Thursday, March 31, 2005

Naked As We Came [thoughts on Nationals]

This folky piece by Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) has been the soundtrack to my school daze this week.

I'm putting this one up too so that I can d/l it properly (Woman King).

Sigh, I am leaving Austin, my home, for Michigan tomorrow. (Collegiate fencing nationals this weekend at the University of Michigan, if you didn't already know. This could be the case because apparently I don't really talk about my out-of-town trips a lot, especially not to my roommates..) I've been thinking more about my place on the fencing team and how my only contribution is my fencing skill; I don't belong. There are no friends of mine there. This kind of thing could be and was easily overlooked by everyone (or just me?) last year at Nationals in New Hampshire because I was relatively new to the club and behaved like a shy person. Unfortunately, prospects haven't changed much for F. Lee. The one advanced freshman who recently joined the club is more at ease than I am. The team's a rough bunch- they delight in crude jokes, are lazy, dreadfully honest, short-tempered, fond of cursing, they don't try to impress anyone and resist all authority. And if they don't like you, they won't hesitate to brush you off after shooting off a disdainful remark to your face. That's not to say that the team is made up of social miscreants; it's true that many of them will go out of their way to help a fellow fencer in need. I can rely on them at least. I've always been polite, quiet and quite ignorant and I suspect that I'm simply not liked as a person, I'm not interesting or weird enough. This doesn't hurt my feelings, but it does make things more complicated, since I plan to stay in the club as long as I can to further my fencing ability. So I've been debating how much of our ten hour travel time tomorrow and Friday all-day free time will I spend in comfortable isolation (reading, doing Chinese homework, writing in my diary about them) and/or in awkward attempts to create conversation and slip into others' well-formed circles.

On a happier note, I finally attended a night of Rez Week (tonight) and I was not let down. Don Miller is my kind of speaker and I strongly feel that he was probably a very cute baby. He talked about how a lot of the human condition had to do with us needing to be affirmed by other people or God. We all need new perspectives on seemingly old truths, agreed? The last thing he expounded upon was the crisis having to do with thousands if not millions of people being slaughtered by the government currently taking place in Sudan. The evils in the world make us sad, yes, but I know I know almost nothing of the injustices and persecution wreaking havoc on other people groups outside of America. What can I do? How can I know and go on in my daily activities? How can we be disturbed to the point of action?

Something I've come to realize is that I rarely deny myself anything. That's a far cry from Jesus' command for us to deny ourselves, our very desires and follow him. Hello! I can't. I am much too comfortable. One fine day, I know God is going to squeeze all His fed-up-ness into a big rock and let it loose on all my dreams, plans and fancies, things I created without His help.

Ah, it's getting late, but I don't care. Tomorrow can be slept away; there's no need to communicate with any humans.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

"White Privilege and Male Privilege"

Today in my Second Language Acquisition class we discussed an article titled "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies." We are supposed to ask our family and friends about this "white privilege." Here is my slightly condensed version of the article. Give me your thoughts.

I have often noticed men's unwillingness to grant that they are over-privileged in the curriculum, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged. ...

Thinking through unacknowledged male privilege as a phenomenon with a life of its own, I realized that since hierarchies in our society are interlocking, there was most likely a phenomenon of white privilege which was similarly denied and protected, but alive and real in its effects. As a white person, I realized I had been taught about as something which puts others are a disadvantange, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage. ...
I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear and black checks.
Since I have had trouble facing white privilege, and describing its results in my life, I saw parallels here with men's reluctance to acknowledge male privilege. Only rarely will a man go beyond acknowledging that woman are disadvantaged to acknowledging that men have unearned advantage, or that unearned privilege has not been good for men's development as human beings, or for society's development, or that privilege systems might ever be challenged or changed. ...

Some claim that men must be central in the curriculum because they have done most of what is important or distinctive in life or in civilization. ... Others agree that certain individual thinkers are blindly male-oriented but deny that there is any systematic tendency in disciplinary frameworks or epistemology to over-empower men as a group. Those men who do grant that male privilege takes institutionalized and embedded forms are still likely to deny that male hegemony has opened doors for them personally. ... They may say that they will work to improve women's status, in the society or in the university, but they can't or won't support the idea of lessening men's. ...

After I realized, through faculty development work in Women's Studies, the extent to which men work from a base of unacknowledged privilege, I understood that most of their oppressiveness was unconscious. .. I began to understand why we are justly seen as oppressive, even though we don't see ourselves that way. At the very least, obliviousness of one's privileged state can make a person or group irritating to be with ...
I began to count the ways in which I enjoy unearned skin privilege and have been conditioned into oblivion about its existence, unable to see that it put me "ahead" in any way, or puts my people ahead, overrewarding us and yet also paradoxically damaging us, or that it could or should be changed. ... (here are a few)

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors ... will be neutral or pleasant to me
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our narional heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
13. When I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children's teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms/
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
34. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
46. I can choose blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin.
... In this potpourri or examples, some privileges made me feel at home in the world. Others allow me to escape penalties or dangers which others suffer. ... Most keep me from having to be angry. ...
Whether through the curriculum or in the newspaper, the television, the economic situation, or the general look of people on the streets, we received daily signals and indications that my people counted, and that others either didn't exist or must be trying, not very successfully, to be like people of my race. ... I was also raised not to suffer seriously from anything which darker-skinned people might say about my group, "protected," though perhaps I should more accurately say prohibited, through the habits of my economic class and social group, from living in racially mixed groups or being being reflective about interactions between people of differing races. ...

The word "privilege" carries the connotation of being something everyone must want. Yet some of the conditions I have described here work to systematically overempower certain groups. Such privilege simply confers dominance, gives permission to control, because of one's race or sex. ... Moreoever, though "privilege" may confer power, it does not confer moral strength. Those who do not depend on conferred dominance have traits and qualities which may never develop in those who do. ... In some groups, those dominated have actually become strong through not having all of these unearned advantages, and this gives them a great deal to teach the others. Members of so-called privilege groups can seem foolish, ridiculous, infantile or dangerous by contrast. ...
Through Women's Studies I have met very few men who are truly distressed about systematic, unearned male advantage and conferred dominance. And so one question for me and others like me is whether we will be like them, or whether we will get truly distressed, even outraged, about unearned race advantange and conferred dominance and if so, what we will do to lessen them. ...
Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems. ... What will we do with this knowledge? As we know from watching men, it is an open question whether we will choose to use unearned advantage to weaken hidden systems of advantage, and whether we will use any of our arbitrarily-awarded power to try to reconstruct power systems on a broader base."

McIntosh, Peggy. 1988. "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women's Studies."

What a weighty topic. I feel like I have just read the first chapter of "Eve's Revenge" all over again, except that maybe it could have been "The Minority's Revenge" or something. Except that there hasn't been any revenge. I don't really know how I fit into this discussion because the writer is mainly contrasting whites and blacks in society. I can relate to both sides, but more so to the white side. Even though I'm not white, I have been shielded from direct (and some indirect) racism growing up in America. So in a way, I half responsible, half victim, you could say. Hmph. The society in which we live is so complex and it's hard to know what's really going on sometimes unless someone smarter tells you or you examine your own beliefs.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Thought for food [book excerpt]

C.S. Lewis had something to say to me today. I have been reading The Problem of Pain on/off for a few months now. Here's a bit from the chapter titled "HEAVEN."

"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw- but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of- something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side?
You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it- tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear."

Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. New York: HarperCollins, 1940. p. 149-151.

Again, here "Jack" puts our own muddled thoughts into words where the meaning is much clearer. This is the reason for the times I make music and think about art: for a bit of heaven! Funny, I've always connected that bottomless pit of longing with the flesh. So, I've no more hard feelings about staying in a box anymore, because I won't be in it for very long!

Thursday, March 17, 2005


That's the end of the song. How well do these match up?
The Transfiguration
Luke 9:28-36

28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

"The Transfiguration" - Sufjan Stevens

When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
His countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.

Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.

What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.

Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!

The thing about his songs is that you have to hear them in context to fully appreciate them. What else is this the case for? (Ha, I made you read a passage of Scripture. Good for me too!)


I've been reviewing my Chinese today. I must know hundreds of characters by now. Relearning my mother tongue helps me appreciate my proficiency in English. It isn't something to be taken lightly, is it? Ask your local throng of immigrants who either assimilate or are left behind. It's a lose-lose situation. To have your own way with words is freeing. We all love to be vague sometimes. Will I ever be a whole Chinese?

I was asleep .. He woke me up again

Listening to: "Romulus" + Sufjan Stevens
"Godhopping" + Dogs Die In Hot Cars
"Forecast Facist Future" + Of Montreal

Hi, this is my first post. I figured that keeping up a website was too tedious now that I don't use Mozilla (-> Composer) anymore. This simple design is just wonderful. Important people have blogs, don't they? I'd like to use my diary more often, but you can't take that to the grave. At least webpages live forever, right? Well, what a good time to start up a blog, Spring Break '05. Today was the halfway mark, so that means tomorrow I start my homework.
I am an online shopper. When will I ever stop wanting? What I want to know is how to be myself and be a child of God. What to do about my interests? This Spring Break I must start up something and keep at it. Let's see, I have many options. I'm not intrinsically awesome at anything (worthwhile) but I do have a headstart on some things. 1) Practice my mandolin and viola, write songs, make "a band." 2) Take out the colored paper, pencils, scissors and make crafty cards. 3) Work out a lot.
If we ever start a band, let's name it JAPANESE WAR MUSIC. That's good. Today I had dinner at a church lady's home. She has 3 children all under 5, ranging from 6 mo. to 4 years. The silly infant aka saliva machine was making the couch damp and his older siblings made beautiful wrecks in the living room with their toys and crafts. Judging from my response, I'm not ready for motherhood. You really can't do a good job of it while still be selfish. Gaw, kids are so selfish! Growing old is absolutely horrid! I wouldn't know, yet I know.
Last night, Andrew and I viewed Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events at the dollar theater for 50 cents. Dark little thing. I rather liked it. And Andrew made a lot of vague comments in an awkwardly roundabout way. I think he was trying to say that he thought that the oldest kid, Violet was hot, even though she was only 14 years old in the movie. Count Olaf was such a perv to try and marry her. The orphan children were a prime example of human resiliency. The landscapes were so odd and fantastical, even more so than those of Harry Potter perhaps. Every grownup in the film was either purely wicked or goodhearted but naive. Why?
I finally went to the Apple Store at Willowbend and got my comma key fixed. The whole time the tech guy was trying to be funny but I didn't really know how to respond. Do I have to be so courteous? I chuckle a lot in conversations, but few people truly amuse me. It was somewhat awkward, but my roommate has taught me that we can deal with that. But do we want an Awkward Club? Today I also went and got my dirty laundry from my other roommate Stacey's house. She was kind enough to lug it home for me- I've been trudging around in old shirts, capris and sweatpants for the past few days. (Why is it this cold?) It was pleasant seeing her in a different context (her home). She really is a sweet girl. That's much more than I can say about myself.