Plato and the Vagina, A Narrative

Arguably I’ve spent too much time lately reading theory; however, since I am returning to graduate school in January, it’s good for me to know what all the cool-kids are thinking and more importantly, how they are speaking. Hence the brush-up on theory.
Georgia O'Keeffe
Today while reading a short tome on post-modernism (yes, another one) I came across this sentence. The context was feminist art. Christopher Butler writes about Judy Chicago’s installation art piece The Dinner Party, which is a triangular dinner table with 39 place settings, each set with a plate and a butterfly, lobster, flowers and others that for all intents and purposes are vaginas. Butler says, “isn’t there a disturbing ‘essentialism’ involved in allowing vulvic imagery to stand for women?”

This sentence actually requires an enormous amount of historical unpacking, straight back to Plato and his “forms.” The author, in essence, is saying, why should the vagina stand in as the form, or formal representation of women?

My reply is simple.
Trajan's Column
You see the photo over to the left? You know what it is? It’s called Trajan’s Column and it kinda looks like a big dick. But maybe I’m being to ‘essentialist’ and you should use the search term “phallic architecture” and see what pops up!

My point here is this: I’m all for feminism in any form or essence.

I’m all for anything that draws attention to the plight of women around the world (and now increasingly here at home in America) denied basic freedoms “essentially” because of their biology.

A woman that cannot make her own reproductive choices is in no way free.

Face Facts

20131127-165735.jpgIt’s time for The West, or America at the very least, to face facts: our collective Enlightenment beliefs of universal justice and personal autonomy are threatened by the very forces they unleashed: technological progress.

Life is paradox.

Same as it ever was.

Public Service Announcement

To say or believe, “history is written by the winners,” is to buy (and accept and believe) the entire post-modernist critique of history. Just saying.

UN-coffee Afternoons

20131126-155452.jpgIt’s one of those blah afternoons. I don’t enjoy them but they’re necessary.

A Short Update On India and Open Defecation

Tom Friedman Ever Been On This Bus?It is 2013 and I still get emails about this post from February of 2009. It was an exceptionally harsh post on and about India. My main reason for writing it? I was sick and tired of all the bullshit in the Western press about the Indian economic miracle. I was also very sick of what Pankaj Mishra in this recent New York Review of Books essay calls, “day tripping columnists” from the West. This is clearly a jab at Tom “Flathead” Friedman, but could be a jab at many others too boot. I do wonder how many people have spent more than two weeks in India?

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley certainly did, and he called India right way back in 2007. On a visit to Bombay he noted that the infrastructure was horrid and would at some point become a serious bottleneck to economic growth to the country. How did he come up with such a fanciful economic prediction? Did he run a quantitative model on the country? Did he look at its current account deficit and extrapolate out? Did investment banking friends of his tell him that at some point they’d simply stopped lending to India because of some hidden fundamentals they’d uncovered and didn’t like?

None of those actually–and probably all of them at a later date. At the time he made this prediction, however, based on a lot of his own personal experience in the developing world and one critical observation he had while on the trip. He was on India’s sole north to south superhighway (only four lanes total at the time) and his car almost his a cow.


Beggar LadyHere were are in late 2013 and his prediction has pretty much come true. Economic growth in India has been cut in half–actually more than half from its peak after the “reforms” of the 1990s. The main problem is that there is no manufacturing–and if there were, as I clearly said back in 2009 it couldn’t get to port because of India’s shitty infrastructure. Therefore, there is very little employment growth. Yet, the extraction economy continues and India, by some measures, has actually gotten worse.

Let’s recount just where India now stands in 2013:

All of the following stats were gleaned from and/or directly quoted from the above-linked Mishra story, so read it.

One hundred people in India are worth $300 billion, 25% of the nation’s GDP.

Brazil grew by only 1% between 1993 and 2005 but reduced poverty twice as quickly as India.

Bangladesh, which is half as rich as India on a per capita basis, has a longer life expectancy, better child mortality and immunization rates than India.

The 2011 census of India revealed that half of Indian households practiced open defecation. For those of you who are daft, this statistic means that one of every two people in the country takes a shit in public. I don’t like to euphemize. No toilets, so men just unzip their trousers or women hike up their saris, squat down and shit. In public.

Good enough visual for you?

“Almost half of Indian children are underweight,” compared to 25% in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Calorie and protein intake among the poor has actually dropped” in India since the so-called “Green Revolution” of the 60s.

Bangalore Air PollutionMishra writes: “The skies are polluted. The rivers are dead or dying. Waters tables are falling. Forests are disappearing.”

The man who very well may be the next Prime Minister of India—Narendra Modi—was barred from traveling in the United States for his alleged complicity in communal violence—also known as incitement to race or religion based mass murder—in Gujurat in 2002 that left 1,000 Muslims dead.

Overall, says Pankaj Mishra, “India’s economy grew at about 5% in the 80s, ran up to nearly 10% and recently has slowed to less than half that rate in recent months.”
Madurai Street Scene
Yes, there is a middle class in India with pent up consumer demand, which likes Western and global brands. They are gobbling up as much as they can. This middle class finds its incomes in real estate, IT, telecom and banking. When the offshoring play runs out IT and telecom will go bust. That will leave banking and real estate to pick up the slack, because there is little to no manufacturing in India. In fact, there is more in next door Bangladesh.
Time is like a wall of bricks
Then again, because of global warming Bangladesh will be underwater, so maybe India can help the Bangladeshis move their manufacturing base uphill.

Oh, and on my pet infrastructure project: the railways? Absolutely no money has been put into them to modernize them. Yes, you can buy a ticket online now, but tell me, how does a farmer who has to shit in public afford the internet?

Truly Mobile

20131108-184358.jpgShould I, in the future, have a quick post to jot off or a photo to share I can now do so as is now fully configured for mobile posting.

Yes, I reckon I am about three to five years late on this, but better late than never.

I reckon it will work so long as I have wifi or 3G or whatever new protocol they come up with.

Still, how cool is that?

On Poets and Madness

White GoddessWhen I was a younger man, perhaps from the time of my sophomore or junior year at university I wanted to be a poet. (Go ahead and snicker, really, it’s okay.) During this obvious and earnest phase of my life I came across and read Robert Graves’ dense and obscure “White Goddess.” Labeled ‘a grammar of poetry,’ it was nothing of the sort. It’s full of Graves’ ramblings about a pan-European Goddess of poetry and the secret language used by the ancients, medievals and early-moderns to summon her. Don’t get me wrong, some of the historical anecdotes are fascinating, but as a whole? It’s bizarre.

The book, which I still own, sits on that bookshelf we all have filled as it is with other random books that make up a category all their own. Defiant in their solitude. “The White Goddess” is still as canary yellow as the day I purchased it, too.

During one of Graves’ discussions of the ogham script and its relation to pan-Celtic, Druidic poetry (yes, there are a few in the book), he mentions the Welsh mountain Cadair Idris. The Chair of Idris is a wild, glacial-scraped mountain of the Snowdon range that towers over and protects Lyn Mwyngil and Abergynolwyn on one side and dominates the town of Dolgellau on the other. It’s a stupendous rock with an absolutely stupendous (and cold) lake right in the middle of it.
Cadair Idris 5
I’ve climbed it several times and it seems each time I’ve learned a new myth or legend about it. Some myths were gleaned while meeting other climbers on the mountain: it’s an odd rock too, one that makes climbers loquacious. Other legends I have heard while having tea in local Welsh B&Bs or ale in the pubs and one loutish legend a crazy transplanted-Kiwi told me and my best friend one summer as we hitch-hiked through Northern Wales.

But only one legend concerns us here, that which Graves recounts about the mountain in his book.

“For it is said,” and I paraphrase, because even though I have the energy to go out and take a photo of the book I have not the strength to open it up and wrestle with the demons from my youth that will inevitably claw their way out of the pages as memories, the spawn of demons, are wont to do, “that he who spends the night atop Cadair Idris will either become a poet, a madman or die that night in his sleep.”

Youth being exquisite in its stupidity and foolhardiness I was just dumb enough and foolish enough once to attempt this feat. And I succeeded.

I didn’t die up there that night, although it was cold enough even in the middle of summer on that barren summit that I shiver now. And I do not write poetry any more, for as Bukowski said (or maybe it was Catullus) “I see there are many poets in the world but not so very much good poetry.” (Even though once upon a time I was good enough to get published.)

So, that leaves only the one option.

Makes complete sense.