Saturday, January 31, 2015

newlyweeds....? + a strong book recommendation

I've been on the lookout for a movie in which black actors are the principal actors, but the movie is not primarily about race. Tonight I found a movie that fit that description. It's called Newlyweeds. It' Well, it's kind of a pothead anti-pot movie. It's as if a stoner made a movie about why not to be a stoner. In a nutshell.

So.....that was interesting.

I'm not going to say I recommend the movie exactly. But I'm not sad that I watched it.

Something I do recommend is the book Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Here's how I would summarize the book: 1. Going forward, whenever a white person has the nerve to tell me that racism isn't a problem in America anymore, I'll tell them to read that book before speaking to me further. 2. Whenever a liberal white person speaks to me about being in a post-racial society, I'll ask them politely to please read the book. 3. Although the book is about American culture from a Nigerian perspective, and about post-colonial politics in America and Britain, and post-colonial life in general, the thing that really kept me reading was the love story. And it's a love story that's worth reading for, until the very end.

two recommendations of the day

Last night I listened to a radio program that was stunning. It is really, really, really, really worth listening to. Like, really worth listening to. I highly recommend listening to it. You will not regret it. Here's the link to the show. Make sure to listen to both part 1 & part 2.

Secondly, on Radiolab's blog, there are before & after photos of Native Americans who entered Carlisle Indian School in the late 1800s. The photos are very worth seeing. They're riveting. They're also upsetting, at least to me and many viewers (including the women who wrote about them for the blog).

collectively, unconsciously composed

Here is a 2-minute song about how I feel right now.

How I feel is--oddly, inexplicably--that I miss San Francisco. Sitka is ten million times more beautiful than San Francisco. Maybe not more beautiful than San Francisco was 400 years ago. But exponentially more beautiful than it is now. Baranof Island, on which Sitka is located, is pristine, almost entirely untouched. It's wilderness. It's gloriously gorgeous. Being here, I realize that love was there in San Francisco all along. It was inside the hearts of every person in the city. That is the truth. And inside the hearts of all the dogs. And all the birds. And all the flowers. That might sound like hippy-dippy shit, but oh well. After all, this is San Francisco we're talking about. I miss the music of San Francisco. I miss the possibility of music. There were these dance clubs I wanted to go to, but I couldn't get up the nerve, and besides I didn't want to go alone. There was one called Dance Church. I wanted to go there. I love to dance. I so love to dance. Music has held inside of it a gift that is there, locked inside the music, no matter what else is happening. This is true. There are other true things too, of course, that stand alongside this truth. That's okay. I miss knowing that the Castro is right there, just across the Bay Bridge. Which is weird, because I was never conscious of being comforted by the Castro being there. I don't miss the sunshine at all. I don't miss the traffic, and I feel like I never shall. I don't miss the way that city people seem to think the only places to Be are inside places. And the way they think outside places are curious temporary places to visit. But I suspect that eventually I'll miss crowds. I hadn't quite figured out where to find a good crowd, a dance crowd, a huge group of people doing something together that feels good. But I would've found that eventually, I think. Of course, I might find that in Sitka too. Maybe. I don't know. If you got every person in Sitka together at a dance party, you'd still only have nine thousand people. That's just a tiny fraction of how many folks show up at Gay Pride, for example. It's like I'm missing something I never really had, or never actually engaged. I was engaged in stuff, when I lived in the Bay, but not city stuff. I was engaged in the boring everyday stuff of loving and caring for a person who has no memory. For example. And planning classes and grading papers and eating out alone. It's not that I was disengaged from the actual life I was living; it's just that the actual life I was living didn't have all that much to do with the place I was living that life in. Which didn't feel good. So I left. For that reason and other reasons. I don't think I couldengage the place, when I was there. For whatever reason. But I can imagine a group of people with whom I could engage a city. I'd like to meet those people.

Friday, January 30, 2015

this is me, in sitka, alaska

I'm standing in the water. I'm wearing boots. The mountains you see behind me are mountains of Baranof Island. I'm also standing on Baranof Island.

Monday, January 26, 2015

television: an important discovery

As everyone who knows me or who has ever knows me knows, I am against television. The ads: atrocious. The shows: ridiculous. Etcetera, etcetera, you've all heard me (and Neil Postman) say it before. That is, up until now. I've lately been exposed to television that is so absurd that I'm actually revising my views altogether! It's so absurd I almost think it's good for us!

For example, last night I watched a show called "Paranormal Sasquatchivity." Yes, this show exists. And yes, the people in the show do appear to be sincere in their search for paranormal sasquatches. Sasquatchii?

Watched on its own, this show will make you erupt into random fits of mayhem. But watched with other people, this show promotes community, laughter (which promotes endorphins, which in turn promote mental and physical well-being_, and many critical thinking skills (as collectively you can analyze just how many fallacies the sasquatch-hunters are committing).  Yes, watched with other people, this show becomes the glue that holds it all together. And by "it" I mean life, sanity, the world.

So, in conclusion, I have no conclusion. But I will tell you this. Last week I met a woman who was downright judgmental of people who watch television. And I was like, what the fuck, yo, stop being so damn judgmental. Everyone knows that TV isn't the best way to spend your time. Everyone knows this. No one does not know this. So find me the person who always and only does the rightest thing every minute of the day. Find me that person! I guarantee you that person is not judgmental. If you're doing the rightest thing all the time, you may not be watching TV, but you're also not wasting your time judging people that are.

So, in short, sasquatches: are they real? How would we ever know?????

the first sunset (just now, 10 min ago) i've seen since arriving in alaska two weeks ago

This photo was taken standing inside the livingroom of the place I'm staying.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

by the way

Over there on the right, I'm keeping a running list of the books & movies & essays that I recommend, that I'm reading or watching as part of my 2015 New Year's Resolution, to read & engage the art of historically/contemporarily marginalized people. The art itself may or may not have anything to do with marginalization.

If I think that a movie or book is not for everyone (i.e., might offend (for reasons like profanity or violence--not because it might offend by virtue of being anti-racist) or trigger some people), I will notate that with NFE;RF, which means not for everyone; research first.

masks, hierarchies of trauma, and fresh air

Some soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made masks to express what their internal experience. These masks are being featured in National Geographic, in their February issue. Some of the masks are also displayed on the website. They're really worth seeing. And I don't think that they are upsetting to see so much as they are humanity-invoking. There are so many internally wounded people all around us (some who are soldiers, some who are not), and these masks remind me to try to be gentle with everyone, because you truly never know who might be suffering greatly. Here is the link to National Geographic's display.

There are two other recommendations I have, both related. The first is to an article in The Atlantic, written by Conor Friedersdorf, whom I find to be incredibly thoughtful on subjects related to gender and sex. This particular article is about a blog comment written by a straight, "nerdy," white professor who wrote, in the comment, unusually honestly about his the sexuality of his adolescence. His comment is an attempt to engage radical feminists on terms that straight white men don't usually engage radical feminists. That comment prompted a series of responses, in well-regarded places like The New Statesmen. Friedersdorf sums up the whole thing, which turns out to be about feminism, all kinds of marginalization, privilege, hierarchies, power, empathy, compassion, and trauma. He then offers his own perspective on how we might collectively move the conversation to even better grounds than they're currently on (and in his view, at least, the dialogue that's been spurred around the internet by the original blog comment has been largely positive dialogue; but he thinks we can do even better). I think it's super worth reading. It's here.

(By the way, the reason that I think that article is related to the soldiers' masks is that it can be easy (for some people, myself included, sometimes) to look at a male, macho-looking former Marine and think of him just in terms of someone who has done and is trained to do violence. Or who is valorized by the American people as one of "our troops" and therefore above reproach. It can be easy to think that he could never understand anything about the suffering of, say, women. Or transgendered people. I think that Friedersdorf's article has some relevant and important things to say about that.)

And finally, related to both of the above, on the NPR show "Fresh Air" this week, the journalist and former soldier, David Morris, was interviewed about a book he recently published about PTSD. He was an embedded journalist in Iraq when the Humvee he was in hit an IED; although he survived, he sustained the traumatic brain injury that is PTSD. (I don't think I realized prior to listening to this interview, that PTSD is classified as a traumatic brain injury.) He then began researching PTSD, which is suffered by survivors of many experiences, including rape, war, and natural disasters. His writing is extraordinary. Here's a few lines: "We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness, the coming annihilation not only of the body and the mind, but also, seemingly, of the world." See what I mean? This is not your average informational guide to PTSD or your average journalism on war. The interview is really worth listening to. Here's the link.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

recent essays

I've been published some recently, and have some upcoming work as well. In August, my poem "We Thought We Needed a Boat," and my essay, "The Crossing," were published in Connotations, which is a small journal here in Sitka. In November, my essay, "Picking Raspberries," was published by The Baltimore Review. Coming up in the next month or so, my essay, "Sleep," will be published by Emrys Journal. In the Fall of 2015, my essay, "Manhandled," will be published by The New Ohio Review. And I just found out moments ago that I won the 2nd Prize of Nonfiction at Literal Latte for my essay, "David the Green Dragon Goes to the Opera." I don't know yet when the essay will be published, but I'll let you know.

For most of these essays, I'm writing under the name Tamie Parker Song, which is what I'll be changing my name to, as soon as I can get myself settled here in Sitka. My full name will be Tamie Marie Parker Song.

I'm so grateful to all these journals, for publishing my work. It's a big deal to me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the open door thing

Among my friends in Sitka, everyone leaves their home doors unlocked. I've been in towns like that before. In Flagstaff, I left my door unlocked. What's new to me though, what I haven't experienced before, is that in Sitka people not only leave their doors unlocked but they walk right in to each other's houses. Without knocking. Or, like, they knock and then just immediately open the door. It's extraordinary! What I like about it is that it feels like people think the whole town is one big house or something, and so they can sashay between houses and open each other's doors and it's all good. It's like everyone's having one long conversation, and at any moment someone could open your front door and march in and continue the conversation.

I'm not exactly sure what people do if they want to have sex or fight though. Hm. Do they lock their doors? But is that weird though? Because wouldn't people feel, well, locked out, if they went to open a neighbor's door and it was, well, locked? And then of course you get into the situation where everyone knows that someone's wife works 9-5 at the post office, and the husband is home alone, but then someone goes over to his house and the door is locked. Which, well, clearly he's not having sex with his wife. So then, what is he doing? But what if he's working on his model airplane collection? What if he wants to work in peace on a model plane without having to worry about random neighbors opening his front door and picking up the debate about gun control? A debate that, in Alaska, is hardly a debate, since the ratio of guns to citizens is 7 to 1. So, hm. Is he really working on his model airplanes? I know I have my doubts.

I see now that the whole open door thing seems like an adorable small community thing but actually it is a self-policing mechanism wherein anyone at anytime can check up on you and so you better have your shit together. I bet it works pretty well too. Certainly if Granny Gerda wants to get into "model airplane building" she's going to find some backwoods cabin in which to do so, so as not to perturb the neighbors.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

sitka, alaska

I'm back in Sitka!

My address is now:

P.O. Box 1121
Sitka, AK 99835

My phone number is the same for now, but I'll likely be getting an AK number before too long.

jihadism & protest

Whatever you may think of Thomas Friedman, I think we can all agree that he is both well-informed and puts his money where his mouth is by actually going to the places he writes about and genuinely getting to know people and systems and politics on the ground. I myself have not found reason to quibble with him, although I know he has a reputation for being too moderate at times. (I might quibble with him if I were more educated on what he writes about.) Anyway, he's written a quite good piece in the New York Times in response to the murders in Paris, and the protests in response to those murders. And also about jihadism in general, and Islam, and where we should go from here. I highly recommend reading it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

ta-nehisi coates

Probably my favorite writer at The Atlantic, which is my primary news source, is Ta-Nehisi Coates. He writes primarily about race. He is brave, smart, and pushes aside instincts towards wittiness in favor of genuine knowledge and wisdom. He is kick-ass. He has taught me a lot of what I know about racism and America. He's probably taught me even more about how to be a good writer.

Recently he said something I'd like to quote here:

All nations like to begin the story with the chapter that most advantages them and the job of the writer is to resist this instinct.

Yes. The job of the artist is to resist the instinct for approval, the instinct to make one's own self or one's own people group or nation look good. This can be hard because artists are sometimes extra-sensitive people, so they're extra-sensitive to when they're not being approved of. But just because something is hard doesn't mean it's not important to do. Or to try to do.

In closing, read anything and everything Ta-Nehisi Coates has written.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

response to the charlie hebdo killings

Joe Sacco, whom you all probably already know is a great cartoonist (insightful, ethical, wise), has responded to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices with a beautiful and thoughtful cartoon. I'd like to share it with you all. I feel weird about just cutting and pasting it from The Guardian's website, which is where it's published, so I'm posting a link instead:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

understanding rap

Recently, the rapper Azealia Banks was interviewed on Hot 97, a radio station in New York City, and a video of the interview has been posted on youtube and has almost 2 million views. Which, comrades, is a lot of views. It's a great interview, and in it Azealia talks emotionally about the cultural appropriation of rap and of black culture in general. Listening to that interview led me then to a series of tweets from the rapper Q-Tip, sent to Iggy Azalea (a female Australian rapper), whom Azealia Banks heavily criticizes in the aforementioned interview. Iggy Azalea has, unfortunately, shown herself to be quite racist. If the history of rap is a mystery to you, I recommend reading the series of tweets, which is basically a brief explanation of what rap music is, and I recommend listening to the interview.

But not just if you're curious about rap do I recommend the interview. Actually, the interview has very little to do with rap. It has to do with what it means to be a white person, and what it means to be a black person, in the United States. In the last third of the interview, Azealia talks about why she doesn't like the movie "Twelve Years a Slave." And I felt like finally someone articulated something that's been nagging at me for a while now, with movies about black people and African Americans in the United States.

It's a damn good interview. Watch it. Listen to it. And then tell me what you think. (P.S. The interview has a lot of so-called dirty language. If that sort of thing triggers you or bothers you, don't watch the interview.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

tamie's guide to whether you are old or not

It has recently come to my attention that some people my age think of themselves as "middle-aged." This is incorrect. I'm sorry that such people have been so mis-informed. In order to correct such mistakes, I offer below my Guide to Your Age

Guide to Your Age

Ages 0-13: Child
Ages 14-17: Teenager
Ages 18-19: Technically an adult
Ages 20-23: Very young adult
Ages 24-29: Young adult
Ages 30-33: Mid-age Young Adult
Ages 34-40: Older young adult
Ages 41-47: Young middle-age
Ages 48-53: Middle age
Ages 54-59: Older middle age
Ages 60-70: Younger old person
Ages 70-80: Middle oldness
Ages 80-90: Oldness
Ages 90-100: If you ain't wise, it's hopeless by now
Ages 100+: Hella old

Monday, January 5, 2015


I do indeed recommend the film "Spirited Away," directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
As well as the movie, "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," by the same director.

Stay tuned for further recommendations. And feel free to recommend things to me, keeping my resolutions in mind!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

cousin reunion #2

Back in November, my first cousins and I had our first cousin reunion. That was over on my dad's side of the family. Today, I attended the cousin reunion of my mom's first cousins on her mom's side of the family. It was a warm and pleasant time! Here's a photo:

First row, L to R: Jerry (my step-dad), Mom, me, Elaine, Sarah, Roger; Second row, L to R: Barbara, Rick, Sherry, Eddy, Tom, Dennis, Marilyn, Scott, Melissa
This photo was taken by Jerry McCoy. This is a portrait shot he did as a favor to our family. His creative work is inestimable and is for sale at

Friday, January 2, 2015

engaging the imaginations of the historically/contemporarily marginalized

A number of times in the last few months when I've told people that my New Year's resolution is to not read anything written by a straight white man, and to not watch any movie directed by a straight white man or in which the protagonist is a straight white man.....well, my resolution hasn't gone over particularly well with a number of people. You can guess the demographic of folk it hasn't gone over well with. Which has highlighted to me the reason I'm doing this, which is to engage the voices & imaginations of the non-dominant culture.

But I've also got to thinking that maybe it would be better not just for the people I talk to about this, but also for my own psyche, to state my New Year's resolution in the positive, rather than the negative. So, stated positively, my New Year's resolution is to engage the imaginations & voices of the historically and contemporarily marginalized.

I started, yesterday, with the novel Americanah, by the female Nigerian writer, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie. I'm about 100 pages in and it's really great so far! I'll keep you posted. I also started watching the anime movie "Spirited Away," by the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. The protagonist is a young girl who finds herself in a strange land of spirits. I haven't finished the movie yet, so I don't know whether I recommend it, but I do heartily recommend another movie by Miyazaki, called "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind."

I am accepting recommendations too! Send 'em over if ya got 'em!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

welcome to 2015

Words to start the year: Let there be peace on earth. And let it begin with me.

Welcome to the new year, my friends. We all come into this year in different places, different moods and states of health. Different visions, different hopes. I think there's enough overlap, in our wishes and hopes and sorrows, that we are also here together.

I'd like to start the new year off with a Best of 2014. So:

Best Book (that Tamie read) of 2014: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Best Radio Station: Raven Radio in Sitka, Alaska

Best Funny Elderly Lady Pal: Ariel Parkinson

Best TV Show Tamie Started watching in 2014: Friday Night Lights

Best Animal of the Year: Sally the Dog in Flagstaff, tied with Donnie the Dogcat in Chicago

Best Students: The students at the College of Alameda

Best Mainstream Magazine: The Atlantic Monthly

Best Hat: The hat my brother got me in San Diego

Best Shoes: XTra Tuffs

Best Blog: The Bloggess

Best Christmas Tree: The one Lori had in North Dakota; it was fiber optic

Best Quote on the Last Day of 2014: "It's not that he's an anarchist. It's that he takes Jesus seriously. It's easy to confuse the two." -Jon Erdman, speaking about Pope Francis

Best Food: The pancetta made by La Quercia (you can buy it in grocery stores; go now)

Best Drink: Hot chocolate

Best Musician: Bruce Springsteen

Best Bar: The Albatross Pub in Berkeley, CA

Best Coffee Shop: Aromas in Williamsburg, VA

Best Art Show: Bruce Munro's light show

Best Country: I'm against nationalism

Best Airport: The Sitka airport has good pie

the end.