Caught My Eye: Awkward Black Girl

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Date is my favorite episode! Find yours at the ABG website.

I love this video series. When I need a good laugh (in between art projects and experiments) I turn to Issa Rae's fantastic series to brighten my day. So why's it so great? Here's a rundown:

Awkward Black Girl is a mini-soap opera about a terrible office job, awkward interactions with co-workers, and the trials of romance. Best of all, it's extremely funny. By using stereotypes ironically and otherwise breaking social expectations of minorities and women, the show appeals to my academic side along with my awkward inner core. With this series, I don't have to choose between seeing people portrayed non-stereotypically and getting a laugh. Which makes me wonder - why isn't all TV like this?

Check out more of what's Caught My Eye and some of my own videos.

Just Water, Please: 5 Lessons About Habit Formation

For the past two weeks, I have been conducting an experiment on myself to answer the question: what would it be like to drink only water for a week? While I did not use the strictest scientific method (never record what happens, no controlled variables, etc.), I set out to discover whether I, as an avid soda drinker, could keep myself to water only.

And the results were quite intriguing - I learned quite a bit about my own hydration needs and the pull of temptation, but most importantly I learned about habit formation. And how hard it is to listen to the experimenter, even when that voice is your own. Learn more after the jump!

Art for Art's Sake

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I've been thinking about the distinction between working art and art that is just for its own sake. I make art of both types, and often the line between the two is faded and blurred (pardon the pun).

For instance, this drawn collage of my left hand (hand-lage!) was created for its own sake. I wanted to draw hands, so I did. But functioning art, such as zines about a specific topic or an informative video piece, carry both entertainment and a purpose beyond being interpreted by the viewer.

But who determines that a piece has this special meaning? Does it have to be a direct one? These questions I have yet to answer for myself - what are your thoughts?

Take a look at some of the different types of art I myself create, such as my DIY collage, photographs, and Creative Every Day project roundup.

Body Talk: How to Deal with Negative Comments

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A few weeks ago, I visited a friend I had not seen for quite some time. As she greeted me, one of the first things out of her mouth was: "You've gained weight, haven't you? You didn't have that chubby face last time."

As you no doubt have guessed from some of my previous posts, I am an avid self-love advocate and completely against accepting these kinds of comments without pushback - but this one left me in doubt.

I know that comments about one's body (especially from women to other women) are many things: they are normalized, often negative, and often intended to make the receiver police themselves in a way they may not have before. They also make the receiver feel like crap.

And indeed, regardless of how much time I've spent learning about better body image and thinking up responses to these unsolicited comments, I could only find myself sputtering some sort of refrain and going quiet. The worst part came later, when I started questioning. Am I really heavier? Does that mean I've become less healthy than before? And the best one: does this mean I have to forfeit the self-love and get back on track?

These meta-questions are all about that self-policing that is so encouraged by these words. It takes you out of your body and tells you that you need to justify what you're doing or change it. It's what sends people into fad diets and fat-shaming, into repeating the cycle of denial and guilt around tasty food, and into the impossible journey of trying to be "perfect."

So how do we stop it?

Overbooked: Keeping Present in All Situations

Monday, September 26, 2011

I got to the end of Erasmus* and began to fizzle out.

This week was the first of many "normal" weeks that I'll be having this semester: chock full of required readings, event planning, and learning to skate. And each day I come home more tired and more ready to cut out early on anything that I'm doing in order to get a few more minutes of sleep - and that does not exclude writing blog posts!

The weariness that befalls me each semester at college is often rewarding, but nonetheless it takes a lot out of a person. Activities that I use to get away from academic work are often just as draining, but in different ways (roller derby, cough cough). But I struggle forward day by day, moment by moment, with my head working in lists and my path traced out by schedules on notebook paper.

However, I've noticed one discrepancy between class and outside activities: I live in the moment more when I am doing outside activities than when I am in class. I start to drift off and think about what I'll be doing next rather than what I'm involved in at that moment. And I used to think that was ok, until it wasn't. Until I realized that I shouldn't be privileging some moments of my life over other ones. Fortunately, I know the trick to keeping present, even in the moments that I'm least engaged in.


Simple, but effective, I am making the commitment to myself this week to focus on breathing and living in the moment regardless of the situation. Because every moment of life is important; none has a special tag labeled "URGENT" that should be given more attention.

Do you agree?

*Renaissance author whose book, Praise of Folly, required 130+ footnotes.

Troy Davis Vigil (Images)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

This week, I attended the Troy Davis silent vigil on Columbia's campus - in remembrance, we did a small march and then a speak-out about our emotions surrounding his execution. The takeaway? This is our moment: take charge in the issues you care about.

Prayers for Troy Davis

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Image via Feministing

I got a news alert at 12:30am telling me that Georgia executed Troy Davis. I should have just rolled over and went back to sleep, but I lay awake, staring out of windows and wondering what could have prevented this.

I was not personally affected by this case - heck, I only really got involved after hearing the stir around his upcoming execution. But there is something about Troy Davis that hits me right in my core. It is those words that have oft been repeated after his death: "We are all Troy Davis." We are all subject to the same unchecked corruption that our government puts forth. We are all guilty until proven innocent. We are all affected by forces that we cannot directly influence nor change - everything from systems of oppression to judicial realities that prevent us from hearing the full story. We don't want to hear it sometimes; sometimes it shocks us. Like this case, like the DSK rape case, like the woman who got pulled off a plane for being brown on 9/11. This is the world that we live in. So what do we do?

Stand up for your voice in this system. Fight the oppressive forces that push us down and silence us. And offer up prayers/good energy towards those who are affected by such tragedies which occur not far away, not in a distant land, but right here in our country. Right now.

RIP Troy Davis. May you teach us so much.

Read more about the case at Colorlines and the New York Times.

Reviving Creative Every Day (CED)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This weekend, I had a brief time when felt like I was starting to lose it. Life was jumbled with work and work with life so much that I felt restless and in need of some quiet creative time.

Hence, I returned to that little gem of creating every day, but in a very different format than during the summer.

Summer days pass long and uninterrupted, generally, so I had set no time for specific creative progress. Now, I've set aside two fixed hours during the day where I just sit around and do... well, anything. This week, I've written a poem, planned out a zine to be entitled Letters to Myself, and drawn a "hand-lage" (pictures coming soon). And overall its kept me a little more sane than before.

Artists and writers never have time enough for their craft - if there were three circles in the Venn diagram of my life (school, work, and creative pursuits), I would say that creative pursuits is the one I long to do the most, but gets the least attention. For now, I'm fighting back with a schedule and a raised pen.

Some Answers I Have about "Erotic Capital"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This post is in response to Rachel Hills' intriguing Tumblr post "Some Questions I Have About Erotic Capital." In this piece (a response itself to Catherine Hakim's book, funnily enough), she asks her readers several questions about ideas of beauty and body positivity. Here's a breakdown:

1. Is valuing beauty the root of the problem in body hate, or is it that we are socialized to believe we're never beautiful enough?
2. "Is it just a female thing, or do men experience it as well?"
3. "Have you managed to develop a positive approach to the way you look?"
4. "How do we stop beauty positivity from turning into beauty privilege?"

I have been struggling with these questions, mostly internally, since I started down the route of body love and self-acceptance. How do we reconcile wanting to look good with not judging people based on looks? So, when I read this post, it got my brain cells a' firin' with delicious activity. Here are my thoughts.

Fear of Falling: Skating and Thoughts on Exercise

Monday, September 19, 2011

Me as a tennis player, back in the times of yore.

This weekend, I start going to the Gotham Girls Rec League Level 1 for beginning skaters. I'm extremely excited - but also very nervous! I have been skating sporadically throughout the summer, but this is the time where I will be getting back to it in earnest. I am happy to say that I am getting better and better each time I get back on, but I still have a knee-jerk reaction to hold back when I start going "too fast" or feel myself toppling over. Perhaps this is the common fate of humankind (Thou shalt not roll on wheels as a form of locomotion), but I have seen so many brilliant players that do it effortlessly that I can't help but feel envious.

On a similar note of self-reflection, I have realized that I was at one point accustomed to getting 2 hours of exercise 5 days a week for at least half the year. It was a realization that made me go "whoa" aloud in my bedroom at 1am. I used to be a tennis player who, while not very good, really enjoyed the game and the exercise involved in it.

I completely forfeited that when I came to college.

And I've come to realize that exercise and movement is actually something I really need to be consistently happy. Perhaps because I was getting that throughout high school, I grew accustomed to it and felt that it was an integral part of my life. But now, when the choice is sleeping a little longer or getting in an hour of exercise, I choose to hit the snooze button.

College may give me a lot of choices in lifestyle, but it binds with the same force. With the pressure of classes, homework, my job, and my internship all going down at once, I really have to carve out the hours for everything else - from art to exercise, they get pushed off to the side.

I am seeing how important it is to make that time happen. Skating for 2 hours every week will be just one of my first steps.

Interested to read more about roller derby? Read my post about How Roller Derby Challenges Stereotypes of Women in Sports.

How to Live Your Life Like Its One Big Experiment

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I told you about my bucket list last week - well, I've been making good on my claims to work on it, and it has spurred some other interesting conclusions. Namely, I've found myself trying out new experiences more than ever before. Perhaps because there is an inherent joy in testing out all the great things you can do with your life, but I also believe that there is a bit of method to it.

A bucket list (or any sort of future-tense planning) puts you in the mindset that your life is plentiful, playful and ever-shifting depending on how you choose to live it. In essence, it makes your life an intentional experiment. You can choose what independent variables you want to manipulate to get a certain result in the dependent variable - which is, of course, always your own enjoyment or sense of self-reward.

But mindset gets you only half the way. From there, you have to put those thoughts into action. How? Well, that depends.

The Faceless Woman and Quiet Creativity

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've felt quietly creative lately. On my bucket list, there is a section of creative goals. They include things like reviving my Creative Every Day project and finishing the draft of my long novel by the end of November, but these are all in motion rather than right here on the page. So, I want to dedicate Wednesdays to making my quiet creativity more public than private, in hopes that it will spur me to complete my bucket list parameters for this semester. And for you, dear readers, that means a little break from the literal and more of the artistic each Wednesday. Hope you enjoy it!

I was concerned when the faceless woman boarded the subway car and began walking towards me. I glanced up from my reading briefly and when I looked down again my eyes hooked themselves on individual words from the page, words like "stuck" and "craft," breaking the flow of my concentration. I wondered whether she wanted to talk with me, opening the conversation with that guttural sound I know too well. It's the machine, I know, but even if it facilitates their speech, I still detest the background gurgle, like water being poured into an empty jug.

Life Lessons from a Busy Weekend

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My friends have always said that I am busy no matter where I go, and this weekend was no exception. Here's a quick rundown:

THURSDAY: Fashion's Night Out
FRIDAY: The Barnard Career Fair, MP3 Experiment, Columbia club fair, an Afro-Cuban dance class, and a birthday party (that quickly became an impromptu Well Woman meeting)
SATURDAY: Raw Elementz hip hop dance tryouts and roller derby volunteer crew duty for the bout between Brooklyn Bombshells and the Queens of Pain

When it's written down in list format, it looks... well, as intense as it was. My body is now sore from tip to toe. But, since my brain thrives on intensity, I will offer you some practical wisdom that I gleaned from attending each of these amazing events. Ready? Here it goes:

9/11: Growing Up a Reactionary Youth

Monday, September 12, 2011

I went back and forth about whether to write a post about 9/11. In some ways, it is an insignificant day to me - at the time, I was 9 years old and believed that the next target was going to be the Space Needle, which was the only important tall building I could conceptualize in my West Coast upbringing. But it also marked an important turn for the relationship I and my family have to this country. In my work, in my daily life, the specter of that date 10 years ago hangs over me.

I am a Muslim woman, but at that point in time I wasn't cognizant of it. We were not a religious family, and that was a fine thing in my youth. But the label was still on me. Though I could have theoretically passed as a Hindu (because of the common stereotype that all South Asian people are of that religion), I never wanted to hide the fact of my religious affiliation. The conception of Islam that I have now was formed out of a defense for it.

The Bucket List and the Work Boots

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Yesterday was the first day of classes at Columbia, which ushered in the fruitful chaos that is the fall semester here at college. Though I've been here for a week to work on Well Woman topics and generally ease myself back into New York-style living, the beginning of classes was wonderful. Sitting down with a bunch of strangers in order to explore a new and interesting (or required) topic is still exciting to me. Alas, I am a student at heart.

But another thought dawns on me whenever I sit down in one of our classrooms. I picture myself in the trenches of stats homework, putting on my size 8 work boots and wielding my pencil like a musket, spending hours in the morning and night trying to finish… The work is all consuming. And thus, I had to start thinking of how I would shift my mentality towards fun and creative pursuits.

So, I came up with a deceptively simple solution: a bucket list.

5 Tips for Incoming College Freshmen

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Me, as a terrified freshman.

I love freshmen or - as Barnard would have us call them - first years. Having moved in early this year for Well Woman training, I got to see them as they went about their orientation activities and attended endless programming. And in between the student services fair, the perspectives on diversity training, the floor meetings, and the early morning introductory breakfasts, I remembered how overwhelming the freshman experience can be. So, since we are kicking off classes this morning, here are my 5 tips for freshmen, not just at Barnard, but at large:

Caught My Eye: Do It Anyway

Friday, September 2, 2011

When I began my summer vacation, I was gung ho to chew through the large shelf of books that I'd neglected to read during the school year. At that point, I didn't quite know yet how strenuous my job at the Washington Bus would be and how little time I would have to gnaw on dense feminist classics and other miscellany.

Of the precious few books that I did end up reading over the summer, Do It Anyway by Feministing's Courtney Martin was by far one of the best. I am a sucker for interviews about amazing activists, for one, but the book also takes upon itself the heavy task of reigniting positivity and inspiration in the activist community, which was refreshing. It acknowledges the hardships and complexities of activist work while injecting some much-needed excitement for the everyday struggle.