Monday, October 30, 2006

Shocking exposé: Optimism at m-pyre!

Maggie laughs:
'Burque Babble has sounded the alarm: we wear rose-colored glasses at m-pyre! Now it's true - I know I have a few pairs... but Marjorie and Mikaela would probably be horrified at being accused of rosiness. Back from vacation and feeling the need for reprieve, Scot's requesting we go negative. Problem is, I don't know if I can... And in my own way, I'm already pretty bitchy. Didn't comparing Heather Wilson to John Lennon in a Nehru jacket a while back count? And I did ask readers to kill some woman in Kansas last year. Hmmm...

But hey: I'll admit it. There are things I'm nervous about. Next Tuesday is going to give lots of folks heart attacks around here, including me. I feel better about the national outlook, but maybe only because there's some distance there. I'm not a good eleventh-hour player, never have been. That's why I was never a great athlete, either. No killer instinct when it counted. I guess that's also why I asked readers to destroy Kay O'Connor instead of saying I'd do it myself.

Okay, now I just feel lame. Thanks, Scot.

But really, thanks for always making me smile. (Dammit! Optimism again!)

Enough with 'fiction'al outrage!

Maggie says, still annoyed after not having time to write about this last week when it was news:

You know, I'm really not sure what bothers me more: a party with its head buried so deep in the sand that it simply doesn't understand how outraged, depressed, and frustrated Americans are with this administration's policies at home and in Iraq, or that party's sputtering indignation over the fictional writing of Democratic candidates because of some sex-related passages.

As we've all heard by now, Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen accused his Democratic opponent Jim Webb of “dehumanizing men, women, and even children” through his fiction. Webb, a Vietnam veteran, is the author of six novels, most of which have military storylines. Implicit in Allen’s charge is the accusation that Webb spent his writing career demeaning women and writing about sex rather than uplifting humanity through glorious prose. And of course, that it’s impossible to write about sex and uplift humanity at the same time.

A few things backfired for good ‘ol George Allen last week, though:

1. Virginia voters are more concerned about real issues than fictional ones: The weekend poll shows Jim Webb ahead of George Allen even after his pathetic smear attempt.

2. Seeing a pattern here? Apparently Virginia voters are also more concerned about words out of real men’s mouths – like the racist ones George Allen himself is known to have used – rather than what fictional characters might say in make-believe stories.

3. Oops! Not everyone thinks Jim Webb dehumanizes men, women, and children: Turns out the so-called “obscene” Fields of Fire is on the United States Marine Corps-sponsored reading list!

4. Glass house alert: When your party’s “Second Lady” has lesbian affairs in her own literary closet (not that she’ll openly acknowledge her real-life lesbian daughter’s open door), Republican hopefuls might want to watch what they say. Seeing Lynne Cheney squirm (I'm not a fan, as you might remember) last week was priceless.

You know, what we’re really seeing with these low-ball politics is absolute arrogance at play. Republicans are still operating on the outdated strategies of old: go for below-the-belt character attacks (that coincidentally almost always involve actual below-the-belt parts, which we're not supposed to admit that we have, I suppose) to get the “values voters” out in droves, and you’re guaranteed to win.

The problem is, this year the real values in question are a little more important than erotic fictional scenes. They involve an unjust war, now-record U.S. military deaths, massive civilian deaths, big-money corruption, dinner-table struggles in the face of record corporate profits, and a morally bankrupt power center controlling this country and destroying our role in the global community. American voters get this; half of the folks running for office just don’t.

Talking about novels at a time like this seems a little shameless, doesn’t it?

Not to mention desperate.

Worst Congress Ever

Maggie says:
I somehow managed to read and appreciate the much buzzed-about Rolling Stone article "Worst Congress Ever" without realizing that it's a cover story. I finally saw the cover for the first time, and wow: it's a great one. Check out the article for more reasons why next week is so important. I can't remember any non-political rag in recent history being so outwardly damning of current politics, and on the cover at that.

...The end result is a Congress that has hijacked the national treasury, frantically ceded power to the executive, and sold off the federal government in a private auction. It all happened before our very eyes…

And if you're counting, Rolling Stone lists its ten biggest congressional offenders:
1. Dennis Hastert - The Highway Robber (R-IL)
2. James Sensenbrenner - The Dictator(R-WI)
3. Don Young - Mr. Pork (R-AK)
4. William Jefferson - The Bribe Taker (D-LA)
5. Jerry Lewis - The King Of Payoffs (R-CA)
6. Tom Tancredo - Mr. Bigotry (R-CO)
7. Dick Pombo - The Enemy Of The Earth (R-CA)
8. Curt Weldon - The Conspiracy Nut (R-PA)
9. Hal Rodgers - Homeland Security Hog (R-KY)
10. Marilyn Musgrave - The Queen Of Gay Bashing (R-CO)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yamming in East Texas

marjorie says...

As Mikaela pointed out, last week I once again found myself back in East Texas for the annual Yamboree. The Yamboree is a county fair that's been held continuously since 1935 in Upshur County. The county seat is a town of roughly 5,000 people and both sides of my family are from there. I've heard in the past that over 100,000 people show up at the Yamboree at some point or another over the course of its four days. As I've told y'all before, for me its kind of a reunion...I can go home on that weekend and see all kinds of relatives without planning a thing, and I often meet relatives that I never knew before.

I don't know why really, but Maggie and Mikaela have for years tried to get me to dress up as the Yam Queen for Halloween. And actually, that's not a bad idea...these small town "Queens" are kind of appropriate for Halloween.

The Yam Queen...what can we do other than shrug our shoulders and sigh? You see, this girl is always the richest girl in town. The way it works is this...every year a group of girls "run" for Yam Queen, but what they are really doing is seeing who can "sell" the most tickets. Or, in other words, who ever hands over the most cash gets to be the Queen. And the rest get to be Duchesses. They all get to adorn a float in the "Queen's Parade" on Saturday mornings. But the Queen gets to go first of course. So, in essence, the town parades its richest girls on floats every year in the big parade as if they are somehow truly special. What kind of message does this send to all of the other girls in Upshur County...those who never in a million years can even consider being Yam Queen because they aren't from the wealthier families?

This aspect of the Yamboree almost invariably comes up among the family, every year. And at that moment there's a lot of raised eyebrows and shrugging, with the final pronouncement that this is the way the Yam fest gets paid for...what is a town to do?

It's small town charming on the surface, but when you really think about it...well it shows just how grossly classist our society really is. Is that harsh? Perhaps. I figure it sounds harsh to those who never question the rich/poor world we live in, those who just figure that's the way it always has been and always will be. Its probably easier to just go with the small-town charm angle--why ruin an otherwise nice event? That's the implication of the looks many give when you bring it up. And of course it isn't fair to single out the Yamboree...this is a common thing. But that's really it right is common so it should be questioned. And the folks in Upshur County should change how they raise funds for the Yamboree, and how they select the Yam Queen.

I often wonder when I see the Yam Queen ride by on her float if there is actually another girl just a little bit wealthier who just couldn't bring herself to do it...who sees it for what it is. Or is it the case that a year has never gone by that the senior girl with the greatest access to resources wasn't the Queen? In my fantasies, the girl's parents buy her the Queenship with the notion of showing off their offspring so magnificently, and then she insists that the poorest girl in town ride the float in her place. Silly musings I know. you can see, one thing I enjoy about going home the third week in October are the always fascinating moments of contemplating class in America afforded by the Yamboree and its Queen. But I would be remiss if I left the impression that East Texas is all about one type of people. In fact its full of a wide variety. For instance, as you can see from this picture of an old truck and its owner...there are even Anti-War, Anti-Factory Farming, NON HIPPIE Liberals there. Yes! That's Right! His front bumper had an Expose Exxon bumper sticker on it. Of course, its a rare thing to see so I did have to take a picture ...nonetheless, something tells me there's an activist progressive underground back home. I just know it...!

Another thing I always enjoy is seeing how things continue to change in East Texas. For one thing, the ethnic mix is changing...rapidly. This has become increasingly evident to me over the past few years. And as you can see, there is an actual Tortilleria on the square now...long gone are the days of the domino halls. It's a new day in East Texas! And the $1.50 you can pay for a big steaming bag of corn tortillas just a few blocks from the house is certainly one very cool outcome for my family. The fellow behind the counter told me it was his very first Yamboree...

As ever, I enjoyed roaming around the square at night taking in the carnival lights and watching the children in my family on the rides. Things were a little slower this year because my dad just had major surgery and is a little slowed down. But we still seemed to never stop going.

Rumsfeld to the American Public: BACK OFF

marjorie says...

Rumsfeld Tells War Critics to Back Off.

Last time I checked, that would be the majority of the people living in the United States.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Madrid-Wilson debate notes

Maggie says, from the sick bed couch:
7:10 p.m.: I'm SO glad the audience just burst out laughing to Wilson's "It's not you who wants to attack Denver, it's Al Qaeda" retort. This is why it's good I'm never in the actual audience for these things... I have too hard a time keeping my groans in check.

I try and be careful about making fun of Wilson's appearance, because I feel like as women we shouldn't really go there... But really, how hard would it have been for someone, anyone, to suggest a color that doesn't completely wash her out on TV? Shouldn't she be better at this by now?

Audience laughter: Score for Madrid.

7:15: So, vote for Heather Wilson and be protected against smallpox? Lame...

7:18: I'm so glad Madrid just said "Stay the course." I've been giggling all week at how by trying to remove that phrase from the discourse, the administration has made it stick that much more. Good job Tony Snow!

PS to Heather: "Orderly transitions" are not possible in Iraq anymore. Do you even watch the news?

7:20: Madrid: "A Congress exercising no oversight..." That's good, especially given this month's highest-ever U.S. casualty numbers. It brings it home and makes that number Wilson's responsibility.

Wilson's use of "Mrs. Madrid" is bugging me. A clear dig that's absolutely transparent.

7:23: Oooh, I just hope Wilson keeps on talking about how much progress we've made. That's the best way to piss people off enough to vote against her. Progress, are you kidding?!

7:26: Madrid's response on North Korea was far too weak. She should%2

Thanks, Debbie

Maggie says:
Once again, I've just gotta say it:

That's my councilor!!!

Councilor Debbie O'Malley is proposing a series of site design standards for new big box development in Albuquerque. As the Journal article explains, the proposal would set standards for street connectivity, pedestrian access, size restrictions, more humane parking lots, landscaping, facades, outdoor storage, and more.

This proposal is loooooong overdue, as anyone driving around 95% of Albuquerque can attest. What's so frustrating about planning in the city and county is that we have tiny pockets where good planning and design is happening, and the rest is left up to (let's hear it, Marjorie!) "the market" to decide. We all know how that turns out... And don't get me started on the missed opportunities to add critical design and building standards that were left on the table in certain local planning efforts... by the planners themselves. Ugh. This proposal would set a standard for citywide development and not just leave every decision up to the consultant or community group working on their own plan. Additional tweaking could always be added into smaller sector plans, but what Albuquerque desperately needs is a better standard to raise the bar for every neighborhood.

This weekend with my out-of-town best gal in my car, we found ourselves up in the Heights on an errand, an area I'd never take guests wanting to see what Albuquerque has to offer. Sure enough, sitting in endless traffic at endless strip mall stoplights, I felt compelled to apologize for how ugly everything was. In my view, we weren't even in Albuquerque, we were in Anyplace. But as those of us who love Albuquerque for its funky charm know, this City deserves much, much better. We all do. Thanks to this proposal, we might be finally inching toward some progress.

Stay tuned for updates on this one.

Architectural History + Performance Art = Haunted House

Mikaela shares:
I'll admit I'm gullible. My first instinct is always to believe -- yes, even though I'm a liberal!

So when I got a flyer inviting me to pay money for a re-enactment of ghoulish murders that took place in a South Broadway house, my first instinct was to suck my teeth a little. I mean, really, capitalizing on murder and tragedy! It's a little distasteful. I struggled all day yesterday between my nerd-self that thought it was a pretty good idea to research a house's history and turn it into a haunted house fundraiser, and my liberal guilt side that thought the whole thing was less than PC.

Then I was gently put to rights, spoiling the magic a little, but satisfying my prim side. Now I can support the event in good conscience and let both sides feel the chill of fake fear!

Here's the story:

Trifecta +, an Albuquerque based Production Company presents MURDER HOUSE a multi-media, live, interactive, haunted house style reenactment of the grisly history of the famous Albuquerque Murder House.

The Murder House, 1016 Walter St. SE, in the South Broadway neighborhood, has a long history of unfortunate events that include murder, suicide and pedophilia. You've probably heard of the "murder house" because of the infamous "Pickler," the cannibal/serial killer who lived there in the 1950's. But after some extensive research, we've discovered that there is a lot more to the story of the murder house.

The house was built at the turn of the century and originally inhabited by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hightower and their daughter Eunice, who came to Albuquerque on the advice of their doctor because Mr. and Mrs. Hightower were both suffering from Tuberculosis. After Mr. Hightower’s death from the disease, Eunice apparently went mad from the stress of her father's death and her mother's illness. She stabbed her mother to death with a pair of sewing scissors. She was convicted of the murder and confined to the state hospital for the criminally insane. She died in the hospital at the age of 16.

After this event, the house was purchased by the Gaunt family in 1908. The Gaunts lived in the house until 1916, when Edward Gaunt murdered his wife and her sister before killing himself. In the 1930s, the house became a home for the mentally ill. In 1936 one of the patients initiated a murder spree, torturing and killing 8 fellow patients after trapping them inside the house.

Natalie Seward purchased the house in 1945. She was drowned in her bathtub in 1946. Although the coroner's office deemed the death accidental, there was some evidence that her husband Harold had murdered her.

In the 1950s, the house was inhabited by Lazarus “Larry” Mercer. Mercer became known as “The Pickler,” when various parts of over fifty humans and animals were found soaked in vinegar in the kitchen. In 1966, the bodies of thirteen missing children were found underneath the estate. The bodies had been placed there by a known sex offender.

The house has remained vacant since the 1980s, when a contractor remodeling the house hung himself in the bathroom.
Isn't that well done? Here's hoping the performance art is on par with the history!

Monday, October 23, 2006

First "the Internets," now...

Maggie snickers:
Okay, so we all love to say "the Internets," a Bush-ism that allows us to release our hidden inner elitist and Bush-bash at the same time. Now there's a new technology term out there, thanks again to our esteemed leader:

One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see that. I forgot the name of the program, but you get the satellite and you can -- like, I kind of like to look at the ranch on Google, reminds me of where I want to be sometimes.
He was responding to a broader question on how often he uses the Internet and e-mail.

Really, W? Don't use the Internets much, huh? Never would've guessed... Although I probably could've found that out myself by doing some research on the Google.

Weekend Perspective

Maggie says:
This weekend I had lots of great examples of perspective. Here we go:

  • I thought I was fairly relaxed... until I spent three hours in various states of zendom in Betty's soaking tubs, sauna, and lounge chairs in the October sunshine. Yeah, I had no idea about relaxation before that.
  • I thought I had a good idea of what decadence tasted like... until I sank my teeth into a rasberry and white chocolate scone at Gold Street Cafe. On a beautiful morning with my high school best friend beside me at an outdoor table watching tough-guy dads take their daughters to flamenco dance practice next door, it was pretty much perfect.
  • I thought I had lots of girl power... until I saw the ladies of Burlesque Noir in action at the Launchpad for the Boolesque Spooktacular show. Damn! Loved watching them do their thing... I was hoarse from cheering the next morning. Here's the difference between strip clubs and burlesque: women usually feel terrible about themselves if they're in a strip club, but you can't help but feel damn great about yourself watching burlesque. Love it!
  • I thought I was pretty nerdy... until I read about Fantasy Congress. I've got nothing to worry about anymore, that's all I'm saying...

Friday, October 20, 2006

Get Ready to Yam Cam!!!

Mikaela reports:
Hey, there Albuquerque!!! You ready to Yam Cam??

Don't know what I'm talking about? What kind of m-pyricist do you think you are??

Our esteemed marjorie returns to her annual hometown Yam Festival, which has embraced 21st century technology by installing a Yam Cam, with multiple views of the Town Square.

Look for our Miss Marjorie in blue sweater and jeans, standing in the sunlight.

Click here.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The conservative conscience

Maggie says:
For so many of us, our problems with Republicans lie as much with the resoluteness of their righteousness and their angry condemnation of any opposition as it does with their policies. So often, I seek out some intelligence, some global perspective, something besides macho talking points in their directives, and I nearly always come up empty. I want the intelligent debate, I want the clear differences in philosophy being presented as honest options for Americans to side with. Yet with the Right, I hear only rabid calls of patriotic strength on the one hand and self-righteous moral lecturing on the other. Their middle - or rather, their honest core - is so often unheard.

But in this fascinating Salon interview, we hear the compelling thoughts of Andrew Sullivan, a conservative pundit who sees the error of his ways and admits his mistakes in supporting the administration. Besides making some damning points about the turning tide for gay Republicans – Andrew Sullivan is gay himself – he offers the following really remarkable statements about Iraq. Read the interview for the full breadth of his thoughts… they’re worth it. And I can only ask: what would American rhetoric look like if the other side was willing to be as humble as Sullivan is here?

This question that you put your finger on is going to be the critical historical debate. Was this adventure so conceptually flawed that there was no way it could win, or was it so fantastically screwed up in its execution that it was a good idea just wrecked?

I don't want to be wishy-washy about this. I certainly think that the way Rumsfeld and Cheney ran it made it impossible for it to succeed, because they refuse to provide the manpower and resources for what needed to be serious nation-building. I think they essentially sabotaged the war out of their own arrogance, because they'd rather lose a war than concede a point. That's the pettiness of these people.

I don't know why, by the way, the angriest people in this country are not those who opposed the war but those of us who supported it. I mean, we were completely deceived. It never occurred to me that they would not send enough troops to keep the peace or establish order, or, when presented with the evidence that they needed to do so, would simply refuse to entertain the argument. It's still incredible to me.

I do believe that the case many of us made for the Iraq war -- those of us who didn't have access to inside intelligence -- was made in good faith, based on what we were told. Obviously, I feel differently now. And I feel a deep sense of responsibility for not being more skeptical about the Bush people and what they were telling us before the war. I think I was way too gullible. I wanted, in a time of war, to give the president every benefit of the doubt. I was dumb to do so. And I certainly also feel, as a supporter of the war, extreme anguish about the lives that are currently being lost in that country by innocent people, as well as the horrible betrayal of American values.

Comments and comments

Mikaela says:
Hey, all you m-pyricists. Announcing a corner of m-pyre to call your own...

Maggie, our blog maven, has added your most recent comments to the sidebar through the magic of new-fangled technologies! Find it underneath the entertaining Zoom Cloud. Now, no need to go hunting through TWO YEARS worth of stories for the latest comments... they're all right there at your finger tips! Thanks, Maggie, for your always awe-inducing genius and acumen.

Also, take a look at the zoom cloud today... a neverending source of joy for my word-nerd nature. Here are the goodies:

  • Local Lamont love
  • i love iran
  • swop sex toys (in the imperative voice!)

The Danger of Industrial Food Production

Mikaela raves:
Great article today in the NY Times by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. I've heard amazing things about this book, and this article lights a fire under my behind to read it right away.

In todays article, Pollan explains the imminent danger of contamination of our food supply, seen on a small scale in the latest not-so-little e.coli outbreak, but ultimately at risk from the nature of our industrial food production itself as well as the outside threat of terrorist attack.

The rational conclusion is to decentralize food production and support local farmers and producers, including changing the regulation structure so that small-scale producers do not bear the disproportionate burden of rules made to protect us from the dangers of highly industrialized producers. (Excerpts below reordered for clarity in brief)

[T]he way we farm and the way we process our food, both of which have been industrialized and centralized over the last few decades, are endangering our health.

The lethal strain of E. coli known as 0157:H7, responsible for this latest outbreak of food poisoning, was unknown before 1982; it is believed to have evolved in the gut of feedlot cattle. These are animals that stand around in their manure all day long, eating a diet of grain that happens to turn a cow’s rumen into an ideal habitat for E. coli 0157:H7. (The bug can’t survive long in cattle living on grass.) ...

Wendell Berry once wrote that when we took animals off farms and put them onto feedlots, we had, in effect, taken an old solution — the one where crops feed animals and animals’ waste feeds crops — and neatly divided it into two new problems: a fertility problem on the farm, and a pollution problem on the feedlot.

  • 80 percent of America’s beef is slaughtered by four companies,
  • 75 percent of the precut salads are processed by two and
  • 30 percent of the milk by just one company.
In effect, we're washing the whole nation's salad in one big sink.

Keeping local food economies healthy — and at the moment they are thriving — is a matter not of sentiment but of critical importance to the national security and the public health, as well as to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

[I]t’s easier to find a technological fix than to address the root cause of such a [contamination] problem. This has always been the genius of industrial capitalism — to take its failings and turn them into exciting new business opportunities.

It’s easy to imagine the F.D.A. announcing a new rule banning animals from farms that produce plant crops. In light of the threat from E. coli, such a rule would make a certain kind of sense. But it is an industrial, not an ecological, sense. For the practice of keeping animals on farms used to be, as Wendell Berry pointed out, a solution; only when cows moved onto feedlots did it become a problem. Local farmers and local food economies represent much the same sort of pre-problem solution — elegant, low-tech and redundant. But the logic of industry, apparently ineluctable, has other ideas, ideas that not only leave our centralized food system undisturbed but also imperil its most promising, and safer, alternatives.

Turning Two: Marjorie Reflects

Today marks the beginning of a third year of m-pyre.

I remember when I first met Maggie and Mikaela…I initially just watched from across the room as NERD ALERT flashed invisibly on their foreheads. That was our first semester in a program at UNM and thank god I didn’t let my ultra too cool for school mentality stop me from being drawn in by their infectious enthusiasm and, as I quickly realized, hyper intelligence.

You know, I never thought I’d go back to school; much less form a bond with two women like M.2, to the point of timing our graduation for the same semester so we could walk together. Since that first semester, we’ve seen each other through an outrageous work/school schedule, talked endlessly about our personal ups and downs, on the porch not to mention at our dearly departed Pearl’s, traveled, started a blog or two, and pursued together our small contributions to social justice of one kind or another. How lucky am I? Well…very. Let me pause for a moment here and thank the both of them for the past four years.

My contributions to m-pyre have ebbed and flowed, mainly having to do with what I can bring myself to say at any given time. m-pyre started as an overall blog, a way for the three of us to talk and stay in touch. But because of our natures, it quickly zoned right in to a political spectrum, which caused us to create m-pyrical for other stuff. I remember that Maggie brought it up…she mentioned she would like to blog but didn’t think she could keep up with one by herself. I felt similarly, had in fact already made myself a blog but hadn’t done anything with it for that very reason. I’ve noticed that I go through periods in which I have plenty to say, and then other times when I can hardly bring myself to say anything. For me, m-pyre can be a lot like talking politics. And silence sometimes is good, especially when it comes to politics. Sometimes, all the talk is so overwhelming that it’s impossible for the real substance to make it to the surface. Sometimes, I just want to listen.

Of course, there’s a fine line between going through a period of simply listening and disengaging from the conversation completely. One of the themes often discussed by academics and politicos in the U.S. is the seeming apathy of the American public when it comes to voting and to political engagement in general. If you look closely at that discussion, you often can see the class filament threading its way through…as in, we’re the smart ones, but the masses are an undifferentiated lot of human nature who care only for themselves. I very founding father’ish.

For me, the disengagement puzzled over by so many is simply about the inability of “the masses” to be really and truly heard in the conversation. It’s a simple concept, one that each and every one of us can recognize from our own personal experiences and extrapolate to the broader social landscape. It can be very difficult to stay engaged in a world that doesn’t pay attention. The outcome of exclusionary social systems and structures is that people turn away, that’s the nature of disempowerment. And of course, this is all the more reason for organizing to create the power of unity. But that statement is simple, the reality is hard as hell.

For myself, when it comes to political discourse, I’m very thankful for does a lot for keeping me engaged. I can listen to my hearts content and know that when I have something to say someone is actually hearing me, even if its simply my Dad (who has always indulged me--thanks Dad). I admit that this year I’ve been a bit selfish, letting the two of my friends do most of the talking. But I hope they have faith that my talkative side eventually comes around, and I hope that’s okay.

Anyhow, m-pyre is just...yes *just* of the projects the three of us have undertaken together. In the end, it may be the one we all three cherish the most. I hope that all of you who read our blog come away on occasion with one of those lightbulb moments...afterall, what else could a writer ask for? For myself though, while I have plenty of those moments when reading my friends...there’s a lot more to this project than that. The three of us are all readers, and one of the main things I love about m-pyre is that here we have a partial chronicle of our time together. That’s the reason I suspect I’ll be reading it for the rest of my life, probably well past its actual existence as a blog in cyber space. Ultimately, m-pyre is completely personal for me.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Turning Two: Maggie Reflects

The task was pretty simple: reflect on what m-pyre has meant for me over the last year, and how life transitions were reflected in my posts. But nothing’s simple for me these days. I gave the best politician answer I could to two girls who hate politics: “I’ll see what I can do, but can’t really promise that I’ll really touch on that stuff.” Hmmm.

The problem with trying to step back and write personally is that I feel like that’s what I do every day, even when it doesn't read personally at all. I’ve always had the problem of not being able to remove myself from what I’m writing about. My high school papers expounded on Raskolnikov's repressed arrogance, but only because our dissimilarities fascinated me. In college I was obsessed with Margaret Sanger and Margaret Fuller because, in addition to sharing their name, I felt like I had some of them in me. Not being able to remove myself from the issue at hand was why my life plan of being a journalist ended, too. “You can’t be part of the story! Don’t worry about how you feel, just find others who’ll give you a quote!” But I felt like stories deserved more, or snobbishly like my sources weren’t quite articulate enough for my liking. Sensing a plagiarism scandal in the works years down the road, I moved into politics and stopped carrying around a reporter’s notebook. But then politics started feeling too empty, too mechanical, too ivory-tower… not enough inarticulate sources. Graduate school, then: planning. Politics and people all meshing together in the forum where everything truly meets: place. Perfect. Yet nothing’s a vacuum. Can you plan for everyone when you really only care about some of them, when you’re a “commie pinko” (as so lovingly described by a commenter a while back) at heart, when too often you hear “property values” and think “selfishness,” when you know every place would be better if we all thought smaller, more communally, and tried to like each other more?

I’m in a place where everything is up in the air for questioning now, and I'll find myself emotionally spent after writing about something because I'm really writing about something else. For example, blogging about newspapers is really about missing writing; blogging about the suburbs and parking is really about family; blogging about local politics is really about eventually having to say goodbye to Albuquerque; blogging about national politics is really about feeling it all slip past me; blogging about teaching is about trying to tie it all together. And there is home, always home.

For me, m-pyre is about community and self-indulgence, which might seem incompatible. It’s not a selfless thing to write about random thoughts in your head; it’s a completely self-serving act. Feeling that there’s a role or a bigger meaning at play would be much too self-important for my liking. But it matters to me because these women matter to me, and because it reconnects me with a past I feel more disconnected from than ever: writing and policy. But I do like to think that the active community-building that happens online could matter to someone who doesn’t see nearly enough community in their lives. There’s not enough of it anymore, anywhere.

So for me, community is the thread that ties this all together. More than ever before, I’m actively trying to shape a life where community ties together writing, policy, place, and meaning. The presence of m-pyre hasn’t ever been something that’s taken away from what I care about day-to-day. It has always added value for me: in writing about something that matters to me (or just makes me laugh), in expressing myself in a way that daily life doesn’t always account for, in reading what my two dear friends have to say about something, in seeing how others respond. The minute it stops adding value for me, I won’t do it anymore.

Each of us Ms are consciously trying to shape the life that could matter most. All of us are doing that in our own ways, at our own pace. But if the one commonality is that we all reach out to others for connection and shared experience, then maybe this little online whim has done a little bit of something. And doing a little bit of something isn’t something little at all.

Turning Two: Mikaela Reflects

Sometimes this blogging thing can be absolutely overwhelming and downright paralyzing. In our second year, the newness has worn off, and sometimes it feels more like a job than a hobby. That’s inevitable, I think, in these labors of love (love of labor?). Still, I find myself coming back almost every day, and like many of you (I hope), I still feel that flutter of anticipation every time I click the bookmark in the hopes that there will be something new up there to read.

More often than in our first year, it seems, that hope hasn’t always panned out. Each of us has our own reasons, of course, but in general a lot of it has to do with major life transistions in love, work, and the end of our school career for a while (hurray! finally!).

These things trickle down to permeate all other things, including time, friendships, etc. As always, time and how to focus attention and energy is a constant question. We all answer differently at different times. Such is life.

As for me, here are my Top 10 Reasons why I’ve been (more) absent on-line:

  • Much happier personal life
  • More of a life (i.e. graduation)
  • Fear of getting fired for posting during work
  • 40-hour work week & illusion of “career”
  • Disgust with politics
  • Focus on community of faith
  • Friendship transitions
  • Reading books
  • No comments (i.e. speaking to the void…)
  • Fear of being one-woman drummer

Why m-pyre continues to be compelling for me:
  • Sharing the outrage
  • Thinking about planning
  • Thinking about politics
  • Thinking about community
  • Thinking about ABQ & NM
  • The original reason for starting m-pyre: because it’s a forum to think with smart women whose value and education (in part) I share and because I learn from them constantly
  • Haven’t run across another blog that does what we do. Maybe if I did, the pressure would be off. There really is something to be said about uniqueness of perspectives and how each one is valuable.
  • A liberal value: believing in the right and value of multiple voices.
  • Because it makes me laugh.
  • Because David Sirota e-mailed me about a post (about him. ahem)
  • Putting my own thoughts into writing – and coming back to them over time
  • Gauging my opinions by audience response (hint hint)
  • The glory (just kidding, but there is something to feeling like you’re doing something, despite feeling despondent and inconsequential most of the time)

What I’ve heard people say about why they like m-pyre:
  • Seeing women celebrate and support each other
  • We're hot
  • We finally shut up about Pearl’s

What I learn / look to hear about from Marjorie:

What I learn / look to hear about from Maggie:

What I keep coming back to myself:
  • Consequences of policy
  • Meaning
  • Hypocrisy
  • Media
  • Poetry
  • Local community
  • Iraq
  • Constitution
  • Signing statements
  • Culture

I hope m-pyre has a long, long run of it. If we’re flagging a little, I’m sure it’s nothing a little audience participation can’t help. Clap for Tinkerbell, you cynics. Things aren’t that bad yet. What kind of liberal optimists are you, anyway? Clap!

(And if you have suggestions, requests, etc, please, for your own conscience’s sake, JOT THEM DOWN – and send them to us!)

To summarize: COMMENT, people. We’re dying over here!

Thanks for reading. We’ll try to let you in on our weird and random thoughts as they come to us. That’s our job. Such lovely labor. Here's to another year of friendship, politics, and planning shared for all to read in this on-line community of thinkers.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Turning Two: Three Picks for Three Ms

The ms simultaneously post (through the miracle of technology and the unbenownst hosting graciousness of Downtown Flying Star wireless):

A little thinner this year in post number and frequency, maybe, but still very much here and kicking, the m-pyre girls are celebrating their second anniversary!

Last year's celebrating m-pyre series was such a hit, we've resurrected the format to bring you our favorite of each other's posts during the last year.

Marjorie says:
It's really hard to choose my three favorite posts written by Maggie and Mikaela. How could I do that when they've written so many compelling and wonderful blogs this year? So rather than view these posts in that light, just think of them as the tip of the iceberg, skimming over the surface to show the variety and depth of my blogging friends.

In Global Terror and Global Communication, we have classic Mikaela, breaking down the meaning of language for us. It encapsulates her ability to make broad ranging connections, that are sharp as a tack, funny and a tad bit quirky… just like her.

Then there's Mikaela's sarcasm...some times it's really overt. You have to really know her to pick up her more subtle moments, but they are always really good. In What Bush Will Be Remembered For: Unbelievable Hypocrisy she gives us one of her many great Bush rants. She's really good at those, especially the ones that point out just what an idiot he is.

Since I can only pick was a no-brainer to just go right to Mikaela's most recent post. Ok, I cop to it, this is my favorite Mikaela post of the year. In Reclaiming the Power to Speak through Action Mikaela is in top form. It brings together her rants, her ability to connect lots of different commentaries and events, her odes to friends...all into a little nugget that she takes and dives head first with into pure philosophy and questioning. So Mikaela...beautiful!

Don't let me leave out Maggie in my admiration of pure sarcasm. It doesn't get much better than this post prostrating herself (not) at the feet of self-righteous Republicans: God help the sports fan.

I always like it when people point out structure, how nothing exists in a bubble. In Watching Paris, we watch ourselves, Maggie does a great job pointing out the post-industrial stress and reactionary tendencies we share with our first world counterparts…even those pesky French.

Despite what I said above, this post by Maggie is one of my favorite of the year: in Natalee Holloway and the whore/saint dichotomy, Maggie gets right to the point. We are neither whores nor saints. Rather, we're human beings who are sexual and in many cases great parents to children. What woman doesn't struggle with this issue?

Mikaela says:
Each time these venerable ladies post something, I'm glad yet again that every brain is different. I love these ladies, yes, but I also love learning from them! I feel so blessed to be counted among their friends, and absolutely honored to share a blog with them. So, in no particular order, here are my favorites from the 2 ms in the last year.

Watch out when Maggie gets angry. She's smart, articulate, and DAMN – when she's on, she's on, as demonstrated in this loving tribute to Michael Brown: My Name is Michael Brown and I Am a Piece of Shit.

Maggie is also the best at setting a context by which to understand current events, as evidenced in this post linking today's political relationship with the media: "We will not walk in fear, one of another."

Ironically, I look to Maggie for two contradictory things, which in my mind testifies to Maggie's true strength of understanding her surroundings wherever she is: 1) local politics and events and 2) national politics.

As for Marjorie, her nuance and deep thinking is always helpful to me. Whether she's taking on implications of immigration policy, as in Children Born Here Belong Here, or the real issue in the debate about Supporting Our Troops.

I can always trust Marjorie to open my eyes to labor issues, as with NYC transit workers are right on.

Maggie says:
Picking out only three favorite posts for these girls is tough… but I’m up for the challenge, if only because it gives me a good excuse to sit here at Flying Star drinking tea and reading a year’s worth of goodness. It’s never a struggle to pick out good things from these two; the struggle is in narrowing them down.

For me, Marjorie’s writing is pure substance. Her analysis of issues manages to be sweeping and intimate all at once, coming from the left but never accepting any easy answers or talking-points in her directives. In 12 Dead Miners: Who’s Responsible?, Marjorie reminds us of the deadly, human price of capitalism and questions the quick-fix hearings pols were offering as the answer. With May Day is all about solidarity… let’s show some in Albuquerque, she gets to the heart of global labor struggles and shows the real passion that guides her thinking and her work. And finally, with BLOG-IN: the FREE MARKET is in The House!!, we get to see Marjorie at her wry, sarcastic best (Marjorie’s humor doesn’t come out online very much, but when it does, I’m her biggest fan).

What’s so interesting about Mikaela as a blogger is that her posts are mirrors into the questions she’s constantly asking of herself: how do we balance commitments, demonstrate our values, and celebrate each other’s differences? We're lucky we get to sit in on her thinking process. In America & Iran: Why moderates fail and fanatics rise to power, Mikaela is her endlessly thoughtful self, struggling with questions of identity and examining how they play out in the political system she feels so disconnected from. As much as Mikaela resists wonkiness, she reveals in War on Women why writing about politics and gender is something no m-pyre girl should shy away from. My favorite Mikaela post of our second year, though, is Cultural Up-beat, where she continues to explore the interplay of culture, space, and expression, three issues near and dear to Mikaela's heart.