Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Briefing: Logic- The Destroyer

Does it seem odd to anyone else that the winter is when we have our Must See Them Holidays in our very, very scattered culture?

We seem so surprised when actual Winter gets in our way.

It's also odd that we put the first semester finals right smack dab inside the cluster of holidays. It pretty much presumes the traditional dependent student; as opposed to say the parent of children or head of household who is expected to create the feelings and events that are supposed to inform all of those fond associations with the season.

And thus the Holidays came.

The Taunting was impacted ( but not stopped - you cannot stop The Taunting). Unlike previous years the presents needed to be hidden only to be revealed on the day of. Part of that was practical - the theme this year was Chocolate. All Chocolate, all the time. Godiva, Hershey's Nestle's, Lindt, Mars, a little boutique outfit that made World Peace bars . . . every night a different chocolate ending with specialized chocolates for each of the Children ( who are not so Childish Anymore - as proven by the eighth candle's Bailey's infused chocolate bar for The Girl).

The secondary Taunting gifts involved clothing. Things delayed due to recession but needed anyway were made fun. Sales were shopped. Artisans were traded with. But we kept the holiday ridiculously low key, lower key even than the Cheapass Taunting of 2009. Last year it was because I was closing down my projects, and knew that things were ending. This year it is because I returned to school to create new beginnings, however the semester was ending.

Here is the catch - I thought I had taken a relatively balanced load but they were all production classes that had final projects before final exams. Although I sort of knew that, in practical terms it escaped me. There were 4 tests in rapid succession in Logic and in order to combat my LD it takes about two days to prep for a test, having done it in a very intense way this last month I discovered what I'm really doing is rewiring my brain temporarily; but so completely that after working on a logic test I was unable to use language properly for two to three days afterwards, creating amusing malapropisms for friends and family and actual Conduction Aphasia for me.

When I first took the Logic and Object Oriented programming classes I had this idea that I would develop strategies that would help other people with symbol processing disorders be able to take and pass the class, however about 2/3 of the way through I realized NO ONE with my disability is going to take these classes to this level - they'd have to be masochists and have unlimited time ( or a psychotic need to prove that they are able to pass the class anyway - at least that's what my mirror tells me) Instead I've developed a series of strategies that can help any number of other people with different LDs, or people who are not naturally adept at the structured thinking these classes require, but if you have a hard core symbol processing disorder, as my programming professor says: "There's nothing wrong with being a poet".

Everything was going well, although I was sleep deprived and then I thought - "I can modify this technique and maybe get some rest."

This was a huge mistake causing me to get a truly dismal grade on the one test I couldn't drop as the lowest score. How bad? 25. There's an average killer.

I found a scoring error and got an extra 13 points but it pretty much meant that I had to really, really invest in the final - 4 days of drills and prep. 4 hours of actual test.

But I did survive, and the Holidays happened without me speaking properly. The last final was on the 21. The trip to Grandma's House was determined to be an Xmas Day Trip. My Perfectly Normal Mother-in-Law was pronounced healthy enough to leave her house for Xmas Eve.

There was much rejoicing.
So really, everything was as good as it could be. And then finally my grades were posted - I'd gotten a 100 on the final and because of weighting managed to get an A for the class. Had I scored lower it would have been a scholarship affecting C.

Huzzah! But I was exhausted.

Anti Claus however had no patience for that sort of nonsense and broke in to make copies of our keys, and deliver a sonic screwdriver that actually is a screwdriver, kick ass motorcycle boots and small bombs of pixie dust to the Children. I think I was Found Boring this year.

I think I found myself a bit boring this year.

But I was not the only person in the family and some of the other had been waiting for Xmas day for some time. They had plans.

We travelled out to Grandma's house, where Grandma's Gingerbread Poppet had found the perfect tree, and the Perfectly Normal Husband brought all of his Holiday up with us. It is obvious that the family would like a return to things being arty.

New Poppets have joined the house - Aunti Claus brought some for the Children ( apparently she didn't approve of a Poppet-free holiday. They are Candy Cane Poppets but they look a little blood spattered - one wonders where they accompanied her first before landing in the stockings)

My parents gave me a photobox. My Perfectly Normal Husband gave me a vampire, a wizard, a literary Death and a Tinker. Someone got me a Magic Trackpad.

I just like saying I have a Magic Trackpad.

Now here's the thing about Grandma's House. It's pretty much the test model for "lake effect" snow. So before leaving, pretty much the only non syllogistic thing I understood was the weather report for Grandma's House. And the report was "There might be some snow" and no one thought it would be much, but we warned all of our fellow travelers to inform loved ones and offices that there was a chance we would be snowed in at Grandma's House.

Then we got all pre-occupied with The Boy getting sick and my amusing attempts to communicate. And so we went over the river and through the woods, as we do yearly and played with dancing trees and had yummy food and shared a few bottles of wine and sort of showed the youngsters what "keeping a weather eye out" looks like it in the digital age.

Things were moving along nicely but we were starting to go - "Hmmn . . . Gee. Might need to stay an extra day or two, " when all of a sudden the word "Blizzard" started popping up on our weather eye screens.

Well they weren't kidding. We played it hour by hour but had to leave Grandma's House in a flurry all of our own because they were calling for a Blizzard at the House too.

Grandma's got about 20 inches, we got about 10. We raced the storm home and won by an inch. The other 9 fell after we were settled back in, but it wasn't much of a visit. The poppets didn't even get to come out and play with Grandma's holiday decor.

But we did spend it together and the food was wonderful.

Here is the thing I learned last week. If I were not inherently logical, I would not have been able to succeed, but to immerse myself to much in logic damages me and everything around me. There is a reckoning. The Art part came easier to me, but there was no balance in that either. The two need to be combined instead of in opposition. There was not enough time with family and just being. 6 Days - but a microcosm of the year.

And on the 7th day the Poppets came out and said - "Wake up sleepyhead! You need to play with your toys."

Well. I suppose I'm not back into right thinking for Poppets yet, I just started playing with my toys today. However I am very grateful for my friends and my family and my project teammates at school, because I am thinking about things as though they might be fun again.

That's a pretty good way to mark the solstice I think.

No one makes graphic novels about the adventures of getting the family together for a photo, but there are all sorts of stories when you do. This year I'll bet there were all sorts of adventures behind all of the holiday photos. Stories that will be told each time the album opens.

A fictional version of ourselves for the Dreamtime:

New Year's coming . . . .

Monday, December 20, 2010

It IS Time Travel - with Poppets! - 3rd Panel

The Future panel.

Past and Present are posted immediately below if you missed them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It IS Time Travel - with Poppets! - 2nd Panel

This is the underlying panel for The Present.

The Past Panel is the entry right before this if you missed it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

It IS Time Travel - with Poppets!

The direction was a mosaic that showed the passage of time using at least 25 original photos.
I did it in triptych form - this is the underlying first panel for "Past"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sleep, Once having found The Key,

was loathe to leave once established.

Reinforcements have been called in .

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Digital Fine art homework Complete! (5 other assignments left waiting)

This is it - 3 Logic Tests and 2 Java Programs to go . . .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Taunting 2010 - Mulligan

The Poppets and I are just not ready this year. We would like a do over.

This might be the Time Travelling Taunting - Candles were lit, Giant New Computers were set up, fried foods were ordered in, there was gelt, and papers due the next day were written around midnight.

My Perfectly Normal Mother in Law went in for Very Serious Surgery yesterday, it was planned, but it was spinal surgery. It was a long day and we were all worried for everyone (Perfectly Normal Husband was his usual strong competent together self but obviously nervous-ish) Unfortunately her brother and One of My Favorite In-laws also went in for triple bypass surgery. That was not planned, and perhaps at their ages they should be over sibling rivalry.

So the really good Channuka news is that everyone did very well with their respective surgeries and they will both be able to walk properly and keep their hearts beating regularly and have their families lovingly tease them even though the Taunting is not their holiday. If they don't have dietary restrictions I will be making them lemon squares for theirs.

If they do I'll modify the lemon square recipe until I can make lemon squares for them. I'm pretty good at that sort of thing.

So while the Poppets and I were not really on top of things a friend of ours found this - most channuka stuff is kind of lame, especially song rewrites by hipster jews or actual religous types - but this is an acapella group that has found the perfect balance and thus created an awesome "Smile Out Loud" moment, instead of the usual cringing thought of "Really is that the best we can do?" sort of thing.

Thank you Maccabeats for being on key and really entertaining; Merry Channuka - the Poppets thought you were neat and they were sick of Adam Sandler!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Black Box - Inner Workings

All of the other Boxes deal with Light. The getting of it, the making of it the manipulation of it. Wrestling it into art or code, or just getting enough of it in to shed onto other things.

The Black Box is about the Dark, what to do with the Empty, how to admit that there is no such thing as Empty, to use, code, and manipulate the things we pretend are Empty to make art. Or light.

The Black Box will invite the light in, but only on it's terms. Light is just another thing in the fullness of Empty.

In the Black Box we are expected to build things out of the Dark.

Now we are building Universes. Out of art.

It's a big thing. As a friend of mine says it's almost unfair - I have been worrying at the problem for a good deal longer than my boxmates. In the room where I turn light into art, I have also been asked to make a world out of someone else's art. All my rooms ask me to make Universes. All my rooms lead back to art.

But the Black Box is different – even time travel changes there . It is dual place. I have been here before and yet somehow it's new. I thought it would fill up the Empty places, it would shine the dark in the places I worked to only see light, so I could get back to the whole.

Here's the trick about my Universe in the Black Box - I'm building it to put other people in it.

They each have Universes of their own:

  • an ancient storyteller's circle,
  • a religion where the all knowing priest reveals the power of relationships and venerates the matriarch with blown glass and colored light,
  • the warmth of an eternal eve of Christmas, fellowship and eggnog,
  • a Universe of kindergartners with sparkly stuffed snakes, hungry caterpillars and vicious jars of playdough.
There are 7 Universes to go.

In each of their Universes I am somewhat me, but mostly I become who they think I might be. It's my job to fit in their Universe, their job to create a Universe where I can see what they want me to be. We have to experience it for each other to make it real. It's their Universe but they made it for me. When I make my Universe, I will make it for them.

Their Universes are all based on art that made them happy or whole. Mine is based on art that made me break.

I do not know how that will work for them. I will build it anyway. In the Black Box I am a tiny lonely god.

In between Universes, we do two things - explore who we are and learn how to be everyone else. It's hard to see this happen, so we also learn how to watch and how to evaluate the becoming of others. How to help others see the choices they would not make themselves.

When becoming others - it is easy to see how you might find the things living in your own Empty. It is not so apparent that you find those things when watching the others Become.

I don't know what it's like to have always had a Black Box nearby, to have experienced the sliding between action/observation. absorbing/becoming, experiencing/remembering while doing all of the things one does to exist. But the gap in time fills the Black Box Dark. I watch my boxmates struggle because sometimes there are places and choices and things that fill the Empty and they can't see them. It stops them from Becoming.

When we Watchers see them, its our job to share them. In the sharing we give them our own things that live in the Empty and I wonder if we become just a little less material ourselves.

The Black Box has coughed up some reality; caught in someone else's words, in someone else's worlds.

Warriors know where each of their scars came from. In some cultures we circle and tell the stories of those scars, our lives written on our bodies. The stories tell the warriors of things to know - not just to avoid - but to know.

Some battles are long won, it's rude to mention scars now. Our culture is about the perfect presentation, healing, moving forward. So maybe we are surprised when we tell about a long healed wound to find the time travel.

Maybe we are surprised to find out we were Warriors.

The pain is fresh in the telling, you use the pain in the Becoming, it's new again, but you leave the Box and it's just a scar.

There are two things here - surprise at the real time pain and surprise that you can still go there. But to share it outside the Box, people will label it - say things like " you're not really over it" insist that you "admit it" or "deal with it". Everything outside the Box is Present Tense, but only in the Now.

Inside the Box everything is in the Present Tense too, but it’s in the Always.

We are the engines that build the Universes, but we can also get lost between them.

And I'm beginning to think that maybe outside the Black Box we're just somewhat ourselves, but mostly we're what we need to be to fit into someone else's Universe too. And that sometimes that pain we carry around in the Empty is when we realize that sometimes we don't make that Universe better, because we can't.

I was prepared for that in the doing, I wasn't prepared to find it in the watching.

I'll build it into my Universe.

When the Universe is built I’ll put my boxmates in it.

Then they will be in my Universe, I’ll be in the Empty before and after that Universe.

I wonder if it’s like this for all the things that build Universes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Job-like Interview - Updated

We shall see if it moves on to an actual job interview. At least I have a snappy new suit.

Update - the job like interview went well, but the job it was attached to had the clients decide to go with a .net architect instead of an ops manager, so back to the drawing board.

But I still have a snappy new suit.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tomorrow We Protest . . . . Politely

The Doomsday Poppet is not helping.

Some of the House is going to the Rally for Sanity, and we will have signs.

Some of the House is staying here because it's the sane thing to do if you're sick with a really bad cold.

I have to make some of the signs first.

It's hard because there are so many choices, like the approved:

"I don't agree with what you are saying but I'm pretty sure you are not Hitler."


"Well, you know, that's just your opinion man."

But the majority of the House will be carrying signs that will most likely say "Meh."

But there are some that I might play with like

"When I was on the Debate Team, we got points off for calling each other names."


"Please stop campaigning long enough to govern for a bit."


"Clean Cup! Move Down!"

A personal fave made by someone else

Maybe if enough people show up for a comedy event the media will understand that a whole bunch of people showing up in DC doesn't really mean anything about the rest of the country or politics in general.

But that will require more people to show up for a piece of comedic performance art that happens to express the non-polarized sentiment that we'd like our politicians to act like grown ups instead of the idea that crowds are just crowds, well that would be fine too.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Zombies . . . .Love and Midterms

About this time a year ago when I was working, I rolled the office chair I was sitting on over my own foot.

It takes talent sometimes.

It was about this time a year ago that the writing was also on the wall for the long term funding for my department. Dead Department Walking.

It was also this time last year that I was working towards the World Fantasy Convention, Lisa and I had collaborated on the House Where Halloween Things Live When It Isn't Halloween.

Which was the last Poppet Project I finished.

So the most interesting thing about running over my toe was that I didn't realize that I'd damaged it until almost right before I left for WFC, because I was trying on dress shoes and felt some pressure. My toe had done that thing toes do when they are bruised under the nail. I'd had experience with this before - it takes about a year to grow out and not look like Zombies Ate Your Toe.

I'm pretty good at predictions, not by being psychic but by doing the work. The department had a two week window at this point last year, if they didn't have good news by the time I was back from WFC, no matter what they were told in meetings they were going to be absorbed back into the larger group, their support staff would be let go, they needed to plan. Schemes were hatched , promises were made, but in the end it's gone down almost exactly the way I'd told them, and now, the zombified toenail is almost grown out - one professional pedicure and the damage will be gone, and the department is officially dissolved. Zombies Were Eating Our Department.

I had one more prediction, that even in "good" times, I'm such an odd collection of skills that it takes about six months to a year for me to be hired again. This time last year I had two months to go before my contract ended, I had finished an amazing accomplishment in 40 days, and I was preparing for the coming storm.

Some of it went the way I expected, and some of it not so much. It's been more difficult in ways. It all feels like circles. Like I'm riding the ripples as the move outward. Sometimes I've been a little zombified.

But at a particular point in time - which was scary and a little low - Lisa sent me some Zombie Love. I didn't know I needed or wanted Zombie Love but there it was.

Smiling it's little embalmed stitching smile at me, fresh blood running down it's ruff . . .

In it's own weird and creepy little way, the Zombie Poppet made all the other zombifications kind of identifiable, and avoidable. Like having an actual Zombie kept all the other zombie wannabes away. Like a totem. It helped a lot.

So when I saw Lisa, I brought Zombie Love with me, and we made a joke about Same Time Next Year. October is now the month I seem to see Lisa in person. It seems so strange to me that I haven't ever cooked for her.

I felt guilty, there were things that we had talked about doing but the year happened without us. It was OK, maybe the year need to grow out, for the damage to work it's way out. Like the toe, maybe I hadn't realized the extent of the damage until it became really visible and it was too late to do anything other than let it heal on it's own.

So here's where I am - the Zombie Toe is almost gone, Zombie Love arrived when I received my Forgiveness Poppet ( who will be appearing here soon as the Embarrassed Ambassador's Younger Sister), Lisa and I are still playing with the House Where Halloween Things Live, because there's no rush, we did it to play. Here's hoping that my annoying streak of being right continues and I will find a job that works for me in the next few months since I predicted it and that the long dark streak of no work on Poppetropolis will end, since I didn't predict that.

It will be like a Halloween Resolution.

And everyone should go to the American Museum of Visionary Arts where some of Lisa's Dark Caravan is being shown in the Smile Exhibition.

My Zombie Love is at the edge of the roller coaster there.

I owe Lisa some pictures. . . . does this one count?

Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Fine except for the Earth Shattering Kabooms

I've been sort of hidden for the last few weeks. I'm not sure where to start.

Objectively -
  • Healthy ( mostly)
  • Doing well in School
  • Increased interest in people putting me in jobs
  • Creativity increased ( Which is good. Summer was scary.)

Also objectively:

  • September could have been titled "When Viruses Attack!"
  • I have figured out how to do well in school in the most time honored manner of overachievers by spending 6-8 hours a day on my homework - it's not optional. I need to do this in order to get through the coursework and understand it. It's a side effect of either the symbol processing disorder or the nature of the work. So I've forgotten birthdays, friends have been afraid to call and "bother" me, I'm afraid I'm isolating myself.
  • Although I now have live people calling me about live jobs, there is the most interesting new development where it's not as simple as "they don't want me" or "someone else got the position". It's an odd thing where the positions are still open. They haven't filled them, I'm still in the running. How strange. It's like companies are flirting with hiring but can't commit.
  • Creativity - well the creative writing class this summer was - how shall I put this delicately? "Uninspiring."

OK. That's good - "Uninspiring." We'll stick with that. However, I know my plan to look like a proper purple squirrel requires creative output for the next year as I complete my degree, upon which I will probably never be asked to create creative output in my field ever again. So in order to become familiar with the newest graphics software I decided before I transfer back into my alma mater to take a digital fine arts class. It's a leap. Until Poppetropolis I don't think I ever considered any of my work "fine art". I do have the background knowledge my current degree had a robust fine arts requirement. So here I am.

The fine arts class works better than the writing class - perhaps because I'm not particularly good at art, so I have to strive to get to "acceptable" and the work brings ideas. Because I have to bridge between the idea and my capability. Maybe sometimes you need to work at something where you're mediocre to do the things you do well creatively.

It's a working theory anyway.

Seeing Lisa last week helped a lot. The pic for today is actually my first "Fine Arts" class project. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked that Poppets ended up being a part of it.

Ok - so we covered objectively. Now subjectively.

The Problem:

Tired of not being taken seriously in the workplace because my skillset and job titles are much maligned as "posers" or "empty suits", I am taking a class in a pure coding language. This is not just because I want to know how to do what I generally am managing - but because in the last half-decade I have been flat-out lied to about what work has been done. I have always been able to read code at a logic level (The languages aren't all that different. Regular programmers make the mistake of thinking that scripting languages aren't anything like coding. They are incorrect once you get to the intermediate level of a scripting language. At the advanced level, the only difference is environment and syntax) however, I cannot read a database.

No one will let me take a real database class until I take a programming class. Neither of these things is required for my degree or my level of employment, but I am vulnerable without them. I am tired of vulnerability.

I am terrified of getting a position just to lose it or be trapped. I am not willing to be easily sacrificed again. This skillset is like invisible magic armour or a spirit sword.

However, it's like a fairy tale. If you want to get the magic power - there is a cost.

The Discovery:

I started to write the fairy tale part - exactly like a fairy tale - for the blog. Actually doing it was worse than talking about it head on - so I stopped.

Fairy Tales, they're about the big, dark, scary things. The hidden things, the things too big to tell people outright because the first thing to do is try to separate or minimize them. That's why all the helicopter parents are so scared of them now. They're full of wolves and shadows, and curses and poverty, and powerlessness and power.

You can make them full of princesses and light, but really all that proves is that being a princess is no protection. No one is safe. It doesn't have to be your fault, and things will still try to kill you, trap you, lead you into the dark, hate you. The happily-ever-after isn't joy - it's safety. And it's precarious. You'll know it, because you were a princess who was cursed, kidnapped, murdered, raped, tortured, bartered to an evil man for peace or money. Prince Charming's kingdom might still go to war, there might be famine and plague and what you've survived before gives you lessons to teach, and all they want to see now are the pretty gowns and singing forest animals.

They want to forget that those animals started talking to you to warn you that someone was trying to cut out your heart and eat it to make damn sure you were dead.

And the other "clever children" fairy tales, Red, Hansel and Gretel, and all of the Jacks and Alexis. All those are stories of how to survive poverty and abuse, neglect and discrimination without letting them define you.

No wonder their stories need to be neutered. Do we want to pretend that doesn't happen now?

Maybe we should tell them in the original more often. The fairy tales are tools - like the It Gets Better Project they're doing now. Admit how truly dark it is first, then maybe someone will be able to believe there's light.

The universal part of the fairy tale isn't in the resolution, it's in the suffering that precedes it.

I'll finish writing my own fairy tale- because it was upsetting, because I didn't think that the subject was that dark, and because maybe it's more universal than I think. I don't know.

But I do know that it made me realize that even though I'm being consumed by an impossible task, it's for the original version of happily ever after - not marriage, or wealth, but safety. (Well, maybe some wealth). And knowing Rumplestilskin's name is not going to help me spin common sense into code.

But maybe I can get him to tutor me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quick Admission of Guilt

Today is the first time I have ever, ever actually asked for an accommodation based on my disability on a test. Ever. In over 25 years. I have always found other ways to handle it.

My teacher, who suggested it originally listened to my request and said "How do you feel about this?"

I feel like it sucks. Like I have to admit that I can't do it. Like it's a completely different kind of failure, like I'm damaged and stupid.

I just told her it sucks.

However, she told me, it's reasonable, it's appropriately thought out and the test accomodation will simply emulate how I would do the task in the real world. And then she called me out on my harsh language discussing it and my body language. She wanted to know why I was being so hard on myself.

Why were we having the conversation this way? Because I actually create accommodations in educational and professional life, I knew everything she was saying, because I have told it to other people. She has a family member on with something similar so hearing me articulate it at my advanced age and full knowledge was significant to her. She could see what it felt like on the inside.

It feels like it sucks.

So those of you out there who have children who don't self advocate - especially the "gifted LD's" that are usually just ID'd and left to swim alone - I figured I would share that even with years in the field it took everything I had to admit that I shouldn't at least try to make myself sick and pass the midterm without the accommodation for a class I am taking for myself, that won't transfer directly to my degree.

And those of you who are trying to get by without activating your accommodations when you need them, know that it doesn't get any easier. But I do know that it's equally self destructive not to use them - they're not cheating - they get you to the same starting gate as the people who don't have a disability.

However, I understand why it still feels like cheating - especially when the abled tell you it's an unfair advantage.

So I did it. It hurt, but at least I'm aware it should be done.

You should do it, even if it hurts - the point of taking classes is to learn and use the material - it matters that you come out of the class with that knowledge - not how you got it compared to everyone else.

I don't have the answer on how to not feel like some sort of damaged goods when you do it though. I'll let you all know if I figure it out.

Now I shall cap off my day of dipping my toe in self-loathing instead of being proud of myself for making a practical mature decision, by watching That Scottish Play.

Like a Shakespearean Tragedy about self-loathing will help . . . . I guess we'll see if catharsis really is a valid theory.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Safety Word?

I've recently read some very good advice:

"Always have a safety word installed with your loved ones, in the event that an evil doppleganger from another universe tries to take your place."

I am known for taking precautions to reduce risk.

Assuming that evil dopplegangers will be waaayyy to busy to read through my meandering with poppets the safety word is "Renoir".

If I can't explain why - then it's a doppleganger who was smart enough to find and figure out the blog.

If I explain why and it still sounds fishy - check with the inhabitants of the House. They'll know.

But I wonder sometimes - why is it always the doppleganger that's evil, what if I'm evil and the doppleganger is good?

What if the doppleganger and I are both neutral?

Maybe we should both sit down for tea and discuss this . . . . I'll bake scones.

(Hmmmn . . . . . if it doesn't bake, it's definitely evil, and definitely a doppleganger . . . . forget the safety word - safety word plus Bake-off!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Black Box - and the Unified Theory of Couches

It's always there.

At the Beginning, shortly after the Big Bang there must have been this one Couch to symbolize all the couches that ever were or ever would be. It is the same couch every time, locked in every black box anywhere.

It will be busted and old, and made of the odd paisley-like muted floral pattern that seems both timeless and trapped in the type of time labeled "past"

And then it will come into the the Black Box and pretend to be
a loveseat,
a swing,
an entire penthouse apartment all by itself,
a chaise,
a restaurant booth,
waiting room furniture,
a bus stop bench,
a bed,
a crib,
a psychiatrists couch
a designer couch.

Sometimes it will branch out and be a car, or a sculpture, or even a tree.

But it always looks the same. It's always looming somewhere near the curtains waiting for its moment. It is terribly accommodating during the rehearsals or workshops or class, absorbing the hung over, or the unserious in its broken, warm, springless embraces.

The serious are usually pacing, or sitting in hard chairs looking to keep the energy they will need for becoming:

the lovers,
the kids on the swing,
the divorcing couple in the penthouse,
the crying woman,
the man waiting for his date that will not come to the restaurant that night,
the woman waiting for her test results alone,
Marilyn Monroe,
the sleeper,
the baby,
the psychiatrist,
the designer,
the driver,
the artist,
a bird.

I wonder about who gives the Couch to the black boxes. When they shopped for it and first bought it and put it in the place of pride in the living room did they think -" This looks like the shiny new version of every old couch I ever saw backstage?"

Is it a cult ritual to buy couches like this and keep them until they are too worn for the living room and sent to the family room, and then to the weird uncle's den, and then finally the young man's first apartment from which he then donates it to the Black Box to impress the hot starving actress chick he'd like to have sex with? Does that first purchase happen because they hope it might be the One True Couch, destined to be in the Black Box?

There is a whole journey in this Couch that silently works just as hard as we do at becoming.

It is jarring to see the same couch through time and space no matter which box I am in, trying to be something plus what I already am. There is a lesson in it's effortless becoming, which only happens after it's epic journey before the Box.

Here in this box, at this time, the couch collects my box mates, they are sleepy, they are unsure and do not appreciate hard surfaces. They like the couch better when it is not expected to be other than what it is. But it's distorted now - it's been so many things it can hardly hold the shape of a couch at all. It's holding all of the shapes it could be, making it amorphous.

I wonder- when the Couch forgets it's shape altogether, where it will go? Does it ever really leave? Does it go out into the world, or is it like a phoenix where it will become ashes and then reform as the next shiny new version of itself to live through the whole life cycle again?

Just so it can be beaten and worn and universal enough to be back in the box again.

Inside the Black Box the couch is Everything.

Outside the Black Box, it is only a worn out, dated couch.

Couchy Phoenixes.


Phoenixy Couches.

It's the only answer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vacation Timelines

There are things I need to write. I've been postponing them. I only made the space to write what other people asked for.

There are things I need to build and do, books I have to read because I promised myself.

But I am on vacation for a bit.

Which seems a little odd since I am not at a regular place of employment. But I'm just a silly human. Vacations are about different spaces not different definitions of work.

School counts as work too. I'm not being fair to myself. I should step back and allow myself to be an observer.

But maybe, I can be an observer up close.

OK. Vacation.

Then I'll get back to all the jumbled words and see about sorting them out.

Do you guys need this ball back?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Personal Hell

Tell me how the Frack I am supposed to answer this to make an " artist's statement"?
My gut reaction, first round answers will not be appropriate:

QUESTIONS TO ASK: Writing an Artist’s Statement

Consider the following questions when writing about your own work, whether for self-reflection or for someone else.

1. Will you take another writing class?

  • Not unless one of my children is being threatened.
  • And even then, when the kids are safe, the people who forced me to take the class better watch their backs.

2. Have your goals as a writer changed?

  • No, I still want to be a better writer purely for the sake of craft and not go anywhere near publication.
  • This goal is apparently not supported in any writing class.

3. What’s the most important thing you have learned?

4. What do you wish you had learned that you didn’t?

  • Anything remotely like creative writing.

5. What do you want to say about your work?

  • I'm sorry.

6. What would you write if you had the time and talent to write anything?

  • A heartbreaking work of staggering genius - or something happy that an audience of three will appreciate and start a small cult based around it.
  • Oooh - or an action/buddy film that starred Angelina Jolie and Sophia Loren kicking everyone's ass. I'd need to be a time traveller as well as a talented writer with unlimited time - but hey - I'd have unlimited time to work out little technical details like that.

7. What have you learned about your writing habits?

  • I do not work and play well with online creative writing courses.
  • I can indeed write from a place of anger, solely to reach the goal of pleasing a mediocre critic who only likes things that are less than 2000 words, and favors powerpoint presentations as opposed to instructional feedback.

8. Do you see yourself as part of a writing community? Do you prefer to work in isolation, focusing on the work, and reading?

  • Not unless the writing community has the crazy lady that lives in the house on the hill and tells other writers to get off her lawn. In that case, I am a member of that community, and I am on that lawn brandishing a chainsaw and calling "Here, kitty, kitty . . . ."

9. What’s the most important thing you learned about getting and giving feedback about work in progress?

  • People have very, very low reading comprehension. This low level of reading comprehension is exacerbated by last millennia's GUI formats and a horrible bulletin board structure leaving me unsure whether to rant at the software developers or the readers, thus encouraging my silence.
  • Oh! and that the instructor will not correct a classmate when they have obviously not read the same story we are commenting on, even when said classmate thinks the guy being kidnapped in the shower is committing suicide instead. . .

10. What techniques, authors, or exercises have been most useful to you?

  • Since we were exposed to almost no techniques or authors, and the exercises were all castrated into pseudo "work-for-hire" things slanted towards generating hack pieces, I would say that the most useful exercise was my exposure to flash fiction. That exercise has now created a deep seated hatred for the form that can only be compared to my core hatred of vampire fiction.

11. What insights have you gained into the practice and art of creative writing?

  • See 10.
  • Oh and rage. I've gotten a lot of insight into irrational rage.

12. Has your voice changed? Is your writing truer, deeper, better?

  • Are you suggesting I go through puberty or a sex change and start writing porn?
  • Would you be forcing me to write this porn from a memoir perspective while playing Daft Punk or Kanye?
  • I've always suspected that about you. . . .

13. What authors do you want to read now (has that changed)? Do you have writer role models?

  • I am desperate to get back to clear writing and entertaining fiction. I shall cleanse my palate with some nice Andrew M. Greeley, reread some Heinlein and Gaiman, and studiously avoid anything that won a Pulitzer or was lauded by the New Yorker circa 1978. I will immerse myself in some Karen Armstrong thought experiments and some David McCoullough, just because he's awesome.
  • My writer role model is Esther M. Friesner who was also my photographer once when I was covering Toy Fair. When I hit my second childhood I want to be just like her.

14. What’s your best piece from the semester?

Ok - so this isn't going to help me write a "extended piece of non-fiction where the writer explores process, inspiration, and artistic progress." which is supposedly the goal of an "Artist's Statement".

The thing I really learned is that this class is not the way for me to break through to my former creativity - however it's doing wonders for my extended studies in curmudgeonliness.

Please - if anyone out there knows the value or has successfully written an Artist's Statement - please, please share- I'm dyin' here . . . . .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Birthday Poppet Picks a Cake

The Boy is having one of those important birthdays this summer. So the Birthday Poppet and I went shopping to find the perfect cake to take up to him, because he visits someone else's world in the the summer. This will be his last birthday as a visitor to that world. If he goes back after this birthday, it will be because he is working there.

If he works there, it will be because he's pretty good with bow and arrow.

Back to the cake.

There are lots of rules for visiting the visitors of the Other World and we have a system - we bring sushi, we pack enough to feed the natives, and like all good Red Queens I make sure that we can serve high tea.

Then we bring out the gift and the cake.

Because there are no candles allowed in this world ( they apparently do not trust me or my clan with fire - yet they supply my offspring with weaponry - I find this inconsistent) the Birthday Poppet, which belongs to the Boy, sits upon the cake and pretends to be a candle. The boy makes the Birthday wish and blows on the Birthday Poppet and then we all sing to him in two or three languages.

We no longer sing charmingly off key like we're supposed to because of the habit we have gotten into of singing Tom Lehrer songs together. We've lost the knack of not harmonizing.

We have been doing this since the Birthday Poppet arrived, this is third Birthday since he was first given to the Boy. That first time he was the gift. Here is this year's cake - a tiramisu cheesecake.

The Birthday Poppet was surprised I had considered anything else. The Boy discovered this cheesecake in November and talked about it fondly many times since.

The boy made his wish, we shared our food and a lovely time was had by all until the gatekeepers of the world caught on to the fact that we were still there longer than we were supposed to be - but time runs differently there, so we told them it was Time's fault.

And a lovely time was had by all - and the leftover tiramisu cheesecake came back home with the Birthday Poppet who was quite happy to celebrate with the leftovers at home. He is already planning things to celebrate the Boy's major birthday when he comes back to us, however I'm pretty sure it will be with the same cake.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's Midnight at the Well of Souls - or in my living room

Yesterday was long.

Returning from yesterday, all I wanted was sweet sleep or at least putting up my feet. And friends are floating, each of us in a dance that looks like being caught between generations.

The other generations have prickly edges - we keep getting caught in them. We seem to be defined by the space between them. There are not enough of us, and our struggles and successes and experiences will always be blended into the shinier or louder generations on either side of us.

But we are here now, individual and collective, navigating the gears of the world. My friends and I are not having a fantastic gearjumping month - each difficult in their own way.

So last night a friend called. "I think I am having a breakdown."

I listened and heard the crackling. This wasn't a phone thing, but there was no hysteria.

"OK, leave where you are. Come over here. We'll break it down." He asked the Keeper of the Generations in his house if that would work. She told him to come.

It was selfish in some ways. I had already used up a bunch of my allotted gearjumping for the day, I thought I could help, but not on the phone. And sometimes place is important. I knew he needed a break of place to move out of the things holding him. Instead of bed, I made some coffee.

And waited.

My other friends checked in with the status of their navigations - some bad news, some good news, some secrets where we could hear the emptiness of the unsaid. That last one was mostly from me.

And we all shared our hope for the breaking friend and then he came to the door with his briefcase full of depression and anxiety and society, and his immediate need to pack and escape with his family.

And I was happy that he came, because it might have been easier not to. Sometimes your shamanistic journeys are only two or three miles down the road.

So I asked him the right questions and he started with the regular answers and then he saw the circus in my living room. Because everyone should have one.

And he smiled and got down on the floor like a five year old and peeked inside.

It is impossible to stay in a breakdown state when faced with a circus full of Poppets.

Everyone loves a circus. We played with it for a little bit and then worked out the answers that would be good enough for now.

It broke the pattern and freed him up from the sharp edges for a bit. My living room is bigger on the inside than the out.

The denizens of Poppetropolis were pleased to be of help.

I was pleased to be of help.

But it's the morning after midnight and I'm very tired now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Black Box

When you enter the box , first you see the lights and then the floor and then the curtains – maybe.

When you enter the box first you see the black and then the lights - sometimes.

When I entered the black box I smelled the black.

Oh. Yes, of course. Here are the curtains, the boxes, the scruffed floor that proves it’s true.

When you enter the box it is a trial, a transformation, a test.

It is for everyone. Move. Reach. Feel.

Hurt. Scream. Love. Stretch. Know.


In the black box I learn how far my puzzle pieces are from the center of my snap apple puzzle. I am marked and measured in my native language that goes deeper than the words.

Oh. Right. Sorry I forgot. I didn’t mean to. I thought I was doing the right thing, Stop apologizing? Ok sorry, I mean . . . never mind. I’ll practice quiet now.

We stand in a circle at readiness. The knees are slightly bent, the hands are loose, the feet need to be ready to spring forward. We are trying to learn telepathy.

My body and mind remember, and slide easily to that place, aware from the center seeing/not seeing. Almost. It is almost easy. I can no longer see behind me. I shut that down when I wasn’t in the box. Here in the circle now it feels like a withered arm being asked to lift.

I try not to hate myself for that.

When we are one we need to leave the ground. We need to leave it knees up, like a spring letting go of the ground not a piston showing that we are leaving it. We need to surprise gravity, not defy it. We need telepathy, not show and tell, to leave it.

I know exactly when we are supposed to release the floor and how we are supposed to address the air. The mind and the body send the signal and the meat and the muscles say no.

Split seconds – speed of thought.

My will is stronger than the meat and the muscles, but gravity is not surprised. I go up but barely. It’s a victory. A quiet one.

It shouldn't have been a battle.

The other 11 are trying to understand the place where all thought is no thought. I know that place – I fall back there like a bead in a well oiled groove, but those hard fought four inches – straight back, knees up, no bounce –was a ten year war played out in the space of that neuron-synapse interaction.

Here is the trick to telepathy in the black box, the fact that you have to focus is a given, but it will only work if you actually care. Right now- this first day – it is still a child’s game to them.

The Black Box though, is the entire world to me.

I’ve just spent a lot of time pretending that it’s not. Enough time for gravity to stake a higher claim on the meat, but the black still has my soul. It’s my alphabet.

It doesn’t take much for the Black Box to strip me down past the excuses, measure the damage. It exposes things caught between the lights and the floor.

So much more complicated than Scylla and Charybdis

You don't choose between them here in the scent of the light warmed black. You stand in the center and become the third thing.