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Mark’s movie

1091 Pictures has picked up Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story for a digital release on October 27th (via Deadline). Filmmaker Julie Sokolow compiled a bunch of Mark’s youtube videos, alongside interviews with family and friends, to make the film. You can check out more info here.

The last time I saw Mark was two years ago during an ayahuasca ceremony. I had just puked, and he showed up to say hey what’s up, i miss u. He said that death is a kind of expansion, an expanding into pure light and acceptance and love, and we’re all just energetic beams of light walking around, so it’s cool because we can basically hang out with him whenever we want.

But I still miss him buttloads, all the time.

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September 28th, 2020 / 10:12 am

Collages on Shabbos

click to enlarge

This week’s collage is “Kiss Me, Partygirl” by Pilot Jeanne Gosh.

pilot jeanne gosh is a mother, a friend, and a 30 ft tall wolf. her work has been featured in Spy Kids Review and Voicemail Poems. she enjoys riding the train and lying on the floor listening to someone play video games.

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September 18th, 2020 / 9:44 am

Chogyam Trungpa on Depression

Chogyam Trungpa was a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master. At the age of 20, he witnessed the occupation of his homeland and the destruction of his monastery, and had to flee Tibet and travel for nine months by foot to reach safety in India. He ate his shoelaces and watched his friends die on that journey. 13 out of 300 refugees survived. His teacher had a vision that Trungpa would bring meditation to the West, and so he moved to the United States in 1969. He did coke with Joni Mitchell before showing her a breathwork exercise that inspired her to quit coke altogether, and he taught David Bowie how to meditate. He hung out with hippies and made them burn their weed. He slept with lots of white women, and drank so much booze that he died from cirrhosis of the liver before turning 50. The dude could meditate for weeks without eating and then drink you under the table.

A series of Trungpa’s lectures were published in the book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, where he says things like, “Compassion is a war on want” and “Ego is the monkey of cognition” and “We meditate because clouds are clouds and the sky is blue.” Reading this book during this fuckhole of a year has been an interesting experiment as I oscillate between mindful awareness and wanting to rip my face off. I recommend it. Recently, I came across this answer Trungpa gave regarding how to cope with depression. I found it interesting to think of depression having a kind of ‘texture’, and the idea that there can be great intelligence in the unknowing:

Well, try to relate to the texture of the energy in the depression situation. Depression is not just a blank, it has all kinds of intelligent things happening within it. I mean, basically depression is extraordinarily interesting and a highly intelligent state of being. That is why you are depressed. Depression is an unsatisfied state of mind in which you feel that you have no outlet. So work with the dissatisfaction of that depression. Whatever is in it is extraordinarily powerful. It has all kinds of answers in it, but the answers are hidden. So, in fact I think depression is one of the most powerful of all energies. It is extraordinarily awake energy, although you might feel sleepy.

But, at the same time, you are experiencing tremendous texture, the texture of how the stagnation of samsara works, which is fantastic. You feel the texture of something. That entertainment didn’t work. This entertainment didn’t work. Referring back to the past didn’t work; projecting into the future didn’t work. Everything is made out of texture, so you could experience depression in a very intelligent way. You could relate with it completely, fully. And once you begin to relate with it as texture of some kind, as a real and solid situation which contains tremendous texture, tremendous smell, then depression becomes a beautiful walkway. We can’t discuss it really. We have to actually get into heavy depression and then feel about that.

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September 16th, 2020 / 12:39 pm

River Furnace’s Fashion Issue is absolutely everything.

Fashion has always been a point of contingency for me. Fashion is made to a standard size or specification than it is to order. It’s like an ancient text that seems to offer an inventiveness for Black people and Black folk’s pleasure where the rest of the world vehemently rejects it. However, the marketing, fashion and entertainment industry aims to exploit these inventive Black spaces. It obfuscates just as much as it brings to light.
~ Juju

Fashion is more than expression. Fashion is denial, refusal and incoherence where they are not allowed — and through this defiance, self fulfillment. Fashion, like art, is the product of imagination, of energy and soul put to purpose for a goal that is under no obligation to be explained. That vacates still life to give birth to more. This, too, is fashion.
~ Warpath Slave

Fashion occurs at the intersection of body and world, an opportunity to (non)conform. Online, it is an invitation for commentary, which you can ignore. But if you’re ditching the lesbian sport shorts to go out in a dress, prepare to absorb their stares, or have a hand on your mace for when the men follow. Remember, t/girls, our accessories are also part of our fashion.
~ Neptune

Read River Furnace: The Fashion Issue here.

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September 9th, 2020 / 1:30 pm

The Jolly Corner

Some months ago, I was rereading Colm Toibin’s great first novel, The South, when I realized something about the way a voice is made—or maybe I would say forged. I’ve heard Colm talk in interviews about the silences in his family—the hush that fell over his home in (I believe) Enniscorthy, Ireland after his father died when he he was young. He talks about the way the unsaid reigned over his home, the way that much of what was important lay well on the nether side of speech. And you can hear that in the rhythm of his prose, even when he isn’t writing about Enniscorthy and the spaces in which he was raised. You can hear that hush, that sense of the unsaid as an “unmoved mover,” as the lost pater familias in command of the family. You can hear those empty hallways and that ghostly tonality. 

I think also of Henry James’s story “The Jolly Corner,” which has been on my mind these many months when many of us have been (lucky enough to be!) barricaded in our homes. In this story—like The Turn of the Screw, haunted not so much by a ghost but by the possibility that it is in the end a ghost story—the main character returns to the New York City of his youth, after being gone for thirty-three years, to look at his family’s (all of whom are dead) two old properties, one of which is being renovated. His childhood home is located on “the jolly corner,” and I suppose it’s James’s thesis that it is only at our own jolly corners that we can struggle with grief and regret, disenchantment and the treachery of memory. (NB: I cribbed some of this synopsis from Wikipedia.) Like James himself, he finds the city materialistic and vulgar. Let me quote from Colm’s introduction to the New York Review of Books’s The New York Stories of Henry James:

In “The Jolly Corner,” written after his American sojourn of 1905, James found a new doubled self to dramatize, the man who had left New York and lived in England, and his double, still haunting him, who had never left, who still wandered in those same rooms which would fill James’s autobiography and had filled his novel “Washington Square.” … [Brydon, the main character] has kept his old house downtown empty all the years [he has been gone], having it cleaned and cared for every day. He now goes there to be haunted by a figure moving in its dark rooms, the figure who has never left them, just as James himself in part of his mind has never left them.

My thinking is that we are often, as we write, moving through these dark rooms, these jolly corners that we have long haunted. We are confronted by our doubles and must struggle with them—and not only in content, but in form, in voice. In my experience, the way that my family talked to each other, the kinds of conversations we had, the things that were spoken of and those that were not—the particular hushes, the specific silences and also excesses of saying—all of this informs my voice when I am writing authentically. I am haunted by the language of youth and home. Of course, in “The Jolly Corner,” the protagonist ends up physically fighting his double—for dominance over the jolly corner, for sovereignty over his own memories. For other still more difficult reasons, I’m sure. So when I write, what is the struggle? If, like James’s protagonist, I am fighting a shadow-self, what are we struggling over? What kind of terrain is at stake?  

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September 7th, 2020 / 11:30 am

Collages on Shabbos

This is a series where I post collages people sent me just in time for Shabbos.

These collages are by Roz Leahy.

Roz is a hot, gay, trans woman. They try really hard to make interesting things and they’re on Twitter @allthingstruly.

If you want to send me a collage to post on a Shabbos to come, you can do so at collages::a:t::undying.club.

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September 4th, 2020 / 11:16 am

Mrs. Dalloway v. Ulysses

I recently reread Mrs. Dalloway and Ulysses. I read them when I was young, now I’m at the beginnings of becoming old. 

Both books take place during one day, Mrs. Dalloway June 13, 1923, and Ulysses June 16, 1904. 

Mrs. Dalloway feels like a day to me. I felt like I escaped into 1923, that I was really there, hanging out with Clarissa, Elizabeth, Peter and Septimus. Even though the characters are upper class, in another country, 100 years ago, far removed from my personal life experience; it still seems like Woolf captures many of the universals of life, throwing parties, shopping, having children, having a partner for a long time, having a person who you once loved, imperialism, having wars and PTSD veterans, being a wife of a PTSD veteran, sexuality and friendship. Basic experiences, we all have, regardless of social class or time. 

I recently read The Waves and Orlando, sometimes when I am reading Woolf, I feel like I am having a mystical experience. 

I am fascinated by the structure and arrangement of Ulysses. I get very zenned out when reading Ulysses, like I am in a dreamland, away from my life. It shows me personally that it is possible to supply information in multiple ways and the audience still gets a picture of what is happening. 

I don’t feel like I am living a day in Dublin though, and I don’t feel like it contains many universals, it is just two guys walking around chatting with other guys all day. There is this scene that I guess is a nightmare hallucination, that stretches from 429 to 609, that is like, why? 

I believe Joyce was a very rigorous, competent and hardworking fellow, however I don’t think he was very deep and had never taken the time for true self-examination, so trying to use two or three people, as symbols for what it means to be human, comes off, a little funny. 

The sad thing, I get from both books, is that life in the early 20th century United Kingdom offered no spiritual path and mental health treatment (The treatment Septimus gets seems bad). These characters were eaten by their agonies. I am really happy we have invented self-care and have medications for mental issues. 

I am glad I reread both books, in 15 years I’ll read them again.  

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September 2nd, 2020 / 12:16 pm

If I Detransition I’d Still Be Fucking All Your Dads: from the Vimeo account of Joss Barton

I discovered Joss’s writing from Clutch Fleishmann and Torrey Peters talking about her work on essay daily. Lines like “She need mother’s milk! She need semen and salt and sick nations on her tongue!!” (from “Lord Be a Femme“) had me immediately. Reading them I was like, “Wow, I also need semen on my tongue. She really gets me.”

Joss’s writing is funny, dark and drips with the cadence of ball culture. She manages to be absolutely trans, absolutely the recipient of a voice that feels handed down across generations that fought to be heard. There’s a bite, a tenderness, a dense lyrical complexity. I find myself revisiting her work often, even years later.

At this point, six and a half years since I came out, most trans coming-of-age/coming-out stories kind of blur together for me. But Joss’s Untitled: Transgender Amphibian Femme Songs stands out: vulnerable and, as I have come to expect from Joss, totally horny on main. She talks about wanting to tell her dad, “If I had been given a choice, I would have asked to be born in another dimension, where sissies conquer planets and enslave nations of men hung like Sampson.” I can’t argue with that.

You can read Joss Barton’s most recent story at heartspark.

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September 2nd, 2020 / 10:43 am

Go, Went, Gone without its beginning

My copy of the latest novel by Jenny Erpenbeck—Go, Went, Gone—began immediately on page 41, leaving out the first 40 pages and legal copy, which at first I thought was a intentional feature of the narrative’s design. I’d already read several pages in the mindset of having been dropped Finnegans Wake-like into midsentence and midaction until I realized it was just a misprint, and still I liked the feeling caused by a novel kicking off with: “any interest in the woman or the tree,” which then led directly into the next and first full sentence: “None of the refugees is anywhere to be seen.”

It took me a while to find a site I could read the first 40 pages on for free and on the spot. When I did, I found the missing section seemed immensely different than the part I’d already read—and, really, even after having finished the novel, all the rest of it to come. The missing section somehow also seemed connected to my recent reality in an odd way—the protagonist is a classics professor whose wife has died, in the ongoing absence of which he’s forever in the midst of figuring out how to live his life alone, removed from all he ever knew. Without those 40 pages, the story otherwise felt quite differently marked—concerning a man without much background, who takes an interest in a group of refugees being held in stasis by the German government.

I think I enjoyed the language of the book and how it formed. It felt bizarre to think this copy was unlike any other copy of the novel, and that I owned it, that I might be the only person to have read it in the way that I had read, which is true of all reading, I think, but this time in a way that jarred my brain. I thought about returning it to the publisher for a correct copy, already read, but I also found that I enjoyed the ghostly presence of the absence of its context. I enjoyed imagining the other ways the text could have been changed, not by the author but by the machines that gave it shape long after the author had moved on; the many other ways the nature of the story would be changed depending on other kinds of error never seen, overriding the possible pleasure of the intended plot with a looming sense that nothing is sacred, and anything might yet be done. This would haunt me throughout the rest of the novel, like I’d been given a glimpse of some expanse behind a curtain and then instead forced to move into a labyrinth around the novel’s fleeting, hidden heart. I kept thinking of the intent of the author as different than the intent of the book object, and the world the object existed within; that is, mine. It might break down at any second, I kept thinking; I might turn the page and find something there no other reader could have found.

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September 1st, 2020 / 10:17 am

Some Good Books About A Bad Man

Stalin

Edvard Radzinsky, H.T. Willets (Translator)

Once, while partying with his comrades, Stalin wondered aloud whether a star in the night sky was Cassiopeia or Orion. Comrade Molotov and Comrade Kaganovich couldn’t agree on the answer, so they decided to call the planetarium. The man who answered the phone was a security officer, so he didn’t know. He promised to call them back. He then sent two other security officers in a black limousine to fetch the most well-known astronomer in Moscow. This was during the Great Terror, when Stalin had prominent scientists, writers, doctors, etc, randomly arrested in the middle of the night, then tortured, shot, or sent to the gulag. When the black limo pulled up at the first house, the astronomer, whose friend Numerov was arrested just the previous week, had a heart attack before he could answer the door. They decided to visit a second astronomer. When the second astronomer saw the black limo pull up, rather than risk torture and imprisonment, he threw himself out of the window. The third astronomer shot himself. The fourth astronomer answered “Cassiopeia” then urinated himself. By the time word got back to the party, everyone had gone to bed. 

Stalin: Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 

Stephen Kotkin

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks took power, they no idea how to run a country. They made stuff up as they went along. They commandeered a girls finishing school in Smolny, the headmistress of which kept her office next to Lenin. Stalin was randomly appointed head of the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities, his first real job in years. He sat in his office with his deputy Pestkowski and waited for phonecalls. Trotsky tried to take over the tsar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, but the employees just laughed him out the door. When Trotsky came back with a small group of armed men, the employees fled. Trotsky stole what money they left behind. When Pestkowski succeeded in stealing a portion of the cash from Trotsky, he was named head of the State Bank.    

Young Stalin

Simon Sebag Montefiore  

Young Stalin’s unofficial role in the early days of the party was to rob, hold people for ransom, and extort funds for the revolution. He spent many years “expropriating funds” in oil rich Baku, a city in Azerbaijan with flame-spewing refineries and elaborate palaces built by its many oil barons. One oil baron named Musa was kidnapped by the Bolsheviks, but refused to give them money. “Of course, you can slice me up,” he said, “but then you’ll get nothing.” Stalin, who normally preferred to work in the shadows, decided to meet in private with Musa. After a 10 minute conversation, the oil baron decided to pay up. Later the same year, Musa was kidnapped by the Bolsheviks a second time. This time, he paid up immediately. Musa, like most wealthy peasants after 1917, was stripped of his fortune, but not before he received a note from Comrade Stalin that read, “Thank you for your generous contributions to the revolution.”  

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August 31st, 2020 / 10:22 am