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.025 – Where’ve ya been, Lars?

Oh hey there, internet. I did not mean to run quite so far away. I just started going and then found myself somewhere near the end of it all and decided to turn around and start over again. It’s basically the story of my life.  How have you been?

 

The places I’ve been.

I’ve been quite busy while I was away.  I went to Dragon*Con, which my friend Alli and I discussed a bit on the Jaws/Raiders of the Lost Ark episode of Wrong Opinions About Movies. When people ask me about whether or not I think they should attend Dragon*Con I always give them an enthusiastic and slightly pushy ‘yes’. For me it’s the best weekend of the year, and even though I start out every con weekend with the same plan of attack, it always ends up being a unique experience. This con was no exception, as I did maybe half as many panels as usual, spending my time instead dabbling in costuming and hanging out with people I don’t get to see on a day to day basis. It gave the weekend an entirely different feel, but was still completely wonderful.

And while I was at Con–more specifically, while I was sitting in a Tactical First Aid panel learning how to deliver your babies during the mother effing apocalypse(!)–I got the email notification that a poem I wrote had finally been published online. I’m so excited!

I linked it around before, but in case you missed it you can read “HOPE for the AFFLICTED!” here at Exercise Bowler along with some other rad steampunk themed poetry.

I feel very grateful to Exercise Bowler, not only for posting poetry that I like on quarterly basis, but also for sharing something I wrote with the world. It’s my first published piece and I’m very excited to be able to produce things people won’t absolutely hate in the future. Let’s all raise a glass to that possibility.  

And in the theme of possibility, I’ve started a Tumblr Blog that I really want to share with you. I turned 30 while I was away, and while I’m not anymore stressed about 30 than I was about 29–because seriously, nothing can be worse than 25–I would still like to spend this year focused on learning about myself and my place in the world around me. So Wasting My Thirties is there just for that. Come learn with me. Come teach me. Come point and laugh and just be along for the ride.

 

The places I’ll go.

In the vein of the things I’ve been doing while I was away, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use this space. I want to use it talk about writing and share information about when my friends and I are published or start exciting projects, but I also want it to be fun and informal and a place for us to just chat. So here are some things you might see here in the future.

Wrong Opinions About ALL The Movies! Sometimes I watch a movie for the podcast and find myself unable to really discuss what it is about it that has affected me, partially because I’m incredibly dense when it comes to sorting out my own feelings and partially because conversations sometimes just don’t work that way. I also watch movies that aren’t going to be discussed on the podcast, but that I still feel a need to touch on somewhere. I’m going to start doing that here as I feel the urge to. The first movie will probably be Circumstance, because that film was so much more than the American trailer led me to believe it would be.

Research, the breakfast of champions! The other thing I want to start sharing more often is the off the wall research I do for the projects I’m working on. I write a lot of science fiction, mostly steampunk and cyberpunk, which leads me down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and peer reviewed magazines on a quite regular basis.  I think it would be fun to start sharing some of the more interesting things here. It would also give me an excuse to do that post on underwear my friend Chrysta requested.

Any old thing you want me to be! And to that end, because I want this to ultimately be a place you like checking in on, is there anything you’d like to see me post? Is there anything you just want to have a conversation about with another person? I’m here for all your conversatin’, distractionary needs! You just let me know what I can do for you and I’ll probably do it! (Because I’m easy that way. Just love me!)

 

So that is a plan. We’ll see how well I stick to it. If nothing else I have a draft of a short story due to someone by the end of October, so I really should get on finishing and fixing it, or possibly weakly calling for help. Whichever. You’ll know when I do.

.021 – Call and Response

I’m not quite as stupid as I let people make me feel.  I know this intellectually because I still have all those scores from different tests they gave us in school to try and separate out the chaff.  (This doesn’t work, by the by, there’s a lot of book smart chaff.)  I know this practically, because if I put my mind to mechanical things and cookery type things and artistic type things I can figure them out, even if I haven’t been taught how to do them.  Sometimes it’s just about taking something apart and putting it back together again, which is a quiet activity–except for the bouts of creative swearing–that lets me focus on my hands and not overthink the processes.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that the points in my life where I feel the most stupid are the points where someone, a person, is standing across from me asking me a question and expecting a response.

Soon.

Now.

Just spit it out already what is your problem why won’t you answer me don’t you want to talk me?

That.  I’m not good with that.

And it’s not even always that I don’t know the answer.  It’s just that finding the answer in my big, confusing brain decorated solely with non sequiturs is, well, it’s hard.

I recently went to a couple Big Fancy Art Museums (TM) with a friend I don’t see often because she lives very, very far away.  At each of them she wanted to know, before we had seen everything in the museum, what my favorite piece was.  If I could take one thing home, what would it be?  There’s nothing that makes my brain freeze up quite like a question like that.  That question is loaded with expectations, even if it isn’t meant to be.  The first time I came up with something.  I mean, the breath did kind of get knocked out of me when I turned a corner at the MFA in Boston and spotted John White Alexander’s Isabella and the Pot of Basil at the far end of a set of rooms, framed by successive door openings that forced the perspective.  The lighting in it is amazing.

The second time I didn’t even try to answer, begging off that I hadn’t seen it all yet.  I couldn’t possibly know. The real reason is simply that my brain doesn’t work that way.  I like to amble and wander and learn.  I like to take in everything and then sit with it for a little bit before I have to come back to it.  And ‘a little bit’ could be the afternoon.  It could be the day. The first time I read Camus I fell for his words with my heart, but it took my head a good week to really comprehend what was being said there, about life, the universe, and everything.

We like to think of intelligence as speed.  A person is said to be quick witted or a fast learner.  If you’re smart then your brain works like a cyberpunk hypejack.  The information buzzes through it at four times the speed of light, often lit up neon.  If your brain works another way, a more mechanical way, well then, the poor dear tries, doesn’t she?  Because very often my brain feels mechanical.  I have to put a lot of focus toward walking the halls in the way I’ve trained myself to and not just letting myself jump about.  I’m an ADD kid and I don’t take the medicine! is often my excuse.

I actually fear ADD medication more than I fear people thinking I’m stupid, because I don’t trust any drug that might alter my brain.  I worry that it will alter who I am.  I’ve spent 29 years becoming used to being me, for better or worse.  Why throw it all out the window now?  But it’s true, and it’s also an excuse.  It’s an excuse I feel I shouldn’t have to make.  But you know, there’s nothing quite like people cutting their eyes down when you screw up a word or a name or a Batman subplot or can’t collect an answer to their questions quickly enough.  It makes you cringe inward and want to hide.  That people walk away from me sometimes and think that I’m not interested or not interesting or dumb causes spirals of bad feelings I’m still kind of learning to control.  And I’m learning that coming up with an answer at any costs isn’t the right way to do it.  That doesn’t make people think I’m any smarter.

When you ask questions, be patient.  Be kind.  Understand that if a person cannot answer you at the moment it’s not that they don’t want to.  That person would probably like nothing more than to move the focus to someone other than themselves, if only they could come up with a way to shift it.

I say I’m stupid kind of a lot.  It’s a defense mechanism, you see.  It’s how I feel sometimes, because I’m just never going to win any races and a lot of the people around me can.  I’m proud of them.  I’m learning that that doesn’t mean I have to compare myself to them and feel out of sorts about it.  Everyone has a talent after all, and there are some very intelligent people who can’t change the tires on their car.  As we move into an age where everything is going to come faster and more technological, we should be conscious of making sure that the mechanical is still held in some regard.  Without it, we wouldn’t be where we were now at all.

This post was actually brought to you by a bit of musing about whether our ability to stave off age will make us less likely to require fairytales that focus on maintaining youth and beauty.  That’s just the weird, non sequitur way in which my mind works.

My favorite piece of art at the MoMA, by the way, is Rendezvous of Friends – The Friends Become Flowers by Max Ernst.  I’ve been a fan of Ernst’s collage work for quite a while, so seeing his paintings in person made me a bit lightheaded with excitement.  I would almost say it was surreal, but the way in which I’m not funny is a whole other post altogether.

.019 – Everything must belong somewhere (and other lessons I learned from indie folk.)

I have been away, friends, for which I apologize.  I didn’t mean to let this journal sit so long without an update, but I was very busy last month, which culminated in the week I just spent between Boston and New York.  I had a wonderful time and now I am back and, predictably, I just want to leave again. 

I spend many of my waking hours wanting to leave.  Right now I would very much like to leave work, but since this is my first day back, that’s to be expected.  Not that it’s any different than how I usually feel about work, but you know, it gets compounded.  Sometimes I want to leave a store I’m in, or wriggle my way out of an event I’ve promised to attend.  And there is a constant pitch of wanting to leave Orlando always buzzing at a low current under every other part of my skin.  To be plain, I feel like I’ve outgrown this place.  I need to be replanted so my roots have a larger container to grow into and fill.  Because of this, whenever I visit a different city, I always sort of feel it out with my feet and heart to see if it’s a place I want to be.  I’ll stand on a random street corner and ask myself if I can fill that pot, and the answer sometimes surprises me.

Boston was a pot I think I could fill.  I have friends there already.  It’s an old city that wears its history on its streets and while the city center appears to be dense and populated, the outer areas are full of wonderful, slower things, some of which are directly relevant to my interests.  I felt comfortable there.  As if I could just add myself and some water to the city and have an instant life.  (Not that I would have to add much water, since it was soggy and gross the whole time I was there.  I was strangely okay with that as well.  City lights reflecting on wet streets create some of the best art around.) 

I fell quite in love with Boston’s public transport and the creepy masked statues in Somerville and the parks that dot the area and the streets that you can walk and walk and seemingly never cease to come upon stores and tea shops and places to buy books.  I think I could be happy there for a while.  More than that, I think I could be happy there completely alone if I had to be, which isn’t a thing I usually consider when I fall for a city. 

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Because, when I like a city so much that I start fantasizing about my life there I worry that it’s just my wanderlust kicking in.  I fear that I like it only because it’s new and different and offers me a chance to pick up and move on.  I’m old enough to know that leaving a place won’t allow me to outrun my problems, but I’m not old enough to give up the thought that maybe if my problems caught up to me in a new place they wouldn’t be the same.  Sometimes I think that by the time they did I would somehow be better equipped to deal with them based entirely on my new location and different life experiences.

I have these fears, and then I will visit a city that I don’t fall in love with, in spite of all it has to offer me, and I realize that I’m more pragmatic than I give myself credit for.  New York is one of those cities.  I think that I could grow into New York, I’m not frightened by its size or its splendor, but there’s a pull in my gut that makes me feel like I wouldn’t really want to. 

While Boston offered me things that I didn’t know to expect, New York offered me exactly what I knew I would get.  It offered me things that thrilled me, and excited me, and made me happy for having come into contact with them.  It gave me paintings by Max Ernst and late night, near empty subway platforms and gorgeous architecture and a play that made me laugh so hard I cried.  As passionately as I feel about all of those things, the city itself always leaves me feeling detached and cold.  Maybe it’s because I don’t need to dig to find what I want and I can view New York as a means to an end.  Or maybe it really is all of the people, as I tell others when they ask what it is about New York that I don’t like.  Walking across Times Square after seeing our show Saturday night made me feel nervous and frenetic.  I couldn’t get away from that cluster fast enough.  New York doesn’t make me feel curious and free.  New York just exhausts me, in the same way that theme parks do.  I might be able to live in New York, but I wouldn’t want to be there alone, and I don’t get the feeling that I would learn very many positive things about myself if I did.

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The friend I was in New York with loves the city.  She looks at jobs there every once in a while and I think she would jump at the chance to be able to grow into it.  It’s still curious to me, after 29 years, how some people just know love of a place when they see it, and how they have the faith to be able to want and wish.  Even the cities I do think I’d like to live in, I don’t seriously pursue them.  It may be because I’m afraid of change.  For someone who worships at the alter of choices, I sure am bad at making them.

And so here I am, still wanting to leave, but feeling more at peace with the places I want to go, simply because I can recognize that there are places I don’t want to go.  Maybe one day I’ll get up the gumption to actually do it. 

 

 

.016 – You have made me very desperate.

The internet is for memes! (Or porn, if you’re of the over 18 set, but we’ll try and keep things here R or under.) There’s one floating around that tells you what part you play in the new Avengers film. I got this:

Lara Eckener is a member of Loki’s Army and married to Loki and is a/an Frost Giant.

I am perfectly pleased with this. Loki was my favorite thing about the Thor movie and I can’t wait to see the new Avengers film. Three days! Speaking of movies, let’s talk about something I watched recently that I found to be more inspiring than simply exciting.

More than occasionally, doing the Wrong Opinions podcast with Matthew Bowers teaches me things that I don’t think I would have run across otherwise. Sometimes it’s a bit of trivia. Sometimes I discover an actor or director I’d like to spend more time stalking. And sometimes I come across a new movie altogether that is simply wonderful. This weekend we were gifted with the latter.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a feature length animated film from 1926 by silhouette artist Lotte Reiniger. It’s considered the first feature length animated film and the only existing one from that time. We’re not actually sure what we have now is the way the movie was supposed to look, because it was considered lost and has been restored from rolls of silver nitrate and notes left by Lotte and others who worked on it. Made in Germany in the 20s, it tells the fairytale of Prince Achmed and some of his adventures. I spent a good amount of the first half of the film flicking through all the different filters we have to view this film with. Germany in the twenties, The Arabian Nights, early animation. It’s a fascinating artifact.

More than that though, it’s a gorgeous film. There are some bumps in the story telling, but the art more than made up for the simpleness of the tale. When I worked at Disney I sometimes helped out on the artist carts and would watch the silhouette artists do their work. One of the women would cut out intricate designs and scenes when it was slow and it’s incredible to watch the way their hands work and how sure they are as they cut away the negative space around the image they see. It’s that that I called back to as I watched this and marveled at how delicate and intricate the clothing was rendered and how clear the expressions of the characters were and how detailed the backgrounds had been made.

I really want to recommend this to everyone. I think I’ll buy the DVD and spend some time looking for other similar works. Searching Lotte Reiniger on Youtube will get you several of her animations. And in case you’re curious what us slackers have to say about it, you can listen to our latest episode. In it we discuss Prince Achmed, The Pirates: Band of Misfits!, and 21 Jump Street.

And if you’re interested in more animated features containing silhouette work, there’s also The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello, which I can’t believe I forgot to mention during the podcast.  Jasper Morello is a steampunk short film created in 2008.  It’s one of the very first things that I found when I was going on my mad dig for information about the genre.  It’s exciting and a little creepy and everything I love about an animated short.  The sillhouette work isn’t as intricate as Lotte Reiniger’s, but it’s in the same vein and lovely in its own right.

.013 – My hair’s favorite band is Bloc Party

There is a short OpEd piece from the New York Times making the rounds on my twitter feed.  It’s all about how the author thinks that adults should read adult books and leave the YA to the pre-teen girls.  I’m not going to link to it, because such a ridiculous and obviously baiting statement doesn’t need any more traffic than it’s already getting.  And while I realize that his opinion is ridiculous and obviously baiting, there was something else about it that caught me up short.  The author states that he himself is embarrassed when he sees adults reading YA and seems to somehow believe that his personal embarrassment should jump from him to the reader.  He clearly finds his feelings and opinions to be more valid or informed than that of the poor soul caught up in what he assumes to be a poorly written dystopian world.

I grew up in a pretty small town and I am very familiar with this kind of skewed mutual embarrassment.  The kind of embarrassment that you don’t really feel until you realize that the other person thinks that you should be embarrassed.  Then you’re almost obliged to give in to it out of propriety.  It took me moving away to college and several years of making poor decisions based on the wants of others to realize that this embarrassment was a thing that I could actually control.  Without getting too deep into the philosophy of it, I had the all too mundane realization that I am my own person and free to make my own choices.  What a relief that is, to know that I can do things that make me happy and not have to answer to anyone else with a twig up their hind end about my happiness.

I recently got a pretty daring haircut, for me anyway.  (I always want to go for the fauxhawk, and I always remind myself that I’m not quite that cool yet.)  While the response to it has been largely favorable I can still hear my mother and the people I left behind in that small town commenting on it in my head.  How silly and frivolous all of these brain phantoms find me.  Why don’t I just grow up?  Why don’t I stop wasting my time on concerts and writing stories about steampunk vampires in space and playing around on my movie podcast?  Why don’t I settle down and have children and buy a house like an adult?  I do wonder if the writer of the New York Times piece would agree with these voices.  And then I remember that it doesn’t matter, because I’m happy.  I can read YA in public.  I can wear ridiculous clothing.  I can get all the stupid haircuts I want, and anyone who wants to bring my happiness down must not find as much joy in such things as I do and therefor really aren’t worth my time.

I’m preaching to the choir here, but YA is a LARGE umbrella.  Stephanie Meyer is not JK Rowling is not John Green is not RL Stine.  If you don’t like Twilight (paranormal romance) that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy Looking for Alaska (young adult literary).  If you don’t like Harry Potter (fantasy) then you might like Goosebumps (horror).  Just like in adult books, there are different shades of YA literature with different intended audiences.  Honestly, while I wish I’d had Looking for Alaska as a teen, its message still rings true to me in my adult life and I’m very glad to have been able to read it.  I don’t personally think I could work in YA, given the types of stories I’m tempted to tell, but I greatly admire the writers who do.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of the most devastating and beautiful books I’ve ever read, and it’s only made better by the fact that it’s accessible to a younger crowd.

I almost pity people with the attitude of the New York Times piece.  How heavy must all of those societal restrictions they’ve built up around themselves be?  How boring must their very serious adult conversations become after a while as they circle around in the same, stagnant pools of approachable thought?  I think they must miss out on an awful lot, with their lists of approved reading and watching and listening.  It’s one thing to find something simply not to your taste, but it’s another thing entirely to look down on a whole genre simply because of the way it’s marketed.  Hey, if you try something find you don’t like it, at least you’ve given it a go and not written it off from the start.

I’m going home in two weeks.  I’m going to flaunt my ridiculous haircut absolutely everywhere and take pride in having allowed myself to become who I wanted to be, even as the adults around me try to make me someone else.

.008 – Admissions.

This morning I told a barista that I was a writer.  He was kind of giddy and riding the high of talking to a professional graphic designer, which is what he wants to be, and I commented that I understood that feeling of possibility that comes from talking to someone who is established in your chosen field.  He asked if I was a graphic designer too, and I said ‘no, I’m a writer.’

It came out so timidly that I had to repeat it, louder this time, which probably garnered me some looks from the Lazing About In Borrowed Armchairs Reading Papers set.  I don’t know if it actually did, but the thought that it might’ve made me feel uncomfortable, like I’d shown up naked.  I left quickly after that and spent a few moments in my car taking deep breaths and coming to terms with the fact that I had just told a complete stranger that I wrote things.

That’s all it means though, right?  I write things.  I write things all the time.  I even finish things sometimes, which I have the rejection slips to show for.  So I’m a writer.  Yet it still feels fake when I say it, because I don’t have the validation of a publishing credit, my FBHS senior class paper aside.  It still feels a bit like an excuse when it comes out.  That’s a personal thing, I know.  I have friends who hate the word ‘aspiring’, because to them aspiring means that you never actually put words to paper–or Scrivener, or whatever kids put words to these days–but to me aspiring feels like a shield.  Don’t expect too much of me, it says.  All these words amount to half things, it says, they’re unreal.  That’s a pretty terrible attitude.

It’s time I started thinking more highly of myself.  If I focus I can probably think this accomplished me into being.  (Hell, it worked with Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.  The universe did that just for me, don’t you know?)  I’m working on being published, but that work is writing.  I write things.  I’m a writer.  There, that wasn’t so hard.

*takes my chai and runs*

Portlandia: Dream of the 1890s

I was at jury duty all week and it threw off my schedule entirely. (My first time! I was put on a jury! I don’t even know.) It wasn’t my intention to start neglecting this blog so soon. I’m going to make a more substantial post later this evening, but I felt like I had to share this when I saw it.

It’s no secret that if I had money and a thin body I would be the dandiest of dandies, but for now I just spend a lot of time drooling over pictures of young men both new and 120 years old. So as a person interested in the dandy aesthetic and in the genre of steampunk, and also as a hipster who wants to move to Portland, I find this incredibly amusing. I hope you do too.

Mike Doughty @ The Social, reading from his new book The Book of Drugs

Sometimes I go to concerts with Lisa just because she likes people.  That’s why I went to see Mike Doughty the first time, way back when.  I like him, but I don’t listen to him a lot, so she periodically has to remind me that ‘he’s the guy from Soul Coughing’ and then the pieces will click together again.  Before tonight it never occurred to me that he might not want to be seen that way.

I cannot wait to read The Book of Drugs.  I’m just going to go ahead and rec it to you, even though all I know of it are the passages he read to us this evening and his general unease with the period of time in his life that the book portrays.  He talks about his checkered and sometimes painful past honestly and candidly, and more than that, he seems to have learned from it.  He doesn’t regret the drugs or the hurtful relationships or the twists and turns in the road that brought him to where he is.  He accepts them as parts of a whole life.  I try to do this, but sometimes it doesn’t work.  Sometimes I remember a thing that I did in the past and just shudder, because Christ, I used to be so stupid.  But, to paraphrase Sirius Black, we’re all idiots at some point.

Standing there tonight I felt a bit like some sort of future deja vu was echoing back at me.  I thought, when you’re in your thirties you’re going to think back on your twenties and conclude that they were hard, but when you’re in your forties you’re going to realize that it’s just life that is hard.  Not groundbreaking stuff, but stuff that I need to remind myself of from time to time.

It’s comforting somehow, to grow older and reasonably more functional with the musicians of your youth.

.002

Writers have ideas.  We have lots of ideas.  All of the time.  About everything.  Some of them we want to keep for ourselves, but some of them we want other people to write so we can roll around in them and absorb all of the awesome and loveliness.  And sometimes we’re presented with ideas that we didn’t even know we wanted until they jumped up into our laps, as I was the other day while flipping through Sense and NonSensibility: Lampoons of Learning and Literature by Lawrence Douglas and Alexander George.  In the chapter this is taken from, they’re detailing ‘Literary Mergers’ that the narrator thinks would be great hits:

Off the Road-

A skillful combination of Kerouac’s Beat novel with Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, in which Dean Moriarty hits the road–and is mysteriously never able to get off.  The irrepressible antihero becomes increasingly frustrated as he tries in vain to find an exit ramp that will lead him to the girls, drugs, and jazz he longs for.

I wish I could claim this idea for my own.  I wish I could make it intelligent and tongue in cheek and just a little sad around the edges.  I wish I could give Dean Moriarty and  Inès Serrano new breath that would make their fathers proud.  But alas, I am not yet up to tugging on a work of that magnitude.  So while I tinker away with my science fiction stories and my frivolous poems I’m going to play the scenes I want most over in my head until the universe makes them happen.  The universe does that for me sometimes.

This the part where you come in: Is there a story you’re dying to read that you want someone else to bring into the world just for you?  A story that you don’t feel capable of writing yet, or that you might just want to read in someone else’s voice?

I’m thinking about doing questions every Monday, but I make no promises and will therefore tell no lies.

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