Posts Tagged ‘random’

2012 24 Jun

Open Thread, San Francisco Edition (incl. upcoming reading at Good Vibrations!)

I’m in San Francisco! I’ve had a weird couple weeks, and I’m also — as always — distracted by this glorious puzzle-box of a city, so I don’t have much to say. I’ll just tell you that I’m reading from The S&M Feminist at the Polk location of classic feminist sex toy store Good Vibrations on July 5th. Come see me and buy my books! (I’ll have copies of Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser there, too.)

Also, general notice to commenters: I’m going to be at a music/art festival here in California starting Thursday the 28th, and through the night of Monday the 2nd. Internet access might be iffy or nonexistent up there, and I apologize in advance for slow comment moderation.

Oh San Francisco. The story I always tell about this hallucination city took place years ago, when I dragged a close friend out to walk along the cliffside. “It’ll be foggy and cold,” he said, and I said “No it won’t!” and then it was foggy. He didn’t say “I told you so,” because he’s a good friend. He also consented to walk with me through the fog for a while, anyway. It was still beautiful.

Eventually we came to a restaurant. “Come on,” he said, “it’s cold, let’s go get a drink.”

“Noo, I want to follow this tiny dirt path I just found,” I said. “Just for a moment? Please?”

He shook his head, but went with me, and then two minutes later the fog suddenly opened upon extraordinary ruins.

(photo credit to Patton at this blog)

The Sutro Baths. In how many major American cities will you suddenly find ruins while wandering around?

And where else could you turn around after descending a staircase, and realize that the grey-from-above stairs look like this from below?

(a staircase near Grand View Park, with a slice of mosaic set under the lip of each stair; photo credit to a blog about filming locations)

I love this place. The city calls you to take that extra moment for chasing down a tiny path. It also calls you to keep your perspective open to radical rearrangements of what’s behind you. The moral of the story is obvious.

Also, open thread! If you have something random to say, feel free to say it in comments. Or don’t.

2012 14 May

[food justice] Confections of a Pickup Artist Chaser

There are delicious recipes at the end! Read this post for the recipes!

As a vegan, I eat amazingly delicious chocolate chip cookies constantly. Photo credit: photographer Timothy Boomer, agency

I feel hyper-aware that this post may alienate some readers, because it’s not about sex or gender, and in fact it is a post about being vegan, i.e. not eating animal products. Lot of folks are touchy about that. So, I want to do some pre-emptive damage control: I want to clarify up front that I have no interest in calling anyone an asshole. If you’re not vegan, then I want to try and change your mind … but I don’t think you’re an Incontrovertibly Bad Person, and I hope we can still be friends.

And, look, I’m not gonna pretend I’m perfect. I screw up all the time, on all kinds of social justice issues, and I’ll be learning for the rest of my life.

For me, the hardest thing about being vegan has nothing to do with the food, although I think many foods made from animal products are delicious, and occasionally I have trouble resisting them. For me, the hard part is all about social situations. If I’m at a social event where non-vegan food is served and there are no other vegans, sometimes I just eat it — especially if it will Become A Big Social Problem if I don’t eat it. I also sometimes eat non-vegan food that’s been rescued from the trash (some of us call this “freegan”). And occasionally, when I’m spending a lot of time with someone who’s non-vegan, then I’ll sometimes break veganism in front of them in order to reassure them that I’m not judging them. I have vegan friends who consider this an unacceptable level of accommodation; sorry folks.

I am aware that stigmatizing, judging, and attacking non-vegans is one tactic for convincing them to go vegan. Personally, I find it stressful and frequently counterproductive. I’d rather set an example and be welcoming. (Yet I acknowledge that it’s possible I wouldn’t be able to do this effectively if aggressive vegans did not exist. Aggressive vegans help create the space where I get to look “reasonable” and “welcoming.” The blogger Kinsey Hope once wrote a really brilliant activist typology that describes these dynamics. And of course, it’s worth noting that I’m often characterized as an appeaser by feminists, too.)

So. That said? If you think you’re going to Get Upset Or Offended by this post, please just don’t read it. Seriously. But if you’re willing to not freak out for a moment, then here are my two primary arguments for why you should go vegan:

1. It’s easy. Yes, there will be some shitty social situations: awkward moments at restaurants, pushback from your non-vegan friends, and so on. Yes, you will have to avoid some very delicious foods. And food labels will become a whole new world of confusion. But even with all these factors, veganism really isn’t as hard as people make it out to be.

There’s a lot of delicious vegan food out there. A number of my favorite foods were vegan before I went vegan, and some of yours probably are as well. (Recipes coming up!) Here is a free vegan starter guide that includes recipes. Here is a very comprehensive list of vegan cookbooks; they range from “easy” to “incredibly complicated Martha-Stewart-land.” I am a fiend for baked goods, and I like Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. And there’s an increasing number of high-quality all-vegan restaurants. My favorite ones in Chicago are Native Foods (delicious cardamom rose cupcakes!) and Urban Vegan (delicious fake orange chicken!).

I won’t get involved in appeals-to-healthitude, because I know both healthy vegans and unhealthy vegans, and the science is inconclusive … but I will point that out again: the science is inconclusive. Unless you have an unusual disorder, modern nutrition has identified no conclusive scientific reasons for not being vegan. Plus: If you aren’t vegan, but you don’t pay any attention to eating healthy food, then you’re being a hypocrite if you make a “health argument” for being non-vegan even if the science was conclusive, which it’s not. And! If you’re really into health, there’s a highly-recommended book called Thrive written by a vegan professional athlete named Brendan Brazier.

(Full disclosure: the above Amazon book links contain my referral code, so you’re kicking me a tiny commission if you buy through one of those links. If you don’t want to do that, then search for the books on your own.)

Some of my friends specifically do things like convince people to try veganism for short periods, or run Vegan Weeks at universities or whatever, just to show how (a) delicious and (b) easy vegan food can be. It works surprisingly well. A key ingredient in my own adoption of veganism was knowing vegans, and seeing how simple it was to be vegan. I used to push back really strongly … I think I resisted mostly because it was very hard to acknowledge that by eating animal products, I was participating in an incredibly fucked up system. First I had to recognize that I was doing something really bad, that I had been doing so for my entire life, and that most people I love do it too. This is a familiar problem for activists, of course; most people resist acknowledging that they participate in a racist, sexist culture, too. (As one of my vegan friends puts it: “I’ve found that people usually go through the strongest asshole anti-vegan phase right before they convert to veganism.”)

Of all the social-justice acts out there, I actually think veganism is one of the lowest-hanging fruit. It’s just so easy that the only reason non-vegan culture can possibly persist is through a really high degree of not giving a shit. In a way, that’s understandable; I don’t have much of a connection to animals myself. A lot of my vegan friends love animals and want to be around them all the time; I don’t. If a smelly dog never jumps on me again, it will be too soon. But the fact is, animals have senses and feelings. Interacting with any animal for longer than thirty seconds can conclusively show you that animals like and dislike things, and that they feel something that looks exactly like pain. Which brings me to ….

2. If you care about consent, then veganism is transparently the right thing to do. There are environmental arguments and stuff, but I mean, seriously, let’s call a spade a spade: when you eat meat, you’re eating the murdered body of an animal who died for no reason other than your transient pleasure. As for animal products: many things that happen to animals on factory farms are abominable and obscene, as two minutes of Googling or this website or this video can show you.

Even if you decide to eat animal products that come only from well-treated animals, there’s no way to be sure that those animals were actually well-treated unless you’re raising them yourself. As this vegan FAQ points out, there’s an amazing amount of animal suffering that still occurs on “humane” farms. Some of those farms are doubtless fairly pleasant for the animals, but others …. Well, let’s just say that calling some “humane” farms more merciful than factory farms is like saying that being burned alive is preferable to dying in a medieval torture device. Here’s just one article on the topic, from Salon.

Personally, when I went vegan, a lot of the reason it felt easy was because I no longer had to spend tons of mental energy suppressing my empathy. I was amazed at how relieved I felt. Again, I’m not pretending to be perfect about it — I eat non-vegan food sometimes in social situations, sometimes when it’s about to be thrown away, and sometimes just when I’m drunk. If you need to make accommodations in order to feel comfortable being vegan, then I’m the last person who will criticize you. I’ll just be glad you’re taking steps towards being vegan.

It took me a long time to decide to go vegan, and I understand that it might take you a long time, too. I’ve listed a lot of resources in this post and I hope you’ll consider looking at them. Questions are welcome in the comments, although I may not be able to answer them. I wish you luck. And if you’re already vegan, then congratulations and high-5!

* * *

Now for recipes!


2012 26 Mar

Help Me Choose Past Blog Entries For My Upcoming “Best Of”

Aaaaaall riiiiiiight. I’ve been doing basically nothing but boring formatting work and promotion for Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser for weeks now … (By the way, it’s now available in every possible e-format over on Smashwords, and I’m working on formatting paper copies now.)

Next, I want to release a “Best Of” my blog so far — both as a nicely-formatted ebook, and a paper book.

I’m curious to know what you, my readers, think is the “best of” my blog. Or, alternatively: are there any posts that you think were good, but never got the attention that they deserved? Please do comment and let me know! If you’ve been reading for a while and aren’t sure you can remember it all, you might try glancing at my extensive Greatest Hits page. Thanks in advance.

Also, this:

The above image was created by Luke Surl. It depicts a page from one of those classic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books: “As you journey along the path you meet an old man. He tells you that modern neuroscience has proved that all our actions and decisions are merely the machinations of a predetermined universe and that our concept of ‘free will’ is naught but a comforting illusion. If you agree with his hypothesis, turn to page 72. If you disagree, turn to page 72.”

2012 18 Feb

[storytime] The Tale of My Broken Neck

Neck-breaking! It happens. It happened to me, and people keep asking for the details, so here’s the Definitive Story of Clarisse’s Broken Neck.

The Accident

I’ve always been terrified of both biking and driving; I never wanted to learn either skill. One could blame this on the fact that I was in a car accident at a very young age. Or on the fact that I tend to live in my head a lot and I’m not great at staying 100% aware of (or interested in) the physical world around me. Or on the various nightmares about biking and driving that I had as a kid. I kept dreaming that I was in charge of a vehicle that went out of control.

I ultimately learned to drive when I was 21 for work reasons, and also because — while I try to make sure that my risks are very careful and well-considered — I also try not to indulge myself when I’m scared of things. Age 26 was when one of my friends finally managed to teach me to ride a bike. Many had tried before, but I just couldn’t get it until age 26. I gritted my teeth, I learned, and I practiced.

And then, in August 2011, age 27, I fractured my spine in a stupid accident. Maybe the fear itself was what screwed me up. Or maybe my fears were extremely rational; maybe I sensed something about myself and my balance and my own physical awareness that other people couldn’t see, and maybe I should have listened to myself …. Oh well.

Basically, I slammed headfirst into a lamppost late one evening. This would have been much more hilarious if it hadn’t almost killed me.

The accident happened while I was practicing on Chicago’s lakefront path. Other than the broken neck, I was almost completely unharmed. I was wearing a helmet, which is presumably why I survived. I didn’t even know my neck was broken at first. I hit the lamppost, fell back off my bike, landed on my knees, and realized that my neck hurt a lot.

I remember being relieved that my glasses weren’t broken.

I lay down on the path and caught my breath. The pain in my neck didn’t register so much, as long as I lay straight. Then I thought: I’m not in a safe area of the city. I should get home. So I stood up — fuck, my neck hurts — I stood up, took a few deep breaths to power through the pain, and picked up my bike, which was unusable. I decided that I ought to go home and sleep; I figured I’d feel better in the morning.

After walking maybe a hundred feet, I knew something was wrong, like seriously wrong. My body felt dulled and my movements felt uncertain. I ruffled through my thoughts and decided that although I felt like I could remember everything important, something was fuzzy. Maybe I have a concussion, I thought. So I called one of my flatmates and asked him to come get me. When he found me, I was throwing up into a garbage can, and he insisted that we go to the hospital.

I vomited four more times while the hospital kept me in the waiting room; I also started shivering and crying uncontrollably. After maybe an hour, they took me back into the Intensive Care Unit and laid me down on a table, where some doctors gave me morphine and informed me that I’d fractured my spine. I was told to lie very, very still and to quit doing things like standing up and walking to the bathroom. Some doctors were very reassuring, but others were like: “Um yeah, we don’t really know the extent of the damage and you could still accidentally sever your spinal cord, so just lie still, would you?”

That was when I got really scared, and started composing messages for people I loved in case of my untimely death.

I thought about calling my parents, but I knew they’d freak out way more than I was freaking out, and I didn’t want to upset them until I had some kind of solution to the situation. And I updated Twitter, which is ridiculous, but I guess that’s what bloggers do when we break our necks, especially if we only have a text-capable phone rather than a smartphone.

I lay on that table for many hours, until well past dawn.

The Choice

I had texted my in-case-of-death messages to my best girlfriend, which was sort of a mean thing for me to do, I guess, but I wasn’t sure how else to go about it. Obviously, as soon as she woke up the next morning, she got the messages and freaked out. She was out of town, but she sent her husband to keep me company. As the news got around, other friends of mine came to visit or called or texted. Some of them brought me vegan food, or actually stayed with me in my hospital room on cots, or argued with health care professionals who didn’t seem to be listening to me. The guy I’d broken up with several days before came and fed me smoothies all weekend, which was incredibly nice of him.


2012 19 Jan

I’m in the hospital! Comment mod will be slow.

When this is posted, I will be in the hospital recovering from more stuff around that broken neck thing. I might update Twitter at some point, but don’t bet on it. Comment moderation and answering comments will be slow. Don’t hate me.

UPDATE: I am out of the hospital and everything went fine! But comment mod will still be slow because I have no inclination to do anything but take Vicodin and sleep for many days.

In the meantime, I encourage you to enjoy this Twitter screencap, which brought me close to tears of mildly-bitter and ironic laughter:

(Image description: (more…)

2011 13 Jul

[random] Lost And Found Man

This piece has basically nothing to do with sex and gender. I originally wrote it a while back, pondered trying to get it published, made some desultory attempts at doing so, failed, and then forgot about it for a while. I still like it, though, and I’ve got no idea what else to do with it, so here it is. Maybe I should set aside one post each month for Random Non-Sex, Non-Feminism, Non-Gender Tangents.

* * *

My friend Ryo Chijiiwa turned down an offer from Facebook to work at Yahoo, and later moved to Google. Then, in 2009, he bought an isolated plot of land in the northern California woods — 6 hours by car from San Francisco — and built his own small house. His property, which he calls Serenity Valley, is positively covered with gorgeous trees and attractive outlooks onto the mountains. The nearest Internet access is in a town half an hour away, where Ryo occasionally goes for supplies.

Ryo has shoulder-length hair and wide dark eyes, and he wears no-nonsense clothes full of pockets. I first met him in August 2010 at the San Francisco meetup known as Burning Man, but I already knew him by reputation. Our mutual friends spoke admiringly of his intelligence and — unusually — frugality: his apartments had always been Spartan, and he built his own bedframe, even when he was receiving an excellent salary as a software engineer. (Ryo later insisted he’s not actually that frugal: “It’s just that I spent all my money on easy-to-miss things, like travel and guns.”)

Burning Man, in all its chaotic artistic glory, was my reintegration into America. I’d just returned from working in rural southern Africa, and I was a bundle of confused emotions. [1] I loved the brilliant lights, libertine community, and sheer creative energy of Burning Man — but sometimes it was a bit much to deal with. Sometimes I wanted someplace more peaceful and less self-consciously hedonistic. If I hadn’t been drawn in by Ryo’s good-natured intelligence, then the minute he spoke about living quietly in the woods I would have been hooked. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I thought he was cute.

* * *

I’m still not sure how I convinced Ryo to take me to Serenity Valley, but here we are, driving out. Rather, he’s doing most of the driving, and I’m asking questions about his childhood across three countries. Ryo was born in 1980, and his family moved from America to Japan when he was 7. When he was 10, they went to Germany, and there he stayed until age 18. The family always spoke Japanese at home.


2011 2 Jun

Open thread: Everyone Post Something Awesome

The above image is by Cody Vrosh, who I met at some street art fair in San Francisco. I love it to pieces and I’m grateful to him for allowing me to post it to my blog. It depicts a caged, winged young man who is accepting a letter from an un-caged girl; beneath the cage is an explosive trigger labeled with a broken heart.

Readers, I never write posts like this, because I know you rely upon me to deliver only the finest in sex and gender theory and/or personal experience. However, lately I have been stressed. Rape exists and makes me sad. Consensual sex is widely stigmatized and that makes me sad. Researching pickup artists has possibly made me unable to ever trust or love a man again, ever. (Just kidding. Kind of.) Clarisse is a sad panda.

Also I am sort of curious about who my readers are when they aren’t commenting about sex and gender!

So, I give you a thread unlike any previous thread. I give you … an open thread on ANYTHING OTHER THAN SEX AND GENDER.

Here are the rules: your comment can be

(a) a joke that you’re sure won’t piss anyone off (yes, I know this may mean that no jokes are told)

(b) an entertaining anecdote from your personal life, which has nothing to do with sex or gender

(c) a link to something fascinating or hilarious. Links may be relevant to sex and gender, if you must, but you are not allowed to post any sex/gender commentary of your own in this thread. On pain of death.

Some links to start us off:

* Myths Over Miami — a brilliant old article about urban legends among street kids in Miami, Florida. Snip: On Christmas night a year ago, God fled Heaven to escape an audacious demon attack — a celestial Tet Offensive. The demons smashed to dust his palace of beautiful blue-moon marble. TV news kept it secret, but homeless children in shelters across the country report being awakened from troubled sleep and alerted by dead relatives. No one knows why God has never reappeared, leaving his stunned angels to defend his earthly estate against assaults from Hell. “Demons found doors to our world,” adds eight-year-old Miguel, who sits before Andre with the other children at the Salvation Army shelter. The demons’ gateways from Hell include abandoned refrigerators, mirrors, Ghost Town (the nickname shelter children have for a cemetery somewhere in Dade County), and Jeep Cherokees with “black windows.” The demons are nourished by dark human emotions: jealousy, hate, fear.

* Last weekend at a feminist speculative fiction convention I met Rachel Swirsky — who was incredibly kind and friendly, who happens to be a feminist blogger writing over at Alas, A Blog under the name Mandolin, and who just won the Nebula Award. The Nebula is one of the most prestigious awards in speculative fiction! Here’s the award-winning novella.

* I’m not the biggest fan of the Chicago bean sculpture, but I recently found these pictures, and they are awesome. Lovers of city skylines take note.

UPDATE: A family member called me because he was so concerned! Do I seem that sad? Everything is okay, really, I just needed a small boost.