking Dead 2, Robert Kirkman
  10. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelous
  11. Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
  12. Partner Track, Helen Wan
  13. Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen
  14. Kafka, R. Crumb
  15. Project Jennifer, Jill Rosenblatt
  16. Dignity, Donna Hicks
  17. Can We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Roz Chast
  18. Ginny Moon, Benjamin Ludwig
  19. Autobiography of Barefoot Gen, Nakazawa Keji
  20. Meow Meow, Jose Fonollosa
  21. Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann
  22. Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
  23. The Skin Above My Knees, Marcia Butler
  24. Essential Poems (To Fall in Love With), Daisy Goodwin
  25. Sailing Alone Around the Room, Billy Collins
  26. Future Tense, Paintings by Alex Gross
  27. Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  28. Thirst, Poems by Mary Oliver
  29. Global Street Art, Lee Boffkin
  30. Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami
  31. Vintage Cisneros, Sandra Cisneros 
  32. Have You Seen Marie, Sandra Cisneros
  33. Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros
  34. The Quiet Eye: A Way of Looking at Pictures, Sylvia Judson
  35. Blue Nights, Joan Didion 
  36. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  37. This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
  38. The Embassy of Cambodia, Zadie Smith

(Updated Sept 18, 2017)

A Letter “On Kindness”

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Do you remember the time you were at Chipotle and you saw the lady with four children in tow and after ordering the food, four bowls total, she realized she didn’t have any money? And so you paid it for her?

And that was your kindness.

Obviously kindness, clearly kindness, without-a-doubt-kindness. As I read the poem by Aracelis Girmay titled “On Kindness”, I wondered about subtle forms of it, like when it isn’t just a hug or a peck or buying someone’s burrito bowls, but is, instead, your telling a wailing women you love her because she is yelling I want to kill myself I want to kill myself.

That love—that’s kindness too.

There are other forms of it that Aracelis Girmay writes about in her poem. The mail lady who says “hi baby” to you, and to the girl beside you, and to her cousin, and to her cousin’s best friend. The window that filters in light on a heady Sunday morning, reminding you have made it another day you’re alive you’re alive. The dog that comes panting up to you, looking overjoyed to see you, you, you—and that is kindness, too.

Art, Shells and Inner Worlds

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Even though I see drawing and photography as, well, mostly solitary pursuits, ironically they act as ways I can connect with others. Or–if connecting’s too strong a word–at least sparking conversations with strangers. On airplanes, in libraries, in coffeeshops, on piers, etc. Sometimes we’ll talk briefly for two minutes–oh, what’re you drawing? or, I take photographs, too–and other times, for several hours.

For a while I worked on a photography project called the 100 Strangers Project. I’d talk to strangers (something I often do anyways), photograph them, then write about their stories on my blog. I guess it was a way of recording the conversations I’d had with so many different people, people whose paths I’d likely never cross again. These conversations were sprinkled across cities, across the country. Usually we’d bond over something small, or something that we shared in common (or maybe we didn’t). The person was an avid traveler and had visited my home country; they liked video games, too, and recommended one I’d play years later; we shared the same taste in weird TV shows, and their favorite was one that’d soon become my own. And like the quote that “everyone you meet has something to teach you”, I’d always learn something new about the person.

I stopped working on the project a few months ago–I’m notoriously bad at finishing what I start. Writing the descriptions also felt–what’s the word?–contrived, and I felt self-conscious, and so I’d have all these portraits and stories but I’d be too afraid to write them down. I still talk to strangers; I don’t take as many pictures, but I remember the few strangers I wrote about quite vividly. I remember their faces, the spaces where we met, the point in our conversation where you could tell they felt passionately about xyz. And that’s what I’d write about. Some of them emailed me afterwards, or vice versa, to say hi or follow up, to send links or snippets from their book.

A poet whose name I forgot wrote about how, without our inner worlds, we are merely shells. And we all have inner worlds. Sometimes we just get so wrapped up in our own that we forget, or simply don’t engage with, those of others–particularly strangers. We do it all the time. Talking with them and hearing their stories reminds me to peer outside my turtlish shell from time to time.

Facebook: A Rant, A Wasteland

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Facebook is trash. It’s evolved from being a wasteland of mundane updates to a wasteland of bad memes. At this rate, as I scroll past loads of digital trash that’s racked up millions of trash views, I’d rather see the shiny curated-lives feed people once spoke of. “Facebook”, people once said, “is not real. Because everybody is so fakely happy on there, and their lives are so fakely joyous.” But now all I see are memes. I’d rather see perfect lives instead.

Ironically, Facebook used to be a place where people wrote about the most personal, real-life, trivial things. “I made a sandwich,” one status might read. “Here are my toenails; I’ve clipped them for the first time in ages.” Above the caption, an off-focus photo of said toenails. Then an uncomfortably personal rant about a fight someone just had with their significant other: “I’ve had it with you, Derek! It’s! Over!” And then: “Derek and I have made things up. He says he will no longer trim his toenails at the dinner table.” Update after update: it was life at its finest, its dullest, its weirdest, its realest.

Five years later, Facebook would evolve to become a platform of privacy-munching absolute-fakery, where people were perfect to an unholy degree and Facebook gobbled all our data. People were perpetually smiling, at the beach, soaking up the rays of a beauteous life. While we masked our sadness with deliriously bright posts, Facebook kept tabs on us. On the sites we visited, even when we were logged off, on the ads we’d clicked, feeding our info to its delicious creep-algorithm. This, in turn, fed us loads of intrusive ads. Still does. Ever looked up furry boots on Amazon only to find an ad for furry boots on your Facebook feed two seconds later? There you have it: glorious ubiquitous digital tracking.

But Facebook, for all this feather-fluffing you spew about your great algorithms and snoopy tracking, could you not offer a slightly better feed? One that isn’t littered with unrelated posts? All I see, as I scroll down, are trashy memes, videos, images, captions, and statuses from people I haven’t spoken to in years. I know why–it’s because the feed caters to popular posts. And popular posts are usually ones that elicit gut-reactions, like laughter, or shock, or sheer anger. It’s primal. The wilder, the weirder, the more controversial, the better. Doesn’t matter whether it’s quality or not. And, well, I’m not even going to get into this one, but that fueled fake news like no other.

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As if the platform wasn’t already objectively shitty, everything has to revolve around it. A Spotify playlist, Pinterest boards, group chats, business pages, Instagram–all of it’s roped into the monster platform. It’s abhorrent, the system, synonymous with loathsome, repugnant; in other words, gross, dude. It’s also, weirdly enough, a social thing. Do you know how much shit I’ve gotten over the years for trying to get off the site? You don’t, so I’ll tell you: a lot of shit. And it ranged from the benign, “where’d you go? I want to tag you in a picture!” to the snarkier “oh, I know you’re off, you’re always off, aren’t you? You’re so weird.” In a way, not being on Facebook became–and this is going to sound dramatic, but I swear, sometimes it was the first thing people said to me in ages–part of my identity. And I’m not sure why, but it really upset some people that they couldn’t just look me up to see what I was doing.

The best part of all this is that, despite loathing the site, I’ll probably find myself back on it sooner or later. It houses my photography platform. It’s where I can most easily reach my friends. It’s where you’re supposed to be–employers will think you’re a psychopath for not having a Facebook. Also, it’s stalker central! And if you don’t live under a rock, then stalking has to be a part of your everyday routine. Again, it’s all utterly absurd to me, how normalized privacy-invasion is, how horrendously trashy our feeds are, how it’s a social must. See, I don’t mind social media–I like Instagram, maybe more than I should, and I’m on Snapchat several times a day. I very specifically detest Facebook, though I seldom talk about it lest people get defensive over it. Also, I know many a person who either works at, or has worked for, Facebook. So here I am, writing about it on the Internet instead.

Hopefully, I can stay off for just a wee bit longer. Realistically, though, I’ll likely be on in a matter of weeks (or, if I’m lucky, months). In the meantime, I will dislike it intensely.