Or “Notes for the Begininning of the 1,327th week of my life”.
How do I know that this is the beginning of the 1,327th day of my life you ask? Because Google Calculator tells me so. Really. Just go to Google and type in “how many weeks in X years.” From there it’s just a matter of counting on a calendar since your last birthday. There’s something nice about the number 1,327. I’m pretty sure I’ve got good things coming to me over the next seven days.
Global Voices won the award for the Best Journalistic Blog in English in the Deutsche Welle Weblog Awards. We couldn’t be happier. It’s taken a lot of work by a lot of people all over the world. Voted best weblog in the entire world is Mujer Gorda, who is actually not a fat woman at all, but rather Argentine author and journalist, Hernán Casciari. I’ve come across plenty of (adoring) references to the weblog in my digging through Argentina’s cyber-ether, but never actually stopped by to read it. Now I understand what all the buzz is about. Though I have to admit, it’s a strange pick for best international weblog, since so much of its genius is rooted firmly in a very Argentine sense of humor and world view. Over the past couple years I feel as though I’ve been pseudo-adopted into an Argentinean pseudo-family of Mariano (my boss), Paula (his girlfriend), and Marina (his mother). Marina and I work most afternoons together and at times I feel like a Jedi student soaking up her Southern Hemispheric wisdom through subtle and complex narratives full of refranes.
I’m not sure if you can really make the argument that any one culture is more complex and layered than any other, but if so, than I’d like to nominate both Mexico and Argentina as leaders of the pack. A friend wrote me the other day:
The Argentine are like the French of Latinoamerica. They think they are god’s gift to civilization but all they have to do is look around them to realize that all they really accomplish with their masturbatory insular pseudointellectualism (interrupted only by their soccer victories) is to preserve their sorry-ass status quo.
That’s sorta taken out of context, but it’s a popular sentiment … and especially from Argentineans themselves (which she is). A popular joke: “how does an Argentinean kill himself? By climbing atop his ego and jumping off.” But even though Argentineans are lucidly aware of their seemingly undeserving navel of the world attitude, they continue to perpetuate it. One second Marina is joking to me about how she hates that her fellow countrymen always think they are so badass and the next she is explaining to me how Argentina can never be lumped with the rest of Latin America because its people are “more european, more artistic, more intelligent, more literary, and more successful.” To this day, the funniest, if not the best, description of Argentine identity I’ve ever read is Diego’s comparison of Diego Maradona, the soccer star, with Argentina, the country that’s made him a prophet.
Over the weekend there was an article in the New York Times called Hello, I’m Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150. The greatest part of the article is a quote from a teenage boy who introduces his new found siblings as “this is my brother from another mother and this is my other brother from another mother.” The entire article – though it only mentions it once – is basically about this website, a registry of children whose origin was a sterile room filled with lots of porn … a sperm bank. If such a place was the site of your genesis, for example, you hop onto this site, you tell it the assigned number of said masturbator and voila, it tells you who your half-siblings are. This is something that did not happen 10 years ago.
The second most insightful quote of the article after the brutha from anutha mutha thing was by a 16-year-old girl named Danielle:
“I hate when people that use D.I. say that biology doesn’t matter (cough, my mom, cough),” Danielle wrote in an e-mail message, using the shorthand for donor insemination. “Because if it really didn’t matter to them, then why would they use D.I. at all? They could just adopt or something and help out kids in need.”
(Oso’s pet peeve #315: does not like when people either say or write “cough, anything at all, cough.”) And she’s right, what’s the pull of artificial insemination at all if not wanting to see your own phenotype in another body. It’s all very god-like if you think about it.
I have this friend. We’ve been close for quite some time and have pretty similar family situations. We were both raised by single moms who both remarried while we were still fairly young children. We both consider our step-fathers to be our own fathers and call them “dad”. And neither one of us had any contact at all with our biological father. I say ‘had’ because then at one point my friend did reconnect with his biological dad and they still keep in touch. He said it was an eye-opening experience, told me how much they had in common, even small nuances you hardly pay attention to. I’ve seen them together, I’m not one to argue.
But I was pretty skeptical for some time on how much our personality was determined by our DNA. I couldn’t think of any group of people I differed from more than my own family members. When it came to character I used to be much more inclined to the “nurture” argument than nature. But now I’m not so sure. As I’ve seen more and more kids develop from wee tykes to troublesome teens (especially my own sister) it’s become obvious to me that much of who we are is already seeded in us as we come out of the womb.
Finding previously unknown family members isn’t just for the offspring of sperm donors. New DNA-based genealogy services are sprouting up left and right to offer you a glimpse of your genetic past … including, possible relatives. One of the weirdest things to happen this year to the various bloggers I read is when digital divide guru Andy Carvin announced on his weblog that he was told he is cousins with digital divide guru (and co-founder of Global Voices), Ethan Zuckerman. At least once a month I get a short message on MySpace or Friendster from some long lost friend or acquaintance who found my profile. Or I get a message from someone who googled my name and wound up here. But imagine getting such a message from someone who says, hi, I’m your half-brother, would you like to meet. What if you find out that this half-brother was from an adulterous affair your father or mother had? Humans lie a lot, DNA does not. We’re entering a whole new phase here.
Genetic testing is doing more than just reuniting digital divide geeks though. It’s also reaffirming something about our society that anthropologists and sociologists have been arguing for decades: namely, that race does not exist. Brent Staples says it best:
The test results underscore what anthropologists have said for eons: racial distinctions as applied in this country are social categories and not scientific concepts. In addition, those categories draw hard, sharp distinctions among groups of people who are more alike than they are different. The ultimate point is that none of us really know who we are, ancestrally speaking. All we ever really know is what our parents and grandparents have told us.
Or maybe Wally Lamb actually said it best in I Know This Much Is True: people discriminate, penises do not.