Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stepping

Yesterday afternoon, I started reading all the tweets from the last week from this guy named, I think, Eman. He rents the house that Mike Brown was shot in front of.

Like lots of other people, I heard about him when it was reported that he live-tweeted Brown's death ("I JUST SAW SOMEONE DIE ... Im about to hyperventilate ... apparently he stole some rellos"). But his Twitter feed is a window on being young, black and male right now in Ferguson, Missouri.

"My dad a black activist, so he pissed," he tweeted three hours after the shooting. Five minutes later, he retweeted this from a friend who I think might also be his recording partner: "Rodney king wasn't remembered the riots were."

Two hours after that, as word spread and the angry crowds outside his house got bigger, Eman wrote in his own voice: "Can never fight violence with violence. Never."

Over the next few days (while simultaneously flirting with girls, joking about Taco Bell and earnestly discussing the ethics of the robbery-shooting link a week before it was in the media), you can watch it happen: Eman became political.

"The people revolt in Egypt & we applaud their bravery.. What do we do? Tweet?" he retweeted the day after Brown's death.

At 8:30 pm on Monday: "Im out here. Im gon stay out here. This is my neighborhood. This is my front yard."

He asks friends where they are; he spreads news that a rumor that Brown's friend was shot by police is false.

Tuesday, in a conversation about the legacy of the Watts riots: "Neither side progressed. Today we stand in peace. If tear gas is involved so be it. ... what we need is justice. And i will not sit inside and watch them serve our people injustice."

That night, a retweet: "Man, KEEP RECORDING. KEEP TWEETING. KEEP POSTING. WE HAVE BECOME THE MAJOR SOURCE OF MEDIA."

On Wednesday, people in the media (white people, in other words) started noticing him. He had this conversation about whether he should talk to anyone.

"i refuse to go in the media," he wrote. "I may meet with the justice department. And lawyers. Not on camera."

A white liberal radio host clumsily and patronizingly tried to get him to talk. He tweeted a photo of their ridiculous DM conversation with the message "PLEASE DONT TRY TO BUY ME OUT, MONEY OR ANYTHING. MY STORY IS FOR JUSTICE."

He's also been loving the attention, of course. One of his retweets, from Wednesday, was a comment to him: "@TheePharoah PLEASE stay safe. You're the most important person in America right now."

Reading the kid's tweets and conversations with his friends, you can feel the anger and sometimes fear but also the exhileration of knowing that for once, millions of people around the world are focused on problems they've spent their lives dealing with. After the mainstream media had finally arrived and photographed ranks of white county police with tanks and sniper rifles facing down black residents in t-shirts, he retweeted: "Without twitter and social media the majority of the public would be blind on what's going on here." Later that day, a friend named Kayla who goes by @kayyBOMB_ on Twitter wasn't ashamed to show her excitement:

"It's so cool that this is history and everyone cares and we're gonna be able to pass this piece of history on."

That's something I hadn't understood until yesterday. For a lot of folks in Ferguson (at least until, god forbid, someone close to them is hurt) this has been a crazy week, but in many ways not a terrible one. It's a rare thing: a moment with a sense of direction.

The state troopers arrived on Thursday, without tanks, and tried to defuse the fury.

"Over 10,000 people," he wrote early Thursday evening. "This is real."

Eventually, every demonstration ends. What will matter is what people who are activated by them — people like Eman, and I guess like me, and maybe like you — choose to do next.

Here's what Eman wrote at 2:30 this morning.

"My dad told me i would have to step up one day.. just never knew it would be at 19."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The motions

Riding a bicycle is like having sex with one's whereabouts.

Good to be home, baby.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Muscle memory

Scars tissue, but so do triumphs. The slope of yesterday's hill has been coded into the fibers of our hips.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Convention brown-nose ranking 2012

I used the NYT's characteristically awesome infographic about the words most used at the 2012 Democratic and Republican conventions to rank the states in order of how many times they were mentioned by people on stage.

The first number is the total mentions at both conventions per 25,000 words spoken. Within the parentheses, the number on the left is Democratic mentions per 25,000 and the number on the right is Republican mentions.

wisconsin 16 (4-12)
ohio 15 (8-7)
massachusetts 15 (7-8)
north carolina 14 (11-3)
florida 12 (4-8)
colorado 7 (6-1)
virginia 7 (3-4)
michigan 7 (2-5)
montana 7 (4-3)
texas 7 (4-3)
california 6 (3-3)
oklahoma 6 (0-6)
south carolina 6 (1-5)
iowa 5 (3-2)
north dakota 4 (0-4)
nevada 3 (0-3)
indiana 3 (0-3)
illinois 3 (3-0)
delaware 3 (1-2)
new jersey 3 (0-3)
maine 2 (1-1)
nebraska 2 (0-2)
connecticut 2 (2-0)
kansas 2 (2-0)
kentucky 2 (0-2)
new hampshire 2 (0-2)
oregon 1 (1-0)
arkansas 1 (0-1)
hawaii 1 (1-0)
minnesota 1 (1-0)
maryland 1 (1-0)
georgia 1 (1-0)
south dakota 1 (1-0)
utah 1 (0-1)
tennessee 0
west virginia 0
vermont 0
rhode island 0
alabama 0
mississippi 0
louisiana 0
idaho 0
wyoming 0
alaska 0

Lessons learned:
  1. Politicians are unlikely to kiss up to a swing state if they think they're going to win it, maybe because it makes them look desperate.
  2. People really like talking about the state they're from. Therefore a major component of the convention brown-nosing process is actually the speaker selection.
  3. The deep South is just not cool.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Playing Uno

Each month on my transit news website I do a thing where I curate Portland's best public-transit-related missed connections of the month. It's one of the better ideas I've had and always one of the best parts of my month.

This one isn't quite a public transit connection, but I wanted to share it somewhere. It's from 3:03 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Dear JP. - w4m
from craigslist portland
JP,

It's been years since you decided that my words weren't worth yours. Unfortunately, your music still haunts me from time to time, so I can't help but remember you.

It's been some time since you pulled your stunt. Words, links to youtube videos, tea. Holding doors. Charm, and sly comments about how the waitstaff likes you if they act rude to you.

In that time, I've nearly completed two worthless degrees. I traveled and fell in love with the world. I tried to love romantically more than once before realizing that maybe artists are no good for me. I get sick of feeding egos and scheduling my world around theirs. This new years day, I woke up in the bed of one of my best friends. He can't write a song, but he has a strong mind and sharp tongue. He makes me laugh. We play UNO together in airports and bus and ferry terminals.

Sometimes I think of running off, despite all the beautiful things Portland has given me. I am happy most of the time, but sometimes I feel a longing to get to know the grit of the earth intimately. I want to bike over mountains and international boundaries until I am not sure my body can hold itself together any longer. I want unruly matted hair to be a testament to my time on the road. I want to conquer fear of being alone, of being vulnerable, of being a woman where I'm not supposed to be one. I want nothing left to lose by having nothing at all.

Tonight I listened to your music while I walked home. There was a ring around the moon and scattered bits of valentines weekend litter. I felt a pang of the aforementioned longing. That, and the music, brought me to write this. Why else would I? You don't ever want to hear it. But if I could ask one thing, it would be for your lyrics. You see, sometimes you sing too fast for me to understand. And they are some of my favorite songs, if for nothing else than the words.

After all, it's always been about words.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Giants at play

My latest thought about Wikipedia and the cognitive surplus is that the most useful object ever constructed by human beings was just a flick of the wrist -- a seven-year whim -- of the world's unimaginably powerful labor force of understimulated, implausibly motivated men.

It was a very lucky whim, and I'm grateful. But we'll never slip a yoke over this beast.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dirty hands

Working late tonight on the bazillionth self-inflicted writing project of my life, I'm grateful to believe in the mechanics of my job.

Some of my friends complain about working long hours for companies whose objectives they share but whose strategies they don't believe in.

I keep signing up to do this stuff because I'm certain that words work.
 

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