decadent

The air is cool and crisp.

Strolling down the steep sidewalk, I wonder how much longer it will be till the excitement wears off.

The bits and pieces of the city as I know it breathe several blocks down, soaking peacefully in a fluffy fog wrapped over and around the street lights – the ones that aren’t yet turned off. The velvety hills breathe down my neck, promising more sun very soon. Remnants of the night mist sparkle over the pavement and under my dry boots.

It’s clear up here. The carefree stars shine through the indigo sky. No more clouds to blur my vision. Seeing the beauty from all the way up here is really a piece of cake.

Where have I been?

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tied up

from every step
from every stomp

from every blow of the ride

choking in rain
soaking in mud

with scuffs on the side

from stinking,
and slipping

stretching or splitting
suffering and stuffed,

from
hopelessly stuck:

to
soaring softly,
in syrupy luck.

sticking above the infectious trees
sailing over the swarm of bees

from the sand to the fluff
or to silky from the rough

from the gravel and the gray
to the colors that play

to the spacious and the bright
from every brooding sight

from down under right to the top
only to be tied up.

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Response to readings from Marcus Youssef’s ‘Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil’

Observing the heated debate in relation to pieces Marcus Youssef chose to share in his readings, I was intrigued by the multi-dimensionality and the complexity of the topic and found myself not ready to take a firm stance as I normally would in arguments. This made me give the topic more thought in the days that followed only to brainstorm several arguments in various, completely different directions.

I appreciated the argument on how crossing certain boundaries in relation to racial discrimination may simply reinforce that behaviour rather than offering constructive criticism or a solution. It is also understandable how racial jokes, taken out of context – or not – can be offensive or disrespectful especially when presented by someone other than the race being presented.

That said, many genres, within the present-day comedy, are known to be subversive and to cross borders in all fields and topics alike. They can be unconventional, bold and controversial.

To say that a comedy artist from a middle-eastern background can only present marginalization using material from his own race is in and of itself discriminatory. It re-introduces borders damaging the very essence of equity and inclusiveness. It is the manner in which racial humour is employed that needs to be tweaked or addressed ethically.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of our society members learn to abide by the popular tolerant and equitable principles the same way they follow the rules on the road or live within the confines of the law in general.

How intimately everyone relates to those principles, however, is what differentiates true tolerance and equity from silent and often times inconspicuous discrimination and hostility that exists to this day.

As someone who comes from an immigrant background and has experienced racial discrimination in personal and professional contexts alike, I believe it is this deeper connection that determines how genuinely we tolerate and respect each other, which will in turn dictate how effectively we will educate and prepare our children to deal with this issue in generations that follow – the key to eventually end discrimination – for real that is.

To me the human connection established through humor is like none other. Laughter is a universal emotion that tends to close otherwise very deep gaps and bring diverse audience on the same plane field. This is similar to what art in general is capable of accomplishing: to immerse its audience up-close in concepts and realities otherwise not internalized or genuinely appreciated.

I have experienced this personally on several occasions where a work of art and the context it exposes has transformed my level of appreciation on a concept from superficial to deep and resonating understanding.

I find humour the outlet to the strongest human emotions including dark and painful ones. This prompted me to google ‘dark humor’ for which I found the following definition:

“Contemporary definitions for black humor

noun

in literature and drama, combining the morbid and grotesque with humor and farce to give a disturbing effect and convey the absurdity and cruelty of life.”

 In the end I feel this On Edge Reading discussion presented a great learning opportunity for me to give this topic more thought, learn from everyone else’s perspectives and most importantly get to observe what one can expect if their work of art is not received as well as they would have hoped and how being prepared to back your work up is crucial in presenting it in the best light possible.

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Response to Carianne Leung’s Readings from ‘The Wondrous Woo’

I found Carianne Leung’s ‘The Wondrous Woo’ readings touching and inspiring on so many levels.  

To me, one of the main themes of her novel – finding your gift within – nicely extended to what she shared with us on her own life and background. She wrote her novel as a new mother wearing many hats and managed to find magic within her seemingly un-extraordinary life as a ‘non-writer’.  

On her personal blog she writes: “First, a disclaimer: I am still suffering from Impostor Syndrome when I call myself a writer. I guess it comes from my lifelong deep respect for writers. Writers are my rock stars.  To claim the title means I am a rock star. This still feels like a leap.”

Her book is a reminder to all hidden gifts we do possess but manage to overlook in the face of what mainstream media unrealistically projects as essential qualities for happiness, self-fulfillment and success.

‘The Wondrous Woo’ also does an amazing job of vividly portraying many subtle but serious realities that often go unnoticed or are made light of in relation to displacement, racial violence, culture shocks and the inevitable but criminalizing by-products, including mental health issues.

I found what Carianne chose to read deeply emotional and admired the playful humor and literary grace that amplified and complemented her message.

‘The Wondrous Woo’ is now the very next one on my list of books to read.

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Response to Sherman Alexie’s ‘What You Pawn, I Will Redeem”

Sherman Alexie’s ‘What You Pawn, I will Redeem’ is full of powerful contrasts. It’s sincere and opaque, plainly-worded but mystifying, linearly structured, yet multi-layered. The story has a carefree tone as it silently carries dense, burning wounds along.

Alexis creates a strategically straightforward narrative told through the perspective of “Jackson Squared”, an unsophisticated, homeless man in the span of 24 typical, ever-recurring hours of his life.

The majority of evidence carefully put before the reader, intentionally create the urge to dismiss ‘Jackson Jackson’ as a one-dimensional individual, defined through his alcohol abuse and the impulsive, short-sighted lifestyle he leads: he is, after all, to blame given the poor decisions he makes repeatedly, decisions that do not cease to fall short regardless of how much he cares about the mission he’s on; decisions that disappoint the reader waiting to see Jackson win his grandma’s regalia back “like a knight”.

To me, this is the main message the story holds within: how easy it remains to look down and condemn based solely on what is readily visible, rather than look beyond the footsteps of experience and history. As Jackson puts it literally: “he is the living proof of the horrible damage colonialism has done.”

The initial experience I had as a reader closely resembled that of forming stereotypical judgements based on what is present and visible on the surface. The strange ‘otherness’ painted felt far from me and my life. As the story unfolded, however, I was brought deeper into the rich layers of the main character’s mind and memories, only to realize how profoundly close and familiar he was as another human.

‘What you Pawn, ..’ carries an important reminder to the simple fact of how closely we all relate to each other. It’s emotionally wearing, “slowly and carefully” heart-breaking, as the reader is left puzzled on how so much of what lies behind actions continues to remain a “great big mystery”.

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