It's been a hard week (for entirely personal and not sociogeopolitical reasons, though that's weighing on me in the background, maybe more insidiously). I didn't get into a major film fellowship I applied to, which has really thrown my carefully-crafted-on-a-bed-of-delusion 2020 goals into a tizzy. So that was disheartening.
At one point this week, a coworker asked what inspires me to make art. I couldn't think of anything. I like images and objects, and I admire people who are productive and creative, but at this moment in time, I'm not inspired to make anything. And this lack of inspiration feels like a permanent state of being. My mood's been trending downwards for a year but I'm only now realizing this.
I've been making lists of things that make me happy. They're comprised of creative activities, social activities, and active activities. Tonight I'm cooking shepherd's pie. (I bought a $10 slice of parmesean! That's too much for parmesean!) My favorite moments in Japan were in art museums (Picasso's and Yayoi Kusama's) or in nature (bamboo forest, numerous Shinto shrines). I guess it's easy to have fun when you're paying for it.
I crave something like an open expanse. New York City is chewing me up and spitting me out, over and over again. That's what it feels like to be a temp. Maybe I crave openness in reaction to this city's unrelenting forced contact. It's disappointing to have a job. The confines of an office are sucking the life out of me. Maybe more than creative opportunities, I crave openness and freedom, and no responsibilities.
A life like that is, of course, selfish, and ultimately isolating. But I want a big window with the sky and sun, and big paintbrushes that I hoist upon canvases using my entire body. I want to be in an open field with a faraway glacier poking through the mist. I want to wander through grassy ruins and host dinner parties in my apartment-cum-gallery space.
I've had almost nothing to do all week at work, so I've been researching interior design. Much of my creative energy right now is directed towards making our apartment a more livable space. So far, I've donated two bags of clothes, put our shoes in the closet, bought an aloe plant for our bathroom, burst into tears when Brian called out my mania, measured our apartment and furniture, drew a floorplan on an index card, bought wall hooks, reorganized our bathroom counter, soundproofed our door (Brian's doing), and decided in the near future to buy a bookshelf desk. I took quizzes to find out what my "interior design personality" is and discovered that the quizzes were garbage because my interior design personality is: flea market. A few things to come: lighting the other half of the apartment that has no light, and cleaning my desk. It's been very difficult to tackle because my desk—all desks—is a reflection of my mind: unkempt, half-baked, full of old useless papers and dusty trinkets.
I talked with C. this week about my meeting next week to discuss employment at GBS. He gave me good advice and was a good person to confide in. I have a theory about the best managers: they have to be at once highly competent and completely unhinged. And they have to prioritize having fun.
I spent a few days this week insanely gluing together tiny pieces of paper as part of a Spirited Away diorama kit. And at The Strand, there was a Nausicaa artbook on display that I leafed through. It's cringey to say that I'm inspired by Miyazaki, but here we are.
Brian and I went to the Jewish Museum yesterday (we wanted to go to the Guggenheim but the rotunda is closed and we arrived a whole hour before free admisson, completely his fault). I've been reading Joan Didion's The White Album. We've been watching a lot of Terrace House—finished Tokyo, actually. I've been sleeping a lot after work and after meals. I went for a run today. It was rough but I didn't mind being outside while running! Better than a treadmill for sure. Friday night I fell asleep while watching BoJack Horseman, and Brian put on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Honestly: an incredible film, wow. A theory: oompa loompas infected our cultural consciousness because they are synesthetically harmonious—song, costume, height. The movie is a bit of a mess, though. It was commissioned by the Quaker Oat company to sell chocolate. So, upon seeing the end result, I can imagine upper management either being extremely displeased with the outcome, or psychotically pleased in the way that Mr. Peanut's death pitch must have psychotically tickled the mushed up brains of coked-up coporate execs. And then we watched Snowpiercer, which was great.
It's really easy to write in a journal when I'm feeling sad. The inverse is true too. And this is just one example of how life is one constant state of self-checking into an imagined lane. I'm constantly setting myself up for failure, but achieving small goals does absolutely nothing for my happiness or sanity. I have to always be failing at something—otherwise, am I truly living?
This constant search for meaning is a virus I'm unable to rid myself of. But if I'm not self-reflecting, then I'm barrelling forward thorugh corporate mazes, giving my all to a vicious system of the bottom-line. So what can I do? Can I only be happy if I'm delusional?
Big news: guess who's taking improv again, baby? Who what where, am I right? It's going okay. I think there is definitely a performative side to my personality, but it's unrefined. Also, every class, I fear for my life. So I may go the direction of writing instead of theater—we'll see. I'm trying extremely hard to be intentionally hilarious, and it is impossible!
I also started a new job! The work has been relaxing, the hours have been reasonable, and my coworkers are unpretentious. I've learned (in this short time) that I miss working alongside artists. I'm pretty tired of being made to feel weird by people who are actually just not as open-minded and curious. It's nice to be around people who also prioritize creativity.
(Also, just a side note, ever since Caroline Calloway's explosion into the mainstream I've become so much more self-conscious of these entries! Where I criticize her Instagram posts for vanity I see my own thoughts reflected. Probably the only way to rid myself of this impulse is to read more good writing, which, well, I'm working on.)
I've started learning Japanese on Duolingo, which is an okay app, but it feels almost too easy. The patterns I recognize have less to do with the language and more to do with the way the app presents words and phrases. I've been trying to compound my learning with other Japanese apps, but past a certain level, they all cost money! What a nightmare. I might have to go analog if I'm really committed, ugh.
But, who could've guessed that learning a language could be so fun? Maybe it's just fun because the app has a lot of bells and whistles which activate all my reptilian brain receptors, but I'd like to think I derive joy from learning itself. I like how abstract language is, especially one like Japanese—it's a great break from my regular life, which is full of concrete tasks and concrete consequences. Gross! It reminds me of when I used to play piano and really struggle with a piece, but when I woke up the next day I'd somehow, thanks to overnight magic, play it perfectly. Same thing happens with language.
This is all to say that actually I am very bad at Japanese. Much of my knowledge comes from what little I know about Chinese characters, so I can understand some phrases off the bat but I can't translate or pronounce them. So that's cool. I want to get good enough at Japanese that I'll be able to more easily navigate around Japan—transportation and food-wise—but as of now, my knowledge of how to say "I'm Marcie" and "I can speak Japanese" won't actually help me at all, because no, I cannot speak Japanese, and I wouldn't introduce myself in Japanese unless I was willing to talk in Japanese. It's sort of a presumptuous phrase to learn off the bat. Why don't they teach us things like, "I cannot speak Japanese" or "no" or "5"? I can count to four, and from six to ten, but I literally do not know how to say the number five. That's fucked, Duolingo.
Our neighbors are drug dealers. I'm like, 95% sure. And not, like, weed. It honestly creeps me out. But I guess this is the price I have to pay when my monthly rent for a studio apartment across from the Q line is a bargain deal of $1900—chump change, practically a steal!
I've been playing a lot of Fallout. I also finished The Goldfinch. It was straight up not good! I was very disappointed! But I'm reading Trick Mirror, finally, which feels like a breath of fresh air and lucidity.
I saw The Lighthouse in theaters. I've said this joke about a million times already but I'm gonna say it here for posterity: it's the best hentai of 2019. I rewatched Your Name—maybe it's my favorite anime film? It's wonderful.
I went to a Ladies With Lenses x Panimation screening this past month with Meghan. They screened a film of mine, and I got to be on a Q&A panel. I guess it was my first panel, which is kind of cool. There's less of a burden to give good answers. But it was hard to answer questions about something I made two years ago. The screening was at SVA, so the audience was mostly students, so the questions were geared towards that era of life. There were even some thirsty groupies. But like, I struggled to give advice, because I barely have my head above water when it comes to post-graduate success. It's all been luck or suffering. But a student did ask how we were able to maintain motivation throughout our personal projects, and I didn't say this, but like, if you can't even have motivation for your own personal project that nobody wants or is asking you to make, then you shouldn't be doing that personal project. And I remember this because I felt concerned for the student, but also it sort of clarified something to me: that barreling forward without looking back or sideways for approval is the best way to go about making art. And in a few months when I have time to start working again on a personal project, I'll try to remember this.
Yesterday I finally came to terms with the fact that the great discontent of my life is that I just don't like doing things for other people! A friend? Sure. Society? Of course. But an authoritative figure? Nah, son. So that's something I'm gonna have to contend with if I want to be a functional adult in our capitalistic society. Swag.
S W A G
I've been freelancing for a month. I've fallen into a legit stay-at-home-wife routine, and, like, is it bad that I don't mind it? When I was working full-time I had no energy for cooking, exercising, drawing, and even reading. Now I'm into baking, and my half of the apartment is way cleaner—I even surmounted the insurmountable: my desk—and I exercise one, sometimes even twice a day! And I get endorphins from it! Like, wow, who knew the greatest self-care would actually just come from staying at home and (mostly) fucking around, with occasional breaks for underpaid labor? Wow.
Brian and I are going to Japan next January! Which is very cool. We're staying for two weeks, going from Tokyo to Kyoto and back to Tokyo. Last night we bought hotels. We've been watching a lot of entry-level anime in preparation—beacuse obviously a Japanese person would prepare for a trip to America by watching Spongebob (subbed not dubbed!!)—and the 90s anime aesthetic (slight noise, neon colors, limited character animation, soft and lush backgrounds, characters with pointy chins and glistening Bambi eyes) is starting to seep into my freelance work. I'm specifically talking about Neon Genesis Evangelion, of course. Is my client aware of that? No. Is it a pale imitation? Of course. Everything I make is a pale imitation.
I haven't been looking too hard for jobs, though I may have obtained one. I wonder if, a few months shy of 25, I should begin actually prioritizing my creativity. There's a film fellowship I want to apply to. What's funny, and tragic, though, is that at this point in my life, when I've finally built a large enough nest egg that I feel comfortable working from home for minimal pay and financing international vacations, is that...I don't have any ideas. I'm empty. Permanently, probably. And I'm trapped in a prison of superficiality—buying pretty things, like art books and zines, but also clothes and makeup, trying to make myself look more attractive (to who? by whose standards? and why does it feel both thrilling and terrible?)—which is taking up valuable brain space that could be used for legitimate creative production.
I know this hunch that I'm permanently uncreative probably isn't true. Probably. I think I feel the least creative when I'm working on other people's projects, and when I'm at the tail end of a large project, both circumstances which are true right now. Is that normal? Or am I being dramatic? I have to keep reminding myself that I just finished a huge narrative game. But the last time I made an independent film was two years ago! And it was like lightning in a bottle, which has not since been recaptured.
I was thinking of this the other day and came to the conclusion that the reason why I feel kind of empty is because I don't draw for fun as frequently. I think ideas for films come to me through the act of drawing. I feel disconnected from the creative spirituality that I strongly felt for a few months last year, when I was a diligent student of my own mind. Which sounds narcissitic. But I think if I don't study myself, I lose myself.
Anyway, I'm starting my second improv class tomorrow! I'm scared. Why is it good to do things that terrify you? What if they terrify you for a legitimate reason? Like, seeing a bear in the woods at night? I was listening to Conan's podcast interview with Tina Fey, and they talked about how for them, acting is embarrassing. I agree. So my goal for this class is to act less like an uncultured ham and more like myself. But of course, my fear that I'm empty and uncreative artistically is, like, also true for comedy. More true, because I have less experience.
But I already paid for it, which is, like, I paid to be terrible on a stage in front of people. I'm a fool.
C O N T E N T ~ R E V I E W ~ I N T E R L U D E
Speaking of Tina Fey, I saw Mean Girls on Broadway last week with Brian's family. That was a highlight. And a few weeks back, I saw an animation showcase for female directors at Animation Block Party, co-hosted by Malt Adult. They selected a lot of student films, which I loved—there's something so special about student films, because they're, like, pure and unrefined but also ingenious and fresh. And I noticed that there's kind of a trend, I guess, of films with a sort of repulsive and overtly horny but loveable main character—female, of course—who lives happily in an world with unpredictable and wonky physics, where she's a bit of an outcast but OWNS it, or who fits perfectly within that unpredictably wonky world. Tuca and Bertie fits the bill (h a) here. Fleabag too, but live-action. Lots of student work, especially Victoria Vincent's. And none of this could exist, probably, without Julia Pott (her Vimeo bio: "I employ awkward animated characters to act out my inner struggles").
My favorite film from the fest—made by two students, of course—was Olga’s Self Insert Fanfiction (not online yet!), about a girl who writes horny One Direction fanfic, with a close second and third and fourth being I Feed Her (short and sickening), Albatross Soup (long and sickening), and Annihilation Song (peak wonky physics). And I also liked a really cool and sensitive stop motion piece made for Ted-Ed called The Opposites Game.
Just yesterday I listened to the first episode of Jad Abumrad's new podcast about Dolly Parton, called Dolly Parton's America. It was wonderful. One movie I enjoyed was Carrie (the old one), which was SO much better than I expected, though my high praise is caveated because, okay, there was a lot of pedophilic imagery, which is inexcusable but—I'm about to excuse it—it's pretty old, and thankfully the imagery doesn't carry throughout the entire film. Just the credits, and also a bit beyond the credits. Uncomfortable and gross. But that prom scene—wow, movies don't look like that anymore.
I also saw Parasite in theaters, which is notable because I love watching movies in theaters, and I got free popcorn, and also it was really good. I'm very here for cinematic class critiques.
E N D ~ I N T E R L U D E
This entry is getting long again. I'll restart writing weekly, I promise (to myself)! But the last thing I want to note is that a few weeks ago I attended an Asian American short film screening (they showed my marshmallow animation). It was...something to process. First off, the screening was only for music videos and animations, and a lot of the animations were intensely personal stories. And then mine was just, like, overtly commercial and relatively polished. Which is wack, because it is not very polished at all. (Also mine was like the only film that didn't overtly comment on race, which is a personal flaw because I'm kind of scared of actively designing characters of any discernible race. Maybe this is cowardly and something I should change.) And, I don't know, I guess this touches on the point I'm making about struggling to make personal films—I've only done freelance or commercial work for the last, say, year and a half—but, okay, I admire how vulnerable and personal the films got, but also the strength in vulnerability was often undercut by the lack of craft, I guess, and like, over-sincerity. Tugging at my heartstrings, manupulatively. It sounds pretentious but I think a film can have style without polish, which actually is my preference. What bothers me is when animation is a means to an end—not just unstylized, but unutilized. Very different from the female and punk and off-kilter ironic animated worlds best represented by Tuca and Bertie. I don't know. The whole event made me feel weird.
There was also a burlesque dancer, and I was sitting front row but off to the side, so she was fancing center stage and I could overlook the audience, and it was just a sea of grimacing men in sweaters and khaki pants, and she was stripping purple feathered puff thing after purple feathered puff thing, while quietly lip syncing to the track. Really awkward. I loved it.
Ok that's it. I'm tired of writing and I should work now.
FUNNY HOW SOME MONTHS CAN BE SO MUNDANE, SUCH AS THIS ONE, THAT BOREDOM CAUSES ME TO WRITE MORE IN MY DIARY, EVEN THOUGH I'M DOING LESS. A PARADOX OF BUSYNESS. THE OXYMORON OF BOREDOM.
So I published my game An Afternoon Rippling about two weeks ago! It received a warm organic reception on Twitter—one of the devs for Kentucky Route Zero liked it/followed me/bought my game, BLUSH—and then also none of my IRL friends played it. I'm not bitter. I get that it's long. But whoever is the first among my friends to play my game will win a prize. And that prize will be my love, or freshly baked banana bread, which contains none of my love but is delicious.
(I would like to note that my former NPR manager donated to my game and presumably has played it, even though I didn't ask her to. So, that's very kind and yes I screenshotted the email.)
I've been very into baking since coming back from Iceland. And by "very into" I mean once a week I'll spend two hours baking no-knead artisan bread and eat several slices—with peach jam, with butter, with ham, with an egg, naked as the day it was born (from my oven). I don't think I'm getting better at baking. I'm too reckless, and I'm long past the age where my brain is like a sponge, so I learn nothing through repetition. (At this point it's only shame and public ridicule that keep me fresh and young and alive!) I've made artisan bread three times, and today I made banana bread. Young British lad: Banana bread! That's an inside joke, you wouldn't get it.
Bread is good. So are museums. And walking outside. The Met is a twenty-minute walk from my apartment, and when I have the time (which is always since I'm unemployed) I like to put in a podcast and loop around it, walking briskly. It's my daily exercise, because I'm an old, old retiree.
A friend from the residency lives in New York and we went to the Met last weekend. We ate corn afterwards in the street. She's wonderful.
I'm very happy I finally finished the game. Basically every project of mine is like an albatross, but this was truly my albatross. At various points post-graduation I've refrained from working on other personal projects because of the guilt I felt over not finishing the game! Which is ridiculous and illogical and I'll continue functioning that way because, again, plasticisty is a lie and my brain refuses to change.
What I've found most fun about this whole process is...getting reception. I received some very nice DMs and comments, which I have saved in a folder that I will look back on when I am feeling sad. But more seriously, the indie game dev community is bubbling with discourse, from both makers and players, and in this space art is acknowledged in a rare way that I haven't experienced since classroom critiques in school. The discourse is casual—endorsements through retweets, replies, comments on the download page. I even like the emails about bugs (whoops) because they're sandwiched with compliments and seem frenetic—like they want to get to the end now. And I wish that kind of casual, hierarchy-less discourse were more common in my field—I never see reviews of digital videos on YouTube, or even on independent animations. Comments, sure, but those are fleeting and pithy. I just see the rare Q&A, either in festivals (which can be fun but are usually awkward) or on websites, but they usually require the subject to have passed through a certain threshold of success, and I think it's because success tantalizes website readers who work in the same field who want to one day obtain the same level of success as the interview subject.
This is all to say that it's not very much fun, and I think that's what distinguishes the indie game dev discourse from other online discourse. Journalism takes itself too seriously. Money and prestige and brands are too involved. At least indie animators don't take themselves seriously, but neither do the animation journalists.
A new tenet of my life—discussed with a new friend on a bus from Akueyri to Reykjavik, and no I will not stop talking about Iceland—is that it's imperative (for my soul) to take humorous things seriously, and serious things humorously. So, my game is (not to toot my own horn) funny, but people have been taking it seriously, which is wonderful and fulfilling. And—because I gotta drag in the internet discourse—the best memes take sometihng serious and make it funny. I don't know. I think most adults are boring. Especially young adults. Everyone's trying too hard to seem smart! I think professionalism is a scourge that prevents humans—many of us adults—from truly self-actualizing. Because childlike is not childish. And humor isn't something to be looked down on, because life itself is inherently absurd.
This is a chip on my shoulder and probably will continue to be so long as I work in media and invest my time and energy into being an "adult." So, until I retire, basically. This also goes beyond caring what other people think. I don't care if people think memes are good or bad—what I do want people to care about is the influence of the internet and youth culture and memes on society, because these things are the fabric of our civilization. Yeah, I'll go that far. Like language, memes are and always have been purest forms of communication and human expression and if you can't handle that, go live in the woods with the Mennonites. (But I bet even the Mennonites have memes.)
Yesterday I went with Meghan to a female indie animators showcase at Animation Block Party. The overall aesthetic felt almost punk rock, like these women were young and angry and didn't give a shit about character appeal or the rule of thirds or the Nine Old Men. They just made the thing from their brains. It made me want to make the thing from my brain. And today I saw the National Theater Live broadcast of Fleabag at IFC. She's a genius. She's probably really fucking good at improv.
Earlier this evening I indulged myself (and forced Brian) to listen to an hour-long podcast episode that covered my game. I was giddy the entire time. What a treat! What's also great about discourse is that it's much easier to see flaws, to see what the audience doesn't get. For the most part, people are "picking up" what I'm "putting down," but there are some crucial moments of choice and gameplay that have gone kind of unnoticed. And also there's one complex scene that is weirdly buggy (how do I fix it? I don't know! I'm not a game dev!) and also it's intentionally annoying to get through. Which might have been a mistake in game choice, whoops. The funnest things to hear about are what I didn't intend to allude to or connect with. This is a fundamental thing, but in school a teacher told me that a signifier of a great work of art is not necessarily the message itself but how much people can unravel from the art that you're putting out. I still think that's true.
GOD, this notebook has just turned into ME putting ME on a pedastal of ME. Ugh. I've been reading through Caroline Calloway's instagram (like the masochistic little gremlin I am) so I've become a lot more cognizant of how narcissism is revealed through memoir writing. And how I'm a narcissist in a lot of ways. (But I'd like not to be.)
In other news, I'm working on some freelance stuff for NPR—my MVP—and I've been watching a lot of anime with Brian—Neon Genesis Evangelion and Miyazaki, because we might go to Japan! VACATION!!!!—and I also spent money on another improv class. It starts in October. I'm afraid, but I'll channel Fleabag herself, who is, in the words of my friend, "all of us."
Gonna have banana bread now! Butter is so good.
Funny how some months can be so empty 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 consistent and 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!