December 12, 2013

Trivia was pretty cool last night. It was a different format than what I was used to, but that didn’t really matter. I was third-wheeling it, which was fine. That sort of thing tends to have its awkward moments, but when you’re a perpetual odd-numbered wheel, it’s easy to just roll with that. <- And no, I did not even intend that pun, but damn, that is awesome. We ended up winning the game, which was awesome, and a bit unexpected, due to a few frak-ups here and there. I think the fact that the venue was so near a college campus helped, because we were all at least 10 years beyond the undergraduate experience. I tend to feel relatively unhelpful at trivia, because my knowledge base is so eclectic and strange. However, I can usually back someone up with an answer by verifying I believe it to be correct. That worked against us in one round, but we came back at the end. Our team name is Mall Goths, which I think is an incredibly fun name. I told them next time I will wear some thick eyeliner to look the part. It is definitely awesome to be part of a trivia team again, even though I don't feel like I'm the most useful contributor. Better than that was the idea of having a feminist trivia group in the first place, which happened because my friends attend a rather dude-bro based game on Monday nights. I used to play on a team like that so I definitely know the feeling. It would go like this: when I spoke up, they wouldn't listen to me, and then when I was right, they'd tell me I should have fought for my answer. It was a bit of a different vibe at feminist trivia night, and I think we should invade this space with even more of us next time. Before trivia, at dinner, which was at the dining hall at UC, I met some pretty cool people. We talked a lot about feminism and nerd-stuff. For me, I think that was the highlight of my night. I definitely need more feminism and nerd-stuff in my life, which is kind of a weird statement, because I am all about those two things anyway. Seems like there might not be room for more, but nah, remember, the TARDIS is bigger on the inside. Hehe. I mean, you gotta love a conversation that takes turns like, "Do you think Eddie Izzard is sexier as a man or in drag?" Or, "My friend told me to watch the Doctor Who episode about some kind of crying angel things." And, oh, people who haven't seen/read Game of Thrones saying, "Ooh, what is this Red Wedding thing? Who gets married?" And then talking about so-called selfie culture and how frakked up the patriarchy makes everything. So much packed into dinnertime chatter, I can't even remember it all. Plus, it didn't help matters that my brain was feeling somewhat fuzzy as I have been coming down with something ever since I donated blood on Monday morning. I think I would have been more excited and maybe even more animated at trivia if I wasn't getting sick. But I have given up on being well for the time being. Nothing says sexy like rubbing vapo-rub on your chest and crying because you are tired of feeling like crap. On that less than awesome note, I must retreat to slather on more foul-smelling goo so I can sleep tonight. Rawr?

Quick Post

December 11, 2013

I was trying to think about what to write about today. Usually I think about it for a bit either while I’m at work or after I get home, and then I churn something out right before I turn in for the night. Today, I have a little get together with some friends, old and potentially new ones, yay! So I figured I would write something really quickly before I need to leave to go there… because I am not sure how late this trivia thing will run tonight.

We were going to go to the Greek place that we missed out on a few week’s back, but one of my friends works at a local university and has some free card swipes (like a lot of them, actually), for the dining hall. So I got to thinking about how I kind of missed out on that kind of college experience, not that I am sad about it at all, and why.

Simply put, it was most frugal for me to live at home and go to a branch campus. I am incredibly lucky that my parents were down with this plan. I started college early because I was sick of small town high school drama, and I wanted to get college credit for free, so I enrolled through the PSEOP program, which I guess is what they call the program in Ohio that allows high school students to earn dual credits to graduate high school and receive college credits they can transfer wherever. It was a damn sweet deal, and I loved the entire experience.

One of my favorite parts about the branch campus that I attended was the non-traditional students. I learned so much from the older students, because the questions they asked based on their life experiences were so much better than my 17-year old brain could even fathom. I feel like my English classes were more enriched, and even my study group for chemistry was a better match for me, all because of the benefit of experience. When I ended up as a tutor (for calculus, chemistry and English) and working in the writing center, I learned so much from assisting older students. One, they were always determined to pass. Kids my age would stop coming to tutoring sessions or just give up, but not the older students. They were going to pass, and I damn well was going to help them. It was a great sense of achievement.

I guess that really brings me up to this week, when I got to tell one of my students, “Remember when you got a warning you might fail? Any other student might have given up and dropped the class, but you worked hard, were determined to pass, and right now, you’re getting a B in this class. That’s your final grade.” The student high-fived me and told me that I made her feel so proud in herself. “You should be proud,” I told her. “You worked really hard to earn that.”

So while I want to take some of the credit for helping that student along, I suppose I can a bit, just by being there, encouraging her, answering her questions, she made that awesomeness happen for herself. And I guess for me, getting to be a part of that, seeing the look of triumph on her face, is one of the most rewarding things I have had happen as an instructor.

So yeah, this post kind of took a turn, as I wasn’t really sure where I intended to end it. I am fairly happy with this entire train of thought, though. All really nice positive stuff, which is something I have been trying to be all about lately. Feels much better than dwelling on anything that’s broke as shit or beyond my control, that is for certain. Hopefully, I will return tomorrow with some notes on how the evening went. I am expecting very little but some fun times and awesome conversations with some awesome folks I am lucky enough to know.


December 10, 2013

I just looked at the calendar and remembered that it’s the anniversary of Emily Dickinson’s birth. A year ago, I posted a video while I was deep in work on my thesis.

I watched the video, noticed some of the uncertainties in my mannerisms, a quieter tone in my speech. I think I’ve shed most of that uncertainty, and definitely have found a stronger voice. I thought about picking a random poem and recording a new video, but I’m feeling a little under the weather today, which is annoying because I donated blood yesterday and if I’m unwell now, I need to call the blood center and warn them of potential cooties. Sadface.

Anyway, I began to think, not so much about anniversaries in the traditional sense, because bleh, traditions. I thought more of being able to take an odd measurement like this, of a year in your own life. So much was about to change for me after I recorded this video. For one, I was on all the pain meds when I recorded this, because of a slipped disc. I’d received one horrifically painful shot in my spine, and was about to get another, one that would actually start to make me feel better.

A few months after that, I would be done with the thesis, defending it, passing (without revisions!!!), and then graduating. After that, I got a promotion and now here I am… kind of in what feels like an in-between space. A lot of the time, I feel like I am on the brink of something amazing, but I am not sure quite how I intend to get there. So I just keep working on various projects, trying to see them through to whatever ends I can create for them. I figure, as long as I am working on something that makes me happy, I’ll figure out the rest.

Looking back at a year ago, for a brief moment, I wondered where I thought I would be a year from then. I brushed off the thought in the next second, because I don’t really care what December 2012 Lauren thought. Whatever I expected or hoped for probably isn’t what happened. So it goes. And all I can really do is keep pushing forward, trying to make art that makes some kind of difference. That’s my focus once you take away, “Do the work, graduate.” In other words, I think it’s something like, “Write powerful words, put yourself out there, revel in delight.” In the next moment, I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. I guess we’ll see.

Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough. – Emily Dickinson

I think that each year, if you choose to measure it in loss, or in heartbreak, you could find yourself at your worst. If instead, you try to reflect upon what joy you have, what delight you can find in every day, that can help you maintain a sense of hopefulness about the world. Without hope, what do we have? And with that, I will let the birthday girl have the last word.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all – – Emily Dickinson


December 9, 2013

What to write when you don’t have a lot to say? I mean, at the moment, because I actually have many thoughts about many topics. But in this moment I am out of words, because of exhaustion, and a day that had more obstacles than solutions. Tomorrow will have those solutions, no worries there, but today, I am feeling a bit drained.

It’s finals week where I teach, and I had my last two classes today. The first class went well, but the second was kind of rowdy and I was just exhausted and feeling a bit done with it all. Didn’t help matters that the blood drive on campus was today and I figured I could squeeze that into my schedule along with everything else. Then there was IT drama and last minute student drama and boss drama and some other IT drama, and it’ll all be totally fine, but it was a lot to juggle in one day.

The very bright side to the day was being told by a few students that they enjoyed my class. These students thanked me for teaching them, and in turn, I had to thank them right back for doing the work. It was a somewhat emotional moment for me, realizing that I helped to make a difference for these students. One of them even told me that he liked my class best of all this classes, because of how we all interacted and had conversations together. That was such a triumph. I immediately made a mental note to try to figure out how to initiate the kinds of conversations we had in that class, because those students really came together and asked some great questions.

But now, being home, after 11 hours at work, I almost fell asleep in the bathtub, and I am so tired that it’s taking all my energy just to remain upright and typing. So yeah, gonna go to bed at 9pm on a Monday night, probably wake up at 4am with a brain wide awake and full of ideas. Actually, that sounds pretty okay.


December 8, 2013

Once a month, I take a burlesque class at a ladies gym near my apartment. I started going there when I saw an online deal for a half-price punch card. Figured the place was okay because a friend of mine does their pole-dancing classes. Burlesque sounded fun, and I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed up to my first class, but I loved it from the first moment.

In each class, we get a take off a new piece of clothing. Sometimes it’s gloves, sometimes leg warmers, and sometimes we get to take off our shirts and fling them across the room. Every class, we learn a new routine, and pretty much every class, I forget most of the routine, or so I think. I definitely have found more confidence in my regular dancing. And I know I haven’t forgotten everything; just the order of the movements. With any skill, I get better with each class, and retain a little more. It all feels incredibly empowering.

The instructor dances with a local troupe, Cin City Burlesque, and they had a Christmas-themed show last night at a club called Bogart’s. Bogart’s is one of those places with a storied history. Pretty much anyone who has been a fan of the local music scene has been there, and it was kind of weird that I had never been there before, considering how many shows I have attended. Anyway, it kind of smelled funky and the chairs were super uncomfortable.

And then I did this stupid thing. I forgot to bring a book. I showed up early because I knew parking was going to be awful, and then sat there for a moment a little bored. Then I realized that while I may have forgotten a book, I did not forget my notebook, so I wrote a few ideas down. I was in the midst of jotting down some thoughts for my next blog entry when someone from dance class came over and sat next to me. We started talking about class and the show and such, and how much fun it would be to take the workshop and actually get up on stage. And that was how I learned the name of one of the other ladies from burlesque class. She seems incredibly extroverted, and like one of those people who is always encouraging others to do fun things they’ve never tried before. I like to watch people like that, wonder how the hell they do that extrovert thing. And that is so very like me, so like an introvert to take all that in and ruminate on it.

We talked about how even when you flub the steps, you can still look good. She told me, “You always look confident out there.” And that made me really happy, because I have absolutely found a ton of confidence in these dance classes. So I think I might actually end up doing one of those workshops, maybe.

The show was fantastic. It was my first burlesque show. It was amazing to see so many different sized bodies up on that stage. Everyone looked amazing, and it was so much fun to see my instructor dancing her heart out. When she dances, she seems like she’s enjoying every second of it. Every move, every twirl, every reveal. It was a beautiful thing to behold. One of my favorite parts of the entire show was the routine by a few ladies who did the latest workshop. One of the ladies was about my size, and she had made her own sparkly skirt, and had a Hello Kitty corset. My kind of people. It was incredibly inspiring. And all she had to do to get up there was take a chance, learn the steps, and shine.

Watching Pitch Drop

December 7, 2013

Have you ever heard of the Pitch Drop experiment? It’s a rather interesting project, I think. Imagine starting a study that you know, with a fairly high degree of certainty, that you will not get to see pan out. It will continue on to the next generation, and the next.

The first Professor of Physics at UQ, Professor Thomas Parnell, began an experiment in 1927 to illustrate that everyday materials can exhibit quite surprising properties. The experiment demonstrates the fluidity and high viscosity of pitch, a derivative of tar once used for waterproofing boats. At room temperature pitch feels solid – even brittle – and can easily be shattered with a blow from a hammer. It’s quite amazing then, to see that pitch at room temperature is actually fluid!

Okay, so it might not sound incredibly exciting to everyone, but it is a really cool experiment to those of us who thrive on nerding out over science projects. And it’s kind of mesmerizing to watch.

What made me think of this project was that I have been trying to write a post (yesterday’s post) and it keeps taking these incredibly personal turns, and I am not sure how to just let that out. I think I should just do it, let the words out, let them fall where they may. And then because procrastination is so much easier, I tried to think of an appropriate metaphor. That’s when I remembered the Pitch Drop experiment, and it seemed the perfect, if not a bit hyperbolic, metaphor. The exaggeration, in my mind at least, added to the integrity of the metaphor.

One of the things that is fun about watching the Pitch Drop feed is the people who will sometimes walk by and wave. I always want to wave back, even though they can’t see me. Kind of like how I think it’s sad when someone doesn’t return a high five. (Watching the Pitch Drop Experiment: High-five, bro)

Sometimes people leave papers taped to the glass. Usually the messages are so out of context that I’ve no idea what I’m reading. It’s for a specific person, or it’s a reference I simply don’t get. As one who likes to create fictions out of whatever (aka a writer), I like to think a lot about the motivation behind these messages. I sometimes like to think about the people who wave, maybe make them into a character.

Today (it’ll be last night by the time this post hits the site), I was watching the live feed and there was a person with a bow-tie. I wondered if this person was a Doctor Who fan, or if they just think that bow ties are cool.

But then while I was watching, I started hearing this tune in my head. And some words came pouring out, not on the thing I was trying to write, but on another piece I have been thinking about a lot lately. Funny how that goes. When focussing so hard on writing one thing, another thing gets solved.

I don’t often feel like I am putting huge chunks of myself on the page, or on the screen. I have this disassociation that goes on. I think it’s a safety net for a lot of writers, that we do this to keep ourselves from getting too worked up over criticism, or taking things too personally. After I wrote this thing, I felt like a huge chunk of me was right there on the screen. The pitch had fallen, and I was there to see it.

In actuality, the pitch has not yet dropped. Only the metaphorical one that I connected to my difficulties in writing. And you know what happens when the pitch drops? You wait for the next one to fall. Very, very patiently. And of course, while you wait, there are plenty of other things that need doing.

Gone Home, Lonely

December 6, 2013

I finished playing Gone Home last night, and I have been thinking about it here and there all day. One of the things that jumps out at me from a narrative perspective is how incredibly lonely the narrative is. The main character, Kaitlin, doesn’t really get to interact with anyone else. She is alone in the house. The voice of her sister, reading her journal entries as more content is unlocked, is somewhat haunting as Kaitlin searches the house in hopes of figuring out where her sister has run off.

I found the sister’s journals somewhat haunting, like the past itself. It was such a trip down memory lane, thinking about Riot Grrrls and ‘zines and what it felt like to be a teenager in the mid-nineties. I remember a certain loneliness as a teenager, locked in my room, listening to music (I was particularly fond of Sonic Youth, especially enjoying that whole spoken word vibe), or watching the latest episode of The X-Files. Truth: I used to watch The X-Files with my mom, curled up on the foot of her bed. Shit was spooky (lolz). I was also very lonely in my writing. I started writing poetry rather fiercely at 16 and kept up my journals, sometimes writing on average of a poem a day for awhile there. When I started undergrad, I began to attend poetry readings, and get up and read my work there. It was new and exciting for me, putting out there what I always had kept so close.

I think at first I was afraid of putting myself out there like that. I would read the words so fast just to get through them. But the audience can’t hear you, really, when you do that. It doesn’t help that I talk fast and triple my speeds when I have had caffeine, either. I talk too fast and sometimes swallow the ends of sentences. Even worse is when I swallow the punchlines, because I am really quite funny. But also it is a difficult thing to find your reading voice, to really get your words and meanings across in the way you intend them. It took me a really long time to find that.

After a long hiatus from writing poetry and loving being a writer and performing my words for others, I returned to it. I needed to get my voice back after my failed marriage (successful independence). I needed to feel like myself again. I felt done (and I mean completely through) with having anything to do with being a “we.” It’s such an easy trap to fall into, and I just don’t want to feel trapped like that ever again. I mean, couple stuff is fine and all, but morphing into a we is kind of like turning into a monster, and not awesome like becoming Voltron or something. Anyway, yeesh, moving on from that merry sunshine, the point is, I found my voice again.

I re-discovered my voice though a Cincinnati group called Creativa. Creativa brought me back to life in 2008, when I had just moved back home and was struggling to find my bearings. My mom read about them in the newspaper, I think? And she told me, “Hey, you should go to this.” It sounded interesting, so I went. I was amazed at the variety of art being showcased: poetry, fiction, paintings, music, dance, etc. There were no limits to what you could do there, except for one: no hate speech. I immediately felt welcomed and at home with this group.

Once I started looking forward to their monthly open mics, the best thing happened: I started writing again and really loving the experience. Even when it’s hard, I love writing, maybe even especially then, because it’s worth getting those difficult words out. So much better than holding them in, where they serve only to hold one back. Haha, getting maudlin again. This community of writers helped me to enjoy writing again. To love the sound of my words falling on a crowd that just wants to go home already. Or to hear clapping that is enthusiastic for my words, and not an awkward response to the fact that I have stopped speaking. Or to bask in the atmosphere of a creative space and how sometimes the most unlikely places will feel like home.

Since getting back into writing, since taking my life back, learning how to find my voice… I have gone to grad school, earned my Masters degree, I have traveled to Europe, I have made new friends, and lost others. Essentially, life has happened, all around, and all the while I was finding my voice. And now I am trying to figure out what to do with it.

So, what does this have to do with the initial thoughts of loneliness? I feel like that loneliness has followed me for a very long time, and I have grown rather weary of it. Writing is such a solitary experience, and it doesn’t have to be. I always write better when I’ve been around other writers. I think the folks I like to hang around have this tendency to recharge me, rather than drain out my creativity.

Right now I am working on expanding this idea. Inviting other writers, other artists, to come in and collaborate. The idea of a community of artists working together to help initiate positive changes has always appealed to me. I think that’s one of the things that always spoke to me as I listened to Riot Grrrl songs, the thought of being part of a revolution. I always felt so isolated in landlocked conservative Ohio. But I am not alone here. I never was. I just needed to speak up, quit rushing through my words, and learn how to raise my voice.

Gone Home

December 5, 2013

A bit of a short post tonight, because I kind of let myself get sucked into a video game.

I know, that is something I really try not to let happen anymore.

But today I found out about a game called “Gone Home,” and I was hooked by the mentioning of it being a “Riot Grrrl themed video game.” I didn’t even care that it was clearly a FPS and that those tend to make me headache-y and barfy. I was all, “Here, take my money!” Downloaded the game, its soundtrack, and a couple of punk girl albums as well.

Follow this link to watch a few videos about the game, and maybe even purchase it yourself. If you, like me, were fascinated by the Riot Grrrl movement, you will love this game. If you don’t know what a Riot Grrrl is, well then, now is the time to get an education on that.

Speaking of getting schooled on Riot Grrrls, you might want to check out The Punk Singer, which is quite a lovely documentary about Kathleen Hanna, who is probably the biggest name associated with the revolution.

I remember, as a teenager, in the year this game takes place, sitting in my bedroom in my conservative redneck hometown, rocking out to Bikini Kill, reading about the Riot Grrrls, and wishing I could be part of it. In the myopic bubble of that small town, I couldn’t see how I could contribute. But you know, it’s never too late to start a revolution, or help take an old one to new heights.

Do You Nonstop?

December 4, 2013

Do you nonstop through every day like you might never sleep?
And then you cave, curled up naked. Stretched between two pillows, a sandwich filling.
I nonstop like I can’t find the brakes.
I nonstop like that time I rode a bike down the hill, forgetting for a moment not how to ride, but how to stop.
I nonstopped into a tree, hugging it tightly, and slid off the bike.
I nonstopped once into a tree after studying for eight hours at the library.
Last night I libraried nonstop and there were men asleep in the stacks and there were also men playing chess and one of them looked at me, but I didn’t stop.
I grabbed music discs because there was no limit, even though I swore they had one, but that was a few library branches ago. Eventually my bag began to get heavy, and I needed room for books, so I moved on.
I walked around, and I listened to some words, some of them in an almost right order, some of them not ready to take that step.
There were ideas that seemed good on paper, messy in action, and the art of improvisation. Never a dull learning experience.
I walked through stacks without words, looking for numbers, and found missing books. I read spines and pulled too many titles from the shelves, checked them out, packed them up tight, and I walked out.
Outside was an intake of street smells, something like garbage, spit on the sidewalk, buildings crammed too close together without green space.
I kind of laughed and never stopped.

Graphic Novels

December 3, 2013

Today, a friend asked me what I blog about, assuming it was popular culture things. And I realized I don’t really write much about that kind of thing, other than the occasional geeky reference. Clearly, I am still trying to figure out what to blog about when I grow up. LOLZ. Bad joke. I told her I don’t really have a particular focus on my posts, which pretty much makes it fail as a blog, unless you like reading meandering weird posts about nothing. In which case, hello, whoever you are, let’s be friends if we’re not already. Haha.

Anyway, I thought my friend had a good idea, even though I am not entirely sure who would want to read me drone on about pop culture. One of my biggest geek-outs that will send me into a tirade about awesomeness is the subject of graphic novels. So I am just going to go on a bit about that right now.

I was never a fan of the “cape” comics, never really interested in super powers. So when people ask me if I prefer DC or Marvel, the answer is that I go a little shifty eyes. >.> <.< For me, it was always Image or Dark Horse, or even the short-lived Crossgen. Crossgen was fairly awesome about having strong female characters in their titles, even if the drawings were not quite of realistic women. This spring, while I was in the midst of teaching, working, defending my thesis, and generally being awesome, I took an online class called "Gender Through Comic Books." Because of that class, I have read some cape titles that I don't hate, and branched out in my reading a bit. Also now I have fantastic tirades about "Women in refrigerators." Look it up. Gail Simone is amazing. My meager beginnings as a fan of graphic novels was from borrowing a book from my oldest brother. That book was Larry Marder's "Tales of the Beanworld." From there, it was Jeff Smith's "Bone." We didn't have a comics shop in my hometown, so we used to drive way up to Yellow Springs, Ohio, and go to a little shop there called Dark Star. It was there that I discovered and became fully enamored of the work of Moebius. I think I also read a few things they had at my hometown library. I distinctly recall reading Akira, though I am not sure what else I might have gotten there. That was about all the graphic novels I can really recall reading up until I moved out of my parents' house and on my own, in Dayton, Ohio. The Dayton library system happens to have one of the best graphic novel collections. It was here that I read The Sandman, and a frak-ton of other things. When I moved away from Dayton (to a crappy town just north of Pittsburgh), I was really only reading the Buffy comics. And Fray. My goodness, Fray. I sort of ended up with a ton of comics when I moved back home from Pgh, and so I set about reading them. There was Preacher and Transmetropolitan and all kinds of neat titles to sift through. I started going to a local shop in Clifton about the time said shop was (dunno if this is the right way to word it, but) evicted from their shop because of developments being made in the area. They moved their business to Newport, KY, and they seem to be doing very well there. It was these guys who recommended I read Saga, which I now tell everyone to read. They have gotten to know my reading styles enough that they recommended Sex Criminals to me, and now I tell everyone to check that out as well. Other titles I currently love are: Hawkeye, Locke & Key, and the Adventure Time series and spin-off comics. Also, from IDW in their quest for my money: Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time. I also took a class in writing graphic novels in graduate school, and it was easily one of my top five favorite classes from grad school. Not only did we read some great comics, but we learned a lot about the craft of writing specifically for a graphic arts medium. I can only be lucky enough someday to find an artist who will want to draw the story I wrote for that class. It is essentially Firefly meets Carnivale, or in other words: space circus. I suppose at any given time I might drop more specific lines about some of these titles, most likely with a feminist bent to it, because duh. Until then, check out Saga and Sex Criminals. Everyone who has read them out based on my recommendation has come back and told me that they should have listened to me sooner. And indeed, they should have. I know from awesome.