i need a new username.

This has been sitting as a draft since Jan 2009! This week I ran into more real life friends on Flickr and Twitter and it brought this all up again. Ugh, leftover old username. I think I’d been working around this problem by avoiding places where I had a username at all. Maybe that is the right solution anyway, to just use my real name everywhere. But, as drafted two years ago, something about having no nicknames makes me sad. And something about being renamed seems timely right now.

i’ve been “ookpik” online since 1997, when i took the name from a kids’ poem that i liked. it’s an inuit word for owl. it’s also the name of a kind of furry owl doll made for tourists. i thought that was ok for a long time, but now i think it’s too much appropriation and colonial weirdness. so i need a new username.

i’m posting about it here to ask for help. i have a common first name, a last name i don’t like, and no nicknames. ookpik was unusual enough as a name, and i’ve usually been early enough to register on sites i use, that i have no backup names at all.

something about having no nicknames make me sad.

So. Ideas?

Ghost slaves

If the energy provided by the fossil fuel to support the average inhabitant of the US had to be produced by human power, we would each have 120 slaves.

— cit. Weston Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 2000, p.4.

I forget where I found the phrase “ghost slaves” to describe this idea, but it helped me get my head around some more radical criticisms of agriculture and civilization.

Cussing towards equality: douche vs. enema

douche enema office, from Toothpaste for Dinner

Surprisingly / not surprisingly, I have thought a lot about the value of “douche” as a politically correct cuss word. I’ve adopted it as my all-purpose, positive family values cussing option. My take is that douches are maligned for feminist and body-positive reasons. Douches are marketed to clean vaginas that are already self-cleaning, and the unnecessary douches can cause microflora imbalances and infections. Douches are terrible, urban legend birth control that can actually increase the chances of conceiving. Douches: body hating, body damaging, anti-choice, agents of unnecessary consumption. And fun to say. Doooosh.

Meanwhile, almost every other cuss word is maligned for some body-hating, bigoted reason. Genitals, bodily fluids, sexual activities… I love all those things. I need a bigger pallette of loving cusses before I can give up the fun sounds of fuck, shit, tits, ass, cock, sucking, blowing, and company, but it’s good to have a start.

Other takes on douche as a swear? Seeing it paired up with enemas is actually giving me pause. I’m thinking the only reason enemas get a bad rap is because of taboos about buttholes, and related taboos about gay sex and maybe enema sex play. I’m pretty much pro-butthole on all those issues. So then I wonder if I should be considering the sex play possibilities of douches, and any douche fetish communities I might be further marginalizing. The problem: everything can be used for sex play. That criteria would eliminate every possible PC swear word. I’m sticking with douche for now, but I’d love to hear from anyone offended by that.

Interconnected quotations about interconnection.

‘Individualism’ is not to be mistaken for freedom to choose moral, political and cultural alternatives of one’s own making. Each person is expected to operate ‘individually’ but in more or less similar ways and similar directions. . . . ‘Individualism’ in the United States refers to privatization and the absence of communal forms of production, consumption and recreation.

— Michael Parenti quoted by Alfie Kohn in No Contest: The Case Against Competition

This is so similar to the quotation from yesterday, about how disabled people often define independence.

A disability activist perspective on independence, and on working less.

“Professionals tend to define independence in terms of self-care activities such as washing, dressing, toileting, cooking and eating without assistance. Disabled people, however, define independence differently, seeing it as the ability to be in control of and make decisions about one’s life, rather than doing things alone or without help.”

— Michael Oliver quoted by Sunny Taylor in The Right Not To Work: Power and Disability

I looked up Sunaura Taylor after enjoying her discussion with Judith Butler in the movie Examined Life. They talked about walking as it related to disability and gender issues, and about the politics of helping each other and asking for help. At one point they stopped into a thrift store to get a sweater for Sunaura, which was suddenly revealed as a Queer Eye make-over scene such as I have occasionally wished for. Queer shopping with politics intact; it was quite beautiful! I had a little thrill, there in the cinema.

Part of the thrill was seeing the two of them act out an interdependent version of shopping, with Judith helping Sunaura try things on and the store clerk adjusting her usual check out techniques. It was very clear that all of the people benefited from working together, and it was also clear that to accomplish that they had to work outside of usual store policies and etiquette expectations.

I have been finding affirmations of interdependence in a lot of different sources lately, and they really cheer me up. I’m hunting for ways to resist competition and hierarchy without resorting to competitive tactics, and in the meantime it is very encouraging just to watch people cooperate within structures that are set up to facilitate competition. Life affirming.

Taking a different angle on accepting all of us instead of competing to find the winners, here is another quotation from that essay. This is especially for Erin and anyone else who is into working less.

The right not to work is the right not to have your value determined by your productivity as a worker, by your employability or salary… What I mean by the right not to work is perhaps as much a shift in ideology or consciousness as it is a material shift. It is about our relation not only to labor but the significance of performing that labor, and to the idea that only through the performance of wage labor does the human being actually accrue value themselves. It is about cultivating a skeptical attitude regarding the significance of work, which should not be taken at face value as a sign of equality and enfranchisement, but should be analyzed more critically. Even in situations where enforcement of the ADA and government subsidies to corporations lead to the employment of the disabled, who tends to benefit, employers or employees?

One more, because I really like this question:

The minority of the impaired population that does have gainful employment are paid less than their able-bodied counterparts and are fired more often (and these statistics are more egregious for disabled minorities). To ensure that employers are able to squeeze surplus value out of disabled workers, thousands are forced into dead-end and segregated jobs and legally paid below minimum wage (for example, in the case of “sheltered workshops” for those with developmental disabilities). The condescension towards the workers in such environments is severe. Why should working be considered so essential that disabled people are allowed to be taken advantage of, and, moreover, expected to be grateful for such an “opportunity”?

Alternatives to handsome.

Sarah H commented about handsomeness and masculinity.

I find it really useful to consider ideas of handsomeness in relation to concepts of masculinity— I can see where my own notions of handsomeness are based in someone (of any gender) being visibly self-controlled, unemotional and hardened. I wonder how we can reclaim words like this— like how do we compliment our loved ones on looking cute, without using words that reinforce these concepts of masculinity? I have tended to use the word handsome, but now it doesn’t seem appropriate.

I am interested in this too. I hadn’t considered the word handsome before, but I use it a lot (also to describe a person of any gender). After some reflection, I think for me it is a replacement for saying something more personal and honest. I’m making a judgment about beauty and gender instead of attending to my feelings and needs. There is an idea I like in non-violent communication, that making judgments reinforces hierarchy and external authority. From Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life:

Most of us grew up speaking a language that encourages us to label, compare, demand, and pronounce judgments rather than to be aware of what we are feeling and needing. …

Life-alienating communication both stems from and supports hierarchical or domination societies. Where large populations are controlled by a small number of individuals for their own benefit, it would be to the interest of kings, czars, nobles, etc. that the masses be educated in a way that renders them slave-like in mentality. The language of wrongness, “should” and “have to” is perfectly suited for this purpose: the more people are trained to think in terms of moralistic judgments that imply wrongness and badness, the more they are being trained to look outside themselves— to outside authorities— for the definition of what constitutes right, wrong, good and bad. When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.

To work for anarchist/non-hierarchical relationships, I’ve been practicing not judging things as “masculine” or “feminine” and instead just saying what they are and how I feel about them. E.g., If I let go of describing a boy or man as effeminate, I can usually find more accurate, specific observations. Maybe he’s caring and kind, and likes to wear bright colours. And maybe I feel happy about that because I value kindness and diverse clothing options. I forget this all the time, but when I remember to get specific I like the way it makes me more aware of both the person and myself. I also like that it goes beyond resisting within binary gender and gets outside of gender altogether. Instead of questioning who can have feminine qualities, it is a way of questioning why we call some things feminine at all. I think that celebrating a man or boy for his feminine qualities still reinforces that passive, traumatized personalities are called feminine while aggressive, traumatized personalities are called masculine.

I’m thinking I could replace “handsome” the same way, with concrete observations and personal feelings. On top of letting go of judgments about gender (anyone can have a strong jaw or dark eyebrows), it would skip judgments about who looks more or less beautiful. Previously I’ve tried celebrating everyone as beautiful “in their own way” but I find it works the same way as celebrating genderblurred masculine and feminine qualities. It still reinforces the idea that I can judge who is beautiful or ugly and that it matters. I’d rather find ways to take responsibility for what I see and how I feel about it.

That has me wondering what I am trying to communicate when I tell someone they look handsome. I like to look at them? That is still very vague. I think they have social power because they fit a currently fashionable ideal look? I don’t want to play that game. When I look at their nose I feel hot and bothered? That is more what I’m aiming for. I think I’m using compliments as a substitute for conversations about desire and sensual appreciation. Wow. I would way rather have the desire/appreciation conversation.

I’m going to try eliminating handsome from my vocabulary for a few days, to find out what else I can talk about. I’m not sold on permanently eliminating words that describe judgmental categories because I also use them to talk about politics and the categories themselves, but a temporary ban seems like a good experiment in awareness.

More ideas?


A sonnet is built on a fourteen-line frame, of five-foot lines. Hence, the soneteer knows exactly where he is headed, although he may not know how to get there.

I finished reading The Elements of Style. The famed, much recommended Elements of Style. It’s alright. You need to bring your own race and class analysis goggles. An example.

Style rule #2. Write in a way that comes naturally.

Style rule #15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good.

Style rule #20. Avoid foreign languages.

Where this leaves a person whose natural dialect doesn’t sound good to an English professor is a matter for the analysis goggles.

I would at least pair the book with this old, also somewhat famed, David Foster Wallace essay about English usage wars.

That essay is a delight but I feel sad when I read it. I feel sad reading anything by DFW since his suicide, but there’s more this time. He gets all the way to seeing that language has class signifiers and that Standard Written English is an elitist, white, academic dialect, and then he gives in. His best suggestion for surviving in this classist, white supremacist (capitalist colonial heteropatriarchal… might as well get it all in there) system is to learn to pass. That is soul crushing advice.

I’ve gotten this vibe from a lot of David Foster Wallace’s writing. There’s a part that is generous and open and loving and grounded (he calls it a Democratic Spirit in that essay), and then a part with… I want to say with no faith in the power of consciousness. I don’t know if that’s exactly it. But something. Resignation? I count him as one of my favourite authors, but usually when I read something by him I have to debrief afterward. I just looked at my little list of “books read in 2006” and saw that my note for Infinite Jest was “not sure yet.” (Since then I’ve given it as a gift at least three times.)

I am really wishing that Dark Daughta’s archives were still public so I could link to something about passing and anxiety, or about changing the power dynamics of a situation by speaking and acting with a grounded analysis. DD, since you went members only, I sure notice how much I was depending on your output and not pitching in, so thanks for that wake up. If I find alternate links I will come back and stick them in.

Alternatives to mastery.

'Adept' by Jason Engle

I’ve been thinking about the word master for a few months, off and on. Mastery, masterpiece, master crafter, masterwork. It’s a problem because I’m really interested in work, practice, and skills, but master is not a positive word to me. It’s like expert, or authority. Knowledge as domination or exclusivity. I’m into DIY and cooperative visions of skill and work, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for more accurate vocabulary.

Today I am promoting adept to regular rotation. It’s from the Latin “to attain,” and definitely +2 against social hierarchies.

I am very excited!

Add to dictionary

I learn more words from spell check. Just now, my email client suggested “cavicorn” instead of favicon. So earnest. “Do you mean cavicorn?” I wish I did, spell check. But I don’t know anyone who has hollow horns, or how I would use that trait in a metaphor.

This is really just an excuse to tell the internet about the time my spell check suggested I edit a love letter to read “Dear hognuts.” I let that suggestion come up a few times before I finally added hotnuts to the dictionary.