who the heck knows anything, anyway

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

wardrobe revamping, super cheap

Two nights ago, around 11pm, I totally lost my marbles and decided to sort through all of my clothes. A couple massive bags of shirts and dresses, two pairs of pants, five pairs of shoes, and four jackets were the casualties of my rampage. The consignment shop took nine things off my hands yesterday (and gave me a whopping $60 in store credit. I can only figure out five of the things they took, but apparently I had some super nice crap that I never wore), and I'm letting friends go through the rest before I donate the leavin's to Lifelong. I also cut up about 7 old t-shirts.

Then, yesterday, I spent $20 of the $60 free dollahs on four new shirts. Today, I bought a pair of pants at Nordstrom. Only $30, though, so I feel no guilt!

When I go down to the ol' hometown next week, I'll be getting my hair 'did. (Blue, naturally)

It's refreshing to start over a little bit. That's sort of hard to do when you don't have a lot of money, but when sanity is on the line, I think it's worth it. I've been having a lot of appearance issues lately, and I wanted to find clothes that were both flattering and not totally juvenile. (I ditched all of my peter-pan collared and ruffly dresses, along with all of the stuff that never fit correctly to begin with.) Inventing a new look is pretty exciting--even if it's simply the natural evolution of its previous incarnation (in short, I now dress like a classy, 20-somethings rocker chic, instead of a teenage one). I wanted something that was hot with or without heels (because I'm a wimp. I LOVE HEELS. I just have absolutely no reason to ever put them on), would look hardcore and feminine simultaneously, and would not require long hair to pull it all off effectively. I think I've succeeded. As much as one can, when one can't afford a personal shopper or designer duds, anyway. Such is the plight of the penniless Fashion Lover who doesn't own a sewing machine, and probably couldn't afford the fabric even if she did. That ish is expensive.

I've also started exercising with renewed vigor! My legs can verify this claim, as they scream furiously whenever I try to move.

Self-betterment, man. It's pretty neat.
It also releases all kinds of chemicals into your brain. Hooray! Brain chemicals!

My only complaint this week is that I've been feeling very antsy/handsy/restless. This not only accounts for my late-night clothing revolt, but for my lack of ability to sit down and finish the story I'm currently writing. Instead, I feel like MAKING things. Tangible, aesthetically pleasing, decorative, functional, interesting things. I'm horrible at prioritizing work when I have these crafting impulses floating around, and no real project toward which I might apply them. Instead of working for a few hours on Project (A) and then writing for a few hours, I spend about 5 hours on design blogs, find nothing I want to make, and then futz about the house. I really need a good project. SIGH.

I could, additionally, use more time to relax.

Let's end it on a light note, though! I'm feeling fit, I'm totally happy, and the fact that my current creative complaint is that I'm not stretched thinly enough is, by all counts, a pretty good sign. As long as I can keep this on track and not find too many new things to panic about, I'd say September is looking to be a pretty good month.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I daydream fairly regularly. The question is, what's the best way to get there? (or even remotely close to it? I don't need those things, duh, but they would be pretty rad. That's what dreams should be, right? Best Case Scenarios. But my heart would not be broken if I wrote some stories and books that never became popular but were well liked--dare I say loved?--by the people who picked them up.)

Grad School: the promise of deadlines one must keep, friends one might make, and piles of debt one will most certainly fall into.* Will it help me get to where I want to go? Probably. But will it be any more effective than my current strategy (in which I work in my living room and live off of savings)? That is tough to say.

Of all the benefits grad school claims to bestow, the two most appealing are deadlines and networking. I am the worst networker. I mean, I don't even like going to big parties to hang out. Rubbing elbows with people who could help me up the Ladder of Success is both terrifying and generally unappealing. Isn't that why people have agents? Let me stay at home and be a hermit--other people can schmooze for me. But aside from the slimy bits, grad school might actually help me meet fellow writers (because I am just bad at meeting people, in general); ones that I respect and admire. That would be pretty awesome. So, Pro: new friends. Con: high probability of dealing with people who are--I'm not even going to pussyfoot around this--not any good, or totally douchey. Or both! Sigh. It's so often both. And hemorrhaging thousands of dollars to read shoddy writing and have said-shoddy writers critique my work does not sound like something that excites my already meager Nest Egg.

That other Pro is having deadlines. Failing is not something I do**, so pumping out a manuscript in a year would probably be more likely in an MFA program than it is in my living room. But maybe I wouldn't like a piece that I had to concoct and whip out in so little time. Sure, I want to be likTéa Obreht or Karen Russell (young, awesome, young and awesome), but not everyone can do that. Heck, most people can't do that. I certainly aspire to write brilliant, beautiful things, but I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that I'm anywhere near brilliant yet (though my ridiculously rad beau says I'm as good as Russell. He scored major points with that). I've got mountains to learn, and the only way to do that is to keep writing--writing things that I want to write, that I need to write. What good will that manuscript be if it was a glorified homework assignment? Page count is something, I suppose. Quantity over quality, and all that. ...Pretty sure I'm just rambling now.

I want to do what's best for my personal growth, but I have no idea which is better. Maybe two extra years of school won't be so bad. Maybe I should apply to less prestigious programs, because I don't want to leave with an MFA and a superiority complex. Or maybe more prestigious is better because there will be more people to show/teach me how to improve. Grad school just seems like a horrible decision if you're not 100% committed. If I hated my program and dropped out, I will be at least half-a-year-of-life poorer. I don't know what to do, or what I should want to do, or even what I actually want to do at all! Some days, grad school sounds amazing. New friends, great book recommendations, fab professors, a final project that could be published... Other days, it sounds like more bureaucratic nonsense that will cost me money and sanity. I'm very bi-polar on the whole thing.

Or, heck, maybe I take out a $20,000 loan and travel instead. Perhaps life experience is the thing I need instead of more desk-learning.

In summary:

How does one know whether the discomfort caused by contemplating a Big Decision is a result of over-analyses and/or self-psyching-out (reinforced by fear, pressure, laziness, etc), or whether said-potential-decision is actually just unappealing?


*well, if you're in the liberal arts and/or pursuing an MFA at any place outside of the Top Ten list
**in the A-F sense. I totally fail at crap all the time. Coordination, for instance, is not something I possess outside of a swimming pool. I quit choir in the 6th grade, playing the flute when I was in the 7th grade, and Irish Step dance in the 8th. I don't exercise nearly enough, and I abort about 6/7ths of my short stories. The worst is that, being a perfectionist, I'm afraid to try new things because I might fail at them. Being judged by people terrifies me. Yep. Might have a touch of the neuroses. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Contemplative sorts of things

Monday somehow ended up becoming rather soft and glowy around the edges. Perhaps there's a better way to explain it, but that's the simplest. It was soft and glowy, and full of thoughts about soft, glowy things.

I've been reading Salinger lately. I've loved him since I was sixteen and read Franny and Zooey*--a book that quickly became my literary equivalent of mashed potatoes and gravy (in other words, the ultimate comfort food). More than once, I've revisited it--usually in times of emotional upheaval or drastic change--and with every blissful return, I close the book with a satisfied heart. While I was in San Francisco, I went to the famous City Lights Book Store** and bought his other two books (thus completing my collection***): Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour, An Introduction and Nine Stories. Combined with some very serious bouts of recent introspection, reading these has helped me to realize that, somewhere in the past year or two, I've gotten to be a bit jaded. And that's not a characteristic I like. I want to stay optimistic--even foolishly so--and humble and curious. I know I haven't left those parts of myself behind, but they've been sadly subdued by the addition of added fears and general world-weariness. 

I want to be mindful of my attitude. I want to be saintly**** without playing the martyr, and I want to notice the beautiful before the bad. The scary, tiresome, guilt-causing things will always be out there, but I don't want them to be the first things I notice; they certainly didn't used to be. 

Basically, I want to be Seymour.
Perhaps, for those of you who've read all of these books I'm yammering on about, that's a bit morbid*****, but, really, I'm already rather morbid, guys.

Let me tell you a secret: I am an incredibly happy, thankful person. It's contemplating such supreme happiness that leads me to be a simultaneously melancholy person (I will explain this to anyone who personally inquires. It seems rude to bring it up to everyone, unsolicited. I care about your feelings, too!). Fortunately, there can be beauty in melancholy, too, I think. Not in anger, though. Not in guilt, nor in frustration, nor spite, jealousy, etc. These are the attitudes I am aiming to not suppress, but mellow. I'm not a very angry person, in general, but I do feel emotions fast and hard, if you know what I mean. Meditation has begun to sound appealing. I've started reciting a little...let's call it a mantra, to constantly remind me of what's important. It's already been helpful. Growing up Catholic, reciting familiar words has long brought me comfort; many times, when my trust was broken (or even my heart, for that matter), I would sit outside by myself, chain-smoke cigarettes, and say the Our Father repeatedly. God, it was miraculous how well it worked, unwinding the tightness in my chest. Maybe that's why I can't separate myself from Catholicism completely--sometimes the little things about it bring me so much peace.

Anywho, that's the goal. I am going to remind myself, come hell or high water, that everything is so goddamn beautiful. I think I'm off to a pretty solid start.

*I read Catcher in the Rye when I was fifteen, and was unimpressed
**Jack Kerouac and his posse were regulars in the 1950s
***with the exception, I believe, of one short story that had only been published in the New Yorker in the '60s
****not sainted, mind you, just a really, genuinely, good person.
*****Seymour committed suicide. This isn't a spoiler, I promise--it comes up regularly in every one of the non-Catcher stories

image is mine, bee-tee-dubs

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So, this is what I'm thinkin'

Would you guys be interested in this blog becoming half written-updates and half comic-updates? Here's an example of an hourly I drew whilst bumming around Mountain View last week. Future editions will be similar in style but, hopefully (since I have a new* SCANNER!), I will be able to clean them up in photoshop and make them look less like low-quality pictures from my phone, and more like the real deal.

my otter ego
note: this one above isn't cleaned up either--I just adjusted the brightness and contrast to make it look a wee bit less like a mobile photo.

*"new" meaning: used to belong to my friend, Dan

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mountain View, Day 3

This may come as a huge surprise to some of you*, but Mountain View, CA is not very exciting. That being said, I'm making the most of my alone time while Daniel is out conferencing. I've gone swimming a couple of times, worked out in the mini-gym, checked out a few little restaurants (sushi for lunch yesterday, a burrito today; we accidentally slept through lunch on Tuesday), discovered an awesome little Indian grocery store where I bought the foodstuffs for my dinner tonight, and I even bought a brand new paperback copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray for less than a dollar at Goodwill. I also finished re-reading Franny and Zooey, which is one of my favorite books ever written ever. In some ways, I'm getting "out of the house" more than I do in Seattle. That's likely because my apartment back home is awesome, and this hotel room is kind of dark and surprisingly non-conducive to getting real work done. There's still hope for being productive today, fortunately; I just had to discover that it's easier to work on the bed than it is at the desk. Go figure.

Last night I saw the "Live" discussion/panel/thing for "Transcendent Man" with a few of the guys from Daniel's conference. All of us were under the impression that we were going to see the movie "Transcendent Man", but we were totally wrong. It was a taped panel of individuals, who are supposedly smart, talking nonsense FOR TWO HOURS about the Singularity. Daniel didn't think it was good, either, so I know my opinion is a well-founded one. If you're curious about the Singularity, I have one piece of advice: ignore all of the media, and ask someone who knows about it. I'm sure most of the people on the panel are geniuses in their own fields, but the majority of them did such a shoddy job in that thing. Just, please, ask someone who knows and who has no interest in being shocking.

the DEKA arm, in action!
image and further awesomeness via
However, there was one gent on the panel for whom I developed immediate and profound respect--his name is Dean Kamen, and if I had millions of dollars to invest, I would definitely give him a million dollars. He is genuinely interested in helping people (he invented boxes that purify water for use in developing countries, he teaches kids about robots, and just LOOK at the prosthetic arm he invented!), he's wonderfully soft-spoken, and--most importantly--he's not interested in getting people all riled up and freaked out about nanobots and uploading brains and living forever and whatever the heck else. You should read about him. Such a cool guy.

It may also be worth noting that some of the dudes from the conference (because it is a predominately-dude field, so I went to the movie with Daniel and nine other guys) were wonderful and very sweet--and some were total weirdos. In fact, I excused myself from the restaurant to smoke at one point because I didn't want to accidentally punch this one dude in the face.

But that's enough of that!

I saw a bitter melon today at the Indian grocery store. They're pretty odd. I wish this hotel room had a kitchenette, because I would be cooking up a crazy bitter melon feast tonight! Instead, I bought a box of PG Tips, some lentil rice, a green banana, and some veggies that are good for raw munching (bell pepper, radishes, etc). All for $6, guys. A box of 40ct PG Tips by itself at QFC is like $8. They also had Green Label Lipton, which Manpreet says is the best for making chai--so I think I might go pick some of that up tomorrow.

Ummm...yep, that's about it. Prolly studying for the GRE tonight. The conference doesn't end tonight until after 10pm, so I'm flying solo for a few more hours (ugh, five more hours? blegh). I'm on a bit of an IPA** kick right now, so I might try to teach myself some of that, too. Yup. 'Tis an exciting life I lead.

But, hey--San Fran on Sunday! Woo!

*sarcasm. This should not actually be surprising to anyone.
**International Phonetic Alphabet, not India Pale Ale...thought that's good, too