pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-09-09 08:10 pm

How I love thee.

 Maybe I don't talk much about Derrick. But I love him for a lot of reasons. 

Today we saw a hawk in our neighborhood. Upon further inspection, D noticed that the hawk had a broken foot. He spent hours on and off the phone with the raptor center, talking about getting assistance out to nurse the hawk and detailing how to catch the hawk if it was accessible and tracking the hawk. It flew to an inaccessible place, but he continues to worry about it. 

This is a metaphor for How He Is and how we are. If there is a thing with a broken part, we want to try. We worry about it. I love him for it. 

There are so many beautiful things in this world. If one lands on your fence with a broken part, you help. You fuss. 
pen_grunt: (Fred and Ginger Dance)
2017-09-05 09:44 am

State Fair

 On Friday we went to the fair--my sister, D, Nadia and myself. It's a grand tradition of many years--almost all the years I can remember (well, Nadia is a newish addition, natch). There is something so bittersweet about the fair. It's this fun great thing with all the food and it's all the summer...dumping abruptly into fall. The beginning of the fair is the beginning of the end, and the last day is the death of the season. 

Fridays are okay days to go. It's not quite as busy as a weekend, but nearly. I can't bear to go on Labor Day--the last day is too sad. There are too many exhibits being dismantled and final displays and there is no buzz and bustle of judging or excitement left. It's the slow trudge in so many spilled, ground-in cookies littering the sidewalks. 

We saw less this year than previous years. Perhaps because the weather was perfect and it was Labor Day weekend, so a lot of people had done as we did--taken the Friday off. It was busy. We took a look at the quantity of strollers parked outside particular buildings (Miracle of Life Barn, ehhem) and decided to skip them. 

So no fine arts. No arts & crafts (we did see the seed art, but that's in the Horticulture building), no chickens or bunnies. 

Instead we saw all the barn animals. The pigs, the sheep, the goats. The horses. The 4H building, the Horticulture building. Some....other stuff? Was there other stuff? And we ate and ate and ate. And drank and drank. Local wine is the secret to enjoying the fair fully. Seed art is kitschy, but tipsy seed art is MAGICAL. 

We were slow going. I feel like I missed a lot of stuff and in retrospect I'm a little sad about it. D had a monstrous hangover--the first football game of the year was the night before. I would have been more sympathetic (hangover? At a FAIR? *shudder*) but he knew the fair was coming and he made his choices. 

A brief accounting of eats/drinks (all split 2-4 ways):

MN wine flight, wine slushies
Spam Curds
Sweet corn eclair w/blueberry glaze
Mac & Cheese curds
Duck bacon wontons
Fries (Nadia only)
Ice Cream (Nadia only)
Sweet corn on the cob
Sweet Martha's cookies

Which, to be honest, considering everything was shared wasn't so bad. (Nadia got the fries and ice cream to herself, because those were her special fair requests and I have no interest in either thing.) The duck bacon wontons were awesome. The official fair photographer took pictures of Nadia eating her corn on the cob. Like you do. Because 2 year olds eating corn on the cob is peak MN state fair. (They also took pictures of her eating CotC at the threshing show a few weekends ago.)
pen_grunt: (Shirley Temple--whoa)
2017-08-30 02:44 pm

Magazine thesis

I've talked before about the nostalgia for that-which-never-was that is inspired by old magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. There's still some of that, as I continue marching through my button/magnet project; clipping apart glossy little vignettes of perfection. (It's not a metaphor!)

But as I've been flipping through magazine after magazine, ranging from the late 1940s (just a few of those), through the 50s (more of those, but still rarer), and the early and late 1960s (lots of those, and should be counted as two separate decades in terms of tonality), I can't help but notice major patterns in tone (see aforementioned 1960s).

If I were still in college I could spend a lot of time and effort doing a complex analysis about what these types of magazines (women's lifestyle mags, mostly) said about what women's roles should be, the darkness of the era, the shift to youth-centric culture, etc and whatever. There are multiple angles one could take. I'll list a few stray observations:
  • The 40s and 50s and very early 60s emphasize a homemaker role, but a fairly empowered and understated one. You're making the decisions, because of course, but you're making them as part of your role and your family. There is no need to hammer this down your throat, here. In the mid-60s this started to change radically--almost as though they were trying to construct (or go along with) a backlash to woman's lib. 
  • Seriously, though. The backlash is strong. If you look at the 50s and early 60s, things look pleasant. There may be sexist roles, but advertisers are comfortable in them. In the late 60s, early 70s--ads marketing to women are overtly hostile to women. Is this because being a homemaker is now a choice one has to defend, so there's some in-fighting between the women who work and those who don't (in the 60s? I would think it too early for that), or is there some sort of shaming and subjugation going on. If I had a paper to write, I could do a broader analysis. As it were, I only have stray observations. 
  • Likewise, men get kind of stupid in the late 60s. You MUST be housewife and wink-wink we all know what a pain that extra-large child in your house is. 
  • Unsurprisingly gendered ads, with the gendering getting heavy-handed in the late 60s. "Pink is only for girls, and you're a girl, aren't you? Use our pink lustre creme..."
  • Weight control remains consistent throughout the decades, though the tone and purpose change. In the 50s you want to be slim to fit into the stylish fashions. In the late 60s you want to be thin because you can't be schlumpy for your husband. 
  • Women. We have always had pervasive pressure to be slim. You should see some of the "reducing" diets through the decades. It is illuminating to see how crazy it actually is. 
  • Ads shift radically in the late 60s from targeting the late-20s-40s homemaker mother/wife to just-marrieds, youth, and young mothers. 
  • Shit got dark and cheap in the late 60s. Dark paneling, dark veneer. Everything new looks dingy. From my Mad Men TLo study, this reflects the mood of the era. Lots of unrest and everything just got...dark. 
  • Douche/noroforms/birth control messaging gets more and more obvious.
pen_grunt: (Bourdain Monster)
2017-08-24 09:51 am

Beans forever

I am forever picking green beans.

From when I was 4 or 5, out in the field with my grandparents, to now. It might have started at an earlier age, but that was, I imagine, much more like Blueberries for Sal--one for the bucket, one for my mouth...the one in the bucket for my mouth...

With my mom's cancer treatments, bone marrow transplant, stem-cell stuff she can't touch the dirt. Too many bacteria, etc. My dad planted the garden this spring, late, anyway--partially at my nudging (they grow the BEST beans and the BEST cucumbers ever in their soil).

But my dad doesn't have the physical stamina to do all the picking of things and my mom can't--so I've been going out every week to pick the whole of their garden. It takes hours. One week I got 17+ lbs of beans, the next week I didn't weigh quite so fastidiously but I know from bag count that it was 22-26 lbs.

That's a lot of beans.

And it's a lot of childhood memory. It takes me back to being out in the field with my grandparents who--much like me--would just come and pick everything, take a little that they wanted/could use, and left us with picked and rinsed fresh beans. (Well, they didn't do it themselves--we all helped--but they were so head-down about it.)

It feels communal. This is our family garden. All family can come and take. It is no imposition. It is a given.

We had so much growing up that I would make $20 in a bean-picking day, sometimes. We sold excess beans at my dad's work--$1 for 1 1/4 lb. Hence me opening a bank account at age 6 because I couldn't fathom what I would do with more than $8. (My first deposit was $12...and I still have my little bank book.)

The work is back-aching and long and hot and dirty, but in exchange I get a break from the toddler as she runs around catching toads and climbing ladders and riding in wheelbarrows with grandma and grandpa. We go home exhausted. It's a fair trade, methinks.

But man. So many beans. Forever green beans.
pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-08-22 08:29 am

Craft as therapy

Over the past several months I've been making a lot of craft things; felt things, button things (sassypants buttons made from my grandma's vintage 1960s magazines), quilt things, embroidery things, etc.

Because making things is therapy. It's also an impulse that has a wild and unwieldy inertia. I've always Made Things to keep myself occupied.
Books of poetry (that I wrote).
Binders of short stories (also self-written).
I painted a mural on the walls of the GTC (Gifted, Talented, Creative) room in my high school library when I'd get bored in algebra and I had already finished all my homework during the work time.
I made dozens of paper butterflies to hand-laminate and hang in my room as a kid.
There are books with pressed flowers hidden among their pages.
At one point I had a wall covered in pictures of people, their likenesses framed by cutting up old greeting cards.
I cannot tell you how many things I carved out of ivory soap bars.
I cut and peeled dozens of new-growth branches for smooth, tangy-sweet smelling twig sculptures.
I used to take spare electrical wire, in all its bright-striped colors, and carefully wrap jewelry.
In meetings I'll make whole scenes-worth of play-doh.
I have notebooks--from way back and currently--full of elaborate doodles and compulsive bits of poetry.
I spent hours scanning pictures in a big family photo project.
I had a blog with hundreds and hundreds of creative tableaus.

Writing, creating, making, growing.
It's impulsive, but I also follow through to exhaustion. I'll stay up until 3 a.m. because I feel the need to Make A Thing. There is no deadline, but I want to Create. It's peaceful in the dark quiet of the night, doing a Thing with your hands. Making a Thing.

I took kolrosing (decorative wood carving) and paper cutting classes at the ASI, and now I have two more things. I have two packages of loose felt and felting supplies for yet another thing. A friend joked about doing a seed art party for next year's state fair...I'm not going to lie, it holds appeal. It's my kind of obsessive meticulousness.

Many of the project results I give away. Because, despite the amount of work--all the hours upon late hours--that go into them, the delight of a finished product is fleeting. It's more fun to assemble 500 buttons through cutting out magazines and laying out the pieces and carefully matching picture with phrase and gluing it all together than it is to actually HAVE the products. I could sell them, but there becomes an element of hassle in being timely, shipping, etc. The joy is not in the denouement. It's in the controlled and consistent arduousness of the journey. In all the ways one finds of stretching; "Can I do X? I wonder if Y will work. I've made this at x scale, what if I tried for z scale. What if I made this more intricate. How intricate can I go? How far can I push this?"

I haven't decided whether it's willpower or lack thereof. There's a stubbornness to it, but also an impulsiveness. A lack of control wherein one must follow their drive to Do. But then...the follow-through. I decided to start running about 13 years ago--when we first moved into our house--and I've done it every single week (with some travel/having-a-baby exceptions) since. When I set to do a thing, I will do a thing.

Right now it's the magazines. I have felt things and ideas (and more ideas), but I need to get the magazines out of my house. No one wanted to throw them away--they are "cool"--but what do you do with magazines from the 1960s once you've looked at them? You don't keep them around making everything smell old. You cut them into bits.

When I've worked through my stack I'm sure I'll switch to some other therapy.

Maybe it's best I never learn to knit/crochet.
pen_grunt: (Shirley Temple--whoa)
2017-07-10 11:12 am

ReCONnaissance

CONvergence happened!
I survived. Overall I had a really great time, actually.

As suspected, my many fears and anxieties were unfounded. Mostly. There were times when I felt deeply lonely and left out, and times when I felt absolutely full-stop-functionality overwhelmed, but the were reasonably easy to recognize and cope with.

I enjoyed drifting and not being attached to a specific friend group, overall, because there was less pressure to perform. I could go to a panel alone and later I'd see people and we'd chat or hang out for a while and then we'd drift off to other activities, etc. Nothing was personal. Someone could say: "Oh, I need to go see a panel/do a thing," and because there were so many things to see/do it didn't feel at all like "I'm a loser and no one wants to hang out with me" (a fear I had).

Thursday:
Was a super-low-key day and left me feeling a bit lonely (most people aren't there during the day on Thursday, and I was still finding a groove). I went to the greatest number of panels this day. Some of them were even good! The day started off by me sitting down early with a coffee and then getting wrapped into a three hour conversation about books with a small group of other people I didn't know. That was my first "Oh! These are my people!" moment. I had pretty long conversations with friends that were also very low-key. I had an "early night"--getting to bed by about 2:30 a.m., ultimately.

Friday:
Became a super-social day. I kept running into people I knew both peripherally (not that well) and as friends. I kept having good, brief, fun conversations. I felt really *on*...until I shut off. There was a weird sort of social barrier that went up at about 6 or so. I had a friend offer to hang out and I declined, saying I just wanted to walk around a bit. And so I did that...and I had more interactions that were good and brief. When I reached a limit, the "hey, I just want to walk around a bit, I'll catch you later, okay?" line seemed very, very cool with people. They understood.

I went to a social anxiety panel on Thursday and one of the things that they said was: Sometimes anxiety can present as extroversion, because you keep flitting from group to group, and you're good for a while, but you get restless and anxious. I felt like that.

Actually, I wished I had a drink to relax me a bit--but the drink-things didn't really open until 10 (some of them 8).

I also brought and distributed a lot of my buttons. That was cool.

Saturday:
I dressed up as Arcanna, which is sort of a sexy cosplay but is made more modest by a lab coat. At first I felt like...I wasn't as easy to approach that way. Fewer people smiled. Fewer people said hi. A friend reassured me that lots of people were probably just hung over. Saturday early is pretty low-key anyway.

There were far fewer panels I was interested in on Saturday, too. So a lot of my day was walking-walking (which I like). I got about 20k steps on my fitbit. I volunteered for a mobile house of toast shift and that was SUPER fun. Performing is a different skill set than having to be social, and so flipping that switch was easy and energizing.

Also, I brought a flask for Saturday. This was a smart choice! Not that I recommend drinking large quantities, but a few sips from the flask in the late afternoon *really* upped my enjoyment of things like being still and people-watching (without that persistent "I'm a loser no one likes me and they only talk to me because they feel obligated" feeling). I was in a much mellower, happier place with a bit of chemical (alcohol) assistance*.

Once the night stuff started going on I met up with various friends at various times and had tons of fun being tipsy and flirty and walking around to various places. Saturday night was my "late" night, and I got home and to bed by about 4 a.m. (The advantage to commuting is that I didn't actually drink that much all weekend, overall--no hangovers, yay!--but on Saturday it meant that it became a late night to account for the drinks I did have.)

Sunday:
I wasn't going to go Sunday, but friends were meeting up to take a picture and were bringing their kids, so I brought Nadia for a few hours. Mostly I was overly-tired and stressed out, and 2 year olds are hard to manage at things like this. But it gave D a break.

Also, I dislike seeing the end of things. I don't like going to the State Fair on the final day--there's a sadness about things still going on, but lots of stuff being packed up and taken away.


Overall it was a good-to-great experience. The low points were brief in the relative sense.
I'm missing a lot of stuff in this little recap. But it's a bit of a whirlwind experience, really.


*It's easy for me to go to a bar and not drink. To go to a party and not drink (well, depending on how well I know people and how overwhelmed I am at the outset). But I have an AA checkbox relationship with alcohol in this way: I like to have a drink (not get drunk or have lots of drinks) when I'm alone or alone-in-a-social-setting. I like to have a glass of wine while watching my favorite show. I liked sipping from the flask and walking around a little bit looser and less worried about the wheels of anxiety spinning in my own head. AA says this is an alcoholic warning sign (only one of many, granted) but still. It seems sort of judgey that this is a metric of alcoholism--drinking "alone" vs. drinking as a social experience. WTF, AA? Or maybe there is reasoning behind it that is beyond arbitrary.
pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-07-05 09:49 am

CONziety Part 2

CONvergence is imminent. I am having weird feelings about it.

Like: "I'm supposed to have things DONE for this and I don't" weird feelings.
More specifically: "I'm dropping the ball at work and am showing up on site without a script" weird feelings.

This is a strange compounding of anxiety, on top of my normal "Oh my god, what did I get myself in to?!" socially-based anxiety. It is not really expected.

I have felt little bits of this anxiety before when I've been at hotels where there have been conferences/events that I haven't been a part of--they just happen to also be going on at the hotel. I'll often pop my head into a general session or backstage and see how things are setup, or what's going on behind the scenes. There is this latent "I SHOULD BE DOING SOMETHING TO FIX XYZ" in my brain and I need to *check* on things.

I am having a hard time with CONvergence switching my brain to "I AM THE ATTENDEE. I don't need to do anything!"

At first I thought it would relax me to plan a little bit--put some things on the calendar/schedule thing to have anchor points so I don't mindlessly drift--but now I'm thinking I should just be very chill and go with the flow about it. Because scheduling things is feeling like: Must be at rehearsal here. Must go to this here. Must deliver script by XYZ.

I'm not even scheduling time to see people. I don't know what to expect. I could be woefully unprepared in a lot of bad, unproductive ways. But I think I just have to feel it out. And resist the urge to, you know, produce a show flow.

Panic level: OH MY GOD IT IS TOMORROW WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING.
pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-06-28 01:17 pm

Mansplain/Womansplain

The term "mansplain" gets thrown around a lot. (It's the tendency of men to explain something in detail to a woman who knows that subject, sometimes even interrupting her to do so. The offensiveness is in the assumption that the woman must be ignorant of any given topic, that the guy has a responsibility to explain it to her, and that his voice is more important than hers.)

Unsurprisingly, a lot of guys take umbrage with this term. "I'm not a mansplainer! I just want to be clear/I do this regardless of sex/how am I supposed to know what you do or don't know."

It seems like the objection comes from the same vein of being called "creepy"--the power of the label comes from the person assigning it to you. They bristle. It's not like someone calling you a "pussy"--which is demonstrably untrue, in your mind--creepy and mansplaining come from how you make a person feel. 

The other night, D and I were doing joint crafts. I was so pleased that he wanted to do it too. It was incredibly nice to be working on it together. 
But I have a lot more experience in doing this than he does. Not because I'm smarter, but because I've had more practice. I started to explain how I usually do things and then stopped myself because I felt like I was being condescending. Not that I was speaking in a condescending way, but I had no idea what his expertise level was, truly. And how tedious is it to have to listen to someone explain something that you already know?

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to craft-splain or woman-splain to you--how much do you want me to help and how much do you know or want to figure out on your own?"

And the thing is--he totally wanted me to show him (and I did)--but the prospect of explaining something to someone who already knew about it felt *gross* to me. Like I was being totally disrespectful in the moment and I truly hadn't assessed the situation or asked him about his knowledge level. I just assumed incompetence.

How does it not feel gross to him when some guy tries to explain to me how to write a script? 

pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-06-28 11:57 am

CONziety

"I won't be in on Thursday."

"Oh really? Why?"

"Uh, I'm going to this thing..."

And up until that very moment I wasn't sure I was actually going to go to CONvergence. I hedged. "We'll see. I might go Thursday and hate it and be in on Friday." Because the moment I decided to go I was flooded with wicked anxiety. 

I'm sure it will be fine. I KNOW it will be fine. But the preamble. Oh, that wash of panic. 

Why did I convince myself that this was something I should do? :/

pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-06-27 01:22 pm

Compulsively Making

Once upon a time, as I was sculpting a Play-Doh forest--one of many over the years--during a conference call, my co-worker called me "irrepressibly creative". I'm always doodling or sculpting or making something. 

I'm not a good drawer/painter, generally, but I tend to be able to carve out little artsy-craftsy niches and once I find a thing I like, I like to refine it, do a lot of it, and drive my interest into the ground. 

When I do a thing, I really like to exhaust it, y'know?
Might as well, I'm already in that mode. The supplies are already there.

Hence all the felt. 

I procured my Grandpa's old 2 1/4 inch button maker (nothing fancy, just a hand-press) and I already had stacks of my grandma's old magazines from the 60s. 

So my latest project has been button making with vintage images and phrases. Part of the challenge is finding the phrases within the old magazines. I think I'd be easier to just make up my own and print them out, but it's not as fun. So it's become a Thing. 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10110009702937010.1073741836.13953311&type=1&l=dc180a867c

I didn't post some of the saucier ones in there. There is a lot of innuendo. I haven't exhausted my interest yet, so on I go. I don't have any use for dozens and dozens of buttons, but I'll probably keep a few and then sell the rest on etsy (how much would one charge? $3?) or trade them for other peoples' quirky art-adjacent stuff, or even just give them away to friends who want them. 

It's so weird. I don't know why I do this kind of thing. It seems oddly obsessive. In a way it feels very much like these Things, these various Projects, are a way of meditating or balancing out my mental health. I don't know that that's far off. 

pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-06-26 12:57 pm

Body Blues

I am having a crisis of confidence with my body lately. 

Ever since I stopped nursing at the end of January it's been doing weird shit weight-wise. Which is not surprising. It's adjusting. (Still?)

But I don't like it. 

I liked when I could Eat All The Things and I was at my lowest weight. Food tasted amazing. But I was also tethered to an infant so. Tradeoffs. 

I'm unhappy with it right now. 

It's hard to know how much of that is real and how much is in my head. 
Objectively it is pound-heavier than before. 
Objectively I get to run less, and fewer miles. 
Objectively I have not been paying any attention to what I eat. 

I look at women who weigh the same or more than me, and I think they look fine. Great, even. Wonderful. But myself? No bueno. 

I hear other people talk about losing weight and I am puzzled. I had a friend go on a weight loss challenge and her before picture looked like my best-ideal after. She did it to feel better in her clothes and feel good about herself (and for a bikini-vacation deadline). I can't fault her for that, I understand it, but I can't help but look at the picture and think that we're seeing two entirely different people. She looks better than me and she wants to be thinner?

Instead of thinking the world is mad, my brain--deep-steeped-in-social-conditioning--thinks, "If she thinks she looks fat, how much of a whale must *I* be?"

But she probably thinks I look fine. Great, even. Wonderful. But herself? No bueno. 

It makes no goddamned sense. But I want to feel better anyway.
So I go back on The Plan. 

The Plan is this: 
Consistency with exercise.
More water drinking.
Track calories*.
Alcohol on weekends only.

None of it is hard or weird or even that different. I just slip up in consistency. 

Of course...what is the damned point, anyway? I guess to not feel this way in my clothes. Not awful, but schlumpy. It's nice to feel great.
Would anyone notice? 
Has anyone noticed? 
Does anyone care?
Does it affect my self-worth?
As I say: I'm not sure how much is in my head, and how much is real. But I can drink more water anyway, and what will it hurt?


*Tracking calories is just that. I don't restrict intentionally, though having to write down what I eat and see the numbers adding up is super effective for restriction. I did this for 2 years straight, and I used to have ALL the numbers/math down in my head so firmly that I didn't need to track anymore and it was fine. Alas, consistency. Times are a-changing. 
 

pen_grunt: (Default)
2017-06-26 10:56 am

The precocious trap

I read "The Queen's Gambit" for book club. It is fiction that focuses on a female chess prodigy in the 60s. 

Summary summary summary... the plot doesn't really matter for this thought. The short version: She's been a prodigy since age 8, and there are several mentions of fading precociousness that aren't really explored in a meaningful way. 
  • She ages out of being considered precocious
  • She reaches what could be considered the high point of her career at a young age ... and where does she go from there. 
But the book doesn't fully explore these, and stops after the final triumph. They go into a period of alcoholic slide somewhere in the aging process, but they connect that with addictive personality (an early addiction to tranquilizer pills) instead of any major conflict of identity. 

If I were to predict a sequel, it would be a decline into utter bleakness. The future doesn't look pretty at all. 

Because when your identity is wrapped up in being precocious, at some point YOU AGE OUT and you are left with the crumbling shell of your achievement. Where can you go from there--to be great is now expected. You are no longer special. Notable. A 40 year old doing a good job is the way of the world. A 16 year old doing the same thing is fucking brilliant. 
I know this. Many kids do not survive this. 

Cute, brilliant child actors do not age well. 
14 year old geniuses kill themselves. 
Precocious kids start to fail because they don't know how to be consciously competent after so much unconscious competence. What is the work of putting in the work when things stop being easy? If you never learn how to arrive at answers that always just came to you, at some point you get stuck in the world in a way that others don't. I've seen it so many times with friends, with acquaintances. (In the book, oddly, the precocious genius is coupled with the hard work of the learning of the strategy, in a way...which...may be realistic, but the preternatural "intuition" is always just there.)

I am not--at all--genius or prodigy level. But I was precocious. "An old soul". All my life I heard these things, and everything was about that. Being grades ahead in school. Being top of the class...and the next class. I could always write like a mofo. Graduating early. Finishing two degrees at 19. Writing my first show (for a big tech company) before I was old enough for my client to buy me a drink to celebrate (that was awkward in so many ways). No slipping no tripping. 

And I ticked other boxes. Write a (business) book. Publish articles. Get married young. Travel young. It was so much a part of me that I forget that it was unusual. 

At some point you stop being unexpectedly brilliant and you start being simply competent. Nothing in your ability has diminished (if anything it's grown through experience and wisdom). Nothing has changed but your age--and it's a shock to the identity, even if every ounce of your pragmatism expects it and every bit of your ego and vanity have been chugging along with appropriate humility this whole time. 

You are precocious, you are precocious, you are precocious, you are fulfilling expectations. *Needle scratch*

But in reality, it's just another angle to view that spark--through the lens of youth in a youth-obsessed culture. Everyone loves a 9 year old who can sing like an adult, but their voice is no less lovely when they lose that youth--they just become unremarkable. 

There's a satisfying thrill to seeing prodigies. That brilliant spark. That perky precociousness. It surprises us. It impresses the hell out of us, and it should, but where do you go from there? How do you transition, psychologically, into a new identity after youth sheds your old identity--brilliance fading inevitably in concert with cherubic cheeks and gangly limbs?

You take on something else, you reinvent, re-identify. You become Mother. Owner. Boss. Wise. 
Or you drink a lot. That's where the book was going, but it didn't do anything but scratch idly at the surface. 
pen_grunt: (Fred and Ginger Dance)
2017-06-22 09:43 am

Good Housekeeping Colored Glasses

As part of a new experiment/project, I've been making some buttons using my grandma's old vintage magazines and my grandpa's old button maker. 

Looking at magazines from the 50s and 60s, it IS easy to sigh and sigh and sigh and say, "Oh, look how pretty and SIMPLE everything was then. Wasn't it just better? Don't you wish we could go to there again?" There--a place I've never been and that didn't exist. 

Enough mid-century-modern will do that to a person. It's worth noting that going into about 1969 it starts to feel more like a dystopic hell of dark wood paneling and pre-soiled-looking shag carpeting and dicey propositions of male advertising executives trying to commercialize on women's lib while simultaneously enforcing the roles of mother-wife (and if you MUST have a job...sigh...).

But looking at all the prim pictures of pretty, unharried, early 60s mothers whose only goal is to provide the best for their angelic children and be the social center of the home is tantalizing. You only have to come up with new meal ideas (have you tried the onion-fish-pimento loaf? Your family will say "that's different!") and decorate your home in a tasteful-yet-distinctive way (the vinyl-asbestos tile is easy to clean, and comes in so many gay patterns!), and think of ways to entertain and quietly suffocate (the homemaker of the year in 1969 was a Minnesota woman from Brooklyn Center whose husband was a Greyhound driver--gone for 15-20 days at a time, missing all the births of their children....of which there were 6 boys...can you feel the silent cry for valium in the tension of her perfect homemaker smile?)...

I mean, not for me--that kind of thing would make me go out of my skull in a hot minute (but think how clean my house would be if I had kids at school for 8 hours and zero responsibilities aside from keeping the house clean? SO MANY PICTURES of shirt-waisted women reading by the pool in their suburban ramblers.) One could not keep up with the standard. Hence the lifestyle magazines always giving the white-washed picture of a glistening life. Hence the push to make yourself more. Be prettier. Reduce. Douche. Do more with less. Get the perfect coif. Change your coif. Be just unhappy enough with the imperfection of your life to buy this and this and this to get closer to a fly trapped in amber on a magazine page--a second of perfection captured for eternity. 

You know...the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still get images of that picture-perfect life; gleaming modernist condos--all chrome and exposed ductwork, a cherubic baby on a strategically placed, suspiciously white, sheepskin rug overlooking a view of Manhattan or Chicago or Minneapolis or or or... The trends have changed but the message is the same. The pictures have changed, but the deception of the veneer is the same. 

Life is so much messier and imperfect and nuanced than an impeccably groomed brick rambler with Eames chairs tended by a young mother with salon set wave in her gleaming platinum-dyed bob. The people who look back and say--"I wish we could go there again"--aren't remembering that "there" never existed outside of the glossy pages. But somehow real memories of drama and trauma and pain and dirt and the sloppy business of life (and the racism, sexism, classism....the stifling patriarchal construction pushing down women and squeezing the life out of men) have been supplanted by rosy perfection. 

But it's hard not to look at all the loveliness and want it. 
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2017-06-19 09:26 am

RuPaul Atreides

I still have not decided if I'm going to CONvergence or not, or--if I do--to what level I'll cosplay. I've been told that a lot of people crossplay; cosplay mixing different characters/genres, or subverting the gender expectation of a character, etc.

And I came up with an idea for a character: RuPaul Atreides. Combining RuPaul (drag queen) with Paul Atreides (Dune).

But I can't do it.

1. While one does not have to have the exact physical bearing to cosplay something, my physicality is so different than either character that it would lose a lot of recognizability. And by "a lot of"...let's be real--I mean "all of". 

2. I don't have the supplies or talent/experience to make such costumes.

3. I don't have the means to buy such costumes. (The wigs alone! Whew! RuPaul cannot be replicated with cheap wigs, easily)

4. I don't think I should cosplay a POC [person of color]--even if one half of the cosplay would be white, so I could play up that aspect I guess. But *slow intake of breath through the teeth*. 

I'll say a little bit about #4.

I have no problem with people cosplaying characters of another race (but no blackface ever-ever-ever). Black Wonder Woman? YES! Asian Superman? YES! White Princess Tiana? Um. Maybe? Maybe not.

Here's the thing. I don't think you need to be the race of a character to love and admire that character. BUT. There are so few characters that are POC (though this is improving) that I kinda feel like the white folks should lay off. Or *I* should. I'm okay with other people doing it (so long as, you know, NEVER blackface), but it's my personal preference not to. If the ratio of White:POC superheroes, sci-fi characters, etc., were totally equal--have at everything, everyone.

It's not that way, though, so I personally feel deeply uncomfortable playing a black character as a white person, even though I *love* that character. (I weep for loving Uhura but feeling like Nurse Chapel is where I have to go.) This isn't a moral pronouncement from me--I'm not even sure it's the right way to look at it. It's squishy, but it's how I feel--I think I should lay off. No one is going to miss a short white girl not playing a statuesque black drag queen/Dune character, anyway.
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2017-06-06 10:27 pm

(no subject)

Nothing can describe the joy I felt when we were reading through the script and the actor stopped to ask a question about it and my client shot back, "JUST READ THE NEXT LINE. It's right there."

You have no idea how many times I have said that. 

"But what about xyz?"
READ THE NEXT LINE.
"Oh, there it is."

KEEP READING. 
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2017-06-06 02:43 am

Bonding

The best moment of working today was when my boss was talking about getting alerts from Uber sent to his Apple watch and my client looked over at me with this hilariously pointed side-eye. It was perfection in a look, and summed up a shared feeling.

Second best was the actor--who is a little bit sexist and rolls his eyes when I call him out on his bullshit--called my other client (the CEO of the fucking billion dollar company) "girl" in passing and had to sputter his way out of it as she not-unkindly was not having that shit. 

Man. Not all leaders of a particular sex are the same, of course, but there is a marked difference between the feel and culture of this company--with strong female leadership--and the myriad companies who are primarily "boys' clubs" with only perfunctory female roles. 

I have more things to say about finding role models, leadership styles, etc., but yesterday I worked until 4 a.m. and then I worked today from 8 a.m. to... well, I'm stopping now because I just cannot anymore. So 8 a.m. to 3 a.m. 

Show tomorrow. Call at 7. 

It's one of THOSE shows. 
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2017-06-05 12:11 am

All that you love is all that you own

I'm in focus-mode. (Well, not NOW, obviously, but I just sent a draft off, so I get a few minutes before I return to my other script and make it good again. The brain must break or break.)

So I'm listening to music, which can put me in a bit of a focus-trance. If I don't have it it's fine, too, but it can help late at night. 

My music of choice is Tom Waits. And I'm always surprised, for how truly prolific and popular he is, that very few people I know have heard of his stuff. Granted, I only heard of him because I had an ex boyfriend who used to play his music while we were at his apartment. I'm also surprised, among those who HAVE heard of Tom Waits, how many people dislike his voice. 

Which, admittedly, is gravelly and harsh in spots. Sometimes it's just plain weird. But I like it anyway. Except Ice Cream Man. But that's more about the asinine lyrics than the vocal stylings. It's his Idiot Wind. A song I can't stand among so many others I love.

Which brings me to.... 

I was probably primed for liking Tom Waits by liking Bob Dylan. Which I only liked because my sister liked him first and brought him to me. 

And of course I only liked Leonard Cohen because I liked both Tom and Bob first. It all contributed. 

I have a friend who complains about Rufus Wainright's voice every time he is mentioned. I can see her point, but I don't mind it. I was probably primed by Tom for that one. Or maybe by Van Morrison--who I find truly irksome vocally, but I can't resist him anyway. 

It's funny to think of how the music that is important to us GOT important to us. So often it was hearing it in a moment of emotional resonance and having it forever intertwined with that event. Or someone brought it to us. Or we went on a quest to find music like X. 

Maybe it's different, now, in the age of spotify and pandora--when the variety is less finite and higher quality than on the radio. You can let an algorithm take you by the hand and show you x other songs with an acoustic guitar and a major key with blah blah blah. All that you love can be all that you own. Maybe it's less meaningful, but more fun. I'm not sure. I was never so musically attached that I spun over it for hours. I know people for whom music has real and deep meaning--all music.

My meanings are just symbiotic memories. 

So anyway. I'm listening to Tom Waits and focusing and occasionally my focus is peppered by fond recollection. It's more distracting than I'd like. Time to switch to classical. 

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2017-06-04 09:22 pm

Mistakes were made

Oh, that sense of relief when you get mostly-done with a script before rehearsal day...

And then you remember there is another script to do.

Because you have shows on Tuesday and Thursday. Two different companies. 

And, for some reason, you did the Thursday show script first. 

Mistakes were made. 

Time to utilize the buy-shit incentive. It's that dire. 
When I get this draft done I will order a new pair of running shoes that I've been needing since the end of last summer. Mostly because running in my current shoes now makes my arches sore. 

So it's a "treat" but not REALLY. It's a treat out of something I need. I am so effing Scandinavian sometimes. 
pen_grunt: (Shirley Temple--whoa)
2017-05-23 08:40 am

Hey Mommy

Yesterday I was feeling pretty fine. Face, makeup, hair, outfit--everything was working together and I felt really cute all day. I even posted a selfie on Facebook. 

[See LJ post for inserted pic, because I haven't figured out how to do that on dreamwidth yet.]

After work, I took N to the park--it's a three block walk, and she asks to go nearly every day. 
On the way back, while pushing her in the stroller (she CAN walk, but our walk is a quarter of the time in the stroller), a guy drove by slowly and leaned out his truck window. 

"Hey, mommy!"
"HEY, Mommy!"
"Looking good, mommy!"
"HEEEEEEY MOMMY."
"Come on mommy, say hello."

And if one hadn't experienced this sort of thing, one might think--well, you were feeling super cute and this just confirms it, right?
Nope. 
It felt disgusting. It made me feel like: How dare I look put together and think I can go out in public without this kind of thing happening. I felt like hiding.

And one might think--if this was an attractive guy, you'd be flattered instead of disgusted, right?
Nope. 
From what I could tell (I was trying not to give him the attention he was demanding) he *was* quite physically attractive. 

Maybe one might think--well, I know that sometimes the "mommy" role makes one feel unsexy, and this just confirms that moms can still be attractive. How great, right?
Nope. 
It felt revolting. And I HATE that it happened in front of my child. She didn't realize what it was--she thought it was just a neighbor saying "hi" like so many of them do--so she waved with a confused, furrowed brow. 
I hate that even though she doesn't know what this was right now, it's a thing that has been normalized--just a tiny bit--in the back of her mind. 

Maybe one might think--okay, so that happened and it was a harmless flirtation that you didn't want. What's the big deal, right? I mean, I wish *I* got that sort of attention when I was feeling good about myself, right?
Then one doesn't know the thought process that had to go through my head in that moment:
1. I'm with my child--how can I protect her by minimizing engagement (which meant not calling this dude out on his behavior and actively taking the route designed not to make him mad). 
2. I'm a block from home, but no one else is home. 
2a. I have to watch to make sure he moves on and doesn't come back around or start to follow me.
2b. Should I go to the neighbor's house just in case?
2c. Should I change course and go away from my house so he doesn't know that I live right around here and risk not being nearby a known shelter/people I know?

I got to worry myself for the remaining two blocks, mentally charting courses and becoming fairly sure that he wasn't coming back. Fairly. 

And you might think--Gosh, that seems awfully paranoid. It's unlikely that this was anything more than a harmless catcall, right?
And you'd *probably* be right, it's true. But only probably. Most dudes aren't going to follow up on a catcall by stalking you or following you home. But some might. I'm reminded of the time I let someone go in front of me while merging in traffic and he quite literally did follow me home--pulling off to the side when we got onto residential streets and then following me, shouting out his window.

And he seemed like such a nice, normal guy. *significant look* 
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2017-05-16 02:00 pm

'Merican Gods

I've been watching American Gods. I like it, and it's interesting to watch having read the book vs. watching with D who has *not* read the book. 

Some observations about the show, and then some things about Gaiman. 

Show: 
  • Shadow doesn't look how I pictured him when I read the book. This isn't an uncommon phenomenon with book-to-visual media, for sure. I have no issues with the Shadow they have, but I thought he was less...fit and more just...big. The actor is seriously buff, but isn't *huge*, whereas you got the impression that the Shadow of the book was both fit (sure, prison fitness and all) and bulky. 
  • I keep getting Gabriel Byrne and Ian McShane mixed up. As in: if you asked me who played Mr. Wednesday, 9/10 times I'd tell you it was Gabriel Byrne. (It is Ian McShane.)
  • It's fairly faithful so far, though I've only watched 2 episodes. The little changes and additions and fill-in material seem true to book as well.

And let's talk about that. Because I've heard a fair amount of "I didn't really love the book, but...the show seems good." And you know what? The book suffers from what I find to be Neil Gaiman's perpetual thing (issue? problem? clearly it's not either): His creativity outstrips his writing. So I WANT to like his writing and give him a lot more credit than he maybe deserves in my mind. 

Terry Gilliam is another person who has this thing--the ideas are SO GOOD and the execution doesn't hold up the ideas. 

Don't get me wrong, Gaiman's creativity and ideas are off the charts. He's wildly creative. But he's a middling writer. Maybe not middling--better than that. Simple? I don't know. 

I mean, a great writer with no creativity writes technical manuals, so, I think this is the spot you want to be in vs. technical purgatory. 

I don't have the creativity of Gaiman and I can't speak to my writing ability, but when I read Gaiman's stuff it seems like he could be doing a lot more with it. The ideas write checks that his writing can't always cash (except, you know, literally as he is clearly successful and cashing all the checks). Things seem unfinished, unpacked, undeveloped--but the raw idea is SO GOOD.

This seems harsh, because I do enjoy a lot of Gaiman. Lots of people do. But I look at his stuff and go: With a little practice in creativity, I could write that. And I don't think that about everyone. Certainly when I unpack Kundera or look at Marquez the writing is *impressive* and intimidating. I could *never* write like that. 

BUT: all this makes for excellent source material. So the show is great and it deserves to be. It will probably be one of those rare examples of "show/movie-better-than-book" for me.