Things that give me hope

1.) New York’s Youth Poet Laureate, Ramya Ramana, reading her poem titled “New York City” at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration (transcript available here):

When I watch this young woman read, I can almost believe that change is possible. That the tides are turning. That we, the people, can and will rise.

Not just because of the beauty and fierceness and demand for justice that shines so clearly through her performance–although that alone is enough to blow me away.

But because this beauty and fierceness and demand for justice takes place at the swearing-in of a new mayor in the city that is America’s heart. The city that has been sanitized and stratified by 12 years of Bloomberg’s neoliberal policies. The city that has become an extreme–and extremely visible–symbol of an economic system that crushes lives and spirits.

The city that refuses to give up fighting.

In that fight, I see a world of new beginnings.

2.) Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “The arc of justice and the long run: hope, history, and unpredictability.”

Solnit argues that “[s]ometimes cause and effect are centuries apart; sometimes Martin Luther King’s arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice is so long few see its curve; sometimes hope lies not in looking forward but backward to study the line of that arc.” She gives examples of social and political seeds that germinated for years, decades, even centuries before bearing fruit: the role of hip-hop in the Arab Spring uprisings; the influence of Thoreau’s writing, which sold few books when he was alive, on both Gandhi and King; the effect that a seeing a talented black trumpet player had on a young man who grew up to help end segregation by aiding the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education.

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Follow-up to my piece on art in Boston, with lots of pictures

Benjamin Reynolds contact juggling at Figment 2013.

First off, thank you to everyone who read, shared, and commented on my post earlier today! I am so grateful for the creative communities I have here in, as Jojo calls it, “Bostosomedfordville,” and I’m glad that my piece resonated with many of my fellow Bostonians.

Second, throughout this post I’ll be using a few pictures that I dug up while working on the original post, but didn’t have enough space to use. Enjoy!

Morris dancers at NEFFA 2009.

This morning, I tweeted the link to my post to Sarah Kendzior, and she responded, “Thanks! I’m not sure we disagree that much. Boston has great things to offer, I only wish daily life were more affordable.”

I appreciate that she clarified her position, and I think we do agree more than we disagree when it comes to art, money, and cities. I still wish her original essay hadn’t made such sweeping generalizations, but I’m glad it started so many conversations and inspired me to write about why I love my Boston so damn much.

Sometimes I get sick of living here–not because of anything wrong with the area itself, but because I have cravings for adventure and new places to explore, and Boston can get pretty small after a few years. So it was great to have a reminder of all the things I love about living here: how amazingly creative my friends and communities are,  how there’s always something unusual and fun (and often geeky) going on, what a wonderful big little city this is. Or is it a little big city?

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Is creativity dead in Boston? Not the one I know.

bridge covered in rainbow slinkies

An installation by artist Lisa Greenfield during the Fort Point Open Studios, 2009

Social critic Sarah Kendzior’s latest piece, Expensive cities are killing creativity, didn’t sit right with me. Normally, I find myself all but jumping up and down in agreement with her work–but this time, I found much of her analysis jarringly at odds with my own experience.

Kendzior describes expensive coastal cities like New York and San Francisco as “gated citadels,” playgrounds for the rich, places where corporate pressure and the high cost of living reward conformity and stifle creativity. (Although she doesn’t mention Boston specifically, she does include it in a follow-up tweet.)

But my Boston doesn’t feel corporatized, sanitized, like a gated citadel. My Boston isn’t a place where creativity is undervalued, or valued only when it enriches wealthy children. My Boston certainly isn’t a place where “you live when you are born having arrived.”

My Boston is vibrant and creative as hell. Especially here in Somerville, where I’ve lived for five and a half years–and which has the second-highest concentration of artists in the country.

First off, I can’t talk about creativity in Boston without mentioning the folk dancing and music scene, which has been the base of my social circle for as long as I’ve lived here. There’s an incredible number of regular social dance events, culminating in the yearly NEFFA festival, a veritable folkie paradise of singing, jamming, dancing, and outdoor cuddle piles. We have gender-free contras, guerilla contras, a dance and music camp in nearby Plymouth, lots of overlap with the swing and blues dancing scene, great concerts at Club Passim and other venues–and most importantly, a strong sense of community. Individual people may come and go, but the community stays–and I doubt it’s going away anytime soon.

Outdoor contra dance in Copley Square, 2007.

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Friday links, 3/29/13

It’s spring, and the cupcakes are in bloom!

Fa(t)shion
The Style Crone and the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas always go to the best parties, full of people in fabulous outfits. I wish my life were that glamorous!
-There’s some amazing fa(t)shion in Offbeat Bride’s reader round-up. I’m especially in love with the rainbow tutu dress, of course.
-Japanese brand 6%DOKIDOKI’s new mook (magazine/book) sounds awesome.
-The Limited’s plus size line Eloquii is closing. I’ve never bought clothing from them, but it’s always disappointing to see a plus size option disappear.
Plus size clothing: Canada vs. the US.

Fat Acceptance
-Ragen answers the question, “what if I hate exercise?
I’m fat, and that’s fine.
-Over at Glorify, Tori writes about the constant, conflicting messages about which foods are “healthy.”
Weight talk, business travel edition.
-Reflections on the desire to be thin.
-Rachele of the Nearsighted Owl is drawing fat babes, and she’ll draw anyone who emails her!
This interview with Natalie of Definatalie is great (and damn, I love that flower crown she’s wearing in the first picture).

Climate/Sustainability
Do we all have to live like New Yorkers? Does density matter?  I think this is a really important piece, and I’m glad that we don’t have to turn the entire country into NYC in order to attain energy efficiency. (Where I live now is almost as dense as NYC, and I do love it, but damn if I don’t wish we had more green space.)
Can we shift to renewable energy? Yes. As to how…
Tar sands resistance escalates in Massachusetts.
The least sustainable city: Phoenix as a harbinger for our hot future.
-Awesomeness: in Cincinnati, an urban farming oasis is saved from the bulldozer blade.
-It’s time for slow money.
This piece about a potential upcoming economic crash is convincing, and scary. Our economic system needs to be rebuilt, but that’s not going to happen without some pretty bad shit happening first. And I’m not looking forward to that.

Everything Else
-I’m totally going to try this idea for hanging plates.
-A  thoughtful piece on Michelle Shocked, mental illness, Christian fundamentalism, and sexual identity.
Why that list of the “40 hottest women in tech” is absolutely disgusting. You tell ’em, Lesley!
On coming out as a Nigerian boi.
No more Steubenvilles: how to raise boys to be kind men.
Glorious takedowns of #safetytipsforladies.

Friday Links, 1/25/13

This makes me so happy. (source: Living ~400 lbs.)

Lots and lots of links this week. For whatever reason, the internet has been unusually full of interesting. Enjoy!

Fa(t)shion
5x DIY plus size Edwardian or steampunk costumes.
-I just came across the Etsy shop Youniquely Chic, which has gorgeous–and indeed unique–steampunk and industrial jewelry.
-Check out the DAMN GIRL THAT STYLE IS FAT! zine.
What fashion’s “ethnic” prints are really called.
My history with a headscarf.
-I like this Etsy treasury of galaxy-print things.
Statement necklaces are the best.
Geeky tees for Valentine’s Day!
-Betty Le Bonbon has an amazing collection of plus size retro clothing.
-If you’re in Cleveland, Ohio, you can shop Rachel Kacenjar’s closet. She has deeply discounted clothing mostly in sizes 12-24, and it all sounds fabulous–I wish I could teleport there!
Feminist fashion frustration of the day.
-This crystallized prosthetic leg is gorgeous.
-So, I know this post isn’t actually about Kat’s tutu, but…PINK OMBRE TUTU. WANT.
Stop commenting on my chipped nails.
-The new issue of Skorch Magazine is out!
-A woman at Arisia, a sci-fi convention here in Boston, made an amazing TARDIS dress. (Small world story: one of my coworkers is friends with her, and the coworker’s husband helped her paint the dress!) Unfortunately, some people have been insulting her size, which is idiotic and disappointing. She rocks, so much.

Fat Activism
Falsely filling in the story: on the bullshit of assuming that a fictitious fat, disabled woman must have “brought it on herself.”
-If you’re in Brisbane, join other fabulous fatties for a Chunky Dunk swimming party!
-Also in Australia (Newtown) is the world premiere of a documentary about a fat femme synchronized swimming team.
-Huzzah for fat burlesque!
-Also huzzah for fat pole-dancing. That shit requires amazing upper-body and core strength. I’ve tried aerial acrobatics, which is similar, a few times–it’s really hard.
-And, even more awesome fat dancing!
-Lesley Kinzel answers the question, How can I stop believing my life will be better if I lose weight?
The HAES files: from dieter to diet survivor.
-Reflections on Lena Dunham’s “thin for Detroit” remark.
-This story of a girl who almost died due to medical fat-phobia is terrifying. Just terrifying.
Looking the part.

A store window display in New York

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If only we could take vacations from fat shaming…

I had a great time in New York. But unfortunately, fat stigma shows up everywhere.

Fuck you very much, New York City. Fuck you very much.

On a related note, the NYC subway turnstiles are tiny. Which is a problem not only for some fat people, but for some disabled people and people with strollers or luggage as well. Without luggage, I fit through them fine, although without much room to spare. With a suitcase and a backpack? Not so much.

The stations had a gate for disabled people, but it had to be opened by a station attendant.

Boston does it so much better. We have relatively wide gates instead of turnstiles. And at each station, there’s one extra-wide gate for disabled people and anyone else who needs it. You don’t have to ask anyone to open it–you just tap your card and go through.

I grumble about the T as much as the next Bostonian, but this is one thing it gets right. I hope that New York, and other cities, follow our example to make their subway systems more easily accessible.