30 September, 2011

Less Wrong and Bravery and the Placebo Effect

Less Wrong totally deserves a cupcake.

I tried drawing a cupcake last week, and I was not satisfied.

It looked like a muffin with a crap on it. I put a cherry on top.

I'll try again now, because I am just. That. Happy.

Good Enough.

Today's moment of bliss was fantastic. I found it in the FAQ at Less wrong, after reading something, writing something, and stumbling across three our four more pages.

These are today's words of bliss:

"... there's nothing in the laws of physics that prevents reality from sounding weird."





That white space is so you can take a moment to share my bliss. You probably don't feel it the same way I did. I built it up too much. I was setting up your expectations.

Now I'm going to subvert them.

It's going to be a bummer.

I'm sorry.

Don't worry though, if you keep looking, you, too, will occasionally find a moment of bliss.


Inside and outside of my head lately, the subjects of sacrifice and bravery keep coming up.

I'm pretty sure I could stand up to do either, or both. If I needed to.

But I don't want to need to.

Lots of people have ghosts. I have been collecting them since before I was born.

My first half brother died first. Before I was born. In Vietnam. Maybe from burns.

My third half brother died second. In Seattle. Trying to delay a killer from achieving his goal of killing someone else. Who wasn't even in the house.

My second half brother died third. From renal cancer. He stood up and participated in research to find a cure. I kind of wish he had put his faith in Duran Duran.

Lots of other people have died. So that others could live. Here, on this planet, which is pretty cool.

Most of them I have never met.

I mention Duran Duran because there is a woman named Jenny, who, when she was a girl, developed Leukemia. She put her faith in Modern Science AND Duran Duran, and she still lives.

When I was a girl, my aunt developed leukemia too. She was named Jenny too. She died when I was 14. A few months before this other Jenny was diagnosed. They both have/had beautiful long dark hair.

The other day there was another gunman, and some guy heard a shot, and dropped to the ground. Then he figured if he stood up, he might give a couple of women (or a woman and her child) time to get out of the way. So he did. And he heard nine more shots. And he lived. Or so I hear. I didn't read the article I have linked here.

Frankly, this is great news! Bravery is finally paying off!

Or is it bravery and faith?

Trust me, I am not trying to say Duran Duran is God. But I am a big fan of the placebo effect.

I'm really not a fan of telling sick people it's their own fault if they don't get better. It really does not seem helpful. It makes me very uncomfortable.

This is more of my 'life isn't fair' and 'you call THIS a plan' cry for solace.

It is disturbing to think that sick people should have more determination. Or faith in 'the force'. Or more love for their fellow men. Or anything. And it might not matter what.

Because in my heart, I know sick people deserve better.

29 September, 2011

Why a member of the Sun Life Insurance Companies owes me a living.

I have a rich fantasy life.

There is a company, in Canada, who, about 10 years ago, changed their name. From The Mutual Funds Group. To my name. Clarica.

If I make it big, they are either going to pat themselves on the back, or rue the day. And very probably both.

It would be HILARIOUS if I got a job as a social media expert, from Clarica. I WOULD TOTALLY TAKE IT.

I made notes for this blog post 'yesterday'.

  • Why I deserve a paycheck from a member of the Sun Life Insurance Group:
    I am a social media expert.
    They stole my name.
    I am not bitter.

    Those other girls named Clarica aren't doing squat for you.

    Thanks for the personalized deck of cards!

The funny part is that I may become a social media expert. So far my skills consist of 'liking' comments on facebook, SUPERFAST. And I encouraged a quilt store owner to put something on her website, even if she didn't have the pictures ready.

But I plan to learn the twitter.

Mua ha ha.

For the record, I do have a metric for making it big. It's called an income. I will not settle for my own page on Wikipedia. Don't waste your time!

But do feel free to purchase something very expensive from Amazon.com. I have even provided a link!

Clarica the company? You get a link when I get the check. Just make sure you let me know if you want the link here, or in a different funny article that may or may not be more to your taste.

28 September, 2011

Personal note #4

Today AND yesterday, I took a shower. AND did a load of laundry, both days.

And today I made another stab at dealing with my problems in a way that I can barely tolerate.

I hate it more than applying for jobs I do not actually want, that also seem unlikely to want me. Even though I could do a them well, am totally willing to, and TRY to make this clear.

I've been putting this off since the first of July. Or, arguably years. Because I do not enjoy feeling sorry for myself, or crying.

Many people I know are constantly telling me that I am not a failure. I am certain that they all hold themselves to a higher standard, whether they meet it or not. And if they do not meet whatever their own higher standard is, for whatever reason, they feel like a failure. Just like I do. Or Did. Or do.

A couple of years ago, when being introduced, I took to 'whimsically' describing myself as a leech, a sponge, or a bum. At least I did not have to argue about what the standards for success ought to be anymore, and THANK GOD.

Being brave enough to ask the government for help, by myself, because noone will flipping-flapping take care of it for me, is probably the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.

And I am not that good at it. Because it falls far short of my personal standards of success. Or my insomnia or my anxiety or my depression make me stupid and forgetful.

I am at least grateful that I have never begrudged anyone else legitimately asking the government for help with THEIR problems. I have made plenty of mistakes in compassion and everything else over the years. But not that one.

Tomorrow, I am totally going out for a cupcake. Who's in? Wallingford, 3 or 4pm? I would throw an impromptu party, but the cupcakes are kind of expensive, and I do not have the strength to actually invite anyone personally. I'm going to finish up my other blog posts, finish washing some towels, and try to avoid crying.

Sometimes the least you can do IS the best you can do. Or is that vice versa?

My second short story, second draft.

My Diary.

Day 1. This is the serious journal of a silly girl named Lenore or Elsinore or Clarity or something. Who is full of a specific variety of measely-weasely selfish and miserable ways.

Sweet-hearted. Small-minded. Yogurt-eating. Gun-toting. And totally kind to many small animals.

Towards all she felt benevolence or envy. A very happy-go-lucky viper of woman-kind. Other than that, she was delightful!

Friendly and outgoing. Helpful and obliging!

As long as you never. Ever. Cross her.

With a twinkle in her eye she'd stab you. But not in the back. You don't have to watch your back.

There won't be enough time for you to turn and run.

Wanted. Dead or Alive.

Day 2. Still not dead. Might as well go kill something, and eat it. Raw food is totally better for me!

Day 3. I wonder if that boy likes me! He is so cute!

Day 4. Oops. I hope there is another boy out there somewhere.

Day 5. Ugh. I feel terrible. I probably should not have swallowed! That boy made me fat.

Day 6. Still alive! Aren't I lucky? Maybe I can make some shoes out of this stuff that's lying around my chopping block.

Day 7. I invented fire. Owie.

Day 8. Hey, a bunch of stuff tastes better if you change it with the fire!

Day 9. I haven't seen a new boy in a couple of days now. I wonder if my fancy new shoes taste good.

Day 10. Note to self: Shoes taste better cooked. But work better as a trap for the unwary. Barefoot and pregnant my ass!

Day 13. Still lonely, what is wrong with me.

Day 16. Hey, the new guy is eating something I've never tried! I WANT IT.

Day 17. Yams. Who knew?

Day 18. I kind of wonder what the new guy tastes like. He's so much better than everything else. But I think I'd kind of miss him.

Day 39. Do my feet smell like yams? Because these shoes look good enough to EAT.

Day 42. Barefoot and pregnant. Oops.

This story is dedicated to the bloggess, sex workers everywhere, and all the other classy ladies of the world. You know who you are. Even if I don't. Yet.

PS: I do not regularly have a knife with me. Just saying.

PPS: Wil Wheaton, like all men everywhere, is lucky to be alive. And he totally deserves a cupcake.

27 September, 2011

Solving the healthcare crisis.

It's official. I am a genius.

Earlier this month, I decided to solve some of the problems of poverty by taking some of our tax dollars, and giving them back to everyone in equal proportions. The minor downside to this program is that I don't think everyone in the world will fit inside my country.

Now I find that an experiment in Canada may prove that it could also solve the health care crisis.

I am not unconcerned with people who need regular medical care. But it is NOT my first priority. And I'm not totally convinced that universal health insurance is the solution. Maybe universal poverty prevention payments are.

Or sliding-scale poverty prevention payments?

I had a couple of discussions about this last week, about the problem of people in our country who can't, anymore, afford the health care they need. To stay alive.

Sadly, this is, for about a gazillion reasons, a growing problem.

I met a lady on the bus a week or two ago. It was a long bus ride, and I was unable to put my earplugs in, and she was willing, so we had an enjoyable conversation. She implied I would not need to lose ANY weight to get a man. (Which is true.)

And we discussed our experiences. And education. And health care.

She works for a health insurance company. And needs regular health care. And her husband is out of work. And she is a little worried.

Another friend's take was based on the whole 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' bit in the declaration of Independence or whatever. Where affordable access to healthcare, as necessary for some people to STAY alive, makes affordable health care an inalienable right.

I could not articulate it all that well at the time, but I absolutely disagree.

My take is that any health care is covered under the pursuit of happiness. And that the right to life is obviously not inalienable. Not for cows, not for some life-forms inside a human being, and certainly not for the sick people with problems we still can't cure.

I eat meat, I am pro-choice, and I oppose the death penalty. And I think antibiotics are the bees knees!

My brother Darby had better health care than any I had ever heard of, when I moved in with him, years ago. He was a member of a union, and I believe the health insurance was, as it should be, truly cooperative. And not. For. Profit.

Or maybe it was for profit. The competition that profit inspires generally makes expensive things cheaper. Look at the Sky Mall catalog from 10 years ago if you have any doubts on this topic.

For him, affordable access to healthcare did not even reach the elevated level of 'pursuit of happiness'. Or save him.

So I am totally cool with research being for-profit. I kind of wish the profits of medical research were as well-protected as the profits of, say, a hit single by Paris Hilton would be. (I have no idea if she sings, but if she is willing I will TOTALLY write her a song about saving the world.)

I mention Paris Hilton here for a reason. I have heard a lot of people bad-mouthing the contributions that Paris Hilton has made to our society. I've never met her, but I am certain that there are at least 20-50 people who have had gainful employment (JOBS) because Paris Hilton is who she is, and does what she does.

The question apparently becomes, "Does Paris Hilton pay enough in taxes?"

Does anybody?

I really don't know what the tax rate would be in my imaginary utopian society.

Apparently the US falls somewhere between the rates imposed in Belgium (the highest?) and Ireland (not the lowest).

Are we getting as much for our tax dollars as Belgium and Ireland?

Frankly, I can argue that we are getting more.

But I am not going to.

Because I am MOST concerned that we do not have adequate technology to prevent some of the evils of poverty.

26 September, 2011

Cheekbones and the Internet

I have been a print addict for a long time. I still am. They do not have a recovery group for this problem, and there are PLENTY of enablers out there.

But I put down the actual books, mostly, years ago, and started to look around and see what I could find out about the world through my own actual experiences.

This was unintentional. I was around 23, depressed, and couldn't sit still with a book anymore. My book-reading dropped from 5-21 a week, to less than five, and not always even one.

I definitely had a problem, and reading books was a symptom. I started reading books all the time in middle school. Probably because I was depressed.

The intersection of depression and change is irritability. I am very irritable lately, and I have to say, thank goodness for the internet.

Because we had an internet when I was 23, and I met some of the greatest people I have ever known here. Because, at 23, I couldn't sit still for a whole book anymore. But I still needed to read, and the internet gave me teeny tiny nibbles to satisfy my print addiction, without driving me away with "the annoying".

The internet totally deserves a cupcake. But since it is also totally annoying, it probably has sprinkles on it.

I still keep in some kind of contact with most of the people I met because of the internet.

The best thing about the internet is that it's like a stitch and bitch crossed with a philosophical debating society, crossed with a Book Club. Where you don't even have to read the books. And someone will share with you the recipe you want.

One of the things that worries me is cheekbones. What is the DEAL with cheekbones? I totally do not get what 'good' cheekbones are like. More to the point, how in the flipping-flapping universe do you tell if you might need a cheekbone enhancing elective surgery?

I constantly hear people RAVE about the cheekbones on someone. I have apparently dated some of these people with great cheekbones. Maybe I am one.

I asked my mom about this the other day, and she told me that I grew up in a cheekbone-rich environment, so they just seem totally normal to me. The first part could totally be true. I literally can not tell.

But you'd think if that was true, there would be some class of people in the world who, in some way, do not look normal?

Which is another problem I have.

One of my neighbors suddenly reminded me of my grandma this week. I couldn't figure out why, at first, and then I realized she had had her hair done in curls, just like my grandma did.

Which, other than age, is pretty much where the similarity ended, but I as I was standing there trying to figure this out, I had a crisis of faith about her genetic heritage. She is Japanese, from Japan, and speaks with a noticeable accent. And WHILE SHE WAS TALKING I was looking at her, and listening, and asking myself:

Me (silently): wait, is she Japanese? I thought she was, maybe I am wrong! Does she LOOK Japanese? I CAN'T TELL! Is that an accent? WHY CAN'T I TELL?

After I figured out it was the hair, my confidence in the information that she is Japanese was restored. And I have had this information for about four years.

I have this problem with Semitic people too. When I was a kid, there was plenty of anti-Semitism going around, and since my grandpa was a Jew, I worried about it a bit.

One of the theories 'out there' is that you can tell who is Jewish, just by looking. This is BS, but I didn't know this at the time, and I couldn't figure out how everybody else could tell!

My problem here was caused by my mom, and all of her sisters. They don't really all look alike. But people in Seattle didn't know that, back then, and they had a lot of fun switching IDs around when they got carded.

And this problem is that they were all Catholic. So in my mind, people who look Jewish? Are Catholic. Or family. Or something.

Oh, and the worst thing about the internet? THERE IS NO ERASER FOR YOUR BRAIN.

25 September, 2011

Jenny Lawson and laughing too hard

Jenny Lawson, you TOTALLY deserve a cupcake.

In case you haven't yet stumbled across the online and soon-to-be-IRL writing sensation that is Jenny Lawson, you have been missing out.

I'm getting kind of behind on passing out the virtual cupcakes lately, by the way, and my bad. This other philosophical stuff is ok, and I love it. And I am obviously compelled to share it. But I like to have the time and energy for talking about all the wonderful things there are outside my bedroom, and not just all the things that annoy me, inside my brain.

Have I mentioned Venn Diagrams yet? Because I totally love them too. They are a way to describe sets of things. Google it, there's a lot of funny stuff here.

I am totally crap at making my own, sadly. Here's an inaccurate version of the above:

I'm trying to show that almost everything, some of the time, seems pretty wonderful.

And almost everything, some of the time, is pretty annoying.

And that what goes on outside my head, but inside my bedroom, mostly consists of sleeping, and working on my blog. For a definition of working which includes surfing the internet, sporadic job searches, and procrastinating on reading my actual mail.

And, rarely, putting my dirty laundry in the laundry basket and starting it on the miraculous transformation that is in store for it, if I then take the dirty laundry out of my room.

None of the circles came out right, but since right now I care WAY more about Jenny Lawson than my own flaws, artistically or otherwise, let me get back to that!

The first thing I read from The Bloggess was about towels. She was about to go shopping with a friend, and her fella supposedly cornered her and requested she not bring any more flipping flapping towels into the house. Which was HILARIOUS, and I also totally sympathize! On both sides, because A) I HAVE NEVER HAD TOO MANY TOWELS. and B) I don't always have enough room to put all the clean towels away. ahem.

She dealt with this existential dilemma by getting a giant metal chicken. And I laughed so hard my sides ached.

I have a friend who just started a webcomic, like last week. And she had a great comic in her series, "Letters to my very first ex-husband" which, as an aside, mentioned someone she dated, and how he inadvertantly said something that she almost always finds hilarious. Because of that first ex-husband.

One time this guy I know did the same thing with me! I'll write it up in a script.

Him: I'm just a chubby slimy worm. (not out loud: you disagree, right?)

Me: HA HA HA HA HA HA. (not out loud: maybe, but DAMN ARE YOU SEXY.)

And I am frankly relieved that I think this might have happened to me more than once. Because I am totally immature. And apparently a little uncomfortable with sexy men, otherwise I might have recovered from my nervous laughter in time to, you know, not totally bruise some feelings. Or grow up.

I'm not going to go into any of the other hilarious stuff that Jenny Lawson does, because I'd rather go for another abrupt and awkward conclusion. They are TOTALLY my specialty.

ka·on /ˈkāˌän/
Noun: A meson having a mass several times that of a pion.

23 September, 2011

God's Plan

I don't know if God has a plan. God is apparently ineffable, so I guess nobody knows. But I have never liked the idea.

Because really, God, is this the best you can do?

I've also mulled, in an extremely amateurish way, over the difference between predestination and free will. Which, I don't know if you noticed, was the theme of the movie Forrest Gump.

Predestination supposedly means God DOES have a plan, and everything is on track! Yay for everybody going to heaven. Too bad for the rest of us.

Free will makes the idea of God's Plan a little nebulous. Not that I imagine god cares much about what I have for lunch. Or how often I have lunch. I hope he doesn't worry too much about other people missing lunch, or other meals, because it happens a lot. And I don't want God to suffer too.

But frankly, with all this planning, God doesn't really offer most people much of a to-do list. And those few who did get a memo, well let's just say that that is usually not their first problem.

And I could have used a to-do list! Pasted deep inside my heart! That I wasn't afraid to, you know, follow.


Recently I was offered the opportunity to see myself lip-syncing, in my early twenties, to a song from Grease. I refused. But I recognized that the people who care about me would probably enjoy it, so I did not beg them to destroy it.

Now I think it would be funny if it was on You Tube, although I am still not sure I can watch it myself.

I was not the person I wanted to be, for most of my life. I am still not the person I want to be. But I am totally ready to become that person, and every day I get a little closer. And every day I get a little braver.

And last night, I slept.

(This is where I would thank god, but I really only say that figuratively, because I am actually an agnostic.)

Today, in the ongoing battle to a) figure out what my dreams are and b) LIVE THEM, I played around on someecards.com, and practiced the funny. And the painfully true.

And I asked for a job in person!

Next, I might open some of my more scary mail.

The day is still young.

21 September, 2011

Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Exquisite Corpse

Scrabble, you deserve a cupcake. Bananagrams, you too. And Exquisite Corpse (which I will explain eventually, as it is not as well known), well, you and me have a little thing going on. WHICH I LOVE.

I am not a great scrabble player. I might be better, right now, than I have ever been before in my life! But I do not play to win, and I do not want to practice all the strategies you ought to use to play to win. Because playing to win is not that much fun, for me.

I have finally learned some of these strategies. And one of them I like! Instead of crossing words, go ahead and stack words, making not just the long word you came up with, but also a bunch of other short words across both. WAY more points! I feel pretty clever every time I manage to do this well, which is not often.

Another strategy which I would not mind getting better at is remembering short (or long) unusual words. Zoa is great! I kind of remember what it means. Nota I picked up from other scrabble players online, and it must be a word because it won't let you make up words online. And I'd kind of like to know what it means, but not enough, so far, to go and look it up.

Because it doesn't come with any context, and what I really care about, as far as words go, is context and the attempt to actually communicate.

And since I don't care enough about the word nota to go and look it up, I will probably not really remember it when I can play it and make a jillion points with it. Except now that I've used it in a sentence five times, it does have context, and I probably will go look it up, because I might as well know what it is that I'm going to be remembering.

But there are TONS of words just like it that pass across the transom of my awareness, and, frankly, I don't care about a lot of them as well.

And there is a strategy that will help you win in scrabble that I know about and can't enjoy. And that is being careful with your words. In an attempt to minimize the other players' opportunities to make points.

I do love to win at scrabble, really. But I love words and am so excited that with my crappy seven tiles that I can finally make a fantastic word on the board that I adore, that I HATE any strategy which kills that joy.

And I am totally fine with losing on these terms.

Bananagrams is another great game, and a lot of fun! I played some of this on my nannycation earlier in the month, and I was SMOKING. And, frankly, hilariously revealing of some of my inner dialogue.

I kind of like Bananagrams better, but though scrabble is more directly competitive, Banangrams is sort of more solitary. Which I don't prefer. And frankly, they're both competitive.

Exquisite corpse, on the other hand, is a fabulously collaborative game. And there are words. And pictures too!

I was introduced to this game from some friends, who were calling it sentence-picture. It's kind of like the game of telephone, but on paper. You start a piece of paper with a sentence (or song lyric or something). You pass it to the next person, and from the person on your other side, you get a piece of paper with a sentence.

And you must draw a picture to try and convey that sentence to the next person, who will only get to see your picture, after you fold down the original words.

And then you get a picture to try to interpret back into words. And this is where it gets funny. This is where "liar liar pants on fire" turns into "cricket cricket I'm on fire". Or I can't even remember what, but something innocuous, I think about home improvement, turns into "you can't play chainsaw hockey without breaking a few eggs".

And just try to draw a picture of that. Because it's your turn, and you make the best of what you see.

Some people who don't draw much are extremely unwilling to play this game. And it is a pity. And not because we won't laugh at their pictures. Because we will.

It's a pity because we will hopefully laugh at ALL the pictures. And a well-executed pictoral representation of a phrase is not that funny. The person who sees it will often write down the same phrase again. If you are a confident artist, feel free to take confusing liberties with your drawing! Please, it's a much funner game that way.

And an unexplained bow tie can really throw people off.

This game is called a million different things. Exquisite corpse. Sentence Picture. Cricket Cricket. Eat Poop You Cat.

Seriously. And it is hilariously collaborative. And it can kind of be exhausting, because you laugh SO HARD after you've all done your part on however many little pieces of paper you've got.

I feel like I was going somewhere with this, but I really can't figure out where. I'll just close on this awkward and abrupt note.

nota: plural of no·tum
Noun: The dorsal exoskeleton of the thorax of an insect.

19 September, 2011

Personal note #3

I am totally thrilled by my blog! And I haven't run out of material, by any means. But this lightning-fast, pile 'em up and roll them out publishing schedule has, obviously, hit a snag.

That snag is pretty much accumulated sleep deprivation, or fluctuating intensity levels, or whatever. I run out of energy, and/or brain, and right into irritability and frustration and a strong desire to GO LAY DOWN, and my MADCAP social calendar, of seeing people once or twice a week gets most of my attention.

The Blog, though I love it, comes third. And would totally slip to fourth if I got a job!

In health news (and health is number one) I did see my doctor last week and she gave me some stuff to try and it may be helping. And it may be making me feel worse while I adjust to it, I don't know. I didn't read the side effects because I am quite susceptible to the power of suggestion.

I met a guy on a bus who suggested another medication option which he was prescribed for his anxiety and insomnia troubles, but I figure my doctor has already heard about it and it is an option for the future, if what I'm taking now doesn't work. I do not care. I'll try anything!

Except crystals. Unless someone else wants to buy them for me and tell me how to use them despite my impolite laughter. Literally, I'd try them! But if skepticism diminishes their affect, I don't think it's worth a try. I've got a good attitude, but I don't get the thing about vibrations or whatever it is, and I do think it sounds silly.

But I would be thrilled to believe in them, if that would mean I felt better! Frankly, my attitude towards any proposed solution is so flippin floppin 'sounds great! let's get me some of that!' that it is a miracle I haven't already tried crystals.

And that miracle is called insomnia. Because I can't even remember, anymore, to get and try what I already believe might have benefits!

And now I get to relax, because I handed this problem over to a doctor, and she is a smart cookie. And that leap of faith definitely helps with my anxiety.

18 September, 2011

Texts from Last Night

Drunk people of the world, I totally love you. You, my friends, are often brilliant. Frequently caring. And almost often enough, just careful enough.

And until I found Texts from Last Night, I hardly knew you at all. And you totally ought to have a cupcake, whether you deserve one or not.

I have not spent a lot of time with you, because of my damage. Because of my tiny tolerance for alcohol and positive revulsion of the flavor of it, I didn't spend enough time with all y'all to find this out. Though I always suspected. Seriously, people talk about getting drunk as if it were so much FUN!

I have plenty of fun, don't get me wrong. But I don't need a few beers or shots or whatever to let loose. I just need everybody else around me to relax a little bit!

And to be perfectly frank, I'd prefer it if you could still speak in complete sentences. I get a little worried, and I know you'll totally get over it, but my fun is all bent out of shape if I worry that you'll get home safe.

I wish I was willing to quote some of your exploits here, instead of trying to dimly remember them from the last time I checked in on all y'all, a couple of weeks ago.

Waking up in your underwear, and somebody else's boots, in your neighbor's yard? I REALLY wish you could remember what happened, because I can't figure it out.

I can make something up, and someday, I probably will. But it won't be the same.

I've probably been drunk three times, and only once had a little fun with it. It kind of felt grim at the time, but I drank my booze and I was having my fun night out with karaoke all liquored-up just like everyone else. I probably should have relaxed a bit more, but who knows, maybe I was suffering from anxiety back then too.

One other time the fun was fine while it lasted! A whole half an hour. It was like the wind, and totally not worth choking down that fine combination of pineapple juice and whatever.

The first time, I didn't even notice getting drunk, but I had a headache the next morning, so maybe. Heck, I was thirteen, it was cheap champagne, and on New Year's Eve. An extremely lackluster evening.

It's hard to let loose when you're a control freak. Maybe next time.

17 September, 2011


In all the reaches of space and time, I have had three brothers. I've only met two, and I only knew one well, and now they are all gone from this sorrowful world.

My dad was married several times, and his first three children were boys. The first I never met, and, frankly, I'm not sure my father ever met him either. But though he didn't interfere in his ex-wife's arrangements for their child's life, he was glad to be able to contact his ex-brother-in-law from time to time to hear how the boy was coming along.

It was a guaranteed pick-me-up, and after his second wife went mad, and he lost almost everything trying to help her out, he was probably very glad to have it.

Until the last time he called, and found out that in the last year or so his firstborn son had been called up in the draft. And shipped to Vietnam. And was killed.

Heck, I don't actually know if my brother was drafted--maybe he volunteered. My dad was in service in WWII, his mother married at least two servicemen and possibly more! It's not a crazy idea that his first born decided to join up as well.

And maybe he joined up before the conflict was really entered, or understood.

For years I thought that my dad found this out while my mother was pregnant with me, but as I have been thinking about things I wish I knew more about, I am asking about things I wish I knew more about.

Like my older brother's name.

It might have once been Patrick Grove, but it wasn't at the time of his death, or he was not in Vietnam, or he was overlooked in many of the war memorials commemorating that service history.

Which doesn't surprise me, as it was pretty common for people who wanted to avoid comment to arbitrarily change their child's name to match the man of the house. And at that time, plenty of people wanted to avoid comment! Maybe it's still common, or maybe we just stigmatize divorce less. I don't know.

I also found out that maybe my father found out about the death of his oldest, estranged son at least 4 years before I thought he did.

Frankly, I have been trying to figure out why he left my mother while she was pregnant with me my whole life. There is obviously no good answer. And I'm not complaining. BUT, while it may have all worked out for the best, I don't enjoy wondering about might have beens.

Like what cool nieces and nephews my half-brother Patrick might have made for me if he hadn't died before he was twenty. And if you look up Patrick Grove on the internet yourself, you can see what I mean by cool!

Not that you'll find what I was looking for, and can't find without searching more than just the internet. A feeling of family for my brother who died before I was born. Like knowing his name, and where and how he lived. And if he had any other half-brothers and sisters of his own, or if he was an only child.

Technically, I could have named this blog post 'restless' and covered the exact same material, but I am SO tired of this restless got to do more and know more and can't quite sleep right feeling, that I wanted to leave that part out. Maybe next time.

16 September, 2011

Doubt vs. Truth

In an interesting conversation with a friend last week, he shared with me his favorite argument to bring to bear against Christians. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a particular axe to grind. He's a sweet guy!

Maybe he just brings it out for the obnoxious, or maybe just for kicks, or maybe sincerely and in the spirit of polite and passionate debate, which plenty of wonderful Christians engage in cheerfully.

I don't like to argue with Christians, or people of any religious faith, at all. I don't have anything better to offer, and I used to envy faith. Now I just envy a satisfying, communal religious practice. Just not any that I've ever experienced.

Anyway, his argument was that it wasn't the knowledge of good and evil, itself, that was the poison in the apple that got Adam and Eve kicked out of eden.

It was the absolute knowledge of good and evil.

Absolute knowledge. Pretty much of anything.

That kind of surety leads to righteousness. And holy wars. Possibly sainthood. Or of telling other people, who did not ask for your opinion, how they should be living.

I occasionally have a righteous indignation. It is an extremely powerful emotion in me, and exactly coupled with an anger that is, frankly, scary to have. And possibly scary to witness.

If it's about something trivial, like the feeling that people are saving transaction costs--at the same time as charging me a "convenience" fee for paying online--

Well, in that case I don't like my indignation, because, frankly, who knows? My surety that online payments are cheaper to process than post office mailed payments is firm, but not exactly absolute. And it's not like I care enough about $2.95 to take issue with misrepresentation and fraud on that level.

I am willing to write a letter on the subject! I haven't decided if I should send it. Because my righteous indignation fades quickly enough. And thank god for that!

Living through that kind of anger (and unbridled misanthropy!) is really unpleasant. And who knows? I am not absolutely sure. Only, like, 99%.

So anyway, back to my point, doubt or truth?

I prefer doubt! The feeling of truth frequently comes, as gift with purchase, with a feeling of absolute knowledge.

I got to have a fun exchange with some people online the other day, about sacrifice, I guess. In the arena of love. It was inspired by this quote:

"How could you be so selfish that you would demand I choose you over my own happiness?" --Anthony Demello

Which was taken in a couple of different ways for all different kind of relationships. I think we managed to convince people that you can not shoot yourself in the foot and at the same time make someone else happy.

You can, of course, sacrifice yourself consciously to make other people happy. But only if it brings you happiness. And probably not over and over again, daily, going without part of yourself. Because you probably can't be happy without being whole.

And one lady brought up a situation from a book she's reading about love. No sacrifice involved, just an interesting case...

"Any ideas about what might be going on when A feels a lot better around B, but B feels a lot worse around A?"

And my answer: B needs to avoid A, and/or seriously examine whether the harm is self-inflicted, self-appropriated, or something that A needs to stop laying down.

Now the part that I find really interesting, is that her example is supposed to represent unrequited love, and I can't for the life of me figure out, from that example, who is IN love. (The book, fwiw, is A General Theory of Love, and I have never heard of it before, but it sounds interesting.)

I have extensive experience with having unrequited love, and I would not be able to categorize myself as B from those experiences at all. I always feel great around someone I am in love with, and frankly that feeling is part of why I consider myself to *be* in love.

But I also don't think that the various objects of my unrequited affections, over the years, have felt like B either. Obviously, they didn't exactly return my affections.

One figured it out because I am not cool, and wasn't playing it cool. Eventually, this fellow managed to let me know any hope was a forlorn hope, in the most gentlemanly way possible, and then I felt bad. Because then I didn't know what to do with myself, and my love. And I WAS rejected, not that I blame him!

I got over it, after months of tears, by telling myself that, just like I hadn't felt like it was a choice to care about him, he didn't choose to jilt me. He just didn't care in the same way, and was (eventually) tired of me almost pestering him.

With another guy, I played it a little cooler, because I was older, and 'wiser', and frankly, he said he had just fallen in love with someone else too. Maybe he knew how I felt, maybe he didn't. It never came up explicitly, and though we fell out of touch for a long time, my unrequited love persevered for years before it faded.

I did not know what to do with myself this time either, but I figured something out. It was mostly a tear-free infatuation. It even started from a "love at first sight" kind of moment, though, really, it was more about the sound. And not first sound either, because before that one transformative moment, I'd seen and heard that fellow more than a few times, without particularly noticing him. And afterward, I could not stop thinking about him.

Eventually I began to worry, a bit, about the staying power of THAT infatuation. It kind of took up a lot of room in my head space, which didn't leave a lot left over for any kind of a normal life. (Suffering from depression took up MOST of my head space in the first place, but hindsight is always clear.)

And both of those times, it was kind of a fabulous experience, and also educational, even if I am a VERY slow learner.

Which brings me around to the feeling that I don't know what to do with unexplained feelings of falling in love. I don't get this lovely 'truth' feeling of delight or direction about a great many positive things, that I can remember. Four guys, that I can think of, none of whom did I ever date. And writing. And, most frequently, but not particularly seriously, a good debate in personal conversation.

Which, frankly, brings me back to the title of my blog. There is always another question possible, if you don't buy into the idea of any 'truth'. If you manage to live in an expectation-free zone, you can teeter around the edge of something that feels like truth without falling in.

"Why do I feel like this?" is a good question. "What do I expect?" is a GREAT question.

"What is going to happen next?"

That's my favorite question! But my speculation on this question is not fun. Hopefully I can remember to focus on a question I can and should find an answer to:

"What should I do next?"

15 September, 2011

Low ambition

I'm very groggy right now. I have an appointment next week to talk to my dr. about insomnia. Which I will go to even if I sleep like a baby every night between then and now. It's not even a full week, 6 days is not a cure.

I don't expect anything in particular. I don't have the brain power to think of anything else to try. The Warrior Sleep program from Steve Barnes helps me get more out of my limited sleep.

But not really enough, if I don't feel safe to drive. Which I don't.

I keep having funny ideas that will probably seem lame tomorrow. But I don't have the... the... um... oh yeah. The ability to concentrate. And follow through on them.

BUT, instead of feeling tense and jittery and tired, I have slid into droopy and floppy and tired.

I still don't fall asleep when I lie down quietly for 10 minutes, but it's not exactly a darkened room, and I can't keep my eyes shut.

And it's a way more pleasant attempt to sleep than tense and jittery. It's actually still a bit jittery. But kind of out on the edges, instead of DEEP INSIDE TRYING TO GET OUT.

And every now and then I sit, still, for 3 to five moments. Peacefully. For a change. VERY nice. Nice change. Change. Spare Change. Real Change. Real Genius. Real.

14 September, 2011

Bob Hoskins

Bob Hoskins is another actor who totally deserves a cupcake, and he's definitely been my imaginary boyfriend over the course of a movie or two!

He has a huge body of work, which you can examine at your leisure over at IMDB. I'm just going to hit the high points. Mostly because I rarely prepare for these works of praise, and have not seen even 1/4 of the fine fine work this man contributed to.

First, the top of the list, is a cameo role. He plays a butler in Maid in Manhattan, a movie which I like just fine, and have seen approximately 10 times. Me and my brother did not have Netflix for much of our time as roommates, and watched certain crowd-pleasers a little more often than most people do. And I love Mr. Hoskin's performance here! But it is a small role, and so there is not enough screen time of him for me to love this movie because of him. He definitely adds his bit. And I mostly love the rest of the movie too.

After that comes Mermaids, which also had some other great actors and actresses in it. This is the first time Mr. Hoskins became my (unacknowledged) imaginary boyfriend, because he TOTALLY sparkles here. He gets to play a romantic lead too, which he doesn't do all that often.

I swoon.

But I was about 18 when it came out, and even though I totally recognized his powers of persuasion, I did not really 'get' Bob Hoskins until a little later. Maybe seeing it again when I was a little older, or after seeing more of him in another of his fine films. I don't know, I wasn't taking notes.

Next I have to reference a little-known film called The White River Kid. Again, tons of other excellent actors and actresses in this one. I will confess, as an aside here, that I watched this movie for a bit part played by another imaginary boyfriend of mine, Chad Lindberg. That is another story, and even though I am sorely tempted, I will not be tempted off the path that is the story of my appreciation of Bob Hoskins.

I don't think The White River Kid was widely appreciated, or released, or something. It has OODLES of quirky charm, and, broadly, covers the topic of fraud. If a bit indirectly. Mostly self-delusion. Almost everybody in the movie is a crook, wants to become a crook, or is patently loony.

Up to an including the title character, who is a sweetheart of a violent and disturbed criminal.

In this movie Bob Hoskin's charm is on display as an unbridled enthusiasm for some of the finest things in life. Which he is trying to obtain under the guise of a monk selling irregular and cheap socks at county fairs to benefit orphans or something. I think they were blind orphans. Technically, they are imaginary blind orphans, since he made them up.

He makes a very special friend in this movie, which did not seem as hard as it might sound, for a man masquerading as a monk. Bob Hoskins is just. That. Smooth.

She was, admittedly, a lady of negotiable affections. But I am sure that she appreciated WAY more than his wallet, if you know what I mean. I think they ride off into the sunset together. I haven't seen this one in a while, I don't know if there was a sunset.

He plays another romantic lead in the animated film noir, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. But this movie was a little too cartoony for my total enjoyment. And I'm not talking about the animation.

The animation was fun and very well done! I think it bothers me that the plot was a little too good vs. evil. Simplistic.

And moving right along to the last movie I am compelled to mention, a movie that came out the same year as Mermaids, and co-stars Denzel Washington. As a ghost. I am compelled to mention Heart Condition because I feel like I have seen it twice, once with no haunting at all! And again, more recently, with a large share of Denzel's character in spiritual form. Very surreal.

It's hard to love Bob Hoskins in this, because he is a racist buffoon. But that does not make that character a bad person, and he is an excellent actor!

Jobs well done, Bob Hoskins. Thanks.

13 September, 2011

Benny and Joon

Benny and Joon is a movie I have adored since the first time I have ever seen it. And I love it most for a scene I can't find on YouTube, so you can't possibly get even 10% of the full effect.

Which is, of course, enhanced by seeing the whole movie, which I wholeheartedly endorse.

The first time Benny and Joon meet, Benny is up in a tree, in a row of trees, as Joon (dressed and seated unconventionally) goes past in a car.

Their gazes lock with mutual, wordless incomprehension.

And the first time they speak:

Joon: You're out of your tree.

Benny: It wasn't my tree.

(These may not be the actual words, please don't sue me.)

Now that I have shared what I love most about this movie, I can relax and share a few other things about this movie. By no means in order of importance, because while I do love a good 'top 10' list, actually ranking all my favorite things is a bit problematic.

It's a movie about a complicated issue. How much of competency is required for self-sufficiency? How much do we need to do for others to protect them from themselves?

And it totally explores these (and other) questions in the garb of a fairly wacky romantic comedy. LOVE!

Oliver Platt. This man has never disappointed me.

All the performances are stellar, and the actors and probably everybody involved in the making of this movie deserves a cupcake. I might even provide them, if you all have a party and invite me! 

Wow, now that I got the first eleventy-million things I love about this movie out of me, I am having a huge release of tension, and can't remember what else is so important about it.

I'm not sure everybody will love this film as much as I do. A lot of people are, unlike me, really uncomfortable around crazy behavior. I mostly get uncomfortable around angry behavior. The two probably derive from similar internal frustrations, I just find crazy less harmful to me than anger.

Hopefully my capacity to endure anger will swell to match my capacity to endure crazy. There's a whole lot more anger showing, that's for sure.

I can heartily recommend this movie to anyone who likes a little whimsicality, struggles with anger or sanity, or lives with people who are obviously struggling with one or the other. They probably ought to show it to you if you are getting a psychology degree.


12 September, 2011

The State

The State, I owe you. For Two Hundred and Forty Dollars worth of pudding. But I can not pay up. Except with my many thanks for all the funny that you earned, and shared with me. Thank you.

You guys totally deserve a cupcake! I saw this skit a zillion years ago, probably while I was still in college, and possibly when it first aired. I loved it then, and I love it now.

But watching it now is a very surreal experience. I can't quite put my finger on what you are making fun of.

Lounge lizards? maybe. Black people? I don't think so. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and though I have never actually seen any African American people dressing quite like this or flashing their seductive arts this way, it really seems like a twisted homage to Barry White or something.

Funny things like this have an inexplicable power of their own. Perhaps one of you guys was reading the pudding package aloud one day, and laughed. I think 'chill' was pretty new as a synonym for relax back then, so you took the instructions in a way not intended.

And subversion of expectations is the root of a lot of funny, of course.

And maybe you went with it. But however you got there, I love every minute. I say things from this sketch as often as I can possibly work them in to everyday conversation.

Which, sadly, is not often enough. Maybe I should make pudding more often.

11 September, 2011

The problem with welfare

The first problem with welfare, is that there are WAY too many things wrong with the system we actually call welfare.

I am not going to list them all out, even though I know that many of you totally disagree with some of my list. But I'm going to cover it a little bit, because some guy on CNN has given me the platform I want to start speaking from.

Just for the record, in my opinion, the first real problem with welfare is that it should be called Poverty Prevention.

And the second real problem is that some of the other social support mechanisms offered by the government are called tax breaks, or some other silly name, and not welfare.

Douglas Rushkoff, www.cnn.com
Our problem is not that we don't have enough stuff -- it's that we don't have enough ways for people to work and prove that they...

This guy's position is that we are all going to be very creative in the future, and magically, there will be enough food and energy and water and other infrastructure, and it could work.

He actually suggests that we should accept that food and shelter should be basic human rights. And I agree with him in principle, if not in fact.

Food and shelter (or the small amount of spending money needed to GET these things) are not human rights. They should be a benefit of a wealthy civilization. To EVERYBODY in that civilization, in EQUAL proportions.

Right now some people get welfare, and hardly anybody respects them. But what if we canceled all tax breaks, and split up that money too, so every man, women, and child living in our civilization gets an equal share?

[Please note I have not mentioned citizens, just residents, or as I think of them: people. Citizenship is a murky concept of intentions and welcome. I don't like debating who deserves the benefits of citizenship in our civilized society. The preamble of the constitution of the US, which I am very proud of, does not mention citizens, just people. I firmly believe this was an absolutely intentional choice, and it literally gives me goosebumps.]

There is already a system in place to deal with people who have trouble with paying the rent. Multiple systems. Including almost everything that gets labeled Welfare. I don't think this problem will go away with universal poverty prevention dividends, so it's not like I'm suggesting we need to slash even more government jobs. Or other jobs.

If you accept this simple plan, you must then, ethically, ask who is going to pay for it. And why would they?

Why would they support "the rest of us"? Why are we supporting anybody? My theory is that we would like to witness fewer of the evils of poverty, like little kids and old people with no food, clothing, and shelter.

Social Security started as simple poverty prevention, and it has grown to become a state-sponsored retirement and disability plan as well. It should really be one or the other, but maybe if we get Poverty Prevention Dividends separately, the retirement-investment aspect of Social Security can actually be handled, oh, say, privately. Or Publicly! I'm a big fan of the government.

And also I think we would like to suffer fewer of the other evils of poverty. Like the intersection of envy and desperation. Some crime. And kidnapping. 

I think a lot of resentment towards Welfare programs and the people on it would, literally, melt away. If we called it Poverty Prevention and handed it out to everybody.

I have never liked the fact that the people on welfare pretty much have to be willing to declare themselves incompetent at the job of life. Especially since I have so much in common with them!

Furthermore, we could probably not worry too much about child support anymore. I'm sure there are some fathers who would just be relieved if child support enforcement orders were canceled, but I bet MORE would be willing to give MORE money to their actual child, directly, in goods and services.

Having to literally hand it over to a woman who either did you wrong OR left you in the dust, well that just is never going to be a very tasty dish. Many divorces are much more complicated, of course. And this does not even address child support payments men are asked to give to women they were never interested in marrying. Which is different problem, and I digress.

I have digressed from the subject of how we pay for it! Not just an ethical question, but a very practical one.

First, cancel all social-support tax breaks. We're taking those taxes back, and paying a little bit of it to everybody. You'll get your share, honest. Maybe more, maybe less! I'm not going to do the math, because I have NO idea how much money ends up in the pot, nor any real idea of how many people are eligible.

Spend it however you like. Buy a house. Put your kid through college. Pay for daycare. It is more important to me that everyone have this specific benefit from living in a great civilization, than people who rise above all the other stuff and pay for it all get special consideration in tax break form.

So that's some new money to spend. I have no idea how much.

We also have Welfare and SSI money, that can go into the pot. Maybe there are other tax breaks that are unnecessary too! I presume so, but I don't know much about tax breaks for, say, mega-corporations.

Frankly, some corporate profits seem like a shady tax shelter for extremely wealthy individuals who should be owning up to 'earning' all that money. Fees and Fines are what corporations should have to pay, not 'taxes'. (I understand this is a somewhat trivial distinction. What I mean by 'taxes' is usually income tax--the individual's willingness to contribute to the public good.)

A corporation is a marvelous organizational tool for getting stuff done, and I totally love a lot of business and almost all that it does! There's a lot of negativity about the dangerous errors people seem more prone to making as part of a 'corporation'. I sympathize, but that is a separate problem, and corporations are not all alike.

I must digress to criticize the Zeitgeist Movement. It is mean of me to do so, especially since they have pretty much the same goal as I do, poverty prevention wise. And I take the risk of doing so in ignorance, because I have read very little of their mission statement. Because I had trouble finding it. Maybe there wasn't one at the time, a month and a half ago.

I tried to watch a couple of the stirring videos, but I am sometimes a very impatient person and when a minute and a half of "aren't we on to something cool" enthusiasm is shown before we get down to the nitty gritty, well let's just say I start looking somewhere else.

I was a little suspicious from the get go, as at the time their front page had a 'specialist' registry for possible contributors. Like scientists. Because they are completely free of bias. My ass.

(No offense intended! I love scientists! And I am thrilled by the popularity of the Zeitgeist Movement. Just not, you know, the actual 'plan'.)

Finally I got to one video that started out by showing what we want. The world of tomorrow is so advanced and yay and free! Helicopters! Swimming Pools! No one has to work!

Then it goes on to criticize government, business, and money. Three of my most favorite things! If it just decided to criticize fraud instead, I would have probably been sold.

But the theory that we as people can design machines that will take care of themselves and us, and we can all give up all our competitive material struggles, well that's a little far out for me.

I like the idea of the machines that make competitive 'self support' work meaningless, don't get me wrong! But we already have those machines. And we are, in my opinion, naturally competitive. If it's not material things, it will shift to something else. Maybe art like the guy at CNN suggests.

'Needing' to work to support yourself doesn't build many great bridges. Dreaming of a better future for yourself and all mankind, that's the competitive spirit I love.

At any rate, I've revealed the social support plan of the future! And some ways to pay for it. I don't know how much the check for every person enrolled comes out to. I'd bet that most people wouldn't want to live on it. And some people would have difficulties. And that MOST people will celebrate their tax refund every month.

Because most people would prefer to work and pay taxes and contribute to society.

I also advise that we include, with the payment, the suggestion that people contribute to society in some way. But I definitely do not believe we should specify how. Work is, of course, the traditional way, but paid or unpaid, community service or feelthy rich industrialism or meditation on the good of all mankind, I don't think we should try and keep track of it.

Now that I've solved all the evils of poverty using some of the benefits of civilization, let me just say that this idea is completely unoriginal.

I have enthusiastically ripped off Spider Robinson and Robert Heinlein, and their book, For Us The Living. And I didn't even tell you some of the other best parts about this idea in that book!

Like an ethical justification for expecting some people (taxpayers) to support all people, to some degree or other. It's even one of my very favorite things ever!

I can't, unfortunately, enthusiastically recommend the book to everyone reading this modest proposal.

Partly because the authors promote something a whole lot of people find very offensive. I've been reading whacked-out utopian fantasy, Heinlein, and Robinson for probably over 20 years (at least 15 on Robinson, anyway). Nothing in it, except for this poverty prevention plan, was new to me.

And it should come as no surprise to anyone that some people want to kiss more than one person for the rest of their life.

If you like utopian fiction, it is a must-read.

I do recommend it to any economists who want to argue with poverty prevention dividends. Some of the arguments in the book were economic theory. I didn't follow them, and didn't, hopefully, use any of them to buttress my own plan. And I do not want to argue economic philosophy on a professional level. I am an amateur.

But other than those exceptions, I mostly can't recommend it universally because the book doesn't explore the problem of fraud in any detail. It's a problem. If we cancel "welfare" and some tax breaks, does anybody deserve two poverty prevention checks? No. And taxes are not currently optional, but do we admire the people dodging taxes? Unfortunately, sometimes, we apparently do. And I digress.

10 September, 2011


Ugh. I totally feel terrible right now. It's September 5th, at 1pm, and it hasn't been a great day so far anyway, but my anxieties about maybe someday living a fantastic life, or not, are just horrible.

Since this is a journal, intended for publication, and not a diary (for personal reflection only) it is, of course, intentionally oblique on the subject of my own personal life. And as opaque as I can make it on the personal lives of people I have actually met and are still living.

But I really love how I can come to this journal with an escalating anxiety (or excitement) about any topic at all, and just writing a very few sentences down will totally puncture the intensity of that anxiety. Or excitement. I literally felt better about being petrified before I even started this paragraph, and I haven't even explored the topic fully enough for publication!

Hopefully I can still do a good job now that the intensity of my feelings on the subject are (temporarily) diminished.

I don't remember if I mentioned it here or somewhere else, but I have been writing scripts in my head since I was in elementary school. I noticed it one day, walking to or from school. I was having an imaginary conversation with the cute boy in school. (Me and my best friend both had a crush on him. This was not a problem in elementary school.)

And after I'd followed that train of thought, "imaginary conversation with cute boy", way way WAY far out into the boonies, I started to feel silly.

Mostly because I wasn't having ANY conversations with that boy, so it's not like I could even claim to be rehearsing for real life.

But also because the scope of the conversation was SO FAR OUT a) that it triggered my credibility sensor for real life conversations with that (or any) boy, and b) from any conversations I actually had with anyone, full stop.

At the time, I started nipping that 'rehearsing my part' instinct in the bud, solely for the purpose of avoiding feeling silly when rehearsals veered so far from any reality I found credible. I have had plenty of actual conversations, since then, which do veer way out into the boonies, and I LOVE them.

Maybe I have been silently rehearsing my part in some of those, too. But way back in the undiscovered portion of my brain, the non-verbal part. I am ok with that.

But I have two additional reasons to TRY to nip those conscious rehearsal conversations in the bud.

The first is insomnia. I am having this. Mostly, I am a little bit overstimulated by my environment. For a couple years I lived a fairly social life for a recluse with my brother, who also did not get out a lot, and that suited me just fine. Since I moved into my sister's house in January or something, a) there are a lot more people in the house, b) I spend a lot more time getting out of the house to be social, and c) since I had a tooth infection in July or sometime later in July when my insomnia set in, I have been 'waking up' to what I love to do and I want to do and everything else, and everything is much too 'loud' lately. So this inner dialogue? A front runner in the contest the world is having to keep me up at night.

The second reason I try to avoid rehearsing imaginary situations is more a combination of philosophies about 'rehearsing' life. In terms of anxiety, that's adding, as I have mentioned before, an extra level of suffering in my life. For problems that rarely come up.

This can come up for things that are NOT problems too--I got up out of bed (where I was TRYING to relax for 10 minutes) to write this very thing, because I am rehearsing ways to avoid a situation I am philosophically and practically speaking, totally willing to throw myself into!

A situation, I must add, that is entirely hypothetical.

And that leads me to another philosophical perspective on avoiding this 'rehearsal' of things that may never happen. Which is 'the story', the narrative arc that ties related and unrelated factual events (and far too often some flight of fancy) into an explanation for the world we have just survived. The 'story' also passes judgement on itself and everybody in it, and for some reason I try very hard to appear non-judgmental.

And that reason is unsolicited criticism is actually worth LESS than you paid for it. Just like normal unsolicited advice.

I am totally digressing from the topic of being petrified, though I have approached it obliquely. I think that's good enough for today, as long as I notice that my fears may be trying to sabotage my hopes.

And pick the hope over the fear on anything I really care about.

09 September, 2011

Amanda Hocking, sexism, and men.

Amanda Hocking is my new best friend. She totally deserves a cupcake!

I stumbled upon her blog because she is an epublishing phenom, linked to in a number of articles on epublishing that I have started reading about today. On the left side of her blog is her most popular posts, at least five of which I have read already. And I feel like she is a kindred spirit, even though I do not currently have time to write fiction.

And I'm looking over her blog, mostly trying to skip to the part where I find the RSS feed, which is probably at the bottom. And I haven't gotten to the bottom even yet, but I have to stop that almost holy quest to comment on a great and fairly recent blog post, where she is commenting on a blog post she read recently:

Is it the Books?: I read this blog the other day: The Problem Isn't the Books I really think you should read it, mostly because it's interesting, but also because...

I haven't followed her suggestion to read the grandaddy (or great gdaddy) blog post to this blog post, because this question is one I've been thinking about for a couple of years. Ever since I heard of the Bechdel Test, I don't know how long ago.

This is the question of "how sexist is popular, fictionalized media?".

According to the Bechdel test, it is VERY skewed. It's hard for me to think of 5 or six movies that pass the Bechdel test, except technically. And I do not care.

If you haven't heard of it, the Bechdel test comes from Alison Bechdel's hilarious comic Dykes to Watch Out For. She got this rule from a friend, and has a character or three who will only watch a movie if it:

(a) Has two women in it who

(b) Talk to each other

(c) About something other than a man

Now I do not want to run down this set of criteria! I do not object to them. The only two movies I did see this year (from the list at bechdeltest.com), Thor and Friends with Benefits, both pass.

Wait. No. I tell a lie. I didn't see FWB, I saw No Strings Attached, which apparently fails, though I can remember part of a conversation about depression which was avoiding the subject of that man very carefully. Both this and Thor earn a 'technical' pass, which is a little pejorative, if you ask me. It's a pass-fail test.

Very fun movies! I would totally watch them again, and maybe I'll go see FWB sometime too.

Maybe all of my most favorite movies of all time pass. But I don't know, or care. (And trying to figure it out based on my limited examination of the website above, or my own, apparently faulty memory, seems like a job and a half.)

I have been thinking about men and the possibility that many of them share a competitive spirit for a while now.

Making movies the way you want them is one of the rewards of succeeding in a very competitive industry.

If I ever have as as much success as the men and women making movies which do not pass the Bechdel test (many of which I presume I heartily enjoy) have earned, I'll want to make the kind of movie I really enjoy, too.

Now on the subject of competitive spirits, almost everybody has some of this. I feel like some heterosexual men are exploring this side of themselves to greater effect than most other kinds of people.

This spirit has a playful side. Yay, let's all play together!

And it has a competitive side. I want to win some/most/all of the time.

Is this competitive spirit more innate to men, or more encouraged in men? I don't care. I've got plenty of my own, and I have never felt much suppression of that FROM men. My experience here may be unique. Who knows.

The article Amanda is commenting on is about the supposed lack of “... good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or ­offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become.”

Which is totally bullshit. There are plenty of GREAT works that are inviting boys to examine their aspirations as men, and as people. Plenty of them, as Amanda and someone else point out, even have a male protagonist. And author.

Which is apparently the issue, because a male protagonist is supposedly neutral - a joy for anyone to read. And a female protagonist is dismissed as chick lit. Perhaps by the boys who should be reflecting on what kinds of men they want to become. (Definitely by a whole lot of the commentary on books and film industries. Which is actually sexist and I mostly ignore, since I know when I am on to a good thing.)

I know teenage boys, and it would not surprise me at all that most of them would prefer to figure out how to become a good man from something another man does or says or writes. And I do not care why they prefer it.

I do want them to get over dismissing girly things as somehow 'lesser', someday. It seems like a normal stage of development, somewhere in the development of identity. I don't know if it is natural, or cultural. It's just very wearing in grown men. And women.

As a daughter, separated since before birth from her regular access to her own father, and being a little to very confused, on some profound levels, about what makes a good man until just about very recently, I am also not surprised, or saddened, that boys might learn more about manhood from actual men.

If they can't figure out what it takes to be a good man without positive (or negative) examples from their own lives, or from popular fiction and media skewed to a male-centric Point of View, by all means, let's keep bringing it on.

I get to enjoy both parts--a society hopefully filled with good men, and tons of quality entertainment.

Sexism in criticism of popular media is a different serious problem. Other people are doing a great job covering it, and it is not one I care a great deal about. Obviously.

If I literally start getting dismissed as chick lit, someday, hopefully no more than about two to 5 years from now, I will probably sing a different tune. One of the many evils of prosperity that I can not wait to be suffering from!

I am absolutely no critic of those covering sexist attitudes towards women's work, in traditionally male roles or even in traditionally female roles. Hard work is hard work, no matter who is doing it, and good work should be judged as good work, no matter who is doing it. Try to avoid self-deception on this topic, critics.

08 September, 2011

Unharnessing your Chi

Chi is an interesting concept which, unusually for me, I have done very little research on. Usually if I find something curious, my need-to-know kicks in, and I hit the books. Or the internet, as it's usually MUCH more convenient than any book ever.

I was first introduced to the concept of Chi as sort of a levin-bolt type attack. In cartoons when I was a kid, some angry guy would get all focused and intense on the imaginary pet mousie he always keeps to hand, and then throw it at someone, in a round furry ball of white flames.

Seriously, that is exactly what I was seeing, and I couldn't quite understand the mechanism, mostly because hardly anybody can actually see the round furry balls of white flames in real life. I certainly can't.

These days they show the actual pet mousie, but in my youth we did not have Pikachu.

But I absolutely knew the feeling, even at that age, when I had not yet actually wanted to grab somebody by the shoulders and slam their head into concrete. Ahem.

Now, I am not sure that the energy humans have available to fling around metaphysically at each other actually has the power of causing damage. Unlike sticks, and stones, and words. It is a very interesting question, which I am not going to go into fully here, except to say that the surgeon harms to heal.

What I really want to get at is how I used this idea of Chi, later in life, to deal with feeling like a round furry ball of white flames.

This is a feeling I frequently have! I have constantly been trying to deal with this feeling. Feeling all wound up makes it very hard to relax, something I enjoy quite a bit. And sleep, which I can not live without.

I tried to identify what this feeling meant before I tried dealing with it, and I don't regret that journey one bit. My post-solution conclusion is that I did not have enough satisfying work.

I did find a way for dealing with the feeling that I ought to be doing something before I figured out what I actually wanted to do. And not having to deal with that feeling of unresolved tension or anticipation, or focused chi, if you will, gave me more space to figure the satisfying work part out as well.

So I imagined this concentrated ball of energy that I both felt (low down in my abdomen) and identified with (I am a furry white flaming ball of intensity). And I imagined it getting smaller, and smaller, and disappearing, and that did not help me at all.

If you've never heard of Boyle's law, you aren't missing all that much, but I love that I came across it in Red Dwarf. Which is an old series from the BBC about the last man alive, 3 million years in the future, almost totally alone out in deep space. I probably also came across Boyle's Law in Physics classes, in highschool or college, but it did not make a great impression. It is part of thermodynamics, which are cool.

And the upshot is, if you've got a seething inferno of potential energy, cramming it down into a smaller space does not relieve the pressure, it dramatically increases it.

This meditation tool I called harnessing your chi, and is a valuable tool for focus, and getting through a difficult task.  And this is not something I needed help with.

So I fiddled with my imaginary ball of furry white flames, and I let it get bigger, and bigger, and pass out of me, and, presumably, dissipate in some way.
I do not care about the metaphysical consequences of this thought exercise. I doubt it is actually hurting anyone, like the levin bolts in the cartoons of my youth seemed to. And what I'm doing is not the same as that metaphor. I am not firing bolts. I am letting off steam.

(Edited to add: since writing this, I have been thinking that I might want to try some other meditation exercise for dealing with feeling like a bomb about to go off, because of some boring weirdness, but as I don't feel as much like a bomb in the last week as usual, I'll probably slack off on finding something else.)

I still would really like to look up chi someday, and I highly recommend that anybody who knows something about it share the wealth, as it were. It's totally fascinating! Laboratory studies would be cool! Though I'm not sure it's amenable to the tools we're using for science right now. Measuring data and analyzing data are totally my other favorite.

But if there's data we don't have the right tools to measure? Science can not help.

07 September, 2011


Poverty is not something that I personally enjoy, but it totally deserves a cupcake. I live in Tacoma, the little brother to Seattle's Big Sister.

I grew up in Seattle, and I love Seattle with the biggest bestest love I have, which is to say, a lot. But I enjoy Tacoma more. Even though it's only getting hand-me downs. That aren't even gender appropriate!

When I was a kid in Seattle, there was a lot of talk about the 'aroma of Tacoma', because of its vibrant and thriving and smelly paper mill industry. Or, depressingly, is all-too-possibly no longer vibrant and thriving. That industry is still not totally stink-free, but it has either cleaned up some of that mess, or I have gotten old and insensitive, because, really, it's not so bad anymore.

Tacoma has a bit of a chip on it's shoulder because of Seattle, which I totally get, being a baby sibling myself. Not that I want to imply that Seattle is more historically endowed than Tacoma, because frankly I don't actually know, or care. Sorry Tacoma, if you came first. Nobody cares.

What is true, as far as I know, is that way back at the time of the gold rush, Seattle and Tacoma were competing as vacation/career destinations, as a jumping off-point before you headed North to Alaska. Sorry if you caught that song virus there.

And I don't know who actually won that competition, but I'm guessing it was Seattle, because like winners everywhere, Seattle has a lot more money than Tacoma.

And since I am more comfortable as a loser and with the self-depreciating, I have all my friends. Many of whom are quite successful as well as being self depreciating! And most of whom still live in Seattle.

And I have Tacoma.

It may amuse you to know that at one point in my life I was seriously troubled by the question of ethical prosperity. I had no real business worrying about this problem at the time, because I had very little play money.

Play money, in case you don't actually know, is money that you don't quite know how to spend without thinking about it first. I decided to invest it in personal retirement accounts, and thank god for that or I would have been forced to get a real job years ago, and would not ever have been writing this blog, in this way, right now, which I am loving.

At any rate I am no longer bothered by the problem of ethical prosperity, because I have figured out thousands of things I will be doing if I should ever be troubled by the problem of play money ever again. And Universe? Are you hearing me? Because I am totally ready!

And Dad, I promise, I am also applying for actual jobs that I would take if I was offered them.

And I digress. Ahem. Poverty.

One of the great things about poverty, and in fact probably the only great thing, is that it shoves people who otherwise would not get to rub elbows all into the same boat together. We are all, as they say, in the same boat, but poor people actually understand this all the way through to their bones, and are constantly stopping to help people in ways that the not-so-poor wish they did more often.

And I totally understand both sides all the way through! Plenty of poor people wish they stopped to help more often too, trust me. This is not just one of the devils of prosperity.

But prosperous people have a worry that poor people do not have in quite the same amount. Which is the problem of being in a smaller boat, with fewer people, and more material goods to cherish. That boat is quite fragile, and almost everybody who has ever lost their job unexpectedly knows that for sure.

And nobody wants to rock that boat! Plenty of people do lean out to pull people from the poor boat into the rich boat, and plenty of stuff is tossed from the rich boat right smack dab into the poor boat. There is a lot of man's love for his fellow man going on through public and private channels in this country as well as in every other country.

But it is not easy, it is hard to trust, and we may be doing it wrong. More on that later.