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28th-Feb-2010 06:30 pm - On Vox: quick & dirty

I have withdrawn a bit on the blogging, I know. I'll catch up soon, but I have some thinking to do about what I'm doing with my various online outlets and this largely depends on what I'm doing with my life. Which at this point is a bit obscure to me. I like having a personal journal in this somewhat less public space, and yet I want to have a more "professional" blog on some other channel which leads to all sorts of profession-defining, soul-searching, line-drawing questions and renders me essentially mute.  Meanwhile, here are some bullets to get a bit up-to-date with my goings-on.

  • I've been doing more work for my ex-boss. This could turn into something quasi full-time in the next few months. Which is excellent from a financial perspective, but again leads to all sorts of profession-defining, soul-searching, line-drawing questions. If nothing else, it is better than working for an ad agency...
  • I had at least one more date, which I neglected to write up notes for... mainly because I got so drunk on the date that I don't remember much about it (new medication increases effects of alcohol, evidently). The date itself was ok. I have another soon, which will not involve drinking. In another couple of weeks I will have eliminated all of the current possibilities at this rate.
  • I'm trying to envision a way to become more socially connected in real life. Dinner parties? Book clubs? Collaborative projects? Volunteering? Writing groups? Salons? Board games? It all seems a bit forced. Because it's not comfortable.
  • I had a plumbing emergency, which I plan to turn into a piece of fiction. The pipes backed up and my kitchen sink flooded. There were charming roto-rooter boys in my apartment for six hours, until midnight. Hilarity ensued. It's all fixed now... I will share the story when I write it.
  • Last day of writing class on Tuesday. How time flies! I've gotten a couple of good starts on pieces, but I haven't had time to finish the homework for the past couple of weeks.
  • I have been forgetting to take photos every day. Which is predictable.
  • Yesterday I went to the 40th birthday (Dim Sum) party for a woman whose younger sister was my best friend in Junior High. Her mom was over from Idaho. I hadn't seen them in over 20 years, though for a while they were like my second family. I hope to see more of them now that we are back in touch. They can probably help with my memoir, too. 
  • Updating business website to be more flexible. Starting to get some meetings with people finally. Still not sure what we're doing with this... and it leads to all sorts of profession-defining, soul-searching, line-drawing questions.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

10th-Feb-2010 09:29 pm - On Vox: What's stable in your life?

A couple of weeks ago I started an experimental essay class at the Hugo House, and on the first day of class I got there about 20 minutes early. The instructor was there, setting up, and since we knew each other from a previous class we chatted a bit.

First, she announces, "Well, since the last time I saw you I got married and had a baby!" I go through the standard OMG congratulations how old is your baby is it a boy or a girl etc. And then she asks the dreaded, "So what about you?! How's the writing going?" I admit that the writing has been spotty. Life gets in the way, and not merely time-wise. There is a certain amount of psychic and emotional energy needed, especially when trying to write a childhood memoir. And I tell her I got laid off last year and have been struggling to find sustainable work. She is duly alarmed. In fact she tells me that she is "terrified" that I opted to pay $230 to take her class when obviously I can't afford it. I make noises about a freelance project that gave me some extra cash (extra? really?), and then she drops this doozy:

"Well... at least... I hope... you have some stable... something... right?"

She's making gestures in the air that I read as boyfriend husband house car parents savings account.

No, actually I don't. I think for a second, momentarily stunned. No... not so much. I suddenly have the urge to start crying. But I smile, like it's no big deal. Because really, does anyone have anything stable, ever? Life is transition. Permanence is illusion.

I still wish I had a trust fund, but you know what? I'll be ok. I always have been before. and this time I think I might be better than ok. 

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

I weaned myself off of the two anti-depressant meds I had been taking for about 2 years last summer. It was a bit hairy at first, especially in terms of wanting to drink all the time, but after a month or two I felt fine. Not depressed. Not too anxious.

But then life happened, and since the beginning of this year I have been in, well, a "state." My anxiety has been keeping me awake at all kinds of hours that I would normally be fervently dreaming. A hole in my gut also takes its turn waking me up at 4AM to flop around in agony.

So I finally went to the Dr. to demand xanax and whatever it is one takes for a peptic ulcer. My Dr. at the local community clinic is a bit of a hippie, but he knows his meds. Last time I saw him he had all kinds of better info about my medications than the creepy psychiatric nurse-practitioner who had prescribed them.

After getting a sense for the kind of anxiety I'm dealing with, he said, "You know, some people call xanax the devil's drug." Oh dear, looks like I'm not getting any xanax. I mean, I think he would have given me the prescription if I pressed, but he is opposed to getting in the habit of taking a pill when upset or stressed. As am I. And xanax is the most addictive prescription medication.

So he recommends Citalopram, an SSRI that is good for anxiety, for a few months. This is very similar to the Lexapro I took until last July, so I can at least predict the extent of the side effects. I'm sort of annoyed to go back on one of these meds, but I see the wisdom in it as well.

As far as my stomach pain, he tells me "don't worry about it too much." Get a bottle of Maalox and chug as needed.

This Dr. also likes to give weight loss tips (he's not concerned about my weight but says I would probably feel better 10 lbs lighter). One of the things he recommends every time: NO BREAD. And of course no calories from beverages. And steamed vegetables DO NOT need butter. He is very adamant about this.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

The items below are paraphrased from Communion: The Female Search for Love, and they are at the front of my mind as I consider embarking on some sort of mating ritual.

  • Women who are successful and self-loving often choose to be alone rather than choose a mate who still accepts patriarchal stereotypes for acceptable female behavior.
  • Women who are with "traditional" emotionally unavailable, un-communicative, and sometimes abusive men usually have more contempt for men than any feminist lesbian, and yet they don't ask them to change (because they accept this as "normal").
  • It is easy to find a man to love. It is much harder to find a loving partner. There is a huge difference.
  • Many different kinds of love, including a loving partnership, are vital to a satisfying and balanced life. If the loving partnership is absent, loving friendships are even more critical.
  • Men and women all come from the same planet. Allowing men to be emotionally immature (because they are from Mars) in relationships does not help anyone.
  • A benevolent patriarch is still a patriarch. They still try to rule over women using emotional manipulation rather than threat of physical violence or financial dependency.
  • So many men, so many reasons not to sleep with any of them. (This is a button slogan... I personally like quite a few men, but I am still hard-pressed to find good reasons to sleep with them... it seems to do me more harm than good)
  • It is not "natural" for men to desire dominion over others, as is widely accepted in our culture.
  • Even most progressive men don't go to any great length to unlearn sexist thinking, simply because sexist thinking is still so basic to our culture, even among women. Where's the impetus? We haven't stopped fucking them yet...
  • Most women in relationships cite "reluctance to talk openly about thoughts and feelings" as the main problem with their male partner.
  • The negative stereotype of the deceitful male is still alive and well. In many cases it is justified.
  • Often when a man does "open up" and discuss his feelings it reveals more difference and disagreement than common ground and leads both parties to avoid future openness. Thus silent and tacitly unhappy relationships creep on for years.
  • In these longterm silent arrangements it is most often the man whose needs are met, while the woman's are not, but this "victory" is not the same as happiness for the man.
  • The predominant initial reaction of women to men is based on fear, "does he pose a threat?" rather than can he fulfill my needs? (harmless is not good enough, sorry)
  • While most women want a mate who is "mature, intelligent, loyal, trustworthy, loving, attentive, sensitive, open, kind, nurturant, competent and responsible," few women go to the trouble of assessing these characteristics before delving into a relationship. We accept immature, distant, and critical because we think that is what is available.
  • "Looking for a man who can love is a search that can take ages." It's not their fault they grew up in an unloving patriarchal family. They have learned to expect rewards for being un-loving.
  • Thankfully more men of my generation have started to challenge patriarchy and learn how to heal their own wounds in order to become loving and whole. But these men are still pretty rare.
  • You can't blame individual men for this system, and holding onto sexist ideas about men only perpetuates the problem. It is better to be loving and compassionate while still firmly steering clear of unequal partnerships.

I am optimistic that I can someday find a loving partnership, but I also recognize that it will be hard work. The seeking, the development of an open rapport, the negotiation. I would be pleasantly surprised if this process takes less than five... ten years. I welcome pleasant surprises.

Postrscript: And btw, I don't date hippies, though it might sound like that's what I am after. I am a feminist, but not a hippie, and I want the same in a man. No trips to Burning Man are on my agenda. There's a childlike quality about hippies that for me does not make for an adult connection.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

24th-Jan-2010 03:57 pm - On Vox: Creating nothing from nothing

Last week I finally got around to watching The Corporation (highly recommended documentary about what it says on the tin), and it got me thinking about the advent of Brand Meaning as a product... or really, a whole industry. It's not a new topic for me, as it is something I've thought long and hard about since it first started to overlap with my work life in 1999.

Corporations spend enormous amounts of money on producing Brand Meaning now. Whereas "brand" used to mean, basically, "logo and letterhead design." It has now taken over any and all forms of possible interaction with the public. Advertising, marketing, product placement, sport sponsorships, web experiences, retail kiosks, ugly skins on Mini Coopers, and the list goes on, from the banal to the insidious.

It's not merely the benign dispersion of information about products or services (often in the most annoying manner possible, the better to stamp the brand on your grey cells permanently), it is a broad attempt to alter our perception of reality.

One of my least favorite words I have heard in hundreds of creative meetings is: "aspirational." Make the video aspirational. Don't show people what life is, show them what they are supposed to want. I think the assumption that any institution can try to determine what people are supposed to want and then push the idea at them subliminally (or aggressively) is dangerous. And yet there they are, assuming away.

This is a personal problem for me. An ethical conundrum. Because the primary form of paid work I have done in the past ten years has been in the service of producing Brand Meaning. And I truly believe that working in this new industry is dangerous, both financially and, erm, spiritually. Because the product is a non-product. And therefore has no intrinsic value or extrinsic meaning.

It makes me angry that at this point in my life I feel so devoid of options that I don't find reprehensible in one way or another. It's not how I want to spend my life or my energy. But as we all know the economy is demanding people to take whatever scraps are available. And I have my hand outstretched along with the rest of the unemployed or underemployed. Reduced once again to a beggar.

The problem is, I am not independently wealthy. If I were, perhaps I would have pursued the visual arts in the way that I wanted to when I was 18, without being so put off by the necessity of making my creative expression "commercial." Maybe I would have pursued an undergrad degree that thrilled me (Comparative History of Ideas?) rather than doing the Bachelor's completion program that had classes in the evening. Maybe I would I spent a year or two just writing, somewhere quiet. These were not choices, because I never had any real options. I had to pay my own rent, even when it was cheap and shared. Things like education and artistic endeavors never helped with that.

And the stress of being always one step from abject poverty closes doors as well. It's never been an option for me to spend time between jobs delving into the creative projects I want to do, because it takes about all of the emotional vigor I have not to spend all of my time trembling in the fetal position. Deep focus is just not an option when overdosing on adrenaline. And I don't think I'm exceptionally fragile. This is the sad truth for most people who want to do meaningful work but find themselves paralyzed by time and money and fear.

So now I'm trying to think of other, better options. The best I can do at the moment is to keep writing, to keep creating in the ways that I am able to find the space. To find some peace in the process, and to simply see what emerges. Oh, and to get paid for anything someone will pay me for, for the moment.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

22nd-Jan-2010 01:05 pm - On Vox: But the GOOD news is...
  1. I've already lost six pounds on the sudden emotional starvation diet. The scale hasn't budged for any other reason for three years.
  2. The projects I had counted on with my ex-boss are cut and/or canceled (wait, is that good news?) But five minutes after I found out I got an email about another possible job that would not be for my ex-boss.
  3. It's raining men. I'm not quite sure what to do with them all. But it's certainly nice to be making some new acquaintances. I'm still taking referrals.
  4. I'm reading at Salon of Shame on Feb 16. I'll be reading some nonsense prose I wrote when I was 14. I clearly needed a psychiatrist when I was 14.
  5. I'll be starting an experimental essay class on Tuesday.
  6. I'm looking forward to having a social life again and making new friends. I have been isolating myself in my "situation" for far too long.
  7. Looking for my Salon of Shame readings I found my teenage nonsense archive... which is good for a chuckle, and housed in a Culture Club folder with a "Why be Normal" sticker on it.
  8. After a week+ of "dominance conditioning" my bird is no longer viciously attacking me.
  9. More gym time with homebody - today will be our 2nd time this week, plus I finally did yoga again on Monday. Burning off the toxins.
  10. Hot baths in the middle of the afternoon. It's a luxury that can't last, but I am going to enjoy it while I can.
  11. Finally hammered my memoir into a form that allows me to write it. I had a mess of tidbits spanning my whole life up to 18 plus about 40 years before my birth. Now I've narrowed the timespan and am building a real narrative with backstory only when needed. I've been too crippled to write this week, but maybe in a couple of days...
  12. Going photo hunting with my friend Joe tomorrow. Possibly also rock gathering.
  13. My business partner is going to grad school for art therapy/ counseling. I am happily letting her practice on me (she's already pretty good). We're considering doing a humorous photo series about trying to get love from a rock using implements like can openers, crow bars, and lingerie. She also just ended a relationship.
  14. Friends with spare xanax. I should really get my own prescription. Sometimes medication helps.
  15. My mother has gone from calling to tell me she dislikes me to calling to tell me how much she loves me. It's the familiar come-here-go-away dynamic, but at least we've gotten to the nice end of the scale.
  16. Seattle has been like 60 degrees and sort of sunny all week. I managed to drag myself out for a walk with my camera. My hummingbird has been flitting around outside my window. I know it's all a ruse, but still.
  17. I got my ex-inlaws' xmas letter, finally. ex-MIL had misaddressed it twice before getting it right. She's always been a little bit "nutty professor," so I found it charming. Also love the sardonic tone of the letter itself. I still quite adore my ex-inlaws.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

3rd-Jan-2010 10:10 pm - On Vox: The road to hell

My intentions just keep getting better, but the results are not keeping pace. Today I was determined to get some exercise, clean my kitchen, plan my week, and clear off my desk. But what happened?
 I started looking at grad school writing programs.

See, if I want to apply to grad school to start in the fall I need to have applications ready by roughly the end of the month, which means that NOW is when I need to decide where and if to apply. And it would be a good year to do this because my income was low enough last year I might qualify for some financial aid and not have to take out another FIFTY GRAND or so in loans to get a degree that offers no guarantee of making much above poverty level income. What a bargain.

But putting the impossible financial equation to one side for a minute, if this is what I want to do I need to at least apply. But I'm not really sure if it's what I want to do. So, being unsure... perhaps I should wait til next year. But then (I hope) I might not qualify for financial aid. So maybe I should apply. Gah. And if I apply there's the whole question of where... and since I can't afford to move this year (and probably no longer have the credit rating to rent an apartment anyway) I am looking at low residency programs (you go for 2 week sessions each summer & the rest is by correspondence), which seem doable, but no cheaper, and we're still talking 20+ hours per week of school work on top of whatever I end up doing for money this year.

I am unable to make decisions without money. This is a serious handicap.

And then my mom called. To talk about how when she tells me about the guy who speaks to visions of people from the future and then can communicate with trees I should be more respectful of her beliefs (I said it sounded like a psychotic break). And that she will always love me, but she just doesn't like me that much. And wouldn't it be HORRIBLE if we ever had to live together? And her case manager reminds her of me, except she is compassionate. THANKS MOM.

So my productive intentions were once again undermined by psychic entropy. The road to hell.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

I'm not making any specific resolutions for 2010. If I make resolutions they are intended to be ongoing, not subject to annual election. I am however giving myself a challenge.... well, two challenges:

  1. WRITE EVERY DAY in 2010 (novels, journals, blogs, limericks, letters, stories, haiku on napkin... they all count)
  2. Keep a photo journal. Somewhat daily, no specific content requirements... I will cross-post from flickr for ya.


Beyond that, I have some general principles that I am working on, regardless of what year it is...

Do more. I want to spend more of my time actively engaged in doing, whether it's washing dishes or doing yoga or writing or reading or vacuuming or working or playing games or going for a walk. This means less passive media consumption and internet snurffing.

Make something. A stew, a collage, a painting, a novel, a website, a film. Whatever. Always have something in progress.

Be healthier. More exercising, less drinking, more raw vegetables, less takeout, etc... This month I am doing a detox diet coupled with experimenting with a gluten-free diet.

Participate. Find ways to work with others on projects I find interesting, take classes, get involved in community action, and think of other ways to engage with other people in active ways.


In terms of goals... they are in flux. I still have many of the same goals I did last year at this time and most of them have barely moved forward... or moved sideways. The problem with most goals is that they require a financial foundation that I simply don't have right now. Grad school, travel, starting businesses... all require some sort of investment. In February I will find out whether the freelance work for my old boss will come through and tide me over for this year. Until then, I am trying to organize my options in some sort of sensible way in order to understand what they really are and make a rational decision about what to do next.

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

I watched that film, It's a Wonderful Life, pretty much every December - sometimes two or three times - from as far back as I can remember. I liked the movie a lot as a kid, and although I rarely watch it anymore (saw it last year, but not this year).

I liked it when I was a kid because it was funny. Both the George Bailey character and Clarence are adorable clowns. I like it as an adult because it is a fitting parable for the particular misery of living hand-to-mouth.

The film does not have a happy ending, in my opinion. It is certainly a nice, uplifting ending, reminding us of the comfort of friends and family. But none of the problems that had led George Bailey to attempt suicide had been solved. Sure, the immediate financial crisis was averted, but George Bailey was left to continue with a life that at least part of him hated.

But he was supposed to have learned an important lesson. A lesson that the viewer can swallow like a harmless sugar pill: Your own desires are not important.

Did George Bailey make the right choice when he decided to take over the building and loan instead of seeing the world? The film asserts that he did. If he hadn't been around, Bedford Falls would have turned into an amoral and over-developed hellhole. His choice represents an interest in a good greater than his own happiness.

Frankly, I don't buy it. I think the players would have done fine without George and his affable generosity, despite the potential of Pottersville. I was always rooting for George Bailey to get the hell out of there, and I still am. 

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

27th-Dec-2009 03:52 pm - On Vox: I have a cold.

It's not a very bad cold. In fact it's one of the milder illnesses I can remember... My sinuses are about 40% stuffed up. My throat is just vaguely scratchy. I'm more tired and achey than usual, but not by much. Nonetheless I am taking the cue and lounging on my couch for the 2nd day in a row, swaddled in blankets, books, and handkerchiefs.

Sometimes when I'm sick I will do a juice & tea fast for the day - to keep myself hydrated and let my body concentrate on killing the virus, rather than digesting complicated foods. So today I've had emergen-c, water, yerba mate, and vegetable juice. And I really must not be all that sick, because I am STARVING. I think I will get some extra-spicy thai food for dinner.

And then perhaps I will watch the Dr. Who xmas special AGAIN! I can't believe it's the 2nd-to-last episode starring David Tennant.

I got a copy of The Talented Miss Highsmith for xmas (Patricia Highsmith's new biography). It's sort of fascinating, especially considering that the author seems to hold a certain amount of (justified) disdain for Highsmith. Apparently she was a racist and anti-Semite. Her personal life was chaotic, despite her solipsistic tendencies (it is even referred to on the inner flap as a "Pandora's Box"). She was an obsessive list-maker and left behind 8,000 pages of journals when she died. Her life is a rich territory. Still, this bio is a bit cumbersome... Mostly I'm interested in reading about writers' writing habits.

Being sick is dull. More tea!

Originally posted on kgi.vox.com

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