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Internet Blackout #SOPAStrike

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

As you are hopefully already aware, the U.S. Congress is planning to vote on two bills on January 24th, 2012: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives, and a corresponding PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

I could write on the dangers that such a vague bill, written and co-sponsored by frankly technology-illiterate politicians, poses for a free and open Internet in general, and more specifically for many of the people in my personal sphere and for myself. A vague bill means innumerable opportunities to abuse the laws written in it in the interests of whoever can pay the legal fees.

I could write about all of this, but others have already written much more eloquently and clearly than I could. Here are some resources. I hope you will read and sign the petition. Today, January 18th, many sites will be on a blackout strike to make their own opinions on SOPA/PIPA clear.

The proposed bills:

Articles and letters on the proposed bills:

Petition sites:

A very small selection of the sites that are participating in the blackout strike:

[Edits:]

Interesting new development: a comment made by reddit user owsmanifesto.

Here is the full text of the bill they referenced: H.R. 1981

Categories: admin, geekpost, links

Face

October 1, 2011 1 comment

Ever hear of the concept of “keeping face” or “losing face”? The latter was a prominent part of my upbringing as a child of Chinese parents. It was only while researching face as a social construct for this post that I discovered the English took the term directly from China around 1900. I found it fascinating that, according to Wikipedia, “saving face” was coined by the English as a counterpart to “losing face”, and that it didn’t exist in common usage in Chinese. Certainly, the only phrase I’ve encountered regarding face had to do with losing it – roughly translated, it speaks of deep embarrassment, humiliation, shame, and loss of identity/social standing.

Face is an interestingly complex and pervasive concept, and though some aspects are familiar to other cultures, it doesn’t translate exactly. Face is strongly linked to social reputation and value – esteem held in the eyes of others. And, having lost it, it is very difficult to gain back. The phrase in Chinese is 丟臉 (diu lian). 丟 (diu) is a verb meaning to lose or throw [away].

I’ve been thinking about this lately as it plays out in my adult life and in my relationships. Really, it’s only been recently that I even began digging deeper into the psychological influences that my culture, heritage, and upbringing have had on me. During the last year of college, I started attending events and lectures held by the Pan-Asian group on campus, and I was stunned to see parts of my life so clearly and cleanly dissected.

Because, as it turns out, this innocuous little thing, face, affects virtually every aspect of my life. It’s the reason I was always afraid to participate in school (see second linked article above). It’s affected my ability to accept well-meaning advice and criticism from others – in fact, I have a difficult time seeing things as constructive criticism rather than as a personal jab. I am frequently searching for the true meanings to words said, rather than accepting them at face value (no pun intended).

As a Chinese kid growing up in America, I often saw my parents’ social interactions as two-faced. I read their actions as hiding any evidence of possible embarrassment while projecting a perfect, unmarred image to others. When it had anything to do with me, I felt like my emotions were being dismissed, hidden, and denied acknowledgement – all for the sake of keeping face. It infuriated me, so I acted out against it: I refused to hide my emotions and wore them openly on my sleeve.

At the same time, I was also learning to hide my imperfections from view, lest they open me to humiliation from others. It’s still prevalent – I have a hard time admitting when I’m wrong, or when I don’t know the answer to something. And it’s incredibly difficult for me to dissociate asking for help from failure. I remember, whenever I had difficulty with some academic problem or project, I would ask my parents for help, but it never occurred to me to ever ask for help from my friends. And my mother was very good at accentuating feelings of competitiveness with and isolation from my peers; my successes and accomplishments were always compared against the performance of other students. (“Did anyone else get higher marks? How many other students scored that well?”) Success only existed within that kind of context.

The day I graduated from high school, during the meal I shared with a few friends of the family to celebrate my graduation, my mother confronted me about the fact that, not only was I not valedictorian, I wasn’t even in the top ten GPA scores. The principal had called out the names of those top ten students, and my mother had been ashamed that I was not listed.

It’s not hard to see why humiliation has never been high on my list of kinky interests. Humiliation is a social phenomenon for me, and the mere idea of an audience viewing me as having lost face is unbearable. It’s the same for punishment. I will probably never be able to eroticize either of these things. Failure is not sexy.

On a broader scale, I’m only just starting to realize how differently I communicate and hear others’ words as compared with (non-Asian) people. Given the myriad layers and subtleties to the way things are discussed, it’s easy to view a lot of this as passive aggressiveness. I’ve thought of it that way myself. But what I’ve been taught and what I’ve grasped from watching my family members interact is that being direct is incredibly rude, and confrontation is to be avoided in order to save face. I am still often quick to judge someone’s directness as being crass and uncivil. And I’m only starting to realize how the difference in communication filters affected the relationships I had with my childhood friends and peers.

All of the subtext and filters makes it really easy for me to take things personally. A quick example: “You did this incorrectly” becomes interpreted as “Wow, do you actually know what you’re doing? Why aren’t you better at this?”

This year’s Paradise Unbound was a sharp lesson in miscommunication. I quickly realized that, by avoiding conflict and minimizing my own expectations, I wasn’t getting my needs met. When I was given openings to start a dialogue about what was going on inside my head, I shut down and couldn’t respond, unwilling to admit that I was having issues. And when I tried to talk things out, it was often with subtext that wasn’t picked up on.

My personal level of stubbornness, and a longstanding belief that I shouldn’t/can’t rely on others to fulfill my needs, didn’t help matters any.

I’ve ping-ponged back and forth between the two extremities – being incredibly emotionally open as a child, then reverting to hiding my emotions and remaining distant in high school and college. Now, a half-dozen relationships and several years later, I’m trying to find a stabler, more effective middle ground.

Some of that means learning to be much more direct about my needs and conflicts, and the mere thought makes me vastly uncomfortable. It means breaking through 25 years of cultural walls and learned behaviors. This past weekend, I had a near breakdown just trying to ask for some time alone with Max post-Folsom. I did manage to, a little bashfully, right before running off to work the last morning we spent together, but I had spent two weeks thinking about that question.

It has been a journey full of bumps and bruises so far. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going to get much smoother in the near future. This stuff is hard. Really, really hard.

(Some disclaimers: obviously, I’ve made a bunch of generalizations. I know one doesn’t have to be Asian to have gone through something similar – just ask any Jew – but this is simply the lens through which I can explain some of what I’ve gone through. I spent a lot of my life pretending that being Asian made me no different, that I wasn’t affected by my race. That’s bullshit, and I’m belatedly catching up on just how much my ethnicity shapes my life and perceptions of the world.)

Categories: life lessons, links, reflection

Eek

July 30, 2011 1 comment

I keep thinking I should write something here – anything – so as not to let this blog stagnate. Then today I happened to glance at my stats page, and did a double-take at the spike I saw in traffic. Thanks, Jane’s Guide, for the link and review!

So I guess I haven’t been here in a while. What’s new, world? I don’t think I can even begin to summarize everything that’s happened since I last posted, in (cringe) April. I find myself writing less and less, in general, and drawing less as well. Actually, since SEAF, I haven’t felt an ounce of drive to do much of anything creative. Except make myself a new whip, but that’s been a long time coming, anyway.

Life is far from mundane, however. During Max’s most recent visit, we delved deep into a very intense, psychological kind of play; the kind I’ve only ever dreamed of from afar, too afraid to even name it or peer too closely at it. This has opened up all sorts of doors for me, and it’s unleashed a hunger for more that I can’t contain – and don’t want to. There is a sweetness to the brutality I experienced, that I could experience because of my trust in Max, that is, frankly, addicting. And there is joy, too, at knowing how completely and utterly I am able to lose control, have it drawn out of my body like blood, through Max’s ministrations. As someone whose internal monologue is never shut off and whose need to maintain control can be inhibiting, that kind of release is nirvana.

And then there’s T the Programmer, a new partner that I’ve been seeing for a few months now. This means I’m now a fully practicing polyamorist, no longer merely espousing theory and concept. And – yeah, it’s complicated. It’s made me question myself many times, but when it’s been good, it’s been very, very good.

I’ve also been dabbling in what is essentially drag king dress-up, which has been exhilarating and has thrilled me in a way no dress or skirt ever has. I put together a “dapper gentleman” outfit for one night of SEAF, with help and encouragement from Max. A month later, a revised version of that outfit came out again for Pride, when T the Programmer and I did a bondage demo/performance while I was in full drag. I have a feeling this is just the tip of the drag iceberg for me.

Now, I am a week away from the upcoming Paradise Unbound kinky camping event, and before that I’ll be staying with Max and attending his monthly Bondage series workshop. It promises to be an activity-filled trip with many moving parts, and while I’m wary of the poly-related challenges that are bound to crop up while I’m out in the woods, I’m hoping for the best.

[Edited to update T’s name to the Programmer – I’m so bad at coming up with monikers for the people I write about here. – 10/16/2011]

Categories: admin, links, polyamory, submission

The Taming of the Fox

April 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Chapitre XXI


C’est alors qu’apparut le renard.

-Bonjour, dit le renard.

-Bonjour, répondit poliment le petit prince, qui se tourna mais ne vit rien.

-Je suis là, dit la voix, sous le pommier.

-Qui es-tu? dit le petit prince. Tu es bien joli…

-Je suis un renard, dit le renard.

-Viens jouer avec moi, lui proposa le petit prince. Je suis tellement triste…

-Je ne puis pas jouer avec toi, dit le renard. Je ne suis pas apprivoisé.

-Ah! Pardon, fit le petit prince.

Mais après réflexion, il ajouta :

-Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-Tu n’es pas d’ici, dit le renard, que cherches-tu?

-Je cherche les hommes, dit le petit prince. Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-Les hommes, dit le renard, ils ont des fusils et ils chassent. C’est bien gênant! Il élèvent aussi des poules. C’est leur seul intérêt. Tu cherches des poules?

-Non, dit le petit prince. Je cherche des amis. Qu’est-ce que signifie “apprivoiser”?

-C’est une chose trop oubliée, dit le renard. Ca signifie “Créer des liens…”

-Créer des liens?

-Bien sûr, dit le renard. Tu n’es encore pour moi qu’un petit garçon tout semblable à cent mille petits garçons. Et je n’ai pas besoin de toi. Et tu n’a pas besoin de moi non plus. Je ne suis pour toi qu’un renard semblable à cent mille renards. Mais, si tu m’apprivoises, nous aurons besoin l’un de l’autre. Tu seras pour moi unique au monde. Je serai pour toi unique au monde…

-Je commence à comprendre, dit le petit prince. Il y a une fleur… je crois qu’elle m’a apprivoisé…

-C’est possible, dit le renard. On voit sur la Terre toutes sortes de choses…

-Oh! ce n’est pas sur la Terre, dit le petit prince. Le renard parut très intrigué :

-Sur une autre planète ?

-Oui.

-Il y a des chasseurs sur cette planète-là ?

-Non.

-Ca, c’est intéressant! Et des poules ?

-Non.

-Rien n’est parfait, soupira le renard.

Mais le renard revint à son idée :

-Ma vie est monotone. Je chasse les poules, les hommes me chassent. Toutes les poules se ressemblent, et tous les hommes se ressemblent. Je m’ennuie donc un peu. Mais si tu m’apprivoises, ma vie sera comme ensoleillée. Je connaîtrai un bruit de pas qui sera différent de tous les autres. Les autres pas me font rentrer sous terre. Le tien m’appellera hors du terrier, comme une musique. Et puis regarde! Tu vois, là-bas, les champs de blé? Je ne mange pas de pain. Le blé pour moi est inutile. Les champs de blé ne me rappellent rien. Et ça, c’est triste! Mais tu a des cheveux couleur d’or. Alors ce sera merveilleux quand tu m’aura apprivoisé! Le blé, qui est doré, me fera souvenir de toi. Et j’aimerai le bruit du vent dans le blé…

Le renard se tut et regarda longtemps le petit prince :

-S’il te plaît… apprivoise-moi! dit-il.

-Je veux bien, répondit le petit prince, mais je n’ai pas beaucoup de temps. J’ai des amis à découvrir et beaucoup de choses à connaître.

-On ne connaît que les choses que l’on apprivoise, dit le renard. Les hommes n’ont plus le temps de rien connaître. Il achètent des choses toutes faites chez les marchands. Mais comme il n’existe point de marchands d’amis, les hommes n’ont plus d’amis. Si tu veux un ami, apprivoise-moi!

-Que faut-il faire? dit le petit prince.

-Il faut être très patient, répondit le renard. Tu t’assoiras d’abord un peu loin de moi, comme ça, dans l’herbe. Je te regarderai du coin de l’oeil et tu ne diras rien. Le langage est source de malentendus. Mais, chaque jour, tu pourras t’asseoir un peu plus près…

Le lendemain revint le petit prince.

-Il eût mieux valu revenir à la même heure, dit le renard. Si tu viens, par exemple, à quatre heures de l’après-midi, dès trois heures je commencerai d’être heureux. Plus l’heure avancera, plus je me sentirai heureux. À quatre heures, déjà, je m’agiterai et m’inquiéterai; je découvrira le prix du bonheur! Mais si tu viens n’importe quand, je ne saurai jamais à quelle heure m’habiller le coeur… il faut des rites.

-Qu’est-ce qu’un rite? dit le petit prince.

-C’est quelque chose trop oublié, dit le renard. C’est ce qui fait qu’un jour est différent des autres jours, une heure, des autres heures. Il y a un rite, par exemple, chez mes chasseurs. Ils dansent le jeudi avec les filles du village. Alors le jeudi est jour merveilleux! Je vais me promener jusqu’à la vigne. Si les chasseurs dansaient n’importe quand, les jours se ressembleraient tous, et je n’aurais point de vacances.

Ainsi le petit prince apprivoisa le renard. Et quand l’heure du départ fut proche:

-Ah! dit le renard… je pleurerai.

-C’est ta faute, dit le petit prince, je ne te souhaitais point de mal, mais tu as voulu que je t’apprivoise…

-Bien sûr, dit le renard.

-Mais tu vas pleurer! dit le petit prince.

-Bien sûr, dit le renard.

-Alors tu n’y gagnes rien!

-J’y gagne, dit le renard, à cause de la couleur du blé.

Puis il ajouta :

-Va revoir les roses. Tu comprendras que la tienne est unique au monde. Tu reviendras me dire adieu, et je te ferai cadeau d’un secret.

Le petit prince s’en fut revoir les roses.

-Vous n’êtes pas du tout semblables à ma rose, vous n’êtes rien encore, leur dit-il. Personne ne vous a apprivoisé et vous n’avez apprivoisé personne. Vous êtes comme était mon renard. Ce n’était qu’un renard semblable à cent mille autres. Mais j’en ai fait mon ami, et il est maintenant unique au monde.

Et les roses étaient gênées.

-Vous êtes belles mais vous êtes vides, leur dit-il encore. On ne peut pas mourir pour vous. Bien sûr, ma rose à moi, un passant ordinaire croirait qu’elle vous ressemble. Mais à elle seule elle est plus importante que vous toutes, puisque c’est elle que j’ai arrosée. Puisque c’est elle que j’ai abritée par le paravent. Puisque c’est elle dont j’ai tué les chenilles (sauf les deux ou trois pour les papillons). Puisque c’est elle que j’ai écoutée se plaindre, ou se vanter, ou même quelquefois se taire. Puisque c’est ma rose.

Et il revint vers le renard :

-Adieu, dit-il…

-Adieu, dit le renard. Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

-L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux, répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

-C’est le temps que tu a perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.

-C’est le temps que j’ai perdu pour ma rose… fit le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.

-Les hommes on oublié cette vérité, dit le renard. Mais tu ne dois pas l’oublier.Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé. Tu es responsable de ta rose…

-Je suis responsable de ma rose… répéta le petit prince, afin de se souvenir.



From Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Categories: links, love, memories, reflection

Back again from Seattle

April 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m back from yet another Seattle trip. This time I had quite a few agendas to fulfill, outside of serving Max and spending time with him. I blocked off a good chunk of time to work on my SEAF installation with my fellow artist collaborator, I attended a small bootblacking class, and I attended two of Mark Yu‘s three workshops at the CSPC. There was also the monthly “Bondage is the Point” party at the Center after the last of Mark’s workshops.

It was a very full trip – even more so than usual.

But none of it really took away from my time with Max, which was nice. It is amazing to me to think of how far I’ve come in my relationship and service with him in the year-and-a-half since we first crossed paths. I love how much more intimate I become with his house and rhythm after each visit, how I’m more able to help out just because I know where things are and where they need to go. And of course, each trip brings me closer to Max with an intensity and urgency that makes me all the more eager for our next encounter and sustains me (somewhat) during our time apart.

I am meeting more people in Seattle, too, making new friends and strengthening existing acquaintanceships, which is always lovely – even if I sometimes tire out and have to retreat into solitude to recharge between social events.

By the time I found myself waiting in SeaTac airport to board my flight back to San Francisco, it was with the strange feeling of both leaving and returning home. I’m excited to be back in San Francisco now and returning to jobs and friends and to my own room; yet I am also planting roots in Seattle that are becoming more and more difficult to ignore.

Categories: life, links

JPBarlow’s Adult Principles

January 17, 2011 3 comments

I’m not much a fan of New Year’s resolutions, and this may have been influenced by a friend I made at a summer camp back in high school, who believed every day was an opportunity for resolution and making changes to better oneself.  And my family never did these once-a-year goal lists, so I never felt much pressure to do it either.

But I saw a great list of 25 Adult Principles written by John Perry Barlow (cofounder of the EFF) on his Twitter feed, and it has resonated with me enough to compile it for myself here, as a personal check-in to return to every once in awhile.

Here is his list:

Adult Principle #01: Be patient. No matter what.

Adult Principle #02: Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, not blame. Say nothing of another you wouldn’t say to him.

Adult Principle #03: Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.

Adult Principle #04: Expand your sense of the possible.

Adult Principle #05: Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.

Adult Principle #06: Don’t ask more of others than you can deliver yourself.

Adult Principle #07: Tolerate ambiguity.

Adult Principle #08: Laugh at yourself frequently.

Adult Principle #09: Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.

Adult Principle #10: Try not to forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.

Adult Principle #11: Give up blood sports.

Adult Principle #12: Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Don’t risk it frivolously.

Adult Principle #13: Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)

Adult Principle #14: Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.

Adult Principle #15: Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.

Adult Principle #16: Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.

Adult Principle #17: Praise at least as often as you disparage.

Adult Principle #18: Admit your errors freely and quickly.

Adult Principle #19: Become less suspicious of joy.

Adult Principle #20: Understand humility.

Adult Principle #21: Remember that love forgives everything.

Adult Principle #22: Foster dignity.

Adult Principle #23: Live memorably.

Adult Principle #24: Love yourself.

Adult Principle #25: Endure.

Categories: life lessons, links, reflection

Bah, humbug

November 26, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s that time of year again – when lit, decorated trees come up way too early and the radio plays an endless stream of Christmas songs.  The Holiday Season starts earlier and earlier every year; I saw Christmas decorations replacing Halloween candy in stores the first week of November. Bah!

Maybe I wouldn’t be feeling so grumpy if I weren’t spending a full eight days back on the East Coast, with no car and no friends around to get me out of the house when I need it.  It also snowed on Thanksgiving day, which only made me stoke the fire in our fireplace that much more vigorously.  It’s been a chilly week.

My holiday grouchiness may also be due to only making it to the tail end of my favorite season.  It’s too cold now, and all the leaves have fallen from the trees.  Rather than the rich colors of changing maple and oak leaves, it is all dim and grey and black branches out there.  And being constantly cold is a personal recipe for sullenness anyway.

But otherwise, yes, it is good to see the family, even if it’s in a slightly larger dose than would be ideal, and they haven’t even asked about my collar! Perhaps they are finally just letting things be and have accepted my quirks.  Or perhaps my plan to wear another necklace along with it and make it look like a San Francisco Thing is convincing enough.  Either way, no particular comments have been made about my adornments.  Though one positive side effect of the cold weather is that I don’t have to worry about wearing more revealing clothing and accidentally showing off a stray singletail mark – yes, they are still there from my scene with Max a month ago.

I really have only myself to blame, since I set the dates for my flights, but I figured staying a little longer for Thanksgiving would be an acceptable price for not going home for Christmas.  I also do have some tasks to accomplish before going back West; some heart to heart conversations that I want to have with my little brother, and photographing my artwork from school.  It’s about damn time I organized all of that stuff and got rid of the junk.

And in between all of that, I get to fantasize about what awaits for me in less than a week, when I switch gears to get ready for Seattle and for Max.  I can’t wait!

Categories: life, links, travelog