25 lessons in 25 years

Heya,

I turned twenty-five a couple days ago and in honour of … myself, I’m going to tell you twenty-five things that I’ve learned in my quarter-century of life.

The thing with learning is that the most important lessons are integrated without us really being aware that we’re learning. We don’t remember the moment we understand how multiplication works, but at some point the concept clarifies itself. Most of the things we remember learning are at least a little weird. Did you know that you have taste buds in your small intestines? If you didn’t, I bet you’ll remember it. Because it’s fucking weird. This list comprises some of the weird things I’ve learned in my life, mixed in with some serious things, as they occurred to me, on this day.

  1. Be polite.
  2. When paying for parking, if there is an option to “Add time” to your spot, always try that one first. The worst that can happen is that it tells you it can’t do it. And sometimes you only have to pay for an hour and you get six.
  3. If you speak with conviction, more often than not you will be believed. Even if what you’re saying is that “ghost” is pronounced “g-aw-st”. They won’t always believe you for long, but they will believe you.
  4. Other people know the conviction trick.
  5. You know how you’re not really paying attention to other people a lot of the time? Other people are the same, so don’t worry so much about how you’re coming off to them because chances are they’re thinking about themselves.
  6. We are all narcissists. But knowing and admitting that you’re a narcissist is a huge part of not being a dick about it.
  7. Despite being narcissists, there is such a thing as altruism. Don’t believe the economists.
  8. If you’re at a buffet, LEAVE THE SALAD FOR THE NEXT ROUND. Seriously, they’re not going to run out of salad. You know what they are going to run out of? Bacon.
  9. On the theme of buffets: you know how there is always a bewildering platter of cold cuts midway along the table? Yeah, what you want to do is, grab a bun (there will always be buns, if there aren’t buns, drop the plate and walk away, you can’t trust the quality of that buffet), put it in your left hand, and balance your plate on top. Do as you will until you reach the cold cuts (and sometimes there’s cheese, take cheese at your discretion). When you get to the cold cuts (and possible cheese) grab a few, put them on the edge of the plate. When you get back to your table, make a sandwich with your bun and cold cuts. Wrap it up in a napkin. Put it in the pocket of your coat. Because usually events with buffets last a long time. You’ll eat, you’ll get seconds, some people will talk about whatever. By the time you go home, hours will have passed since you at dinner and you’ll be starting to feel peckish. And then you’ll remember: your Road Sandwich! Glory in exultation and eat said Road Sandwich.
  10. Women’s jackets tend to have sub-par pockets.
  11. Unless you’re in a hospital or a McDonald’s ball pit, there is no reason for anti-bacterial soap. Bacteria is good. Bacteria is necessary. Just use regular soap, it’s fine.
  12. If you’re tired and on public transit, sit in a two-person seat next to the window. You can lean your head against the window, and while someone weird might sit next to you, no one will make you get up.
  13. You are statistically unlikely to be trampled, no matter how short you are.
  14. That being said, maybe avoid the pit?
  15. “Perfect” isn’t a real thing.
  16. There is nothing new under the sun, there are just movable pieces and interesting configurations. Don’t stress out about originality, because it doesn’t exist. Anything that seems brand new only appears that way because you didn’t see how the sausage was made.
  17. The world doesn’t owe you anything.
  18. You’re never done learning.
  19. Celebrate the little moments. Sparklers are pretty cheap.
  20. Glitter is the herpes of arts and crafts. It never really goes away. You’ll think it’s gone and then *BOOM* glitter. That shit is viral.
  21. If you park your car in the sun, crank your wheel around so the top is facing down. That way, when you get back in your car after it’s spent hours baking in the heat, you’ll be able to steer without burning your hands.
  22. Never say, “I’m the kind of person who–” unless you follow it up with something self-deprecating. Otherwise you sound like a douche. Sample sentence: “I’m the kind of person who can’t be with just one person.” Douche. “I’m the kind of person who sharts when they’re nervous.”
  23. “Shart” means to shit a little when you fart.
  24. In the same vein as #22: you do not get to give yourself a nickname. That’s not how nicknames work.
  25. Make the last words you say to the people you love “I love you.” No one can ever hear that enough, and at any given moment the last words you say to someone may be the last words you ever say to them.

I’ve learned other things, like algebra and the difference between “affect” and “effect” (helpful alliteration: “The arrow affected the aardvark. The effect was electric.”) but this is the list that came to me in the moment and I think it’s legit.

Love,

B

How did Martin Luther write 95 of these things?!

Heya,

I’ve been MIA, and I apologize. I would say it’s not going to happen again but, let’s be real, it’s going to happen again.

For the last few months I’ve been working and trying to care about my thesis enough to write it. The first has been going well, the second not so much.

The problems with writing my thesis are plentiful but they largely boil down to the fact that my program doesn’t do theses the way that many other programs do. I’m not supposed to make an argument or prove a point, I’m supposed to clinically lay out the process of completing a large project I undertook during my work-study period. The project that I’m talking about started in May of last year, launched in mid-December and concluded in mid-January. It’s psychologically so far in my rear view mirror that it’s practically indistinguishable from the horizon.

I’m trying to find ways of making it entertaining for myself but, of course, as it’s academic writing, I can’t use the first person, which I’m discovering is at least a little bit necessary for peppering in off-kilter commentary and inside jokes.

I’ve been alright, other than the existential angst of non-writing.

And yes, my title is a joke about one of the foundational moments of Protestant faiths. Because everyone love a good Martin Luther joke, right? Right?!

Right.

I have a history of getting bored with essays and, as a result, doing weird things. I had one class in undergrad that no one understood the point of. I don’t know that the prof understood the point. It was an interesting class, don’t get me wrong. It was about connections between German and Japanese literature. We read Nietzsche and Mishima (both messed up dudes, though only one attempted a military coup and followed it up with ritual suicide. So messed up is a pretty broad landscape, I suppose), and it was all very interesting and engaging in the classroom when we were having discussions and debates, but when the time came to write papers, we all realized that there was no point. And not in a nihilistic, Nietzsche, existential crisis kind of way. In more of a “what kind of argument am I supposed to make here? Is this class just an intellectual fan-gasm?”

I wrote my paper entirely in aphorisms. Because Nietzsche.

I also wrote a paper called “The Transgender City” about the city of Thebes in Antigone. I can’t remember why. It was an undergraduate lit course, so probably something about the male gaze and … I don’t know. Oppression.

I’m kind of scared of what I’m going to do with this paper. I’ve already contemplated writing it entirely from the perspective of a post-it, but I can’t think of a title that’s appropriately academic (or, in layman’s terms, “douche-y and pretentious”) for a thesis. Though this thesis is supposed to be helpful to people in my field of study. Maybe I should just call  it “Post-Its Are Important”.

Because they really fucking are. If you’re not on the post-it bandwagon, you need to sort your shit out and climb on up with the rest of us. Post-its are life. They are king. They are the only way I remember anything at all these days.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Anyway, that’s me. How are you?

Love,

B

Do you see? DO YOU SEE?!!

Heya,

Long time no speak.

About…a month ago I came on and deleted all the blog writing prompt posts where I didn’t actually say anything and got rid of the posts in the queue, because I know I’d be super fucking annoyed if I kept getting writing prompts sent to me on a daily basis (though I know some people would probably pay for that). I then planned on writing a post about how that experiment had failed.

Then I got distracted.

I have a job now. I mean, I had a job when I started this blog, but it wasn’t a show-up-at-an-office five-days-a-week kind of job. It was more of a part-time, fit-it-to-my-schedule kind of job. And my job has been in the process of moving offices for … oh, all summer up to the present. We’ll be on our third workspace in as many months soon.

There have been problems. There has been a lack of office supplies and space to spread all my stuff out in (I like to spread out–it’s a big part of why I always try to be early to … everything. If you’re early, you get first dibs on the available space).

But that’s not what I want to write about today.

I want to write about what I’m working on that isn’t work. As a rule of thumb, I don’t like to talk that much about creative projects. Not out of any sense of proprietorship or anything like that; more because I like to keep things loose and not feel like there’s any kind of structure being imposed on me. I feel like telling people about what I’m working means that I have to do what I tell them. And I don’t like feeling like I have to do things a certain way.

I think there’s also a danger of spending more time talking about the project than actually doing the project, and that as valuable as dialogue is, sometimes you have to just take the leap on faith that you’ll figure it out. Sometimes people introduce problems that make the project seem like something unattainable. And not in a sexy way.

Okay, so

Looming Projects

  • The Quarter: my friend turns twenty-five in the not-too-distant and her apartment is full of empty walls and canvas that she keeps meaning to paint, so I’m painting her a picture of a 1989 Canadian quarter. I was originally just going to paint it, but after a while, that started to seem like something that would only be interesting to look at for a brief span of time. Then I got something in the mail that was packed with a bunch of sheets of cardboard. I’d already painted the background of the painting. So I decided I’d paint the cardboard in varying shades of grey and jigsaw a quarter together out of pieces of cardboard in different tones of grey.
  • The Journal: my other friend is going on a Bedouin adventure across Western America. She has no particular itinerary, she just knows it’s going to be across Western America. She’s going to work on some farm communes along the way. I’m trying to restrain the part of my brain that is saying, “Cult, cult, cult, cult” but it’s hard. I’m trying to set up a weekly Skype date for us, both so that we can keep in touch and so I can subtly check her for signs of brainwashing. I’m only somewhat exaggerating. Oh, the journal! So, I bought a really plain, hardback journal and a road atlas. I’ve scanned a bunch of the maps of the west coast, and I’m in the process of covering the journal with them. So she can write in her journal, and also mark the places she’s been on the cover.
  • Dustwallets: I have inherited a hatred of dustjackets from my dad. When you try to read a hardcover with a dustjacket on it, it gets all bendy and slips off and is just generally a giant nuisance. About a month ago, I was reorganizing my bookshelves and found a cache of dustjackets that I’d stripped off my books. I was going to recycle them, but that seemed wasteful. So I googled paper crafts. One of the things that came up was how to make a wallet out of paper. So I’ve been gradually working through a pile of dustjackets, making them into wallets. Some are more complicated than others – you want certain things to fit on the front and back, certain things to be in the pockets, etc., for the look of the thing, and sometimes the dimensions just don’t work and you have to figure something else out. It is both engaging and kind of mindless. I’ve just started sewing them rather than just taping them together. Fucked my fingers up really bad on the first one. I’d never done enough sewing before to appreciate thimbles. I appreciate them now. That’s an ongoing project. When I have time or I’m feeling the urge, I paw through my pile of dustjackets and make one. I don’t know what to do with them. I’ve give a few away to friends and family members (I’m really proud of how the one I did for California turned out). I’m not entirely sure that it’s better to turn them into wallets if I don’t do anything with the wallets, either…
California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki

  • My Mother Says: This is a play that I’ve been working on for years now, at the behest of a friend of mine. It’s about the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. I’ve done a lot of research into it, but I have a lot of trouble connecting with it. I come at story from a place of character, and I’m struggling to get a grasp on the characters. I also don’t want it to be limited, thematically or in terms of the time it’s dealing with. Because the larger implications are of history repeating itself. The internment is not widely known of, and it’s not the first time the government of Canada has done something like this. If you ignore your mistakes, if you believe you’re above those who came before you, you blind yourself. Everyone likes to think they’re not capable of bowing before that kind of pressure, that kind of fear, but most people have never been put in that position. And you never truly know what you would do in a situation until you’ve faced that situation and acted.
  • Merde Creek Chronicle: Is a graphic novel. It’s an online graphic novel. It’s sort of the inverse of My Mother Says. I feel like I understand the characters and the setting, I have an idea of where everything is leading. I have the URL (and now so do you – there’s one post on there right now. It’s from 2012 and it’s about building an author platform. Holy fuck, it’s almost 2015.) I just don’t know how to execute it. I can draw, but the amount of time it would take me to draw something that I would be satisfied with far outweighs the amount of time that it would take me to write something that I’d be satisfied with. And I’ve always been particularly attracted to the idea of doing really rough sketches, just pencil sketches, the minimum required to get the point across, maybe with some concept/character art on another page that’s had a bit more energy put into it, and letting people fill in the blanks. Use there imagination. That would also let me play with the format a bit more, with the minutiae. Make it part comic, part script, part short story.
  • Kindred (working title): fantasy with some sci-fi, in the Arthur C. Clarke sense. I don’t want to get too into it (commitment issues and all that), but I can say that there’s a civil war, a desert, and genetic engineering/mutation. At present. I’m not entirely sure what’ll get slashed in the end. If I get to the end.

And there’s the rub, really. The juggling. Always the juggling. In some ways the job I’m doing is deeply satisfying, in large part because it is so different from my creative projects. But it does absorb a lot of the energy I’d like to dedicate to these projects. It’s not a matter of finding the time. It’s a matter of finding the energy, both physically and emotionally.

I’ve started doing cardio in the mornings, in part because it’s good for my heart and lungs and anxiety levels, but also because I’ve been told that it raises your energy levels. We’ll see, I guess.

Oh, and in case you missed it, the title of this post is referencing South Park when South Park referenced Silence of the Lambs.

Love,

B

Reading: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (why the fuck is everyone called Petrov(na) or Romanov(na)(vich)? What is Russia?)

Listening: Zaba by Glass Animals

Watching: The Cornetto Trilogy on repeat, because I don’t have the mental capacity for anything more complicated, and I like how they make fun of movie cliches without being dicks about making fun of movie cliches

Global warming and incipient terror

“Do you wanna get really terrified? Ice caps are all melting, and we’re gonna die.”

– “Do It With a Rockstar” by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Heya,

Just read this article on President Obama’s move to reduce US CO2 emissions. I’m not from the US, and the bypassing of Congress and “checks and balances” and potential American job loss are all things I’m not going to comment on in this post. I’m not going to talk about strategic positioning relative to China.

What I’m going to talk about is more on the personal Sword of Damocles side of things, so buckle up for safety.

The article talks about how climate change has generally just been paid lip service in politics. It’s a talking point, that gets touched on at the tail-end of speeches made during campaign season. It’s an annual gathering of a select group of world leaders that leads nowhere.

It’s also the Made in China tag on more than half of the products in North America.

It’s Respirator Masks.

It’s terrifying, and I’ve been feeling a kind of incipient terror about it for most of my life, a low-level anxiety that means I will carry around an empty can for blocks rather than throw it in a garbage can. Because that shit is recyclable, and the ice caps are melting, and I need to “do my part.”

“Do my part.” Like it’s a war. And in a sense, it is. But a war on who? Certainly not the environment. The environment in Private Ryan in this scenario. The enemy is established patterns of behavior. In laziness. In legislation.

And I’ve been frustrated because, despite my desire and the desire of nearly everyone I know (and I am a Canadian in the province that birthed Greenpeace, so I might be a biased sample, but I don’t think I am) to “do our part,” the problem is bigger and scarier than our efforts can address. There’s a book I own but haven’t read yet called The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, and part of why I haven’t read it is because, from what I have read, it seems to confirm a lot of the boogeyman I’ve been living with, and likely to introduce more.

The majority of pollution comes from the industrial sector and there are so many things that people making most of the money could/should be doing before any one person needs to feel anxiety about their aluminum can. But most of the people making most of the money will do what they’ve been doing, what’s been making them money, until they’re forced to stop. Until they’re legislated to stop. Until it becomes so inconvenient and illogical and costly to do as they have been, that they have to rethink the way they do things.

It sometimes seems like political parties are more concerned about who will get the credit (or blame) for legislation than in the passing of it. Even if something is generally accepted as fact (like climate change) and it is widely felt that something needs to be done, nothing is accomplished. A politician would rather hamstring their opponent than help their constituents. Which is, I guess, sort of talking about the bypassing of Congress, but really it’s just a general statement about politics and general confusion about the term “public servant.”

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you right now. Except to say that I want to be more hopeful about this legislation, about the potential for humanity to become more conscientious denizens of the world, than I can find it in me to be.

Love,

B

On optimism and boxes

Heya,

I interviewed two amazing artists for Repurposed a while back – Valerie Arntzen and Christina Norberg, in case you’re interested. The profiles themselves will go live when the first issue of the magazine launches.

Anyway, they’re both artists who work with reclaimed and repurposed materials, and talking to them put a point on something I’ve been thinking about/feeling in relation to both repurposed art and art in general.

There’s something wonderfully optimistic about reclaiming, repurposing, upcycling, and whatever other words might be applied to it. The Maker movement, the DIY trend, homesteading, the efforts that people make that counteract decades of advertising us that new is better and planning obsolescence.

I hate the word “millenial” but apparently it’s the word that has been landed on to define my generation. Anyway, I read about how apathetic my generation is (apathy seems to be a common complaint of the older generation about the younger generation, by the way), and it strikes me that, at least for me, it’s not so much being apathetic as being overwhelmed.

We are the future leaders of the world, apparently. And what a world we get to lead. We have global warming, which world powers only periodically seem to give a shit about. We have rampant world hunger. The bees are dying, so there’s the question of pollination and future food supplies. Genetically engineered crops that live only for a year and seed other crops so that they won’t grow again, thereby forcing farmers to purchase seeds every year where previously they had renewed themselves. Numerous other species are on the verge of extinction. Daily, we inhale oxygen that is more and more contaminated with carbon monoxide and other harmful gases than at any other time in history. We’re all over regulation regarding cigarettes, but hybrid/electrical/other cars are still barely a blip on the market despite the rapid exhaustion of natural gas stores in the world. We pollute our groundwater to the point that in various parts of of the world there is no drinkable water that isn’t bottled. And even in countries where the tap water is drinkable, we still buy bottled water rather than drink it.

There’s more, but I’m making myself tired and sad and existentially anxious.

Which is sort of the point of all this.

One of the things that came out of my conversation with the aforementioned artists was this sense of optimism and community. The wonderful thing about reclamation, repurposing, is that it takes things that people don’t think of as valuable and brings out their beauty, tells their story, integrates them and melds them into a new story. Making the story yours.

There’s something attractive about shiny and new. There’s something attractive about a blank slate to work with. But I think there’s also something attractive about the weight and veneer and patina of older things. And we’re rapidly running out of blank slate. Metaphorically, I mean. And physically, sort of. And, as deeply, deeply fucked as the world often seems, so fucked up that it’s hard to know where you would start if you wanted to fix things, it is wonderful whenever you encounter things that show you that not even trash is all trash.

Oh, and a quick thought about boxes, which is the other part of this post. I thought I would find a neat segue in the course of writing this post, but the first part took a turn that I didn’t expect, so I’m just going to switch right over.

Another thing I loved about these discussions with these women was the idea of thinking outside the box, of looking at things and contemplating different uses for them, different purposes, not being constrained by what is or isn’t expected, either of the object or the artist. I think too often artists (be their painters, writers, reclaimers) try to fit themselves into boxes of what they think is appealing, what they think people want, what they think will sell. Especially fledgeling artists. And you can’t succeed, you can’t grow as an artist and a person, if you’re trying to fit in a box.

Love,

B

Done with that

Heya,

I had my final exam today. Potentially my final final exam. Ever.

So … that’s exciting.

But it feels sort of anticlimactic. I walked out of that final reasonably confident that I had done well but also … at loose ends.

I sometimes do theatre. Only very occasionally now, but in high school I was involved in most of the school’s theatre productions in some capacity for about three years. And after every performance came to a close, we would be told that we might feel a little lost, a little empty. We were told not to make any important decisions in the time immediately following the close of a show. Don’t decide to go with that pageboy haircut, you’ll regret it, that kind of thing.

I never felt that way following a show. I always had other stuff to do, post-show, so there was never any void-y feeling.

And I have stuff to do now. A lot of stuff, actually. I have no lack of things to do.

But I do feel a little void-y. The thing that was taking up most of my time, almost every day for the last eight months, is over. And I think maybe I was expecting more from the (near) conclusion of my academic career. A greater sense of finality and satisfaction. I want to be able to say, “Done with that,” and carry on unencumbered to other things.

Maybe I’ll feel that way when I get my grades back? Maybe it’s that I’m not actually done with my masters, I’m just done with the in-class part. I still have my internship to complete over the next few months, and then my project report (ie. mini thesis) to do in the fall. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel as free as I hoped I would. Because I’m done but not quite done.

Maybe I’m feeling like the whole thing is a little bittersweet, because now my cohort is going to scatter to the wind and they’ll be another group of people that I have to plan to see, rather than just seeing them because we’re in the same place at the same time every single day.

Maybe I’m just not good at celebrating the little moments. I should buy a party hat and a noise maker and carry them around with me, and make a concerted effort to celebrate the little moments.

God, that smacks of effort. And it would probably be off-putting to strangers. Or it would lead strangers to talk to me.

You know what? Whatever. Finals are done. Classes are done. I’ve got work. I’ve got personal projects and hopefully I’ll have the time to work on them now. I’ll see who I see. One of my friends has decided that this is going to be the summer of Groupons, so I’m probably going to do some weird stuff this summer. Added to that, I’m going to try and see how many places I can get into for the child rate.

I’m going to go buy/make a party hat and a noise maker.

The party hat will have to be easily collapsible, so that I can carry it around with me and put it on when I feel the need.

I’m almost mostly joking about this.

Though I do think celebrating the little moments is important, and something that I personally don’t do enough of.

Love,

B

P.S. I also rewatched How I Met Your Mother following the [SPOILERS] disappointing finale, and while I see more of the precursors, I am still disappointed and might just pretend, in my in-my-head version of the story, that the finale didn’t happen. I can definitively say that I’m done with that.

The benefits of regularity

Heya,

This is not going to be a post about incontinence.

At least, I don’t think it will be.

It probably won’t be.

I’ve talked before about forming habits. I’m not good at forming good ones, but I’m trying to change that.

It’s been difficult lately to form new habits because of the demands that school makes of me, but at the same time I know that to be a giant fucking cop-out. Life makes demands of you. It will demand, and take, as much of your time as you let it, so you’ve got to be as much of a dick as life is if you want to have any time at all.

Or if you want to form new habits.

The habits that I want to form aren’t really that new, they’re just habits that I gradually fell out of. I used to write every day. Recently I’ve gone through a bit of a phase where I barely write at all. I make a lot of notes about things to write, but when I sit down to actually work on things, I inevitably get distracted by the internet, or my dog, or (horror) an upcoming paper.

I think it ultimately comes down to priorities, and for a while there writing wasn’t as much of a priority as it’s been in the past. Which has, at times, made me feel unbelievably anxious. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. Am I still a writer if I’m not writing? My feeling is no, but it matters enough to me to write that I feel vast quantities of existential angst about the thought of not doing it.

Here’s the thing about vast quantities of existential angst, though.

Existential angst is essentially useless.

Realizing that doesn’t meant that I’m not still going to have it from time to time, but I think it’s an important realization to have.

So how do you get started after you’ve been in a rut of not starting.

You just start.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s simple enough to seem like a trick.

Just start.

Do whatever you have to do so that you don’t take yourself and what your doing so seriously as to cripple yourself. Sort your head out. And just fucking start.

Because I firmly believe that half the effort in doing anything is beginning it. A friend of mine had a very simple writing goal that he set himself every day, and it was to just write one sentence. He inevitably wrote more than one sentence, usually a lot more, but the one sentence goal was non-threatening enough that he never felt like he couldn’t achieve it. His life was never so overwhelmingly busy that he couldn’t write a single sentence.

I’m prone to super-sized goals and letting myself get carried away. I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t just want to write a book. I want to write a series of books that interlink narratively with another series of short stories, all under the pseudonym of a character in a graphic novel which is itself the past of a video game.

I really need to calm the fuck down and just write my 1000 words, or my sentence, or my whatever. I need to just start, and start regularly.

Forward momentum is the secret to walking in heels. It’s the standing still that kills you, and I think that could be said to be true of lots of things in life. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stop to look around once in a while, I wouldn’t dare argue against the credo of the Bueller, but you’ll notice that he didn’t do a whole lot of stopping in that movie.

Just start today. Just start tomorrow. Just start the next day.

Just fucking start.

Love,

B

Stop trying to do everything so fast

Heya,

I think it’s occurred to many of us that all of the things in our life that are intended to make things easier do anything but. Or, they make aspects of life easier but introduce their own problems. A friend of mine was saying that the problem with technology is that we get attached to this idea that new technologies can and will solve all of our problems. And while it’s true that they might solve specific problems, they also bring their own sets of problems.

I’m going to talk more about work here than science, but I do want to note that there are many examples of things being quickly created and rapidly adopted, only to be found to be vastly harmful. Like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which devour ozone and were for a long time the go-to compound used in refrigerators, aerosol cans, air conditioners. These have been phased out of current production, but efforts at regulating existing CFC levels have been largely … well, there hasn’t been much effort to regulate existing CFC levels.

Anyway…

I know, from watching old TV shows, that there was a time when it was considered rude to contact someone around dinnertime. Obviously a relic of a time when you were only really calling people in your time zone, or an immediately adjacent one. Now, time is compressed. People can and will call you, text you, email you, anytime of day and expect a response, as immediately as you can send one. Which is why I turned off “Send Read Notification” on my phone. So I don’t feel pressure to respond to something on someone else’s time. So that I can unplug, or at least pretend to myself that I have.

It’s interesting that, where before work-life boundaries were at least in part supported by society, now it’s something you have to work out for yourself. You see articles about “work-life balance.” I’m interested in working in marketing and publicity, and I fully expect there to be a sharp learning curve. I expect to have issues setting boundaries, especially when I’m starting out, because I know myself well enough to know that, in my desire to please people, I might be more accepting of work-creep. I’ll answer emails at two in the morning and step away from dinner to answer phone calls. Because that’s life, right? Especially in certain businesses. You’re never off the clock, even if you’re not at “the office.” If you’re ever at the office, maybe you don’t have an office. You’re always on call. There will always be someone who is pissed off if you don’t respond immediately to some bullshit that you could just as easily have sorted out in the morning, when you were well-rested and on your game. And maybe if you’d waited until the morning, you wouldn’t have called them an asshole over the phone, but you’ll never know now, will you?

Wow, sorry for that tangent.

More on compressed time, and time in general.

We’re constantly trying to squeeze more of everything into less time. Usually work gets privileged over other things. It’s not always that we’re expected to spend a lot of time at work (though 9-5 jobs usually still want you to be in the office for those eight hours, they just want you working outside of them, too. And not charging for it), but that work is expected to consume a lot of our time. Which is to be expected, I suppose. But I wonder what we’re giving up for it. I get up at about 6am most days, usually skip breakfast or just drink one of those meal replacements, and end up eating at noon. Or I run out when I get hungry enough and grab something reasonably inexpensive that won’t make too much noise when I eat it at the back of the class. The first actual meal (with all the food groups in it and actual sitting-down-to-eat-ness) I have in the course of a day is dinner. I’m not complaining about this, I actually don’t think about it much, but it is what it is. To have three square meals a day would take more time and energy than I’m willing to give. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

For reasons of time compression, I kind of love the train. I’m on the train for about two hours a day. It’s when I read. My mobility is (ironically) limited, it’s not a social situation where I’m expected to engage with the people around me, so it’s the perfect time for me to engage with time-consuming, valuable things that I have trouble dedicating time to when the world keeps knocking on my door. Reception is spotty in places, so I don’t always get my text messages or emails until I’m at my car. And I don’t text and drive, because it pisses me off to no end when I see other people do it, so there’s another half hour or so of relative freedom.

On a related note, I also have the Freedom app. And I wonder if things like that are the way of the future. If we’re gradually realizing that having things more quickly doesn’t necessarily make us more effective or productive people, and we’re going to see more and more applications that are slow or provide impediments to connectivity by their very design.

Anyway, the point of this whole ramble is that I think we have to stop trying to do everything so fast. That if we spend more time and energy on things, we’ll be prouder of what we produce. I’m happy to wait for something worth waiting for.

Love,

B

What do you do and other terrible questions

Heya,

I hate that one of the go-to socializing questions is “what do you do?” Maybe because I’ve never had a great answer to it, and usually end up lying out of boredom. Because what you do matters way less than what you feel about what you do. It’s an introductory question that should immediately be followed by something more interesting, like “what do you like about what you do” or “what do you want to do?”

Sometimes I feel a really strong urge to say something ridiculous. Like, “Meth.”

The problem with “what do you do?” is that it asks without really asking. It’s the same problem I have with people saying “how are you?” They want you to say fine. They’re expecting you to say fine. They’re not even really listening to your answer. Chances are they’re just waiting for to finishing talking so that they can tell you how they are.

I’m such a cynic…

In a similar vein, “what did you do today?” is also an awful question, especially when someone asks you about it right as you’re walking through the doors from a mediocre day. A good day for me is one where I got a lot of writing done. But someone asks you what you did that day and you said that you wrote, they’re apt to ask if you did anything else. Also, sometime nothing really out-of-the-ordinary happened. Nothing funny or dramatic or anything at all. If there was a good story from the day, I’ll tell it to you.

I’m contemplating just giving people plot. “What did you do today?” “Oh, I went to a carnival, was kidnapped by a cult, fought my way out, and killed man. And all that before lunch!”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This one is annoying because I’m twenty-three years old. Also, I never wanted to be anything when I grew up. I always wanted to be something right now. I don’t believe in delayed gratification.

All that being said, let’s answer the terrible, networking questions.

What do you do?

I’m pursuing a masters in publishing right now, and then I hope to go into marketing/publicity while I continue to chip away at my own projects. I also metabolize food, breath oxygen, walk on my two feet, and do meth. (Disclaimer: I do not do meth)

What did you do today?

I woke up at about 8:30 on a camping mattress laid out on the floor of my friend’s apartment. Her boyfriend was getting ready to go to work. In my half-conscious, half-dreaming state, I became convinced that if I didn’t wish him a good day at work he would have a terrible one, so I said, “Have a good day at work” and then dozed off-and-on for then next half hour before becoming convinced that my friend had left with him and I was alone in her apartment. I finally became anxious enough about this to check, and she was still asleep. I read a chapter or two of a book called The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer that she had sitting out for school or something. At about ten we got on the train. She went to work, I went to the bus loop at the mall. I missed the bus, ordered and ate a Subway sandwich in fifteen minutes, got on the next bus. Walked home from the bus stop, carrying the empty pop can that I’d gotten with my sandwich and drank on the bus, because I couldn’t find any recycling bins, and I felt horrible anxiety when I thought about throwing it in a garbage can. I threw it in the recycling at home, played with my dog a little, then played Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns for about four hours. I started downloading the trial version of Adobe Creative Cloud. I ate some leftover pasta. Drank some tea. Checked the download. Continued downloading Adobe Creative Cloud. Added some videos to my lynda.com playlists, so that I’d actually know how to use Creative Cloud. I had a shower. I started writing this blog post.

Super fucking fascinating, no?

How are you?

Fine.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t want to be anything when I grow up. I want to be things right now.

How bout you guys?

Love,

B

“meatspace”

Heya,

Have you guys ever heard the term “meatspace”? In case you haven’t—cause I hadn’t—the idea is that, more and more, we operate in the digital world and the physical world. Because more and more of life takes place online for so many of us, it becomes necessary for a distinction between the reality that we operate within online and the reality we inhabit with our physical bodies.

“Meatspace” (which always makes me picture ground beef in my clothing) is where we are. It is where we eat our food and wear our clothes and read our books. It’s wear we drink and sleep and reproduce. Cyberspace, on the other hand, is a space in which the physical realities of the human condition can be compressed. Distance becomes, in many senses, meaningless. Realities like weight (like in the case of books) can be minimized to the point of nonexistence (ex. books vs. eBooks).

Something I’ve been finding interesting in my publishing program is that there’s tacit, possibly/probably unintentional, minimization of “meatspace.” Even the term “meatspace” can be seen as somewhat pejorative. That’s part of what I think is so strangely perfect about it. It seems almost derogatory towards the physical state of being.

The fact is, we still live in meatspace. We still perform the acts that sustain our lives in meatspace. Until we hook into the matrix, that will be an undeniable fact of human life. We are in meatspace, and the majority of our largest problems are there, too.

There’s a problem of multiplicity in publishing right now. There is just so much stuff, so much fiction, so many essays, so many blogs and books and badgers (honey badger don’t give a fuck) to demand our attention. Before the explosion of ePublishing, there were already more books in the world than any one person could read in a lifetime. We have more movies, more televisions shows, more pictures and pieces of artwork than we could ever have the attention for and even if we did, mankind has a notoriously shitty memory. So when is it enough? And, with so many services moving into the cyber, how do we continue to exist in the meat? How do we orient ourselves in the reality of physical distance when cyberspace has the capacity to compress those distances, at least for some of the senses? And how do we sustain ourselves?

I think it’s the issue of sustainability that is nagging at me, and contributes greatly to my various existential and/or quarterlife crises. I personally think that everything is cyclical, and that we’re in a cycle of change. Gutenberg’s press prompted a cycle of change in publishing, and I think we’re in another one now. Not just in publishing but in many, many fields. Something that we’ll have to figure out along the way is how the cyber and meat relate to one another, how they connect to one another, and how they can sustain one another.

In my class today we talked about how the cultural capitals of the past always had a surrounding hinterland. Paris was surrounded by vast stretches of sparsely populated agricultural areas, London had places like Manchester to sustain the rapid growth and cultural consumption. Someone argued that Silicon Valley was/had been the cultural capital of the technological era, and that it had the world as it’s hinterland. But how do you live in that hinterland? We’re in the strange position of privileging the local as far as meatspace goes, and seeking employment in cyberspace. There has been a systemic devaluation of things like books, just because of the sheer number of books being produced, and it has negatively impacted the possibility of the existence of a career creative. But then, the career creative is a recent occupation. Some of the most famous artists of the past were starving, or had the patronage of politically/socially/economically powerful figures, some of them highly questionable in character. So maybe it’s just another cycle, another pattern being repeated. Everything is a remix.

I don’t have any real conclusions about this right now, this is a stream-of-conscious ramble on a topic that has been weighing on me.

If you have any thoughts/contributions/etc. let me know in the comments!

Love,

B