The “good pirates” of Somalia

Eyl, Somalia

The village of Eyl, Somalia. (Credit: AP/Ben Curtis)

One morning in Eyl, Somalia, Osman, a married fisherman in his thirties, woke up with the rising of the sun. His wife and eight children, all under 14 years old, were still sleeping in the hut beneath the edge of the mountain. The ocean breathed cold. Osman had a small boat with a tiny engine. Taking a drag of his cigarette, he prepared his fishnet, got on his boat, turned the engine, and waved goodbye as his wife, pregnant with their ninth child and woken by his commotion, poked her head out of the hut. Osman took off.

Three years later when I met Fawzia, Osman’s wife, she told me how she could not forget the memory of her husband’s one hand holding the engine handle and his other hand waving to her as the image of him on the boat grew smaller and smaller and then disappeared into the blue Indian ocean. He never made it back to his family. Four days later, the ocean spat out his decomposed body. His mouth was duct-taped shut, his hands were tied together with a gray zip tie behind his back, and bullet holes littered his chest.

Fawzia and I sat in her hut, and she pulled out a gray burlap bag and pushed it to me. “Here,” she said. Tears poured from her eyes. “His pictures are in the bag.”

“Thank you,” I replied and I placed my hand over her shoulder. I was in Eyl because it is the birthplace of my father. As a child, my father talked a lot about this coastal city, but it now looked like an abandoned oasis, with its white sand beach, white birds, palm trees and monkeys giggling from the top of the mountain.

A fisherman, Osman was the breadwinner of the family. After he was murdered, Fawzia’s family nearly starved. She began to beg the other villagers for food so her children could eat. Osman was not the first or the second victim who went to work and never returned. Other fishermen disappeared. The suspected killers were on foreign ships and boats on the ocean, visible to the villagers on land.

Looking through the pictures of Osman’s dead body, I did not know what to say to her. He was gone and I knew that none of my words could bring him back.

“We have nine children together,” Fawzia said. “He is not here to help me raise the kids.”

“I am so sorry,” I whispered. “May he rest in peace?”

I took some pictures of her family. I hugged her and gave her the little money I had. My tears soaked my chin. Anger boiled inside of me and my stomach turned. And then I returned to my motel. Sitting on a green plastic chair outside, I placed one leg on top of the other and listened to the faint splashes from the ocean waves. Asha, the owner of the motel, stepped out of the kitchen. She was a dark, tall and chisel-faced woman in her thirties. I asked for a cup of tea. She brought it to me.

“Eyl is so beautiful,” I said. The air smelled of a mixture of earth and sky. The soft sand felt good beneath the soles of my feet. A thin butterfly with black and white wings lifted up and hovered over the water well to my right. “My father used to talk to me about Eyl before he died.”

“May he rest in peace?” she said and lifted her cup up to her lip and sipped it. “The pirates ruined the good name of Eyl.”

When young boys were sent to protect the villagers’ lives as if they were the coast guard of Somalia, the elders did not expect their boys to turn out to be pirates, drawn into crime by the lure of money, sex, alcohol, trucks, houses and fame.

“Did I hear that you are a poet?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she answered shyly. “I will recite a poem for you to record before you leave.”

“Tell me something about Eyl and its pirates.”

“Despite our boys who turned into pirates, no murder took place in this city for over thirty years,” she said. “None. It is very peaceful here.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said with smile crossing my lips. “I love Eyl.”

Memories of my father swirled in my mind. As a child, my father sat on this soil. He played soccer here and swam on that white beach. In his teens, he perhaps kissed a girl. He lost his father. He lost his mother. He lost his five brothers. While his younger sister looked after the goats and sheep in the forest, the British army kidnapped her. My father lived with the hope that, one day, he would reunite with her somewhere in London. My father ran away from Eyl and met my mother in Mogadishu. Since Eyl gave birth to my father, I felt that Eyl did not belong to the pirates, but it belonged to me.

“What you called ‘pirates’ are our local boys who were protecting the sea from foreign thieves,” Asha said.

While the foreign ships and boats fished illegally, they also harmed the villagers. Since there was no Somali central government, the crews on those ships and boats were unafraid. And knowing that there would be no consequence, they often ruined the villagers’ fis nets, killed the fishermen, and dumped their bodies in the ocean. The ships and boats often flew flags from North Korea, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Iran, Pakistan, India, Yemen and many other countries.

“Eyl lost too many boys to piracy,” Asha said with a pause. “Isn’t death the final chapter to life?”

I loved talking to Asha. Her poetic language made my stomach tingle. Looking at her mouth, I held my pen and tapped on my front teeth and motioned for her to say more.

“At night, there were so many lights from the ships and boats on the sea that it resembled another city floating on it.”

“That is insane,” I chuckled. “I wish I were here to see that.”

While the problem of losing fishermen mounted, and traffic from the sea increased, the village elders called for an important meeting. They traveled in from adjacent villages. Goats were slaughtered and fresh camel milk was delivered. Large pots of rice were cooked. The meeting was convened under a tree in the forest, outside of Eyl.

As the day died down and the sun turned to a ball of yellow falling behind the mountains, the elders decided to fight back. They agreed to put their resources together: guns, boats, young men, communication devices and trucks. In the following days, each elder brought young men from his sub-clan.

Equipped with weapons and, most importantly, the blessings and the prayers from the villagers’ supreme elders, the young boys boarded mini-speedboats and ventured into the ocean.  They attacked a ship. They captured it and brought it back. While pirates are as old as the sea, Somali good pirates were born out of the villagers’ basic right to life and their desire to protect their resources in the sea.

In a week, the owners of that ship paid a large ransom to the young men, who had never seen such a large quantity of money before. The word got out. Other young men picked up guns and took in other ships. As they gained wealth and attracted international notoriety, they bought trucks, and attracted gorgeous girls. Some learned to drink alcohol, something their culture frowns on. The money inspired them to seize anything in the ocean: freighters, oil tankers, yachts, sailboats.

The more money the boys who turned pirates took, the more the elders lost control of their sons. Some boys were caught, and they ended up in foreign prisons. Other boys were lost in the illusion and the sudden gain of money and they drifted in the wilderness of drugs and alcohol. Not only were the villagers losing their identity, but the international threat of invasion from the air and sea hung over them. The villagers often saw fighter jets flying high in the air.

The elders called for another meeting. With rice, meat and cups of fresh camel milk, they once again sat under a tree. They debated over the departed souls of the young men whom they had encouraged to go after the ships, the boys in foreign prisons and the boys now lost in the world of chewing qat — a stimulant — and alcohol and womanizing.  They decided to stop their boys, now known to the world as “Somali pirates.”

While I sat and sipped my tea, a young man in his twenties with a Muslim headscarf wrapped around his head came to us. Taking a drag of his cigarette, he chewed qat leaves, and green saliva oozed out from the end of his lips. Asha got up and pulled her chair to him.

“Tea,” he said and sat.

“He is an ex-pirate,” she said as her eyes danced between us. “Tell him your experience.”

“Only if he will pay for it,” he hissed and looked at me. “If not, I do not have a free story.”

“Come on, I am not a white man,” I interrupted him. “I was born behind that mountain,” pointing my finger in the direction of Dawad. My cheeks stretched as I opened my mouth in a smile. There are two parts to Eyl: Dawad and Badey. We were sitting outside of the Libin Motel in Badey. From the way I exaggerated my laughter, he could tell that I was not born in Eyl. I was born in Mogadishu. But since my father was born here, I could claim Eyl to be my birthplace.

“Do you chew?” he said.

“Sure,” I lied. My father used to chew it. I once chewed it in my teens when I was in a refugee camp, and I liked it. Since I made it to America, I did not have the time to sit and chew. Almost all the men in Somalia chew qat.

Qat is a leafy substance that, when chewed, releases an active drug that makes a man feel as if he were Superman. Depending on who’s doing the chewing, the effects of qat can be compared to a combination of marijuana, coffee and acid. Its side effects vary; some experience orgasms, others hallucinations in which they build houses, win battles, graduate from college, get married, raise children — all while only sitting there. For some, however, qat merely functions as strong caffeine.

“Your chew is on me,” I offered and watched him as a smile crossed his lips.

“The chew is on him,” he repeated and lifted his chin at Asha. “Prepare a room for us.”

Asha got up, placed a bamboo mat under the tree in the courtyard, covered the mat with a white sheet and put two white pillows on each side. Before we moved to the mat, she brought an ashtray, a tea thermos and extra sugar in a ceramic cup. He did not ask me for my name, and I did not ask him for his, but we acted as if we were brothers from different mothers.

“You smoke?” he asked, and he took a drag of the cigarette hanging from the left corner of his lip.

“No,” I replied. “I can try it, but do not laugh at me if I cough.”

We sat. He opened his bag and I opened mine. Holding fresh leaves of qat in my hand, I bit it and chewed it.

“You know, one of my cousins became a pirate,” I said.

“Where is he now?” he asked. “Do not tell me in prison somewhere in the world.”

“His family sent him to Mogadishu,” I replied. “And he now lives there with a wife.”

“Tell me about your time as a pirate,” I said. “To be a pirate sounds to me like some Hollywood action movie.”

“I never got on the ships, but I helped a few guys who were pirates,” he said calmly.

“What?” I said. “You are not a pirate then?”

“What is a pirate?” he asked smilingly.

“You,” I answered. “A skinny Somali man with a large forehead on a speedboat who climbs in back of a large ship and takes it as theirs.”

“You are silly when you speak like a white man,” he scolded me with laughter on his lips. “My friends captured a ship and when they got paid, they gave me some money.”

“So, where is the house or the truck?” I teased him. “You got money, but you got nothing to show. You should have at least bought the chew for us.”

“Filthy money never lasts,” he said. “It came in fast and it left out of my hands so fast.”

I kept looking at his face and I put qat in my mouth and chewed it. In a few minutes, I felt its stimulus working in me, and I became a bit talkative — excited and yet fully aware. I liked the qat-chewing part of my visit to Eyl.

“My father did not like the money, and he told me to burn it because it was bad money,” he said. “So I buried it and used it to chew away. I used that money to wet my penis, too.”

“Wet your penis,” I repeated after him and looked at him with a smile. He returned my smile.

“Your Somali is strong, and so I know you understand me,” he said.

“Sure, I understood you,” I said. “Remember, my umbilical cord was buried in the Somali soil.”

I knew what he meant, and so I smiled. Wetting his penis was another way of saying he had gotten married and had sex. As he spoke to me, that good-pirate young man was now broken, and he had a great battle with his conscience. He was now a bad pirate.

“Good,” he said. “Your language is very good.”

He knew something about me. He knew that I was not from Eyl, but that I was from the United States. Perhaps Asha told him something about me.

“In the beginning, piracy was something holistic and organic,” he said. Shaking my head up and down, I bit a qat leaf and chewed it as I looked at his face and motioned for him to say more. “We were defending our sea against international ships stealing our resources and killing our men.”

“I see,” I said. “But that is the story that people in Europe and America and the rest of the world do not know.”

“My question is do they want to know the truth,” he said.

“Maybe,” I answered.

“No, they do not want to know the truth,” he raised his voice a bit. “Truth belongs to the powerful.”

“Hmmmmm,” I chewed his words in my mind.

“The distorted truth from the mouth of the powerful is the truth that everyone else accepts,” he said. “Since we are now part of the weak nations, our truth is meaningless, but we hold our truth high until we reach that galaxy of death.”

“I guess you are staying true to being a part of a ‘nation of poets,’” I said as my mind stretched trying to understand his poetic use of the Somali language. He smiled. I returned his smile. “Or is it the qat that is making you spit out such fine language?”

“One cannot claim to be a man without a degree of mastery in poetry and proverbs,” he said. “See, what really defeats piracy are poems from the elders.”

“How so?” I asked.

“They recite poetry of curses against the young boys, against the fathers who hide their pirate sons, against the clans and against mothers who allow their daughters to marry a pirate,” he said. “Words are greater weapons than the guns here.”

“Hmmmm,” I hushed.

“Guns can kill you, and you would be buried, and that would be it; but poetry can stay on the lips and in the memory of the people beyond your lifetime,” he said. “Today’s poetry of curses against you is so damaging that a man might refuse to marry your daughter’s daughter. It is important that we listen and obey our elders’ poems.”

His words made somewhere in my body itch. Hearing the sound coming from his mouth chewing and seeing the dancing smoke rising from his mouth, I remained as silent as New England snow, where I called home for more than twenty years.

“Among such were the curses to become poor, childless and of course a life after death in hellfire,” he said. “None of us could handle the poems of curses from the elders.”

“Hmmmm,” I said.

“Many of the boys who refused to hear the elders were either captured or killed,” he said, as if he wished for the elders never to utter those poems.

“So, the international community shall celebrate the work of the elders,” I said.

“It is the truth that the elders did a lot to stop piracy, but remember that the truth from the international community is much more powerful.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I now understand piracy from Eyl perspective.”

“No one wants to hear the truth from poor elders with canes,” he said with a short pause. “But time and history will hear us.”

Source: New feed

One more barrier faced by women in science: the bathroom

Unisex Bathroom Sign

(Credit: ChameleonsEye via Shutterstock)

Last week I peed all over myself in the name of studying climate change in Alaska. Gender barriers in science don’t always take an obvious form, and they get especially perilous in below-zero temperatures. Some of these involve individual’s malice or misogyny, but there is another set of barriers that simply result from being a woman in a male dominated field. If we continue ignoring those additional challenges by striving for equality instead of equity, the barriers will persist.

On a Thursday morning I put on my jacket and walked outside my cabin armed with a pink rubber funnel that claims it “allows you to pee while standing up. It’s neat. It’s discrete. It’s Hygienic.” What could go wrong?

The following week I would be flying to a remote part of Alaska to characterize peak snow in our study watershed. With forecast highs of 5° Fahrenheit, my best chance of staying warm was to wear overalls (or bibs, as Alaskan’s call them). Unfortunately, most bibs are designed with a fly, which is useless when my urinary tract doesn’t end in a conveniently directable hose. The alternative is a time-consuming fumble of taking off your parka before pulling down your bibs, squatting, and reversing; all of which means losing a lot of heat.

I have a friend who claims to be able to drop her bibs without taking off her jacket, but not all of us can be that tricksie. I have another friend who tried to eschew the problem by not drinking water during 12-hour field when she was the only woman in her field crew.

I followed the directions that came with the pink rubber funnel, willed myself to relax enough to pee while standing up, and let go. A golden trickle came out of the funnel—but it mostly ran over my hand, down my legs and into my socks.

I wish I could explain to my male colleagues the combined feelings of failure and humiliation that accompany walking bowlegged in soggy bottoms back into my house. Pee dripped off the ends my pajamas and onto the rug where people stomp their boots.

Nevertheless, my job still needs to get done, and it’s still winter. What was there to do but buy a different style of funnel and try again the next morning?  At least this time I was prepared for extreme failure, so changed into the same socks and pants I soiled the day before. I’m guessing the men I work with do not have a pair of pants they designate as “the pair of pants I wear when I am going to pee all over myself.”

While I walked, soggy-socked back to my cabin for the second time, I quietly cursed the rule that prohibits us from buying field clothes on project money. There actually are bibs that have a butt flap (or “drop seat” if you prefer) that are specifically designed for women, but only the high end companies make them. I wasn’t super excited about spending $419 for a pair of Patagonia bibs (marked down from the original $599). They aren’t even insulated. It’s nearly impossible to find cheap women’s bibs: the largest used clothing store in town had an assortment of male bibs, but not a single pair made for women.

Starting at my two bosses and going up the chain of command that ends in the President of the University, every position is held by a white male. I firmly believe in the good intentions of each of those individuals, but I am not surprised when policies and practices are inequitable or missing perspectives. Representation matters.

All of the devices that promise to help women pee while standing up say to practice in the shower, so I spent Friday chugging water and scurrying down to the basement showers at work. For the first attempt, I played it safe and went completely nude, because you know, it’s not ideal to have even a shirt on when your hands are covered in your own piss. On the second pee I graduated to keeping my sweater on. On the third, I felt so bold as to attempt it with underwear. By the sixth time I went for broke and donned both underpants and a pair of insulated men’s work pants.

Glad to be done with an atypical work week, I spent Friday evening with friends, swapping stories and techniques on arctic urination. Afterwards I had my first successful outdoor stand-up pee. I was relieved, jubilant, and excited to return my focus to arctic hydrology.

It’s not that this challenge was career ending, and after a day of over-hydration, I would not have to repeat my urination re-education. However, this charade took time that I would have otherwise put towards improving the data logger program for a precipitation monitor in the Arctic, testing our new snow depth probe, or otherwise forwarding my career. No individual’s discrimination or hostility directly led to me peeing on myself; it’s just one more challenge of being a woman entering roles that are historically held by men.

On the third morning I woke up feeling victorious as I walked outside. But before long, defeat literally dampened that feeling as my socks absorbed the warm pee running down my legs. Long live the patriarchy.

Source: New feed

“American Gods” are the ones we deserve: Neil Gaiman and the Starz show cast on the “long con” of religion and the struggle for lost soul of America

American Gods

American Gods (Credit: Starz)

Every religion begins as a single, charismatic leader with a vision. When the leader dies, the cult either disappears or syncretizes other rituals and becomes a new religion that has little to do with the nutjob who founded it. In the case of America, a land of immigrants, enslaved people and genocide, what we think of as religion — with some exceptions — has been torn from its foundation and has lost some if not all of its original animism. It has the appurtenances of the supernal without the transcendence. Thousands of years later, we are still strangers in a strange land, casting about in the dark for anything that glitters. We pretend to rationalism yet we curse at stoplights. We pray when we want a new bicycle. Call out, “Oh my God!” when we get into an accident. If Buddhism has Four Noble Truths then Americanism has three: We are pagans. We have no idea what this means. God is dead.

American Gods,” Neil Gaiman’s epic novel adapted into a new series for Starz by Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal”) and Michael Green (“Heroes”), is a reminder not only of America’s immigrant and enslavement roots, their far-flung reach and pull, but also this great country’s pagan stock and tendency to fall for the long con. The gods are brutal, violent con artists; the goddesses no less archetypal. They are the manifestations of fertility in all its man-eating, envaginating glory. (Some more so than others.) They beckon from TV screens, represent ancient rites, exhume themselves like zombie Eurydices. Death is a cold, empty, star-lit desert,  a vast nothingness in a lonely, godless universe.

Even the opening scene of Episode 1, that of a boatload of Vikings stranded on the shores of a hostile America, demonstrates the war god Odin’s power and caprice. He is both there and not there, yet everywhere. Following a particularly gruesome sacrificial battle, the warriors flee, agreeing to speak of America’s shores no more. The message is clear: America sucks. Also Odin is no ordinary candidate. He demands a lot from his constituents, but that doesn’t always mean he’s going to make good on his promises. This is the nature of god in “American Gods” and perhaps in America itself: a shell game of the soul where no one wins.

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The picaresque dreamscape of “American Gods” follows laconic, gloomy ex-con hero Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (the always excellent Ian McShane), the Bob Hope to Shadow’s Bing Crosby, as the pair roadtrip across the country, rounding up recruits to fight in a holy war between the forgotten old gods Wednesday, Anansi (Orlando Jones), Easter (Kristin Chenoweth) and Bilquis (Yetide Badaki), to name a few, and the new gods Media (Gillian Anderson) and Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) in a last-ditch effort to claim ultimate power before it’s lost forever.

Shadow learns right before his release from prison that his wife Laura (Emily Browning) has died in a car accident — he will later discover that she was fellating his BFF and orally amputated the guy’s penis on impact — and, as a result, he re-enters the world as a free man, extremely ripped, numb and proficient at coin magic due to the expert tutelage of his cellmate. It is in this state of abject need that Shadow the amateur magician meets Wednesday, a charismatic con man — could it be? God? Is that . . . you? — and does what any lost soul does in the face of a possible cult leader: hops right in the proverbial white van.

Shadow becomes Wednesday’s bodyguard and accompanies him on a series of eerie, portentous missions, some of which include a barroom brawl with an enraged leprechaun by the name of Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), a Bergmanesque game of checkers with a sledgehammer-happy Russian and meeting Cloris Leachman. Throughout, there’s a liminal quality between life and death, dreaming and waking, reality and fantasy — Gaiman’s métier with an additional Jungian visual grammar. The firmament appears dreamlike. We are simultaneously in Shadow’s mind and the collective unconscious, wandering the vast unknown like lost lambs in a dystopian theater of the absurd. But aren’t we always? Or is this only what happens to the godless? It kills the dream, or rather turns it into a waking nightmare where the gods are like petulant children manipulating our inner as well as our outer lives in some sort of petty power play.

“The dreaming layer is part of the human experience,” said Neil Gaiman. At a press junket interview, he was dressed in all black, looking like a thinner, intellectual, Jewish Jon Snow. “The quest for identity is part of the American experience. Being in a country where the mythology says you start in a log cabin and rise to the level of the place you have dreamed. The ultimate message is in that coming to America in 14,000 B.C. story where people are greater than gods because it’s from our hearts where they begin and to our hearts that they return.”

It’s this battle over hearts and who has them that forms the core of “American Gods.” Having morphed from a union with the divine that was personal and profound, the religious ethos has evolved into either fundamentalism or secularism. While the two sides probably don’t want to go on a cruise together or vote the same color, both occasionally dream of a well-meaning Canaanite, worship iPhones and call it monotheism.

In Gaiman’s America, if God is dead, then he is also alive and well and schtupping a busty young blonde in a grimy roadside motel. Fans of the novel know that Wednesday, played by Ian McShane, is Odin. The word Wednesday is named for the Germanic god Woden — the ruler and war god who loves a relentless quest as much as chicanery or any sort of artifice and he eschews law or rules. Thus, the long con.

“I grew up with the Church of England,” said Ian McShane, his voice resonating as though we were in an amphitheater. “I have faith in certain things. I’ve been sober for 20 years. Faith is very important; otherwise you die an old cynic. But every religion is worthwhile. ‘You shall have no other gods but mine’ and all that.” He paused. “I think Wednesday just wants you to believe, but I’m playing the long game.” He laughed, his eyes sparkling. I can see why Shadow violates parole to travel with him across America. “It’s a long game.”

“Shadow and Wednesday have great chemistry,” Ricky Whittle added with a smile. “He very much has a spiritual awakening. He’s a shadow of the man we want him to become. He’s looking for the smart answer. The question you keep on asking is: Is he going crazy or is the world going crazy?” McShane chuckles.

“I just wanted you to believe but I’m playing the long game, my friend,” McShane said.

“The reason Michael and I both wanted to do ‘American Gods’ was we both have respect for religion and also a cynicism,” said showrunner/executive producer Bryan Fuller. “Michael’s Jewish and I was raised Catholic. Coming out the other side of it, Catholicism was anti-gay and that proved to me there was a hypocrisy. You have people who call themselves conservative Christians but they don’t know the first thing about Christianity.”

“Some Christians believe that it should be a Christian country,” added showrunner/executive producer Michael Green. “In the show, there’s religious Darwinism to the fight. The further you get into it, the more you realize that the old gods got to be the old gods because they fought dirty. It begs the question of what do you worship: your family, religion or the media?”

Peppered throughout show are interstitial myths in which gods and humans vie for control in the land of of the powerless. Some of these scenes embody ancient copulation rituals and esoteric mystery religions. Watching them, one feels almost voyeuristic. Not because they are dirty, per se, but because cats and dogs are living together and it’s either the world as it should be or the end of days. On an enslavement ship, the god Anansi, played by Orlando Jones, delivers a stunning, proleptic soliloquy and incites revolt. Yet again, we are reminded of the roots of worship, the experience of worshippers and America’s dark past. Where is god when you need him?

“Mr. Nancy’s journey is not an immigrant’s journey,” Jones said. “His worship is real rage. All of the gods are relegated to the circumstances they came from. The power is cyclical. The gods are not as powerful as they once were. He understands that the narrative is thought control. If you control the narrative, you enslave their minds.”

“Corporations don’t want people to think that they have control,” said Crispin Glover (Mr. World). “Because then they will realize that they are serving the corporations, but really their days are numbered.”

“There’s a war going on,” added Jones.

In the midst of this American jihad, this Hero’s Journey writ large where you’re not always sure who’s zooming who, lives the female archetype, in a somewhat beefed-up status here than the in the original source material. If god is a con man and religion his con game, then the goddess is the battlefield and bedroom upon which the con is played, won and lost. If god is reborn then the goddess is rebirth. Embodying this conceptual rebirth is the goddess Easter (the amazing Kristin Chenoweth), whose character appears only three times in the books but has a larger presence in the show. Forget the ascension. If Bilquis is the undercarriage of fertility, Easter is the above-board kind of egg hunt a country can sink its teeth into.

“Things aren’t always as we’ve been taught,” said Chenoweth. “I started re-examining America. I thought — gulp — this is exactly where we are. Where are are we going? Is there a limit? Is the internet (Media) the Anti-Christ? Easter has been around a lot longer than Jesus. She’s the goddess of all things Earth. When I look at these women, it’s more about the choices they have made than about being sorry for them. She doesn’t take any crap.”

“One of our chief goals was to do with the female character what Neil would have done if he’d had 500 more pages,” said Fuller. “There was a sense of expanding Laura and giving her a real purpose. Bilquis in the book is a prostitute. In the series, we couldn’t have this.”

By “this” Fuller means that, in the book, while the god controls the narrative with his mind, the goddess attempts to subvert it with her vajeen. If she doesn’t eat men, she betrays them. She might instigate the hero’s journey (by dying) and provide a few spiritual blankets along the way, but once Shadow is on the journey, it’s Wednesday/Odin who dictates who goes where, not the female consort or any goddess counterpart. As my former analyst would say, “This is the world we live in!”

So often in TV women are represented as rivals and bitches,” Green said. “We wanted Laura and Audrey to to heal as friends because there’s a nuance there and a truth. We didn’t want the anger to be what you saw as much as the pain. Also, you can love someone you fucking hate.”

The pain of each of these characters is the identity crisis and pain of America, waiting as usual for Godot and getting Trump. The polytheism the series portrays is a mirror of something larger that is sometimes challenging to penetrate and identify. You get the sense of something both ancient and modern and more than a little sad. For this I left the old country?

“The feeling you get through Norse myth is that there is a long con,” Gaiman said. “What did Odin whisper to Baldur’s corpse when it lay upon the fire? His deal is never quite explicated. He can see a little bit of the future and he can see complex dreams. We never know exactly what we have and we have to take it on faith. Wednesday is playing a long con that has been going on a long time.”

When I ask him if this was part of the inspiration of the book, all these years ago, a desire to restore enchantment to a country that is a patchwork of cultural traditions and create a new American mythology, Gaiman looks bemused and says.

“If anything, American mythology, brought from the old country, lost something in the retelling. For instance, ‘The Jack Stories’ like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ When the English settlers went to Appalachia, the magic died and that fascinated me. The idea that you had stories that came from somewhere but they took out the magic and the kings and reinvented them for America. They left the magic behind and that was very, very striking.” We lock eyes. “Is America the long con?” he says with a morose shrug. “I don’t know. It definitely keeps reinventing itself.”

Source: New feed

The 100 days that turned America upside down

american flag

(Credit: Christian Delbert via Shutterstock)

“Don’t you want God to show up and say He’s kidding?” Louis C.K. asked Stephen Colbert on The Late Show a couple of weeks back.

Of course we do. Instead, during these past 100 days, God seems to have doubled down on the prank. Although optimists predicted that once he faced the reality of governing, Donald Trump would be thwarted and even tamed into a more conventional politician, and although the media scoff at Trump’s claims of unprecedented presidential accomplishment, for once Trump may almost be right when he boasts, with his customary mangling of English, “I don’t think that there is a presidential period of time in the first 100 days where anyone has done nearly what we’ve been able to do.”

While Trump’s legislative achievements have been less than meager, he has nevertheless succeeded in doing something profoundly consequential. Call it the Great Inversion. In just 100 days, he has turned America and the world upside down, so much so we may never be able to right ourselves again.

Many of us suspected that this would be the consequence of a Trump presidency.  I wrote here the morning after his election that the idea of America had died. We didn’t just think that he was wrong on policy, though he was. We didn’t just think that he was psychologically unfit to occupy the White House, though he clearly is. We weren’t just afraid that he was an incurious lout who made decisions based on what fed his ego at the moment, though he is and does. And we weren’t just terrified at the political havoc he would wreak, though he has. We felt that he posed a mortal danger to everything that forms of the basis of our modern world, everything that knit us together as a society: reason, logic, language, values, science, history, common decency, community and democracy. And he is.

Donald Trump hasn’t just sought to destroy these bonds that united us, however tenuously; he has sought to invert them, to create a world in which each of these has been replaced by its opposite so that we can no longer tell up from down or day from night or truth from lies. Trump, using the buzzword of contemporary business, promised to disrupt the country. He has. And more.

But he has not disrupted the system, if by “system” you mean the prevailing social order. If anything, it is more ensconced than at any time since Calvin Coolidge, more in the hands of the rich and powerful. His disruption has been of the epistemological and moral sort. Not for nothing is the key adjective of Trump’s new America “fake,” as in fake news, fake history, fake photos, fake charitable contributions, fake promises and fake achievements.

We used to be bolted to certain verities. We used to agree on the idea of truth, the verifiability of facts, even if we disagreed on what constituted each. We used to agree on the basis of morality, even when we disagreed about particulars. We knew that groping women, leering at little girls, lying, stealing, bullying, hurting people whose only crime was powerlessness — we knew these things were wrong, and we gave them our opprobrium. Our society could not have existed without this general consensus.

Now Donald Trump has blown the bolts off the verities that anchored us. And in doing so, he performed his inversion, elevating lies over facts and bluster over moral values. That is a lot to accomplish in 100 days — to shatter not only what made us proud Americans, but what also made us human.

The counterargument, I realize, is that Trump’s 100 days have exposed him. He is historically unpopular — an aberration rather than a turning point.

People, we hear, are already regaining their senses. Even some Republican officeholders are distancing themselves from him, and the recent special elections — basically referenda on his early presidency — have indicated a sharp turn toward the Democrats.

I fear, however, that this is wishful thinking. Trump could be an aberration and a turning point. You cannot unring a bell. You cannot pretend that Trump was just some oddity or mistake and that we can and will expunge him from history once buyer’s remorse sets in. We now know an awful truth: It can happen here. It has.

So, yes, Trump is historically unpopular, but before you get too sanguine, he still has the allegiance of nearly 90 percent of rank-and-file Republicans, many of whom also don’t seem to regard those old verities as terribly significant. He is only a nuclear attack on North Korea away from seeing his popularity soar, and only a terrorist attack away from being granted near-dictatorial powers.

This is how he has changed our bearings. Progressive friends of mine pray for his impeachment, even though that means elevating a rabid homophobe and an antediluvian to the presidency. Trump makes Pence imaginable in the Oval Office because he himself is so unimaginable. His transgressions have even managed to rehabilitate George W. Bush, who, a friend confided, doesn’t seem so bad by comparison.

And, yes, you may think we can return to some sanity, some moral revivification, if and when Trump leaves the presidency. But consider this: It has taken us decades to make the progress we have made in stigmatizing racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, nativism and homophobia. Slow but steady. That progress led us to hope that three or four generations from now, perhaps, these might even vanish, the hatred in the American soul might be extirpated and we would be the country we purport to be.

This didn’t mean we had all undergone some miraculous transformation. It simply meant that social censure — yes, even that dreaded political correctness — compelled us to be better than we wanted to be until the day came when that compulsion would no longer be necessary. And therein lies a terrible sadness: Trump’s most heinous accomplishment in my estimation is that he has removed that social censure. Acts of hatred have spiked, and we don’t have to look very far to see why. Trump has normalized the very worst in us. He has inverted social censure so that hatred is not only acceptable; it is considered a form of honesty.

And that is the real tragedy and danger of these 100 days and of the 1,300 of his presidency to come. Trump didn’t change who many of us were. He revealed it. He showed that there were, indeed, millions of Americans for whom the flipping of sense and values took precedence over their own interests, and they will not give him up — even if, as he once famously said, he shot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue. Can there be any more damning indictment of his supporters than that, any more damning indictment of the country he rules?

These 100 days have prompted some of Trump’s opponents to perform odd contortions in coming to terms with the inversion. As I wrote here last weekThe New York Times has added a climate change denier to its op-ed page as a way of making a truce with the non-Trump right, though if we have learned nothing else these last 100 days, we have learned that the notion of a serious conservative is a chimera, like a unicorn. The Times got a goat with a horn on its nose. And others, like Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, protest that we must embrace Trump supporters, woo them, because they are our neighbors. To which I say that there were neighbors in Germany and Cambodia and Bosnia and Rwanda, too.

Still, all is not lost. The resistance movement has been surprisingly effective. And the people who have campaigned successfully to rid the airwaves of the noxious gases of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly give one hope that there is some vestige of decency left, even if the spur for expulsion had less to do with revolting behavior than with nervous sponsors. And yet, without Trump’s own inexcusable behavior, these facilitators might not have been smoked out. There are now tens of millions of people fighting the good fight to resuscitate those verities Trump has upended. Theirs isn’t only a political resistance. It is a resistance of conscience and character and coherence. The world may be broken, but there are thankfully plenty of people who are intact and who know what truth, facts and morality are.

Which leaves us with this: God isn’t kidding. Our country is a parody of a democracy, our leader a parody of a president. We live in a nightmare. Nothing is the way it was. Trump only wins, though, if he and his cohorts manage to normalize this abnormality, to make the Orwellian seem commonplace. I think he may have already done so. Tens of millions of good Americans seem to think he hasn’t. I hope and pray they are right.

Source: New feed

“Welcome to my kill”: An ex-vegetarian’s adventures in elk hunting

Elk

(Credit: Shutterstock/Kris Wiktor/Salon)

Do you feel that?” Rick turned to me and asked, tucking the brim of his camouflage cap up an inch on his forehead. “How everything just got quieter?”

I nodded, silently, solemnly, though I was lying. I had not felt the quiet. I’d been focusing on the trail in front of me, which was particularly rocky here, and on the way my brand-new hiking boots slipped over the shards of mountain slick with pine needles and a slight lingering frost. I hadn’t been listening. I’d just been trying to keep up. He pointed to the ground.

“This is the imaginary dotted line in the woods. When I cross it, I’m in elk country.”

The morning hadn’t yet begun when we headed out, pulling on gear in the empty trailhead parking lot, loading the rifle by headlamp shine. I’d stumbled along the first few miles of the marked trail in darkness, skipping to keep up with the brisk pace set by someone who had done this many times before and hoping my rain pants swishing as my thighs moved rapidly weren’t making too much noise. The sun rose gradually over the next few hours. Deep in the crease of a canyon in southwestern Montana, surrounded on all sides by glacier-cut rock and centuries-old pines, the sunrise appeared to me only as a slow graying of the air I breathed, dark purple giving way to the fuzzed pale fog of daylight in the mountains. Gray gave an ethereal, hushed quality to the day, the sounds of our boots muffled by a carpet of needles, one of the only sounds the occasional swish of a branch against our jackets.

As we walked the first few miles, he told me about how hunting had changed for him. He told me it used to be an adrenaline thing, a got-to-get-that-animal drive of problem solving, a heart-pounding urgency, a competition. Most of it was gone now for him, he said, and he missed it. Now, it was as much about being in the woods and walking around as it was about taking an animal.

I still couldn’t believe I was here. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. It had only been one week ago that Rick had agreed to let me accompany him on this hunt, and only a few weeks earlier that the idea had been planted in my mind. I was sitting in a graduate classroom, workshopping the essay I’d written about my time on the farm, when my thesis advisor, Ben, said, “I know how your book ends. You hunting elk in the woods of Montana.”

Ben suggested Montana partially because he knew I’d lived there, and had written about hunting culture in the state before, but also because he knew a writer, Rick, who lived in Montana and was also a mindful and ethical hunter. It was both a literary and a practical suggestion. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right Ben was: the hunt was something I needed to see. Again, something I’d never expected to find myself doing materialized as a possibility and crystallized quickly. Just days after his initial comment, I was in Ben’s office, asking if he could really make it happen.

Convincing Rick wasn’t easy. As many of us writers do, Rick preferred his time alone. But beyond that, the act of hunting was a private affair, an intimate connection between him, the animal, and the woods. Which was exactly the reason I wanted to join him, and not just anyone, on a hunt. I didn’t want to see how the average American meat eater might hunt. I wanted to observe someone who I knew respected the land and the animal. When I explained that to him, he agreed; he was free, he said, next weekend. I used up all my frequent flyer miles and booked a round-trip ticket to Missoula.

We left the trail about four miles in, veered off to the right, and headed straight up a steep, rocky slope. The debris grew slicker as we climbed, and he told me this was how he knew there’d be snow up ahead. We cut back and forth across the mountain, lungs heaving, arms slicing through snapping branches, ankles turning as our feet slid from rock to uneven soil. We were going to climb long and high, he’d told me already, to come down into the burned remains of the canyon from the north, so that the animal—that’s how he spoke of it, as a single one, the mythic, iconic animal—wouldn’t catch our scent on the southern wind.

As we scaled—or as he scaled, and I scrambled up behind him—and our bodies leaned into the incline, my hands sometimes dusting the frosty soil in front of me for balance, he would pause, his voice hushed now as the sun bore through our heavy jackets, and crouch slightly, pointing towards a patch of scuffed dirt where he spotted clusters of pellets, or hoofprints.

“There. An animal.” 
When he showed me the signs of the animal, I could see them, but if he hadn’t been there, I never would have known. He was tuned to the higher frequency of the hunter.

I knew this wouldn’t be the day I learned to stalk an elk. Why had I ever thought it could be taught in only one day? This was a lifetime’s work, to learn the woods.

* * *

When we stopped for lunch, brushing snow off a log near the side of the slope we were climbing, my exhaustion began to set in. My ears rang with the thump of exertion; my cheeks were flushed with blood. I crouched on the log and ate peanut butter and jelly ravenously, to quell the light-headedness, and Rick showed me how much farther we had to go. From here, we could see the canyon, and he pointed down into it, to a patch of blackened trees that had burned years before. There, where the elk made their day beds, high enough to ensure a thick blanket of snow cooled them as they slept, we’d find the bull he was after.

The climb became harder. Suddenly aware of my awkwardness, I heard every branch that snapped under my feet; I flushed with embarrassment at the noisiness of my labored breathing. Rick pulled ahead of me easily while I willed my legs to lift in and out of the now ankle-deep snow. He stopped and told me I was doing great—for someone who’d come from sea level. I was hauling myself up by tree trunks and seeing little hypnotic worms around the edges of my vision, when I saw that he’d stopped up ahead.

“There they are.” Elk tracks.
And that’s when we heard the gunshot.

“Shit. Fuck.” 
Our eyes met, our faces static and waiting. No second shot.

He swore again, under his breath, turning from me slightly. “That was our animal.”

I was following him blindly through the woods, but his path had been intentional—he’d been following a single bull elk this whole time, tracing its visible path through the trees in the scuffs of dirt and hoofprints in the snow. He knew it was one animal. He even thought, having hunted this herd in these woods before, that he knew exactly which bull elk we were following. But now it was clear that another hunting party had entered the woods from another direction, and had beat us to the animal we’d spent the whole morning tracking.

We hiked on a little, following the now easy-to-spot hoofprints in the snow. Soon, the prints of another animal, a horse, danced in and out of the elk’s to form a wide, woven trail, something more obtrusive than anything I’d seen all day, obvious, the way it is when people walk in snow.

“In all the years I’ve been hunting around here, I’ve never seen another soul, not one person,” he said.

We heard the whinny of a distant horse. He showed me where the elk had first noticed it wasn’t alone, how the prints began to weave around trees, up and down the slope. He laughed and shook his head, as if at an old friend’s joke, a familiar, endearing story. The elk was toying with them.

As we walked, I placed my feet intentionally in the elk’s trail, treading the same path as a dead or dying animal, as if walking in its footsteps would help me understand something.

Just down the ridge slightly, Rick began waving, seeing the hunting party before I did. He swore under his breath again and then called, cheerful, “Congratulations!”

When I saw them, I saw the hunters I’d always imagined, the men with cowboy hats and blaze orange vests, who rode in on horseback and photographed themselves with casual arms draped over the broken neck of a newly dead animal. The one with the blue sweater, who’d fired the fatal shot, held a small hatchet meant for butchering, spread his arms wide, and said, “Welcome to my kill.”

I remember the enormity of the animal, and the faint stuffy smell of its fur, damp with sweat and snow. I remember seeing the puddle of blood and thinking, This is where it all was. I remember its open brown eyes, wet with the glaze of death. I watched carefully its rear haunch, its massive chest cavity, not yet split open, fully expecting the lungs to heave once more, a hoof to kick a last-ditch effort at life.

I had never been closer to the source of my food. This was a far cry from a frozen, lab-created, fake MorningStar Chik’n. This was all blood, all body, all sweat and death. The body was still, as if in surrender. We left the three men to clean and pack the elk, and carry it out on horseback.

* * *

On the day of the hunt, by the time we made it back to the car, it had been dark for hours. It wasn’t until I sat down that I realized how freezing cold I was, feet soaking wet in the puddles inside my boots, muscles vibrating in sheer exhaustion, nothing left to give but warnings. I was done moving for the day. The drive back faded in and out of memory. Rick fed me chewable aspirin for my knees but didn’t take any for himself, saying his discomfort was on autopilot. Our headlights cut around the swerving mountain road out of the canyon and we spoke only in scraps.

“One thing I’ll remember,” I told him, “is how little advantage it turns out a gun is.”

After hours of hiking, walking carefully through woods, avoiding branch-snapping or rock-knocking, he got one shot off, one time, and missed from seventy yards away. The gun was the only chance he ever had at taking an animal, and that had surprised me.

And he told me this wasn’t how most people hunted. Mostly, he said, people get up before dawn and hike in while the elk are out for their morning feed. They camp out, in a tree or lying down, load their guns, and wait. They wait for the full, tired elk to return to their beds for the day, unaware, and they fire at them. That, he told me, was a lot easier.

I laughed a little. I couldn’t imagine such a thing as easy right now.

“Yeah,” he said, “it’s a fuckin’ hard way to get meat.”

Source: New feed

Microdosing marijuana: Doctors say it’s the best way to consume pot

Campaign 2016 Marijuana Northeast Foothold

FILE-In this Friday, April 22, 2016 file photo, a marijuana bud is seen at a medical marijuana facility in Unity, Maine. Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana are looking to score their first significant electoral victories in eastern U.S. states on Nov. 8. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) (Credit: AP)

There are those cannabis connoisseurs who enjoy getting super stoned at the end of a long day at the office, while others are now embracing an emerging trend called microdosing, a procedure that allows the user to moderate their mind by taking small doses throughout the day.

The concept of microdosing is simple: instead of consuming enough THC to join the land of catatonia, the user leans on somewhere between 3 to 10 milligrams to feel some effect without entering into a realm of laughing fits, paranoia and ravenous hunger. It is increasingly popular practice that Rolling Stone calls “Marijuana 2.0,” an idea that less is actually more when it comes to using cannabis for its therapeutic and creativity-inducing benefits.

However, there are some challenges involved. What is considered a low dose for some may not cut it for others. It is similar to how it would be if measuring the effectiveness of Ibuprofen on a large group of people. Some of them would find relief with 200 milligrams, while it might take others near pharmaceutical levels to cut through the pain. So, the core of this dosing principle is really just about the individual finding the perfect “micro-buzz” that allows them to feel comfortable and productive.

Dr. Duston Sulak, who has been working with medical marijuana patients in Maine for the past eight years, told Rolling Stone that he has developed a system to help people find their optimal microdose.

“Abstain from cannabis for two days. On day three, consume one milligram of THC and one milligram of CBD, preferably in a tincture or oil where they can be measured precisely,” he said. “Before consuming, ask yourself three questions, and answer on a scale of one to 10: How easy is it to breathe, how comfortable and calm does your body feel and how easy is it for you to smile authentically, to feel content and grateful?”

Feel nothing? Increase your dose by one milligram, the doctor says.

“You repeat this process over the next few days, increasing the dose by small increments,” he explained. “When you reach a point where you feel a difference after consuming, you’ve found your minimal effective dose.”

No matter how high of a tolerance a person has, the doctor says 48 hours of abstinence is all that is needed to hit the rest button.

Although microdosing may go against the grain of the old time stoner philosophy, medical experts say that finding the “minimum effective dose” is the key when treating a patient with any medication. After all, it is not advised to take other medications at intoxicating levels, so why should marijuana be treated any differently?

Source: New feed

This land is your land: American reflections on Trump’s first 100 days

A Muslim family in Houston, TX, has dealt with new hostility

A Muslim family in Houston, TX, has dealt with new hostility (Credit: Saadia Faruqi)

Newfound confidence and feelings of safety. Concern about bullying. Changes in education. A worrying rise in legal questions about domestic violence and immigration. President Trump’s first 100 days in office have meant a variety of things to children, families and the people who care about them across the country.

Common Sense News spoke to children, parents, grandparents, teachers, lawyers and child advocates across the country to better understand what President Trump’s first months in office have meant to them. The conversations paint a complicated picture of a country trying to understand the Trump presidency.

trumpvoice

‘After Trump, I got my voice.’

At 6-feet-3 inches, Reece Sherrill is tall for a 14-year-old. He’s on his Indiana middle school’s basketball team but has found himself, he says, sitting on the bench more than he would like. He contemplated transferring schools and finding a new coach until he watched Trump on the national stage.

“I liked his personality, he really gets to the point with stuff,” Reece said of Trump. So Reece, whose parents are lifelong Republicans, asked himself what Trump would do in his situation. He decided to talk with his coach.

“I was just like, ‘Is there anyway I could get my minutes, I’ve been playing my butt off,” Reece said. To his surprise, Reece’s coach responded well and he ended up playing more.

The moment was a turning point for Reece, who found that by emulating some of Trump’s candor, he found a new of way interacting with the world.

“I wouldn’t have said that before,” Reece said. “I feel like I would have just held back and kept everything in. I would have gotten sad or mad.”

“After Trump, I got my voice a little bit,” he added. “I say what I mean.”

teacher

A teacher tunes in, soothes fears

The day after the election, Sarah La Due, a 7th grade English teacher in El Cerrito, Calif., felt like she had let her diverse classroom of students down. “I felt like as adult we had betrayed for them the world we told them they were living in,” she said.

But since then, the teacher has doubled-down on her efforts to create an inclusive, sympathetic and informed classroom. Her school, Korematsu Middle, was recently named one of the most diverse in the San Francisco Bay Area.

La Due has made a point of never asking her students about their immigration status, although she knows the issue concerns any of her students. A fellow teacher learned a student’s father had been deported the morning before she came to school.

“I am more in tune to listening to their conversations, especially about deportation or immigrants,” La Due said. “A lot of times they make jokes about it. They use humor to cover up anxiety or fear.”

In response, La Due and her colleagues have been handing out cards from the ACLU that give advice in English and Spanish on how to speak with immigration agents.

La Due has also focused on current events, with special units on spotting fake news and bias.

“We did a lesson on pizza gate,” she said, referencing a popular conspiracy theory involving Hillary’s Clinton’s campaign and a pizza restaurant. “We’ve analyzed MSNBC news clips and Fox News clips and talked about how we saw bias.”

muslim

A deeper understanding of religion and identity

In Houston, Trump’s presidency has been unsettling for Saadia Faruqi, her husband and two children. The Muslim family has long felt welcome in Houston, which has one of the largest Pakistani populations in the country. But increasingly there have been flashes of hostility, especially at school with her 10-year-old son, Mubashir.

“Somebody said to my son, ‘You’re going to be kicked out,’” she said. “He very calmly turned around to the guy and said, ‘You’re so dumb. I am an American citizen, I won’t be kicked out.’”

Mubashir, who has been the victim of bullying even before Trump became President, has found new friendships with his classmates from Latin America in the last few months. “All of his friends are suddenly Hispanic,” Faruqi said. “I asked him why and he told me, ‘People hate Muslims and Mexicans, so I figured we have to stay together.”

Bullying has increased, even as “teachers don’t take it seriously,” Faruqi said. Other students “call my son a terrorist and I complain to the teachers and they laugh and say the kids don’t watch TV. I feel it is more blatant now. ”

Faruqi, a writer, said she has felt the animosity herself when she’s out at the supermarket or running errands.

“I feel like people are more able to say things that they maybe would not have said before,” she said.

But, Faruqi said, “I have also had people who have been acting more friendly than they would have before.”

And Mubashir has found a deeper appreciation for his religion.

“I have seen that he is more willing to speak out about Muslims about Islam,” Faruqi said. “The other day, a friend asked why he wasn’t eating pork and he said that’s what the Koran said. I was proud of him. At his age he doesn’t want to have a religious conversation. Every word is ‘whatever.’”

teacher100

A threat to education

For Diane Ravitch, one of the leading advocates of traditional public education, President Trump’s first 100 days in office have been bleak.

“I think the most important thing he has done is appoint a secretary of education who is not a fan of public schools,” Ravitch said, referring to Betsy DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist who has no teaching experience and never attended public school. “I think she represents a very serious threat to public education.”

Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, said she worried Trump’s plan to let parents choose their child’s school could permanently undermine funding for public schools.

“I think that this could be very serious for the future of public education, pretty ominous.”

But not all the developments are distressing: DeVos’ confirmation hearing “became the fodder for late-night talk shows,” Ravitch said, generating new interest in public schools.

Membership in Ravitch’s Network for Public Education, a public school advocacy group, has surged from 22,000 members in September to 350,000 members today.

“People who never knew there was a secretary of education are now interested in the public education,” she said. “People became very aware because she is a lightning rod.”

momdaughter

In this Chicago home, a break from the news

Sonya Strenge, 36, had prepared what she would say to her 3-year-old daughter when Hillary Clinton won the election. But when she realized Trump would win, she turned off the news.

“I’ve never turned it back on,” she said. “My husband and I have kind of decided to shield her from this.”

Strenge and her husband occasionally watch topical comedians like Samantha Bee and Seth Meyers after their daughter Linnea goes to bed, but have otherwise avoided the news, which used to be a big part of their evening routine.

“Our media consumption has definitely changed,” she said. “We are very selective of what we want her to be consuming and very selective of what we watch in front of her.”

As Linnea gets older, Strenge thinks she’ll introduce more details about policy, activism and voting. But for now, Strenge wants her to focus on being a child.

“She’ll be in elementary school in two years, I am sure they are going to talk about the President,” Strenge said. “I don’t want to blind her and say, ‘We don’t have a President, honey.’”

childrenofcolor

New worry about police, violence

Like any grandma, Nadida Matin, 50, worries about her grandchildren. As a black, Muslim woman living in St. Louis she’s acutely aware of the threats she and her family can face from the government.

Her step-son, Abdul Kamal, was killed by police in New Jersey in 2013 and Trump’s support for police and lack of interest in reform makes her feel at risk. Kamal was unarmed, and was shot after he refused to take his hands out of his pockets, a New Jersey newspaper reported. Police called the shooting justified.

“Being a Muslim and having (Trump) say he is a law-and-order candidate, and having a step-son murdered by the police makes that even more concerning,” she said.

Matin is raising three of her grandchildren, ages 8, 10 and 11, and has made a point to talk to them about how to interact with the police.

“I tell them not to be fearful, to be engaged and know your own presence and strength; don’t be disrespectful,” she said. “We don’t allow them to go to the park unless we’re present. Stay in safe places. Don’t do things that would have people look at you as something other than your authentic self.”

But Matin, a lifelong activist, has also found that Trump’s presidency has revealed hard truths about race in America.

“Trump, he brought those thing to light that most people don’t want to talk about,” she said. “His being elected just made us have those conversations that we struggle with. He took away our ability to be ignorant to what’s going on. You no longer have the luxury to sit on the side lines.”

14girl

Feelings of safety in small-town Indiana

Rachel Kidd, 14, plays tennis and is on the cheerleading squad at her middle school in Bedford, Indiana, a town of 13,000 people. She wants to become a marine biologist or practice art.

But Kidd also worries about what she sees in the news: the threat of terrorism, ISIS and rising extremism. And so far she’s been very pleased with Trump’s aggressive approach to those issues.

“With us being in small town, I know we’re not directly involved in that stuff,” she said, referring to the threats of terrorism often felt in large cities like New York, Paris or London. “But what he’s doing makes us feel safer.”

“One thing that President Trump was really big on was protecting America and America First, and he stayed true for that; he has not let refugees in so far,” she said.

Kidd knows some people are threatened and hurt by Trump’s immigration policies, but she feels those stories are overplayed by the media.

“I hope that he continues to keep our country safe and stops many of the terrorist groups and the terrorist attacks,” she said.

manparents

A choice for parents when it comes to school?

For years, Neal McCluskey, an education scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, has argued that parents should be able to take their child out of a failing public school and put them in a charter or private school of their choice. If schools compete, he argues, children win.

Donald Trump might make that a real thing.

Trump has said he supports school choice, and DeVos, his secretary of education, has long supported the policy. Neither have proposed detailed policy proposals.

But as much as he supports reforming the traditional public school system, McCluskey hopes Trump and DeVos will let states and local communities find their own way to the policy.

“I am pleased with the administration’s at least rhetorical move away from federal control of education, including Secretary DeVos stating multiple times in her confirmation hearing that education decisions are properly made at the state, local, or family level, not in Washington,” McCluskey said in an e-mail.

A strict reading of the Constitution gives the federal government little authority over local schools, he said.

“If the federal government tries to bribe or otherwise incentivize states to adopt choice programs we run a huge risk of the feds eventually regulating all private schools, rendering choice largely meaningless,” he said.

In Los Angeles, new interest in immigration rules

Jimena Vasquez is a family law attorney with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. In the last few months she’s seen a spike in the number of immigrant single mothers asking for help getting a passport for their citizen children without permission from the child’s father.

In many cases, Vasquez said, the men have been abusive and the mothers want to know how they can get a passport without the permission of their child’s father, which the State Department usually requires.

If an immigrant parent is deported, a passport will give their child an easy way to return to America when they grow older.

“I think among immigrants it is a valid concern of immigration enforcement,” Vasquez said. “If people are going to leave, they want to leave with their child. It is easier to get a passport here than it is there.”

The State Department is usually cooperative, Vasquez said, but the process can require unfamiliar and burdensome paperwork.

amandalitman

A renaissance of interest in local education

When Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer, started Run for Something to encourage progressive millennials to run for local office, she hoped 100 people would sign up. Three months into Trump’s presidency, 9,000 have, and nearly a quarter have expressed interest in running for their local school board.

“I think folks are seeing that elections have consequences, especially for our kids,” she said.

That includes people like Shae Ashe, 27, who told NPR he decided to run for school board in his Pennsylvania town because “what happens on the local level is affecting your daily life.”

Will Kane is a reporter for Common Sense News, an independent newsroom with Common Sense Media. For more stories like this, subscribe to the organization’s weekly ‘Kids in Context’ newsletter.

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Dispatch from the United States of Science: A nation of nerds fights back

March For Science

The March for Science on April 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Credit: Getty/Brendan Smialowski)

This Earth Day, April 22, saw a March for Science. The main event was in Washington, D.C., but more than 600 cities across the nation and around the world participated. What began as a grassroots effort ultimately drew in more than 200 professional organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). As AAAS CEO and former congressman Rush Holt stated, the nonpartisan march was “a unique opportunity to communicate the importance, value and beauty of science.”

I was one of the tens of thousands in D.C. last Saturday. I had been asked by the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America to give a talk on Superhero Physics as part of the Teach-In events. Following my presentation, I joined the throngs on the Mall, listening to short speeches from scientists like Michael Mann, who developed the “hockey stick” graph of rising global temperatures, and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who uncovered the high lead contamination in the Flint, Michigan, drinking water.

The crowd, although not as large as the one that would be found at San Diego’s Comic Con, had the same feel, as people came together to be with their tribe. While there was less cosplay in D.C. than San Diego, there were more signs — many pointing out the benefits of scientific research (“Got Polio? No? Thank Science!”). And just like Comic Con, some signs required deep knowledge of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” to interpret (my favorite: “There are Four Lights!” — you’ll have to google it).

The march itself began right on schedule, at 2 p.m. As we shuffled through a driving rain, everyone’s spirits were high. I was buoyed by the camaraderie of my fellow nerds. The March for Science was an opportunity for folks to demonstrate their support for the scientific enterprise and the pursuit of objective truth. Not everyone at the march was a scientist or engineer, but practically everyone was a citizen and voter. Part of our responsibility as citizens is to have informed opinions on scientific and technological issues, from climate change to alternative energy to medical research. Our decisions must be technically sound, not just sound technical.

After all, our modern world — the lifestyle many of us enjoy — was built by nerds. Nerds invented radio. They invented television, the internet. Nerds invented smart phones. Nerds invented Twitter! Thanks to scientists and engineers, here in the twenty-first century, we are not just living in the United States of America. We are also living in the United States of Science!

In the United States of Science, we believe in facts — period.

In the United States of Science, it doesn’t matter if you wear a yarmulke, a hijab or a baseball cap. We don’t care what’s on your head — we care about what is in it.

In the United States of Science, it does not matter whether you are male or female, black or white. What matters is — can you do the math?

In the United States of Science, we recognize that science is universal. Principles that improve our lives can’t be dismissed when politically inconvenient.

It’s not just the particle accelerators and magnetic resonance imaging that science delivers; it’s the mundane comforts, too. Every binge-watching session during a snowstorm is brought to you by science. Consider the handy television remote control, which employs infrared light-emitting diodes and photodetectors to keep us on the couch. These devices exist because of our understanding of quantum mechanics, the field of physics that describes the properties of atoms and their interactions with light. Quantum mechanics also accounts for why double or triple panes of glass in our windows keep our homes warm. Atmospheric carbon dioxide (having comparable quantum mechanical properties to silicon dioxide — the major component of window glass) will lead to a similar trapping of heat. The physics that makes TV remote controls possible does not magically stop functioning when applied to infrared-absorbing molecules in the atmosphere.

The motto of the AAAS is “to advance science for the benefit of all people.” America has led the world in innovation and discovery thanks to its strong commitment to and support of science. Those who question its results and value should at least be consistent and stay off Twitter.

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Mark Zuckerberg had supper with Ohio family that voted for Trump, adding to speculation about a presidential run

Mark Zuckerberg

(Credit: AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is on a quest to check off everything on a presidential candidate to-do list. Or maybe the billionaire tech entrepreneur is just fulfilling his new year’s resolution of meeting people in every state by the end of the year.

He toured a Ford factory outside of Detroit this week, and sat down with a group of Muslim students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He also met with people recovering from opioid addiction in Dayton, Ohio.

On Friday, he had dinner with a Democratic family in the Buckeye State, according to a post on Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page.

The CEO of Facebook enlisted his staff to find Democrats in Ohio who voted for President Donald Trump in the past election, the Vindicator, a Youngstown, Ohio daily newspaper, reported. Zuckerberg’s staff stumbled upon Newtown Fall’s Daniel Moore, a former President Barack Obama voter who became a major Trump fan, the Vindicator’s Justin Wier reported.

“We got to know a very cool guy,” Moore told the Vindicator. “Just down-to-earth and real easy to talk to.”

“He cares very much about family and about community,” he said.

Zuckerberg’s name has repeatedly come up as a possible candidate in the 2020 presidential election. His journey through the Midwest has not done much to quell the speculation.

When Zuckerberg announced his personal challenge at the beginning of the year, he was definitely speaking the language of politics.

“Going into this challenge, it seems we are at a turning point in history,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.”

Check out some of the things Zuckerberg has done this past week:

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Jonathan Demme: The mentor, the maestro, the model

Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme (Credit: Getty/Carlos Alvarez)

Something wild

On an idyllic autumnal afternoon this past October, I walked from the tip of midtown Manhattan down Broadway with Jonathan Demme and he told me about his early days in New York. Jonathan, his lovely assistant Bonnie Yassky and I were deciding where to have lunch. Jonathan wanted to go to Carnegie Deli before it closed. He made himself laugh recalling the scene from “Broadway Danny Rose” in which a group of comics sat at Carnegie Deli trading stories about Woody Allen’s hapless talent agent. But the line to get into Carnegie stretched out the door, so he looked across the street and said, “How about the Hotel Wellington?”

The Hotel Wellington, he told me, was where he had once seen a woman whose name I now can’t recall except that it sounded French. He was new to the city, and had met the woman through his job as a publicist. Midway through their dalliance, the woman’s boyfriend (whose existence I believe Jonathan was unaware of) walked in. He wanted to run. But the woman introduced them — and then Jonathan ran. He laughed at the memory and later we sat in one of the diner’s whale-colored booths and he ordered a tuna sandwich and fries.

The story of the escapade brought me back in time not to the late ’60s when the story took place, but to the mid-’80s. Jonathan’s most prestigious, masterful works (“Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia”) would come in the early ’90s, and what he would probably call his most important works (his documentaries) predominantly in this century. But the films that, for me, are the greatest distillation of Jonathan Demme’s sui generis spirit — at once bright, quirky, empathetic and adventurous — were the ones he made from 1984 to 1988 — in particular, “Stop Making Sense,” “Something Wild,” “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Married to the Mob.”

The two features in that list (“Something Wild” and “Married to the Mob”) came to mind that day. Jonathan running out of the Hotel Wellington after being caught with another man’s lover conjured images of Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) and Audrey Hankel (Melanie Griffith) fleeing the menacing ex-convict Ray Sinclair (Ray Liotta) in “Something Wild” and Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Mike Downey (Matthew Modine) thwarting gangsters in “Married to the Mob.”

Both films are colorful and kitschy, about conservative characters who leave or enter New York City to let go of their inhibitions and the vanilla lives into which they were born. Jonathan was a kindred character. Like Charles Driggs and Angela de Marco, Jonathan Demme had to seek out the beauty and squalor in life lurking beyond suits and ties and cul-de-sacs.

He grew up in an all-white Long Island suburb where he lamented having been “raised just on European imagery, and European books and European history.” But when he was in high school, his family moved to Florida, where he would also spend his college years. “Thank God my family moved to Florida, to Miami, and things opened up for me, working with black people, hanging out with them, going to clubs and churches with black friends in segregated Florida,” he told me when I interviewed him last year.

Don’t misinterpret: Jonathan’s love of black culture was not some form of fetishization. He was a man who was profoundly curious and earnestly infatuated with humanity in all its different forms. He wanted to spend time with the country singer and the Haitian radio broadcaster.

A story Larry Wilmore told me is illustrative. Late in his life, Jonathan began corresponding with Wilmore, whose “Nightly Show” he adored, and after the show was cancelled they got lunch at Bar Boulud near Lincoln Center. “We had the best conversation,” Wilmore told me. “Jonathan told me about his time in the early ’60s when he was first starting and he struck up this friendship with this black guy.”

Wilmore added, “He felt like he had kind of been sheltered his whole life. And it was kind of this introduction to the relationship that race and culture and all these things have. His heart was so on his sleeve with this stuff. I was so moved by it. It was just a bunch of love, is how I could explain it.”

I think that this love was rooted in a lifelong romance with the soul; in his fiction and nonfiction films and in his daily life Jonathan was captivated by life lived to its fullest. His wokeness was a product of how utterly awake he was. That, I think, is what led him to collect Haitian folk art, a form characterized by bright color and a human touch, a tradition that the West overlooks. It was also the line through his taste in music: the Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Neil Young, Robyn Hitchcock, Bruce Springsteen — all artists who surrender to something deeper, artists who can evoke the mystical with a riff or a glance.

Jonathan’s love of offbeat and oddball culture is what earned him the title “American cinema’s king of amusing artifacts.” It was The New York Times’ Janet Maslin who described Jonathan that way in a 1988 review of “Married to the Mob”: The film, like “Something Wild,” was littered with “blinding bric-a-brac, the junkiest of jewelry, costumes so frightening they take your breath away,” Maslin wrote. All of which was not merely idiosyncratic decor; in the very next sentence Maslin seized on the importance of these objects. “Mr. Demme may joke, but he’s also capable of suggesting that the very fabric of American life may be woven of such things, and that it takes a merry and adventurous spirit to make the most of them.”

That Jonathan was one such “merry and adventurous spirit” goes without saying. And yet it bears hearing it from some of his collaborators. Jodie Foster, who played Clarice in “Silence of the Lambs,” described him in a statement as “a guy so singular and dynamic you’d have to design a hurricane to contain him.” Ted Levine, who played Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs,” told The Hollywood Reporter that Jonathan “was like an 11-year-old kid,” adding, “He was always really excited about what he was doing.” The screenwriter Marcus Hinchey, with whom Jonathan collaborated on a film that never came to fruition called “Come Sunday,” described Jonathan to me as “a force of nature.”

“Creative work with Jonathan was always him up and pacing and walking around,” Hinchey said. “He had this saying in terms of screenwriting which I had never heard; he would just pace around yelling, ‘The meat! The meat! Where’s the meat?’ Meaning, what the hell is this scene? What’s the meat of this scene? Fuck everything else,” Hinchey said.

“He was just pushing and pushing for a truth in each small nook of the movie you’re working on,” Hinchey added. “And until you find the meat of the scene you’re working on, and therefore the film, you don’t have anything.”

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I never got to see Jonathan on a set, but I was fortunate enough to see him furiously searching for the figurative meat. After lunch, Bonnie, Jonathan and I walked a few blocks east to do what we had come into the city to do: show Jann Wenner and a couple of his fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Fame executives the latest cut of a video installation Jonathan was directing. (It should be said that our team also included Jonathan’s producer, Rocco Caruso; his editor, Paul Snyder; his director’s assistant, Hugo Kenzo; and his editor’s assistant, Sophie Harrari; I was a production assistant, the very least important person in the room.)

The film is a multimedia compilation of various performances culled from the 30 years of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Wenner had a lot of feedback — “I get the most chills out of Linda Ronstadt tribute”; “The shot of Elton John is too grainy”; “I like the way you end the film” — and I was mesmerized watching Jonathan contend with it. Jonathan was always respectful. He accepted most of the feedback with a measured explanation or signal of affirmation. But the feedback he responded to was telling. Here are some tidbits from the conversation:

Wenner [responding to a clip]:  I don’t like Iggy.

Demme:  YOU DON’T!?!

Wenner:  We need to see U2.

Demme:  Let me tell you what our problem is with U2 and Bono. We haven’t seen him surrender and let go.

Wenner’s colleague:  St. Vincent doing Nirvana was great.

Demme: Isn’t she great? That’s rock and roll. You open your mouth as wide as you can and scream.

Jonathan was bent on delivering what the Beats referred to as “It.” “We want you to fully feel it with your BODY, not your mind,” he said. To be around Jonathan Demme at moments like these was to feel his spirit deeply. That day was a daze and I found myself wondering, How did I get to be a fly on this wall?

* * *

Subjective camera

It was my best friend’s funeral service. That was how I entered Jonathan Demme’s radar and eventually an outer ring of his orbit.

For most of my life I lived not a mile away from Jonathan in Nyack, New York, a bohemian suburb 30 miles north of New York City. He lived in an elegant Victorian house with a view of the Hudson River. If you were looking, it wasn’t hard to spot him bounding around town, sometimes with his two poodles, Kit-Kat and Milly. He was an engaged local citizen, free of pretension. But it wasn’t until my college years that I dug into his body of work and developed a real conception of who he was as a filmmaker. Not long thereafter, it happened: My friend died, I gave a speech, and a mutual friend who had been sitting next to Jonathan told me that Jonathan Demme was impressed.

The only people I wanted to please with that speech were the members of my friend’s family. (I had no idea Jonathan was there until after.) And Jonathan’s secondhand compliment was one of many compliments on the speech I received. But thereafter, it was Jonathan’s words that stuck with me. I feel shameful admitting this — because as much as I love Jonathan, if I could bring my friend back at the price of never having met Jonathan I would in a heartbeat — but it felt like kismet. Jonathan helped me to give this meaningless tragedy meaning: A bona fide artist whom I admired was moved by something I had written; it was validating.

I went back to school for a final semester and I clung to that bit of encouragement — if a professor or a peer didn’t like something I’d written, well, you know who did like my writing? The best way I can describe how it felt is to liken it to Audrey Hankel telling Charles Driggs, “You’re a closet rebel.”

And then a year later at a party held for my deceased friend’s birthday, there was Jonathan, wearing his late-in-life uniform: a hoodie, cosmic joggers and basketball sneakers. (He pulled it off.) I told him I had recently watched “Married to the Mob” and loved it and he said, “You know, they say that’s the most accurate cinematic depiction of the Mafia.”

I asked him what he was working on and he told me about “Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids.” But the films he was most interested in discussing were the ones that didn’t get made or that didn’t find much of an audience. He told me about his failed effort to adapt Dave Eggers’ “Zeitoun” as an animated feature and about his trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to film “I’m Carolyn Parker.” One thing led to another and I was interviewing him for a magazine I was launching with a friend — and then months and months later, working for him.

As I was working as an PA on a film that only required editing, my job consisted of little more than fetching lunch for people in the office. But Jonathan made everyone, no matter their title, feel included. When he was in the office, I would often just take a seat in the editing room and take it all in. When I did have a suggestion, he listened. He really listened. I know because he liked one of my suggestions, and he used it.

The support, encouragement and empowerment I felt from Jonathan was something countless others experienced — in many cases, redoubled. In a post on his website after Jonathan’s death, David Byrne cited the same spirit of inclusiveness as inspiration for his foray into feature filmmaking.

“Jonathan was also incredibly generous during the editing and mixing,” Byrne wrote. “He and producer Gary Goetzman made us in the band feel included; they wanted to hear what we had to say. That inclusion was hugely inspirational for me. Though I had directed music videos before, this mentoring of Jonathan’s emboldened me to try making a feature film.”

And Jonathan was a formative influence for many of today’s preeminent filmmakers, none more prominent than Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson famously once responded to an interviewer asking him who his three biggest influences were with “Jonathan Demme, Jonathan Demme, Jonathan Demme.

That wasn’t hyperbole. One of Jonathan’s editors once told me that when Anderson visited Jonathan as they edited a picture, Anderson spent hours just sitting on the couch, observing.

And Hinchey had a similar experience. Hinchey accompanied Jonathan when Anderson screened a rough cut of “Inherent Vice.” “The way [Anderson] talked about Jonathan and wanting to know what Jonathan thought about the cut made me think that he saw Jonathan in a similar way I did.”

The way Hinchey saw Jonathan was as a mentor — or at least, the closest that anyone has come to being that for him. “The first time I went to meet him to work, I went to his house,” Hinchey said. “He had this tree house and we just sort of sat in his tree house and worked on the script.” Jonathan would also periodically invite Hinchey to see films by Moroccan and Central African filmmakers, “many of whom only had screenings or only made it to the U.S. because of Jonathan,” Hinchey said. “He fought for movies that never would’ve seen the light of day. He fought for other people’s movies and tried to help them get financed. He was a fierce advocate of film.”

To let people into your tree house — whether literally or figuratively — is a powerful thing; both through collaboration and representation, Jonathan was an undiscriminating champion of talent and soul. He had an uncanny ability to see both near and far; he simultaneously elevated men and women, people in his community and people on different continents. And when he did, it felt momentous.

“I think he only really got involved with projects and people that he could muster his [huge] level of enthusiasm for,” Hinchey said. “And if you were on the receiving end of that enthusiasm, it was incredibly intoxicating.”

It wasn’t just Jonathan’s status that made it feel special when he directed his energy in your direction; to be let into Jonathan’s tree house was to join the company of the most extraordinary characters — Jimmy Carter, Tyrone Hayes, David Byrne and on and on.

And it’s easy to trace Jonathan’s ability to connect with and lift sundry people back to his favorite shot: subjective camera. Jonathan loved actors with interesting faces and he loved to point the camera directly into their faces and let the viewer operate from their point of view. “You want the audience to be in the character’s shoes,” Jonathan told Anderson two years ago during an Austin Film Festival panel. “The more deeply into the character’s shoes the audience is, the more they’re going to care about what’s going on.” Jonathan was perpetually operating in subjective camera.

I’d always loved these shots as a viewer of his films, but it wasn’t until he died that I viscerally understood the profundity of their power. It was my friend’s mother who called me to break the news of Jonathan’s death on Wednesday morning. I’d like to say that I broke down when I heard or that I couldn’t fully process it. But the opposite is true: I felt as though I’d fully processed it. Some part of me has been expecting this — enough that I had a nightmare that he had died back in December. And so when it happened, it didn’t take long for me to snap to: OK, what am I going to write?

But then I went on Facebook and I saw that a movie theater for which Jonathan had been a curator and board member had posted a album of photos of Jonathan through the years. And I lost it. I saw that wonderfully expressive face, the abundant goodness in his eyes, and everything came undone. He was just so fully alive. It’s not right that that should no longer be.

Jonathan Demme’s energy was unparalleled, his taste inimitable. I will always aspire to be is as inclusive and generous as he was, in life and art — to keep my eyes and heart open to the beauty lurking across the street and around the world. To always find the meat.

 

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