Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Can we talk ring tones? We know where I stand on ringtones. I'm generally anti-ringtone. I know, I know, the tone quality is improving all the time, iPhone audio is good, blah blah blah...but...it's still a tinny, transistor radio sounding noise. Which is fine for some ringtones, but not most. Rossini, for instance, should never, ever be dumbed down to a ringtone. But I hear it a lot. I'm guessing it must be a free standard tone on some phones. Dumbing down Rossini for the purpose of Bugs Bunny is funny and educational. Dumbing down Rossini for the purpose of a free ringtone is offensive and stupid.
I just don't see the real purpose. I mean, I get it. You know who's calling without looking at your phone. You don't have to go to all the trouble of fetching it out of your pocket or purse or go to the other room where it's charging to find out who's calling. You hear, "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and you know it's your ex and you are not in the mood for that right now so you ignore the call. But if you hear "Closer" you drop everything and lunge for the phone because you know it's that new guy you hoped would call. (Speaking of NIN, Trent Reznor and Gary Numan duet. Inspired musical maleficence or End of Days?)
Call me old school. Call me too polite. Call me too absolute. Go ahead. Call me all of that and more. But if you call me, I'll either answer my phone or I won't. Because I'm either not busy or I am preoccupied/charging my phone/tired/in a non-communicative mood. At the very least, the bare minimum, if I'm not busy, if the phone is charged and on, I'm not so lazy/apathetic/rude that I can't be bothered to take "the time" to look at the caller id and see who it is. I mean, that's the bare minimum I can do for my friends and family - give them the courtesy of at least holding the phone and looking at the caller ID. I'm generally not a call screener, though, so I just answer the phone. It's a simple concept. Someone wants to talk to me so they pick up their phone and call me. My phone rings (in my case vibrates) and I answer it. A conversation begins. It's called communication. I don't need to know who's calling by playing name that tune with my friends and family every time they call me.
Especially tinny, crappy, irritating versions of songs as ringtones.
Case in point. A friend took me to Costco. We got separated. I wanted to know if she wanted to split a case of rice milk. (They've got an incredible deal on it if you're interested...but it's a lotta rice milk.) So I called my friend. As I stood there in the warehouse waiting for my friend to answer her phone I heard "Velouria" echoing through the industrial steel shelves. A weird, tinny, strange sounding version of "Velouria," but "Velouria" nonetheless. Then my friend answered her phone. "Velouria" stopped.
Oh cripes. No. Say it isn't so. Please, please, don't let my friend have the Pixies as a ringtone. And please, please don't let it be assigned as my special ringtone, and please, especially please, don't let it be a bastardized version of "Velouria."
When she answered her phone I could hear her. She was just one aisle over and when I followed the sound of her voice I could see her through the shrink wrapped cases of cereal. We played a little game of peek-a-boo and she said, "I'll be right there," and hung up. I couldn't stand it, I had to verify the Pixies ringtone. I called her again. Sure enough, "Velouria" echoed through the steel shelving. She said, "Yesssss???"
"Do you have 'Velouria' as a ringtone?"
"Yeah, that's your ringtone." Duh, strongly implied. Like, "Duh, yes, of course I assigned you a ringtone and of course it's 'Velouria,' sheesh."
She peek-a-boo waved at me, put her hand over the phone and mouthed, "I'll be right there." As if she was talking to someone on the phone, someone who wasn't me, and was muting her voice to tell me she'd be right over without letting the person on the other end of the phone know that she was carrying on a conversation with someone else. Except the person on the other end of the phone was me. She forgot she was talking to me and was rudely carrying on a silent conversation at the same time...with me.
But. The point is, "Velouria." "Velouria?" When she decided to assign me a special song, a ringtone that is uniquely mine, "Velouria" was what she came up with? I get the Pixies connection, I understand that, but "Velouria?" maybe "Where's My Mind" or "Into the White." But "Velouria?"
She rolled around the corner and found me standing there, arms crossed, look of disgusted discovery on my face. "Velouria? Velouria. You have assigned ringtones and worse, you chose 'Velouria' for me? What? Are we going steady now? You couldn't find a 'Let's Get it On' ringtone for me? Does your husband know about this?"
The shocking response?
"(Giggle) Yes, (guffaw) he has the same ringtone assigned to you on his phone."
Then she dropped a bombshell.
"What song do you have as my ringtone on your phone?"
A) She should know me well enough to know I don't do ringtones. And B) she presumed that I would assign her a special ringtone. I mean, we're friends and everything, but isn't that kind of pompous? Just assuming someone has you on speed dial and assigned you a personal ringtone?
"I don't do ringtones," I reminded her.
I think this hurts her a little. I think she wants me to assign her a special ringtone. She's somehow reached a point in her life where being assigned a special ringtone on a friend's phone is a measure of value and significance...and possibly status. Ye gads. Is this junior high school? Aren't we waaaaaay past this? Apparently not. Apparently this stuff matters to some of us.
The thing is, though, I do have a couple ringtones. I know. I know. My brother has me set to "The Immigrant Song" on his phone. Which I thought was pretty darned funny. So I set it as his tone on my phone. So for a really long time the only ringtone I had was "The Immigrant Song" for my brother. One time my brother called me while I was with my sister. She obviously heard his ringtone and was surprised. She thought I was anti-ringtone. Which I am. Except for that one instance. Because it's funny. But my sister got jealous. So I assigned her a special ringtone. She wanted "Day Tripper." There was no swutting way I was going to download a Beatles song much less subject myself to a tinny version of it every time my sister calls me. So she's "Barracuda."
And that's the thing about ringtones: You're forced to sum up your friends/family with a few bars of a song tinnily blared through a mobile phone speaker.
My sister knows it's me calling her when her phone gives her a really, really horrible sounding version of "Helter Skelter." Of course all my sister's ringtones are Beatles songs. And I guess it stands to reason that I would be summed up telephonically as "Helter Skelter." I don't dig too deeply for insightful meaning when it comes to my sister. But anyone else might think it a little odd that someone would choose "Helter Skelter" as a ringtone for their sister. When she's out with friends, for instance, and I happen to call her, her phone blares out "Helter Skelter." There she is yukking it up with friends, someone says, "Do you need to get that?" And she says, "Nah, it's just my sister." And they say, "You have 'Helter Skelter' as your sister's ringtone?"
Still, I fare better than my sister's oldest daughter who was bequeathed "She's Leaving Home" as her ringtone on her mother's phone. A tinny, muffled rendition of "She's Leaving Home." Like I said, I try to not dig too deeply into my sister's psyche. It's a scary place. It is kind of funny that every time my mother calls my sister "Your Mother Should Know" blares from my sister's phone. I'll give her props for that one. But it's still annoying.
In my sister's case, choosing a ringtone comes down to choosing a Beatle's song that best sums up her feelings or impression of that person. I suppose better to have her think "Helter Skelter" than, say, "Dear Prudence" as a way to sum me up. For my sister, her musical taste is the priority. All her contacts are forced to fit into her taste.
Other people, more thoughtful people, more creative people, spend time thinking about the person and assign a ringtone that reflects that person. They tailor the ringtone to fit the person rather than forcing the person to fit their taste.
The ringtone assignation forces the whole "sum up a person in one song" conundrum. I don't like that conundrum. I think most people need an entire soundtrack. Or at least, I like to think most people are complex enough to require an entire soundtrack. Sure, certain songs remind us of certain people or events shared with certain people, of course, but to choose one uniquely identifying song for a person? That's not easy.
And even more to the disconcerting point, by definition your song summation of the person will be broadcast to everyone who can hear your phone. Someone who summarizes their husband with tinny Barry White moaning out "Deeper and Deeper" is letting everyone within earshot know some very intimate personal information.
But people do it all the time these days. Ringtones.
I've heard some interesting ones that have given me pause for thought about the person on the other end of the phone. I was at a swank restaurant and the guy's phone at the table next to me blared out "Burning Down the House." He obviously knew who was calling, it was obviously an assigned ringtone because he seemed happy about the call, grabbed the phone and gave a big happy "Hey! How's it goin'?!" "Burning Down the House." Um. I mean, huh. Okay. That incident was a couple years ago and I still remember it - I still ponder about the person who inspires "Burning Down the House" as an assigned ringtone.
I honestly have heard "Closer" as a ringtone. A guy on the train had it as his ringtone. I wondered if the girl on the other end of that call had any clue that this guy either uses that as his normal, everyday ringtone or that she's so special that she inspired him to download and assign "Closer" to her. Either way: Ewwww. Kinda funny. But. Ewwwww. And no, it wasn't the edited version. It was the PMRC warning version.
Way. Too. Much. Information. About a complete faceless, voiceless stranger on the other end of another stranger's phone.
My friend in Costco was chirpily nattering on about all her ringtones. A mutual friend is assigned "Come As You Are." Before they were married, the three of us used to be quite the little rocker chick group. I was surprised to discover my friend even remembered those days, let alone admits to them, and apparently, lauds them. She's a very dignified, respectable PTA mother, now. She usually seems kind of embarrassed if I mention something we did "way back then" in front of her suburban friends. Not that I go around divulging details about her drunken backstage antics, but even a casual mention of a concert or bar we used to go to can draw the frantic "ixnay on the ockray adays" look. So I have difficulty imagining her phone blaring "Velouria" or "Come As You Are" during a PTA bake sale.
And it makes me realize I don't know what song I would use to sum up her or our friend. She harkens back to our days of yore to sum up me and our friend. Pathetically enough, that's still relevant to me now. I haven't really moved on from those days. But our mutual friend isn't exactly a grungy disaffected barfly anymore. "Come As You Are" doesn't exactly come to mind when I think of her now. It would definitely be on her soundtrack, but her theme song? Not so much.
Because I'm unemployed and have a lot of free time on my hands I dwelt on this a lot longer than I should. I started asking other friends about ringtones. Yay or nay and if yay, what criteria do they use to establish the one quintessential song to represent a person.
Coincidentally I was meeting said formerly grungy disaffected barfly for, I guess not surprisingly, a drink during her kids' karate practice. I walked into the restaurant and deliberately called her. I wanted to find out if she was already there, but I also was hoping to hear a cell phone blare out as I hit dial. Nothing. Not a peep, straight to voice mail. But I saw her waving and motioning me to a table.
I didn't waste time beating around the bush, I just came right out and asked her if she had ringtones. I told her about the revelation in Costco. She agreed that "Velouria" is an unexpected choice.
"'Where's My Mind,''Manta Ray,' no, definitely 'Where's My Mind.' But not 'Velouria.' That'd be way down on my list to summarize you," she said, assuredly.
Turns out I'm Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" on her phone. She saw it on a list of free ringtone downloads, thought of me (naturally) and thought it would be funny to hear that every time I call her.
Niiiice. My mother would be so proud to know that's what my friends think of me.
Again, struggling to imagine what the other mothers at karate and violin classes think when I call my friend and her phone blares out "Bad Reputation." I mean, I get her point, it is funny, but c'mon, ultimately the joke's on me.
I already know that Frankie and Benjy use ringtones. Benjy tends to go a bit overboard when it comes to superfluous functionality. And, last I knew, I was identified as Alice Cooper's "Under My Wheels" on their phones. Which also has great comedic affect. "The telephone is ringing..."
If I were to go ringtone "Under My Wheels" would be my all-purpose generic ringtone.
I called to check in on Frankie and Benjy and my ringtone status. Much to my surprise I learned I've been updated. I am no longer, "Under My Wheels." I am now "Sex on Wheels." Oooo, ba-baby, baby baby. Good grief. Benjy has some new ringtone app and he's been editing and fiddling with songs and my calls are now identified with "Sex on Wheels." Hard body, motor city, love life...Frankie wants to switch me back to "Under My Wheels," though, because she's so used to identifying me with that song. Apparently I'm having a ringtone identity crisis. Great.
MAF surprised me. He uses ringtones. He doesn't seem like the type. To prove himself ringtone ready he said, "Call me, right now." So I did. A tinny rendition of the Hollies "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" echoed from his mobile phone. Awwwwww.
"Dude, you're gay, everyone's going to think it's a drag queen calling you. When I call you, based on my ringtone and your sexual orientation, people are going to think I'm a drag queen."
"Better that than 'Bang a Gong.'"
"To be sure, but what does that have to do with me?"
"That's the song I always think of when I think of you."
"As in 'Get it on, bang a gong' bang a gong?!"
"Yep. But more in the 'windy and wild, hubcap dynastar halo, Cadillac, clad in black, don't look back' bang a gong kind of way."
"Oh, well, that explains it. Whew, I was concerned there for a minute."
The very next day the old BF Rock Star called to check in on me. He heard I am unemployed. Things are good with him. That's always the way it was/is with us. We're never in sync. He's up, I'm down, I'm up, he's down. Doomed to fail. I asked him if I were a ringtone what would I be on his phone. No hesitation, no moment of reflective thought. "Blood and Roses." Roll of eyes. Ours was a tumultuous relationship, to say the least. "Blood and Roses" sums up us. Not me. But whatever. I told him about the "Bang a Gong" conversation with MAF.
"Oh, good one. Totally. Yeah. 'Bang a Gong.' Yeah. That works. I change my mind. 'Bang a Gong.' That's totally you."
A trend was emerging and it concerns me. My friends are choosing down and dirty rock songs with rebel sexual overtones to sum up their impression of me.
"Velouria," "Bad Reputation," "Under My Wheels," "Sex on Wheels," two "Bang a Gongs," "Helter Skelter." This is what my friends and family think of me? This is how they sum me up in song?
I guess there are worse things, and these are the people who know me best, so they know, you know, about me. I don't think any of my former coworkers would assign any of those songs to me. But I dunno, something's bugging me about it. These are the people I care about, the people whose opinions matter to me. And their musical opinions of me show a slightly disconcerting trend.
I hate ringtones.
On the other hand, there's my niece. She's young and funny and aware and has hundreds of friends who call her a lot. She makes a good case for ringtones. She has to be careful with her phone minutes. Assigned ringtones help her keep her non-essential conversations to a minimum.
She knows when her boyfriend is calling her because a tinny version of Ween's Don't Laugh, I Love You blares from her phone. This is a case where I'm pro-ringtone. That song has a tinny, funny sound to it even through a good amp and decent speakers. Somehow it works really well as a ringtone. Especially given the Don't Laugh, I Love You lyrics. Blasting out of a mobile phone it has a serendipitous "this is so cheesy it's funny" aspect. Purposeful cheese. So cheesy it's hip. Perfect for my hipster niece and her so-cool-he-doesn't-realize-it boyfriend.
The same niece assigned "It's a Long Way to the Top (if you Wanna Rock and Roll)" as my ringtone. Oh crimony, here we go again. But in this case, it makes my heart swell with pride. I'm guessing there aren't a lot of kids who have their aunts on their speed dials, much less assign them ringtones, much less AC/DC ringtones. So. You know. If she has to do the ringtone thing I'm glad she chose that one for me. If that sums up her impression of me, well, that's not all bad. I think about my aunts and what ringtones I would assign them. I either can't come up with anything or they're really lame songs.
And since my niece almost always answers her phone when I call I know she considers me an essential caller. Thinking of her springing into action to answer her phone when it blares out, "it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll..." makes me laugh.
I still hate ringtones. And I kind of wish I didn't know the songs my friends assigned to me. I regret asking them because it's like overhearing them talk about you to other people. The ringtone tells a lot about how they think of you, feel about you and associate with you. I don't wanna know that a gay friend and an ex boyfriend both feel that "Bang a Gong" sums up their impressions of me. It's weird and disturbing information to know about yourself. Especially when it's trivialized into a 30 second tinny snippet of the song via a cell phone speaker.
Friday, January 15, 2010
So, a long time ago, a year-ish or so ago, I let loose a little personal secret. I publicly disclosed that I was writing a book.
And then stuff happened at work, I was laid-off, yadda yadda yadda, no mention has been made of it.
But! Heh heh heh, ol' Trill may be stressed, depressed and soon-to-be homeless but undaunted by her life derailment, she continued to accept the challenge of writing a book.
And being a bit of an overachiever she wrote two. Well. Actually. Almost three.
So there, everyone who bugs me about writing a book! There! So there! I did it, okay! I did it not once, not twice, but almost three times!
Okay. So. Now that the book nonsense is behind us we can all resume our regularly scheduled lives.
It was easy and difficult to write the books. Harnessing the words, forcing them to join together they way I want them to join, corralling them into sentences and paragraphs of my construction rather than theirs, is/was a challenge.
I don't think the books I've written are great. I am editing and re-editing and re-writing and messing around with them a lot. Which is the real challenge. I never, ever re-read the words my head gives me (forces to expunge). I merely take dictation. So the whole reading and re-reading and re-writing and re-working aspect is new and kind of unpleasant. I feel like I'm micromanaging words. That makes me feel gross. I hate micromanagers.
And now that I've written these books I a) don't know what to do with them and b) kinda think I don't want to do anything with them. The process is the event.
The ultimate goal was to force myself to control the words. Dictate them instead of taking dictation from my head. Organize them. Make them do my bidding. I did that. I continue to do that. "Crafting" the stories was the goal. Asserting power over them, and more importantly, over myself, was the ultimate reward.
I'm good with things exactly as they are. I exerted power over my mental illness and that feels great. Knowing I can control the words (resulting headaches notwithstanding) is a huge personal growth step for me. Words have plagued me my entire life. I finally took some control of them. That feels really good. That's success, the victory, for me. Knowing I can force them to do I what I want them to do is great. Exhilarating.
What more do I want? A book deal? I think not. I don't dream of being a published author. I don't fantasize about seeing my words in print or reaching thousands of people via my books. It's not my goal or dream or even desire. I know, I know, I'm unemployed and heckfire, I've written books, why not at least try to take the next usual steps with them?
Well, because the next usual steps are: Rejection, rejection, rejection and more rejection.
And no, no I'm not "afraid" of rejection. I know a lot about rejection. More than the average person. I have a bag of coping tricks that's unrivaled.
And yes, that's a defeatist attitude. "You don't know if you don't try, Trill," I hear you say. I know. You're right. I might be very surprised.
But like I said, over and over again, the goal was to write a book. Take control of the words. Develop a story arc with characters and themes...corral the words, use them instead of them using me. Ta dah, I did it. Getting those words published was never the goal. Putting myself out there as an author, facing more rejection...why? Why, when getting published was never the goal, why would I put myself through that?
"Yeah, but Trill, you're unemployed, what have you got to lose? And you certainly have the time on your hands to devote to selling yourself to agents and editors, why not? Why not Trill, why not?"
Ya know, I hear you, and I'd probably ask and tell someone like me the same things you're thinking. I'd think I was being supportive and encouraging.
All I can say in response is, "I dunno." It's not fear of failure, rejection or even fear of success.
It's apathy. I don't care about what "should" happen next. I don't care about doing anything with the books. The passion is in the process.
I was passionate about taking control of the words and writing the books. I am still passionate about it. It's really great - better than I ever expected - more satisfying and deeply fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. I care about that.
My head assaults me with words. All the time. On this blog, my private journals, I'm merely exorcising the words that torment me if I don't expunge them. I don't "think" about (read: edit) what I post. They're just words I am forced to get out of my head. I'm pretty sure it's a mental illness of some sort - dementia, senility, Schizophrenia or possibly some kind of autism. (or demonic possession but since I don't believe in that sort of thing I stick with mental illness). I'm plagued by words. If I could edit them, believe me, I would edit them to smithereens.
Basically: I take dictation from whatever causes the words to barrage me. Blogging is just a great place for me to expunge them. When I discovered people read and like the way the words come out of my head I was pretty darned shocked. I still grapple with that. I don't get it. That's not to say I'm not grateful for everyone who reads the blog. For the most part the people who read and like the words my head gives me are terrific people. But I don't really understand why anyone reads or enjoys the words. No offense to you, I just don't get it. I don't get what people see in chocolate or beer or Brad Pitt, either. So. You know. It's not you, it's me.
Unlike the blog and other words I'm dictated, writing books makes me take control. The control that results from the process of harnessing the words is a rush incomparable to anything I've ever experienced. After I outlined the stories and got to know the characters I started filling in the details. And then I had big wordgasms. Deep, mind-blowing, in harmony with the Universe, satisfying, weeping angels wordgasms.
Maybe that will help you understand a bit better. When you find the right partner, sex is really incredible. You feel more alive, more connected to the Universe, more sure of yourself, more deeply satisfied than ever. You feel things you've never felt, you want to give more of yourself, you want to know everything about your partner, you love pleasing that partner, you love what they do to you, and it's all just a really beautiful, rewarding thing.
But that doesn't mean you go out and take up sex as a profession.
I have been toying with the idea of posting them on a blog - serially - but I dunno. I'm hashing that over and trying to reach a decision on it. I'm not anguishing over it, but I am giving it honest pro and con thought. I can't come up with a point, a purpose, for putting them "out there."
This blog is just a weirdo thing that happens. It's organic. It's where I deposit some of the words my head forces me to expunge. It's where I take dictation from my head.
Posting with a purpose, a serial book blog, is so contrived and forced and pretty much everything that's not me. But. Many of you have been incredibly supportive and swear you really want to read the books. Posting them on a blog seems like the easiest/best way to deliver the words. (rather than a ginormous email attachment) And yet...somehow...I just can't quite do it. It doesn't ring true to me, to myself. It feels arrogant and egotistical and pompous and most of all: Contrived.
And that's what my issue is with being a real writer (which I am not). As much as I found the process exhilarating, as much as I feel victorious over my own mental illness, what I did was manipulative and contriving. Sure, I manipulated and contrived my own words, my own stories, my own characters and thoughts...but, it's still manipulation and contriving. It was/is a good personal growth exercise for me. But that doesn't mean I should share it. Think about the people who work out really hard and develop huge muscles. Yay them, they worked hard and got results. They controlled, manipulated and contrived their muscles. But the rest of us usually don't care to see the results, not really. Maybe in passing, a general, "wow, those are some kinda biceps," but we don't feel the deep satisfaction and pride the owner of those muscles feels when they flex them in the mirror.
One last area of apparent controversy. Something called "a gift." A few people have hurled this at me: "Trillian, you have a gift." Ummmm, huh? If being besieged, assaulted, by words is a gift I'd like to know where to return it. Or regift it to someone else. One very encouraging person said in response, "Call it a mental illness if you want, maybe it is, but, it's still a gift. And if you keep it to yourself you're wasting it, which is the ultimate in selfishness. Gifts are meant to be shared. What if Picasso or your beloved Pixies felt the way you do?"
Okay. First of all, thank you, Miss-you-know-who-you-are, I appreciate your belief in me. And if my words speak to you, give you some enjoyment, then great. Really. I mean, that's totally cool. I don't understand why anyone would want to read them, but hey, if you do, rock on. However. Putting me in any way near the talent pool of Picasso or the Pixies is an insult and offense to their genius. Please don't insult or offend them.
If "what" I "have" is a gift...well...I mean...wouldn't I know it? Wouldn't I know I was bequeathed a gift and wouldn't I therefore feel compelled to share it or at the very least do something with it? (Like regift it.) Yeah, I think so, too. So much for the gift theory.
So, you're thinking, why, if you're not going to do anything with the words are you even bothering to tell us you wrote two almost three books? What's the point of even letting anyone know you've done this?
Ahhh, good question. You're getting it now! I haven't mentioned it because it is personal and I never intended to do anything with the books. But. Thanks to the support and encouragement of really nice people who care about me, and with my unemployment "situation," a lot of people have been suggesting I "do" something with the words. And a few people have said, "Hey Trill, what about that book you said you were writing?" I thought it was time to address it publicly. That's all.
I know, I know, $100 billion seems like a lot of money. I know.
$100,000,000,000. (Or $100,000,000,000,000 if you're old school Brit) No matter your school, that's a lot of zeros.
It is a lot of money. A lot of Snuggies®.
Look at it this way: A retelling of the Smurfs has so far grossed $1,419,950,876.
We, the world, have chipped in a total of $1,419,950,876 to sit for three hours watching James Cameron's Smurfs.
If we find it in our hearts and wallets to collectively fork over $1,419,950,876 to have our intelligence insulted I think we can dig just a little deeper into our hearts and happily give $100 billion to Haiti.
If you haven't yet contributed your time and money to Project Smurf, trust me, you're not missing much. Take the $10 - $15 price of admission to the Red Cross instead.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Oh God. Literally. The Vatican hates Avatar as much as I did, and, gulp, for some of the same reasons.
"Unoriginal." "Bland." "Sappy." But but hey, "stunning visuals."
My take on it? Well, yes. That's my feeling in a nutshell.
But. Ahem. Is it hot in here? That's the Vatican's review on it.
That's it. Show's over folks, go home.
The day the Catholic Church and I agree on the critique of movie is the day I check myself into a mental health care facility.
Though, in fairness to me, the Vatican doesn't like it for a lot of other reasons. They're feeling all jealous and indignant over the concept of worshiping nature. They say it "cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium." Scared, boys? Afraid nature is going to upstage you in your quest for world domination? I mean really, coming from a bunch of guys, guys, who turn Sunday church service into a Disney-worthy spectacle with elaborate costumes, fancy props and catchy musical numbers, mocking the concept of respect and concern for the environment is kind of lame.
Oh but wait, there's more. One thing that bothered me, a lot, but I didn't mention it, is the fact that Sigourney Weaver's character, a botanist/ecologist/gardener/defender of the plants smokes. A lot. I guess it's to make her appear tougher, ballsier.
Apparently a lot of right-wingers are glomming onto this hypocrisy, too.
That hurts. The Vatican and right wingers and I all agree on something? Gadzooks. Hold me. I'm scared.
Sigourney Weaver doesn't need a cigarette to pull off tough and ballsy. The woman was the lone survivor of an alien attack by a giant evil grabby monster on a space lab for crying out loud. We believed it, we believed in her, we know she's got the cred for tough and ballsy. She's had that cred, held the crown of that cred for what? 25 years? Why, then, the cigarettes? And worse, a chain smoking environmentalist botanist? How stupid does James Cameron think we are? I'm sure there are botanists/environmentalists who smoke. I have no doubt about it. But. It's hypocritical and throws their credibility and sincerity into question. I know in the movie she's been up on that planet a while and maybe she hasn't heard about the effect cigarettes and the tobacco industry have on the air, soil and water...but as a botanist on an environmentalist crusade to study and save the Smurfs, I'm thinking she'd put two and two together and realize a) the Smurfs don't smoke; b) there are several valid reasons for that; and c) cigarettes contaminate any environment with chemical toxins and oxygen depletion. If she were smoking homegrown, pure, unchemically altered weed or magical Smurfplant I could cut some slack. From God's garden to her lungs. But, heh heh, there's a ratings review board, censors, you know. Smoking pot is not PG13. Yet smoking cigarettes is G. So instead of a non-smoking botanist, or an occasional home-grown-plant-toking botanist, we have a chain cigarette smoking botanist releasing the deadly chemicals with every puff and contaminating the very environment she's trying to save. Smoking cigarettes puts a person side-by-side with cars, power plants and steel mills in terms of releasing deadly toxins into the environment.
Oh. And kids see this movie. Must we really give an otherwise mostly admirable female character a deadly vice? Can't we just have a smart, gutsy, female character in control without dumbing her down or giving her a flaw or killing her off so the guy or prettier, dumber girl can get screen time? I'm just sayin'...what point did the cigarettes serve other than to show hypocrisy in action?
Ever have an experience that leaves you feeling very isolated and yet very much at one with the Universe? If you have you know exactly that of which I speak. If you haven't, you're thinking "Someone really needs to get this woman some professional help...it's just sick and wrong to watch someone slip into insanity and not help her."
Okay, so, I took the meeting about the job at the company I find personally degrading and offensive.
And...it wasn't so awful.
Respect was given to me and, more to my surprise, right from the get-go acknowledgment was made that I would be putting my career at risk by considering the job.
They know. They know even though my skills and experience and creative solutions are right for the job description the company and what they do is not right for me. They neither tried to placate me or cajole me. (I hate being cajoled, don't you?) It was one of the weirdest "interviews" I've ever had, but it was also one of the most straightforward, honest, professional interviews I've ever had. It wasn't really an interview. It was more of a discussion with someone at a party.
You know how sometimes you meet someone at a party/bar/train station/airplane cabin and a few polite questions later you hear yourself giving the most real, honest answers and dialog than you have with your closest family and friends?
I don't find that situation all that weird. I think it makes sense. Complete strangers ask the basic, simple questions that friends and family think they already know, or don't bother to ask. When was the last time you asked your sister, for instance, if she finds her job interesting? When was the last time you asked your best friend if they ever think about moving to another city? Have you ever asked your mother if she likes Elvis? See? These are basic, straightforward questions that come up in conversations with strangers because, well, they're strangers. You don't know anything about each other and it's not weird to ask these things out of the blue. Whereas with family and friends we assume we know the answers, if not because the topics have been discussed, then because we know these people and we presume we know the answers based what we think we know about them.
Case in point, over the holidays I was at a party with my sister. I was chatting with a woman I just met. Somehow the topic of Nirvana came up. She asked me how I felt about Kurt Cobain's death. I told her it still makes me sad, that it affected me deeply because Kurt was a rock and roll savior to me, and that strange as it sounds, I miss him - not in a crazed Elvis fan kind of way, but in a quiet, wistful kind of way you might think about an old schoolmate. I'd had a couple glasses of wine...it was the holidays...I had a little eye watery moment. Not streaming tears, but just that sad, nostalgic saltwater that pools up when the discussion over wine turns to something sad. My sister was shocked. She knows I like Nirvana, but, she never bothered to consider the fact that his death made me - makes me - sad. Of course she had to put her own spin on it, "Yeah, like John Lennon."
No, not like John Lennon. Like Kurt Cobain.
An argument over whose death is more tragic ensued and the woman slunk away leaving the sisters to argue over dead rock stars. (That says more about my sister and I than a three volume set could ever explain.) But a few days later one of my nieces told me that my sister was so surprised that I felt something for, about, Kurt Cobain that she'd been scouring the internet for information about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. My nieces were obviously surprised to find their hippie Beatle-loving mother Googling Nirvana and Kurt Cobain and listening to Nirvana songs. My sister told them that she found out Aunt Trillian was sad about Kurt Cobain and wanted to know why. It was my nieces' turn to find out something they didn't know about someone they thought they knew: Their mother, my sister, actually cares about me and my feelings and what matters to me. (I've know it all along, this wasn't news to me.) That's just how it is...we don't ask what we think are obvious question of the people closest to us. My nieces never thought to ask my sister if she cares about what matters to me. They just assumed they knew, or, were too afraid of the answer to ask and risk hearing either a lie or the painful truth.
And that's what it comes down to in these conversations. We don't ask our friends and family questions that might result in uncomfortable dialog. We don't want to admit that we don't know the most basic facts about people who are close to us. (Thus risking our credibility as a friend or family member.) And we don't want to put them in a position of lying through polite smiles. Or touching a nerve that opens a floodgate of painful admission. And we don't want to be rude or embarrass the people we care about most.
A lot goes unsaid in close relationships. Which is too bad.
Because with complete strangers we're far more uninhibited than we are with friends and family. We don't "care" about their feelings, we have no idea if the innocent question we're asking is a touchstone for some deeply happy or painful feelings. We're just making polite conversation. We're not risking our credibility as a friend or family member by asking something we "should" already know, or be able to figure out, because we have no credibility with complete strangers! If we touch a nerve it wasn't out of rudeness or jerkiness but out of innocence. And in response, there's no need to lie through a polite smile or feel embarrassed about admitting to deep feelings over the subject.
That's the great thing about meeting new people: Total, reckless abandon of conversational inhibition. (Excluding date conversations, of course.) Too bad we rarely abandon conversation inhibition with our friends and family, especially when it comes to basic subjects. I, for one, am shocked to realize that I've never just come out and asked my mother if she likes Elvis. I think I know her feelings on the Elvis matter, but that's just assumption, not facts heard from her mouth. My mother's feelings about Elvis are insignificant, I think...or are they? If I never ask, I'll never know if, like me with Cobain and my sister with Lennon, my mother is harboring conflicted and sad feelings about Elvis. But it seems kinda weird to bring it up at this point, after all these years, I mean, I've known her all my life. It seems a little late to be asking that sort of thing.
See what I mean?
And so it was at that "interview." Two strangers asking questions and giving honest answers. Of course it helped that I didn't care about or want the job. I was uninhibited, not worried about making a good impression. What impressed me about my would-be manager was his seeming response in kind. He seemed to also be uninhibited in his responses to my questions. I like that. I respect that. Maybe he's just a really, really good liar or good at playing the game, but, he told me some things that show the company in a less than favorable light. He is obviously aware of their image, obviously knows for all the people who think they're great there are just as many who would love to see them go out of business.
Ultimately we both know I'm not right for the job. My heart wouldn't be in it. It would be merely a way to pay the mortgage. And really, of course, that's what most jobs are. The whole "find your passion, do what you love" mumbo jumbo is for the most part a load of hooey.
I know, that sounds so cynical and jaded. But c'mon, even the most eager and passionately employed person has days where it's just a job. Even Mick Jagger has a same old routine. "Eh, geeze, another world tour, put on the tight pants, strut, sing, pose, strut over to Keith, sing, sex, drugs, rock and roll blah blah blah." Sure, it's a good job, a job that provides a great salary, and most of us would love to find ourselves stuck in that same old routine, but, it is just a job. And honestly, has Mick been passionate about his job since, oh, I dunno, 1969?
Here's the thing about doing what you love and following your passion: I'm passionate about music and love going to concerts. But. Uh...no one's going to pay me to do that, or, even if I were to chase after one of the few coveted jobs that require a love of music and going to concerts, I'm not qualified for or even interested in those jobs. And I can vouch for the fact that most of those jobs pay low salaries. I have looked into it. People who have those jobs are in it for the perks and many have someone (parents, girlfriend, trustfund) bankrolling their rock and roll lifestyle while they pursue their passion of music and going to concerts. Maybe I'll be proved wrong, but, until someone like, oh, say the Pixies, comes knocking on my front door and offers me a job with a sustainable salary to go to their shows I stand firm in the "following your passion doesn't lead to professional success or happiness."
So yeah, I don't want the job and after the interview I'm pretty sure they don't want me.
I could have gone in there and sold myself. I'm as hungry for a job as it gets and I could have ridden that desperation-high into that office and sold myself like I've never sold myself. But. Doing so would also have meant selling my soul. And I decided that even homelessness isn't enough of a threat to make me cross that line.
And that's what had me feeling isolated...and yet part of the Universe. I gave up a potential opportunity for a job, a "good" job with a great salary because of my personal beliefs. Integrity, dignity and pride aren't going to keep me warm when I'm sleeping in a box under an overpass. Staying true to yourself sounds all well and good, from the outside everyone agrees that it matters, that self-respect is more important than selling out. But after a pat on the shoulder people walk away from their self-respecting friend and shake their head in disbelief that they let pride and dignity get in the way of a great opportunity.
But it wasn't an opportunity. It was a life preserver on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean. Sure, it would keep me afloat, but it's not an ideal solution. It wouldn't protect me from sharks and it wouldn't save my life. What you really need when your ship is sinking in the middle of the ocean is a life boat, a sea faring vessel equipped with flares, a two-way radio, sunscreen, blankets, a first aid kit, fishing poles, a Hibachi and several lighters and dry matches. (I know how to pack a lifeboat.)
I would be miserable at that company. I'd be embarrassed to admit where I worked. But. Interestingly enough, in the course of the conversation I actually found myself "excited" about some of the design and branding potential - in the big picture, that is. But bringing me right back down to self-respect was the overriding issue that the design and branding would be for something I find repugnant. I like design and branding of anything, good or bad. Don't hate the game, hate the player. A lot of marketing strategy is really good - but because it's for a product or company we don't like we blame marketing. Living with that conflict on a daily basis would wear me down.
And I'm already worn down.
I know I'm not in a position to be picky. Or am I? That's the conventional wisdom and all-pervading attitude these days. Us unemployed people are in no position to be in any way particular about any aspect of employment. When you're unemployed you are automatically deemed unworthy of self-respect. You're not allowed any of the "niceties" employed people are allowed. Niceties like integrity, self-esteem, credibility and choice. We're supposed to claw and grab at any job we are remotely qualified to handle and be pleased as punch and brimming with gratitude if we get a job offer.
Hence the ridiculous rate of underemployment. Sure, sometimes it can lead to finding a new, more rewarding career path a la How Starbucks Saved My Life, but realistically being underemployed just leads a person further down the path of self-disrespect and lack of motivation. "This is the best job I can find, ergo, this is the value employers place on me, ergo I am only as worthy as the job I can find."
I'm sick up to here of the attitude employers and smugly employed people have toward unemployed people. Especially in creative fields. "You're a dime a dozen, there are plenty of people who can do what you do, you're unemployed...why should we pay you the going professional rate when there are so many of you willing to work for far less? Who do you think you are? I'll tell you who you are, you are an unemployed artsy fartsy necessary evil who's been overpaid to sit around making things look nice for far too long. My brother's kid can do it and he's 12." That is exactly what I was told by someone, a complete stranger, at a party. See what I mean about a lack of conversational inhibitions among strangers?
The thing is, that guy was voicing what a lot of people think. Several of my friends have framed the exact sentiment in a nicer format, politely, gingerly, suggesting that I consider a career change. "You know, Trill, if you were married, if you had a spouse with a steady paycheck and health insurance with dental you would be more free to have a creative job. But since it's just you keeping a roof over your head it might be a good time to retool yourself, find something in an industry that's more stable, more full-time long-term potential. You're smart, you can do anything! You're creative! You can apply that to anything! I heard about a medical transcription job at my husband's hospital, I'm sure you could do that, you might even discover you love it! Like that guy in the Starbucks book! He was in marketing, too, and now he loves working at Starbucks!"
I've had this conversation a lot lately. People have loads of ideas about what I should do for employment. I find it interesting that many of these people haven't held a job in over 10 years and are completely reliant on their spouses.
Yes. People who haven't worked a job in more than 10 years are giving me career advice.
True, many companies are going with part time, freelancers and consultants for creative staffing because they don't need to keep full-time creative people. That's a big employment hurdle for people in creative fields, and has been, for quite a while. We're not deemed worthy or necessary in the daily routine of the company.
I've heard this more than I can stomach: There are a lot of freelancers out there, you know creative people, who don't like to conform, lone wolfs, they're happier not working full-time jobs.
I dunno. Most of the professional creatives I know like working full-time jobs. They even like paying rent/mortgages and eating three meals a day!!! I know, I know! Not what you'd expect! And get this, some of them even, gasp, are *dedicated* to their jobs and companies! Don't let that get out. You didn't hear it from me. We have an artsy fartsy image to uphold.
So. Anyway. There I was, going home from an interview for a job I didn't want and feeling very isolated. If most of my friends knew that I was even considering not clawing and fighting for that job they'd be mortified and even angry at me. They think being unemployed is bad for social reasons. Personal reasons be damned, when you're unemployed you're not allowed to have personal reasons. You take whatever job you can get and be happy about it. Again - this attitude comes from people who haven't worked a day in over 10 years.
The difference is that they don't have to earn a paycheck. I do. And therefore I need to claw and fight for any job I can get.
But I didn't.
The uninhibited conversation I had at that interview shot down every remote chance I had at being considered for the job. And even more impressive, to me, is that I didn't get all huffy and indignant or in any way imply judgment about the company or the person interviewing me. It was a very calm, respectful conversation. I left with my dignity in tact - in many respects. I didn't pretend to want the job. I didn't get up on my high horse about the company's, well, business. I treated the interviewer with professional respect. I was: Gracious. But I stood up for myself, too.
Here's the thing: I feel good about that. That's what makes me feel very part of the Universe. I did what was right. Not just for me but for the company.
I could have gone in there a faked enthusiasm and zeal for the job and company. I could have pretended to care and I could have pretended to want to work there. I could have done that. In "my situation" that's the conventionally accepted thing to do. These days "everyone" is faking enthusiasm for jobs and companies they despise. Jobs are too hard to find (and keep) to be honest about hating the job and/or the company. We don't have the luxury of disliking a job or company. Us unemployed people aren't even supposed to consider the fact that we would be miserable at the job or company.
Somewhere between the flawed "do what you love, follow your passion" attitude and the "take what you can get and be grateful" attitude is a healthy, professional mindset for employers and would-be employees.
And I did it. I didn't want to work for that company. I could have done a good job there, but I would have been miserable, I would have hated myself for selling my soul and every shred of personal integrity I had left. To say nothing of the professional credibility that I would have kissed good-bye. I've given up way too much of myself, swallowed way too much pride and lost too much self-esteem in the last few years to let the remaining bits of my professional integrity be flushed away.
I know. I know. I hope that keeps me warm when I'm homeless.
But. Even though I've just given up an opportunity to be considered for a "good" job, I haven't felt so at peace with my place in the Universe in years. I know who I am and I know how I am.
And yet I've never felt more isolated. Not too many people will understand or relate to what I just did. Not too many people would allow me pride or dignity considering that I'm unemployed.
That's when it occurred to me that this is the true meaning of being a lone wolf. There's a greater good angle to being a lone wolf that's rarely discussed. Lone wolfs leave the pack to hunt for themselves. Arrogance? Maybe sometimes. But they also die by themselves. If they can't find enough food to survive they die, alone, because they don't have the support of the other hunters in the pack to sustain them.
Some will say, "See? Teamwork is better. Arrogance is selfish and stupid." True enough. But, by leaving the pack, the lone wolf also eliminates a mouth to feed and they don't bring down the pack when they become too sick or elderly to hunt. In leaving the pack lone wolfs give more opportunities to the other wolfs in the pack. And they don't drag down and endanger the pack. There's a nobility to it that gets lost in the jokes and condemnation.
Being part of company, working on a team is good. I like it. I hope to do it again, soon. But. That job wasn't for me, it wasn't my team. But someone else now has an opportunity for that job. Someone else out there is either more desperate than I am or, honestly wants to work for that company. (Not judging...it just isn't right for me.) I'm not ashamed of myself for walking away from a potential job. If I had a job I would never in a million years even consider working for this company, so why should a pesky little thing like unemployment change that attitude? Especially since I'm sure there are other candidates who really want the job. The right thing for me to do is to remove myself from the pack of candidates.
I was thinking about all this, laughing at the lone wolf allegory, when I realized, oh crap, I am a freaking lone wolf! No wonder I'm suddenly compelled to defend lone wolfs.
Think about it: I quit dating, full stop, for self preservation and sanity reasons, but, in the bigger picture it's for the greater good. One less woman in the dating pool means better odds for the other girls. Sure, I'm lonely, but my loneliness means two other people are no longer lonely because I wasn't in the way of them meeting each other. I volunteered to take on projects and clients no one else wanted because I like the challenge, but in the bigger picture it was for the greater good of my former company. It meant late nights and weekends spent working on my own with very little support from my coworkers, but that extra work brought in some decent revenue for my company, sustained salaries for the rest of the work pack. And it took me out of the competition for some of the sexier clients which meant more opportunities for a few people in the work pack. I turned down an opportunity for a job because it wasn't right for me...thus creating an opportunity for someone else in the unemployment pack.
Lone wolfs leave the pack but in doing so make more opportunities for the pack. They're not antisocial, selfish and arrogant. They're helpful, selfless and pretty darned thoughtful. Sheesh, I am a lone wolf. I've never thought of myself that way. Sure, I'm independent and self reliant, but I'm, you know, social. I like being around other people and working on teams, I'm cooperative and enjoy meeting new people. But inside beats the heart of a lone wolf! Wow. That explains so much that it's disturbing to me that it's taken me this long to figure it out.
So. What do lone wolfs do for fun on Saturday nights?
There's no punchline coming. I'm honestly wondering. What do lone wolfs do for fun? Other than baying at the moon, that is. My condo association rules do not cover baying at the moon specifically, but I think it would fall generally under the noise disturbance policy. Do lone wolfs ever have sex? I mean, by definition I would think not. I would think sex would fall firmly outside the boundaries of the definition of lone wolf. How about housing, what's the lone wolf preferred living arrangement? I'm guessing multi-unit dwellings are off limits to lone wolfs, so, I suppose losing my condo is actually a good thing, more in keeping with the lone wolf credo. Is there a credo? Do they ever socialize with a pack, and if so, is it just one pack or do they hang out with lots of different packs? Is there a lone wolf rule book or field guide or something outlining behaviors and survival tactics?
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sorry 'bout that. As one of my friends says of me lately, I'm "going through something at the moment."
Wading in it, more like.
It is what it is.
So. Let's play What's the Asking Price for Your Soul? It's a fun game, I promise. Kind of like Scruples. Several scenarios are presented and you decide if your personal morals and convictions can be bought.
You have enormous amount of medical debt thanks to a serious injury and subsequent surgery. You need another surgery if you ever want to walk without pain. But you're trying to pay off your existed medical debt before accruing more. Then you're laid off from your job. You lose your health insurance. You had to sign a non-compete agreement in order to receive your severance check. You're facing foreclosure and homelessness. And you still need that surgery, more than ever because you can't afford the pain medication and physical therapy and treatments that offer some relief. You are single and have no one but yourself to rely on for income.
And then...out of nowhere, your phone finally rings and someone, a real someone from a real company, completely out of nowhere, unsolicited, heard through the grapevine you are unemployed and wants to talk to you about a job opportunity. That someone is familiar with your talents and thinks you'd be a great asset to their company.
Awesome, right?! This is an easy game!
Not so fast, there pilgrim.
The company produces something you find repugnant. Everything they do goes against your principles and disgusts you. The job for which you have been deemed perfect involves doing things that insult your intelligence and professionalism. Your initial reaction was to hang up on the caller but not before telling them they had a lotta nerve calling to offend and insult you like this. But. The company is legit and international, the job is far outside the boundaries of the non-compete agreement, the salary would be more than what you earning when you were laid off, and half the population of the world would give anything to even clean toilets or sweep the floors at the company in question. But the other half of the world would look upon you as not only a sell-out but would question your professional intelligence and personal integrity. You would be embarrassed to work there and ashamed to tell anyone where you work. It would be risky to your career prospects beyond this job to list the company on your resume or on Linkedin. But it's more than the public shame. It's the personal devaluation and degradation of your principles that would eat at you. It's beyond selling-out - this is selling your soul territory.
You've been unemployed for almost six months, your severance went to pay off bills and you still have medical debt, and the pain is getting worse every day, and you're edging closer to foreclosure...and property tax is due soon...you already sold everything of any monetary value that you owned...is it time to sell your soul, too?
Is there even a choice? Is there a decision to be made? Or must you take the job, no matter how vile you find the company and your would-be role there?