Archive for February 2007

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

February 20, 2007

A word about the first person.
The word of the day, in fact.
Apogee: the highest point in the trajectory of an object (or a subject) shot or thrown into the world. This the point at which time slows down, leaving us (the object? the subject?) suspended at the moment where rising meets falling and it is no longer possible to distinguish them. Less poetically, it’s as high as you’re going to get before you start falling. Or the location of the curtain between its rise and fall. Interestingly, we also use this word to mean the very best of everything.

Since I’m not rehearsing right now and I should be…wait…I feel an aside coming on…
[Thanks for asking, Juniper Alan. My next official performance is:
Thursday 8 March, 10:45-11:45am
Lewis and Clark College Gender Studies Symposium
Templeton Student Center Council Chamber
Portland, Oregon. No tickets needed.
I’ll also be signing books March 3d at the Associated Writing Programs conference in Atlanta, for those of you who are there. Wish me a happy birthday. Then Nebraska, March 26-30.

…I’m going to talk about museums. We’re back–still in the first person, suspended in time. Which puts us right smack dab in the middle of the museum, home of Objectivity. Or Object-ivity, depending on where the word falls on the line. The line that leads to the apogee, remember? Okay, returning to Earth now.

So let’s say you’re walking into a museum to understand, just at random, the Roman Empire. You come into the Roman Empire section and the first thing you see is a cup with a cracked edge, carefully repaired. Then a pair of earrings. A photo of a pyramid where if you look closely, you can see somebody scratched “Joe was here” in Latin with the tip of a sword. Then there’s a little model of somebody’s house. Next to it is a reconstruction of the picture on the wall by the garden, a bawdy or religious scene concealed or revealed according to the chance of preservation, the taste of the museum’s curator, and the current social conventions concerning the private parts (private parts?) of Romans or Emperors, or ourselves. A diagram of a city which is really kind of abstract, but here’s a couple of pieces of concrete from the street in front of the house with the garden, or a raised block from a crosswalk designed to keep the horseshit from getting in your sandals. All the way at the end there’s a really big statue of someone whose name we can’t remember, but he’s got a mole on his eyebrow. He’s wearing tall sandals that must have been hard to keep horseshit out of, and a skirt and a really wierd haircut, and he’s got the same line between his eyebrows that you get from worrying too much.

And when you leave you think, hey, the Roman Empire.

Objectivity. First person.
Museums are usually associated with: science, art, and people who live far, far away from us.
My name is Aaron Raz Link. I work in the museum.
I’m going to go rehearse a show about my sex change.

Idea for the day: the uses of projection. For instance-by speeding up or slowing down the speed of projection, we can make the living creatures in a movie seem far away or close to us, quaint or important. Silent/historic film is usually projected at faster than life speed. (in audio, projection might use speed or pitch–high pitch and low having some interesting cultural values. Musicians, please respond…) David Attenborough’s team used the technique of slowing projection to draw the viewer’s attention to the lives of small or “exotic” species in the BBC series The Life of Mammals.
Book of the day: Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
Plug of the day: Elsewhere Artists Collaborative.
Question of the day: When do you use the first person, and what do you use when you don’t?
Song for the day: “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”


Beau Ideal

February 14, 2007

Welcome to What Becomes You, the Blog That Becomes You. It crosses state lines to reach you, carrying infective agents for the powers of good.

This is an interactive blog about representation: how we are represented and how we represent ourselves in writing, science, performance, politics, movies, academia, comics, public health, professional wrestling…I cast a wide net. Myth, metaphor, transformation, and a good laugh. “We” is the group of your choice. Or maybe I mean the group people keep trying to introduce you to at parties. Or maybe that’s the other group, the one you’re supposed to be dating. Or really not supposed to be dating. Maybe we should have a war…

Maybe you can tell me.

This blog is here because I’m an historian and philosopher of science and a performing artist… and the author of a new book…and a person interested in race and gender and sexuality and power and status living in, as the Chinese curse is said to say, “interesting times.” Since I chose “male” as an accurate term to represent me, I had a sex change, and I wrote a book about the experience with Hilda Raz. The book is called What Becomes You. In my day, folks have chosen male, female, not white, white, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, blue-collar jock, sensitive helping professional, and pointy-headed intellectual as accurate terms to represent me, so clearly I’m likely to find it all pretty interesting, and be from Mars. Wait. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. That must be why I had the sex change.

Since I have just written a memoir about a whole series of very private subjects–in other words, taboo subjects for public discussion–my side of the blog is partly a travel journal about the process of becoming a public figure. It’s a fascinating process already, partly because everybody who is on the internet–or in politics, war, or the entertainment business–is a public figure, which is something we really aren’t talking about and should be. And because what people aren’t talking about is really interesting. As a transsexual, my “private” or “personal” life–my social adjustments, my sex life, my family life, my medical needs, my inmost personal secrets–have already been public for years. It’s Wednesday afternoon, which means decade-old video of my internal organs is probably being shown to med students somewhere right now. So my privilege is not having the option of the kinds of privacy that keep most people silent about dangerous and important ideas. I can be a guniea pig or a participant-observer. I figure I’m ahead of the game. Welcome to the future.

In addition to the continuing cliffhanger saga of life out loud, I’ll bring some:

Interesting sites/books/media about representation (plug of the day)
Interesting questions I think we should be bothering to ask (question of the day)
Interesting quotes that have come my way (quote of the day)
Interesting ideas brought up by all the above (you guessed it…idea of the day)
and a word for the day…your viral horoscope.

All this so we can engage in unregulated interstate transport of ideas. I know you’re out there…please leave trade goods on the virtual beach.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Since this is the inaugural blog, I will engage in shameless self-promotion so you can get a clue who I am and what I do.
Plug for the day–What Becomes You, my new book with Hilda Raz.
Question of the day–There’s now an established format for sex-based identity groups: “straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.” A gender-based format in radical communities is “women and trans.” If people who have crossed a gender boundary are segregated as a result, with whom are they segregated and why?

The idea for the day is that objects which absorb light become warm. Objects which reflect light remain cool.

Quote for the day, from the BBC via Malika’s Indian Transgender Blog (
Tax authorities in one Indian state are attempting to persuade debtors to paying their bills – by serenading them with a delegation of singing eunuchs [hijras]. Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers. Often unable to gain regular employment, the eunuchs have become successful at persuading people to part with their cash. The eunuchs will get a commission of 4% of any taxes collected…Bharat Sharma, a revenue officer, told the Associated Press agency he was pleased with the eunuchs’ work.

‘We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy,” he said.

The word for the day, says Merriam-Webster, is Beau Ideal.