Quicksand Fetishists

I just came across a fascinating VICE documentary about quicksand fetishists. As when I drive past a traffic accident, I just had to look. And it was quite the education.

Until now, I had no idea that this community existed. If I gave quicksand any thought at all, it was as an old-fashioned plot device from another era. But looking around on the web, I’ve come to find out that a lot of people are into quicksand, if you’ll pardon the pun.

They seem to divide themselves into two groups: “Sinkers” and “Watchers”. Naturally it’s usually the women who get to sink. In the sinkerhood community, one of the all-time stars appears to be a woman who calls herself Loch Ness Nessie. She has been in many a video. But she’s not so young anymore, and worries that very few millennials are coming along to take up the figurative baton.

There is a company called Mud Puddle Visuals that makes a lot of videos for your viewing pleasure. Personally, I don’t see the appeal. I guess it has something to do with the helplessness aspect, or the rescue fantasy. To me it seems like mud wrestling without the opponent.

True confessions: I did once fall into quicksand up to my waist. It was during a junior high school field trip to a swamp with my science class to study that ecosystem. When I was pulled out, one of my shoes did not come with me. (One wonders just how many shoes are left at the bottom of quagmires. An untapped archeological resource?) I came home that afternoon half barefoot and muddy. It’s not an experience I’d care to repeat.

Whatever floats your boat, I suppose. (Or sinks it, in this case.) Maybe I’m just not dirty enough to hang with these folks. I do try to avoid activities that require me to be hosed down after the fact. It’s one of my many quirks.


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The Cats of Mirikitani

One of the things I love about being a City of Seattle employee is that I am required to do at least two hours of race and social justice training per year. As part of that this year, I had the distinct pleasure of viewing a documentary called The Cats of Mirikitani. In keeping with my tradition of reviewing things that came out years ago, I will review this amazing video, which came out in 2007.

First of all, if you have the opportunity to see this documentary yourself, I couldn’t recommend it more highly. Second, if you have yet to see it, I should say that the rest of this entry requires a spoiler alert.

This documentary, by Linda Hattendorf, is about an amazing guy named Tsutomu “Jimmy” Mirikitani. She found him sleeping on the streets of Soho in New York City. He would not take any money from anyone. He was 80 years old, and survived by selling his art to people.

As the documentary progresses, you learn more and more about him. He was born in Sacramento, but raised in Hiroshima. Needless to say, he was highly impacted by the bombing of that city. Fortunately he had returned to America in 1937. Unfortunately, that also meant that even though he was born in the US, he got thrown into a Japanese internment camp and lived there for 3 ½ years.

Then, while he was still living on the street, 9/11 happened. The creator of the documentary found him all alone on the street, in the dark, coughing in a toxic cloud of twin tower dust. She took him in. And that’s just the beginning.

This documentary really made me assess how I react to the homeless. I probably pass people by every single day who have hidden talents, and have witnessed history and have amazing stories to tell. The fact that this man lived for decades on the street without being connected to social services is just another in a long line of tragedies that Jimmy Mirikitani experienced in his lifetime. There really is no excuse.

Cats of Mirikitani


It’s always a weird feeling when my long-held views about how the world works are set ever-so-slightly askew. It makes me wonder what else I’ve taken for granted that, well, shouldn’t be taken on faith.

That strange sensation happened yet again today when I was watching a documentary about the dark ages. This was a really well made documentary, and it gave you a strong sense of what it must have felt like to live during this period. Between wars and plagues and ignorance, it is astounding that anyone survived with the strength and perseverance to procreate and make our existence possible.

But what really shook me to my foundations was that these people were living on the crumbling ruins of cultures that came before them that were more sophisticated, educated, and healthy. They were living in tiny parts of large, crumbling, once thriving cities. They could tell that the people of the past had more knowledge than they possessed, whether it be in the realm of science, engineering or medicine. They had to know that it used to be there, and now it was gone. Just watching the Roman aqueducts crumble around them while they got their water from fetid pools must have driven them to despair.

Here’s where my foundation crumbles. My whole life I’ve lived quite comfortably with the “fact” that progress is inevitable. I have felt safe in the knowledge that in the future we will have made even more medical breakthroughs, will have invented even more things that will make our lives easier, and that we will move steadily forward.

Not necessarily.


Honor Totem

I just saw the most amazing documentary. Honor Totem is 56 minutes of intensity that will inspire you and also bring tears to your eyes. It will tell you about the strength of the Seattle community, and also, unfortunately, some of the tension and discrimination experienced by its Native American population.

It tells the story of John T. Williams, a Native American who comes from a family of notable totem pole artists. He was quite talented, but also led a controversial life. He had issues with alcoholism and mental health, and was for the most part homeless, but he was well known to the community and usually just did his thing.

He had several health issues. He was getting old, going blind, and was deaf in one ear. In August, 2010, he was walking slowly down the street, all alone, carving on a block of wood as this type of artist is known to do in the area. Unfortunately Seattle Police Officer Ian Birk walked up behind him and shouted at him to drop the knife. Perhaps he didn’t hear him. Perhaps he responded too slowly. The result was that this old artist was gunned down on a sidewalk in downtown Seattle in broad daylight.

The community was outraged that Officer Birk was acquitted of this crime. Especially due to the fact that on the same day as the acquittal a review board determined that the shooting was not justified. Many citizens were calling for a radical response.

But then an amazing thing happened. John’s brother, Rick Williams, in spite of his obvious grief, decided to take a non-violent approach that would have done Gandhi or Martin Luther King proud. He decided to carve a totem pole in his brother’s honor, getting the community involved.

The documentary shows what a unifying and healing process this became. The totem pole now stands in Seattle Center. I’ve walked past it, but I never knew its intense significance before. Next time I see it, I will treat it with the reverence it so richly deserves.

I encourage you to watch this documentary. It will change you. For the better.

Honor Totem for John T. Williams, Seattle Center. [Image credit: Indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com]
Honor Totem for John T. Williams, Seattle Center.
[Image credit: Indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com]