Sunday, February 19, 2012

Every Thing is its Own Reward


"There is no judgment other than your community, the era you live, your conscience. When you're gone, you're gone. If you leave something behind to help others, then good, but if you're never able to get it together, then that's how it goes. It will all be forgotten or reinterpreted anyway. So be happy. The only limit to pleasure is in the amount of joy you can let yourself feel, that you can share with others. There is no perfection. Nothing has any inherent or permanent value. Every day, every life, every action, EVERY THING is its own reward." -- Paul Madonna

I just came across this exquisite passage in an iPad app, of all places. The app was created to promote Madonna's book, "Everything is its Own Reward", and I found it via The Chimerist, a new tumblr dedicated to all things literary and interactive. If you have an iPad, you should go download the app right now, because it is free and it is beautiful, and because it gave me a new appreciation for a medium I didn't think I particularly cared for -- graphic fiction. 

It's funny, because I've been thinking for a long time about how it bothers me that I couldn't appreciate it. A lot of writers and artists I admire love comic strips and graphic novels, but they've always left me cold. I remember a big NYT magazine story ten or so years ago about Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine that got me really excited about their work, but I found it just didn't resonate in me that way I wanted it to. More recently, I've occasionally breezed through Madonna's work on The Rumpus, or The League of Ordinary Ladies on The Hairpin, and have had the same experience. (I was actually just discussing the latter with a friend, saying how I couldn't get into it, and it made me feel curmudgeonly and lame.)

Anyway, this app really grabbed me, and has me thinking about the possibilities for experiencing other graphic fiction that I've missed. I think it was due to the pacing, the way the illustrations are spaced out and the text comes in at a time the artist can control, as opposed to when your eye rushes into it. That makes a huge difference to me, because I'm such a fast reader. (Not an especially good thing, in my opinion - I miss a lot of beauty that way.) So if there are any graphic novelists reading this, get to work animating your old stuff for iPad! I'll buy your apps. 

Oh and yeah, what a lovely sentiment he expressed up there. I'm on board 100%.

Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shamelessly crib this anti-SOPA letter, and send it to your congressional reps

My friend wrote a nuanced letter to his congressional rep opposing the SOPA bill, and I'm sharing it with you all so you can send something similar to yours, or to just copy it outright. It's good.

Enjoy. (And in case you need it, here's how to find your rep.)

Hello X,

As a resident in your district, a law-abiding and tax-paying US citizen, a small business entrepreneur and an experienced professional in the fields of technology and media, I would like to add my voice to the millions of others who oppose the Stop Online Piracy Act as it is currently structured, and I strenuously request that you reconsider your support for this bill. I understand that you have received much financial support from entities which support the bill, no doubt motivated by their own short/term financial best interests, but as a servant of the people, I ask that you throw out consideration of the big media lobby (i.e. Hollywood) and simply do what is right, for the people and businesses of the great state of California and the country as a whole.

The truth is that our nation has undergone an incredible amount of new regulation in the past 10 years. From efforts to prevent economic mistakes of the past to those which ostensibly target “terrorism,” the powers of the federal government have been systematically expanded since the turn of the millennium.  While many individual bills have been merited, when taken together as a whole, it is difficult to argue that the US federal government has gained increased capacity to limit or postpone traditional American freedoms. SOPA is another entry into this new trend of restriction at the hands of an increasingly autocratic government. Unfortunately, the casualties of this trend are in many cases those entities which we need most to keep this country strong, innovative, informed and moving forward.

While I do not support copyright infringement and I am a firm believer in the just protection of intellectual property, I readily acknowledge that the problem is one of complexity and nuance. The battle against piracy, plagiarism and theft of art is better fought with a well-placed scalpel than the broad-faced hatchet of threats, blanket restrictions and blatant censorship that encompass the proposed SOPA legislation. While its heart might be in the right place, the true implications of SOPA could be catastrophic to businesses and artistic endeavors both here and abroad. And while it may deter some bad people from doing a few bad things, it will undoubtedly deter many good people from doing great things, and contribute to a further weakening of our ailing economy while cutting another rent into our once limitless store of international soft power (i.e. the influence of American artwork, brands and business savvy all across the globe).

Would we give up just a little of this great legacy of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation in exchange for a few intellectual thieves behind bars and a bit more money in the hands of some of the world’s most bloated, regressive enterprises? My guess is our founding fathers would be ashamed of any kind of support for this bill. And so should you.

Thanks for your time,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ring Ring: Guess What, Your Day is F*cked!


I was having a normal Tuesday morning a couple of weeks ago -- at my desk, drinking coffee, replying to work emails, about to start working on some client-related something or other -- when I got a phone call from my sister. She had called once that morning already, at 7:00, but I didn't answer. I knew that if she was calling again, it was for something urgent.

So I answered this time, and before I knew it, I had been listening to a 15 minute long rant about an argument she'd just had with my mom. There was nothing surprising about the contents of the rant, but what was remarkable was the way it perfectly encapsulated my family's particular brand of emotional dysfunction. Those were 15 minutes that called to mind a lifetime of frustration and familial misery. I'm embarrassed to say this, but I was leveled after that call -- concentration shattered, deep feeling of despair, spirits in the gutter. I don't know if it was just that I'd been anxious about other things and this triggered something larger, but I couldn't get anything done for an hour or so after that.

A close friend experienced something similar the other day when she had a meeting with her bosses and their bosses about a creative project they have in the works. As my friend tells me, this particular project is in horrible shape, but everyone smiled and talked about how great it was, and how it was so amazing and blah, blah, blah. Clearly they were saving face -- a LOT of money is going into this project -- but it was demoralizing to her to see everyone just pretend it all was well and good instead of talking constructively about how they could make it better. But she kept the happy face on throughout the meeting, and when it was over, she went back to her office and cried tears of frustration.

Both of these incidents were disturbing for different reasons, but they reminded me of how hard it is to go about your day when horrible emotional shit happens. Does this happen to everyone? Or just those of us who are perpetually on the verge of a nervous collapse? Mind you, I did recover, it just took a while.

One of the things that continues to bug me about the corporate world is the mask wearing it requires. Over the years I've just started to take mine off, mostly because it exhausts me too much to keep it on and pretend like everything is fine when it isn't. When I graduated from college and got my first job, I was so worried about presenting the right appearance. Wearing the right clothes, obviously, but also talking in the right way and using the right terms suddenly became of paramount importance. (Is there any doubt about why bullshit corpo-speak exists? It's because of insecurity -- people use these words to signify that they're in the know.) Anyway, the more time I've spent in this world, the more I've learned what is and is not essential, and while it is essential to keep a professional appearance, it is not essential to use terms like "decisioning" or "circling the wagons." No one needs to hear that shit.

But I digress. Whether this slow process of mask-taking-off is helping or hurting me is debatable. On the one hand, I put less pressure on myself to feel like I need to constantly be cheerful and approachable -- I'll tell anyone if I'm having a crappy day and that it might not be the best time to approach me -- but on the other hand, these little meltdowns are the kind of thing that has led people to declare that women are too emotionally unstable to be trusted with serious work. I don't believe that is true -- so what if I'm unproductive for a couple of hours every once in a while? It's not like ANYONE else is productive all the time, and anyway, I always make up for it -- but the stigma is troubling. It's not like I'm openly crying at work or anything, it's just that now I know my limits better, and I'll do what I have to to take care of myself first.

I guess I'm getting at something larger here about women in the working world. Stigmas disappear the more you shed light on what's behind them, so hey, maybe it's good for me to openly admit to my ups and downs. I have to imagine I'm not fooling anyone anyway. Over time hopefully my work makes up for it. Now can everyone else do the same so I'm not the only crazy one? Thanks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Of Drafts and Manicures and Sanity


I went to a party with a lot of writers the other night. We talked about writing, and how many drafts it takes to get to something that is finished and maybe, hopefully ready to be published. The general consensus: so fucking many.

The piece I'm working on now, for example, is only 4,000 words, but I've been slogging through it for nearly three months. Little by little I am reworking, rethinking, revising, reframing, polishing, making progress. Bit. By. Bit.

But it's frustrating to spend such a long time on one relatively short piece of writing. I don't think there is much I can do to make it go faster, especially considering I am still trying to figure out where my own mind is with regard to the subject.

For me, what makes me think I have a compelling idea for an essay is the way a certain topic will brew inside my head. I started thinking about this one in August or so, and then it marinated for a few months before I even began writing it. I had some things I knew I wanted to say when I started out, but I didn't know exactly where I was going with it overall, and though I've made some decisions, I'm still spinning. Second guessing. Calling bullshit. Questioning everything. By now I've been working on the piece for so long I'm not even sure it's something worth saying to begin with. And then there is the fact that because it's a personal essay, I'm revealing details about my own life. (In this case, they are about some not so good times.) Am I comfortable sharing said details? Are the details themselves too much? What am I gonna do with this piece once it is finished? Send it out, sure, but to where? I have some ideas, but I lack conviction there too. 

In short, I find it easy to get lost in my own work, and the questions surrounding it. I'm operating under the assumption that as long as I keep writing regularly and trying to get better and better at the whole process, this will be less of an issue, but sometimes the anxiety, the uncertainty about whether I have any idea what the fuck I'm doing overwhelms me. (This is true not just in writing, but in other pursuits too - I'm a great one for stopping myself in the middle of an enterprise I've spent crazy amounts of energy on and nearly throwing the whole thing out.) The answer is that I probably don't, but I need to do it anyway. You can't let that stop you. 

And clearly I'm not going to solve this anytime soon. But you know what helps me feel less anxious in the meantime? Manicures. Yes, manicures. I don't especially enjoy the act of getting them (though yes, the massage part is nice), but I am thorougly in love with the result. In a world where I am constantly second guessing myself and everything I do, I know for certain that I always love a professionally filed and polished fingernail that is surrounded by a smooth cuticle. When I'm properly manicured, I can look down at my hands and think, there, I am a self-possessed woman, a woman who takes care of herself. I know what I'm doing in that aspect. And sometimes that makes all the difference. 



Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thanks, 2011 -- you were good to me.


If 2010 was a year of flux, 2011 was a year of...continued flux, I suppose, mixed with a little bit of settling in. I don't really feel like getting too introspective, but suffice it to say that mentally I am in a much better place than I was at this time last year or the year before. Here are some of the things and events that affected/occupied/entertained me.  

1. The Nike Training Club App: If you are like me and find weight training essential to looking and feeling good but hate going to the gym to do it because entering the weight room is just such an atrocity, this app is a godsend. It's like a personal trainer - it tells you what to do, how to do it and how long to do it for. But it's free. And it will kick your ass. I completed 3200 minutes of training this year. That's a lot of jump squats, which is to say a lot of pain, which is to say a lot of soreness, which is also to say a lot of muscle. It feels strange to pledge fealty to a dreaded corporation during the year of the 99%, but I have to give Nike credit. This is a phenomenal app and a great service.

2. Breaking Bad: Last summer my brother and I ripped through all four seasons of this grotesque but riveting saga of an ordinary man who tranforms into a depraved scumbag. In the end I found it absolutely chilling and more or less totally implausible, but in the meantime it kept me rapt with attention, and I thought about it a lot. I've been working an essay about the emotional health of men I know that was inspired by this show, and if it ever sees the light of day, I'll have the travails of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman to thank for it. 

3. Kurt Vile: I first heard this guy in 2009 through a free Subpop sampler on iTunes, which included the song Overnight Religion, which hooked me immediately. This year he released Smoke Ring For My Halo, and it was on repeat in my car, on my laptop, on my ipod and in my head for most of this year. His sound is reverberating, atmospheric and expansive, his lyrics are ambigous but affecting and he has truly incredible hair. I couldn't get enough of him this year. Play his records in your house, loud, and let them echo in your brain like they have in mine. Sublime.

4. Peet's Coffee in Larchmont Village: Iced coffees. A lot of them. (Plus endearing baristas and some of the best people watching in L.A.)

5. The Lonesome Dove: My dear friend Amy has been bugging me about this book for years, and I finally got around to reading it last spring. It is very long and it took me a little while to get hooked, but it is SO GOOD. Horses, whores, carrots (penises), moustaches, whiskey benders, the great American west. Some of the most memorable characters ever created. Highly recommended.

6. The Hairpin: A delightful, diversionary site for smart, cool women. A great mix of fluff, humor, advice, and discussion. The best commenters on the Internet, for my money.

7. Finding my genre (for now): This was the biggest thing that happened to me this year. For years I've been writing blog posts, journal entries and other littlethings I thought of as trifles, while at the same time trying to force myself into writing in more popular formats like short stories, screenplays, novel, etc. I finally decided to work on some memoir stuff this year and took classes with the fabulous Chris Daley at Writing Workshops Los Angeles, and somewhere along the way discovered that I'm an essayist at heart. Despite having read and loved many essays and essay writers over the years, I never realized this was something you could actually study, write and publish. I had my first piece published this year on, have another one coming out soon and a whole collection in the works. It feels good to finally have something concrete to aspire to after all this meandering and searching. I still want to write a novel someday, but, uh, baby steps.

All in all, I feel good going into 2012. Interested to see what's in store. 

Happy New Year! 


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 Holiday Moments Chez Donuts

As usual, I returned to my semi-ancestral home in suburban Atlanta for Christmas this year. This entails gathering a veritable riot of family, which in our case includes nine siblings, four to six siblings in law, depending on wavering marital statuses, two parents, ten grandchildren and various friends and hangers on, for multiple get togethers in my parents' somewhat cluttered colonial house. Always a good time, but never without a good dose of scandal, scuttlebutt and heartbreak. And hilarity. A lot of it. 

To wit, here are a few memorable moments from this year's expedition into the holiday melee:

1) Flipping through channels with my parents and my brother and landing on "The Sound of Music" so my dad could hear the Von Trapps sing "Edelweiss", one of his all time favorite songs. We were all together, the Christmas tree was lit, homemade sugar cookies were being consumed. It was an idyllic moment...until the converstion turned to what a notorious "pussy hound" Christopher Plummer had been, and how he'd probably been "porking" both Julie Andrews and the girl who played Liesel (16 going on 17).

2) Sitting around the kitchen table drinking coffee with my brother Joey (33) and my niece Madeline (2), while my brother Michael (30) warms up some of my dad's famous goetta. Joey emits a loud fart that echoes against the wooden chair, and says "whoa, what was that?" Maddie smiles and looks over at Michael, notorious in my family for his flatulence, and says "that's my daddy!"  

3) Opening gifts on Christmas eve, the family room packed with wine swilling adults, sugar stricken toddlers, overstimulated and underwhelmed teenagers, nutrackers, candy dishes full of truffles, multiple couches, picture frames, candles, mismatched stockings, sparkly lights, bows, ornaments, the whole spectrum of Christmas madness, and one sprawling, ancient black labrador retreiver, Bogans, aka The Boy. I'm in the kitchen pouring myself another glass of cabernet and suddenly a chorus of "ewwwwwws" springs up, followed immediately by a mass exodus from the room. I look over and Bogans has puked up a sizable log of brown, red and green lumps, an accumulation of dog food, milk bones and god knows what other treats people have been slipping him over the course of the evening, because, as my dad keeps saying, "this is The Boy's last Christmas."


4) Asking my 13 year old nephew, Nicholas, what he wanted for Christmas. His answer: a debit card. ! (I later asked my nine year old nephew, Collin, what he wanted, and he said a Kindle Fire. Also !)

5) Looking out the window on our way to Christmas eve dinner and seeing a family standing around on the sidewalk of my parents' neighborhood gawking and taking pictures of a red tailed hawk devouring a small rodent like creature in a nearby yard. Bon appetit!

I can't wait 'til next year. 




Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Light in Dark Places

In the physical and cyberspatial (sorry) nerdville that is Silicon Valley, PowerPoint decks are as plentiful and free flying as fake boobs at a Hollywood casting call.

But there's one that gets more notice than any of the others, and it's by Mary Meeker, a former Internet analyst turned venture capitalist. Each year, she delivers a presentation at the Web 2.0 conference with lots of charts and graphs and stats about the growth of the Internet. It's mostly only interesting if you're in the business, but this year there's a brilliant little nugget that everyone should see. 

According to Meeker, a "Mega-trend of the 21st century" is the "Empowerment of People Via Connected Mobile Devices." According to research she cites, 85% of the world's population is covered by commerical wireless signals - that's more than is reached by the electrical grid (80%.) And smartphone usage is also growing at exponential rates, which means that online media sharing is too. Put simply, the ability to share media with each other and media outlets around the world has never been easier, and it's going to get even more so in years to come as mobile devices and wireless coverage continue to improve. 

There are tons of ramifications, not all of them positive, but one that is positive is the way it's becoming "hard to hide. The truth is often just a photo/click-send away."

So maybe that's not so good if you're a cheating wife, but think of the implications for enforcing human rights, uncovering corruption, keeping public spaces safe and more. The question Meeker poses is, "is the world on the cusp of being safer than ever?"

It's a good one to ponder. For all the things we'll lose - a certain amount of privacy, the ability to get lost for a while, total anonymity - there are a lot of things we'll gain too. I'm on the optimistic side, as ever. I can't wait to see how things play out. 

(And yes, the headline is a Lord of the Rings reference. One of my favorite scenes.) 

Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over