Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Spike Jones's Kenzo ad.

KENZO WORLD - Director's cut from Heidi Bivens on Vimeo.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shrill by Lindy West. (Part 2)

I should have taken the time to sit down and write about Shrill properly when it was fresh in my mind. Instead, I did other things.

If you haven’t read the Part 1 of my review, please do.

She says a lot of poignant things throughout the book:
Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time - that moves the rudder of the word. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience. (Page 19)
adele tutorial nodding uh huh how to write a good song

The book is great, but the part that really jived with me was her experiences with comedy and stand-up and feeling “othered” by it - feeling outward hostility. Stand-up and comedy has really helped me through some dark times, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t also had a lot of shitty experiences with it.

I feel like when I was in my teens and early 20's it was very much about being a girl that could hang. Amy Schumer had a great bit about this on her show. It's about being "cool" with the dick jokes and the sexist stuff because their sexism or objectifying you isn't the problem, your just a girl that "can't hang" with the dudes.

I remember the first time I saw stand-up that really dug at my guts. I’d always watched sitcoms and SNL, but it was the George Carlin bit on “stuff” that blew my mind. I was both laughing and thinking “man that’s so true,” while also feeling deeply existential. I was about 11 or 12 at the time, I remember it vividly.

But it’s hard to love stand-up when you’re a girl. I was the chubby girl. The girl who talks back. The girl who takes charge. I was bossy. The feminist. Then I was “the fat girl,” the “we gotta go girl” the shrew who cock-blocks. I have been all those women. The douche-bro telling the joke is not telling that joke for me, he’s talking about me. About women I'm friends with. About amazing women. I'm the chum. He isn’t talking about drunk-culture or bro problems, he’s ripping up the girls who don’t wanna sleep with him, and think he’s a joke (already). Fuck the girls who see that. Fuck women, he's saying.

It's not just being the butt of the joke, it's the anger with which this jokes are told. The really deep-seated disdain for these women.

The racist stand-up, whose jokes you don't laugh at and who then calls you out - how aggressive and misogynistic some spaces are, Lindy spoke to all of that.

And though there have definitely been nods to it from other comics, a lot of the women whose work I like are also deeply part of the culture, and have had to be the "women who can hang" in order to even be let into the space.

We're seeing some of this come to light now, through veiled stories about prominent comics being "known creeps." I'm sure there's a shit-storm of stories out there, I can't imagine.

In West's case, she’s a writer who frequents those circles, she’s friends with Hari Kondabolu (who is great, and whose new podcast is great) and she’s worked with known editors and personalities. She’s in the zeitgeist. She’s of it.

In my case, I’m just someone who appreciates the work.Could I be a comedy writer? Maybe, if I had more ambition and less crippling depression / bad life skills. Maybe I'm only a comedian for myself. I'm okay with that. But I feel tied to comedians. The process, the insight, the instinct.

I still take it personally. I still see creative spaces and comedy spaces as mine. I could be there. I do haunt them, through astral projection.

There has been a shift though. It’s been nice, being able to watch the TV shows centred around feminist (openly!), female comedians, (Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, The Mindy Project) watch great stand-up (Again, Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Tig Notaro, Ali Wong, Chelsea Peretti) and see all of this represented in popular culture.

Tig Notaro has a show coming out (One Mississippi) as does Cameron Espisito (Take My Wife) and both shows, feature lesbian comedians and their relationships! If you know anything about television you know lesbians usually don't do so well (Tara on Buffy, Lexa on The 100, see more here) so having not one but two shows have lesbian main characters in actual relationships is a big step.

That’s not even mentioning Maria Bamford, who represents both mental illness and stand-up comedy, and just a general level of genius and originality I can barely really grasp.

SNL’s cast right now is female dominant, with Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer being my everything. I try and watch anything Paula Pell does.

I like being able to buy tickets to Jenny Slate’s Obvious Child (a comedy about stand-up and abortion!) and see Ghostbusters feature my favourite female comedians while also supporting a film that makes men’s rights activists shit/cry. Spy was brilliant. Melissa McCarthy is fantastic and game. She’s a fat, hilarious woman and I love that I can support her and her work. I can see Bridesmaids. I can see Trainwreck. I can see movies written by and starring people I like and can actually relate to. 

But that's only lately. Some of my favourite comedians have had shitty opinions or been rumoured to be fucking assholes and I can no longer enjoy their work. Sex crimes happen. Assault happens. So yes, when West discusses the way stand-up comedy has also hurt her, I get it.

The misogyny and trolling she faces is incomprehensible to me. The insanely personal attacks she’s had to endure is just batshit insane. BAT. SHIT. INSANE.

The vitriol she must get - and that she faces with charm, grace and (gasp) humour is just inspiring.

She’s got backbone. And talent. And I know it must get overwhelming and I hope she’s well surrounded and really hopes she gets good things and kind things to counteract the crap things.

Lindy West,

Thank you for Shrill.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The End of Empathy.

Just read The End of Empathy by Stephanie Wittels. It actually took me a minute to realise she's Harris Wittels' sister. It took the mentioning of an entertainment rag announcing his death for me to make the link.

Her piece talks about the seemingly impossible existence of empathy on the internet, especially in comment sections.

She's right. I'll often write something relatively benign on the Atlantic's comment feed and get a bunch of "Millennials are the fucking worst" and non-related rants about Muslims or Feminism. It's just, the worst.

Usually, I'll try and stay away from comment sections, but the masochist in me sometimes just can't resist.

I try and offset that type of rage or ignorance through simple, kind reactions. It usually works.

This one time I also just replied:

It was an honest reaction, and my sensitive, empathetic nature was worried about his blood pressure / rage haemorrhoids.

I don't think empathy is dead, but I do think emotional intelligence is a spectrum, and that crap people love being crappy on the internet, where they can rage-out and be ridiculous with impunity, and without getting confronted/called out or punched in the face.

I actually find empathy a great tool in confronting outlandish reactions. Especially in confronting anger/shittyness.

"Are you alright, you seem really angry."

And when people need to answer with how they feel, or why they feel that way, they change their angle.

Then again what do I know. I'm a liberal man-hating queerbones baby butthole - or whatever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Intergalactic freedom fighting (with Beyoncé).

It was all an odd dream, absurd and vivid.

I was in my hometown. Visiting with family.

It happened all of a sudden, and within hours there seemed to be some kind of ground-war going on.

I would see people I knew but we were all just running for our lives, trying not to get killed. Eventually it became clear things were organised. People fought back. Small revolts. Eventual quiet.

It transitioned to people speaking for them, with guns and then with words.

It was explained to us, publicly, that this was all a misunderstanding.

They asked those left to gather. I did not.

I was sought out. They explained a second chance, if we went with them.

I interrupted, “I won’t forget.” I was so angry.

“Yes, we understand, but this is a new beginning, a second chance.”

People walked out. They gave up on understanding. What must have been intentional political gaming ended up making factions clear, and it all got worse.

Nobody could live lives anymore. Everything stopped. Some tried to help or to fight. To rally. They tried living human lives, in a world no longer ruled by humans.

Who was attacking us? Why?

People you saw one minute you’d never see again. Wisps of air took them away. There was violence but there was also quiet. So much quiet.

There was a day I didn’t see many people. The world felt baron and wrong and I moved brazenly. My life wasn’t anything anymore, I knew it fully. I would die today, and it would be over.

I saw others and they said to move away from this part of my hometown, it was no longer my hometown, it was a dangerous place. There was an odd ship, with odd sounds, and more would be coming.

I nodded, and as they left I walked towards their warnings.

An odd cube, an open door. I see someone gesticulating, talking, behind it I see footage of us. I shoot at it. A few come for me, and somehow they fall at my feet. Bullets and adrenaline.

I interrupted a broadcast I think. I walk into the cube and see myself. I called out their bullshit. Explained what it meant to those of us who had lived a free life. I am now gleefully a spoke in their wheel. It’s all I have. I speak volumes of nonsensical prose and dissidence. I laugh heartily and tell them they’re ruined souls. I weep and say I’ve loved and been loved and now everyone is dead.

I scream that I exist only to stand between them and whatever it is that they want.


The next days are flashes of memory and guesswork.


I woke up somewhere else.

Things were different. Bigger. Sharper. Brighter.

An odd shape moved towards me. It seemed familiar, but was still alien. It explained to me that I was a survivor, one of few. That my planet was no longer a planet, and that he human species was now made up of pockets of survivors.

How did I survive?

“You were taken?”


“Because you were recognised,” it speaks through an inhale.

That doesn’t make any sense.

I ask it to explain, and it shows me the cube of myself, flustered, manic, furious.

“Who are you?” I ask.

He makes a beautiful noise, then pauses, blinks, and repeats “Hike.”


The first time I saw Beyoncé and Jay-Z it wasn't anything, really. There was a time I would have frozen, I would have tried to melt into a wall. Instead, here and now she was not an icon, she was a survivor. One of few.

I was introduced and they nodded to me in recognition. Where I once could have mentioned their work, their talent, I instead gave my condolences. My eyes welled. As did theirs.

I say I’m Kay, with my hand on my chest, and they introduce themselves. Jay says I can call him Shawn and I softly say, “Hi Shawn” while shaking his hand, we all become overwhelmed. Our hands rub backs and shoulders.

Hike once asked me if this was a customary greeting. I explained that it isn’t, and that I assume every other person is feeling what I’m feeling. He stares at me until I elaborate.

“Devastation,” I say slowly, eyes fixed to Hike’s my hand to my chest. “ We’ve lost everyone we’ve ever known or loved. We’re displaced and confused. We’re in perpetual fear. We remember everything we’ve lost, always, and it hurts.”

Hike often gets overwhelmed when I’m emotional. The glands and ripples on his dome undulate and his face twitches.

“I understand,” Hike will say.

He does not.


I had nothing but questions. I asked as much as I could, until I was no longer able and would pass out due to sheer overwhelming over-stimulation.


From what I could understand, it was some kind of network of species and planets. It seemed infinitely complicated. I could barely grasp the systems behind human politics. My cynicism was deep. Intergalactic government meant infinite spaces for corruption.

I was taken to meetings of sorts. I was introduced. I would meet being of all sorts, creatures that I would once have described as monsters or legend, now saw as bureaucrats and socialites.

I didn’t understand my place in it all. They often asked me about my people, and what I wanted. And when I would say I was just trying to understand as much as I could, they always seem to accept that.


The human I did see, I understood why they were saved. They were known. Special. Fantastic in some way. Exceptional.

I asked Hike why he brought me around. He said that they considered me sacred. I laughed and swore. This surprised Hike.
“You were kept because they see you and remember the human who refused to die.”


Hike also explains to me that he is considered some type of scientist. He seems well respected. He says those that destroyed humanity did so to save the planet. That they are a rash, arrogant species and that they are irritated some of us was saved. Taken on as pets, they say. Prideful, biggoted and power-hungry Hike refers to the species with derision, his body becomes rigid as he tuts, “Garaque.”


I have very little time with other humans. All of us are so unsure as to our grounding. Are we owned?

We’re taken to a large event of some kind. Many touch my hands and arms. One puts a tentacle out towards me and I poke it with my finger, and it seems to smile. I smile too.
I am brought to a table where I’m close to Beyoncé and Shawn. The space is laid out like a large colosseum. Different spaces of different sizes, meant for specific creatures and beings. There’s a large aquarium in the middle. Aquatic species. I try and take it all in.

To our immediate right are large, furry creatures. They strike me as Japanese-style children’s illustrations, with large eyes and round bodies. They seem like fluffy bears, only with broad, flat faces and stubbier snouts. They’re very cute. They have fat hands. Large feet. They seem like a marsupial of some kind.Their fur varies, but is beautifully patterned. I ask Hike about them.

He advises me not to stare and says something that sounds like Batchou. He gives me the highlights of the race, having memorized them all for this summit. They’re fierce and intelligent, know for their building skills. Carnivorous. Nocturnal. Keepers of a small wood-dense planet.

“Dangerous. Easily provoked.”

“But they’re so cute.” I say, smiling.

Beyoncé laughs.


There is some kind of disruption at the event. We’re hurried off, pushed onto some kind of hovercraft. A pontoon with no party. As we’re whisked to a quieter area, I look back, trying to make out what’s going on. I see large, greenish monsters. With the segments of caterpillars, their bottom legs extend like tentacles, there are three of them. A large, green tripod. It has no arms. It must be 12 feet tall. At its head, is a large face, made up of a largemouth and small eyes. Several of them. Its teeth are needle like. Its colors that of a venomous frog. It’s bitten the head off a fleeing thing. It’s sucking the liquids from its body.


We’re all settled inside a ship. Hike explains the attack was by those who attacked us. There is growing tension over our having been saved, not because of us at all really, but because they were interfered with. These Garaque. Their act of revulsion, desperate and petty, has had them rejected from the summit of worlds. They’re a dangerous outlier, instead of an distrusted arms-length ally.


I ask Hike where the other humans are. He says he does not know. Everywhere. Pets. Refugees. Guests with nowhere to go. I ask him if I’m free. This insults him. Of course I’m free. I’m free to go. But where would I go?


Hike says a ship has been caught with contraband. He says they were caught with human habitat. When I ask what he means, he shows me on a screen. There is is, ripped from the earth, a large chunk. I see houses, stores and trees, all plucked from the surface of the earth, like an iceberg picked from the great North.


It takes several days to visit. I insist on visiting every home, every building. Items could be recovered. I ask Hike to scan the area with his scanners - are there living things? It’ been several weeks. People could have survived.

There are no people. There are two dogs and four cats. They’re all happy to see me. I cry everytime I find one. They’re thin, having survived on scraps. I explain to Hike that I want them all, and that they need to be fed and cared for. He watches me oddly. I am aware of it, loosely.

One of the dogs looks like an old wise man, and it makes me weep.


There are bureaucratic struggles regarding the habitat. The pirate who took it, wants it as a keepsake. Hike and his scientists say it belongs to the surviving humans. They ask me to speak on behalf of humanity. I send a message to Beyoncé, saying, “They asked me to speak on behalf of humanity.” She writes back, “LOL.”


I record a message, meant to be a conversation with Hike. They’ll edit it the way they need it. The arguments about entitlement and ownership are not mine to make, this is a world that I want no part in. They use me as an example of an existing problem that warrants the solutions available to it.


There are free-zone planets. Make-shift barter planets. Planets meant to facilitate inter-group communication and cooperation. Landscapes change drastically over short distances. There are so many languages, such different bodies and movements.

It is here they’ll drop the habitat. Near a coast. Inland. Far away from most large settlements but near the most politically active, where Hike lives and works. 


It will take some time to settle the habitat correctly - make sure it doesn’t fall apart. It was ripped from the earth, it needs to be structurally sound. I walk around this free-zone planet, I’m given a communication aid, some kind of telecommunication device since I’ll most likely get lost, and will most definitely be afraid for my life at some point.

My curiosity gets the better of me, and Hike gives me a satchel. He explains there are methods of payment in it, and that I am very wealthy due to donations to my name and to my people.

I walk for hours, through markets and parks. I watch Batchou eat some kind of grilled meat. I call Hike and ask if I can eat that, he says yes, it is similar to Earth meet. I eat it. It’s similar to BBQ. I sit on a large rock, and watch Batchou walk to a woodland edge. There are many. Young and old. Some seem to be nursing young. As they start to move away. My eye catches the ruffle of a bush.

I wait for the Batchou to leave, and approach it slowly. I hear a gurggle. I call Hike.

“I think they forgot a baby here.”

“They only keep the strongest of the young, it would be the second, weaker of two.”

“Can I take him? He’ll just die here.”

“I do not recommend it.”

I go to a local market stall and purchase a large piece of fabric. I return to the bush and pick up the large, fluffy baby. It’s like holding an obese cat. I call Hike and ask for someone to come and get me.


Batchou babies grow quickly when well fed. It takes a large amount of eggs to feed the baby. It likes raw eggs. There are some birds here that make large eggs, similar to goose eggs. He eats a dozen easily and often.


I decide to name him Eugene. There are no humans around and the thought of him sharing a name with Eugene Levy brings me comfort and joy.


By the time the habitat is ready, Eugene has tripled in size. He’s now like a fat 10 year old. Their vocalization are very different than ours, but he is able to say my name and egg and a few other things. When he is tired he’s affectionate. When he isn’t he’s intensely building things or playing. He likes to roll around.

The habitat, I call “the patch” since it’s pretty much a patch of Earth, and a patch of earth. I’d asked Hike to help me transplant some of the gardens and seeds that had survived, and to recreate the gardens that were there. From what I can tell, it seems to be a nordic town. Maybe Iceland or Greenland. The books are in a slavic language. The town is small, but has the main staples. A general store. Houses. Small duplexes. A graveyard. A small school. I choose one of the outlying homes, it has large windows and is the furthest from the entry point to the patch.

The cats roam freely. The dogs stay close. Eugene builds himself many things. Rips them down. Starts again. Though we’re all free to, nobody leaves the patch for several weeks.


It’s late one day, when Eugene makes a howling noise. I run out of the house and look to him, and he points forward as he runs to the entry point of the patch.

I follow as closely as I can.

I yell his name and he stops. Instantly rigid and unmoving. He looks to me.

Over the small bridge to the patch, is an man. A man in his 60’s or so, with a girl of about 5 or 6.

I walk up to him and am immediately hugged by he and the girl.

We all start to tear, as we give each other our names. He is Muneer, she is Fahmeeda. I am Kay. We do not speak the same language, but they are welcome and I am no longer alone. We all sleep in the same room that night.


I ask Hike to help me record a message, and to share that message with any known remaining humans and allies. I ask him if it can be translated to other human languages, he explains that to most, yet, but not all dialects. It’ll have to do.


“Hello. I’m Kay.

Some of you may recognize me. I don’t quite understand the role that’s been given to me here, but for some reason I’m identified as a part of the human resistance. I’m the one who refused to die. I assume, so are most of you. I am here, in the free-zone, on a patch of Earth, confiscated from a ship, and given back to us, what’s left of humanity.

You are welcome here.

We can live out the rest of our lives here. Amongst familiar comforts.

The information I’ve gotten is fragmented. I know some of you are kept, some of you are free to leave, some of you are here on the free planet.

If you are so inclined, you are welcome here, to this earth patch.

From what I can make of it, it’s a Scandanavian town, there are homes, shops, running water. There are gardens with Earth vegetables in them. We even managed to rescue two dogs and some cats.

It is difficult for me to say everything I want to say here. I am here. Muneer and Fahmeeda are here. There are homes. Beds. Books I can’t read.

If you’re alone, wherever you are, please know you are not any longer.

I’m sorry this happened to us all. I’m here if you need me.”

I brought my hand to my chest and nodded, closing my eyes slowly. All of a sudden everything was so heavy, so laboured. It was crushing me.


That was the beginning of something. People sporadically appeared over the next few months. Even Beyoncé and Shawn would come by often, when we’d have communal meals or celebrations. There were about 100 of us. Every once in awhile another one of us would show up, saying they left a home, a zoo. Some did not live on the patch, but only visited. All were welcome.

I recognised many faces. A lot of singers. Actors. A few scientists or great minds. All deemed special in some way. All taken for a reason.

It still seemed odd that I was there. Deemed exceptional through not dying.

Hike came by often. He’d ask questions about certain traditions. Bring gadgets. Seeds. Take a meal with us every once in awhile. He really liked cherry tomatoes.


Eugene was well liked, though he didn’t seem to like anyone, really. He tolerated me. He liked me fine sometimes, he was fickle, like a cat. When I pointed this out to Hike he corrected me, saying Eugene must have great affection for me if he stayed on the patch and didn’t make out on his own. Males were often solitary, he explained. I was sure it was because we had geese with fat eggs. The joke was lost on Hike.


I asked Eugene if he wanted to leave, and I let him know he’d be free to go wherever he wanted, even if he wanted to go back to his planet. He said he’d only go back to that planet to murder his parents. I  laughed entirely too hard.  He laughed too, a sort of wiggle laugh that made me laugh more. Afterwards he let me hug him.


Things begin to settle. The patch had a rhythm. As life goes on, I become more removed from it. I don’t see myself in this version of human life.


I spend more and more time sitting quietly by Eugene. His presence is enough to keep most from approaching me.


I know I’m of no use to the patch or to humanity. I’m too angry. I’m in too much pain. Eugene takes notice. He throws eggs at me every once in a while to make me angry. One time it makes me cry, and he makes a huge fuss, it upsets him terribly. He tried to feed me eggs. It makes me cry more. He cradles me like a baby until I fall asleep. 


I find Hike.

“I want to help you,” I say.

“With what,” Hike asks softly.

“With whatever I can.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fuck fat loss / You do not exist to be used.

Just read Fuck Fat Loss, and “You Do Not Exist To Be Used”: Dismantling Ideas of Productivity in Life Purpose by Gillian Giles.

Both have complimentary narratives on the body.

From Fuck Fat Loss:
For me, actually loving my body has come to mean honoring those things that I don’t totally understand, and practicing lots of non-attachment to outcomes related to its size and shape. I actually trust my body to do it’s job (which is to keep me alive, not to make me attractive to people who only have one idea about what that word even means). I believe it when it tells me it’s hungry. I believe it when it tells me it’s tired. I believe it when it wants to move, and when it wants to rest. Okay- I try to. It’s not always easy! No one taught me how to do that, In fact, I’ve been taught the exact opposite for my entire life.
I have decided that my job isn’t to discipline my body, my job is to care for it, to safeguard it, to be generous and gentle with it, and to thank it for taking me through my days. It is not my enemy. My love for it is not conditional on it fitting into a certain pair of pants, moving at a certain speed, accomplishing a particular task.
Self-love and self-care have been actively germinating over the last several months. They're a work in progress. Her post eventually references chronic illness as a caveat to "trusting your body" since it's a different reality. In my case, I can't entirely trust my body since I'm reliant on medication. My mind is fragile, and it's a constant. 

Having the ability to listen to your body is a skill as well. Especially if part of you has willingly forged a disconnect, a valley of small cuts. 

From You Do Not Exist To Be Used:
Unfortunately, shame, stigma and isolation are all too common experiences for those unable to keep up with the expectations of productivity. 
From a young age we are taught that our bodies and our purpose is to produce within effective normative means. That in order to be something of worth, you must prove productivity. The ideology of productivity in life purpose extends far beyond the school system. Expectations of productivity range from being able to get out of bed on a bad day, reproduce children, ride a bike or be successful in an academic task. In failing to be useful, we are told we are not of value or valued as less than. It is these bodies that fail to meet social standards of productivity that are most often marginalized.
Within the economic and social landscape, the bifurcation of the normative abled bodied citizen and disabled one creates an assumption that a proper citizen is an able productive one, that the economic and social value of personhood is conflated with restrictive notions of productivity. The result of this binary is that the disabled body is rendered as other, less useful then simply as just less. 
It is the inherent ableism of society, of capitalism’s productivity, that teaches us that we must be of use, that we are tools to be used to produce and that our entirety our purpose is hinged on a framework of productivity.
These are themes I've been struggling with over the last few years, especially this year, as I've been unhappy with my 9 to 5 day job. 

Working creatively has been hard. On bad days I feel useless, and I don't feel good enough to be making a living off my my creativity or whatever skills I have.  I don't always have the wherewithal to be pushed. 

I've also not had a "good" creative job with a competitive salary for the last decade. Right now I am still living pay-check to pay-check. I live in my mother's basement to pay cheaper rent. On bad days I feel barely employable and incapable of "taking care of myself" since I can't afford 800$ a month rent and the costs of living on ones own. 

When friends ask for services, I do everything for free. Yes, to help, but also because asking for payment is uncomfortable and I am not comfortable equating a financial sum to the quality of my workmanship. 

What I do these days is make small things for Etsy, letting that shop and culture dictate whether or not it i interested in my work. I am passive to the situation. 

Productivity is a difficult marker to step away from. Today I received new postcards I designed. I packaged them. I photographed them for Etsy. I posted them on Etsy and on my portfolio website. I shared a photograph over Instagram. I felt productive, and felt I could take an afternoon nap without guilt. I earned that nap, through doing something.

I would assess my my work-life balance as pretty good. Where I take issue is with the capitalization of my work, and the value of my productivity. It's difficult to think about and find my place in. 

I look at people I use to be friends with, who make a lot of money and are very productive and business minded, and I often feel shame around being lazy and not having lived up to any kind of potential I may have had when I was young and had energy. 

Though this may have been more of a sore spot in the past, these days I'm quick to dismiss it, since it's a question of priorities. We do the best we can. We prioritize daily (whether consciously or not) and we just get through the day. 

Being critical of the way our bodies are relegated to tools for productivity is important, since we do not have to succumb to that framework for our own self-worth, but it is difficult to escape altogether since we do live in a capitalist system, we do need to work to live, to pay the bills and to take care of ourselves. 

I have to take care of myself. And I'm not especially good at it. 

Michael Pollan on food and cooking and eating.

Highly recommend Cooked on Netflix.

I happened to also come upon Michael Pollan's episode of The Passionate Eye last night which aired bits of his documentary In Defense of Food. I think it was an edited down version, since it was only a 60-minute episode. I'll try and find it in it's entirety.

It's just a really informative, healthy approach to food and eating, as well as cooking.

Eating is often a big source of anxiety and shame for me, so having an approach that centres around care could be transformative for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Shrill by Lindy West. (Part 1)

Go out and get it folks! Shrill by Lindy West!

I'm about half way through and it's great. It's funny and she's great, and she's able to clearly describe and explain all sorts of realities I relate to immensely (fat joke!).

Right now I just finished a chapter entitled Why Fat Lady So Mean to Baby Men? which is just on point. She talks about her experience with trolling and she refers to how she often re-posts their hateful tweets and comments "goo goo ga ga baby man," which is now my favourite insult when dealing with ridiculous man-whining/misogyny.

She faved it!

Yay me! After reading her chapter on trolling and how much vitriol she puts up with, the least I could do is publicly acknowledge her work.

I'm going to write more about the book once I've read it fully.

I also don't want to just quote her incessantly, which I feel I would do, I just really recommend reading it.

the hunger games catching fire katniss everdeen peeta peeta melark

There are segments of the book that speak to pretty heavy issues, and just correlate to some of the more shitty experiences I've had, as well as to some I'd like to mirror.

I think West is more confident, and more together than I am, but it's really nice to read something so close to my own experiences when it comes to my body, fat and shame.

See Part 2, here. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lidia Yuknavitch interview.

The Lenny newsletter this week has an interview with Lidia Yuknavitch, whom I love, and whose book the Chronology of Water reached me, and moved me. Mainly because she was using language I understood in a way I'd never experienced before. 

Her interview with Suleika Jaouad is great, I'm basically re-posting most of it here:
Suleika Jaouad: In The Chronology of Water, you wrote: “Aspiration gets stuck in some people. It’s difficult to think yes. Or up.” When did that absence of hope hit you the hardest? 
Lidia Yuknavitch: When my daughter died on the day she was born, a traditional definition of hope was sucked out of my body. I’m not saying I’m proud of this, but it just happened. For me, what became important was learning to breathe again in a way that used regular air. The word aspiration has a breathing sense to it. It dawned on me that we have to breathe and to find reasons to stay alive on our own terms. Sometimes that doesn’t come from what we’ve been told our whole lives. 
I believe in art the way other people believe in God. I’m not trying to make a tricky sentence. It’s just true. I have found reasons to breathe again by living in communities of people who choose self-expression over self-destruction. It’s another way to form hope, without hierarchizing it so that you’re looking up toward a God, or someone smarter or more famous than you are. It’s a lateral definition of hope where you just need each other, and you need to stand up and not leave each other hanging. 
SJ: I think a lot about how much pressure there is to be someone who “suffers well.” There’s a mythology surrounding the “survivor’s story” that can be inspiring to some but can make others feel like they’re suffering the wrong way. 
LY: Boy, I hate that narrative so hard, to be honest. The truth is, suffering sucks and it can take you to a place of wanting to kill yourself, and there’s nothing beautiful about that. Suffering is not beautiful. Suffering, from my point of view, is about a real place in a real body where you face the other side of living. How you choose to understand that story probably determines how you’re going to live the rest of your life. I feel kindred with fellow sufferers, and I don’t ever want to romanticize the story of suffering, because then you’re just playing into making it a good story or a sellable story for a culture. 
SJ: You write with so much rawness and honesty about your life, but I’m interested in the experiences you touch on but choose not to delve into, like the specifics of your father’s abuse and your relationship to drugs and alcohol. How do you decide what to write and not write about? 
LY: You don’t have to read very far into my writing to find those things, but you won’t find them literally represented. There’s no scene of actual sexual abuse by my father in my writing. On the other hand, that sort of paternal sexual violence is threaded through every word I write. It’s as if it’s in the language. It’s in my habit of being. It’s a structure of my consciousness. 
You don’t have to always name the explicitness or literalness of a thing to represent the essence of it to a reader or listener. That’s the reason poetry works and it’s the reason painting works. It’s not explicit. It’s figurative, and it gives you the whole soul-body experience without naming it in a literal sentence. I think the work of art is to push for that so that the reader feels it in their body to be true, whether or not the explicit sentence is there. That’s how I work with material, but I am filled with respect and enthusiasm for people who also represent it explicitly. 
SJ: I think of you as someone who rejects tidy narratives and who doesn’t seem to care about the rules. I’m curious about where your outlaw spirit comes from. 
LY: If there’s one phrase that I should probably tattoo on my forehead it is this: “I’m not the story you made of me.” The more people I can convince to hold that mantra, the more I’ll have been of good use in my life. We don’t have to accept the stories we inherit, the ones that tell us who we’re supposed to be. We can stand up and say no at any point, even if we’ve been saying yes our entire lives. It’s never too late. We can always reject the story placed on top of us, and we can always revise and destroy one story and restore another. It’s a never-ending possibility. 
SJ: What are your best words of advice for fellow misfits and aspiring writers? 
LY: I’m trying to help us remember that we invent our own beauty and our own paths and our own crooked, weird ways of doing things, but that they’re not nothing and they matter, too. We’re the half of culture that doesn’t take the paths that are sitting right in front of us. Our song may be a little off-key, but it’s a kind of beauty, too. I know I’m not the person who thought that up, and I’m not the person who invented that as a truth, but I can sure stand up and help remind us not to give up, that we have a song, too.
She's someone I look up to. She's survived and she's living off her art. That's as much of a win as one can hope for. As I could ever hope for.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rising Strong.

I just finished reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown. I’d seen Brené on Oprah a few times, but I was especially drawn to her Super Soul Sunday episode where she talked about her book, and specifically about shame.

There are things that bugged me about Rising Strong. Mainly the language she uses to list steps to dealing with your emotional processes. I find it too cutesy and it irritates me. Overall her work on emotional intelligence and effective communication is great, I just think it’s done a disservice by over simplification in order for it to be approachable. I feel like the book needs more meat.

Her work is interesting though, as are some of the points she brings up. 

The following quote had me add Alias Grace to my goodreads list:
When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.

- Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace
There's something about narration these days. I find myself narrating section of my life, or internally describing myself and situations in lyrical language. It's odd. I have found though, that the blog has helped me a lot. It's been successful for what it was initially meant for, as a record of sorts. As a way of externalizing my frustrations and fears. But it's also been more than that. It's been a little part of me. I've written from memory, I've chronicled, essayed, some of what I do is part book review and lit review from what crosses my path, but it's also had creative pieces. It's had free thought word associations. It's had dreams cast out onto paper - where I can get them out of my head. Stories and patterns help.
Robert Burton, a neurologist and novelist, explains that our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize and complete patterns. Stories and patterns. The brain recognizes the familiar beginning-middle-end structure of a story and rewards us for clearing up the ambiguity. Unfortunately, we don’t need to be accurate, just certain. (79)
It's the satisfaction of a film like Momento. It's the satisfaction of a job well done. A period. milestone. A benchmark. A check-list. Boy do I love a check-list.
Jonathan Gottschall examines the human need for story in his book The Storytelling Animal. He explains that there’s growing evidence that “ordinary, mentally healthy people are strikingly prone to confabulate in everyday situations.” Social workers always use the term confabulate when talking about how dementia or a brain injury sometimes causes people to replace missing information with something false that they believe to be true. (81)
Gottschall argues that conspiratorial thinking “is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.” (83)
One of the many ways we can dip out of the norm and into too much. What is it about narrative? What is it about wanting an explanation to everything, wanting to understand it all? We stand guilty of it as an entire race! 

What part does the ego play in understanding, or thinking we understand something to our satisfaction? What kind of entitlement comes with that? Why does it comfort us so much? Does getting lost in trying to explain and understand help?
James Pennebaker, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Writing to Heal, has done some of the most important and fascinating research I’ve seen on the power of expressive writing in the healing process. In an interview posted on the University of Texas’ website, Pennebaker explains, “Emotional upheavals touch every part of our lives. You don't just lose a job, you don’t just get divorced. These things affect all aspects of who we are - our financial situation, our relationships with others, our views of ourselves, our issues of life and death. Writing helps us focus and organize the experience.” Pennebaker believes that because our minds are designed to try and understand things that happen to us, translating messy, difficult experience into language essentially makes them “graspable.” (87)
Language is indeed a mold in-which to smush the complex ingredients of our ego, our id, our dreams, our context, and ultimately our intangible experiences. So much happens to us in a moment, in a day, in a lifetime. If what any of us want is to minimize discomfort and pain while we're here, it makes sense that we'd want to understand what it is that causes us pain and discomfort, in order to possibly avoid it in the future.
If there is one thing that failure has taught me, it is the value of regret. Regret is one of the most powerful emotional reminders that change and growth are necessary. In fact, I’ve come to believe that regret is a kind of package deal: a function of empathy, it’s a call to courage and a path toward wisdom. Like all emotions, regret can be used constructively or destructively, but the wholesale dismissal of regret is wrongheaded and dangerous. “No regrets” doesn’t mean living with courage, it means living without reflection. To live without regret is to believe you have nothing to learn, no amends to make, and no opportunity to be braver with your life. (210)
This section of Brown's work I appreciated significantly. For a while in the 90's there was a lot of "no regrets"- t-shirts and pop culture paraphernalia. As I got older, I got increasingly irritated by them. I've always felt regrets weren't necessarily negative, as long as you understood them. Brown expresses what I feel well here, since reflection is a large part of the last few years of my life. I do regret situations where I was shitty, or blind, or disconnected, but I am also able to look at those times and understand why I did what I did or said what I said. She quotes George Saunders, in a 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded. . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” (211)
Brown goes on:
I believe that what we regret most are our failures of courage, whether it’s the courage to be kinder, to show up, to say how we feel, to set boundaries, to be good to ourselves. For that reason, regret can be the birthplace of empathy. (212)
I think regret can indeed lead to empathy. As can most difficult, painful emotions. Courage can be hard. Even little pieces of courage. It seems some days all I can do is just minimize my interaction with the world in order to hold on to what little energy I have. For some, just getting out of bed is courage. I've had those days. I've had years of my life, lost to a cloud of disinterest and introversion. 

Brown also has a few paragraphs on nostalgia I found interesting. For a while, during the worst parts of my depression, nostalgia was a big part of my shame triggers. It was a lie though. It seemed glossy and young, happy and energetic, but there was also frantic bits, bits I feel in my guts when I sit with too long. 

It's so easy to romanticize youth. Perky tits. Hormones. The energy. I had so much god damn energy. So much naive hope about - everything.  

I can understand why nostalgia has become such a cultural cliché - the prom king and queen, the "good old days" - because it's an easy place to go to - a memory. And if we aren't careful, of course we could re-visit that place with rose-tinted glasses, but if you do have the propensity to look a little longer than is comfortable or to dig a little deeper than is (seemingly) necessary you revisit those memories and you notice the little things. The discomfort here and there. The limitations. The assumptions we made. How we didn't know any better. How dumb we maybe were. How much hormones made him seem greater than he actually was. How location and context made friendships happen. How much you had to learn. How naive you all were. But we now know better, don't we? 

Brown quotes The Great Beauty, a film by Paolo Sorrentino:
"What’s wrong with feeling nostalgic? It’s the only distraction left for those who have no faith in the future.” Nostalgia can be a dangerous distraction, and it can underpin a feeling of resignation and hopelessness after a fall. (243)
I think this actually further compliments what I was saying about my own experiences. I was deeply depressed, and a nostalgia trap made sense. I had no hope for myself or the future, and if what I was feeling was shame and frustration, it makes sense to then explain that shame and pain through blaming myself for how much I fucked up what was.

I think Brown's work could be helpful to a lot of people, and in a lot of different situations. She discusses her work with corporate spaces and teams. Implementing effective communication strategies can really revolutionize a corporate culture. It's an ongoing issue in nearly every place I've worked. To varying degrees of shittyness. 

She talks about the stories we tell ourselves, and how we interpret situations in ways that are often skewed in just an infinite amount of ways. How our interpretations of any given situation can be totally different than that of our partner in that situation. 

Throughout her examples, honesty and a conversation work wonders. This isn't news to me, but I can understand how her research can be considered revolutionary to those less feely, especially in a corporate culture. 

It's a lot of work, to be aware of how you're feeling, your reactions (both verbal and non-verbal) and your interpretations. I guess it's through practice that these things become habit. And I hope more comes of this kind of research because I'd like the terminology of emotional intelligence to become part of our everyday vernacular. Effective communication changes everything. It can diffuse so much.

I walk away from Brown's book with something she uses often throughout Rising Strong. She uses specific language to talk about interpretation: The story I am making up is ...

This acts as a took to facilitate conversation with a friend or loved one, openly. It's not accusatory, it's a peak into someone's brain. She uses personal examples, as well as professional ones.

In my experience, being direct about these things, in a loving way, has totally diffused situations that were uncomfortable or potentially unpleasant. Especially when it comes to my mother, who tends to be passive-aggressive and huff loudly instead of using words. I've yet to use it with friends, since we see each other so little these days it's not been an issue. Overall my friends are pretty supportive and great anyway, we're like, pretty emotionally intelligent (ie: depressed). lol. 

It becomes difficult when processes are so different. Someone needs to cool off where someone else needs to think about things where someone else wants to mind-vomit all over you. Being a person is weird. It's hard you guys! Why are we so neurotic! 

Anyway, check out Brene's Brown interview with Oprah on Super Soul Sunday if you can (OWN shows are hard to get online), if you're into it, check out her book. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hunger makes me.

I love Jenny Slate. Every single thing I've seen her guest on, I've loved her in (Parks & Rec, Kroll Show, House of Lies, Drunk History) and I adored Obvious Child. I follow her on twitter and just think her friendship with fellow-comedian Gabe Liedman is "goals." A while ago she, and a few other female comedians I follow linked to an article by Jess Zimmerman called Hunger Makes Me. I've finally found the time to read it.
The piece is great, and you should read it in its entirety.

Though hunger, as discussed by Zimmerman is definitely gendered, a lot of what she talks about could apply to anyone, especially when it comes to being hungry for something.

Hunger, the desire for something, the quiet need, the gnawing, all of it is deeply existential and humanist. The ways in which all of it is internalized, it also seeps out.
Fearing hunger, fearing the loss of control that tips hunger into voraciousness, means fearing asking for anything: nourishment, attention, kindness, consideration, respect. Love, of course, and the manifestations of love. It means being so unwilling to seem “high-maintenance” that we pretend we do not need to be maintained. And eventually, it means losing the ability to recognise what it takes to maintain a self, a heart, a life.
Take it from me - someone who has been celibate due to being traumatised - who is fearful, parts of me shut down. They shut down to just move on and get through the day. It was too much, I was overwhelmed, and it needed to disintegrate over time. I need the tools, I needed the time.

As things get better for me, I can identify the damage. I can see the work I have left to do. It's a lot. It can be overwhelming. On a bad day, I feel like a loser, a pariah, a romantically retarded, socially stunted troll person. On a good day, I think that things change and evolve, and love and care can be both crafted and found.
Women talk ourselves into needing less, because we’re not supposed to want more—or because we know we won’t get more, and we don’t want to feel unsatisfied. We reduce our needs for food, for space, for respect, for help, for love and affection, for being noticed, according to what we think we’re allowed to have. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we can live without it, even that we don’t want it. But it’s not that we don’t want more. It’s that we don’t want to be seen asking for it. And when it comes to romance, women always, always need to ask.
Feeling unsatisfied is a big one. I think it points to the amount of dissapointment we have to deal with as women.

The last few months I've been thinking about what it is I want. What kind of job and lifestyle? What kind of home? What kind of priorities? These are really heavy questions when your default setting is to minimise what you want and move on to other things.

Romance for me is a non-sequitur right now. Celibacy has been the norm, and I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to self-love and my body. But, I can still relate to everything Zimmerman says, because I'm her "before".

Read the piece! Share it with your friends!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Withdrawal: an essay.

I had put aside Surviving Psych Med ​Changes and/or Withdrawal: an essay & guidebook for creative minds to read at a later time (today!). The piece, by Luke B. Goebel stuck out for me, since I have intense dis-associative symptoms when I don't take my medication. I didn't take it for a few days once due to forgetting it while on a weekend away and it was brutal. I had to ask my mom to drive since I was hearing "brain zaps" and couldn't focus. It was something I do not want to re-live.

I recommend reading his piece in its entirety. Writing, when you feel insane seems impossible. Trying to properly express the entirety of how you feel when you're manic or down is hard enough, but the experience of being in some kind of fit is so fragmented that the parts of us that are able to use language are often partially disabled. There's also trying to organise the madness of it all. It seems like a cliché to put it that way, but things that one day came and went through you become absolute certainties you fixate on, to your own detriment. So much of who you are seeps out, and so much of something darker takes its place.

So much of it is living without a healed self, without a celebrated empowered identity or persona as an author or person sharing how they healed. I agonize that I am not a packageable brand of salvation I can sell, a story line of resurrection and overcoming of challenges. A Ted Talk. No, I’m still trying to crystalize meaning. I’m still wild. I’m still healing this sometimes hard-to-handle self. And so are the authors I’ve mentioned, many of them, and yet they have their story sorted. I don’t need that to be resolved today. I need my medication to straighten out. But in this state, everything swirls together into madness.
It's a difficult place to come to and to accept: there is no downhill, it's all uphill. There is no snap back into place, you'll have scars, that part of you will never go back to how it was before. You might have some good days, but you'll never be better. In Goebel's case as a writer, I can see what he's facing. I adored Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir The Chronology of Water. I felt she wrote it to me. It floored me. But in all the memoirs I've read by the mentally ill / on mental health, so many ended with a "and I'm better now" ending. It isn't the norm. Or is it? Am I part of the statistic that's forever afflicted?  Regardless, the completion of a narrative in art is a false god.

What is having a sorted story? Maybe Goebel is talking about it as a narrative, about a story with a clear arc. I know for me, I had this sense that eventually I'd get my shit together and eventually life would be easier. But that's not where I'm at. My realisation is that no, things just evolve into something else. I have the language now, I have some tools, but the struggle is still omnipresent. 

I may not be actively suicidal, but I am always fucking worrying about job security now. Always worried about being able to afford myself, afford a life. I'm tired. It's been uphill and the slope is unforgiving. I am now piecing together what it is I do have, and trying to focus on what it is I do want. How do you learn to live a life within a "normal" set of societal set of rules when there are days of your life you vividly remember wanting nothing more than to burn it all down.

This bit, ooooof:
He didn’t seem interested in my crashing. He gave me a prescription to add to the stack: Neurontin. He told me I might want to decide to get back on my medication at full strength. (It was left up to me!) Every doctor and shrink I have talked to since say it is insane to cut Desipramine in half as a starting point to weaning off the drug. Not insane—dangerous. Extremely dangerous. I smelled burning plastic that wasn’t there. I wept. I felt panic. Every day lasted and lasted for what felt like weeks.
It is beyond me, how we're asked to make life-altering, DANGEROUS decisions while possibly manic or going through some kind of panic or psychosis. WHY DOES IT TAKE THE MENTALLY ILL OF US TO POINT OUT HOW THAT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. I've documented my own experiences in accessing care, and time and time again I've been dumbstruck by how often we're left to our own devices. 

Read Goebel's piece. 

Gifs are better than words.

Stupid language.




Conclusion: I miss Parks & Recreation.

What a better job could mean.

You know what I was just thinking to myself? How day-camps and whimsical events geared towards children would be fun for adults too. Like those, "be a zoo keeper for a day" things. I want to go to the zoo and learn about the animals.

Sometimes I have these random thoughts to myself and I think, haha, I'm so cute.

Because I am. Maybe not externally, as I'm a somewhat grown-ass woman, but internally I can be. If I was a cartoon I think I'd be pretty close to Winnie the Pooh, but also Eeyore. So like, some kind of cutesy-depressed mammal.

Things have been quite at work due to it being the 2-week standard construction holidays, and my working in a field adjacent to  the industry. Last week was quite busy, but this week is dead. I spend the entire day yesterday drawing. You can title it illustration because I'm in my 30's but I was fucking colouring all day. For my own amusement, and for an update to my etsy shop.

Things have been odd lately. I've felt myself to be in a loose limbo. I'm currently in a candidacy pool for an entry level job with the federal government. I have been for months. It started with 3 exams, then a phone "interview" exam, and I heard this week that they've been calling my references. The candidacy pool is hiring for two job locations, one of which being where I currently live. It would mean being able to walk to work as opposed to spending two hours a day getting to and from the city. It would also mean a nearly $10,000 increase to my current salary, changing everything for me.

It's a waiting game. For my friend S her candidacy process took over 14 months. I took the exams on May 14th 2016, and was contacted 2 weeks earlier than that. I've been contacted every 2-3 weeks in order to complete an additional step. It seems to be going quickly, but we're not kept abreast of our place in the process, or what position we're being considered for. It's a lot of unknowns. 

I've felt encouraged by it, which is an odd sensation for me. I've been trying to limit my meat consumption, so I've been trying to make healthier food choices. It's been happening quite naturally. I've been thinking more and more about ways to increase my activity level and have felt bursts of energy I haven't felt in a while. A little bit of hope for the future will do that, I suppose.

Sometimes these shifts happen, it doesn't take much, but I get this view of how things could be different for me and it just shakes me up.

I keep dreaming I'm married. Not only married but in love / loved and it's just really unexpected and alien. It's also nice. I feel comforted and cared for and wanted.

I'm reading Brené Brown's Rising Strong, and although some of the language bugs me, she does talk a lot about how much people often don't feel good enough, or don't feel valued or wanted. I think that's a fair assessment for me. Especially with the opposite sex / romantically. I have a lot of trouble understanding someone liking me, being attracted to me, or falling in love with me.

The trauma created by rejection and humiliation, by shame and pain can be lasting. Untangling that, is a lot of work. And in the case of a partnership, I'd need a willing partner, and that's difficult to imagine, and even to comprehend.

It hits me at night mainly, when I'm alone in bed. That's where I want the companionship most. In the quiet. In comfort. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

EMDR Changed The Way I Remember My Trauma.

Check out EMDR Changed The Way I Remember My Trauma by Claire Foster, over on The Establishment. 

I am fascinated by EMDR:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a simple series of eye movements that affect the way a traumatized brain retains memory. One therapist described it to me as “moving a traumatic memory from one filing cabinet to another.” EMDR seeks to file protruding memories into different folders, diminishing their intensity. “The key elements of treatment are the restoration of a full range of emotion and a sense of being able to again live in the present moment without PTSD’s ever-present emotional guardedness,” said Mulkerns (Heather Mulkerns, LCSW, psychoanalytic psychotherapist in Portland, Oregon).
Our brains are so fucking weird and complex. EMDR seemed to really help Claire, and her story is harrowing and inspiring. Being able to change brain patterns and memory with eye movement seems like fucking magic tomfoolery. It's wild. 

TJ Fuller cat crazy internet insane