Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A One-Woman Riot

At last year’s Women’s March a small cell phone video went viral. Milck aka Connie Lim came out of the shadows. Her song “Quiet” became the movement’s anthem.

Put on your face
Know your place
Shut up and smile
Don’t spread your legs
I could do that

[Verse 1]
But no one knows me no one ever will
If I don’t say something, if I just lie still
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let them hear what I have to say

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

She didn’t start out thinking she was going to write a hit, go viral, or even make a lot of bucks. Lim, a self-professed geek and outsider who said she never felt like she fit in, composed the song from personal experience. From an NPR interview:

It has been stuck in my (laughter) throat and my consciousness for years and years and years. I have been trying to find a way to heal myself from the burdens of being silenced.
"I've been an independent artist for eight years. And I remember around year five or six, there was a person interested in managing me and he was kind of scratching his head. He's like, 'Well I don't know how to break a Chinese American artist here. Maybe you should go back to China.' And I kind of panicked because I don't view China as my home. I view America as my home. I've been presented that strategy many times, especially when I was first coming up. But I've just been really stubborn about wanting to do my art here. And so, I've just been following my instincts and trying to stay as grounded as possible."
I was just different, even physically. I was a chubby kid, and I became really ashamed of how I was different from the standard stick-thin, polite, classy, elegant Asian-American female image.

MILCK: (Singing) It runs deep, it's insatiable - that hunger to be seen, to be understood.

She’d demo-ed the song and with her manager was shopping it, but there were no takers. Finally with the Women’s March approaching she rehearsed with women via Skyppe and performed it at the march in Washington DC. From there she appeared on Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal and the song took off.

She could have easily given up. Her story was a common one. Why would anyone want to listen to or buy her song? We all have experienced this—the put downs, the negativity. Being invisible. Wondering at our own worth, the value of art. Lim took a chance to step out and just perform the song. And when she did, great things came from it.

She turned her grief and pain into an anthem. Her words became identified with a movement. Thanks Milck for not giving up.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist=My Trips, part 1

January 2018, and I’m dreaming of my next cycle long-distance tour. I have to—it’s negative 7 below zero outside. It’s necessary to have something to look forward to.

But as a way of introduction here is a list of some of my past tours.

5 years old: rode my bike with training wheels across the highway. The pedal fell off and had to walk it home. Got home after dark, but never fessed up about what I’d done.

Middle school: a bunch of us took on our bikes—after a carbo-load breakfast where I ate a whole loaf of bread for French toast. After a few miles I got a stomach ache and had to turn back. Not sure where we were going actually.

Still in middle school: after helping my sister deliver the Sunday newspaper (starting out in darkness) we decided to ride our bikes to Xenia (Ohio). I got as far as Spring Valley on my banana seat bike before the miles or hunger sent me back home. I remember we made it as far as a ski hill? in Spring Valley—does anyone know anything about this place. Can’t find info about it on Internet, so I’m wondering if I just dreamed the whole thing up??

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Sometime while in college: loaded up my bike for multi-day trip, rode from Centerville to Hillsboro where I spent the night at a state park. The next day I called a friend to come pick me up, cancelling the trip.

Sometime in the 90s: rode my bike with a group of novices Chicago to Bushnell, IL. We did everything wrong but accomplished what we set out to do. I consider this a victory. It was less than 250 miles and took us 4 days, 3 nights. A decade later did the trip again in 3 days total.

Also in the 90s: smallish rides where I’d ride out, spend the night, and then back. Once more myself along with 2 friends did the I & M Canal, 3 days and 2 nights one of which was so cold our water bottles froze. We discovered a great stealth camping spot that has been a go-to for me in years since, right along a canal lock where there is a 3-sided hut and a huge fireplace.

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Katy Trail: I believe we took 4 days and three nights, one of which was in a bicycling hostel. It was a blast.

Around Lake Michigan: this is part of a series of trips I took with my friend Stefi. We had big hopes with this one, but fell short. We had to get picked up somewhere after Grand Haven. We took the train to Kenosha and made it to Oostburg using the Interurban trail. But our second day we failed to make it to the Badger ferry (Manitowoc – Ludington) for the early afternoon so rode to Point Beach State Park. On day 3 we got down the coast but was stopped by darkness. Later that evening we were treated to a fireworks show the region puts on to celebrate end of summer/back to school. On day 4 we spent the night outside of Holland. We’d only budgeted time for a 5-day ride and at this rate we’d need a few more days, so called for a ride. Eventually I would close the gap on this ride solo after Stefi moved away to Minnesota. Since then I’ve done it a couple of times. Each time feeling a sense of satisfaction.

Natchez Trace: Stefi and I did this in 2013 from Nashville to Jackson, MS. It was our first trip where we packed the bikes up and put them under a bus. We had no on-line navigation, just paper maps. We did have the advantage of cell phones. We took Megabus to Nashville, rode to the beginning of the trace. We ended the trip in Jackson where we stayed with a couchsurfing host and rode our bikes to a bike shop where we boxed them up then begged for a ride to the train station. I remember the train was awfully late getting in at the station.

Columbus – Cincinnati, OH: I talked Erin into doing this one with me. We again Megabused to Columbus. I don’t think Megabus goes to Columbus anymore and for sure they stopped being so easy to get a bike on. I stopped taking them for this reason; I hated the hassle. The ride took 3 days and 3 nights. In Cincinnati a friend met us at a diner with bike boxes where we tried and failed to get them entirely broken down and simply resorted to stuffing them into adapted boxes and loading them onto Megabus back to Chicago.
Meanwhile, friends moved away. I wondered if I could do this thing by myself.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Greatest Showman: A Movie Review

The Greatest Showman
Director: Michael Gracey
    Hugh Jackman
    Zac Efron
    Michelle Williams

The Greatest Showman is a made for the movies musical about P.T. Barnum, the king of bunk and humbug, the creator of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The late great circus. Kids now will grow up wondering what’s a circus.

This is the kind of movie I wouldn’t normally go to, but, what the hey, it was 7 below zero, I was out with the girls, and I was desperate for something different. For another world. For magic. Besides it was $5 Tuesday.

From beginning to end this movie extravaganza is a miracle of motion. It has all the exuberance and appeal of a great, big Glee. A show stopper. What does that phrase even mean? But from the first number to the credits it was engaging. No slow moments.

And the theater was packed. People wanted to see this movie. Whole families, classesmates, youth groups, etc date-night. I was surprised as I’d not really heard a lot of hoopla about this film. Except my neighbor who came home and said she’d seen it with her daughter. She looked like she’d been to a revival.

It was the kind of experience that when it was over, everyone clapped and cheered.

I read a review that said the story was shallow. Hello! Has this critic ever seen Bye Bye Birdie or Hairspray? Musical theater tends to simplify. They have to in order to get the audience to stay in their seats. Start loud and big and keep it up. Thus, the themes are not complicated, but easily accessible. What I liked about The Greatest Showman was how we were able to meet and quickly recognize so many characters. True they weren’t nuanced or fleshed out, but at 105 minutes we were introduced to a cast of characters that I could identify with. From the retinue of freaks to the beautiful Jenny Lind, to Barnum’s wife played by Michelle Williams.

That’s quite a range.

But the freaks (sorry, their word not mine, but hang in there, this makes sense): the bearded lady, tall, fat, short man etc felt contemporary. These are the ones society marginalizes, who are taking their cases before the Supreme Court and asking to be recognized. Not assimilated or ignored. They know they’re different, but in a great number, “This is Me” we find unity within diversity. The sense that we all have something “wrong” with us, something that made us feel different or stand out, a reason to not be accepted. We’re not ashamed. Instead of alienating, the circus audience cheers. Just like we in our seats sang along. I was moved by the passion and power of “This is Me.”

Freak doesn’t mean fake. Kevin Young in his book Bunk seems to be making a case for authenticity. I agree. It’s just who gets to judge. Obviously there is truth and historical fact, but as we all know there are many tellings of battles. In his book he gives us his version.

The song “Never Enough” lifted me out of my seat. I’ve been replaying it on my computer since I’ve gotten home. Love, love it, Yet with all the talk of humbug, I was saddened to find that the voice of Loren Allred was dubbed in for Rebecca Ferguson. It’s the song Jenny Lind a shy Swedish singer appears on stage to perform. A sensation from Europe, so we wait, wondering if we’ll be under or overwhelmed. Will she live up to the hype? Oh boy when she opens up, she is the Swedish Nightingale.

This is movies. This is entertainment. We want to be deceived, taken for a ride, we want to be WOWED. The Greatest Showman doesn’t disappoint. It’s church, y’all.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bunk: Book Review

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Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News
Kevin young, Greywolf Press 2017

I was really excited about getting my hands on this book. I’ve mostly known Kevin Young for his poetry. His publishing creds are impeccable, and the above title was longlisted for the National Book Award in non-fiction.

It was a busy holiday spent hanging out and when not hanging then reading. I finished a couple heavy-hitter books. With more holds piling up on the shelves at the library. So with Bunk I started with the back and read around, eventually starting at the beginning. Maybe because of this “pecking” it felt like a couple different books to me.

Part Six: Unoriginal Sin was about appropriating and misappropriating material and culture not part of one’s milieu. What I appreciated most was Young’s narrative voice. Have you ever wished while reading non-fiction for the author to interject—yo! Now it gets serious, or any number of observations. Sure it deviates from the objective, from the analytical, but I found the voice extremely engaging. And, it tuned me in. Young did have a bias or a bone to pick. It was a side to history and the theme that didn’t feel overworked. It was fresh, brain tipping, causing me to slide into a whole new perspective.

Clearly Kevin was exploring themes and instances of hoaxery that have intrigued myself. For example: Rachel Dolezal, the white lady pretending to be Black that ended up heading up a local NAACP chapter. Some stuff is so weird it sounds made up, and some of it is made up. That’s the point, he points out. You’re stealing our story.

He also delved into the convoluted world of plagiarists and those who tell false stories. At my blog I’ve covered some of these people. It is like a hall of mirrors, who is taking from whom. What might first appear benign is later proved to be fatal. You’re stealing someone’s story.

And by stealing you are diminishing. Sort of like how I feel when politicians re-arrange words to make some new soul-killing policy sound super great. Like in my neighborhood how the local alderman drones on about “housing first” for the homeless all the while using Nazi tactics to terrorize them and eventually uproot them and ship them to Elgin. “Not in my backyard.” What developers do when they pay into a low income housing pot instead of offering low-income housing, making them seem altruistic but in the end disenfranchising.

Like a day in Trump tweet world. Everything is upended.

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Eng and Chang
The first half of the book discusses P.T. Barnum and the whole idea of othering: Freak Shows. The phenomena of putting something over, pulling the wool over our eyes. It’s here where I had mixed feelings. There’s a big difference between exhibiting a headless chicken that’s managed to live than say Lance Armstrong doping for decades and claiming Tour de France jerseys and prize money. One has to do with base curiosity and the other with an intentional fraud.

Then I went to the movies.

Monday, January 15, 2018

While golfing . . .

Yesterday an alert went out:
A mother called her son in Texas—
Stay on the line until . . .
A father held his son—
Don’t worry, while the whole time
He was shitting his pants
He held him so tight, sobbing
A group of friends strolled down to the beach—
If this is it, we’ll go together
A young girl walked away from her job,
The one she hated, she thought about calling home
A couple stayed in bed, let’s stay here forever, they said
People ran to their bathrooms and hid in the tub
A mom lowered her children into the sewer,
First lifting the heavy manhole cover
A man went into a church to pray
But no words came, only unholy utterances
The teenage boy wished he had been more bold
The teenage girl had no regrets, she smiled at everyone
He didn’t know what to do
She knew one thing that had to be done

Only after—
There was no all-clear—
More of a general resignation, a tweet
Did the realization dawn:
We are still here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist: Aren’t you lonely?

Yes. And no. My head is so engaged in the process that while riding it’s hard to be bored. Especially for the JOGLE. Everything was so new and fascinating (and, at times, overwhelming) that getting bored or lonely was way down on the list of what I was processing.

Then at night in my tent or dorm or hotel room I was just so happy to be done and relaxing that loneliness never came up. I think the times when I really wish for someone to share the experience with (aside from if I get a flat—hahaha) is when things are going great or something is so beautiful you wish someone was there with you. Though the truly sublime moment is hard to articulate. During those times sometimes silence is the only response.

Traveling solo has also opened me up to riding with others. Such as on my JOGLE I ran into Alex and we rode together on the Great Glen Way. It’s fun to meet people and compare notes.

Riding companions are important to have when overwhelmed or when particularly physically challenged. They can help spur you on, encourage you up the mountain. But they can also slow you down. I don’t think I have to enumerate the pros and cons of riding solo. Sometimes it’s just how things turn out. The most important thing is to not let it stop you. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Solo Woman Cyclist=Learning to Fix the Bike

If you read back through my half dozen bike diaries you’ll soon see a pattern: I don’t really know how to fix my bike. Plus I’m a scaredy cat about it, but necessity is the mother of invention. Maybe not invention, but of working around problems that do come up.

Tire repair: I’ve already relayed here how much I hate changing a flat. Never mind repairing an inner tube while on the road. Anyway, I do know how, it’s just doing it that’s hard. Always carry a couple spar inner tubes and a pair of tire irons. Now a days there are plastic ones in cool colors that stick to each other and are handy.

Brakes: there’s a tumbler on the side that widens and narrows so that you can tweak any kind of rubbing. I also use that thing that throws them open for removing the tire without deflating it. For replacing the pads I’ve got the kind that are already set for the right angle and all I have to do is loosen and insert fresh pads. The one thing I do know is that you have to replace BOTH sides. (Not both front and back, though often this is the case too.)

Gearing: this is a can of worms but know this—there’s 2 tiny screws and one sets the limits for going too far one way while the other sets the limits for too far the other way. Most likely in a pinch you can tweak this on your own and then get someone to help you refine it later on.

Cable snapping: this has happened and there’s nothing to be done except replace it. Some people carry an extra. I’ve never found this necessary as I’m never too far from a shop.

Lubricant: super important, yet super inconvenient when flying. You aren’t allowed to carry any kind of chain oil etc. so must buy this first or second thing. In Nova Scotia I had some problems finding what I needed and with all the rain I was afraid of my chain rusting. I went to a hardware store and read labels and bought an aerosol spray. You want something that doesn’t collect a lot of dust and grit from the road, but yet covers. There is wet and dry lube, and some intermediates.

This about covers most of the stuff I’ve run into. I carry a hex handy tool with several sizes and a couple loose screws in an old sock so that they don’t roll around in my bike bag. Hopefully, this info will help you in deciding if you have the basics before taking off. Performance bike shop often offers free workshops with their “spin doctor” that have come in handy, and also the local bike co-op offers classes for basics, fine tuning, and for women (and those who identify). Search for these resources online.