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Saturday, February 03, 2001
"Marc!" he shouted as he waved his hands at me. I was at the front of the [Blue Corn Cafe] with Joe waiting for friends when this guy called out to me. Sort of. I was confused at first because I am not Marc (or Mark, or Marq, or Marrc...). But the guy thought I was someone else, yet me (ah, Bertrand Russell would have a field day with this case of referential mis-naming). See, this guy went to high school with me in California. There was a classmate of ours named Marc which was probably why he called me that name, although we looked nothing a like. We haven't seen each other since... oh, 1996 or so. But we knew we were both in the area (he has been here since he came to [Duke] for a B.S. and M.S.). I called him when I moved down here almost a year ago, but we never got together. Obviously we were close friends.

In any case, I didn't know quite what to do. He had called me the wrong name. So I didn't go over to talk to him. Instead, later when we were leaving the restaurant, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "See ya later," although the likelihood of either of us contacting each other is close to zilch.

. . .

After dinner I went with this group of people to a [Hoof 'n' Horn] presentation of The Who's Tommy, the concert version. It was a fun diversion. I'd never heard or seen Tommy before. Not sure I quite caught on to everything that happened. It was difficult to hear the words of the songs most of the time.

Friday, February 02, 2001
My old roommate in Brooklyn now works at the [Center for Economic and Social Rights]. "As one of the first organizations to challenge economic injustice as a violation of international human rights law, CESR believes that economic and social rights -- legally binding on all nations -- can provide a universally accepted framework for strengthening social justice activism."
Questions and issues I am trying to come to terms with now: [Pathetic fallacy], cause-and-effect narratives, and more generally narratives that insist that things, people, events mean something are satisfying. They provide cohesive wholes, ways of ordering the universe and happenings into sensible progressions. But the world is not nearly so orderly. There are always different narratives, partial explanations, contingencies. My knowledge of perspectives, ideologies, etc., must necessarily always be incomplete. But how then, do I make sense of things?

Fragmentation, dehumanization, extolling of material wealth as spiritual/mental well-being. What is it that we want out of life? Again, perhaps there is no unifying answer or even a set of reasons-for-living. I can see how some pursuits, like single-minded seeking of high-paying jobs, can really leave out other aspects many people find central to life: human connection, care for the environment, etc. But what is the answer to people who seek certain things at the expense of others? What is the basis for our consideration of various goals as admirable, others as materialistic, others as shallow? Spirituality is often the answer, but that is so ambiguous, undefined. Where are we going as a people? Where do I want to go as a human, as a person, as me in this world?

I suspect it is time for me to return to my paper from last month in which I tried to figure out some of these issues by way of Lawrence Chua's Gold by the Inch. His novel is very bleak, but I think it asks this very question, what do we do, what do we turn to, in the face of global capitalism's dehumanization of people for profit? And I guess I'm not alone in wondering, what do we do with our criticism? What do we do with exposing inhumanity? "Enlightenment" as the solution no longer seems valid or effective since these ideas about how capital, racism, etc. work to destroy people are out there, circulating. In short, what are some things we can do to make progress in creating a [better world]? And not just in a public arena, but also in a private, individual one?

Consistency is the work of fools.
I can't help it. When someone asks me, "How are you?" it forces my mind to take stock of my situation. There is always at least a little beat before I realize (and only recently) that I should say, "I'm fine. How are you?"

You see, I have a hard time with this particular social convention. And I think it's completely pointless. A simple "Hi Duck" would do just fine to greet me. Especially in passing, it's much easier to exchange hellos than hello-how-are-you-i'm-fine-how-are-you-i'm-fine-that's-goods. And if I want to say something in particular or really want to know how someone is doing, then I will ask. BUT ASKING necessitates a conversation, stopping, taking the time to talk. And often that's just not what people want. Example: yesterday, I open the door of the stairwell and encounter a woman I had a class with last semester. We smile and exchange pleasantries. But it becomes clear as she continues through the doorway and down the stairs, that she didn't really mean to ask me how I was doing or cared enough to stop for a chat.

So I've decided I'm forgoing trying to accustom myself to this particular convention. If people ask me how I am in greeting, I will still try to answer fine-how-are-you (and learn not to take these greetings as indications of more substantive conversations to come), but I will no longer try to get myself to greet in that way. All you'll get from me is a simple hi, hello, hey. And a smile, of course.

All of this coming from ideas that are floating around my mind about friendships, contacting friends, etc. It's coincidental that my good friend just wrote me about these very concerns. What pushes a friendship? What forms, molds, reinforces, bonds? Why do I feel often that I have to take most of the initiatives in getting together with friends? Why doesn't my phone ever ring?

Thursday, February 01, 2001
Post-teen angst. Sometimes everything just sucks. The world is bleak. There is nothing good, nothing to look forward to. Keep everyone away. Socializing is just unthinkable.

I just want to be a lump in bed. Sleep will make it go away.

Just skimmed through Christopher Hill's A Nation of Change and Novelty: Radical Politics, Religion and Literature in Seventeenth-Century England. As a historian, Hill is strongly supportive of the study of literature and culture in the writing of historical narratives. I like his insistence that history is not about describing what happened (static events), but about explaining how things happen as a result of constant tension and debate between the peoples of the region under study. As a literature person, I am particularly happy that Hill gives literature an important countervailing role in the elucidation of historical narratives.
Wednesday, January 31, 2001
On the bus this afternoon there were a few law students talking about grades. It sounds like the law school here is very competitive. The students seem to place a lot of importance on their rankings and the GPAs. Makes me glad that I didn't decide to matriculate there. Also disconcerting was a comment one of these students made about how students with 4.0 GPAs seem to go into public interest law. The way he put it, such career choices were a waste of intelligent lawyers' time. I'm glad to hear that those students who excel in learning the ropes of the law do intend to work in the public interest sector. (From what I remember of the application process and available funding, though, I have a feeling many of these students probably had public interest scholarships that require them to go into public interest law for the first few years of their career in order to receive the full scholarship help.)
[Sleek.] My friend who is a web designer has put up his personal web site.
I often wonder how experience influences / precedes the work of social and political change, especially when I hear people claim a privileged, revolutionary status to identities and experiences that are "more" oppressed. Poor people are inherently suspicious of the economic structures of exploitative capitalism. Gay people want to overturn heterosexist ideology. Women want to dissolve patriarchy and gender-binarism as hierarchy. But while these experience positions certainly have a lot to do with some people's development of radical politics, they cannot alone (necessarily and sufficiently) determine those politics. They cannot account for why a man might be a feminist, a heterosexual person a queer activist, etc. And obversely, for example, there are plenty of gay "activists" -- often prominent gay men -- who seek to expand notions of patriarchal family structures rather than critiquing them and the effects (some good, perhaps, but much not) they have on women, men, and children. But what then, can we make of the development of particular political consciousness? I am far from even beginning to figure these things out for myself. But I was reminded today by a post over at [worsethanqueer] about these questions. Slander tackles some of these issues of experience, truth, and ideology. A couple of excerpts:

And though experience is (erroneously) seen as the valued mode of apprehension, as a reliable means of knowing, the experience of "being a girl" is never stable or singular, in meaning or lived reality (e.g., ask someone who is transgendered). Nor does the experience of being a girl or a tomboy or working-class or Asian American or any combination thereof, et cetera, guarantee a specific political position. (I feel certain I've said this about a million times elsewhere.) The meaning of any given "experience" is never inherent or fixed-- it must be articulated, it is itself based on representation. Or as Joan Scott writes, "Experience is at once always already an interpretation and is in need of interpretation....It is always contested, always therefore political."

. . .

And I'd like "experience" to be taken as another kind of evidence, the evidence not of "truth" but of the workings of ideology, maybe, the evidence of how the personal is profoundly political. (It's a subtle but powerful difference.) I want somehow that this might lead to a critical recognition of discursive architectures, I want them to remember that the political is constituted in social and cultural forms outside of their own experiences.

If I could only think and write like Slander...
Found a web site -- [Citizens for Legitimate Government] -- that allows you to choose various letters to have faxed to your representatives in Congress. The letters express concerns about the lack of Congressional concern for the voting debacle, ask representatives to block Ashcroft's appointment as attorney general, and explain what is at stake in letting Bush appoint members to the Supreme Court. There is a lot of information on the site as well, and makes political participation easier for those of us without fax machines and time to send off letters by post.
Tuesday, January 30, 2001
A few weeks ago, came across [crankygirls] via [slander]. It's the new on-line location of writing by one of my [heroes] of writing and criticism. Also wanted to note here (so I don't have to search a long time for them again) [exoticize my fist] and [QAPA resources].
Some people are so rude.

The first receptionist I talked to at Chapel Hill Dermatology wouldn't even give me the time of day. She was impatient with everything. I told her I needed to make an appointment. She asked with whom. I said I wasn't referred to any specific dermatologist. She insisted again that I tell her which doctor. I have no idea who these doctors are. I told her any doctor who can see me Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. She then proceeded to say Dr. So-and-so is available Wednesday the 7th at 2:45. Hello? When I told her, no, I cannot make it to a Wednesday afternoon appointment, she practically sighed in frustration. I told her again an appointment Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, please. She finally said, Thursday the 15th at 3:30 Dr. Someone could see me. I asked her if there were any times in the next week. After she threw some more Monday and Wednesday times at me, she said, I have another line, hold on. And then she put me on hold. Grrr.

But then almost immediately another woman picked up the line and asked if I needed any help. I explained to her that I had been talking to someone else, but we hadn't really gotten anywhere. This woman was much more helpful. I told her that I would like an appointment Tuesday or Thursday in the afternoon. She looked at the four doctors' schedules and found an appointment for me on the 8th. And then as I was giving her my information and everything, she was very patient and thorough. Friendly. I wanted to ask her name to thank her personally again later, but didn't.

This second woman sounded like an older woman. She was very laid back and her voice had that quality of experience. After she had gotten down all my information, she told me, oh Dr. King is a "lady." She said she always tried to remember to mention to the "gentlemen" making appointments if their doctor was a lady because some gentlemen have problems with lady doctors. That knowledge doesn't exactly make me feel any better about gender relations in the region. I actually feel more comfortable having a woman as my doctor unless I know a male doctor is gay. The doctor who saw me at UNC today, male, made me a little uncomfortable because I didn't know if it would be wise to reveal that I am gay. He asked me how I came to worry about the mole on my back, and I said, my partner noted that it seemed to be getting bigger. I hate having to conceal things like this. Fuck the mental constraints of heterosexism! If only I were confident enough to take on any problems that might arise from being more open. (So much for thinking I'm out of the closet.)

So the current diagnosis: the mole on my back is "atypical" and "suspicious," but probably doesn't mean anything seriously bad. The doctor at UNC Student Health recommended I have it removed in any case. Hence, the referral to Chapel Hill Dermatology. I was so nervous at my appointment today. It didn't help that there was a student (undergrad?) shadowing the doctor and inspecting me, too. I should have said that I wasn't comfortable with the second person, but it didn't occur to me until afterwards. When I'm nervous, I don't think.

After the morning rain, today has been sunny. I guess the stormy forecast was for last night. Haven't been exactly cheered by the brightness, though.

Fitting that it's rainy today and possibly stormy later.
Monday, January 29, 2001

Joe noted this weekend that a mole-like thing on my back seems to be getting bigger. Since then, it's been feeling strange, a bit sore, a bit numb. And I think the feeling / non-feeling is spreading around the left side of my back and arm. Am going to doctor tomorrow afternoon. I hope I can make it until then.

Cryptic? I'd gone to bed already last night when Joe came in to the room and said, "You know I read your journal, right?" Hmmm.... Did I say something naughty?

I don't think it was part of my slew of strange (often disturbing) dreams last night. I managed to combine being in a foreign country (somewhere in Europe where the language is not English), getting milkshakes, being with my sisters and brother, becoming a giant robot (animated/anime), killing without remorse, the Challenger disaster, and Cyclops from the X-Men in the evening's entertainment. I know that [yesterday] was the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Saw some television shows and news reports in commemoration of the lives lost in the explosion. For some reason, I remember watching it in class (third grade?). I don't know if we watched the take-off live or if we were watching a news report recounting of the event.

Sunday, January 28, 2001
I don't think I've really come across an article quite like Mr. Walsh's on the [recount debacle]. Very refreshing and I think important that someone (who claims to be a Republican) can think outside the question of who he wants to win the election to the issues at stake in the recount process and the obstacles thrown up by the Republican party. Ideologically his views might still be suspect -- his perception of democracy, for instance, as cure-all -- and based on principles that I find hard to agree with, but at least he is questioning the scare tactics and discriminatory thinking of his ex-party. I like this sentence, "Don't be fooled into thinking that because you share some common views with someone it is acceptable to overthrow democracy and install a despot in its place."
I've decided I've got to implement a daily drawing thing into my life like I've done with this daily writing / blogging thing. Maybe every morning I can get up a quarter of an hour earlier than I usually do so I can take out my sketchbook and make some doodles.
Friends are so great.

Went to a birthday dinner party for a friend (given by his parents who were in town) at Vespa in Chapel Hill last night. It was a yummy and fun evening. I had a chicken dish with artichoke hearts and a cognac sauce. The conversation was friendly and humorous. I felt a little awkward as usual because I am not sooo talkative. And I was sitting across from another shy (but nice) person and I felt like we were this barrier between the people on our two sides. I felt like we were cutting off the flow of exchange between the people at the very end of the table and those towards the middle. But everyone seemed to have a fairly good time.

I like my classmates a lot. I don't think I've "fallen in" with groups of people so quickly as I've done here. I wonder if it has to do with experience, the fact that I am less anxious about finding friends (because I'll always have Joe), or something else. In any case, I'm not complaining. Elizabeth and Andy are awesome in particular because they insist that what I say in class makes sense, even though I feel like I ramble on incoherently and am [visibly] shaken and nervous.

It was my sister's birthday yesterday, and I didn't get around to calling her or sending her any gift or card. I really just don't know where this month went. Argh.

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