Wednesday, December 31, 2008
So This Is The New Year

That was a pretty hard year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it was a bad year. It wasn't -- in fact it was a pretty good year in most respects. We got a lot done this year. It was just a lot of hard work. I'm coming to the end of 2008 feeling more like I've survived it rather than lived it. It's felt like an insular year, a year in which I just put my head down and pushed forward as best I could. And everything I did was what had to be done -- not always fun, not always what I'd have wished, but necessary in the moment.

Which isn't the most glowing appraisal ever, I know. But if 2007 was about generating change, for me, 2008 was about making those changes stick. It wasn't exactly a year for thriving, but it was a year in which just holding steady was in itself a small victory. Sometimes maintaining your position is the best you can do, I guess.

I admit to a little apprehension about 2009, the same as anyone else. There's so much potential for things to go wrong. But there's also such great promise of better things coming -- Bush is out, and a man who is his refutation personified will soon be in. I've lost a couple of people, but I've developed half a dozen very strong new friendships -- the former had more to offer, but if anything, the latter have a lot more to give. I hate my job, but I love my city. I'm still poor and often feel unappreciated, but I'm safe and secure and I have more now than I did a year ago.

Things fall apart. But there's always something new springing up just behind.

PS: Incidentally, does anyone know a friendly physicist and/or cosmologist who might be willing to answer some (probably pretty stupid) questions? They don't have to be professors or anything, just someone who has a solid grounding in the subject.
10:48 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Insert The Name Of Your Preferred Holiday Below

Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/Saturnalia/Newtonmass/Holiday/War On Christmas Day everyone!

I hope the Solstice Jellyfish brings you all sorts of neato stuff!
11:55 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Miscellaneous Post #213

I've got a little story I'm working on.

I'm not going to tell you anything about it -- it's not remotely time to start telling anyone what the story is. It's a tiny little embryonic story that still needs a lot of protection. But every time I write on the blog and ignore the existence of the story, I feel like I'm leaving out something important.

There's no prose yet. There are notes, and for now the notes are still roughly generalized -- not much more than a few first bits of framing. Mostly I'm just thinking about it in the scraps of empty time in between other things, in the bath, on the train, while falling asleep. Especially while I'm falling asleep. The abstract consciousness I fall into when parts of my brain have already begun to dream but others are still partly aware has become one of my most productive states. I've sort of passively nurtured an ability to hover in that state over the years, and to exert a certain amount of control while I'm in it. I can recognize and analyze my half-dreaming thoughts, even remember them accurately if I put some will behind it. And for someone like me, who tends to get quickly tangled up in self-criticism and second-guessing, removing my critical functions from the process helps a lot.

The basic idea behind the story is something I pulled up quite consciously in response to something else I read. The cool thing has been how it's begun to fill in during my dreams -- not just once, which has happened a few times before, but night after night. I can tuck myself in at night wondering, "how does X happen?" and if I can hold the question in my mind, that half-dreaming state will quite often start answering it for me. I'll wake up again briefly and think, "oh, right, of course," jot it down, and come back to it the next day.

The rule I gave myself about not worrying what happens to it after it's done has done me a lot of good. Not thinking about whether anyone will ever read it, or like it, giving it (and myself) total permission to suck if that's how it ends up, is something I think I needed badly. Fear of failure always fucks me over if I let myself worry about being judged; simply not giving a shit whether anyone else ever likes it seems to be the main thing that keeps me from smothering it, the way I do with so many other things.

This is the first time in years when creativity has just felt straightforward and fun and good.

It also occurs to me that I'd really like to add some breadth to the things I know. My college education has proven to be useful for exactly fuck-all so far -- which is fine, I'm all in favor of education for its own sake. But if that's the case, then why is there always so much pressure on narrowing the field of expertise? Why are we always learning more and more about less and less? Even at my cross-disciplinary little liberal arts college, the whole last two years were intended to be spent focusing narrowly on one well-defined thesis. It was like going to a buffet, spending one year tasting everything, another nibbling at maybe half a dozen different things, and then spending the next two years eating just the one dish you decided you liked the most. I left with a decent body of knowledge about my subject, but also with a fair amount of regret over all the things I didn't get to taste again.

Why do we always do that to ourselves?

On a similar note, I've been seeing evidence that our society is becoming increasingly autistic. I don't mean that individual people are becoming more autistic -- individually, I expect we're probably about the same as we've always been. But collectively, it seems as though we're becoming more easily obsessed with increasingly narrow, pointless activities. Like this kid who stacks dice, or this kid who stacks cups, and this kid who is a fucking badass with a yoyo. Individually, these kids are probably pretty typical, albeit with an unusual degree of achievement in their own quirky little niche. But I watch them do what they do, and while it's cool, having spent a few minutes on it, I leave feeling like the time I spent watching them was mostly wasted. And then I think about the amount of time they spent getting that fucking good at whatever it is they're so fucking good at, and the mind does begin to reel a bit. So much energy, so much effort spent becoming almost super-humanly good at something so completely, utterly useless.

Which all sounds pretty dickish -- the kids obviously derive pleasure from what they've learned to do, so I'm not about to say they shouldn't do it. And I'm sure that with single-minded dedication like this, these kids are all capable of doing very useful things in the future. There's definitely a place for obsession in human endeavor. But this, like so many other things we do -- obsessive involvement in WoW, for instance, or celebrity worship/torture, or all of reality television -- starts to look awfully similar to the deranged, repetitive, pointless pacing of animals tightly confined in a zoo. Our lives have become so cramped and insular, so devoid of meaningful contact, and our energies so frustrated, that they're erupting weird, obsessive, useless actions.
2:33 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, December 21, 2008
The Blizzard of Aught-Eight

So yeah, apparently we're having one of the worst snow storms in recent memory here in Portland. It's not too bad. We have, I'm guessing four inches of snow on the ground -- it's been snowing for most of the last week, but this is the first time we've gotten any real accumulation. Mostly it's just been a half-inch at a time of heavy wet slush that melts off the next morning. Tomorrow may be a different story; it's already starting to turn into freezing rain out there, and the temperatures tomorrow are supposed to hover right around freezing all day and into Monday. So things might turn properly nasty by morning. But for me, the worst-case scenario is that I get an extra day off work. Here's hoping.

And it's not like I can't handle a bit of snow and ice. I see a lot of people who are woefully unprepared, walking around in sneakers and hoodies in a horizontal snowfall. The other thing I keep noticing is the reliance on chains for cars. It's interesting how different regions deal with this problem -- in Vermont, which gets craploads of snow every year without fail, people generally just rely on knobby snow tires. In Anchorage, which gets considerably less snow, absolutely everyone had studs. Here, the standard seems to be tire chains, even on the highways, even in the upper elevations where snowfall in the winter is normal. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the typical assumed volume of snow and the ridiculousness of the measures taken in response. Down south, I have no doubt, the rednecks would break out tank treads for every light dusting if only they had them.

Anyway... snow, crazy.

Oh, and today is my friend Randy's birthday. He's essentially my oldest friend by duration, as I met him my first week at college. Back then he drove a red Fiero, had a mullet that hung to his waist, consistently wore blueblocker sunglasses, and carried a water bottle filled with dilute lemonade-flavored KoolAid just about everywhere. Today he lives in Manhattan, has a respectable haircut, seems partial to Eddie Bauer, and teaches at some sort of high-end elementary school. And the greatest thing about Randy is, no matter how much time passes, whenever I do get to see him it's always the same. I never have to get re-acquainted with him, it's just cool.

So happy birthday to Randy -- you should still come to Portland sometime.

Update: As of Monday night, our total accumulated snowfall for the last week is 13 inches. Apparently the last time it snowed this much here was 1968. I've managed to remain hidden indoors for most of it, but tomorrow I'm going to have to make an attempt to go do some things; god only knows how much of a pain in the ass it's going to be. I wish we could at least get the public transit situation under somewhat better control -- North Portland feels terribly cut off right now.
2:20 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Winter, Discontent, Blah Blah Blah...

We've been glazed over with ice here for the last few days -- is it just me, or did the entire country get hit with an ice storm last week? It hasn't been too bad, though. I got out of work early one day, and since then I've been getting around the same as always, albeit stepping a little more carefully. If anything, it's nice to get something that actually feels like winter.

Christmas is again passing in a cloud of ennui. The holiday itself should be nice enough -- I have the benefit this year of having actual friends, so I also have plans for fun stuff to do. That alone is a big improvement over last year. But I can't help wondering whether poverty plus a shitty job is going to permanently associate this time of year with mild angst and depression for me. I've always loved Christmas, but there's very little enjoyment in it for me these last couple of years.

I've been suffering from minor bouts of middle-of-the-night anxiety the last few weeks, but I can't quite figure out why. There's nothing going on, no imminent concerns or worries -- I think I might just be tapping into the free-floating collective anxiety that seems to be consuming everyone right now. Things have already been stagnant for years, and to think that we might only be at the beginning of a much bigger downturn is genuinely depressing. And given how many people I come into contact with in a typical day, it's difficult to avoid noticing how worried everyone is. The biggest impact for me so far is only in the absence of any better situation to jump to. This is not a good time for moving up to better things.

We literally having lawyers applying for jobs at Fucking Fnorders. We had a Harvard graduate apply for the same shitty job I have now. I look at people eight, ten years younger than me, and I wonder if this is going to permanently alter their perspective. They've been promised everything all their lives, and even the ones who've fulfilled everything ever asked of them, who still end up stuck here, it must all seem like a major betrayal. And I know that a lot of them, of us, look at the previous generation with intense envy and a certain amount of resentment. I, at least, have the edge of my bitterness dulled by the knowledge that I'm here by choice -- grudgingly, but at least it's my own.

Meh, enough of this.

Last week, while drinking a bad margarita at a gay strip club downtown with my friends, I turned to my friend Rick and said, "what if I told you that when I was 17 I got pregnant and had a baby and gave it up for adoption?" I can't remember why I said it -- we were joking about something, and all I know is that the question made some sort of sense at the time. I think I was just trying to get a rise out of him. Anyway, his eyes got big and he said, "really!?" And I said, "pffft, of course not. But what if I had?" Still, Rick was captivated by the idea, and I think because of the a) basic plausibility of it, and b) my inadvertently convincing delivery, he half believed it had really happened. He continued to ask me for the next couple of hours, "okay, but seriously... did you?" I denied it -- because I've never even been pregnant much less given a baby up for adoption -- but found his credulity hilarious and started expounding on the details of the story, while still insisting that it was entirely false.

Anyway, yesterday I told our friend Turner about the exchange, and he had the excellent idea of planting a rumor for Rick's benefit that I'd recently been contacted by a sixteen-year-old boy who believed me to be his biological mother. All I have to do is continue to flatly deny it -- which is the truth, after all -- and let him suspect whatever he likes. It's a bit evil, but I like the absurdity of it.

As always, apologies for my silence. It's a little bit hard to get very enthusiastic about anything right now. I have, however, taken to writing lately, just not so much on the blog -- if anything, my non-blog writing has directly contributed to the quiet around here. It's nothing serious, just some casual wordy puttering, but it still constitutes a jump in my productivity. I'm thinking that I might like to write something substantial this year. Not with any intention of getting it published, or even very widely read, but only to have worked through the process one more time. And again, rather than even worry about its prospects for publication, to instead self-publish on the tiniest of scales -- eight, maybe a dozen hand-printed, hand-bound copies. To learn how to use lead type and a letterpress, learn how to bind, and do the entire thing myself, just for the sake of starting with nothing and ending with books.

I've been taking a break from editing (still editing, god, the pain) for a few months at the advice of filmmaker friends, because it was getting to the point that I could no longer even see or understand what I was doing with the MTC film, and had ground to a painful, angst-y halt. So I asked a few people who know the process better than me (for having gone through it many more times than I have), and they gave me the brilliant advice to just leave it alone for a while. Which is advice I already knew, but had trouble applying to myself, I suppose. It was a considerable relief to hear them say, "so you have 30-some-odd hours of footage and you're editing in your free time, and you're surprised that it's taking you forever, and that you're now having trouble getting over the hump? Better filmmakers than you have taken years to complete projects like this. Put it aside for at least a few months, and then come back to it. Everything will make a lot more sense when you've taken some time off from thinking about it."

So that's what I've done. It's been a couple of months now, and I intend to wait until I'm clear of the holidays to pick it up again. I really do want to get it finished, but not having to think about it all the time has been a big boost to my morale during a season when good morale is hard to come by -- it was getting so that I was feeling like a failure. It was invaluable to be reminded, especially by people who know how this stuff works, that feeling like a failure is sometimes just part of the process; and that furthermore, feeling like a failure and actually being one are two different things. Those are the people I need to keep around me.
7:03 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, December 05, 2008
Do You Know What Today Is?

Yup, that's right! It's the 75th anniversary of the final repeal of prohibition! Yay booze! And it's a Friday, so unless you have a crappy job like me, you probably don't even have to work tomorrow, so you should go exercise your not-constitutionally-forbidden right to get totally and appallingly shitfaced! Except that I also don't have to work tomorrow, or even today, because I'm smart and planned ahead. Because before Fnorders closes tonight, and quite possibly well into tomorrow, I intend to be in no fit condition to work! Because tonight I'm going to get as drunk as I'm likely to get all year! Yay me!


Sister's buds all rush to buy her a pint of the one beer she likes

So yeah, me and my friends're all going out tonight -- dinner, then tiki cocktails, and then the neighborhood bar where the main bartender declared me "his new favorite" (though he probably says that to everybody.)

Sister's stable of boyfriends compete to see who can charm their way home with her

Finding myself with a little extra cash, my special 75th-anniversary-of-the-repeal-of-prohibition gifts to myself were tickets to go see the Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! live show in January, and the MST3K 20th anniversary boxed set. Because while I don't watch very much TV, I'm apparently nearly fanatical about cultish basic-cable comedy shows. And tomorrow I'll probably go see Synechdoche, New York, because I also love cultish, incomprehensible films.

What's that, Amy? You want us to play Tears for Fears' "Head Over Heels" on an endless repeating loop? Sure thing, you got it!

I happen to know that one of my friends is giving me a copy of a certain fucking-amazing film on DVD because I've been wanting to do a Wicker Man/Zardoz double feature for a couple of months now.

Malibu for everyone!

Some people think it's silly to celebrate the repeal of a misbegotten constitutional amendment much past, say, the 20th anniversary, or at least unseemly to make a big thing out of it. But no matter how much time passes, I always find myself in a good mood on December 5th every year. I guess social liberties just make me all sentimental.

Yay me!
2:11 PM ::
Amy :: permalink