Gentle reader, I find myself once again ill.
After dealing with pneumonia this winter, to feel so weakened by a simple cold feels like an insult.
My grandmother was a great lover of talking about her illnesses. I found it very boring, so I’ll shut up now.
So, I guess I should be careful about shutting the door on a day before it’s finished. After yesterday’s perfunctory update, my sister chatted me which turned into an hour-and-a-half conversation about motivation, personal growth, what it means to finish things and finish things well, and explore some of the personal revelation/resolution territory that I’ve been in for the past week. We discussed Carol Dweck’s Mindset, which has been my jam over the last six months. It was strange to see her come at some of the same problems that I worried about as a student. I don’t think I’m that much further along in untangling my own human contradictions than she is, but it was interesting to hear her articulate ideas that I’ve had before but now think of as dead ends. For example, I no longer think about my own “motivation” or “laziness,” and tend to see my good and bad habits and desired and undesired behaviors as a product of feedback that feels good or other conditions. That’s really wordy: basically, I’ve stopped beating myself up about being lazy when there is another obvious explanation, like fear or lack of feedback, or lack of self-confidence.
One of my goals for the new year was to work on the relationship I have with my brother and sister, and I am so happy that we are all talking right now.
I slept in and was a little late getting in to work in the morning. Our work phone has been down for three weeks—it’s so embarrassing that there seems to be no person in the whole organization with the combination of competence and authority to get a simple thing resolved—and I was so demoralized to be at work. It’s been a rough winter after a rough summer, and I have so little confidence in my workplace right now I’m starting to make myself crazy with how much I want a new job. As I was setting up the room for the day, I called my mom. I started to talk about where my head has been with trying to give myself room to dream of new possibilities (I know that’s all very vague, but I’m not yet ready to write even semipublicly about it yet). It ended up being a very raw and open conversation about some of the things that had happened to me as a teenager that made me a much more fearful person than the fearless child I had been. I got very emotional when she said to me that she thought that I deserved to go after what I wanted, to chase after dreams.
I got very excited about Portland’s first Dumpling Week. I’m still waiting to see if it’s going to be affordable, the only reason I could try Burger Week burgers is that prices were set at $5. One of the commenters on the Facebook announcement remarked on the fact that there were no restaurants east of 82nd on the list. [For out of towners, the area of Portland east of 82nd Avenue is where most of the recent Asian immigration has moved to.] At first, I resisted that critique, because its clearly an effort to support a fine dining scene, and it just doesn’t bother me that restaurants in a certain cost range, fanciness, and food aesthetic were selected to participate. At the same time, I thought about how the cruelty of this kind of appropriation is that the white majority sees a subcultural product/object/tradition/design, copies its most superficial aspects in a game of cultural telephone, then siphons away the profits from that subculture. But then I was thinking that a) the idea that any one culture could own a food form like the dumpling is ludicrous. b) the dumplings are just not the same. I understand wanting to identify with the romanticized family restaurant that’s making grandma’s dumplings and nobody cares and the big bad white haute cuisine restaurant across the river makes the same thing and everybody goes apeshit. But that’s not reality. The reality is that those restaurants have completely different ways of communicating about food, sourcing ingredients, presentation, restaurant design, and pretending like all that stuff isn’t important or meaningful is silly. Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about it all day and don’t feel like I have an “answer.”
Speaking of race and culture, I was hit with two very interesting pieces that dealt with race and classical music in a way that made my soul hurt a little bit. The first was an essay on Wagner and anti-Semitism. I’ve never liked Wagner, there’s plenty of other composers to listen to, I find most of his aesthetic very creepy, and there’s something about his arrogance at claiming that all people must love his music that makes me resist it. Anyway, the choice that the essay tries to force is: either you believe that abstract music, just sound, has the ability to convey a spiritual message, in which case Wagner’s music itself, even that without words, is anti-semitic and abhorrent. Or, as much as we talk about why we love the music, music is incapable of carrying that kind of message and to speak of it as though it is is deceptive/cultish. Read it, if any of that sounds interesting. The second was a Jezebel post about a black woman that had a racist interaction with an older white patron at the Met during a production of Aida. The interaction, whatever. Racist, and shameful that she got no support from the ushers, but racist individuals can be rude anywhere. The part that broke my heart was that she is so completely right about the racist casting conventions of major opera houses. They are decades behind film and TV, neither of which are particularly good at imagination and casting or representation. The other thing that upset me is that if that happened to me, I would never go back.
Work was fine. I lost steam throughout the day, and by the end of the day I was completely burnt out from feeling sick. I got home and downloaded a bunch of new music to listen to, but mostly just dozed. Hopefully tomorrow isn’t too bad.