Funny how some months can be so blank and mundane—thus incepting time-filling activities, like this one—and how other months can be so packed that you don't have any energy for record-keeping at all! And by funny I mean lamely predictable.
Let's go chronologically. I left my job at Quartz in August. My good friend planned a wonderful goodbye party for me with some other coworkers on my team—they bought giant balloons from Party City, hand-crafted a bespoke Shrek piñata from a Toy Story alien one, and filled it with low-grade children's candy (I'm talking mini Kit Kats, Nerds, mini Snickers, etc.). The goodbye card was covered with foam stickers of junk food, the binding itself a glossy oil spill-colored paper with my impish little face front and center. ("GOODBYE"—its Os were dOnuts, of course.) It's funny to see yourself through the eyes of others. There's a certain image I think everyone maintains of themselves, and it's more often than not incongruous with how friends—especially close ones—view each other. Which is all to say that my coworkers viewed me as a candy-loving child, which, ok, honestly isn't untrue. Objectively, I did have a candy drawer at my desk. And it was also full of stickers. And toy cars. But that was for a stop motion shoot!
(This whole paragraph also comes across as bragging that I had people at work who liked me. I think, rather, I left mid-summer, and the days were long, and people were itching for a rooftop-piñata hybrid party. So the party was really more about them than about me, which made it much more fun anyway.)
I freelanced a bit for Quartz after that—and I wrapped up the Geocities video—but otherwise, I've been taking my sweet time baking bread, working on my game, and walking around outside. It's amazing how good unemployment can be for your skin! I've recently started a modest korean beauty routine—just five or so steps. I'm as smooth and beautiful as a porpoise.
I'm going out of order. Before I began this k-beauty routine, I was in Iceland, mid-August, for the Light Grey Art Lab residency. It started in Akueyri on the 14th (my brother's birthday) and ended a week later. The week after I took a road trip with Brian around Iceland, which started and ended in Reykjavik. It was the first non-DC vacation I paid for with my own dollars. And it was great.
I felt unqualified for the residency. Since moving to New York—since graduating, really, and also before I went to art school, so now that I think about it this might be a pattern—I haven't really felt like an artist. I felt (still feel) more like a relatively creative person with a few zany tricks up her storytelling sleeve. But during this residency, surrounded by so many likeminded, talented individuals, hiking through volcanic pits and sheep-filled moors, eating cucumber-cheese-ham sandwiches with cold hands, giddy nights of sketchbooking and card-reading and Harry Potter-discussing, I felt refocused in my intentions. Traveling does this. Such a drastic upheaval in the routine of living can paint a new vision for how a future you can exist in the world. So I came closer to understanding what I want in life—and that isn't spending hours and hours on my phone and laptop every day (even though I still do that).
And it wasn't just the breathless intake of natural wonder and cohabitation with artists that made the residency feel so special. It was also the presentations! How rare it is to get so deep an insight into another artist's practice! In school, this insight is presented as aspirational, from alumni who've passed a certain threshold of success, which they retroactively have to repackage for the students. But when that insight comes from a peer? It's much more intimate, much more relatable.
One of the strongest memories I have on the trip was the evening we sprinted through the backyard of our Husavik guesthouse—built by hand by the owner and his wife!—to potentially spot some whales—I was jet-lagged and sleep-deprived but being outside was like a drug for my brain, reminding it that it's young and alive and free!—and we stopped at a cliffside, the rocky shore of the sea a few hundred feet below us, and we looked out at the water to look for whales but after a few minutes, we just sat. A man on a horse rode by and we all said hello to him, quite girlishly. And then when we somersaulted upright and started walking back, we saw a shirtless man communing with nature—we were all staring at him, and he us, and it was like deer in the headlights—not proud, but I did try to take a photo, for the "memory" I guess—and then I waved (and some of the others waved) and he waved back and we went merrily on our way back to the guesthouse. And then someone found a big stick, and we marched back with the big stick.
The road trip after was just like, a normal vacation. And it's from a position of privilege that I'm able to say this, but vacations...are good. Like, I became a morning person? It's amazing how easy it is to get an early start when you have a buffet breakfast to look forward to, and when daylight stretches on into the evening, waning slowly. The sun in August in Iceland is a very slow sun—peak daylight is about four or five hours, which is normal elsewhere in the world, but the sunrises and sunsets are seemingly unending. I'd like to go back one day and for real experience the midnight sun—maybe do shrooms, who knows. (Not really. [Unless...?])
Brian is a good travel companion, so long as both of us are well-rested. If not, we bicker, because we are both stubborn and independent, but also, in a way, codependent. I bought some sourdough bread our first day in Reykjavik and it lasted us for the whole week. The weather during the second week was sunny and warm, a contrast to the relatively bleary residency week in the north. And I'm glad I did the residency first—my patience wasn't already worn.
Since we were on a road trip, I spent a lot of time crafting a road trip playlist. I added the obvious choices: Björk, Sigur Ros, Fleet Foxes. But it turns out that our favorite artist by far was Sera Bjossi, which may or may not be a joke band, we can't really tell. Anyway they have a song called "Dicks" that's legitimately really good. We also listened to a lot of Lana del Rey, and we both loved the bit of Molly Drake that came up on Spotify radio. I miss the folk music of my teenage years—Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, First Aid Kit. There was one day where we had eight hours of driving, and I read aloud a lot of Nordic folk tales and occasional ghost stories.
The best day of our road trip vacation was the day with the longest hike—six hours on a mountain overlooking the vatnajökull glacier. I've never seen a glacier before! It was legitimately magical, borderline transcendant! I kept imagining what it would have been like to be an ancient wanderer, stumbling through long grass and wildflower, only to find...a glacier in front of you. Would I have tried to walk down it? And died? Probably. Or I might have done what I did on my vacation—pop a squat, eat bread, have conversations in whisper (when nature is so quiet I feel, at the same time, that I must either be very very quiet or that I must SCREAM).
I didn't do as much art-making as I had wanted to do—even during the residency—and I do regret that somewhat. My memories are already being rewritten. But I'd like to finish my Iceland sketchbook this month (or early next month...) and, on the next vacation I take, I'm going to force Brian to slow down and give me time to both recuperate and reflect—my life is already so chaotic, why would I want my vacation to be back-to-back action-packed too?
I'd also like to do more hiking! Hiking and art vacations! I'm looking into residencies—I'm not sure how much they actually help my ~art~ but they sure are a lot of fun.
Also I killed my Chaos presentation, and I attribute its success to the fact that I worked on it until LITERALLY THE LAST MINUTE. Anyway having art friends is good. Ok bye!
Reorganizing this website in preparation/procrastination for Iceland. And I kind of miss being in art school. Will the rest of my life be a forlorn gaze over my shoulder back at the past, reminiscing about how I used to be "so much more creative/funny" and had "so many more friends" and was "so much cuter" back then, whenever that "then" was? Ugh probs.
Back to work! CHAOS REIGNS
I've made a grave mistake. Technically, I'm not unemployed. Because technically, being unemployed means that you are actively looking for work. I am not actively looking for work. Instead, I will call this brief period of my life—this bright, shining moment—a forced vacation. Which I'm enjoying.
I had my very first improv show this past weekend. It emotionally traumatized me. Why is it so hard to be bad at something? Why do I have such a fatalistic attitude towards all nascent skills in my life, and that there's nothing I could ever to do improve myself in any way, because I am born and I will die with the same set of talents at a fixed level of skill?
I wonder if instead of being intentionally hilarious, I'm actually just a clinically unserious person. Maybe I don't make jokes—I just avoid things that actually matter and accidentally turn myself into a clown. Or maybe, I'm just a regular person with some really high standards that I can't attain unless I actively work towards them! Hm, no, that's probably not it.
Long story story: I'll probably take level 201. Why not, I guess.
I just wish I got more compliments!! My fatal flaw.
Maybe instead of what the movies show, the authentic New York mid-20s experience is this: traversing at midnight the dimly yellow Williamsburg Bridge, after leaving a too-crowded berry-red bar, less drunk and more willfully tipsy, in a pilgrimage to a hot dog place with vegetarian options.
How has it already been an entire month since my last entry here? Oh no.
I've been unemployed now for about a week, and I'm enjoying it. The five-day workweek is relentless. I think I want the opposite of what we're socialized to have in adulthood. I like to chat during the workweek, which means that my personal projects and solitary time are saved for the weekend, when I play catch-up. But I much prefer remaining relatively solitary during the workweek, which allows me to work through creative problems for longer, and then socializing/collaborating on weekends. Or maybe it's just that since I don't have a deadline to meet literally every single week, my belly is open to the world, and I have enough room to be hungry for it all.
I've been thinking about BTS. And listening to them, a lot. They possess a vitality (that only seems partially manufactured) that makes me feel simultaneously joy and sorrow. They're lively and passionate but also nostalgic. I think they tap into something universal. It's the feeling of seeing pictures of parents when they were children, or swimming with friends at night, or when that girl popped up a tent on stage at the Internet Explorers: Bill Wurtz show and played beautiful a song from inside the tent and when it finished struggled to close the tent for like five minutes. It's Don Hertzfeldt and Beach House and literally all of Why Oh Why and the anarchic goat episode of Reply All. A sort of feeling of opening yourself to the impulse of the moment but also reflecting on it, floating above it.
Another thing I've been thinking about, at least in regards to my chaos presentation, which I have made no further progress on since my last entry lolz: that magic is in the unplanned and surprising. So the foundation of an art is crucial to its success (and, as artists, to our sanity), but memorability is in the instinctual and defiant. And this is more than deviation from an established genre norm, though I think that's part of it, especially in terms of episodic media (like podcasts and TV shows). Like, in improv, I think I get the most laughs when I say what first comes to me instead of what's "clever." Cleverness is actually very frowned upon in longform improv, which is great for me, because I am dumb. But the structures we build around ourselves, in society and in art, can be suffocating, so it is vital to find the slivers of light through which we are able to project something approaching "truth." Because isn't that all we're trying to do? Find a truth?
I went to Pennsylvania this past weekend with former coworkers to act in an upcoming short video. Of course, I was the star. And the reason I know that is because my (audio) levels will have to be adjusted in post to match that of my three costars. Because I was screaming my lines. Someone even said that it took three straightmen to match my one crazytown character. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.
Spending time with them felt like sliding on the perfect pair of non-stretch jeans. If I get fatter (or skinnier—a girl can dream!) they may no longer fit, but I feel like I've approached a stable adulthood weight, so it's pretty unlikely that things will change. And I can always get a belt. This metaphor really makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? Maybe too much sense? I just want be appreciative without being cheesy. So I'll say this: it was an energizing and exhausting three days in literal Amish country.
The other day, Brian asked me to name as many US presidents as I could. I got to 14 or 15, which is, like, really bad, I know. (I forgot JFK! Very cool) And then, morbidly curious, he asked me to list as many European countries as I could. I listed about ten, which he said was pretty good, "for an American." Luckily, being roasted for having the knowledge of a "typical American" doesn't hurt much when the insult comes from another American. It just makes him a bully!
But I have decided that I need more general knowledge of the world. And this is definitely a new epiphany and not an impulse that recurs at, oh, basically every significant marker in my life, like birthdays and new apartments and job transitions and significant weight loss/gain. I find it easier to read—and less easy to listen to podcasts—now that I'm, like, super chill and unemployed, so I think it's time for me to read some big books in the park. I'll be reading The Goldfinch next. And after, maybe East of Eden? Maybe Moby Dick?
Let's bring it back to BTS. Another thing I admire about their music and message (but that I have trouble finding within myself) is relentlessness. I am fundamentally lazy. It is more annoying than motivating when push comes to shove, and I do not want to do most things. But I do think I can be possessed by relentlessness, at least in terms of never being satisfied with my work (and, shamefully, my situation). Like, I just finished the early web video, and already I don't care about it and don't think it's very good. But this curse is also a blessing. Because I am rarely content, I feel a nagging dissatisfaction almost all the time. And this dissatisfaction, as it builds up, eventually pushes me from my throne of laziness (which looks like a bed or an exceptionally squishy chair) and into the world with a reluctant vision of how to make things better—or how to make better things. In Conan's podcast interview with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, they talk about always feeling like they have to get to the next thing. Dreyfus literally won the Mark Twain prize—one of the highest honors in comedy—but still feels like she can do better projects and make better work. Conan identified with her, and both spoke of being fueled by relentlessness in their youth.
Sometimes I feel like I am getting old. And that my laziness is symptomatic of building contentedness. But then I remember that I've always been lazy. I may no longer have that teenage fiery passion, but that's because I'm not fueling the flames with hormones and sublimated sexual energy. The fire is now more constant, habitual, and it's very confused as to its purpose (am I in the woods? A fireplace? A stovetop, boiling ravioli?). But it's there.
Chaos muppet signing off. All typos are intentional and indicative of quirkiness. Goodbye for now!
Time to begin notetaking once again.
I'm creating a presentation for Light Grey Art Lab. It's about chaos. Suddenly, I see chaos everywhere. And my presentation is an attempt to wrangle chaos. But I don't want to work on it yet. So let's start by wrangling this mess.
I've started and stopped blogs about a hundred times in my life. They're infrequent catalogs of interests and feelings at a moment in time. Usually, when I rediscover old blogs, it's like reading the diary entry of a much perkier, much angstier, much stupider version of myself. It's hard not to resent who you once were. But there is a section on this website—my interview section—that reads as if I had written it yesterday. I wrote it in September of 2017.
2008 to 2012 were my halcyon high school years. Just kidding, it was trash. But I changed so much in those four years—back then, it almsot felt like I was changing and growing every summer. 2012 to 2016 were my college years. Still a significant amount of change, but I recieved many answers to lifelong soul-searches. Now, three years post-college, approaching 2020—how have I changed in this four-year chunk? And what do I have to show for my growth as an artist and as a person?
I guess I'm a little nicer now. Less selfish. People tell me I seem carefree, which is, honestly, a huge departure from my own self-identity, which is rooted in selfish, angsty, youthful behavior. I'm a harder worker, but only in an office environment. I'm less inspired. More boring. My interests are a lot more mainstream, and I don't really care about being different or unique anymore. I'm starting to get into shows and theater, both as a viewer and...a participant. Oh my! My sentences are shorter, because now I'm used to writing for video. I have more money now, at least.
Just read Robin Sloan's Fish essay. I'm inspired to slow down, as I do periodically, and sink my teeth into the things I love on the internet (and outside the internet, too!). So, the first thing: two mobile games. The first is BTS world. And the second is Wizards, Unite. Great games. Greater music. My phone is a prison.
The onwards march of time is relentless indeed! Goodbye for now.
I've recently joined a handful of private Facebook groups with extremely meme-y names. A non-comprehensive list: I'm telling God, quick question what the fuck, wait a minute this is not flavortown where the heck am i, and so on.
This in itself isn't remarkable—I'm utterly desensitized to the meme-y and grotesque if viewed through a screen—but what I'm shocked by is that Facebook has somehow become a major contender for where I obtain my freshest memes!
And it's not just meme-mber counts number into the several thousand. And I have to wonder: am I late to the party? How (and when) did Facebook turn into The Place for quality shitposting instead of a dead zone comprised of stale, deep fried, recycled minion JPGs?
The untameable Internet is tending towards homogenization, thanks (in part) to Facebook. 4Chan has long held claim to being the birthplace of most (dark) internet phenomena, and Reddit often complains about Buzzfeed & co. appropriating their grassroots, long-form content into listicle digests, so I think with the streamlining of news and entertainment (as Facebook did with the News Feed and as they are aiming to do with Facebook Watch), there inevitably comes the streamlining of meme culture.
I can understand why Facebook groups have been a great format for memeing. Unlike Reddit and other forums, Facebook is easy to navigate, streamlined through the feed, and visual content takes center stage. Comments are easily accessible, unlike Reddit where one must click on a link and open an entire new window in order to join a community. And Facebook has managed to create a semi-public, semi-private space where strangers can interact earnestly with strangers, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of Reddit, of the internet as a whole.
But Reddit is a rich tapestry of human life, both immediate and archival, full of lore and meta-humor, and I've spent many nights exploring weird links, hoping to stumble on a trove. I often do. Facebook moves too fast—it's not a playground, and there's no motivation to discover. It's a well-oiled machine of production. We consume and move on.
Reddit is a lot like thrift shopping: it can be enjoyed superficially, and you'll probably find a cool bowl or weird cat painting, but if you are prepared to hunt, you will be rewarded with lush vintage patterns and handmade wares containing evidence of life. Facebook, conversely, is more like Costco: easily accessible, fast-moving, products take center stage, and it's all there, in one convenient location.
The two can co-exist, but one will always live in fear of being overrun by the other.
It's interesting that Facebook's private communities are flourishing—maybe Facebook realizes that anonymity is a cherished tenet of internet culture, and they want to foster a coexistence of public and private. And, like fungus, gossip flourishes at the intersection of public and private. And gossip, like memes, springs without want, is infinitely in production so long as there is something to react to.
I am curious to see whether there is a meme-drain from the internet at large into Facebook, much like how there is a current meme-drain from Tumblr into Twitter. For now, I'm enjoying these weird meme groups, and if I happen to tag a friend, so be it.
This was copy-pasted from my now-defunct-but-also-never-running newsletter, Late Nitez With Lizard! I had a very high fever when I wrote this. Can you tell?
Naked mole rats hold the key to immortality. An unlikely creature — not only to contain the fountain of youth but ALSO to merely exist — but nevertheless we, humanity as a collective, must size our egos down to their level and realize that the future is contained within these tiny, testicular mammals.
How do they do it? How do naked mole rats accomplish this? Prior to current events in the news my only understanding of naked mole rats was through the mildly-literate and verbally-communicative pet of Ron from Kim Possible. Certainly this character must be a highlight in the canon of naked mole rat-related media. So how have they since come so far?
Goodbye for now!