Archive for February, 2005


Monday, February 28th, 2005 at about 9:54 am

the death of abstraction

Mississippi was a culture shock both coming and going. Returning to Champaign from Clarksdale yesterday was almost as strange an experience as heading south was last Sunday. I’m sitting here, still tired and a little bemused after a enlightening, confusing, and frustrating week. I’m still sorting through my thoughts, trying to organize them into something coherent, but it’s difficult. The entire experience can be approached from so many different angles and perspectives that it’s hard to even know how to look at things, much less know what to make of what I see. But you’ve got to try.

Mississippi was largely a lesson in the concretion of abstractions. Yes, I know that there are hosts of destitute people living in shitty houses; yes, I know what these areas roughly look like; yes, I know the people who live in many of them in the area we were are black; yes, I have a preconceived notion of the face of this culture – but they are only concepts only, not realities. Driving through Clarksdale, though, and looking at something very, very real changes the way you have to think about these things. Most of the filters are removed – what you’re seeing is no longer presented through a television or a radio but instead a rolled down car window and fifteen feet of air.

Without the safety of conceptualization, then, I am forced to try to come up with explanations. Why are there $1,000 dollar rims on a shitty old station wagon in front a dilapidated old house? Why are people paying $400 a month for that house? Why is the unemployment rate nearly 75% here? Why are elected officials mostly white in a state that’s mostly black? I think of answers, but they’re rarely convincing.

Seeing all that is wrong in this area really makes you want to do something about it. Habitat does do something, and it feels good. I tend to focus on system change – what we need to fix in order for people to not be faced with these problem in the future. Such idealism, however, does not do much to help the people suffering right now. Sometimes you’ve got to knuckle down and dig in, fix as much as you can and hope it’s doing some good.

Going down for a week was a lot of fun, and I certainly feel as if we accomplished something. But coming home, now, makes me feel like I’m living a life that isn’t real at all. Some people said they felt selfish, since their lives are centered around their self-betterment and education. I feel some of that, but don’t really feel selfish so much as just misdirected and ineffectual. I want to start doing something practical, real, and immediate. I’ve been feeling like I’m wasting the present hoping it’ll make a better future a lot lately, and in the past week that feeling has grown even more acute. A part of me wants to take a year off and spend it in Mississippi with Habitat, where I can actually see that what I’m doing is useful, rather than rushing off to college and trying to fill my head with more things I barely even want to know. Hell, these days I sometimes feel like I’d rather take a year off and just spend it working 9 to 5, making money and hopefully doing some work I kind of like, instead of going to college right away. I’d rather bury the abstraction and live in any kind of reality for a while because my diet of living for the future is starting to starve me.

Seeing the Uni alumnae working in Mississippi now only reaffirms my desire to spend a year working. Nathalie, Kathleen, and Kate all struck me as so adult, so competent, and so well adapted to the radically alien culture they were immersed in that I couldn’t help but be a bit inspired. Perception of age is all relative, but it’s hard to believe they’re roughly as old as I am. As I get older I don’t really feel much like it. The people in the grades below me always seem a little young and the people who were in school above me seem like they’ve always been more mature, even when they were doing the things I’m doing now. But I digress.

More to come later, as I organize my thoughts further (perhaps in a more coherent manner than this time around).

Posted in General
by j. android

‘…down in mississippi where the sun beats down from the sky…’

Saturday, February 19th, 2005 at about 7:20 am

We leave for Mississippi tomorrow morning. Early tomorrow morning. It should be great. I’ve spent all day packing and choosing music for the trip. In an hour I’ll go out to do some last shopping, then have dinner and try to get out of the house for a few hours at night.

While it certainly is relaxing to not have school, I’m still tired. I’ve been sore and tired for weeks, sometimes sick, sometimes exhausted. But hopefully a week down in slightly warmer Mississippi having some fun and doing something productive will put the fight back in me.

Posted in General
by j. android

do the right thing

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005 at about 2:03 pm

Habitat arrives soon. I’ve gotten almost everything out of the way except tomorrow’s math test. Which of course is now a big deal, thanks to the average grade of about a high C on the test we got back today. Eh, whatever.

Registering for classes next year, it sure is tempting to eliminate all classes that assign homework. Only problem is, I don’t really feel like going to the U of I and being bitter with my own laziness for the rest of time. So I do what I always do, which is knuckle down and take the harder option. Fucking middle class values, so focused on making sure things pay off in the future we completely lose sight of the here and now. But it’s so deeply engrained that doing anything else just makes me feel guilty and ineffectual, unmotivated and lazy. But I guess that’s the game.

Posted in General
by j. android

sideways stretched/summerbound

Saturday, February 12th, 2005 at about 6:53 am

A long week. Agora Days has caused me no end of occupation, and it’s nowhere near finished, but hopefully I’ll be able to wrap that up soon. I suppose I have to, since it’s in a week. Also in a week is Habitat, of course, which I am beginning to be excited about. Still, a week is a long time, and I’ve been so busy this past one that thinking so far in advance isn’t much of an option.

The ACT this morning is nothing but over, my work is nothing but not, and the air is filled with nothing but golden light and a conspicuous atmospheric vacuity. There is nothing better than to breathe an escaped, errant hint of spring, come so early its intoxication is dangerous.

Posted in General
by j. android

the modern day warrior-poet

Sunday, February 6th, 2005 at about 3:09 pm

I went to this poetry slam last night. I went because Jenna said Zach was reading at 10, but in fact Zach wasn’t there at all and the thing started at 9:15, but so it goes. I made it in time for open mic, which was still fun to witness. I should find more stuff like this in town, I’m sure it’s around.

There was this woman in a wheelchair there, who was going in and out of the room. I didn’t really know what she was doing, I figured just watching a little or wandering around. Towards the end she went up to read a poem, though. I don’t know what her condition is, but her speech was too slurred to understand. Sitting there watching this woman try, though, in a room full of 40 or 50 perfectly silent people, sure made me want to get the fuck out of high school and away from all the assholes who I know would have laughed.

Another woman re-read her poem afterwards. I could paraphrase, but my memory is imperfect so I won’t do it any injustice. It was written from the perspective of “we,” called “We real cool” I think. The last line was “we die real soon.”

It turns out the woman was one of the organizer of the event. I’m still digesting a force-fed message in tolerance; whatever the point here is, it made me feel pretty good in a strange kind of a way.

Posted in General
by j. android

% ^ )

Sunday, February 6th, 2005 at about 4:40 am

I’m totally swamped in things to do right now. I didn’t leave the computer for more than two or three hours between 8 and 5 yesterday, working out the remains of the Agora Project. The ACT is next Saturday and I don’t have any fucking time to even look at the review book because we have three tests the next three days. But that’s how things are, I suppose. At least I’m not in the play.

background noise: “chaos (bizzare contact remix)” astral projection

Posted in General
by j. android

wyser than it seems

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005 at about 10:03 am

Well after a chaotic and disorganized day we lost at WYSE. How embarrassing. Zuke and I got what I would consider respectable 21’s on the Computer Science test, but apparently that is not good enough to beat whatever Centennial kid we were competing against. Well, poop. We will vindicate ourselves at Charleston, hopefully. If we’re the first team in seven years (or so I heard) to not win it would be rather, well, embarrassing.

Posted in General
by j. android