Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Explanation Due

I'm going to sit here and force myself to write this post. I've been dodging it for days -- first because I was still a little raw, and later because I was just tired and didn't want to think about it. But an explanation I promised you, so an explanation you shall have.

The short version: I got rejected for a job I really, really wanted. It sucked. A lot.

The long version: A couple of months ago, while I was moving, I hinted at a "big thing" that I was involved in but wasn't talking about yet. The big thing on that particular day was an interview for a position at the local cable access network, a job which came as close to an ideal match for me as I have ever seen. It was a position as a facilitator for non-profit groups who wanted to produce content for the network; it involved mostly teaching production and working with the nonprofits to plan and execute their productions. As it happens, I've taught production on behalf of nonprofit groups, and met all of their requested qualifications. It was a real job, with a salary and benefits and vacation time, with access to a full studio and TV station in a casual work environment with good hours. It was a sweet fucking job, and I had everything they were looking for.

Anyway, I coasted through the first interview easily and knew I'd be invited back for the second. There was a brief moment of angst when they ran way late in setting up the second interview, but eventually they did. The night before, they hit me with a surprise assignment: I was to "teach" them a new skill in five minutes during my interview. I pulled a little electronics demonstration/arts-and-crafts project out of my ass and fucking delighted them. Then I waited. And waited, and waited.

And then they turned me down.

The station director was practically fellating me over the phone while she rejected me -- praised my passion and dedication, told me how much they'd loved me, how much she hoped I'd apply again if another position ever opened up. But they'd decided to go with someone with "more technical experience." So sorry, goodbye. And that was that. I was so fucking close, but still fell short. All the passion and dedication in the world -- the years spent doing damn near this very job for free, just because the work was important to me personally and philosophically -- still isn't worth a few years sitting at a desk at a station or production company somewhere. But hey, I didn't want to work for fucking lame-ass public access TV anyway. Really I didn't.

I went to work that evening still weepy, and was treated to consolation cocktails by friends that night. They played the crucial dual role of singing in the "fuck 'em anyway" chorus, while distracting me from my still-fresh wounds until they could scab over a little. I am very fortunate to have friends in town who will go to the trouble. Almost a week on, and I'm less bothered by it; another week from now, I expect I'll have mostly shaken it off. Two weeks more and I'll probably be ready to start planning my next bold move, whatever that turns out to be.

For the moment, though, I'm just trying to lose myself in everything else I have to do. My current job, while the pay sucks and leaves my economic situation constantly tenuous, and while it brings its fair share of crappy days, is at least flexible and laid back, and keeps me in the company of some good and interesting people. It could be worse. As long as I don't let people drag me into the shame trap ("32 and working in a bookstore? Tsk..."), and try instead to just make the best of where I am and the benefits it still affords me, I don't mind it too much. I wish I wasn't constantly broke, and I wish I wasn't always so tired, and I wish I could go see a doctor when I needed to. But I bear few responsibilities, am free to leave whenever I want for any reason, and get to read for free. It isn't all bad.

The irony is, now that I know I don't have this big thing happening, I'm officially free to take up a short-term position -- get this -- teaching kids how to make films. Assuming everything goes as I've been all but assured it will, I'll be spending the end of June and the beginning of July working with Film Action Oregon in their Project Youth Doc program, helping the kids crank out some films. And it should even pay, probably a bit better than Fnorders. Absurdly, being turned down for the job teaching people to make films on behalf of a non-profit group frees me up to do some work teaching people to make films on behalf of a non-profit group. It's just what I fucking do, you know?

Anyway, the shape of my summer is gradually becoming clearer. Most immediately I have to finish the Teacher Corps film, which is coming together, but too slowly for me -- it's like the hallway in Poltergeist: the faster I run, the longer the distance. The more work I do on it, the more work it still needs. I admit that while my theoretical estimate was accurate, the real magnitude of the work required to edit a piece of this scale was something I couldn't quite imagine. It's one thing to say, "well, it'll probably take this much," and something else entirely to be sitting there doing it hour after hour after hour, week after week. It'll get done, have no doubt. As it is I spend most of my non-working time editing. But it might be a while before I volunteer to do a project this big again, at least without it being my primary, paying job. Still, I'll be proud of having done it when it's finished. I just hope it's finished soon. I really want to not have to think about it anymore.

After all of this -- the film, the teaching project, the various personal transitions I have in the near future -- is over, I'm thinking about taking some time off from big projects, taking a couple of months to slack off guilt-free. I'll keep working my job, but giving myself some time to replenish my available supply of passion might be a good thing. I'm feeling pretty drained of passion right now, and it means that nothing sounds like much fun, nothing really seems worth doing. Maybe I'll sit around and watch movies every night, or lose myself in some mindless video game for a while. I'm thinking that it's about time I started expanding my circle of friends, so maybe I'll work in some volunteer time or something, or maybe I'll go out a few nights a week. Maybe I'll do some light experimentation with substances -- I've got a friend at work with a source for psychedelics, and I'm curious and ready to try. There's a lot I'm not doing because I feel like I'm constantly supposed to be working on something "important", and I think the pressure I'm exerting on myself is, if anything, getting in the way of doing the stuff I'd genuinely enjoy and find meaning in. All I know is, I'd like to have some time without anything hanging over me, without some existential "to do" list always running in the back of my mind. I'd like to be able to spend my free time doing whatever I want at any given moment, without feeling like I'm failing at something else in doing it.

It seems for the time being I'm stuck being a slacker who works at a bookstore. At the very least, I should be able to live like one for a month or two.
11:26 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Explanation later.

That is all.
11:13 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
We Bastard Offspring

The last week has involved an unusual amount of drinking with friends. Margaritas, mostly, and helpfully not on my dime (though I'll return the favor at some point; I'm no drink mooch.) I've got a few friends here who are finally showing me some of the many amusements and hang-out spots Portland has to offer, and it's about damn time, too.

Anyway, we talk a lot. About books and bands, about what we do when we're not at Fnorders, about graduate programs and culinary school and theater productions and who's gotten knocked up this month. (One thing I have to gently criticize Portland for is its relentless fecundity -- at least 30% of the population seems to be either gravid or actively lactating at any given moment. I mean it, enough with the damn babies already.) You walk into a place like, say, a corporate chain bookstore, and all you see are a bunch of semi-hipsters pretending to like you; but the reality is so much more interesting. There's hardly a person there who doesn't have big plans -- writers, actors, musicians, entrepreneurs, cooks, designers. And no, not all of them will fulfill their ambitions, but there are few genuine slackers on the staff. Most are just weathering a few harsh years between destinations.

Anyway, over the course of several tequila-laced conversations, we arrived at one striking conclusion: the generations that came after the Boomers were hit with an absolute epidemic of failed fathers. Of the fifteen or so people I've spoken to, not a single one had a good relationship with their father. I define "good" as being essentially engaged, not overly frought with tension, with some reasonably regular, positive contact. By which I mean, I'm not talking about "my dad is the greatest guy I've ever known" kind of good, but simply current, familiar, and non-hostile. We're not setting the bar terribly high here.

But even so, I can find very few in my general age range who aren't completely estranged from their dads for one reason or another. Mostly the dads are simply absent -- abandonment was by far the most common theme. A few had more severe problems in their families, and in a couple of cases it was the kids who had terminated the relationship. But the typical story was, "dad split when I was a kid/young teenager, and since then he's more interested in his new family/himself/booze/money/Thai ladyboys than me. So we don't really talk anymore." Then they break down into tears moaning, "daddy, why didn't you love me?" (They don't really, but that's the standard joke. Black humor is the other constant theme running through this conversation, and I'm inclined to think that there's a direct connection.)

Over and over again I've heard this. We hear a lot about how black men need to take fatherhood seriously and be better dads to their kids, but now I'm wishing someone had done a PSA to tell all our white, middle-class dads the same basic truth. Because apparently this problem isn't confined to the black inner city -- it's epidemic on all levels of society. It's just that nobody noticed when it happened to the white kids, because their dads weren't in prison -- they were just fucking other women in other cities and forgetting our birthdays.

Anyway, it's hard to tell what effect this has had on any of us, or on our generation(s) in general. The people I've been talking to are smart, educated, well-mannered young adults with pretty good prospects in spite of the shit economy they're inheriting. And while naturally such relations have a tendency to be strained at times, most of them characterize their relationships with their mothers to be good and generally close, which probably helped a lot. But I'm a little bit scared to see what happens when the first generation suffering from widespread daddy issues takes up the reigns of power (which may be happening in just a few more months now.)

One thing I've noticed in the last year: I'm much, much less angry at my own father than I once was. I wouldn't call it "forgiveness," exactly -- it's more like I simply can't be bothered to be pissed off anymore. A year and a half or so ago, I got an opportunity, sort of, to re-establish contact, and I ultimately chose not to do so, because it seemed to me that there couldn't really be any useful outcome for me in it. But I think that in finally being given a choice in the matter, in finally getting to make the decision for myself about whether or not I wanted to know him (which he had always made alone for all practical purposes simply through his absence), a lot of the resentment I'd held for so long was defused. I still think the whole situation sucks -- my dad fucked up in profound ways -- but it doesn't really matter anymore.

And maybe there are worse things than being part of a generation that will forever be trying to prove their essential worth to somebody who's not around to be proud of them. It seems to inspire a lot of us to care more about each other, to create substitute families out of our friends, and to acknowledge the importance of human connectedness. Maybe there's no real difference between emotional scars and tribal marks.

PS: Oh, apparently some politician came to Portland last weekend and a bunch of people showed up to see him or something. I don't know, I had to fucking work that afternoon.

PPS: Also, it seems aforementioned politician has neatly won our state primary. So did the gay guy named after beer, who is probably the most apropos mayor in the country now. Still waiting to find out what happens with the wee pirate (though to be honest, his opponent is totally acceptable too, so no big deal either way.)

Update: Lil' Cap'n Hook lost. But it's cool, the other guy is awesome, too. Back in Memphis, he'd have been a liberal's political wet dream.
7:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 09, 2008
Best Vote Ever

I voted today! Yay on me! In Oregon, all elections are conducted by mail -- there are no polling places, no lines, no confusion about where to go and what to bring with you. You register to vote, and a few weeks before "election day", they send you a ballot. You fill it out when you feel like it, send it back in by the official election date, and that's it. The votes won't be counted until May 20, so there's an element of delayed gratification, but in exchange you get time to contemplate and study your choices as thoroughly as you like. It's a brilliant and frankly fucking obvious system, simpler and more efficient (and more secure) than the electronic voting that half the country seems to be rushing towards blindly and stupidly.

Voting in Mississippi was always an exercise in frustration. There would be the usual ballot-full of choices, but they all amounted to voting for an old white christian conservative. The only real difference between one candidate and another would be one of degree -- the slightly less aggressively Christian conservative would be running as the democrat. Vermont, curiously, had the inverse problem -- there you were just picking one of a mob of old hippies. In both instances, no matter who won, you knew what you were going to get.

Which isn't to say that I didn't put in the effort. During the 2000 election, I took on the job of coordinating absentee voting for all the Americans at my school in London, making the trek to the US Embassy not once but three times. Mississippi made it fucking annoying to vote -- it seemed as though every move I made required notarization and four weeks of waiting. In the end, I got a slip of cardboard, a sheet of foam backing, and a bit of wire I was supposed to use to break a chad out of the card next to Al Gore's name. And we all know what happened after that.

In 2004, I was working in Hot Springs on election day, but took the morning off to drive home, vote, and drive back to finish the day. That, I think, was the worst vote ever. It sucked on pretty much every possible level.

This year has been stunning in that, for the first time in my lifetime, I feel like I have something to vote for, rather than a litany of crimes to vote against. I'm enthusiastic about the process. I have the rare luxury (though supposedly my right) of voting for the person I think is best for the job -- and I actually did. More incredibly, I find myself voting in an election that matters for the first time in decades, and voting for an historic candidate as well. I feel like this is the first vote I've ever cast that actually counts for something.

Today I voted for a tiny dude with a big-ass shiny hook for a hand for democratic nominee for US Senator; I voted for a slightly dandy gay guy who's named after beer for Mayor;* and I cast one of the votes that'll finally secure the Democratic nomination for Barack Obama. I filled in my little ovals sitting on my bed, taking time to look up candidates I didn't know online, with my ballot resting on my book about Weimar-era sexual perversion.

It was the best fucking vote ever. The only one that might top it will be the one in November.

*Please note, I voted for both based primarily on non-hook and non-gay/beer-related issues. Those qualities just happened to seal the deal for me. I mean, how many chances do you get to elect a wee pirate to national office?
11:48 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 08, 2008
Holy Shit!

A quick one-link post before I go to work, because this one requires no further commentary.

Those Unbelievable Believers

Christian demo tapes, y'all! And they fucking suck!

PS: Okay, just a couple of particularly vile ones to highlight:

Want More of a Tangy Yangy Yang (hey, I like RC, too!)

Hometown girl! "Treasures in Heaven (Intro)" by Judy from Portland.

Come Back, America

And my very most favorite of all... some kid with a drum kit.

I'm so inspired!
11:41 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 05, 2008
But A Gullible Parent Is Still The Worst Teacher

While at work yesterday, I got a call from a woman looking for a book for her young son. It's part of a nicely-done and very popular series, stuff I'd definitely get a kid if I had one.

Anyway, I'm talking to this lady on the phone, and she asks, "does it teach wizardry?"

This question could go one of a few different ways, but my immediate assumption is that the woman's a fundie who doesn't want her kid dabbling in the occult. (Of course, the next question would be, why is she even asking about a book called "Wizardology", then?) I answer that I think it has some little game to play, but that there's no actual, like, y'know, magic in it.

Her: "Well I'm looking for a book that teaches wizardry."

Oh, okay, some kind of Wiccan type. Me: "We have some books on magic in the metaphysics section... and then we have books on performing magic tricks..."

her: "No no, I want a book that teaches an 8-12 year old how to be a wizard."

Me: ...

There's a point in some calls when you realize that you can't help your caller. The most helpful thing you can do in those cases is often the very thing policy forbids you from doing. At that moment, the only thing I could think to say was, "madam, you do realize that wizardry isn't real, right? Wizards don't actually exist, magic doesn't work, there is no such thing as a book that teaches an 8-12 year old how to be a wizard. Because it's not real, there's no such thing. This is just a toy, it's make-believe, for kids to pretend to be a wizard. But it does not actually turn a boy into a wizard. We don't have any books like that, because it's fucking impossible. Sorry."

This is why I continually duck shelving duty in the religion section -- the whole concept makes me feel queasy. It makes me feel dirty. All those horrid Sylvia Browne books, the vile Christianist pap, and god, the Secret. Damn the Secret forever. One afternoon I sold a woman a book about magic wands -- which is to say, a purportedly "non-fiction" book about using a magic wand, that came packaged with a piece of wood that it claimed was, in fact, a magic wand. How am I supposed to feel good about myself after something like that? I wanted to grab her hand and force her to look me in the eye, and say, "you know this is bullshit, right? This whole section -- the astrology books, the tarot cards, the books about crystals and witchcraft and 2012 and the books about runes and all the bibles and korans and all of it... it's all bullshit. You can still buy them, you can even enjoy them and seek some meaning from them if you don't take it too literally or seriously, but it's all complete and utter bullshit. I wanted to make sure you weren't just blowing your money on a piece of cheap pine from China and thinking it would actually change your life. Because it won't. It's just bullshit."

Also, it annoys me that we refer to the section as "metaphysics." That's giving way-too-serious-sounding a name to what should be, to my mind, plainly labelled "hocus pocus." Or, even simpler, "bullshit." But then we'd also have to pull in all of self-help, most of the financial section, much of politics and government, all of the "whatever studies" sections, and probably roughly 50% of every other section in the store. And that would make it too hard to find things.

Speaking of awesome kids' books, though, can I just say that the kids' section has improved enormously since I was young? Some of the books are so gorgeous, and so well done, and just so fucking brilliant, I envy the little shits who get to be children today. In particular, the DK Eyewitness books for kids are so awesome that I want to have a kid just so I can buy them every damn one of these books. Whatever weird thing your kid has fixated on, DK has made the best kids' book ever on the subject. This library alone would put one's precious progeny well on the road to being the most awesome kid ever. I myself, as a well-educated 32-year-old woman of the world, want to read all of these books so that I can be a more interesting person. I've flogged at least half a dozen to aunties buying presents for nephews and nieces, and I'm proud of each and every one.

PS: I haven't mentioned the outcome of my big day last week because I still don't know exactly how it's going to end. It went pretty well. We'll see what happens. I promise I'll explain it all once I know how it's turning out.
1:18 PM ::
Amy :: permalink