Turnmills to Fearless

I write a lot of things in my head when I’m just going about my day. I have for a long time, and sometimes a few jots end up on social media, but not much these days.

This week I returned to Mirabou State’s 2018 album Kingdoms in Colour. It’s all listenable, but track 3, Turnmills, hooks me every single time. It scratches an itch between Thom Yorke and Aphex Twin with maybe a louder pop sensibility. It is great on a car stereo or on my HomePod, but where the song really shines is on my noise-canceling headphones where I can hear the nuance of the samples layered with re-interpretation.

One of the things I love about electronic music is there’s so many beautiful synthetic sounds that are like head scritches for the soul.

I’ve queued the track Iris by TR/ST, from their upcoming album The Destroyer, Vol 2 to play next while I write this. It is much darker electronic, tapping into my memories of music that was much too loud vibrating my entire body in a smoke-filled, alcohol soaked club. Where Mirabou State is like a soothing balm, TR/ST is like Icy Hot. It’s not romantic, but maybe that’s where I am right now — where having contrary sensations simultaneously, being pulled apart by choice, feels like freedom. Stompy rhythm, unintelligible, sounds coming close and then somewhat submerged, bright overlays of retro synth. My hairs stand on end, and my heart feels lifted. It’s halfway to an ecstatic experience.

It’s easier to talk about music than much else.

Next track, Omnis Mundi Creatura by Helium Vola – a stompy dark track which was a favorite to fling my arms and dance furiously when I was a regular at Nocturna at Smart Bar/Metro in Chicago back around 2002 or so.

I was a assumed as a goth before I considered myself one. The title is a little flippant, even, because I’ve come to realize it is really only shorthand for understanding a larger subculture/philosophy if you have a sense of the music that surrounds it. I was reminded of this by a therapist leading the cancer caregiver support group I was in this past week. The fundamental misunderstanding that struck me was the assumption of pessimism, which is not entirely untrue except i the sense that I would call it more realism and a compulsive unwillingness to deny the truth of our inevitable decline and decay.

I’m trying to (note: next song, Dark Angel by VNV Nation) hold the truth of our human fragility in the same space that I hold the hope and curiosity that makes life worth living despite that. I don’t seek to deny the truth. We’re very good at propelling ourselves through our lives denying our fragility, and maybe that’s the way it should be, so we’re not anticipating the 20 story crane falling across the roadway we’re driving on an otherwise average day.

And that’s what I’m trying to capture, except my 20 story crane has not fallen yet.

Writing more of this would be too much. Too much of that soft-underbelly us dark souls are hiding behind our dark eyeliner and spiked jewelry. And my 30 minutes of writing is up.

Ending song: Fearless by VNV Nation

“I am not alone, I am not afraid, I am not unhappy
Such a stupid ritual to have to say to myself everyday
I’m not alone but I found my answer and set myself free, I’m not unhappy”

Social Media Diet

I’m going on a social media diet. Or a media diet.

I realized I was in a cycle of misery, where actually, my life is pretty great, especially compared to where it’s been, and I find ways to feel miserable and ignore the things that give me all those good feelings. It’s been like this since last year, and after my terrified sobbing fit the night of the Presidential election, I’ve been engaging in a self-sabotaging torture by keeping my awake-self as aware as possible of the minute-by-minute pain and agony, current and to come. I tell myself that my privilege means I need to be aware, but it’s not like I’m not aware, or even like I’ll necessarily forget (though that’s a risk), it’s that by not giving myself time to step away and see the world I’m in, in the here and now, and try to find peace within that, I’m making myself fairly useless, and engaging in other self-defeating behaviors.

I realized this past week or so that I was in this cycle of keeping myself aware through Twitter and news apps, and then carb loading – not because they were delicious and worthy carbs, but because they were there. I realized I was getting in a habitual cycle, I’d scroll my feed, start to feel terrible about everything (the world, myself), and then reach for the nearest thing that could make me feel, if briefly, less horrified. I heard a friend talk about the “Tr*mp Twenty” – and I’ve probably gained that much. It wouldn’t bother me so much if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve also let Instagram’s beauty (even “body positive” beauty) tell me what it is to be pretty and attractive.

My friend Marika recently wrote about her own situation with social media, and it really resonated with me. I don’t want to retreat into my privilege. I left Facebook a year ago (mostly because I hate the platform, and think they’re evil), but I’ve stayed on Twitter, dutifully reading the feeds of a variety of people ranging from Black Lives Matter activists, Democratic Socialists, Never Tr*mp Republicans, journalists on national and local beats, and artists and authors I admire. It’s all screaming, all the time – or it feels like that right now. Like the flames are rushing into our last sanctuary and it’s all we have left in the hopes that those in power will save us.

It’s making me unwell. It’s also making me miss doing the things that I really value, like focus on my family’s well-being, beyond just the basics. There are books I want to read, words I need to write, drawings I need to draw. I’ve ended up with serious imposter syndrome that has kept me grounded for far too long, and I’ve been a social media addict since probably before the word was even invented.

It’s time for me to unplug. I’m still working out what that exactly means, but for now, it means I’ve uninstalled apps on my phone, and installed a utility to block specific traffic at specific times to keep me more focused.

Why am I giving companies like Twitter and Facebook/Instagram my data, my intellectual property, for their profit, and my misery? WHY? Why am I consenting to this?

I just know I need to do something different, and spending two hours less on social media seems to be a good start.

Rose City Comic Con 2017

This past weekend I decided to go down to Portland for Rose City Comic Con. Admittedly, pop-culture cons are not usually my thing. I’ve stepped into Emerald City Comic Con a few times, and found it overwhelming, and mostly not my jam. I’m not a collector of things-that-just-sit-there, usually. I also am this cynic that is generally annoyed by the cults surrounding famous people. This goes back to my third-ever pop-culture convention, a Star Trek convention in the Cincinnati area around 1990, where I was in line to get Marina Sirtis’s autograph, and the men around me were chatting about following her from con to con – all the way to Germany, even. It creeped me out, and stuck with me to the point that I was soured on pop-culture cons for a long time.

I mean, the whole reason I was in line to get her autograph was the age-old story of a girl finding a character that she looks up to as a strong, female character – and here these guys were totally creeping on her.

And I know from my Twitter feed that this kind of stuff hasn’t changed.

So the first thing I do once I get my badge is go to the show floor and end up right outside the line for Peter Capaldi.

I didn’t quite have the cash to blow on a photo with Mr. Capaldi, and I wasn’t sure I could stomach the $100 for an autograph, but I was there, and suddenly realized that $100 felt like a small price to pay to get to meet someone that inspired my first-ever cosplay, and my first (as an adult) fan art. I came to the con wearing my Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor shirt, which was the first shirt I could find to buy once he became the Doctor. I had to stop kidding myself, I’m a fan, and this is why people come to these cons.

The queue was long, and I chuckled to myself at some of my queue-mates inability to queue, thought about the British love of queues, and kindly helped orient some newer-to-con folks in the queue. The girl in front of me was literally squeeing. I played on my phone, a MiniMoo card in hand with a photo of the Doctor Who fan art on it, while I waited to be within earshot of the signing table. Peter Capaldi’s face lights up when he talks to children – he seems to want to put them immediately at ease, and has a patience I’ve grown to appreciate after dealing with my own small beings. Getting through the line, and in front of him, I went straight from “I’m going to be aloof and get his autograph after saying I love his work” to “let me stand here in a shirt with your face on it while showing you a picture of me dressed like you and a photo of a piece of art that I drew of you and can I have your autograph?” in mere seconds. He looked at the little card, and asked, “Is this in pencil?” and proceeded to complement me on it, and then pulled the card toward himself, after asking if he could keep it. He told me to keep drawing, which if I could somehow tattoo on my brainmeat to forever remember, I would. Somedays I just don’t feel like my brain and hand connect to create what I want – but the drawing of I did of him was a good session, and he reminded me that yes, I can draw. He also said to take care of myself, which immediately made me feel self-conscious, as if my tendency to not self-care was all over my face. Either way, if he saw that or not, I believe he meant every word.

I started sobbing as I left the line, because 1. he’s incredibly kind and generous, and 2. my spirit needed that.

Lovecraft Bar - Interior That was my first two hours – and the rest of the con was filled with various notables. I was able to finally say thank you to Jen Bartell, for putting her work and her process out there, and inspiring me with her beautiful drawings. I spent quality time with another friend and creator who I don’t get to see nearly as much. I ran into a con-friend who convinced me to go to Lovecraft Bar, which is actually themed as such. I ran into another con-friend too briefly the next morning. I dropped some cash on Niobe – she is life, bought a smutty comic from CrazedPixel, toured some breweries in Vancouver, WA, ate cookies for lunch, drank way too much coffee (after way too much vodka the night before), and managed to get home mostly intact.

Oh, and just remembered a fun random – when I was waiting for the Doctor Who panel, I sat in the previous panel that had Ming Chen on the stage. For the life of me, I had no idea who he was, but knew he sounded familiar, and like so many things, I was wondering if I would care. It turns out that he was familiar because back in the late 90’s I was a big Kevin Smith fan, and on my early days on the Internet, I frequented his fansite that eventually rolled over into Kevin Smith’s official site. I haven’t kept up with Kevin Smith fandom, as that the last movie I really cared about of his was *maybe* Dogma, but probably the Clerks Animated Series. I did, however, go to Red Bank, NJ back in the day – and I have visited the Stash, and have a pic of Walt Flanagan that I took when I visited (circa 1997). This was in the original location. So, oddly enough, I had a time to kind of geek-out at something I loved a lot when I was in college.

All in all, an exhausting, but fun weekend. Now, to get back to work.

And so it goes.

I did a lot of planning to write yesterday and today. Perhaps planning is my worst enemy. I finally sat down to write, and after about 350 words, I sat back and realized I felt like I was drowning. I like building characters. I like building worlds. Unfortunately, I like the details in worlds. I like the minutiae. I could get lost in trying to make sure that every little detail makes sense, is self-consistant, etc. This means that if I want something scientifically based, I have to research it.

So now I have more research and plans and notes than I have actual words on a page, and then other parts of the idea start to unravel. Maybe this is why I’ve had a preference for fantasy over science fiction, at least when I was younger. I like consuming hard science fiction. Fantasy? It’s so great because you can make up the engines that make things go. You don’t have to know about nuclear reactors, or combustion engines, or steam or whatever. You can just say, “magic that works in phases of the moons” and “fairies!” and other bullshit.

I know that the first thing you do is WRITE IT DOWN. I hate that. I hate that about as much as I hate just sitting there and doing a sketch and having it look far from what you envisioned, knowing deep inside there’s some kid out there who draws better than you.

The way you get there is practice. Does that mean I just write whatever gobbled-gook that doesn’t make sense? Filled with logical fallacies, bad science, bad geography, and worst, bad character motivations?

It’s Game 7 of the World Series tonight. Perhaps I should focus on where I’m going to watch it.