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