the world is made of paper

Dress to Kill, Fight to Win by Dean Spade

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Does it matter what I’m wearing, what I look like, how I wear my body? All our lives, we receive conflicting commands to ignore appearances and not judge books by covers, and to work incessantly to conform our appearances to rigid norms. The result, I think, is that as we come to reject and unlearn the ways we’ve been taught to view our bodies (fatphobia, racism, sexism, gender rigidity, consumerism, ableism) we become rightfully suspicious of appearance norms and fashions and seek to form resistant practices. But what should those resistant practices be?

I think sometimes being anti-fashion leads to a false notion that we can be in bodies that aren’t modified, and that any intentional modification or decoration of your body is politically undesirable because it somehow buys into the pitfalls of reliance on appearances. This critique is true, lots of times what we mean to be resistant aesthetic practices become new regulatory regimes. Certain aspects of activist, queer, punk fashions have fallen victim to hierarchies of coolness that in the end revolve around judging people based on what they own, how their bodies are shaped, how they occupy a narrow gender category, etc. Perhaps it is inevitable that the systems in which we are so embroiled, which shape our very existence, should rear parts of their ugly heads even in our attempts at resistance. But does this mean we should give up resistant aesthetics? Isn’t all activism imperfect, constantly under revision, and isn’t that why we continue doing it? In my view, there is no “outside”-none of us can stand fully outside capitalism, racism, sexism and see what is going on. Instead we stand within. and are constituted by these practices and forces, and we form our resistance there, always having to struggle against forces within ourselves, correcting our blindspots, learning from one another. So of course, our aesthetic resistance should do the same.

More importantly, when we appeal to some notion of an unmodified or undecorated body, we participate in the adoption of a false neutrality. We pretend, in those moments, that there is a natural body or fashion, a way of dressing or wearing yourself that is not a product of culture. Norms always masquerade as non-choices, and when we suggest that for example, resisting sexism means everyone should look androgynous, or resisting racism means no one should modify the texture of their hair, we foreclose people’s abilities to expose the workings of fucked up systems on their bodies as they see fit.

The example I’m always wrestling with is trans surgery. Countless people who purportedly share my feminist values have argued to me that rather than having my body modified, the proper course of action would be to come to view it differently, such that it was not in contravention to my internal gender picture. Sometimes folded into this argument is a notion that trans surgery is a part of the capitalist construction of dichotomous gender. Rigid binary gender serves capitalism by setting a norm of extreme masculinity and femininity that none of us can achieve, so that we must constantly try to buy our way out of the gender dysphoria we all feel, In extreme cases, the argument goes, trans people buy gender transition procedures in order to cure ourselves of the fundamentally political condition of gender dysphoria, and we therefore sell out our own resistance to the binary gender system. I wholeheartedly agree with most of this analysis, except for the part where trans people are selling out everyone’s chances at gender resistance when we alter our bodies.

What this argument misses is twofold. First, there is no naturalized gendered body. All of our bodies are modified with regard to gender, whether we seek out surgery or take hormones or not. All of us engage in or have engaged in processes of gender body modification (diets, shaving, exercise regimes, clothing choices, vitamins, birth control. etc) that alter our bodies, just as we’ve all been subjected to gender related processes that altered our bodies (being fed differently because of our gender, being given or denied proper medical care because of our gender, using dangerous products that are on the market only because of their relationship to gender norms, etc). The isolating of only some of these processes for critique, while ignoring others, is a classic exercise in domination. To see trans body alteration as participating and furthering binary gender, to put trans people’s gender practices under a microscope while maintaining blindness to more familiar and traditional, but no less active and important gender practices of non-trans people, is exactly what the transphobic medical establishment has always done. This is why trans people are required to go through years of bullshit proving and documenting ourselves in order to get gender-related procedures, while non-trans people can alter their gender presentation through normabiding chest or genital surgeries and hormones as quickly as they can hand over a credit card.

The second blindspot here is in the assumption that trans surgery has a single meaning. The harshness and rigidity with which we view each other’s aesthetics of resistance—the ways that we decide that these practices have singular meanings—forecloses our abilities to truly engage each other’s work. We have to constantly fight the temptation to so narrowly view each other’s practices. Of course, it must be true that some trans people are sexist, some trans people believe strongly and want to enforce binary gender just like some non-trans people. But to pre-determine that there is a singular (sexist) meaning of all trans body modification, and to buy into what conservative medical sources say these modifications mean, rather than listening to trans people describing the resistant gender-fucking space-opening practices we engage with our bodies and words, is to participate in the silencing of resistance that serves capitalism, gender rigidity and sexism.

This process of foreclosing occurs all the time between activists in various ways, where we tell one another that whatever effort we’re making is predetermined to mean something else, often failing to realize that our rigid viewpoint serves to squelch the reshaping and rewriting of meanings that we’re purportedly fighting for. So a part of this fashioning we’re doing needs to be about diversifying the set of aesthetic practices we’re open to seeing, and promoting a possibility of us all looking very very different from one another while we fight together for a new world. I want to be disturbed by what you’re wearing, I want to be shocked and undone and delighted by what you’re doing and how you’re living. And I don’t want anyone to be afraid to put on their look, their body, their clothes anymore. Resistance is what is sexy, its what looks good and is hard to look at and what sometimes requires explanation. Why would we want to do things that don’t require explanation, that are obvious, impervious to critique because no one even notices we’re doing them?


Written by m

March 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

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Stuff Fränkisch People Like

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The beginnings of a definitive list:

  1. Elbow Patches
  2. Not being called Bavarians
  3. Saying “fei”
  4. Zimmermänner
  5. Albrecht Dürer
  6. The Latte Macchiato
  7. Catholicism
  8. Seasonal decorations
  9. Nordic Walking

Written by m

March 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

clockpunk whale

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There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch; slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. And perhaps, at mid-day, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!

Written by m

February 8, 2012 at 8:02 pm

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CA Conrad Appreciation Hour

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From The Book of Frank


when Frank was born
Father inspected the small package
the nurse handed him

“but where’s my daughter’s cunt?
my daughter has no cunt!”

Mother leaned from the bed
“this is your awful son Dear
your son has no cunt”

“why doesn’t my son have a cunt?
what has happened?
what a WICKED world!
and spinning
on its one
good leg!”




Frank remember

shirts of buried generals

flying in formation

over schoolyards


blowing wasps from sleeves




“would you sign
my book Mr. Poe?”
Frank asks the pile of bones
amidst shovels of dirt

“why certainly young
man” answers Frank in a
different voice





“when I die” Frank prayed
I will never return

if I must
it will be as
it will be as if I had not”




“I’m here for the show” the man said
looking under Frank’s shirt for the door

“I’m no theater” Frank said

a line formed

must he admit them all?

many had umbrellas

a blind woman
waited with
her dog

“it’s gonna be a great show” someone said
“but when’s he gonna let us in?”

Frank’s tears began to fall

someone ripped his doors open

they filled him for an hour






“is no one else
SICK of this
paralysis of
Frank asks

“when I was a boy
I stepped into the sky
and I was a boy
not a surrealist!

part of the dream
is that you accept
your waking life as
part of the dream.”





pig says to Frank
“this fence keeps you in your world”
Frank says to pig
“this fence keeps you in your world”
pig says to Frank
“this fence keeps you in your world”
Frank says to pig
“this fence keeps you in your world”
pig says to Frank
“this fence keeps you in your world”




Frank remembers
shirts of buried generals
flying in formation
over schoolyards

blowing wasps from sleeves

Written by m

February 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Rainer Maria Rilke, scrapbook

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Extract from: Kaplan, Steven. “Modern American Poets on Rilke’s ‘Things’ and Robert Bly as a Translator of Rilke’s Images and Objects.” TR 38/39, 1992. 66-71

“Outside of his close readings of a few essays by Emerson,1 Rilke knew practically nothing about American culture and society, and the little he did know he would have preferred to forget. For Rilke, America represented “an absolute void,”2 and the “American appeared monstrous to him.”3 From his early youth until his death, America was a symbol of every aspect of the modern world that Rilke found “repugnant.”4 And because America was such a “wasteland,” it appeared “to Rilke throughout his life a region unfavourable for poetry.”5 As the Austrian poet Lenau stated in a passage that Rilke alludes to in one of his letters: “The nightingale is in the right, not to visit these fellows. It seems to me seriously and profoundly significant that America has no nightingale. It seems to me like a poetic curse.”6 America not only lacked the nightingale, or an inspiration for the “lyrical mood,”7 but it was also devoid of anything upon which a poem could be written, since there was no relationship “either amongst the human beings or amongst the plants and inanimate things.”8 Not even a “house in the American sense, an American apple, or one of their vines,”9 as Rilke argues in a famous letter on the main thought behind the Duino Elegies, could be considered real in the same way that the thousands of inanimate objects that went into his own poetry were real for him.

In light of this marked hostility towards everything American, it is amazing that, according to the number of times Rilke’s works have been translated in America and considering the almost staggering publication figures for editions of his Duino Elegies in America, Rilke is the most popular German literary export to the country outside of Goethe, who incidentally felt the “American continent/Is better off by far than”10 the European one. Whereas the complete cycle of Duino Elegies has still not been translated into Russian, in Rilke’s “elective fatherland,”11 in the past fifteen years alone five important translations have appeared in the United States.

Rilke might not have known much about America, but Americans clearly know Rilke, and they have been reading his works for over seventy years. The first translations of Rilke’s poems in American newspapers and magazines began to appear as early as 1914, and the first book collection of his poems was published in 1918.12 From then on there followed a steady flow of Rilke translations, so that by 1950 all of Rilke’s major writings were available in at least one if not more American versions.

If one looks at the impressive list of writers who have spoken out for Rilke in America over the past few decades and at the reasons why they praise him, it becomes apparent that in America Rilke is looked upon by many as a prophet. He is seen as a force capable of counteracting those aspects of American society and culture of which he himself was so critical. The poet Wallace Stevens, for example, felt that “people are as much interested” in Rilke as a human being as they are in his seeming to also be “something more.”13 For Stevens, Rilke was the ultimate embodiment of “the meaning of the poet as a figure in society” which is a “precious meaning to those for whom it has any meaning at all.”14 What impressed Stevens the most about Rilke was his absolute dedication to “the mighty burden of poetry.”15 Similarly, E.E. Cummings constantly stressed that an understanding of Rilke’s conception of the place of the artist and his works in society was the one thing a student of literature should know in order to comprehend the uniqueness of poetry.16

Rilke himself would have probably been astonished to find that, in a country as allegedly obsessed with the acquisition of money as the United States, so many writers have admired his ability to, as Theodore Roethke put it, “hold forth” in his complete faith in the poetic word.17 What Rilke’s poetry seems to verify for so many American writers is the fact that, as Randall Jarrell in an allusion to Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” argues: “The work of art says to us always: You must change your life. It demands of us that we see things as ends not as means–that we too know them and love them for their own sake.”18 This statement by Randall Jarrell points to one of the main reasons why Rilke is so popular in America: namely, because his poetry attempts to demonstrate an unselfish and non-materialistic relationship to things. Thus, Jarrell’s enormous respect for the poetry of William Carlos Williams is based on the fact that it reveals “an identification with its subjects (more) than any modern poetry except Rilke. His knowledge of plants and animals, our brothers and sisters in the world, is surprising for its range and intensity.”19 This admiration for Rilke’s relationship to things could have also stemmed from Robert Bly, as well as from many other American poets who have read Rilke. The poet Karl Shapiro, for example, has been compared to Rilke for demonstrating “the Rilkean attitude of unembarrassed, universal sympathy” with things.20 Theodore Roethke even wrote a poem in which he praises Rilke’s empathy with things:

To look at a thing so long that you are a part

of it and it is a part of you–Rilke gazing at

his tiger for eight hours, for instance. If you

can effect this, then you are by way of getting some-

where: Knowing you will break from self-involvement,

from I to Otherwise, or maybe even to Thee.21″


Sister Act 2, Inner City Teacher Movie meets transitional modernist poet.

Whoopy: “Du mußt dein Leben ändern.”

On a related note, Amanda Palmer on Lady Gaga:

She’s a consumer and a product
art of conduct
cause she’s buying what she’s selling
she’s not lying, she’s just trying to write songs rebelling
just like Madonna in the 80’s
lumping withher simulacrum
on this logical musical continuum
she typifies Baudrillard’s argument
we no longer have the ability to make sense of the distinction between nature and artifice
thus a new culture emerges where
femininity can be read as artifice
the women as signifier
in which Lady Gaga can be considered trapped inside the endless decontexutalization of her own reappropriations
problematizing her own subjectivity in a post modern deconstruction
ending inevitably to the seductive mirror of narcissism
we must ask ourselves whether her illusory “poker face”has indeed freed her from the conception of femininity as masquerade orchanged her into a post structuralist prison of ego
and artlessness



Smallville, Season 3,” Legacy”

Lex: Look, I’m afraid I’m a little jaded in the romance department. The only thing I know about relationships is that someone usually winds up getting hurt.

Lana: And you don’t think I can trust Clark to not do that.

Lex: I don’t think it’s about trust. It’s like the German poet Rilke said, “A person isn’t who they are during the last conversation you had with them. They’re who they’ve been throughout your whole relationship.”

Rilke or Dr Phil?


Igby goes Down (2002)

-We’r e all at a bit of a loss as to–
-Whenever I’m at a loss, I dip into Rilke.
-Rilke? That tortures me. Every Christmas, some asshole gives me this copy
of Young Poet with this patronizing note on the flap about how it’s supposed to change my life.
-Maybe you should read it before judging it.
-I’m pretty confident. After all, one of the copies was from you.


But also poems:

Rilke on the Conveyor Belt at LAX by James Ragan:

In the Black Forest Before the Birth of Rilke by CA Conrad, an old favourite:

Torso of Marilyn by Nin Andrews

Written by m

February 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Posted in poems, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

gret palucca

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Written by m

January 31, 2012 at 10:19 pm

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coat of many colours

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ich nehme die Krankheit mich herum

und bleibe immer und überall stumm,

nur huste manchmal, was aufmerksam macht

auf mein Versteck hinter diesem Tracht.

Written by m

November 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized