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Adventure In The Great Wide Somewhere

7 Mar

I have always wanted a Tardis. I have not always known the name for it as such. But to see all of time and space – and, if Dr. Who is any precedent, to have uncountable many adventures while doing so – is what I have, and will always, desperately want. I want it so badly it hurts.

But I was not always a Whovian. The seat of my yearning was not always a mad man with his box. No, my wanderlust came with other names – a wardrobe, a letter upon my eleventh year, a snag on my finger in the bookstore with an oath to follow, unicorns with amulets, wrinkles and tesseracts. My mind has always been an amalgam of Ella’s who have more adventures than their Char’s, Wilma’s who make incredible wishes, Sara’s who create kingdoms out of attics and words and poverty, Mary’s who find gardens tucked away in, well, space and time.

It’s always been books, of course.

Sometimes people seem to think that books make people sedentary dreamers. Perhaps this is true, for some. But for me, all it did was make me yearn for adventure in the great, wide somewhere.

I’m going there on Sunday.

There have been so many, many times in my life when I’ve had the thought, “I wish I could do [something].” But there’s always a barrier. Time. Money. Health. Sanity. Money. Energy. Money. It’s hard to make our own adventures in a world where experience belongs to the old and expediency to the wealthy. It grinds a bit, settling for the smaller scope and pretending you feel like you’re doing something more. There’s always that answer to keep us in our place, “Now’s just not the best time.”

I’ll just wait until things in my life become more certain. Then I’ll know better what I’m dealing with. Then I’ll be able to better move around the pieces.

This is reasonable. This is good. This is clear, logical, totally appropriate thinking.

But I personally realized that unless I was suddenly very, very lucky, I was never going to go anywhere. There was never going to be a “best time.” There was probably never even going to be a good time. I wasn’t ever going to be able to have it all. I was going to have to risk something. I just needed to figure out what I was willing for that to be. Money. Job security. Time. Not feeling alone. Absolute certainty that everything would work out.

Adventure means risk. You’re going to have to be willing to lose something. That’s what all those books I read growing up had shown me, right? You want the world. What are you willing to give it in return?

Sure, adventures aren’t inherently about taking stupid risks. I mean, we’re talking about my wanting to go exploring, not saving the world from the forces of evil. I can at least make the risks I take calculated.

And so I am. Five months ago, I saw something that I wanted. A bookstore. Of course, a bookstore.

In Portugal.

But… it was the bookstore, in a way. We’re not talking corporate white walls with B&N logo slathered everywhere (though B&N is lovely and I buy books there and that’s all well and good). We’re talking… well, we’re talking about that library that Belle found in the Great Wide Somewhere. Bookshelves on the scale of glory. Red carpet and graceful bannisters and dust hanging like history in the light shafts, giving the place an irrefutable air of magic and tales as old as time.

It’s called Livraria Lello, by the way.

I found the place while doing random internet browsing. I wasn’t searching for anything in particular. I was just flick flick flicking, procrastinating my time away while breathing between grad school apps.

And then there it was. The most beautiful, magical bookstore I had ever seen. Because it looked like the one I had grown up dreaming about. The one that I had always, always wanted to be real.

It was a bit like finding a wardrobe.

But… Portugal. That was so far away from ocean-locked United States. It would be soooo expensive to get there.

Sigh. Put it on the mental docket. “Places I desperately want to go before I die.”

*PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC*

YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT AND EXPECT TO ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO EVER GO THERE!

Holy moly, Anxiety Man! You’re right!

Sometimes my mental demons have a point. Knew there had to be some kind of reason I keep them around.

So. I sat there, staring at my screen. Doing some calculations in my brain. Thinking about time and energy and money and certainty and dreams.

And I’m going to Portugal tomorrow. And then France a few days after that. And then a few days more and I’ll be in Ireland, where I’ll be volunteering with that project I’d wanted to be part of since something like a month after I left Burning Man. The one about art and community and fire and redemption.

You know, things that sound like magic.

I am going adventuring, tomorrow.

Sneaky things, Tardises, when they go looking like plane tickets.

When You Are Raised In An Outline

17 Feb

I was raised in an outline.

No, not under a rock. Yes, I was sheltered, but not quite in that sort of way. Rocks prevent you from seeing the sky or the grass or the wind or the stars or the storms or anything, frankly, that isn’t already under that rock with you.

No, I could see more than that. I knew what else there was. I saw the stars and the storm and the lust and the poverty and the decisions and the choices and the birth and the death and the lifestyle and the beliefs and the very different ways of breathing out there. From my own little prescriptive outline, I could see all these other formats. Most I considered mere variations on the theme and format my limbs were propped up against. While I made my points in A-B-C some other person with really the same main header even if they said it differently was arguing for it as I-II-III. It was all right. We were really writing the same essay. We just said our oh so neat and oh so powerful five paragraphs differently. But we each still had our patterns, our expectations of our personal rise and falls and the great shape that our lives and humanity were supposed to take.

Everything else, the remainder of non-outline chaotic confusion, I just assumed was a deviation. An outlier. Those were not-even-essays where the structure had gone horribly, horribly wrong. They clearly didn’t work. They babbled. Said nothing. Destroyed their own sentences or tripped up their points later. There was no way anyone could consider them valid. There was no structure. No logic. No empathy. No – anything. No, this could not be a sufficient response to what the world, I assumed, expected of us all. This, as my outline out-dolers had told me, was unacceptable.

Imagine my shock and utter confusion when I discovered that these rules and regulations, this structure, this expectation I had molded myself to and excelled at filling – that it was not the norm.

I was the outlier.

I was the deviation.

My expectations were wrong.

The world was easier to get by in than that. It was crueler, more inattentive, it cared not for courtesy or protocol or forethought for one’s fellow humans.

Get your words out on the page; it matters not how.

So many babbling idiots – I understood then why the world so often wrote in blood.

But still – my ink, it glistened so.

Harper Lee is releasing a sequel and I am incredibly skeptical.

3 Feb

I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the command of my 8th grade required reading list. It was the summer of female heroines in all their near-diversity: I met Francie from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Scout from the aforementioned Mockingbird, and the host of Chinese mothers and daughters from Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I had mixed feelings about Tan’s and Smith’s work, but Lee’s opus I immediately and thoroughly fell in love with.

But to be honest, I haven’t really returned to Mockingbird since 8th grade. I’ve kept it on my shelf, smiling at its cracked spine and yellowing pages (I’d gotten my book second-hand to begin with) and thought fondly of Scout and Boo Radley and Atticus Finch and the fight all of them wages against the war of their time. Yeah, I’ve got some major nostalgia going on, but I remember that the book discussed the themes of racial injustice in its time in a nuanced and direct and honest way. It pointed out the injustice of its time and made the world stare very, very hard at it. It is a good book. It is a book about lost innocence and learning hard lessons about a hard world. It is a book with meaning and worth and challenge. It is a book I dearly hope people continue to read.

But it’s a book I am… uneasy, I suppose, about giving a sequel.

Haper Lee recently announced that yes, she is releasing a sequel, presumably to be titled Go Set a Watchman. The book, apparently, was written in the 1950’s and features events contemporaneous to the time. Watchmen was in fact Lee’s intended first book, featuring an adult Scout who looks upon the events of her time through the lens of childhood flashbacks. Lee’s editor, however, liked the flashbacks so much that he advised Lee to turn those into a book instead. Enter Mockingbird.

I don’t know Lee’s motivations for wanting to publish that original attempt about adult Scout now, half a century later, after her “dear friend and lawyer” Tonja Carter discovered the old manuscript. I can guess at the motivations of Lee’s publishers.

But, I mean, whatever. It is Lee’s right as an author to publish a sequel – or anything else – if she wants to. The woman has already proven herself. She’s witty and smart and eloquent and endearing and ballsy. Her first published attempt at a novel became a classic, and it even did so during her lifetime. That’s impressive. The woman can publish whatever she damn well pleases.

But distancing Watchmen from the force of a woman that is the individual Harper Lee, I… worry.

Mockingbird was revolutionary for its time as a social commentary. It was a book that looked at the engrained, systemic injustice of a society and said that no, this is wrong. This is bad. What we, the whites, are doing is bad. We are bad to everyone who does not conform to us, even other whites. This is not okay. This is not working. And through its characters, the book got angry about it. It got confused about it. And this was good and necessary and meaningful.

But… it was a white’s awakening. Scout is white. Atticus Finch is white. There are white defenders and white villains and white protagonists and whites saving the world from other whites for the poor black people who were suffering because of what the whites did to them. And all of this was narrated by a white woman.

Again, by the standards of the time for when Mockingbird was published, this was a step forward. A woman author challenging those around her to step up and check their racism and rape charge duality? Sweet.

But… it’s still pretty damn white-washed.

I want to trust Lee. I want to believe that Watchman will be as grand a masterpiece as Mockingbird. But honestly, if it’s another book full of white main characters about a history where things happen to black people instead of through them, I’m not sure I want it. Remember all those hashtags that’ve been floating about saying #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseAuthors? Yeah, those aren’t just trends, for the moment. Those are desperate truths. The publishing landscape throughout fiction is starving for color of every kind. Race. Disability. Gender. Sexuality. All those other identity markers.

Lee wrote a book about the white experience amidst black oppression. And she did it well, the first time. I don’t really think we need a second iteration.

I worry that Watchman just won’t be able to stand up to Mockingbird. I’m afraid that if Watchman falls short, it will taint the work done through its predecessor. I don’t want what was a really good thing warped by an inept follow-up. And I don’t want a movement that’s fighting really hard to become a reality, a movement of variety of voice and eyes that can tell you what they see from a first-hand perspective, to be overhauled, however momentarily, by the excitement that this famous white woman wrote another book commenting on black people. It’s good that a book by an author of any particular race include characters of not-the-author’s-race, yes, but they shouldn’t just be caricatures and they should be more than just plot props. They should be real goddamn people. Not just historical background noise.

And I’m just not sure that’s going to happen in Watchman.

Maybe Watchman will be great! I don’t really know yet, do I? I haven’t read the book. I’ve barely had a synopsis available for perusal. I could totally see Harper Lee completely blowing us all away yet again. And that would be a good thing.

But until then, I’m going to sit here amidst all this white washing and be pretty damn skeptical.

**Trigger Warning**

2 Feb

Over on his blog, the ever-fantastic Chuck Wendig is currently hosting a comments-based discussion (brave one, he is) on trigger warnings when it comes to written material. Not every book is exactly “safe to handle” for every reader. But is that the reader’s job to gauge? Or the writer’s job to present up front, like an STD in a potential lover? Should books come with sets of trigger warnings?

For those who don’t want to read the N paragraphs below, I’ll tell you my personal opinion up here: No.

If you’d like to know the credentials behind that opinion and the whole long rambling comment I left in Wendig’s discussion, then, dear reader, venture on.

I pretty much promise there are triggers.

* * * * *

Context on me as a commenter: As someone who grew up with abuse of many kinds, eating disorders, and depression and who spent most of college in and out of treatment, residential and outpatient, for the lasting impact of all those things, I talked and was taught a crap ton about triggers. My therapists and I and the other lucky people in treatment discussed triggers around food, triggers around weight, triggers around body image, triggers around physicality and sexuality and self-esteem. There are about a *makes up really funny-sounding humongously big number* triggers out there. Some of them might stir feelings in me of wanting to not eat for a week, or puke up anything I do. Some of them might make me want to tear my skin apart. Some of them might send me flying back into a near-hallucination of memory-based, stimulus-galvanized panic attack where what’s real and what’s not becomes really slippery and I have to tell myself over and over and over again that the floor is real, the wall is real, the door is real, the friend beside me is Person X or Y and they are there to care and not to hurt me like my brain is trying to say there are, conflating them with so many person Z’s in the past who have. Triggers can be loud, concussive noises that send my adrenaline bursting. Triggers can be soft, gentle, well-meant and goddamn *wanted* kisses. Triggers are songs and sentences and slantwise jabs from strangers. tl;dr – triggers are everything.

But they are not everything *always.* What could poke at my emotions or my sanity one day might be something cathartic and beneficial another day. If the entire world is a trigger, then, as I have been told in so many group sessions again and again, it is not my job to censor the world. That’s not feasible. And that’s not fair. While I am not responsible for what’s happened to me, I am responsible for how I deal with it. If I want to do any semblance of living, it is my job, now, to figure out warning signs and preventative measures and people to throw in my safety net and what to tell them about different scenarios and breathing techniques and focusing techniques and fighting techniques and no, it’s not fair that I have to do all these things, but that’s just how it is. Because that’s how I get better. That’s how I fight back the triggers and pick off their numbers, one by one. Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing. But if I continually hide, never ever deal with the thing that hurts me, never practice coming up against it because I’ve cloistered myself from any possible sharp thing, then I am never going to change. I am going to remain crippled and afraid and hiding. And that’s when everything that led up to these triggers wins.

Yes, flashbacks are damn painful but I’d rather navigate my way through them than never be kissed by another human being ever again.

Yes, reading about suicide might make me remember my own attempts, but it also reminds me that hey, there are people out there who have experienced these things too, or who at least understand them well enough to write about them this way. And that’s way more valuable, how much less alone that makes me feel, then reading about rainbows and sunshine all day long. Because really that’s only going to make me nauseated.

There’s a difference between seeking out specifically triggering material and reading material that might crop up some stuff. I know not to go reading pro-ana or pro-mia stuff. That’s just intentionally triggering. And dumb. And not well-written, really. And on a day when I’m teetering back and forth across the line of sanity, I know that maybe I should pick up a Harry Potter book instead of Forman’s ‘If I Stay.’ But on days when I am angry at the world and what it has done to me, IS doing to me, then it’s those days that I really, really need Miriam Black and Palahniuk’s cast of psychopaths and N.K. Jemisin’s gloriously unsafe Nahadoth. I need characters with dangerous thoughts and dangerous emotions because they make me feel unalone in mine. They make my existence feel justified. They make me feel like I’m not just some aberration amongst the rest of the human race.

It’s up to me to know when my brain can play nicely with them, or meet them, if I’ve never perused their pages before. That vigilance is not your job. The only amount of warning you’re required to give me is a synopsis on a book jacket. Anything more, and it’s really just cheating.

—–

The only kind of trigger warning I want:

trigger warning

Why I Am Not Angry At Tess Munster

28 Jan

For all you folks just tuning in – for what amounts to about 50% of the time I’ve been alive, I struggled with an eating disorder. And by “an eating disorder,” I really mean several of them, because eating disorders are slippery, wily creatures that’ll change shape on you faster than you, the eating disordered person, can change shape yourself. They’re like viruses, in a way. They mutate at an incredibly fast rate, all in an attempt to stay alive and present and growing faster than your body and your medicine is able to kill it off. I’ve seen anorexia. I’ve seen orthorexia. I’ve seen bulimia. I’ve spent more of my adult life in treatment for those things than I’ve spent out of treatment. I’ve been inpatient, outpatient, residential, full time, part time. I’ve had so many fucking talks about nutrition, science-drawn, evidence-based nutrition, and science-drawn, evidence-based weight/height/body type scaling (no, don’t even talk to me about BMI, the Bullshit Mass Index), and really just what it means to be happy and healthy in general. Mind. Body. Spirit. Biochemistry. Whatever.

As someone who’s gone through all this body image and self-love and plain ol’ health crap and is willing to say she has a fair handle on what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and what’s “really rather more than 50 shades of gray” area, I jump a little, whenever people start talking about weight and dieting and health and parameters. I will adamantly defend what I know to be reasonable views based on science and the individuality and stochasticity that is biology (which I have a degree in, if you’re in need of further credentialing). If necessary, I will readily jump at someone for their incorrect and unhealthy statements, whether they’re  tending towards the “too strict” or “too lax” end of the spectrum.

Tess Munster is a plus size model. At 5’5″ and a size 22, she is one of the largest models even in plus size to have ever been signed. Cool. History-making. Whatever. From what I’ve seen in general chatter scattered across the internet, the Tess Munster critics point at her and say, “Oh, we shouldn’t to celebrate her as a role model, because that’s clearly unhealthy.”

Ha. Aha ha. I’m sorry, but since the fuck when was modeling ever about healthy?

Models don’t get signed because they’re a paragon of health. They get signed because they look good in the clothes that need to be sold. There are tall, thin people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are short, wide people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are other humans who are 5’5″ and size 22, like, people, they exist, and they deserve a model to show off clothes on their body type just as much as people who are super tall and lanky. Modelings sells clothes. Modeling sells looks. Modeling does not sell lifestyle. Pretty sure that one’s Oprah. At core, modeling is about selling visual aesthetic, not health.

Over the course of anorexia recovery, I learned that the body’s default is to hang around the end of having more weight instead of less. Human bodies developed in order to be able to survive a famine. In most cases, it’s super fucking easy to gain weight. Your body won’t really put up much resistance to that. Gaining weight is natural*.

You know what’s not? Starving yourself for years, even decades on end so that you can get one more contract as a high-profile super model. Taking diet supplements, purging on the down low, exercising obsessively, forcing yourself to behave, to live so unnaturally that eventually you maybe don’t even notice your body whispering please stop. Because it doesn’t matter that you’re tired. It doesn’t matter that you nearly fell on the runway today out of sheer exhaustion and a little too robust a spell of dizziness from not having really eaten in the past three days. It doesn’t matter that you feel like shit. You look like heaven, and you’re getting paid like it. You have stripped and shed and shaved and shanked your body of its natural existence.

But ah yes, after that tanning day you have such a nice glow, don’t you.

Yes children, be like these not-overweight ones. The ones that are secretly, invisibly killing themselves to look good. They are good role models. Do not eat too much and let yourself go. See how unhealthy she is? Never mind that she doesn’t fuel her career with a mantra of self-hate. Never mind that at least she’s the happy one.

Because this game was never about happy. It was never about healthy.

It was only ever about what you looked like.

That’s all that modeling cares about.

That’s all that modeling is endorsing.

Stop pretending like it cares about more than it does as one more excuse for our systemic fat-shaming.

Leave these models to their lives and let us throw other role models at our children. Role models whose message, whose job is to teach children how to be, not just how to look.

And then when the children want clothes, when the teenagers want clothes, when the adults of every shape and size want clothes – let them see the magazines, the ones with people of their body type, whether that’s 6’5″ and toned to core or 5’5″ and a size 22, because both of these body types exist en masse and really just want to buy a fucking t-shirt that’ll look pretty good on them, because hey, these days, it’s damned dangerous to walk around naked.

————–

*”natural” in the sense of “biological default in the average case”

Charlie

7 Jan

“Je préfère mourir debout que vivre à genoux.”

Charlie

(English translation follows)

On peut tuer l’artiste. On ne peut tuer pas l’art.

Et d’essayer à brûler une idée, ceci ne fera que se répandit comme une traînée de poudre.

Et les Français, quand on leur dit de se taire…

ils ne deviennent que plus fort.

Mes amis français, ne vous arrêtez pas. Vous êtes Charlie. Et Charlie a plus à dire.

You can kill the artist. You cannot kill the art.

And to try to burn an idea will only make it spread like wildfire.

And the French, when you tell them to be quiet…

they only get louder.

My French friends, don’t you stop. You are Charlie. And Charlie still has more to say.

The Lie of ‘Better’

11 Dec

When you have a mental illness like depression, the first and most frequent condolence people will tell you is that “it gets better.” When you tell them that you are sad, sad not just one day, but sad for nearly every day the past month, they tell you it’ll get better. When you tell them that you have been down and clouded and crying for the past half a year, they tell you to just hang in there, thing a or thing b will change, feeling x or feeling y will be spirited away by a sparkling unicorn or the glittering hand of some god or other, that something, magically, will happen and it – you – will get better.

When you begin therapy, they tell you it gets better. When you talk about short term and suicide, they tell you about long term and how it’ll be better. When you begin seeing a psychiatrist and finally trying meds, they tell you it will finally, finally get better.

When years later you’re on your fifth therapist and third psychiatrist and you’ve run the gamut of SSRI and SNRI and second-gen psych meds and third-gen atypicals and still you find yourself crying on your couch every weekend, they will all, again, tell you that it will get better.

When you graduate and have job interviews and jobs acceptances and 401k’s and lovers and partners and spouses and kids and apartments and houses and nursing homes, and you say that you are still itching for that off button, they tell you keep hold of your life-allotted joystick to maneuver yourself through life-allotted hoops because this life-allotted endless game, it will get better.

But what they don’t understand, where the syntax error lies, is that while sure, support and friends and love and loving and comfort and direction, they can make it all externally better, making it better… that’s not making it okay.

I don’t want it all to be better.

I want it to be okay.

A White and Shiny and Probably Horrendously Inflammatory Blog Post

4 Dec

Dear White People,

it happened again. Another murderer got away because of white skin and a shiny badge. We drive around with our white skin and our shiny cars, mere passersby to injustice on the streets. We sit in our white houses with our shiny lives and ignore the systematic burning of a people to the ground. In both Missouri and New York, we like our white snow and our shiny presents, having the luxury of not caring that outside, it’s cold. We’ve got our white skin and our shiny privilege. We don’t have to worry about frostbite.

Look, I know. I know. I make generalizations. White people are also poor. White people are kind. White people suffer. White people care.

White people built this whole fucking country to be poor in and to be kind in and to suffer and care in ’cause we stole it from yet another people without our skin tone.

We established that this was the best country, our country, and disallowed anyone else access to that pronoun. Even when we shipped human beings over like Fedex two-week arrival packages. “Here, Mary Sue, I got you a nice black girl to help you and Ma with your dresses.” “But Daddy, I wanted the other black girl, with the different nose!”

It is horrible. It is insensitive. It is true.

Slaves could be shot for trying to run away. Apparently this is still true when it comes to white police masters. And those police will not be indicted, because after all, they were just trying to subdue their property. They know what those black skins are like. You can’t reason with them. Just gotta bring ’em down, bloodshed be damned. It was their own damn fault for running away and resisting anyway.

Please excuse me while I go vomit. Alternatively while I go chop off my fingers, because they hate themselves for ever having to write those words.

White people, this is who we are. Maybe not you, individually. But as a people, this is what we have filled history with stories of. This is the name we have made for ourselves.

And I really don’t fucking like it.

We try to make a difference. We volunteer. We tweet. We write fucking blog posts. But none of these are going to pry the arms off the neck of a dead black man. And in the end, that’s really what we needed to do. Before the suffocation even happened.

I am a thin, white female. If a man tried to touch me and I screamed at him not to, but he persisted anyway, it would be the police’s job to come and save me, because in my case, that man’s actions would have been labelled assault. The police damn well know there are other ways to arrest a noncompliant but nonviolent person. And no way in hell do they want the upper-middle class parents of a white girl coming after them and saying one of their male officers assaulted me. Noooo way in hell would they let that come even close to happening.

Change me into a black man and apparently none of that matters anymore.

If a man held me down and suffocated me after I’d screamed and screamed that I couldn’t breathe, and the coroner fucking ruled it a homicide, there would indictments and apologies from the police department and a mass outcry at the unthinkable wretchedness of it all. I would be a martyr, not an example. That police officer wouldn’t even get to be a mall cop. He’d be in jail. Twenty-five years to life.

Change the color of my skin and my genitalia, and apparently this all isn’t even worth a trial.

This is not justice. This is bias, prejudice, flat out hatred in our goddamn justice system.

What do you do when the laws are broken?

What do you do when we are broken?

And what do you do when that brokenness causes us to break other people?

Kill them, even.

I don’t know what to do. I wish I did. Apologies stopped cutting it about twenty black-victim homicides ago. But… I don’t know how to make us better. I as an individual am trying to do the damn best I can to check my privilege and help as appropriate. I know there are others, hordes of others, who are doing the same. But apparently these hordes are not in the justice system. Or if they are, apparently they decided that the tougher incidences like these are when they should sit down and shut up and pretend like suffocating a black man who uses words like “please,” “officer,” and “sir” is a perfectly reasonable things to do.

I don’t know how to prod us all in the back, to fucking wake us up any time we’re being idiots or accomplices to murder. We’ve lost all the sticks because we made our slaves bundle them up and throw them into our hearth fires a long time ago. We, the collective we, white people, have made this a country of white people first, everyone else be damned if you haven’t made yourself as otherwise white as possible. And it’s not okay. This is so fucking not okay.

We said we were founding this country on equality and justice. We’ve got about two hundred and thirty eight years that say that’s not what we did. White people, we have failed.

Maybe it’s time we got the fuck out. Literally, metaphorically… I don’t know. But nobody else seems to either, because we’ve got a two hundred and thirty-eight year old problem here.

And when everything is white and shiny, it’s hard to see through the glare and notice that.

The Weirdness of Black Friday as a Detail-Oriented Person

28 Nov
Hey, it's a good point. (source)

Hey, it’s a good point. (source)

I will straight-up admit that I have never gone Black Friday shopping. The idea terrifies me. I already dislike shopping. So the idea of some day of mega-shopping-on-steroids-and-speed is rather unattractive. But as a detail-oriented person, the idea of this monster shopping is all the more repulsive. Why? Let’s discuss.

As a detail-oriented person, I take so frickin’ long to make decisions. My usual shopping strategy involves walking around the store, eyeing everything to make a mental list of what the store has to offer. Then, with an eye more to what caught my interest and what I’m looking for, I walk around the store again, looking at what things specifically fit that bill and discarding things from my mental list of available objects that aren’t relative. Then I walk around the store again, two to three more times, pausing to evaluate each of the items that I’ve decided I might buy, weigh the pro’s and con’s, double checking and triple checking my subjective analysis. I might carry an item with me for side-by-side comparison, or I might leave it behind to not bias my perception of the next prospective choice. Then, finally, if I’ve found something that fits what I’m looking for, is a price that I’ve deemed reasonable for this purchase, and actively makes me pleased when I think about having bought it, then I will probably buy it. Or I might just leave it and decide checking options online should happen before making any more purchases.

Detail-oriented. Neurotic. Indecisive. Deeply-fearful-of-making-“wrong”-choices-and-squandering-money-because-that’s-what-I’ve-had-beaten-into-me-since-childhood. They’re all basically the same thing, right?

But anyhoo. This whole decision-making purchasing process obviously takes a bit. Fifteen minutes. Fifty minutes. Something on that scale.

But my understanding is that on Black Friday, generally this whole shopping thing goes down something like Go! Go! Go! Storm the beaches! Claim your territory! Forge on with literal disregard for life and limb! TAKE NO PRISONERS BUT ALL THE ITEMS! QUALITY BE DAMNED! THIS IS A NUMBERS GAME, BOYS!!! 

Ahem.

Yeah, if I went Black Friday shopping, my likely outcomes are 1) obtaining zero items for purchase, 2) being trampled, and 3) freezing in a panic attack and blanching enough that someone assumes I’m a mannequin and attempts to purchase my clothes/me.

… that last one might be kind of hilarious, actually.

But… all those earliest-of-morning shoppers, aren’t they all some nerve-jittering combination of sleep-deprived and hyped up on caffeine? How do you even think in that state? Do you think, or do you just do some kind of weird muscle memory pattern of grab-buy-grab-buy-grab-guy?

I mean, I guess my aunt and grandmother are historically some of those early-morning shoppers. But they already get up early, so that, like, doesn’t count. Shhh. I can remember them planning out what they were going to purchase, knowing what to get and where to get it and for how much, based on the store’s coupons sent out earlier in the week. And my uber-planning-sensitivities are satisfied with that. But still, even if you walk into a store with a plan and studied, centered concentration, my general impression is that in this case you are the 1% and that the other 99 are all running around waving their hands in the air meme-style yelling WAAAAAH WHERE IS EVERYTHING WHAT IS THIS PLACE COUPONS COUPONS WHY DID WE FORGET THE COUPONS DO YOU HAVE THE COUPONS BILL RAAAAHWRWRWRWRWRWR! 

I dunno. Maybe it doesn’t go down quite that way. But still, even if you, with your plan and your coupons that you did remember to bring and tuck safely in your wallet and your thought-out idea of what you want, know what you’re doing, that’s a whole lot of chaos to deal with on your mission.

Wait.

Wait.

This… this could be excellent.

Guys, I am a detail-oriented person. I care about people. I value human life. I… I am also someone who kinda enjoys watching the world burn in chaos.

You know, in the controlled, nothing-too-tragic-is-happening kind of way.

Mostly.

Anyhoo. So Black Friday is chaos, right? What… what if stores capitalized on this show? Put up bleachers? Sold tickets to people who just wanted to come and watch? It would be like football! Americans like football! We’d have trainers on the side ready to rush out with water or bandages or whatever whenever one of the players got hurt. The audience could even root for individual shoppers. (“He’s comin’ down lane 1, George, will he make it to the end goal on time?” “I don’t know, Ted, that shopper with the Ninja legos seems to have shaped up since her last stretch and wants to add a few more scores to her basket.” George, George! Did you see that move?! A swerve left, a dodge right, but no! Collision!!! We haven’t seen a toppled cart like that since the show down in aisle three back at opening time!”)

… I might actually really enjoy planning this.

Well then. Chaos as a spectator sport. I think that would be a Black Friday purchase I’d deem worth investing in.

You know. Because of details and shit.

Ahem.

This is totally where I planned to go with this blog post.

Yeah.

Details.

A Scientist’s Take on Big Hero 6

24 Nov

So, I finally saw Big Hero 6 last night with my roommates. It was a pretty cool movie! I laughed. I almost got somewhat teary. I laughed some more, because thanks Disney for the innuendo that you slip in for the adult section of the theatre. All in all, pretty enjoyable! Would watch again. But aside from the aesthetic experience of the movie… well… Guys, I went to one of the Nerd Schools. We were even listed in the credits under the “consultation thank you’s.” And having gone to a Nerd School, I’ve seen a whole lot of science (yeah, science!). I’ve seen whole lot of science labs. I’ve worked in them. And, well, because of that, I had some other thoughts on the movie, too. Let me share.

My reactions while watching movie:

1. Aw, that’s cool, you’ve got such a good lab group atmosphere, how cu- HOLY FUCK HONEY WHY ARE YOU WEARING NO PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT DURING AN EXPLOSION YOU ARE COVERED IN RESIDUE YOU COULD HAVE CAUSTIC BURNS WHY ARE YOU NOT IMMEDIATELY A BIOHAZARD?!?!?! O.O

2. Oh no! Your PI died! That’s so sad! Well, I guess it’s cathartic that you all are just going back to WAIT SHIT YOU HAVE NO PI HOW IS YOUR LAB GOING TO GET FUNDING WHO’S GOING TO TAKE OVER ARE YOU GOING TO GET A NEW PI ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE LABS WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOUR THESIS HOLY SHIT WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT?!?!

3. Oh man! Your PI is alive! Except now he’s an evil man using science for destruction… Yeeeeaaaah, your lab is going to get so many “surprise inspections” now. Have fun having to be ridiiiculously transparent in every single little thing you do. Because you’re going to be under constant scrutiny now. That’s gonna make for a fun scientific career. Enjoy the bureaucratic down-the-neck-breathing!

4. Wait. Shit. Your PI is an EVIL FUCKING VILLAINYOU ARE NEVER GOING TO GET LAB FUNDING EVER AGAIN. WHICH MEANS YOU STILL CAN’T TAKE ON THAT NEW UNDERGRAD GENIUS. WHICH MEANS HIS TUTION WON’T PAY THREE OF YOUR STIPENDS FOR A YEAR. WHY ARE YOU NOT FREAKING OUT? FUUUUUCK.

*and that concludes the Miceala and Her Brain Show for today*

Yeah. I’ve maybe been applying to grad schools. Ahem.