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Standard link dump rules apply. Emptying out my pockets…

This is so important:

“We are under occupation here,” said Abayomi Azikiwe of the Moratorium Now Coalition. “They’ve taken our homes, taken our public institutions and privatized them, and now they’re taking our water. Soon enough, it will be coming to a city near you.”

The nine people arrested were trying to form a blockade in front of Homrich, a private contractor being paid over $5 million to turn off water to Detroiters whose overdue bills exceed $150.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is a public asset valued at $6.4 billion. Forty-five percent of the utility’s annual budget goes to Wall Street banks to service its debt —a debt the emergency manager has the power to re-negotiate.

Detroit activists worry that their water utility, like other public services, will be privatized.

http://www.popularresistance.org/water-rights-march-in-detroit/

As of now, 166 children have been killed and 1,310 have been injured, some of them severely.

http://mashable.com/2014/07/23/gaza-children/

 

This post may be somewhat disjointed. I am somewhat disjointed. Out of joint. Bent…

2e855d2d-f848-4973-b1af-3e9069706207

I’ve been walking a lot lately. Walking is conducive to thinking. Walking is frequently conducive to composing blog posts in my head. Some of which never get written. Some written, never posted. Let’s hope this one passes muster.

I feel like I’ve mentioned, in bits and pieces, that I’m currently in the process of reclaiming certain aspects of my life. Some of which I didn’t even realize needed reclaiming. Some of which I figured I’d leave unreclaimed. Some I thought I already had a claim on. And while it’s frustrating that I find myself still not completely free from certain negative impacts of certain types of trauma in my life, I’m thankful I can recognize the origins of that frustration, roll my eyes and be temporarily exasperated with myself, and move on.

I’ve been telling the same stories over and over again, because I find myself confronted with them. As my housemates were cleaning up my yard, cheerily clearing the brush and treating the arduous labor as a happy task, I vividly remembered walking out to the backyard a long lost married-person mother’s day ago, to find my then-husband angrily hacking at the shoulder-high weeds with a push mower. “Happy fucking Mother’s Day!” Through gritted, angry teeth, was my greeting.

That wasn’t the last time the lawn got mowed, but it was the last time he mowed the lawn.lulu

Needless to say, it wasn’t a very happy Mother’s Day. It wasn’t a very happy anything in my life during that time period. Somewhere around then – I think the same year – my elderly dog got cancer. I was 5 months pregnant with a 3-year old and a surly, unhelpful husband, and my best friend for the past 10 years was dying and I was incredibly sad. The day she died, he helped me load her gasping body into the car and he was the one who sat with her when she was put down, and then it was like a switch was turned and suddenly any sadness I felt about it was not allowed. Was a play for attention. I was being overwrought. I remember being so desperate for some sort of mutually nurturing relationship I went to the pound on the 4th of July – or thereabouts, and finding Twyla curled up in the corner of a kennel with a sign on the cage that said “I’m deaf, but I’m really sweet.” And she was. And I brought her home much to my ex-husband’s dismay.

“You always do the most difficult thing.” He snorted.

“I married you, didn’t I.” I retorted.

My mind is blurry, and I can’t remember if this happened before or after he broke up with me, but that was around the time. I came home on a lunch break from work, hugely pregnant. Hot. Emotional. And he told me he was breaking up with me. I had to go back to work in 30 minutes. Still hugely pregnant…hot…emotional…and single. Little knowing at that time that it would take multiple years to finally extricate him completely from my daily life, in spite of his refusal to contribute emotionally, physically, or financially beyond the bare minimum.

I’m not saying these things because I’m still bitter about them. I’m stating these things flatly. This is my experience. This is what I have lived. These are the things that re-emerge when we do things we haven’t done since that time period. Like getting a new dog.

5c44e4f5-c619-4bce-a177-b6d766f18fa1Even publishing the zine. I recently sent a couple of copies of the last issue of my old zine bAnal Probe to a friend of mine, and I realized those last few issues were done in collaboration with him. I hadn’t even realized publishing a zine was an act of reclaiming…and there it is. Reclaimed. Painlessly. Cleanly.

I wasn’t the best dog owner during those times. I was distracted, at best. The dog never got my full attention. We went for frequent walks and I spent much of my time feeling overwhelmed with everything I was responsible for. I wasn’t a BAD dog owner. I was mostly just exhausted and had no room in my life for another living being. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve felt sufficiently free of the every day responsibility of nurturing children to really focus on a pet, and this batch of cats in my life has gotten more love than previous batches. For sure. I’m excited about having a dog both who seems to require less effort and for whom I have significantly more bandwidth.

Along with those realizations was the realization that the way I’ve been managing my time is kind of screwy now that I don’t have to think in 15-minute increments as much. It’s time for me to expand my attention span. It’s time for me to have more flexible time for just sitting and enjoying. I’ve thrown away the old system and am working on a new system that allows for that. I hope. I imagine some things will fall through the cracks during the transition, but so far I’ve been spending a lot of lot of lot of time with friends, I’m getting a lot more outdoor time. More movement. A bit more structure. This structure will probably increase as I get used to the rhythm of the dog. When to feed her, when we walk. It’s kind of like having a large, slightly more self-sufficient baby. I’m so glad that she’s at least housebroken. And she sleeps through the night.

And well into the morning. Which is nice.

***

The other thing I was thinking about on my walk is all of the anger and frustration and heartbreak I am feeling for the mamas of Central America and Gaza whose babies are at risk. And of course for the mamas themselves. And the non-mamas, but mostly the mamas and the babies.

I’m sure this is a political theory that has already been written somewhere, and I haven’t taken the time to do any sort of research into who might have already thought of it, but it strikes me that the only way to make free trade not inherently exploitive is too also have open borders. Otherwise aren’t we just allowing the true cost of our low prices to be out of sight out of mind? And when something like a huge influx of refugee children show up at our border because they’ve been suffering that consequence for us, it’s altogether too easy for some people to blame the victims.

 

This song seemed an appropriately celebratory little number for my end of weekend celebrations. Not that I WANT the weekend to end, necessarily…but it’s been a nice weekend, as weekends go. Also, surprising. The biggest surprise, by far…is Lulu.

Pensive Lulu

Sweet Lulu

But I also had some fun adventures with a surprisingly…familiar…new friend. You know? One of those kinds of people who just makes sense, and to whom you just feel like you also just make sense. Buddha the Grouch, when he learned of my platonic hangout, said “Oh, so you went on one of those faux Lainie dates where you go out and look at birds.”

birds...spiders...same diff.

birds…spiders…same diff.

    I laughed so hard, because he’s pretty much right. And it feels good to have someone in my life with whom I can just go out and look at birds. Or at milkweed floating in the wind. Or armadillos. Or the way the pond scum rejoins itself after a rock passes through the film. Someone with whom I don’t have to rush through the getting to know to get to “the good stuff” because the good stuff is the getting to know. I’m really enjoying the getting to know. This weekend was also a little cooking (more cooking to come) a little cleaning (more cleaning to come) some walks and talks…and lots of chilling in the backyard. My friends who are staying with me (who I need to think of a clever name for, as I’ll doubtless be referring to them a lot) have kicked so much ass at getting the yard in shape for planting. They’ve cleared and tilled three huge beds, we’ve all schemed a less-conventional succulent / hummingbird / butterfly bed, and they’ve made good with my neighbor, whose little garden was being overshadowed by some weeds in my back yard. There’s talk of chickens. There’s talk of greenhouses. There’s endless talk of gardens and gardening. I’m still slowly rearranging my time to begin to accommodate, but it’s difficult to begin! We’ve created a sitting area outside that has been encouraging me to just sit and watch the sun (or moon) move across the sky. The dog only adds to this notion of sit and stay. Especially since, being new here and nervous, any move I make is shadowed by her. The more I sit and relax, the more relaxed she becomes. And, thankfully, the energy level of a Great Dane, as Lulu is, is much much lower than that of a boxer, which my last nervous dog was…so there’s plenty of sloth and relaxation.

Slothful, and relaxing!

I feel like Lulu is going to have the sweet temperament of Twyla (the boxer) with the gentle lazy hound-dog attitude of Cash (the pitbull). Once we get her acclimated…and everyone gets acclimated to her.This Crack Star This weekend also included a meditation/remembrance of the passage of Texas HB 2 – the bill that has been responsible for the closure of over 61% of Texas clinics that provide abortions and other healthcare services, leaving many people – particularly those who are already poor and marginalized – without access to safe abortions. We sat in mediation, did a walking meditation – I walked in circles around the middle of the rotunda floor, did another sitting meditation and then had discussion. It was a beautiful memorial. It was very healing…and it got me thinking about reclaiming spaces. I’m still thinking about reclaiming spaces. I need more time to think about it, I think. And journal about it. Before I write about it. Publicly. But I am thinking about it. Reclaiming. I’m also thinking about how hard some people have to seem to work to get the rewards that so many people take for granted. And I’m not even referring to the least among us. I’m talking about everyday people you might see and think “Hey – that person does alright.” and really they are pinching pennies to buy gas, or riding the bus not to be a hipster but because they had their car impounded because they couldn’t afford to renew the registration. And I just feel like if people that I know who are employed, employable, hard-working, able-bodied, intelligent, and genuinely good and decent people are struggling, then I can’t say anything in negative judgment of anyone else who is struggling. I imagine most of them are equally all of the above and equally just totally screwed by circumstance. And that’s all I got to say.

Catching up on some links…

The Supreme Court’s baffling tech illiteracy is becoming a problem

“Granted, the justices are behind the times. Twenty-first century technology has come to the Court, but the Court hasn’t come to the twenty-first century. Justices still communicate by handwritten notes instead of email. The courthouse got its first photocopying machine in 1969, six decades after the machine was invented. Oral arguments were first tape-recorded in 1955, nearly a hundred years after the first sound recording. At those arguments, blog reporters are denied press passes, tweeting is verboten, and justices thumb through hard copies of court documents. At the Supreme Court, every day is Throwback Thursday.

This might explain why the majority of Americans oppose life tenure for Supreme Court justices. Life tenure shields judicial independence and pays homage to the Founding Fathers’ vision. At the time the Constitution was written, however, the average life expectancy was about 40 years. (Or 60 years if controlled for infant mortality.) Today, it’s nearly twice as long. Clearly, life tenure meant something different for the founding generation.”

 

The Rise of the DIY Abortion in Texas

One woman I interviewed at a Mexican restaurant in Brownsville told me her good friend nearly died after taking pills that her husband bought in Mexico. Instead of ingesting four of the 12 pills every three hours, as is recommended by the World Health Organization, she took two pills under her tongue, then four pills vaginally, then two more under her tongue, then four more vaginally. She began to bleed profusely, doubled over in pain. But because she was undocumented, she was afraid to seek medical help at a nearby hospital or clinic. Instead, she crossed the border to Mexico with her five children—all the while hemorrhaging—in search of medical assistance. She has since recovered but is still in Mexico with her children because she can’t cross the border back into the United States.

Carreon says she sees many patients who have taken improper dosages. “A lot of patients said that they would take the whole bottle and they would tell me they took 28 pills,” she said. “They’re taking maybe four vaginally, two orally. Then an hour later, four more. I hear different ways of using these pills. It’s shocking each time.”

But strict internal clinic protocol bars Carreon and other employees at Whole Women’s Health from answering questions about miso and abortion. And the drug’s other distribution channels are similarly mum. Mexican pharmacists can’t provide information about the drug and abortion, since it’s only sold there as an ulcer medication, and many of the vendors selling miso at flea markets know very little about correct dosage.

 

Massachusetts SWAT Teams Claim They’re Private Corporations

Requests by the American Civil Liberties Union for open records on Massachusetts SWAT teams begat refusals to comply based on the premise that the forces are private corporations rather than government entities.

 

9 Facts Shatter the Biggest Stereotypes About Fat People

People are allowed to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies, but we need to start treating people of all sizes with respect. We can start by providing some actual information about being fat.

 

Lately, I’ve been watching The Wire, and I’m having to lean on episode guides to make sense of everything.

I never remember this stuff, so I’ll probably refer back to this video about different display connectors often.

Will Detroit’s Water be Privatized or Recognized as Commons?

“We are not saying that the services of running water should be free, we are saying it should be affordable and accessible by all, and we have put forth the Water Affordability Plan to that end, which was approved by our city council,” says Priscilla Dziubek, of the Peoples Water Board. This plan is self-funding and graduated much like the tax system where no one pays over a certain percentage of their income on water.

 

Nation editor destroys Bill Kristol: “You should enlist in the Iraqi army”

“If there are no regrets for the failed assumptions that have so grievously wounded this nation, or politics and media accountability,” vanden Huevel continued.” We need it Bill, because this country should not go back to war. We don’t need armchair warriors. And if you feel so strongly, you should, with all due respect, enlist in the Iraqi army.”

When the Tao of Bird comes home from his dad’s, we’re totally going to do this Texas Pie-Eating roadtrip

For your summer music list pleasures, NPR has listed the top 50 songs of 2014 (so far.)

For those of you trying to stay awake without heating up…a recipe for cold-pressed iced coffee.

Trying to find words tonight. I’ve literally been staring at the screen for 15 minutes or more. Straining. There is so much, and yet…no words to express.

I’m not feeling the clever words about what happened this time last year at the Texas State Capitol, where for a moment there, everyone saw the ridiculous lengths those in power will go to to remain in power. It was just a moment, but everything was exposed. And yet…amnesia.

May My Consciousness & (My)

I don’t want to write about political frustrations on these pages. Though I have considered returning to a format where I post links to current events after several paragraphs of solopsistic esoterica…but I feel like I’m constantly feeding links about news into the void. On these pages…and in my journal…I focus on process. My process. A lifelong project. A lifelong process.

(Beh)avior Bee ov service to all Beeingz in

My intention with these pages. With this blog. Is to explore words without consequences. It’s my escape from thinking things through. Even this post, with its over-awareness of itself, is violating several of the preceding principles. I need to make this space my space for unthinking.

Wait awhile, close your eyes, let your breathing stop three seconds or so, listen to the inside silence in the womb of the world, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, re-recognize the bliss you forgot, the emptiness and essence and ecstasy of ever having been and ever to be the golden eternity. This is the lesson you forgot. -Jack Kerouac

I nervously paste those words into an email and send them…but neglect to add an address to send to.

all worldz, Liberating all…

He asked me if I’ve ever stopped (writing.) It felt good to honestly say that I haven’t. I haven’t ever stopped. I haven’t ever stopped writing. The writing changes. My language. My inflection. My intention. But, reading back, and filtering out the crap, I’d say there’s a lot of stuff that’s better than I’m willing to admit. A good editor might be able to make something of it. Maybe someday I will find a good editor.

into the suchness of this

Until then, I’m just re-recognizing the bliss I forgot. Calling forth the lesson I forgot.

& every moment -X

She

looked at

him, asked

“Are You the lesson

I forgot.”

He

grinned

a reminder.

 

(Transmissions from Summers past…)

Interpretive Interloper

a telescope transcendent.

***

Rain Journal

 

Witness

Gathering Clouds

No False Alarm, this

(much desired drenching)

This flammable

Wooden

Ocean

 

the doves go

silent

slowly

 

The ground

is FISSURED

 

In need of

soaking

 

Wind

chime

symphony

bliss

 

The garden cries “THIRSTY”

 

Ecstatic

Pattering

Drips 

 

the air is

ELECTRIC

 

slowly

building

 

and I am

on my front porch/parched

waiting

*patience patience patience*

 

Lay

back in 

the Rain

 

for the downpour.

 

photo (3)

***

My problem is that I find myself in a situation I never dreamed I would be in. A single parent. A professional. With a career. And kids. How did I end up here? And single. As in totally alone. As in no one with me. No support. No help. Or, at least, not an adequate enough amount to ease the burden. That’s where I find myself. And making a modest income. More than I ever have before. And yet, somehow, still struggling. Still working hard to catch up & stay caught up. Still – perhaps more now than ever – worried. Because once you’ve achieved a certain level of success, you are expected to perpetuate that success. And THAT is what frightens me. I was EXPECTED to be ambitious and to continue to accept advances in my career…and now I’m EXPECTED to continue to advance. If I don’t, I’m viewed as unambitious. If I don’t, I’m somehow flawed. But where are these expectations coming from? Are they internal or external expectations? Do I want to move up & am I just scared of the responsibility? Or is it true that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing? If anything, I would like to be able to move DOWN. And not out of laziness or fear. I don’t think. But while I’m doing what I love to do for a living & I truly love my job, if I’m honest there are aspects of my job that I don’t enjoy & that prevent me, I think, from achieving what I want to achieve.

***

…excerpt from an unwritten novel…

Last night, goofing, he says something. she says “Oh shut up” he says “I will not shut up. You always get your way and this time you will not get your way I will not shut up.” She says “If I always get my way you would have shut up a long time ago.”

In the restaurant, everyone was talking about weird stuff. Somewhere, someone was discussing a tapeworm – behind them, another person mentioned a medical condition…..they said they were lactose intolerant. She said “is this a restaurant or a gastroenterologist’s office.”

They proceeded to get buzzed on $3 margaritas which were unusually strong, paired with (intentionally) overly-salty Mexican food. They talked…meandered. Tried to say weird and interesting random things at a slightly higher volume, just to entertain their fellow eavesdroppers. There was a party breaking up in the party room of the restaurant. So many conversations. A guy caught his eye. Flirted with him. He looked away. Was not interested, but kept checking back to see if maybe it was his imagination, but he kept catching his eye & flirting, no matter how fleeting the glance.

They ate a lot of food, then stumbled home in the dark. The long way. Both of them needing to pee. She proposed stopping in at a bar along the way, but his usual anxious pessimism kicked in and after warding off 5-6 worst-case scenarios of the imagined ambiance of the place, after they had already walked past the bar, he said he would go if she would buy him a drink. She said “Nah – we’ve already passed the bar.

Back home, in bed. He’s having a hard time staying hard. Is it the alcohol or the fact that she has obviously been visibly exasperated with him since they initially discussed getting together. First, it was the argument about walking (too hot, too tired, too far) then, the give in. The argument about who would pay (a.k.a. the argument about who was more broke, which often ended in me pointing out that though she makes more money, she is raising two pre-teen girls, aka the human plague of locusts.

Then in the restaurant, amid the pleasant conversation…the argument about what denoted sucky taste, with the inevitable sighing and eyerolling on both sides of the table as one party was deemed overly critical and the other party overly emotional. Again.

So, he was having trouble keeping it hard, although clearly enjoying himself. She was battling mixed feelings & not wanting to be touched & STRUGGLING to stay present, but feeling somehow belittled by her inability to turn him on enough to keep him hard while he fucked her.

Eventually, he gave up & rolled off. She felt tired. Snuggled up to him. He reached over & touched her breast, but she was sensitive, asked him not to touch. A familiar boundary that had been violated by many men before him. And then the invalidating happened. Once something is deemed off-limits, even temporarily, at random intervals, the child fixates on That Thing and will not be deterred. So, “Please, don’t touch those right now” (while giggling & trying to deflect) becomes “Seriously, don’t touch them.” And then the conversation becomes entirely about how horrible and mean she is for limiting access to her body. His insecurity turns on her, tells her she needs to just “get over” whatever is making her fel like she doesn’t want to be touched. And she gets smaller and smaller, shrinking inside her skin until all that was her is now a smooth, hard, dense pellet inside the carapace of her skin.

***

OH in Clute, TX: “I need a wife.” (4 year old)

“You got something better – you got a mother.”

Outside of Clute, there was a street named This Way. Other than that, I saw not much of interest.

There’s a big family in here, having breakfast. Grandparents, parents, and 3 children.

There’s a heat warning in New Orleans. More reason to get there late in the day.

Lots of weird weather going on.

Leisurely morning. There’s no point in rushing. My amended amended plan includes visiting some nature preserves & rolling into New Orleans after dark. Then spending a few hours on Sunday walking around New Orleans before heading back to Austin.

Apple and banana and coffee. There is a rhythm of the road that I missed. And I drive and I drive and I drive.

***

That veggie chorizo gave me gas!

***

Goals for Chicago Trip:

Walk Daily

Swim regularly

Write frequently

Learn to draw

Watch Lost

Minimal scheduling

FREE CHILDREN!!!

***

photo (1)

Space is Love

The space between the leaves

 

Let me remind myself of the ways in which I am human. Besieged. You are impart. In full or in part.

angry, soul-throated. Off

Loaded.

***

Rain delays my morning swim. I am looking around my room and admiring my sloppiness. My computer desk cluttered with precariously leaning piles of ripped CDs (I finally got my entire collection on my computer) dirty clothes litter the floor. My bed disheveled – sheets need to be changed and I am sleeping with books & journals that are scattered all over – my own & the ones I have been reading to the children. Incense dust covers almost every surface. My laptop is on the floor, covered with clean clothes that I folded, sorted, then totally pushed off my bed while sleeping one night. Dirtbombs playing on the computer as a perfect complement to the grungy state of affairs & the thunder & lightning add ambiance. I roll up my shades so I could look out at the dripping grey world, cracking a window to catch a breeze.

There is an assortment of rhinestoned barrettes and hair pins on the window sill, left there before make out sessions and naps.

***

I pronounce you – unpronounceable. Confounded by your intrigue & intrigued by your con-foundation – alacrity – you lack, gritty. Seething yet gleaming – you spit into the hole you have created. It is sad, isn’t it, that freedom can leave you so imprisoned. Trapped in this prism. White light enters & only strands of colors escape. Leaving you – half in/half out. Drowned in drought. Twisting about & consumed by doubt while I sit and pout.

***

My tired heart and your bitter hands. Float dreamily – a lazed interpretation, crazed regurgitation of faith like a lizard, caught sleeping in the sun. A rock of consequence. Drear dread apparent. Negotiation – frittered forever an ever love lost lorn warn. I send a warning. You. Dopamine. Mine own Clementine. Clementine.

Sorrow is a gracious hostess. She invites us in and we lay back, relieved of our joyous burdens. She feeds us so we don’t realize she is feasting on us. We dream in soporific haze. A daze, glazed, amazed at the lack of feeling.

Sorrow is a row of sows. Incredible how quickly my house catches fire. Burns to the ground. How quickly I am reduced to ashes.

***

What Do I Want? There are many categories, and it’s a long list:

Here’s what I have in my life currently that is consistent with my desires:

-An excellent community

-lots of love

-opportunities for intellectual enrichment

-creative outlet

-time to play

-a nice place to live that is safe

-relative harmony in my immediate family

-food food & people to share it with

-a good job doing something fulfilling and where I am appreciated for my strengths

-strong, wise women in abundance

-a few good men.

***

The Tao of Bird, age 2.5, who is prone to bursting out into song, busted out today with “A-O – Let’s go!”

So – at least one of my kids has apparent good taste in music.

***

Excerpts from an unwritten novel, part 2

He’s having another of his extended retreats to adolescence. He’s storming about the house with that disgusted look on his face, and exclaiming dissatisfaction with everything. She is trying to ignore it and proceed with her own life, but he frequently goes out of his way to clash with her. She realizes that much of the bullshit he throws her way is projection, but she doesn’t think he realizes this.

So he can continue to live the life of a failed rockstar who gets drunk and stoned every night and comes to life during the day as wonderdad to protect his children from their conniving slut of a mother. He can continue to sit around on his ass & do nothing & then blame her for all of the negative shit he feels about himself. He’s going to do it whether she argues with him or not. He might stay in this mode for a day or a week or a year, until she decides that she has better things to do than worry about his fragile little imaginary world where she (and possibly all women) is some sort of weird, evil villain who seeks to destroy him by paying all of his bills, buying his cigarettes, feeding his children & living her life.

Oyster

Just a quick note to let you know that my Etsy shop has gone live! I’m currently listing a couple of poetry chapbooks by Lorri Jackson called Scat and My Mouth is a Hole in My Face, as well as my new zine Oyster Lexicon: An A-Z of Me.

Get ‘em while they’re hot!

<3

 

That is to say that the post itself doesn’t have an obscure title, not that the documentaries don’t have obscure titles.

I recently posted a request for documentary-viewing suggestions, and the following list emerged in the comments. I haven’t vetted all of these personally, but I feel like I can vouch for the intelligence and integrity of all who responded, so I’m kind of psyched about making this my official “Must-see Documentary” list. I’ve added a couple of my own for good measure. These aren’t in any particular order…

The Woman Who Wasn’t There: The Woman Who Wasn’t There is a psychological thriller that goes inside the mind of history’s most infamous 9/11 survivor.

Cropsey: Realizing the urban legend of their youth has actually come true; two filmmakers delve into the mystery surrounding five missing children and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances.

From the Back of the Room: A documentary chronicling the past 30 years of female involvement in DIY punk/hardcore.

Bastards of the Party: Surrounded by death and the brutal lifestyle that feeds it, a Los Angeles gangbanger explores the history of Southern California street gangs from the 1950s through the 1990s in an attempt to fully understand his existence.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father: A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend’s ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.

The Wobblies: THE WOBBLIES boldly investigates a nation torn by naked corporate greed and the red-hot rift between the industrial masters and the rabble-rousing workers in the field and factory.

My Friend Mott-ly: Born in the face of obstacles that would bring a normal person to the point of giving up, Lee Tisdale, known affectionately as Mott-ly to friends, was not one to go peacefully to his grave without a fight. As an artist and activist afflicted by hemophilia, HIV and also living as an amputee, Mott-ly was somehow able to survive with a vigor that would put the most people to shame.

Afro-Punk: Afro-Punk explores race identity within the punk scene. More than your everyday “Behind the Music” or typical “black history month” documentary, this film tackles hard questions, covering issues such as exile, loneliness, inter-racial dating and black power. We follow the lives of four people who have dedicated themselves to the punk rock lifestyle. They find themselves in conflicting situations, living the dual life of a person of color in a mostly white community.

Beautiful Losers: This documentary follows the lives and careers of a collective group of Do-it-yourself artists and designers who inadvertently affected the art world.

American Masters – Alexander Calder: Alexander Calder’s prolific and passionate output brought with it a humor and sense of play unlike any before, redefining what art could be.

We the Tiny House People: TV producer and Internet-video personality Kirsten Dirksen invites us on her journey into the tiny homes of people searching for simplicity, self-sufficiency, minimalism and happiness by creating shelter in caves, converted garages, trailers, tool sheds, river boats and former pigeon coops.

Helvetica: A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.

Marwencol: After a vicious attacks leaves him brain-damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in “Marwencol”, a 1/6th scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard.

A Man Named Pearl: A Man Named Pearl tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar. It offers a message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can achieve when he allows himself to share the full expression of his humanity.

Bill Moyers and Wendell Berry: In a rare television interview, environmental legend and writer Wendell Berry leaves his Kentucky farm for an inspiring conversation.

The House I Live In: From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.

The Act of Killing: A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Dirty Wars:  Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars.

Harlan County, U.S.A: A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike.

The Square: A group of Egyptian revolutionaries battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience.

All Power To The PeopleAll Power to the People! examines problems of race, poverty, dissent, and the universal conflict of the haves versus the have nots. U.S. government documents, rare news clips, and interviews with both ex-activists and former FBI/CIA officers, provide deep insight into the bloody conflict between political dissent and governmental authority in the U.S. of the 60s and 70s.

Let the Fire Burn: On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped two pounds of military explosives onto a city row house occupied by the radical group MOVE. The resulting fire was not fought for over an hour although firefighters were on the scene with water cannons in place. Five children and six adults were killed and sixty-one homes were destroyed by the six-alarm blaze, one of the largest in the city’s history. This dramatic tragedy unfolds through an extraordinary visual record previously withheld from the public. It is a graphic illustration of how prejudice, intolerance and fear can lead to unthinkable acts of violence.

Pickaxe: This excellent documentary takes us into another world; the world of rogue loggers and firefighters turned eco-warriors. The story begins as an arsonist burns 9000 acres of protected old-growth public forest in Oregon that can not be logged unless it burns. To stop the proposed “salvage” logging of this incredible ancient forest, citizens are moved to blockade a road and keep the government out. After facing down a bulldozer and the State Police, the fort now known as the gateway to the Cascadia Free State becomes the focus for a developing community dedicated to protecting ancient forests throughout the mountains of Oregon.

Buck: An examination of the life of acclaimed ‘horse whisperer’Buck Brannaman, who recovered from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert in the interactions between horses and people.

The People Vs. George Lucas: The passion the original Star Wars trilogy inspires in its fans is unparalleled; but when it comes to George Lucas himself, many have found their ardor has cooled into a complicated love-hate relationship. This hilarious, heartfelt documentary delves deep into Lucas’s cultural legacy, asking all the tough questions. Has Lucas betrayed his masterwork? Should he just have left the original trilogy alone? Is The Phantom Menace so bad it should carry a health warning? Utilizing interviews taken from over 600 hours of footage, and peppered with extraordinary Star Warsand Indiana Jones recreations lovingly immortalized in song, needlepoint, Lego, claymation, puppets and paper-mâché, above all this film asks the question: who truly owns that galaxy far, far away—the man who created it, or the fans who worship it?

Man On Wire: A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, “the artistic crime of the century.”

Dakota 38:

In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”

Now, four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.

The Corporation: Documentary that looks at the concept of the corporation throughout recent history up to its present-day dominance.

If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front: A rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America’s ‘number one domestic terrorist threat.’

From Chechnya to Chernobyl:  The tiny, little-known country of Belarus suffered more than any other in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Winds scattered the heaviest radioactive deposits across the country, where even after a decade, 25% of the land is judged uninhabitable. Thousands of villages and towns were abandoned or evacuated, and their populations resettled to safer areas. The government of Belarus, meanwhile, wants people back in its irradiated areas, to till the rich farmland that has lain fallow for a decade. The ads inviting people, however, don’t mention that this quilt of pastures, grain and vegetable fields is laden with plutonium isotopes and strontium 90. The memory of war is still vivid for many, and living amid the radiation and poverty of Chernobyl’s contaminated zones seems the least of many evils. In an attempt to lure new workers to the area, the state farm offered free housing and work for anyone willing to resettle. It is here in Raduga that I meet the Tsiplaevs, a family of ethnic Russians who had been living in Chechnya.

Wiebo’s War: Tells the story of a Christian community, at war with the oil and gas industry. Wiebo Ludwig is a suspect in a series of pipeline bombings near his farm. The bombings echo a campaign of sabotage he waged 10 years ago: barricading roads, blowing up wells, culminating in the unsolved death of a teen aged girl. The Ludwigs live according to their religious values. They are self-sufficient in food and energy, but isolated, with seven unmarried adult children, and 38 grandchildren. They believe that those who don’t share their beliefs, like filmmaker David York, are living in terrible darkness.

We Are Legion: A documentary on the workings and beliefs of the self-described “hacktivist” collective, Anonymous.

Paper Clips: As a part of their study of the Holocaust, the children of the Whitwell, TN Middle School try to collect 6 million paper clips representing the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.

Between the Folds: Depicts a cast of fine artists and eccentric scientists (from MIT and NASA) who have devoted their lives to the unlikely medium of modern origami. Through their determination to reinterpret the world in paper, they arouse a fascinating mix of sensibilities towards art, form, expressiveness, creativity and meaning.

Inequality For All: A documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country’s widening economic gap.

Flow: For Love Of Water: Water is the very essence of life, sustaining every being on the planet. ‘Flow’ confronts the disturbing reality that our crucial resource is dwindling and greed just may be the cause.

A Band Called Death: A documentary on the 1970s punk trio Death, and their new-found popularity decades after they disbanded.

After Tiller: fter the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, there are a limited number of doctors left in the country who provide third-trimester abortions for women. AFTER TILLER moves between the rapidly unfolding stories of these doctors, all of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller, and are fighting to keep this service available in the wake of his death. These four people have become the new number-one targets of the pro-life movement, yet continue to risk their lives every day to do work that many believe is murder, but which they believe is profoundly important for their patients’ lives. AFTER TILLER shows them confronting harassment from protesters, challenges in their personal lives, and a series of tough ethical decisions.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston: Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love.

American: The Bill Hicks Story: Photo-animated feature documentary, uniquely narrated by the 10 people who knew Bill best.

12 O’Clock Boys: Pug, a young boy growing up on a combative West Baltimore block, finds solace in a group of illegal dirt bike riders known as The 12 O’Clock Boys.

The Garden: From the ashes of the L.A. riots arose a lush, 14-acre community garden, the largest of its kind in the United States. Now bulldozers threaten its future.

The Cruise: Affectionate portrait of Tim “Speed” Levitch, a tour guide for Manhattan’s Gray Line double-decker buses. He talks fast, is in love with the city, and dispenses historical facts, architectural analysis, and philosophical musings in equal measures. He’s reflective and funny about cruising: he loves it, got in it to meet women, and he’d quit work if he could. His personal life is disclosed in small doses: he takes home $200 a week for 20 hours work, home is his suitcase and wherever he can flop, he’s been arrested for going out on the roof tops of skyscrapers to see his city; he stands between the towers of the World Trade Center, spins until he’s dizzy, then looks up.

The Kids are Alright: From the early black and white days to their colourful hedonistic era, you will Rock! See them at their most creative, and destructive, and experience The Who: Here!

Don’t Need You: “don’t need you” is a documentary film that tells the story of the origins of Riot Grrrl in the American independent music scene of the 1990s, and how this feminist movement evolved into a revolutionary underground network of education and self-awareness through music, writing, activism, and women-friendly community. The film gives audiences a chance to meet key figures in the development of Riot Grrrl and see for themselves how these women have changed the history of music and feminism forever. The film features one-on-one interviews interspersed with rare, archival materials, including original Riot Grrrl fanzines, flyers, and photographs, as well as seldom seen footage from pioneering Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, and Bratmobile.

Queen of the Sun: UEEN OF THE SUN: What Are the Bees Telling Us? is a profound, alternative look at the global bee crisis from Taggart Siegel, director of THE REAL DIRT ON FARMER JOHN. Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva. Together they reveal both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.

Blackfish: A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.

Hot Coffee: How the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit and similar cases were exploited as part of a right wing crusade to weaken civil justice.

Terms and Conditions May Apply: A documentary that exposes what corporations and governments learn about people through Internet and cell phone usage, and what can be done about it … if anything.

The Act of Killing: A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Exit Through The Gift Shop: The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists at work.

Jesus Camp: A documentary on kids who attend a summer camp hoping to become the next Billy Graham.

Restrepo: A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.

Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream: In America, the rich are getting richer. Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that mean there’s lots more wealth to go round? Or is it good news for the rich but very bad news for the poor?

740 Park Avenue, Manhattan, is one of the most exclusive addresses in the world, home to some of the richest Americans, the 1% of the 1%. Ten minutes to the north, across the Harlem River, is the other Park Avenue, in the South Bronx. Here, unemployment runs at 19% and half the population need food stamps.

The American Dream of equal opportunities and hard work says you can be born in the Bronx and end up at 740. But is that dream still true? The film argues the super-rich haven’t just bought the exclusive addresses – they’ve bought the whole system and the’’re running it for themselves.

You’re Gonna Miss me: ocumentary about rock pioneer Roky Erickson, detailing his rise as a psychedelic hero, his lengthy institutionalization, his descent into poverty and filth, and his brother’s struggle with their religious mother to improve Roky’s care.

The Clash: Westway to the World: A career retrospective of British punk band The Clash, featuring exclusive interviews with the entire band.

Ghengis Blues: San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva.

End of the Century: The Story of the punk rock band The Ramones

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten: As the front man of the Clash from 1977 onwards, Joe Strummer changed people’s lives forever. Four years after his death, his influence reaches out around the world, more strongly now than ever before. In “The Future Is Unwritten”, from British film director Julien Temple, Joe Strummer is revealed not just as a legend or musician, but as a true communicator of our times. Drawing on both a shared punk history and the close personal friendship which developed over the last years of Joe’s life, Julien Temple’s film is a celebration of Joe Strummer – before, during and after the Clash.

An Idiot Abroad: Brit Karl Pilkington has led a sheltered life. Not having done any traveling, he enjoys living within the comforts of what he knows, basically that being what is purely British. As such, his friends, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, decide to send Karl to various parts of the world to experience unfamiliar cultures. Stephen believes that travel is a life broadening venture, and hopes that Karl will indeed feel like his life is enriched by these travels. Ricky, however, hopes that Karl will hate every minute of his travels. For Ricky, this experiment is the most expensive gag for his own pleasure that he could have conceived.

Joy Division: A chronological account of the influential late 1970s English rock band.

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay: Ricky Jay is a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor (often a mischievous presence in the films of David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson) — and a performer who regularly provokes astonishment from even the most jaded audiences. Deceptive Practice traces Jay’s achievements and influences, from his apprenticeship at age 4 with his grandfather, to such now-forgotten legends as Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini and his primary mentors, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Featuring rare footage from his 1970s TV appearances (doing 3-card Monte with Steve Martin on The Dinah Shore Show) and told in Jay’s inimitable voice, this is a remarkable journey inside the secretive world of magic and the small circle of eccentrics who are its perpetual devotees.

Born Into Brothels: Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city’s notorious red light district.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World: Inter-cut with archive material, friends, family and associates of the musician tell the story of his life and how spirituality became such a major part of it.

Paradise Found: A brilliant NASA scientist visits his dying father in a hospice. The old man is filled with hatred, a veteran of World War II and the CIA, representing the old world of, ‘take no prisoners and give no mercy.’ He has destroyed himself and his family, and now his only joy is in tormenting a beautiful young nurse. His estranged son visits him one last time, and they recount their last visit, when his son told the father of a new theory of mind, combining quantum physics with all modern psychologies, and Eastern and Western concepts. Comic relief is given by the satiric barbs that fly between the old man and his nurse, and a young resident. The film introduces Quantum Field Psychology.

Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why is Everybody Talkin’ about Him?):The documentary explores the enigmatic life and music of Harry Nilsson in an attempt to answer the question, “Who is Harry Nilsson?” The film includes new and archive audio and film including interviews with Robin Williams, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Ray Cooper, the Smothers Brothers, and Micky Dolenz. “Who is Harry Nilsson?” uses promotional films, music videos, and home movies; segments from the unreleased documentary made during the recording of Son of Schmilsson (Did Somebody Drop His Mouse?); and excerpts from Nilsson’s rare TV appearances in his BBC specials, the “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour”, “Playboy After Dark”, and in an episode of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”.

Stripped: The Comics Documentary: STRIPPED is the ultimate love-letter to comic strips. It brings together the world’s best cartoonists to talk about the art form they love, and what happens to it as newspapers die.

Dear Mr. Watterson: A documentary film about the impact of the newspaper comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, created by Bill Watterson.

The Fog of War: 11 Lessons From the Life of Robert S. Macnamara: A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.

The Thin Blue Line: A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.

The Unknown Known: Former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, discusses his career in Washington D.C. from his days as a congressman in the early 1960s to planning the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Tabloid: A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.

Standard Operating Procedure: Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Spent: Looking for Change: Spent: Looking for Change is a film about everyday Americans without the financial options most of us take for granted and the movement giving them renewed hope.

Menstrual Man: Only 1 in 10 menstruating women in India use sanitary pads. The rest use rags, husk, sand, and even ash. One man is out to change that.

And that’s it! If you have any documentaries you recommend, feel free to post them in the comments! I will likely add to this list over time, and republish.

(Thanks to all of the people who contributed their documentary selections to this list!)

<3

I’ve been working. A lot. And thinking. A lot. Mostly about the whole “kids getting older” and “decisions I have made” and some setting of intentions. Preparing for another change of seasons.

I finished the journal I started in March – right before my journey to Colorado. Seems like a good point to reflect on things I wrote in that journal…

***

@Bottomless Lake State Park

As it turns out

Happiness is ALL of Texas

In my rearview mirror

Sitting still, listening

to the sounds of

No sounds

Until

the wildlife

forgets I’m here

& resumes its chatter.

***

Attentive. Tender. Inhale ——> Ex

Hale.

Breathing In & out.

(An) interesting

Proposition.

Never mind-

It’s only a small

Incision.

Tender

Ills

Hook me

Sucker

Punch.

***

1000 miles later – I’m oddly not tired.

Relying on the light that comes from shadows.

***

I was raised in a road trip family. Some of my earliest/most vivid memories involved listening to that reassuring sound of tires grasping pavement in revolutionary inertia. The feeling of hurtling through space while sleeping in the back seat. The smell of gasoline, dead skunk, and endless cattle pastures of the Midwest to West passage… (This might actually become its own blog post…)

***

Me: What’s the weather been like?

Tao of Bird: The weather

Me: Yeah.

Tao of Bird: Hot.

Tao of Bird: Also, cold.

***

It’s as if at any point, I could be dying, die-ing, died

it only makes sense to

shrug

and go on living

***
SLOW MOTION

APOCALYPSE

at the

GROCERY STORE

***

Breathe in – I can still feel that hurtling feeling.

Singing – Dancing – Scribing – Eating. Enjoying the last day of my vacation, for tomorrow is back to work. Tonight – I clean and cook. For now, I dance. And write. And eat. With windows open to the breeze and my slightly scattered room full of all of the implements of my creativity. I am holed up here. Holding forth a festive atmosphere. Coming undone to reintegrate.

Forecast/aftcast.

I’m sunburned and tired and it’s 10 PM on my Sunday (my Monday is Wednesday) and I have so few words and yet ALL OF THE WORDS for the things I have witnessed and participated in over the past 72 hours or so.

Sunday morning found me up and about at a relatively early hour. My goal was to find somewhere to hike between my house and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. I found Walter E. Long Metropolitan park, paid the $10 entrance fee, and found a picnic table under a tree to enjoy my breakfast.

I’m usually fine with paying entrance fees for parks, because my unconfirmed hope is that the money is being used for preservation and/or providing employment. I’m not so sure what I was paying for with this park. It appears that the main draw for the park was fishing, but in general, there was a lot of trash in the park, the roads weren’t kept up, and there were no walking trails that I could see…at least not initially.

Undaunted, I decided to walk the length of the allotted shoreline & I managed to find some nice things to look at, as well as friendly people enjoying the day. Mostly fishing. Some playing in the water.

When I reached the end of the shore, there was an area that was chained off, but there were no “No Trespassing” signs, so I manouvered around the chain and walked a ways towards the dam, then back down a path that led to another, wider path. It wasn’t so much of a trail as a grassy road, but I intended to get my $10 worth of walking, so I persisted…

I saw some pretty wildflowers…and then I spied a little alcove, and beyond it was a little lake, surrounded by wildflowers, weeds, and trees.

And I sat down to write in my journal:

Tiny little oasis at Walter Long Metropolitan Park. Listening to birdsong & enjoying solitude after another week of overtime. I’m sweating, but it’s delightful to be here among the wildflowers. And the leaves and branches on the trees leave shimmering, swimming shadows on the page & a tiny bird lights on a tree, regards me with avian curiosity – head cocked, feathers ruffled, tail twitch…hop…hop…then flutters off, peeping the story of me to those too intimidated to venture nearer.

I imagine they are speaking to me. Or trying to. My mono-species-lingual ears are not responsive. But they are encouraged by my relative quietude & continue trying to get through – progressively louder & with increasingly more enthusiastic accompaniment.

And then the frogs start in with their clicking. And I should probably think about moving on, but I’m in love with this moment & in love with the solitude. So I hesitate. Linger. Drink until my eyes, my ears, & my nose are sated.

And then I progressed. Got up and made my way back to the car. I heard crows caw, which I don’t usually hear in town…and I saw a HUGE hawk flying overhead, and I decided it was worth my $10 to be there for those things. For all of the things. Though when I return it will be on a weekday so I won’t have to pay quite so much.

I had no idea what to expect at Hutto. I had received an invitation from a friend to join a concert outside of the Hutto Detention Center, and I’d heard of these events before – where people gather to provide audible support and solidarity to those who are housed inside, awaiting release or deportation or asylum. On the ride up, I was thinking about how birds fly back and forth over borders without any concern. And how we are all, really, just intruders on this land. How I just paid $10 to go to a park, where a good many of the people there were likely fishing for food – so that $10 is definitely a relative cost.

I arrived late. The last band, Sonoita, was freaking AMAZING. I was grinning so huge listening to their radical punk lyrics and music…and the simple beauty of the whole idea of putting musicians, poets, and speaker right outside the detention center – with the sounds echoing loudly against the walls so there was no doubt those inside could hear…it was amazing. Whole hearted. Wonderful. And even though I was only there for 20 minutes or so, it was well worth the trip. Next time (and there will be a next time sometime in October) I will plan better and get there early to help set up. And I will help promote it better, so more people can be there to witness this perfect little act of resistance. Because sound also travels over borders and fences…just like birds.

I came home feeling full of thoughts and ideas and inspiration…and crashed in bed, exhausted.

Monday was spent running errands in preparation for summer semester for Buddha the Grouch. So I got to spend the morning in the car with his holy grouchness. I had been in a running discussion with my nephew about increasing the minimum wage and why we should indeed provide food and shelter and medical assistance to those who are living in poverty. Buddha the Grouch is a great foil for these conversations, because we DON’T always agree, and he’s a good litmus test for me to tell how far out on the political spectrum I’m being. So I asked him “Why do we provide food stamps and housing vouchers for poor people?”

He responded: Uh…because it’s disadvantageous to our government for people to be dying in the street.

I countered: But what if there are some people take advantage of the system and are just lazy?

He responded: That’s not statistically significant, and it’s not worth making some people go hungry just to punish those few people who are taking advantage

*phew*

That night, I went to an Austin CAN Community Council forum on Disabilities, where a panel of experts explained the challenges people with disabilities face in our community.

With all due respect to the people on the panel I left the meeting feeling frustrated. First, we were pretty much outright told by the representative from Goodwill that there are no local issues that impact people with disabilities, and we should focus our attention on national issues. Which is all well and good, but I’m sure there are some local things we can focus on, and I intend to inform the rest of the council once I figure out what they are.

The other thing that’s always frustrating when dealing with the non-profit industrial complex is…I just don’t think we’re getting all of the information. Granted, disabilities are not always visually evident, but I just didn’t get the sense that everyone on the panel was personally affected by the issues they were discussing. Not that you have to be in a certain demographic to advocate for the needs of that demographic, but in general I feel the social services crowd tends to invest a lot of time and money in developing people within their organizations to speak on behalf of the populations they serve, without taking the time to develop people in the communities they serve to do the same. Obviously, there are exceptions. But sometimes participating in these forums is like going to a badly-organized “community event to determine the needs of the community” where the only people present are those providing services to the community…which makes no sense to me, though I do understand the challenges in engaging people and encouraging participation.

Today, I woke up early and wrote letters…

And visited with some friends who are exploring an idea for a non-profit. I feel like I’m very blessed with people in my life who get excited about doing good things for others, and I’m especially happy when I can provide useful information and insight to help them help others. :)

I brought the Tao of Bird to his therapy appointment, where he spent yet another hour stonewalling his therapist and me, while we did our best to keep conversation going in order to make the environment more conducive to problem-solving. But that bird is a stubborn one! And so smart! And on to any tricks that would maybe encourage him to share his fears and possibly devise strategies for overcoming them.

And then I attended a forum on property taxes in Austin. I was blown away by the rage in the room. I mean, this crowd was one step away from pitchforks and torches. And for good reason. Did you know 90% of commercial building owners protest their property taxes annually, resulting in tax rates that are based on 60% of the value of the property? Meanwhile, I’m here in my home that’s falling apart because I’m spending all of the money I should be spending repairing it paying for the right to live here in the neighborhood I have lived in for 17 years…and the value of my home increases by 10% every year, in spite of the actual value of my home.

We were explained the weird formula they use to figure property taxes, and were told that, essentially, the tax assessor’s office can’t use actual home sales as a guide, since we’re a non-disclosure state. So, basically, we all get issued our ridiculous tax bills, and corporate entities spend a portion of the money they WOULD have spent on taxes paying lawyers to argue they’re property has been improperly valued until the tax assessor’s office has to cry uncle due to lack of resources for litigation and just settle.

Meanwhile, homeowners (and, likely, renters) are left bearing the burden of taxes. And this isn’t even addressing the tax breaks and incentives we give to businesses to move here. It’s freaking ridiculous. Here are some of my favorite quotes & notes of the evening:

-Large businesses employ lawyers to take advantage of the property tax appeals system. The appeals system can’t afford to litigate everyone, so they settle. Large businesses end up paying taxes on only 60% of the actual value of the property.

-The average home sale in my neighborhood is currently $347k

-The greatest increase in home value was in the downtown core, and East Austin <—

-The suggestion was made to advocate on a local/city level for a flat homestead exemption from the City of Austin

-Evidence that will help when filing a protest includes: Sales information, independent/certified appraisal, interior inspection, costs of repairs for large things like deadly mold and cracked slabs. (not sure if protesting will actually help me)

-Oh yay! Voting fixes EVERYTHING!

-Talk to taxing jurisdiction about services

-F1 is currently in litigation for property taxes

-Businesses filing appeals don’t have to show proof of revenue generation

-STATE INCOME TAX!!! (one of the audience members suggested this and everyone clapped…the presenter said that comment would have gotten him escorted out of the room in Houston)

-90% of county services are paid by property tax

-Robin Hood education taxes send 30% of Austin’s property taxes back to needier districts.

-Austin American Statesman has had 3 articles in the last few months about the commercial property tax loopholes.

-Research “Local Infrastructure Fee”

-Suggestions for improvement include: Close loopholes, end tax exemptions for commercial property, or sunset after 10 years.

-The City of Austin issued a senior citizen exemption & we should have fought for a homestead exemption.

-A suggestion that we end tax giveaways and subsidies for corporations garnered ROBUST applause

-Someone whose land value has TRIPLED in the last 6 years asked how land is being appraised and whether we aren’t just footing the bill for speculative development. (at no time during this forum was the possibility that this is all an issue of speculative development explicitly refuted)

-BANKS get 3% when you pay for your taxes online by credit card, get x% on interest when you have to take out a loan to pay the escrow increase, get $$$$$ when they foreclose on a home for failure to pay taxes.

-KEEPING APPRAISED VALUES STATIC ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO STAY IN THEIR HOMES AND NEIGHBORHOODS, RATHER THAN ENCOURAGING TRANSIENCE

-Voting is not enough – stop telling us to vote when those we vot for sell out to special interests.

-A lot of state, city, county properties are not on the tax rolls.

-NOT ALL HOMEOWNERS ARE EQUAL

-Organize the State now in preparation for the 2015 legislature

-Homeowners/Commercial buildings used to have a 42/20 percent split of the tax burden, now it’s more like 52/less than 20

-One guy said he measured his home with laser measuring devices, and that he discovered the square footage is rounded up. 300 additional squre feet resulted in $1200 more in property taxes.

-“Responsible people who bought responsibly are now being priced out of their homes.”

-Legislators have not gotten a lot of heat about this.

-F1 stats:

  • $250 million tax break
  • Annual tax protest reductions that have amounted to about $250 million again
  • $14 million electricity plant that the taxpayers are paying for
  • $13 million water plant that the taxpayers are paying for
  • $16 million new entrance that the taxpayers are paying for
  • WTF1?

-Hyatt

  • Sold for $87 million
  • Appraised at $37 million when it was time to set the taxes.
  • Because lawyers….?

-Appraisal district budgets are being cut, so they have even fewer resources to litigate.

-Someone asked “Can I change my home from residential to commercial?”

-Many of these businesses were provided tax incentives because they were going to “widen the tax base” but we’re seeing lower services, higher taxes, and more traffic

-UNCONTROLLED GROWTH

-CITIZENS VS. DEVELOPERS

-How is growth being paid for & who is paying for it?

-90% of all commercial property taxes are appealed

-26% of residential property taxes are appealed

-Commercial property owners are writing non-disclosure riders in contracts for buyers AND sellers – because Texas is a non-disclosure state, the tax appraiser can’t get that information unless it’s provided, so there’s no way to value property according to actual market demand.

-Someone asked if we could support an appeal by putting our houses on the market at the price they are appraised at and proving they won’t sell.

-Some of the questions about how to cap increases were met with an accusation that just “shifts the tax burden” – so one guy responded “If you’ve lived here 20-30 years, why SHOULDN’T you shift the tax burden to the person who moved here 3 weeks ago & paid $750 k in cash for their house?”

-CAP EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION

-Some people were talking about organizing several people to hire a lawyer to appeal

-One guy was all “If we could only go to the state house with badly spelled signs like the tea party…you have to make them FEAR you!” (I was thinking “Uh…where the fuck were you when we actually DID that, only with perfectly-spelled signs – FOR YEARS!”)

-Someone mentioned that the 10% cap on increases is the MAXIMUM, but the taxing entities COULD choose to lower the percentage.

-Another person asserted that developers are buying properties, razing the houses on them, and rebuilding duplexes and triplexes that are then sold to rental agencies who make a huge profit and don’t pay as much in property taxes – she seemed to be saying that there’s some sort of loophole that causes the tax rate on duplexes/triplexes to be lower, and that non owner-occupied houses are taxed at a LOWER rate than owner-occupied houses.

-Two good resources: Austinaffordability.com and Realvaluesfortexas.org

It was an AMAZING meeting. I’m looking forward to seeing where all of this goes. In the meantime, I’m going to file my protest, even though I don’t feel very encouraged that it will get anywhere…

***

Phew! That was a very full weekend.

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