Upstream of Consciousness wants to be a collection of interviews that only contain answers. I will provide 5 phrases, words, quotes, links, pictures, or videos (in italics) and your consciousness will provide the rest. Responses can be short or long, real or fictional, words, links, or anything in between. In return, each of my "subjects" will give me 1 item back which I will then respond to (under the heading Ripple, with a number next to it). Come, swim for a while.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ripple (4)

4. the spinning dancer [Mary]

wait to see

curve and rhythm,

the body inseparable

from the air, the stage falling

from beneath to make way for the feet turning

on point like the end of a brief and passionate argument

when ex-lovers decide

to dance



Sunday, January 11, 2009


Please, go and listen to the beautiful music Mary makes with her band The Bewitched here.

1. Obama

Notes to self:

1. obama is not jesus (sidhartha, mohammad)

2. a unique opportunity is at hand

3. duty is a double-edged sword

elated as i am about obama's election, like most adults with some knowledge of history, i'm prudently skeptical of all government officials, even those for whom i've cast my votes. nor can i discount the effects that recent scandals, documented corruption and outright illegal behavior have had on my view of american domestic and global policies and how i respond to what i consider my civic duties.

so here i stand with my countrywomen and men, gazing at the mirage-like promise of the next four years while i try to rub the exhaustion and defeat of the bush years from my eyes. how to keep myself in the here and now? how to be realistic and optimistic simultaneously? recall notes 1 -3 above, apply vigorously and repeat.

1. obama is not jesus (sidhartha, mohammad)

he's an educated, experienced human, fallible, subject to circumstances he can't and shouldn't control and answerable both to those who elected him and those who did not. he's charged with enormous responsibilities, while being limited in his power and he's also, in my mind, the best person for the job of president of the united states. as such, he'll need the cooperation of congress and the public to begin a what is sure to be a lengthy discourse on where we've been and where we're headed. one, i hope, will lead to measurable progress toward a new economic stability, as well as global responsibility.

2. a unique opportunity is at hand

there's a partisan pile to dig out from under and the diamond is in the roughest state i've ever seen it in, but there appears, in this president-elect and the new congress, a glimmer. some of us use that dangerous word "hope" and suggest we'll have to get down to bare bones if we plan to restore something of our founding ideals and fashion them into a workable vision for this century and beyond. obama thinks we will. and what exactly, idealistically and practically does bare bones look like? obama's not 100% sure (is anyone?) but i'm confident he knows his american history and economic theory well enough to know it won't be easy and there will have to be some fundamental concessions from team red and team blue.

obama is well-acquainted with the pros and cons of government influence on commercial interests and to his credit avoids black and white thinking about what can be practically accomplished in the short run. he's also aware we're coming out of an extended period of entrenched partisanship over the laissez faire economic philosophy that is the heart of capitalism and has dominated politically since reagan. at the same time he knows how far behind we've fallen competitively in the global marketplace and without government reinvestment in education, technology and energy we'll continue on a path of bankrupting our stockholders, selling out our children and growing a new population of poor not seen since the great depression. a new system of sharing risks and rewards? wow, what a concept. are we willing to do it? as a u.s. citizen today, and as skeptical as i often am, i want to move forward in a spirit of bipartisanship because i believe the future of the globe depends on it.

3. duty is a double-edged sword

duty is what compels us to act on what we believe is "right" and can accomplish much that is positive and just. a sense of duty can inspire and motivate us in ways that material rewards cannot. we spring into action on the prompting of duty.

duty can also destroy us when in acting on our on beliefs we narrow our thinking to exclude the dutiful actions of others and the beliefs undergirding them. we justify what we do with a moral superiority that blinds us to how we are creeping toward the thing we profess to hate.

as a country i think it's important that we do our duty at home and in the world, but before we act, it's imperative to look closely at our motivations and acknowledge what it is that truly sustains us. then we must act courageously to hold our elected officials accountable to their duties.

let's have an "a" for audacity and here's to hoping we americans have the heart and the moxie to match obama's.

2. tea with the dead

having taken tea with the dead
i can tell you their manners are atrocious
the backs of their heads have eyes you don't want to see
please, never stand on ceremony

they know nothing of mornings
soft with green tea honey
warm constancy calming their lungs
after nights of calling
solemn steeping after languid sleeping

show them no pity
when you offer milk and cup
their lips are scorched, they've enough cold talk
they want luck with hot black steam in their nostrils

3. Father offers daughter to shoe-thrower

i laughed and threw a few virtual shoes at bush in the days following this incident too.

if anything illustrates the magnitude of hatred toward our exiting president, and by extension our country, this does. that a man would offer what he considers of greatest value (that it's his daughter is the subject of another blog) to someone who hurled the ultimate cultural insult at our president may strike reuters as "odd," but to me is very telling of our underestimation of anti-u.s. sentiment and sadly reflects our lack of sensitivity to the perceptions of our world neighbors.

this reminds me of "war talk" by arundhati roy. i've returned to this book many times in past five years and much of its foreshadowing chills me particularly now.

"Donald Rumsfeld said that his mission in the War Against Terror was to persuade the world that Americans must be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stamps his foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, standing here today, it's hard for me to say this, but The American Way of Life, is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America."


i love how this video opens. with the palms of saul's hands moving closer to the camera lens, the lines clearly visible and then they separate and he's in your face!

"i've got a list of demands written on the palms of my hands."

the demands? they're all for justice ("we're living hand to mouth") and ideals that never came to fruition.

they're written on flesh instead of paper because they're ongoing, non-negotiable, and acutely felt.

this song was used in a nike commercial awhile back and saul came under fire from some of his fans for "selling out." because he's committed to activism through his art, he argued that the opportunity to have the song heard by a wider audience, and thereby potentially draw more listeners to the body of his work and its message, made it worth the compromise. steadfastness to ideals is admirable, but if the means to the ends aren't working and the message isn't being received, it's time to rethink the means.

saul's live show is not to be missed. i got my chance in 2008:

5. gothic

i've been drawn to gothic literature since childhood. anything really that explores our shadow selves, the qualities and impulses we're taught to subjugate, even disown, in favor of the more pleasant, polite and socially sanctioned qualities of our natures.

what we seem to be most intolerant of in others are those things we will not accept, or in some cases even acknowledge, about ourselves. accepting doesn't mean we act on these capabilities, of course, but admitting we possess them is liberating and examining their unuttered influence on our outward actions challenges what we've internalized and agreed to without question. it's uncomfortable and necessary if we are to progress as human beings.

it fosters tolerance and compassion that we know ourselves to be capable of what we abhor, should our circumstances have been different. and in that recognition comes the first impetus toward justice.

"I come like a woman

who I am
spreading out through the nights
laughter and promise
and dark heat
warming whatever I touch
that is living
consuming only
what is already dead." - excerpt from
"The Women of Dan Dance With Swords in Their Hands to Mark the Time They Were Warriors" by Audre Lorde

this is a poem of refutation, affirmation and validation.
it refutes the parochial views of woman as achilles heal, earth momma and self-sacrificial saint and states with conviction what we actually are: human, unfathomable and deeply aware of an unarticulated past.
regarding the last line specifically, the affirmation and validation of our innate power, audre reminds us that our essential selves have immeasurable impact and despite overt acknowledgment our influence continues to gain strength as we subsume the illusory divide.

7. youth

on my thirtieth birthday, a colleague 15 years my senior gave me a tee that read "age and treachery will overcome youth and vigor." everyone laughed the knowing cackle of inevitability and the party broke up a early on excuses like, "well, it is a work night."

beneath the typical vanity issues, there's a great deal more that frightens and confounds us about age. we let go of more than meets the eye, in order to be "taken seriously" in the game of life. certainly it's desirable and necessary to attain some of our goals, mature emotionally and accept greater responsibilities if we're to become card carrying "grown-ups," but i would suggest that we lose more than we realize by talking to ourselves negatively about age and giving up ways of thinking and behaving we identify as the sole domains of "youth."

the way we talk to ourselves in a world of measurement most certainly appears to affect how we feel about our life choices and our ongoing potential for personal fulfillment. from actually saying or merely thinking things like "i'm too old for that" or "come on, don't be ridiculous" to actually giving up formerly enjoyable activities with no real obstacle except a generally accepted belief or a fear of being ostracized, keeps many from personal happiness.

so, is aging strictly a biological process? do our beliefs and accompanying choices give rise to what we consider "inevitable" entropy?

i view psychological age (how old you feel you are) as much more impactful than its chronological counterpart, and as such, highly subject to our self-talk and attitude.

perhaps the wisdom of age is that we are capable of retaining the best aspects of youth (curiosity, adaptability, openness, pursuit of innovation, fitness, etc.) simply by making the choice to continue embracing them. and that's hardly treachery. that's just smart.

8. Trent Reznor Upset His Music Used to Torture Prisoners...

i'm a long time opponent of prisoner torture and government-sponsored prisoner torture is particularly reprehensible. music torture is sub-form of psychological torture and is arguably as devastating, if not more so, than physical torture.

an amazing advocacy resource for this issue exists in the center for victims of torture in minneapolis. the cvt web site has tons of useful info for anyone interested in learning more and taking action. here's the cvt page on the effects of psychological torture:

for more info on the musician's campaign to end music torture, here's the web site:

and here's an article/call to action for president-elect obama from the washington post - rejecting the torture legacy:

9. "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." - Victor Hugo

i think this is why music affects us as profoundly and widely as it does and why it has the ability to alter minds and hearts in a way that is more inclusive than linguistics. the range of emotional content that seems otherwise inexpressible (or at least very difficult to convey) has another "language" with which to communicate itself (and this is true of painting, dance, photography also).

i would add that no one vehicle of expression has the ability to convey all that an individual is.

10. muffin

dear muffins,

feed your muffins these yummy, um, muffins.

sweet potato muffins (these are great on a cold winter evening with soup and salad)

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
finely grated sweet potato (about 2 small/med. sweet potatoes or 8 oz. if you use a kitchen scale)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (you can adjust slightly if you like them a bit cheesier and mix yellow and white cheddars too, but don't waste your drier english and irish cheddars, save those for the cheese board)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

peel and grate sweet potatoes. set aside.

in a large bowl, gently whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, minced fresh sage and salt. use a wooden spoon and add the sweet potato and cheese. combine, then make a well in the center.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. lightly brush muffin tin with olive oil.

in a small bowl combine olive oil, egg and buttermilk with a whisk and pour into the well and mix until just combined for a thick batter. spoon batter into prepared muffin tins one tablespoon at a time, dividing the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

if using a jumbo tin, bake for 35 minutes, raising the temperature to 400 degrees during the last 4 minutes. if using a regular sized muffin tin, bake for 25 minutes, raising the temperature to 400 degrees during the last 4 minutes. keep an eye on the muffins after you've raised the temperature to prevent over-browning. muffins are done when light golden. cool for at least 5 minutes before removing them from the tin. if cooling for longer than 5 minutes, move to a cooling rack to avoid soggy bottoms. served warm is best.


About Me

I am interested in the human condition.