Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Is Hollywood sending us subliminal colon-related messages?

Just sayin'.

p.s. While searching for colon images, came across this


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Coming Out of the Closet

I get a daily email newsletter from Stephen Elliott, the editor of The Rumpus. Ostensibly it's a newsletter to promote the site, which is billed as a site on culture, but mostly it's a daily email about whatever is on his mind at the time, and it usually contains links to articles on the site as sort of an afterthought. This might make it sound like I don't like the newsletter, but I actually find it fascinating, definitely more so than if it were just a collection of links. It's written in first person, and it often references conversations he's had with his friends, things they've said, small domestic scenes with women he dates, snippets about his life on the streets as a homeless teen. 

I've never met Stephen Elliott, but I feel like I know him a little. I wish he would put the newsletter in blog form, because I'd like to link to some of the things he says in my own blog posts. Here's something he said recently that I liked: 

"But I was thinking about stories. I'd talked to a class and they asked if I was comfortable with so much personal information about myself out in the public sphere. I talked about writing as a process of coming out of a closet. You come out of one closet, there's another closet waiting for you. And then, you move through old topics easily, ideas and experiences that you've already unpacked, as you struggle through current binds. But you don't write as if you're still in that closet, exploiting stories based on previous success. You have to look forward, into the dark."

This spoke to me because one of the things I'm having trouble with in terms of blogging - one of the reasons I don't update as often as I'd like to - is that I'm having a hard time coming to terms with 1) why I would want to do so, when I really do value my privacy, 2) how much to say given I'm not really anonymous and 3) why anyone would care. I have no answer to any of these questions. I'm not sure I even have a story, but I do know I have a lot of thoughts that seem to want to be let out, whether it's via talking, or Twitter, or Facebook, or blogging, or whatever, so here I am, continuing to blog. I guess like Stephen said I'm coming out of my own closet through writing. It's an entirely selfish act, but necessary, I guess. 

Also, a further note on malaise: "It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth comes to the top" -- Virginia Woolf

I'm taking that as a flat out endorsement.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Malaise Happens

Maybe it's the lull before the holidays. Maybe it's the reality of my upcoming move and some kind of block against it happening that my subconscious has constructed. Or maybe it's fatigue from this nearly year and a half long period of career limbo I've been in taking its toll. Whatever the case, I've been having some long days lately. I believe the feeling is called malaise. It's a strange feeling because in my case, it's part lack of inspiration and part paralysis - but not exactly boredom, and never a lack of things I need to do. And not even really a lack of things I want to do.

I think it's just that I'm just not one of those people who are excited to hop of out of bed every day. Tammy Pajamas is an early riser and once told me she often has the feeling of not wanting to miss anything. I don't have that. I used to have it as a child or maybe sometimes during vacations, but generally I feel like the world will wait for me, for when I'm good and ready to face it. I guess I'm an egotist in that respect. You could argue that this is the sign of a depressed person, but I'm not actually depressed. (And I know depression.) I'm just sort of nonplussed at the moment. It'll pass. It always does. And I'll keep being interested in all the things I'm interested in, and loving all the people I love, and getting fucking pissed off a few times a day on average. But for now I'm just all "meh". Nothing else to it.

When I was working full time, malaise would strike fairly often. The title of that song by Camper Van Beethoven, "The Humid Press of Days", would run through my head. I wouldn't really think of the actual song (it's not a very good song), just the title. It kind of said everything. My freelance lifestyle has a little bit of it too, though - I may not work in an office, but I still wake up around the same time, make the coffee, go to my desk, work on PR type stuff, look out the same window, watch the mailman walk into the courtyard to deliver the mail around 11:00, make lunch at noonish, etc. Same same. I work out in the middle of the day more often now, but overall, it's same same. But a little different.

I guess what I'm concluding here is that I don't think having a different job will ever really change things too much. This is something about me - I tend to lose interest easily. But luckily I get re-interested too. I just have to remind myself of that before I freak out about the malaise when it sets in, because sometimes I panic and convince myself it's here to stay.

Kind of sucks, but eh, it's actually not that bad. It's definitely not as bad as depression, or outrage. It just is.

p.s. The guy who designed this game clearly has faced the malaise.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bloggin' Ain't Shit but Bitches and Money

No, not really. In fact, anything but.

Mostly I'm slightly drunk and haven't posted in a few days due to 1) overthinking, 2) stress and 3) lack of discipline. 

But I did watch a good TED video today about the connection between the willingness to be vulnerable and the capacity for joy. 

And there was also a new column today from Dear Sugar, also known as the best advice column I have ever read. 

There's a connection here, and that is honesty. Both stress the importance of being honest, and how it can redeem you. 

More on this later. 



Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Which I Recommend Zadie Smith Expand her Internet Horizons

OK, Zadie Smith. We all get it. You’re gorgeous and preternaturally talented, you already, at 35, have a literary career that is the envy of anyone who’s even contemplated picking up a pen (or tapping a keyboard) and you’ve been teaching at Harvard for years, years when most of us (OK fine, me) were mostly spending our free time talking shit with our friends over our beverage of choice.

But you know what you suck at? The Internet.

I came across your piece for the NYTRB last Friday on Twitter, but got bored about halfway through and abandoned it, at least until I came across two prompts to give it another shot. So I soldiered though, and...huh?

Zadie, don’t you know about the Internet? It’s huge. It’s really not just Facebook -- Facebook is just a jumping off point. Facebook long ago ceased being a place where you can find actual honest opinions and interesting dialogue. Oh sure, they’re trying desperately to make it safe for us all to fly our freak flags, what with the Groups and all, but I just don’t think we’ll be so easily misled.

Zadie, when you quit Facebook, you threw the proverbial baby out with bathwater. You ask, “Is it possible that what is communicated between people online “eventually becomes their truth”?” But to ask that assumes that people are only communicating online via Facebook.

Zadie, haven’t you ever watched To Catch a Predator? Don’t you think the guys they’re apprehending by the dozen post the same “falsely jolly, fake-friendly, self-promoting, slickly disingenuous” Facebook status updates as everyone else? Fine, that’s a really dark example - you could just as easily point to people participating in forums for recovering alcoholics or sufferers of incontinence or hell, even people doing online dating - but the point is that people still do plenty of things online and off that they don’t necessarily want to advertise to 400 acquaintances and Great Aunt Dorothy.

To assume that just because we’re putting on a happy face on Facebook we’re not indulging in our passions, urges and fantasies (twisted and morally reprehensible though they may be) is just silly. Seriously, what else is the Internet good for if not giving people the immediate ability to explore any interest they could ever possibly have, and to connect with others who share that interest, or at least to read their thoughts about it? Facebook is one place to do that, but it’s by no means the only place.

The pack mentality is alive and well on Facebook, it’s true, but it’s also alive and well in real life, and until that evolves, it seems crazily naive to assume that a web utility will be responsible for its perpetuation. If anything, Facebook is the phone book of our generation - it has just enough information to make it possible to contact us, but in the end it says very little about who we really are. It might stick around a while because it is useful, but I promise, it's not going to keep people from being who they are.

Let me know if you need help finding some other places where you can really be yourself online, Zadie. They’re out there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In Which Liz Phair Speaks for Me (Still)

Two old Liz Phair songs have been floating around my head a lot lately: "Go West," which I did, when I left NY for LA almost six years ago, and "California," her farewell to the Golden State.

In "Go West", the lyric "And it feels like I've got something to prove / But in some ways it's just something to do" couldn't be more apt for what I was doing when I came out here. There just wasn't much more to it. I wish I had known then what I was trying to prove - I'm still not sure, truthfully - but mostly I just wasn't ready to go back to Atlanta. 

"California," on the other hand, doesn't say much at all. And while my departure isn't as much about defeat and sadness (I may well have said that about NYC when I left), as it is just generally about it being time, I love how she captured so much emotion with so few lyrics. 

I bought Exile in Guyville when it came out, when I was a senior in high school, and then later dug into the songs she recorded as Girly Sounds through the Juvenilia EP. I haven't listened to her music a ton since then, but my teenage self burned all those lyrics into my brain, and I can still sing pretty much everything she recorded in the 90s from top to bottom without pausing. Her depressive, alternately cocky, self-destructive, and alienated ethos spoke to me more than any other artist I'd ever even heard then, and more than most have since.

So I guess I'll keep letting her speak for me until I can say things better myself.

p.s. Recently came across this piece about what she's up to now. Loved this quote: "Her brand of feminism is simple: “All you have to do is live your life with some pride and some honesty, and you’re pushing it forward,” Phair said." Amen to that.


Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Leaving LA is Like Breaking Up with a Man I Still Love (But Can't Live With)

Last weekend I decided, for real this time, to leave Los Angeles.

It had been a long time coming. I moved here in the spring of 2005, and fell in love with it immediately. After NYC, where I'd spent the previous four years, it felt like freedom and light and light-heartedness embodied in one big, sprawling riot of a city. It scared me a little, but it didn't have the bite of New York. I couldn't feel the cruelty that had seeped into every cold subway ride and drunken cab ride home that I took in the last year of living there. The relentless sunshine and warm weather and open windows and loud music I blared in my car (shitbox though it was) seemed to wipe the chill from those old methods of transportation away in short order.

For the longest time I was in love with this city. Blue skies and sunshine, obviously, but also hikes redolent with sage that I could get to in 20 minutes. A total lack of humidity. Cheaper rent. Excellent tacos. And then there was the proximity of my two brothers and some old friends that I reconnected with and new friends I got to know pretty quickly. Plus it still had a lot of the flash and excitement of NYC, but without being as caustic in day to day life. It was altogether a relief, and a lot of fun.

And I'd say it stayed more or less good for the next five years, even despite some shitty jobs and a soul-destroying relationship I wandered in and out of during that time. I wanted to change many things about my life, but I was always relieved that I still liked LA, that it was one thing that was working and that I didn't have to worry about. I always knew it had problems. The traffic, obviously. The cost of living, and the likelihood that I would not be able to afford a home of my own, not for many many years. The fact that I missed my family, more and more since my brothers had started having kids I saw maybe twice a year.

And then one day I realized my heart was no longer in it. I went to a job interview, and the guy who was interviewing me, whom I really liked, said he wanted to hire someone who could be a cornerstone for the office, someone he could build a long term partnership with. And somewhere in my gut I knew that wasn't me, and that the reality was that I just didn't want to stay here. I couldn't commit.

So I guess you could say I fell out of love with LA. I can see why I loved it for a long time - I still do love it, for all the reasons listed above. But my heart no longer is here. I could stick around and it wouldn't be the worst thing, but I know that in the long term it's not what I want, and the longer I stay here the longer it'll be 'til I find a place I do feel good about settling down in.

So next stop, Atlanta, home of my people. Humid, green, gritty, pretty Atlanta.

Provided I can get off my ass and make the exodus happen.

California - it's pretty here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Women: We Really Are Fucking Nuts

I know I’m not supposed to say this because I support the causes of feminism and gender equality and on general principle of not giving men fuel for the “women be crazy” fire, but goddamn, I swear my brain ceases to function at certain times of the month. And not the ones you’re thinking of - really I would say this happens about a week before. Not every month, but most months.
It’s a strange thing. It’s not the crying, irrational kind of crazy, (though that happens sometimes too), but more like I suddenly cease to be able to do my job. It’s bewildering and incredibly frustrating. Out of nowhere I’ll find myself unable to perform tasks I complete on the regular, how to begin, what to say, what should be happening, etc. It’s like some switch in my brain flips, and where conviction and determination normally prevail, I am suddenly overcome with doubt, confusion and exasperation.

Example: Today I was supposed to put together a draft of a plan for my client, and even though I have written literally hundreds of plans exactly like it, I sat in front of my computer utterly incapable of putting down a word. Of course I procrastinated by looking at other web sites, reading the news, reading Twitter, checking Facebook, etc., but even those activities weren’t as compelling as they normally are. No matter what I tried, I simply couldn’t get absorbed in things.

Am I alone here, or does this happen to other women too? It’s a brain chemistry thing, pure and simple, that much I know is true. I’ll be back to usual tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Make Readers, Not War

Interesting article today by Laura Miller at Salon.com, who argues that instead of devoting a month to encouraging writers - with the argument that those who are really and truly determined to write a novel will write it, in November or no - we should be doing more to encourage readers. While I essentially agree with Caroline Kellogg over at LATimes.com, who calls Miller's admonishment "smallhearted," I think Miller has a point. Writers gon' write. But what can we do to encourage readers? Is it even possible to do anything in our attention deficient age?

When I was a kid my (evil) brothers called me "Billie Jean Reads a Book" and "Bookworm" because my way of escaping was to bury myself in literature. But it was second nature to me - I don't know if it's part of my genetic makeup or what, but I just didn't need much nudging to pick up a paperback. I think some people do learn to enjoy it over time, but while I haven't done any actual research to confirm or deny this hunch, I have to assume that fewer kids are being introduced to the joys of long form prose. There are just too many youtube videos and blog posts (ahem) and video games to contend with. I'm not such a naysayer as to suppose that literature is dying - I think if anything, it's just evolving - but I do worry a little about it staying relevant. There's just too much beauty out there that I want others to see and love as much as I do.

So here's my suggestion - I think it's high time someone did a modern, virally equipped update to the "Books: Feed Your Head" campaign that ran in the 90s. Remember this video on MTV, which starred a foxy Sherilyn Fenn reading some naughty bits? It was good. It was memorable. It was compelling. It was sexy without being lewd. And it may even have made some people dig into Kafka and D.H. Lawrence. 

MTV, where you at? 



Posted via email from Jane Donuts is Starting Over

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Good Cover is Worth...Well, a Lot

I came across a cover of AA Bondy's "Witness Blues" by Matt Vasquez, the lead singer of Delta Spirit, a band from San Diego that I like OK but haven't really given much thought to. I only discovered Bondy earlier this year, and his voice and music crept into my consciousness over time. His "American Hearts" record accompanied me to Japan, and I'll always associate it with the day I wandered through the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, which consists of thousands of vermillion torii lined up for visitors to walk through. Listening to a haunting piece of music in a haunted atmosphere made for a memorable day.

But back to the cover, since I'm probably one of the only people in the world who still listens to albums beginning to end, I missed "Witness Blues," or at least failed to appreciate it fully, because it’s the second to last song. And hearing Vasquez’s version gave me a whole new appreciation for the original.

How gorgeous is this lyric?
"Once you heard a choir while you were dreaming/and you wish you could remember it today"

Two things: 1) I like Vasquez much more now for choosing to cover a great song by an under appreciated artist, so I’ll probably give Delta Spirit another shot, and 2) I love it when a cover gives me a whole new appreciation for an old song in general. Wins all around.

MP3: A.A. Bondy, "Witness Blues"

Download now or listen on posterous
11_Witness_Blues.mp3 (3683 KB)

Monday, November 1, 2010

How not to fail at NaNoWriMo

Just decide not to do it. I'm not suggesting anyone follow my lead, but this is an easy way to get off on a technicality.

Writing a novel in the span of a month is an amazing feat, and a worthy endeavor, but I just don't think I'm ready. I attempted it, sort of, last year - realized it was happening a few days into the month, and since I wasn't working at the time, figured I should give it a shot. But then I waffled and I couldn't decide what to write about and the idea of writing 1000 words a day did my head in, so I abandoned ship. I had other things I was working on, head wise, and I didn't feel confident that I could commit to doing it without regularly beating myself up about not really doing it. It was a decision to be nice to myself, and patient.

Fast forward a year, and I'm taking another pass. My head is much better, but my obligations have increased. At the highest level, I'm trying to get my freelance career off the ground while orchestrating a cross country move, and I just know it's not gonna fit into my list of priorities. To say nothing of the fact that I still don't really know what my novel would be about.

So instead, I'm instituting a one blog post a day rule. This here's my stake in the ground. What should I call it? National Blogging Month? National Aspiring Writers Who Haven't Quite Gotten to the Noveling Stage but are Still Trying to Be Productive Month? Copout November? Whatevs.

One year, I will do NaNoWriMo. It's on the list.

Unrelated: Here's a great picture I took on a hike last month outside of Sun Valley, Idaho. It's not terribly indicative of the incredible scenery, but the light turned out pretty cool.