Wednesday, August 5, 2009



I'm thrilled to announce, after much laborious FTP wrestling, whining, cookie-nibbling, and Wiki-consulting, the new and improved WritingHannah blog, which can be found at Bookmark it! All the archived posts have been transferred- please subscribe to the new RSS feed. Thanks, everybody.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009


My cat stepped on the keyboard which resulted in a premature publishing blogjaculation- so for those of you who got excited when the RSS feed popped up with a new post, only to find I deleted it seconds later, my apologies. Might I suggest you ease your woes by calling into the live radio talk show I'm doing tonight in about an hour? Check it out here:

For those of you who didn't get an RSS feed, then you're in good company, because what the fuck even is an RSS feed? Wikipedia tells me that it stands for "Really Simple Syndication" but sometimes "Rich Site Summary," neither of which make any sense to me at all. If it was really simple I think I'd understand how it worked, and my site is far from rich. I think I made like $.08 off of this blog and the youtube over the past 3 months. You kooky internets you... makin' up acronyms to simplify a term which is already too complicated in long hand.

Yesterday I had a very awkward conversation with a friend because I'm telephonetarded. I like to think that it's because I'm such a stunning social presence in person that I simply cannot reach my usual level of conversation sparkle when all those all-important facial and gestural cues are absent. But I'm not exactly a gold medalist in the video-chat either. It's all weird and virtual, and there's too much pressure. At least when you're on the phone you can pretend to be listening but actually be doing something else like painting your toe-nails or reading about insane people in the internet. (like ://, a site where people share their love of deadly venemous pets who almost killed them that one time.)

But then again, at least on video chat you can tell when someone is about to speak, instead of having looong awkward pauses followed by a flurry of clipped interruptions followed by that awful "You go," "No, you go!" "No, seriously, mine wasn't important. You go."

Then I always have to stop myself from saying "Don't mind if I do," and hanging up.

After my awkward conversation, which I was sure was due to my general social ineptitude, my friend revealed , rather sheepishly, that she was very tired when I called and must have sounded like a moron, and that she was sorry she made things so awkward. Which reminded me of the time I visited this guy and had a horrible time and felt like a total wet-blanket, only to realize two years later from several other sources that he's just a terrible host. I spent weeks obsessing over how terribly awkward I was, when really he made everyone feel awkward because he was so awkward.

So to Rusty and 23 & 24, thank you you for supporting the site, and I insist that no hard feelings be felt by anyone anywhere regarding misinterpreted intentions, because I am honored by all of your comments and I think that everyone always feels really fucking awkward.

Like that time I had to go back to class after getting sprayed by a skunk. Or that time I was at an audition and sat on a bee and screamed "A BEE!" while grabbing my ass and dashing out of the building. Or that time I cat-called at a cute guy who turned out to be my boyfriend's father. Eiw.

Do let me know if you have any questions- I'm committed to posting more regularly and I always love a good jump start. Hope your summers are going well and that the humidity has not sapped your spirit to live, at it has for my cat, who has overdosed on catnip and layed drooling on his back in the air-conditioned-den for the past 4 days. Oh no wait, he says that was me. Awkward.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Bad Book Reviews and Hot Fudge.

Someone just left me an oozily sarcastic comment about an, shall we say, irregularity of actual posting activity, as well as a possible proclivity toward purse-posts. Usually I'd respond to such a barb with with something equally as sarcastic, like maybe "the fact that my busy day doesn't allow time for leaving jaunty "you're lazy" messages on the virtual property of some person I 've never even met leaves me aching for a purpose." Or else I'd roll my eyes, but then obsess about the hidden truth of the comment, and then possibly cry, and then definitely call you a bitch behind your back to whomever would listen.

But you know what, wife and husband of 24 and 23 who left me that comment? You are right. You generously support my artwork while I sit around and lament about how dastardly writer's block can be while watching The Office in my pajamas at 2 PM licking the cream out of the insides of yodels.

You two are awesome and I am remiss. I don't even really have a good excuse this time.

The book is done and I've been on this sort of loooong exhale for about two weeks. Very much in limbo. Still completely expecting the first and only big reviewer to piss himself laughing when he realizes how much time he's going to save on the writeup, because it only requires one word.

Everything Sucks:


I've seriously been thinking about that review for a month. But I figure that now that I've written it down, nobody can use it. It won't be original anymore. Haha Snarky McLazyface, the teen-memoir-despising reporter. Incidentally, one of my alltime favorite book reviews comes from grand dame Dorothy Parker, who wrote of The Cardinal's Mistress, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

I also have a special place in my heart for Sir Thomas Beechman's candid musical assessment of
Beethoven's Seventh Symphony: "What can I do with it? It's like a lot of yaks jumping about."

But when I start to get nervous about people hating the book so much they will burn the thing, I try to remember Kurt Vonnuget's wisdom: "Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae." God I love that image. And God I love hot fudge sundaes. More to come...


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Final Solution and the Most Expensive Purse in the World

So I needed a new purse.

My old purse was a champion, a good soldier, withstanding harrowing encounters with all manner of weather, condiments, dozens of trans-Atlantic voyages, and (more impressively) frequent assaults by my monkey, who regards any sort of stitch, zip, or button as a personal affront to her desire to make the house into her own personal jungle of disorganization and shit. This purse has been with me through thick and thin. It has concealed more tampax, trashy romance novels, and illegal paraphernalia than I would ever care to admit.

Buckling under the ravages of time and the eight gabillion pennies lost in the lining that I never bothered to remove, the old girl finally gave in at approximately 7 PM EST, just in time for me to get on a plane to Miami. And so I began my quest to find a replacement.

I had no idea when I set out of a dangerous and insidious epidemic which speaks to the very unraveling of society itself, a terrifying cultural phenomenon which pits logic against lust, frugality against taste, and functionality against greed. If I had to boil my sociological observations down into one thesis paper title, it would be this:

Bitches be crazy.

So here I am looking for a receptacle to fling over my shoulder and hold all my crap, and I come face to face with this:

and this:

and this:

Firstly: what the fuck is this? What's with all the feathers and fringe and huge ugly bows? Was I somehow not informed about the new trend of adorning your arm with the grotesque offspring of a bridesmaid dress and a bag lady's kerchief collection? And although the hideousness of these purses kind of offends my aesthetic sensibilities, I'm ready for the reality TV crew to come out laughing and telling me how this is all a big setup when I discover that you too can own all of the above items for around $800 a piece.

$800?? What the fuck does a purse that costs that much money even do? Taxes?? I mean, come on now. Are you really going to spend the equivalent of a third world worker's entire annual wages on something whose function could be carried out just as well by an old sheet and a stick?

And sure, the ol' sheet-n-stick isn't exactly high fashion. But is someone actually going to tell me that this bullshit is chic? It looks like some 3rd grader went slap-happy with big fake plastic rhinestones the color of bile.

And hideousness aside, what the hell can you fit inside this dinky thing anyway? There isn't a chapter book in the entire world slim enough to ride along. Then again, maybe Prada does know their demographics. Because it does look just about the right size for a tube of mascara, a bottle of prescription painkillers, and a toothbrush to help you purge.

I began to think that perhaps this is some sort of elaborate practical joke on consumers. Like the time they got us to pay for bottled water. Except times 800. And instead of hydrating us, the product brands us as a tacky gullible moron with nothing better to do than collect arbitrary symbols of status and vacuousness.

As if it couldn't get any worse, in my attempt to bolster my argument for this post, I stumbled across this beauty. It's the Louis Vuitton limited edition, signature, tribute patchwork purse. And the cost of owning this stunning piece of arm candy?


Hold on, let me give you time to recover your breath and sanity while looking at this picture of an adorable kitty.

Now back to business. Fifty two THOUSAND dollars. For a frankenstinean mess of shiny alligator flesh and gaudy gold rivets that looks like it was made by a sweatshop kid who was so malnourished he was hallucinating?

Here's my new plan for world peace. Are you listening corporate America? Here's your chance to start doing some good. Market more products like this. Hordes of them. Gobs of solid gold neckties and limited edition designer toilet paper. And then anytime someone purchases one of these items, promptly launch them into space. Please. For the sake of humanity. Stop the madness.

P.S. If you're going to pay an assload of money for a purse, at least let it be hilarious. Maybe some of these?

And for all you sarcastic subversives out there...



Monday, June 29, 2009

Flying's Da Bomb

So I'm standing in line at airport security wishing I were somewhere more pleasant, like maybe the Siberian tundra, when a whole mess of beeping wakes me out of my dog-sledding vodka-swigging trance.

Airport Guy: Excuse me ma'am, what's in this metal box?
Me: A camera.
Airport Guy: (eying me warily) A camera?
Me: A camera.
Airport Guy: What kind of camera?
Me: A video camera.
Airport Guy: For videos?
Me:... yep.

Airport guy is clearly not satisfied with this description and so he asks me to open the camera case, which, granted, is bulky and reinforced with metal and locks and all sorts of things which someone might want to surround their delicate video equipment with. Airport Guy does not wait for me to open the camera case before he grabs it back from me and bangs it down on the counter five or six times.

Airport Guy: Why's it rattling?
Me: I think because you're banging it.
Airport Guy: Are you kidding me?
Airport Guy: You think I don't know what a camera sounds like?
Me: What?
Airport Guy: What's in the box, ma'am?
Me: My camera!
Airport Guy: (opening the box) And what about this, huh?
Me: Padding.
Airport Guy: Padding for what?
Me: Padding. It protects the camera incase it gets all banged around.
Airport Guy: Banged?
Me: Banged.
Airport Guy: Bang?
Me: What?
Airport Guy: Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to step over here.

So I step over there, a little gray room with no windows, where I am introduced to Airport Gal.

Airport Gal: A camera?
Me: A camera!
Airport Gal: Please turn the camera on ma'am.
Me: I can't, it's out of batteries.
Aiport Gal: That's pretty convenient, don't you think?
Me: Not really.
Airport Gal: Where are you traveling to?
Me: I'm going to Florida to visit my publishing company
Airport Gal: Like, books?
Me: Books.
Airport Gal: You said this was a camera.
Me: It is a camera.
Airport Gal: How do you know?
Me: I... what?
Airport Gal: Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to step over here.

So I step over there, and I am acquainted with Airport Man, who is distinguishable from Airport Guy by a massive belly and an even more massive mustache. I wait for nearly a half hour for Airport Man to get off of a phone call, and now he wants to know what's in the box.

Me: A camera! Look! Listen, my plane is leaving in like 15 minutes and I really can't miss-
Airport Man: This will take as long as it needs to take ma'am. What's this?
Me: Lens cleaner.
Airport Man: Lens cleaner?
Me: For the camera.
Airport Man: We're going to have to confiscate this.
Me: But it's under the liquid limit!
Airport Man: Would you be willing to taste it?
Me: What??
Airport Man: Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to step over -
Me: Don't you think if I wanted to transport a bomb I'd pick something more discreet to transport it in? This box is plated in shiny metal with huge rivets and locks and it's massive! Who would think this was a good place to hide a bomb!? Duffel bag, sure. Baby stroller, very inconspicuous. But this? I mean, you might as well rollerblade through customs dressed as a giant stick of TNT.

And that's how you get you get your lens cleaner confiscated and your red sweatshirt triple x-rayed in the special back office in a little grey windowless room next to airport security.

God Bless America.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Party Off.

I went to a party recently, and it sucked donkey balls.

I cannot attribute this to not knowing anyone there, because there were at least two dozen familiar faces. And I cannot attribute this knowing but not liking any of those familiar faces, because among them were loved ones and dear friends. The food was pretty good, the dessert was great, mohitos and cosmos flowed like (insert your favorite flow metaphor here. Water/wine/tears/lava... it's that time of the month and I don't want to forcefully subject you to the metaphor that comes most readily to my mind. (Oops, too late.))

So anyway, lots of booze, lots of food, lots of flashbacks to me in middleschool hiding in the bathroom stall of some fancy catering hall.

I went to a "reform" temple on the wealthy side of town, which meant that people whose families had lots of money but not so much piety or tact invited me to a lot of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs where latkas with caviar on top were crucial religious celebratory ingredients. According to the 50 or so lavishly catered affairs I attended between ages 12-15, an ancient coming of age ceremony is simply not complete without novelty Groucho Marx sunglasses, miniature roulette wheels, caricaturists, fountains of chocolate, and sometimes three brand new ponies (no kidding.)

But hey, who am I to complain? I got 50 sweet goodie bags filled with personalized shirts, chocolates, light-up-pens, Tiffany bean necklaces, and sometimes even Bar Mints-vahs (because who wants to visit the holy land with a dirty mouth?)

I also got hours upon hours of awkward 7th grade dance antics, where the girls and boys treated eachother like a hostile enemy species until some coked-up professional "dance motivator" in a sequined vest skipped over and insisted that everyone join in for a mortifying game of "Coke and Pepsi."

Did you guys play Coke and Pepsi? Does anybody else think that having middle school girls repeatedly perch on the laps of middle school boys in the hopes of winning a giant inflatable saxophone borders on inappropriate? Was this just the ingenius plot of some horny group of 12 year olds? Have we been fooled into lap-perching submission for generations at the hands of a pervy pubescent patriarchy?

I didn't really have time to ponder these issues when I was 12-15 because, as I mentioned before, I was usually in the bathroom. These fancy catering halls usually had really fancy bathrooms that weren't even called bathrooms but rather "powder rooms," and the powder rooms were full of perfumes and hairspray and complimentary bouquets of tampax. They were also very quiet, and I found them a welcome escape from the blaring ear-assault of 3 hours of Backstreet Boys and Ricky Martin ickiness, or whoever the terrible pop idol of the era happened to be.

I have tried to be awesome at party socializing. I have tried to steel myself against the blaring music and sweaty handshakes and vapid chitchat about the weather and that yummy guacamole over by the bar. I have tried to imbibe half the contents of said bar in an attempt to enjoy myself more, but then I usually end up right back where I started- in the bathroom- and this time it's not because I'm a wallflower.

It's not that I don't like people. I mean, I don't like a lot of people, but I don't discount them as a race entirely. I think it's just that people were not meant to socialize in massive sweaty hordes of anonymous shouting.

But maybe that's just me.

Am I alone here? Are there other fellow bathroom-dwellers out there who couldn't wait for their Mom to pick them up from the 7th grade dance so they could go home and eat pizza bagels and watch old movie musicals with their cat and-

Well I think I've said too much.

Just to let you know, this candid admission only serves to underscore my allaround social excellence, because only the coolest person you know would willingly tell thousands of people about how she'd rather stab herself in the eye with a salad fork than go clubbing. Right?


Hope all is well, folks. Party on. Or off.


P.S. I'm in the process of editing the very last FINAL FINAL FINAL four pages of the book- a little "special features" section if you will, and I'd love a few more opinions. If you'd be willing to give me your two cents I'll send you the sneak preview. Email me at

Monday, June 8, 2009


How do you write a book?

As I mentioned on Youtube, a lot of people have been emailing me questions about the writing process lately. I figure now is as good a time as any to answer writing questions, because for the next month I will be an Author- a real live, true blue, pen-to-paper author, and after that my family will almost certainly re-dub me "get-a-job-and-move-the-hell-out Friedman."

The first thing that I learned is that writing is a job. It's not just that fun thing you do on the subway when you have nothing better to think about, or that indulgent hobby you store in a diary under your bed for all those times you're feeling très très heartbroken and poetic, or that rusty skill you dust off every time you have some bullshit homework assignment due. Writing is a job, and if you want to make it your job, you have to treat it with respect.

This means a few things:
1. You cannot wait until whimsy beckons you to your keyboard, because whimsy is a fickle muse.
2. You have to get used to the 1/10 idea. Nine tenths of what you write is going to be, according to you, total crap.
3. You have to wallow in a lot of supposed crap before you figure out what it is your subconscious is really trying to express. Don't give up.
4. In terms of raw creativity, your subconscious is valedictorian and your logical, literal mind, rides the short bus. And drools. And eats its own earwax. Leave her out of this.

To expand upon these ideas:

1 : Make yourself a schedule. (I will be the first one to call shenanigans here.) I will tell you that I work best under pressure of a deadline, but really that's a lie. I work only under pressure of a deadline, and if there hadn't been the possibility that I would get sued if I didn't finish this book, I probably wouldn't have gotten past chapter two.

But I knew I had to finish, and I knew this was a big project, so I set lots of little goals. They add up. All you can ask of yourself is to dedicate a little time every day to your project. Every single one of my favorite passages in the book came after at least five minutes of doodling around writing nothing very interesting. I'd write my name. My address. I'd write "I have nothing to write I have nothing to write I have nothing to write." And by and by, my mind would quiet and my fingers would take over and these awesome pages came totally out of nowhere. If I had waited until I "knew" exactly what I was going to write, nothing exciting or surprising would have been written.

Set aside time each day. No page limit, no word count. Just set a timer, and keep your fingers typing (/strumming/stirring/dribbling etc.) for exactly that amount of time. And no matter what you've accomplished by the end of it, you've succeeded. I promise that by the end of a week, you'll be seeing results. It is the hardest thing in the world to start working, especially when your goal is to finish a whole book. But if your only expectation is that you sit down and write for half an hour a day, you'll accomplish it easily. You'll feel accomplished. You'll start to accomplish amazing things. Day by day. You have my word.

2: If I had waited for everything to be perfect in my head, I would have gotten frustrated and stopped months ago. It's happened a million times, with songs, with poems, with short stories- I have a hundred half-finished projects festering in the nooks and crannies of my motherboard. But guess what? Things don't finish themselves, and there's no such thing as a brilliant stroke of insight that fixes every plothole and character arc. Even if you do stumble across a really great idea, you're going to have to work and whittle and move things around before everything fits.

And here's the best part: everything will fit. The reason that you're having such a hard time finishing is the very same reason that you'll be able to finish. If you had absolutely no standards, if you could pull strings of incoherent words out of a barrel and be fine signing your name to them, you'd be finished with all of your projects by now. But you know what you're capable of. You know how great it feels when, on that rare occasion, you write something that's just perfect. That you're proud of. That you want to share with others. Your high standards are often what gets in the way of your finishing a project, because you don't allow yourself the freedom to muck through the ten crappy sentences it takes before you find the good one. But the good news is that these same high standards will allow you to know, to really know, when you finally hit upon something great. So you don't need to worry about whether or not your work will be good. You only need to worry about doing enough work to get down to the good stuff.

3. There is no wrong way to start writing, except to not start. As a die-hard procrastinator, I was not used to the idea of drafts when I began this project. At Yale I would usually not look at my assignments for months, then spend the entire night before a paper was due agonizing over every single word until it was perfect, then print it out never to be seen again. I did not leave room for growth- I just wanted to finish the damn thing. But if you have a project that you care about, you're going to have to nurture it. It won't be perfect the first time around, or the second, or the third. Not only is that okay, that's the only way to really achieve your creative goals.

For a perfectionist like me, this idea was hard to get used to. I wanted Chapter One to be perfect so that I could move on to Chapter Two. I wanted to check it off on my little anal-retentive checklist. But that's not how creative projects work. They evolve from all angles at different speeds. Sometimes your very first chord or lyric or sentence will be influenced by your very last, and you won't know how it all ties together until you get to the end of the process. Things reveal themselves bit by bit, and if you give yourself over to this process, its like solving a fantastic artistic mystery every single day.

This is liberating, people. I used to be Ms. Thesaurus, and I'd sit and stare at my computer for half an hour making sure I had the perfect word. This is NOT the way to write. It will kill your creative spirit and wear you down. It's a waste of your time. Through this process I've learned to trust myself enough to leave things loose. Sometimes I'll know that I need a very certain word, but I can't put my finger on what it is, so I'll leave myself an asterisk in the text and come back to it later. Or I'll make up a fake word as a placeholder. Sometimes I'll reach a spot where I want to touch upon a very broad idea, an entire philosophy which needs to be artfully distilled, but I know that it will take me a long time to find the perfect format, and I'm in a good story flow and I know that wrestling with it will just trip me up. I leave myself a little note, one or two words which will remind me of the big idea I was intending to grapple with, and then later I'll come back.

This approach seems very messy, but it's actually quite relaxing. On the first pass you can just let yourself go crazy- you can write down every single thing that comes into your head without having to insist that the inner critic/editor have approval over every line. The inner critic/editor will be very helpful around the fifth or sixth draft, but in the beginning she only serves to make you feel like crap. When you feel like crap you don't give your ideas a chance, and very soon after you give up completely. Then you don't write anything and you feel worthless. Then you feel worthless so you don't write. Sound familiar?

My best advice is to trust yourself enough to have fun during the writing process. When you stop fixating on what your project should be, you get to discover what it is. And it is NEVER the same thing. Never. Your creative ideal is just a flagpost for the direction in which you'll begin to search, and once you begin to think about it as the search for Tut's tomb instead of the construction of a pyramid, you'll start to feel more sane, have more fun, and get more done. I promise.

4. You know way more than you think you know. I have never come up with a great idea banging my head against a wall willing myself to produce one. It just doesn't work that way. Most of the messages and information we absorb are not processed by our conscious mind, and the reason dreams are so nifty is that they weave together all sorts of snippets which affect us, but which we aren't completely aware of. When I was really "in the zone" while writing the book, it felt very akin to a dream. Things were unfolding in real time, and I recorded my narrative experience as I went through it in my head. And every single time my conscious mind got pissy and started to tell me "that's not funny," "that's not relevant," or "that just sucks," I would totally jar myself out of the zone and into self-doubt and panic. It wasn't fun.

I've mentioned it on the blog before, but I think I should reiterate this because it's such a fantastic writing tool. Get a Suck Jar. Mine is a sugar bowl with a little slot for a spoon. But instead of a spoon, I slide pieces of paper into the slot with every writing insecurity I come across. If I think a passage, paragraph, or project sucks, I write down why, and I put it in my Suck Jar. If I think I'm not funny, I put it in the Suck Jar. And then it's out of my head and I don't have to think about it anymore. I can just move on.

The jar is full of dozens of notes, and when I look back at them now, they all seem ridiculous and hyper critical. If an editor or a friend were to tell me a fraction of those things, I would never let them read my stuff again. But we're all our own worst critics, and we can't get away from ourselves. Which is why it's so important to delineate between pure creative time, and hardcore editing time. Don't start poking holes in your quiche before it's even in the oven.

The best thing I've learned over the course of writing this book is that if you give yourself the space to play out all of your craziest ideas, a judgement-free-zone, you will surprise yourself.

Please let me know about all of your other questions, and do keep me posted on whatever you're working on. Was any of this helpful? Hope all is well!


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Forgive me!

Forgive me for my inexcusable absence. I was frantically finishing up my book. And guess what? I freakin' finished! I still can't really believe it. I keep expecting to leave it in the back of a taxi and then have all power in New York get shut down for weeks by an earth-shattering earthquake so that the internet is down. Then I have to strap the manuscript to my back and embark on an epic quest down the crumbled remains of I-95, during which I will face ravenous hillbillies and giant spiders and evil wizards to get it to my publisher in time to throw it into the volcano. (I also haven't been sleeping very much over these past 2 months, incase you can't tell.)

So in terms of big news, I launched the book yesterday at Book Expo America in NYC, and the reception was absolutely amazing. Thanks to all who came out and got advanced reader's copies. Thanks especially to Mr. McMegatron & Unk Terry for schlepping all the way to the west side before noon.

But first, WHY THE HELL WAS THAT ALL UNDERLINED? I can't find an underline feature here in blogger, and I don't know what the deal is. Thoughts? I'm not typing that over again, so those of you who stuck with me through all of the extra unnecessary emphasis, here are a few pictures from BEA:

Also, got a little bit of a polish in anticipation of BEA, so check out some of the new links.

I plan to start right back up where I left off- I'm terribly sorry I haven't been around and I promise I'll make it up to you. If you have any burning questions you've been dying to get answered, do let me know and I'll keep you posted in the next post. I can't wait to tell you all about the writing process, as I've been contacted by several people in the last few days asking for publication advice. The short answer is: writing is fucking hard. Keep at it, because if you listen to how badly you think it sucks, you'll never give yourself the chance to fix it. And fixing it, (surprise surprise) is fucking hard. The fantastic part of the equation is that as long as you hold yourself to a high standard, you'll know when you're done. You'll know when it's right. It's just a matter of getting there. So shut up and keep writing. There's my short answer. As I mentioned, more to come.

Send me questions, let me know what you've been thinking. Hope all is well and that you're enjoying these sunny summer days. If you're not in a sunny summer place... what the hell are you thinking? New York is just starting to feel like the land of the living instead of some frozen ice-age wasteland, and I think we're all pretty grateful.

Love & Laughter & Lots of productivity,

(also, I'm getting sick of blogger... it's tricky to customize format and I hate the settings. And the rogue underlinings. Are you all loving wordpress? Do you have other recommendations? I think I'm ready for a change. Let me know.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Airline Lie

A treatise:

I contend that there should  be a sound-proof, padded tunnel underneath airline seats in which babies are stored. Toss down some applejuice and Cheerios every few hours and then shut the hatch again and save us all some aggravation for God sakes. I paid good, hard earned money to be ceremoniously crammed between an obese racist and an incontinent octogenarian with muscle spasms for half a day in a seat which-

Hold up. I was going to finish that sentence but I'm too hopping mad. New sentence. 

If you can give me a good reason why (WHY?) they even bother to build in that smarmy little half-inch seat incline capability when they know perfectly well that it only serves to make the seat a hair more bearable before the guy behind you decides that his knee and your spine need to become intimately acquainted for six hours, and why (WHY?) it is so essential they wake you up from the merciful slumber it has taken you six hours to settle into only to have you contort yourself back to the original "upright" position to give you the privilege of experiencing an odorous concerto of your fellow passengers' digestion processes as that marvelous airline dinner takes a triumphant last stand, set to the dizzying swerves of a pilot who is either too young to drink or too drunk to think missing the optimal landing angle for the first, second, third loop, losing the scheduled runway opening, running out of fuel, and then deciding we need to divert to fucking Scranton Pennsylvania... if you can tell me why all these things have come to be synonymous with air travel, then I will apologize for telling a little white lie a little while back. 

Sure, I'm not pregnant. Sure, the faintly rounded rim of my midsection has more to do with Cheese Whiz than jizz. But I don't feel bad about lying my way into business class last week with the claim that I had a bun in the oven. Nobody ever asked me whether or not it was a hamburger bun.

And, well... that's just not my fault. 

Sheepishly, (but with more leg room, blankies, and complimentary cookies than you could shake a stick at,)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Fennel Destination: College Matriculation Questions

Questions questions!

I'm always thrilled and tickled to receive questions on the blog, so please don't interpret my delay as a lack of appreciation for you, only an abundance of appreciation for pirated web television. Also, I'm in Miami at the moment. As much as I cherish you, dear reader, you're no mango margarita mingling with a balmy Atlantic Ocean breeze in the creamy center of a sunny April afternoon. Step up your game. 

My Yale posts (here and here and here) have once again garnered a disproportionate amount of attention as compared to, say, the post where I talk about seaweed. It's like I was challenging an almost universally lauded farce upon which our entire educational system is based or something... And as usual, I am happy to answer these question, but first off, I would like to set down some ground rules so that the jerkoff who thinks it's important to comment about how "biased" I am will have to root through the dictionary for another 100 point word they don't know how to use in context. 

Yes folks, the following opinions regarding higher education will be biased. Because they are opinions. This being the case, and because, sadly, I have not yet perfected the neuro-manipulation device brewing in my basement which will bend all humankind to my will, I expect that my opinion will not reflect that of everyone else in the world. Don't freak out if you don't like what you hear. Or do freak out, but save yourself  time and don't rant about how my experience was NOT the same as yours. Because I won't be surprised. Because you are probably seeing the world through douchebag-colored glasses. Hey-  is it like those red/blue, 3D lenses that cancel out the very color they are tinted? When you look in the mirror do you disappear? 

Moving on. Nestor writes: "I really appreciate all of this insight on Yale... however I still find Yale to be good for me, and I say "think" because I live in Cali and I can't afford going there to visit it. You say Yale is ugly, but I want to know if it is architectural-wise or is it because there's a trash problem or traffic? Or is it just because of the sucky weather?"

Well Nestor, I have three things to tell you. Firstly, if you think Yale is good for you that's fantastic, and far be it from me to tell you otherwise. I can only speak to my own personal experience, and there are plenty of blue-bleeding Yalies who would disagree with everything I'm about to say. 

1. Listen to me when I tell you that New Haven is a pit. Sure, it's safer than it used to be. Sure, there are some fantastic restaurants and art museums. But even the heroin-grade gentrification injections of sushi joints and quirky coffee shops pooling about the perimeter of campus quickly drizzle down into urban decay after literally two blocks.  Three blocks north of my favorite bookstore there was a shooting last year, and three blocks south there was another shooting this year. Now, if you're not wandering the streets alone and intoxicated whilst attempting to juggle your iphone, wallet, and Rolex at 3 AM on a holiday weekend, you're probably going to be okay, but that doesn't detract from the fact that New Haven is not a city I was sad to bid farewell to. It is dark and depressing in the wintertime, but if you're a Californian you're going to be bummed out by all the Ivy climates, so that's not exactly news. 

The Yale campus itself is bustling and there are all sorts of activities to attend every night of the week, as compared to things I've heard from friends at Columbia, for example. It seems when you live in a city which doesn't drain your will to live you're more inclined to branch out and explore, so to Yale's credit, the awfulness of New Haven does inspire a certain insular vibrancy within Yale walls. 

 2. All this said, if every professor and every class I encountered at Yale just absolutely blew my fucking mind, I wouldn't have cared if Yale were located in the Orc-forging pits of Mordor. But they didn't. So if you're coming to Yale for the architecture then perhaps you'll be contented three times over the course of your education.


-The moment you step on campus and behold the grandeur of Yale buildings before realizing you'll be expected to inhabit a room approximately the size of a microwave oven. And oh yes, you'll be sharing that room with a manic-depressive, hyperactive, obsessive-compulsive. And oh yes, she needs to practice her tap-dancing routine every night before bed. And oh yes, she has gas problems. 

-When your grandparents come to visit.

-When you see your college 'neath the first blanket of virgin snow before you realize you'll have to trudge through the damn stuff for the next four months anytime you want to see sunlight.

3. Sure, it's nice to walk outside and see pretty gothic architecture. But do you really want to lay down a quarter mil. just to see bootleg versions of things you could see for free at a tour of Oxford? I'm sure this is not the only criterion upon which you're basing your Yale decision, but it concerns me that it's the only one you mentioned. Too often when I worked in the admissions office I saw people totally bowled over by impressive facts that had no bearing on education at all... the prettiness of some buildings, the number of kids rejected each year, the fact that we had a Gutenberg bible. 

Think of college tours like Coca Cola commercials. They  conveniently leave out the tooth-dissolving, rainforest-raping, cancer-causing details in the lyrics of their snap-happy theme songs. So feel free to sing along, but don't forget to do your own research before deciding to... oh I don't know... bathe in the stuff for four years straight. 

Another question:

"Yale has been my #1 choice for a long time, and I was admitted EA, so you can understand that I am dismayed at, if enlightened by, this blog. Plus, it's way too late to change where I applied, though I haven't comitted to Yale yet. So, out of curiosity, where would you go if you had to pick from the following institutions: Yale, Michigan (probable full-ride), Iowa (probable full-ride), Amherst, Harvard, and Stanford..."

Well… I have no idea. Seriously. The only school I ever went to was Yale, so that's the only school I can tell you about with any real credibility. I can’t stand the ranking systems which claim to accurately rank some schools above others based on categories as despicably irrelevant as "peer review," (i.e. popularity contest stats.) If you take anything away from this post, please remember that the same school which was a perfect fit for one person will be a terrible fit for another. So start doing your research. Some people want a strong focus on classical core curriculum, some people want to have access to particle colliders, some people want to be able to major in digeridoo. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you really want. 

We're not used to doing this. We know what teachers want. What our parents want. We know what the traffic cops want and what the IRS wants. But rarely are we ever encouraged to really truly look inward and give ourselves permission to name what we want. And this is the essential first step to answering your question. Tell me what you want your education to look like and we can start planning from there. 

Let's be frank: I wanted prestige and I got it. I didn't reflect deeply enough to recognize that what I also wanted was artistic freedom and creative interdisciplinary curriculum, so I didn't really get it. Be honest with yourself. 

You mentioned the possibility of a free ride to several of your other college options. This is kind of a biggie, especially if you, like me, are going to be up to your ears in student loans until you're 30 if you decide to go with Yale. 

Was  it worth it?

Well here’s the thing. There is no significant distinction between the salaries of people who went to Ivy League schools and people who got into Ivy League schools but didn’t end up going. The Ivy Leagues take credit for the successes of a lot of kids who would arguably have been just as successful anywhere else.

But there’s more. Fascinatingly, there is also no distinction between the career success of people who attended Ivy League schools versus people who simply applied, even if they were rejected. If you have the balls to think that you belong at Yale, then odds are you’ve got the gusto required to kick ass in the real world no matter where you get your B.A. from, and if you’ve already been accepted then that’s just even more confirmation of your capability. So listen to me when I  tell you this:

You do not need Yale.

I guarantee that anything you will learn there you can learn on your own with equal parts curiosity and dedication. If you’re making an investment in brand name because you want to be affiliated with an institution that spits out more politicians than all the bustiest White House interns combined, that’s great, but don’t get caught up in the idea that turning down an Ivy will screw you out of the best life has to offer. Statistically, just the fact that you applied makes you a winner.

So here’s what you should do: remove the idea that attending an Ivy League school will make you a successful person from your decision making process entirely. There’s nothing you can learn there that you can’t learn with a library card and some intellectual curiosity.

If you plan to become a beat poet it’s probably not a good idea to go into debt just to get a silly Ivy degree, but if you’re eyeing law school I cannot deny the persuasive powers of those three little letters... I V Y

So now sit down with your folks and figure out what really makes sense for you. Do you want a stellar film studies department? Do you need to have a car? Are you planning on going to medical school? Do you want to be able to ice skate?  I know you’re going to hate that answer but it’s really the best one there is. Anybody who purports to know which school is better for you than another is not thinking about you. They’re thinking about brand names, spouting out propaganda, and exhibiting exactly the type of nitwittery that big businesses hope they can induce in the general population by showing us big tits and shiny objects and cool guys smoking cigarettes.


Final Question:

Hello :) what do you know about other Ivy League schools?... Are they all as bad as Yale?

I don’t know that much about other Ivy League schools other than the disparaging facts we were required to spout off to tour groups at the admissions office whenever anybody asked for an Ivy comparison. There isn’t a “campus life” at Columbia like at Yale. Penn  lacks our resources, Princeton our open-mindedness, and Harvard is socially stunted.  If that sounds like a crock to you then you’re absolutely right because none of these schools, including Yale are “bad.” They’re different. And each one is going to tell you that their differences make them better than all the other ones. But the truth is that no matter how perfectly some fancy Five Star Restaurant prepares the most succulent Roast duck leg with fennel and rosemary that has ever been served in the entire history of the culinary world, I am going to hate it.

Because I fucking hate fennel.

Hate it. Even writing the word fennel makes me wince. Fennel. Ugh. Fucking eiw. It’s like someone taking a dump in your throat.

And I will leave you with that lovely parting image. Not to gross you out, but rather to make you truly consider the subjectivity of preference, and to encourage you to discover and honor your educational goals and the things that make you want to hurl. Because guess what? No matter how important your parents and teachers and friends are telling you this decision is, once you graduate with or without a Yale degree in four years you’ll still have only just begun your educational journey. So figure out what you want to be doing now and start doing it a little at a time. That’s the best advice I can give you and it doesn’t require an Ivy League school, just the audacity to listen to yourself and to follow through.

If you really want to be happy with your decisions, listen, learn, and stay the hell away from your very own personal fennels, no matter how well respected they may be. 

Stay sane folks. Keep me posted and keep the questions coming.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome to LA?

Two posts in three days? Shocking.

Another recent shock:

I returned from Los Angeles last week, and the next time I go it might just be for keeps.

You see, ever since I was in gradeschool LA was a faraway dreamy land of giant donuts, giant apes, giant princess-castles, giant breasts, and egos... I visited family there from time to time, sunbathed and sushi-dined for a weekend of two, but I always returned dutifully and shivering to the NorthEast. To the real America. The place where you suffer through winter to deserve the spring.

Well now that I am no longer bound to the shackles of academia, I realize that I deserve the spring all the goddamn time. Why not? Isn't there enough bullshit in life without the added hassle of wind giving you perpetual icy smacks whenever you walk down the street? Do you think I'll grow jaded without a seasonal reality check? Take for granted the tender crocus blooms, the ever-present, effervescent verdigris of fragile life emerging from the wintery clutches of February frost? Will I lose my soul in sunny California sacrilege?

Perhaps I will...Whilst my soul is contemplating how many layers it will need to survive the icy trek to the mailbox, the rest of me will be at the beach. Suck it. Manifest Destiny baby.

But then again, why should my migration stop in California? I definitely wouldn't have the funds to get back, but hypothetically I have enough pocket change combined with waitressing, crude juggling, haggling, busking, whining, and top-secret ninja capabilities to get me from here to Tuxson, Tunisia or Tasmania by next Thursday.

Still, the smart money is on my being exactly where I am right now by next Thursday. Namely, sitting on my ass, staring into this magical technology box and typing. It will be the day after my first big final-revision meeting with my editor. And it will mark an intense edit binge in which I will attempt to make all 200 some-odd pages of Everything Sucks not suck at all. There, I fixed that word. Only 87,947 to go.

Recently I've noticed that every now and then, my aunt looks at me like I'm some sort of delicious pastry. Thousands of impossibly thin layers of the finest filo filled with the yummiest, juiciest, sweetest-ness there ever was. "You can do anything you want," she muses wistfully whilst balancing a tray of mini pizza bagels as one of her small children shoves a dinosaur-shaped crayon up their nose while another lobs a crayon-shaped dinosaur at the other one's forehead.

She's kinda right. I have no kids, no mortgage, no husband... people like Obama have the entire free world to juggle. And compared to the entire free world, no matter what the fashion magazines may say, I'm a pretty light load.

Which makes the unrealized potential all the more weighty. I could move to Tahiti and be a scuba instructor. I could move to Timbuktu to get a Masters in Mansa Musa's Malian mosques... why am I sitting here talking to you?

Because I don't really know what I want to do. I know plenty things that I like to do, but I'm pretty sure you can't get paid for most of them... or at least not in the way you'd want your grandmother to find out about.

I read an article in the NYT magazine recently about the "facebook generation," and how having a perpetual anchor to our past-selves, past-relationships, past-fashion-disasters, might be some sort of albatross for future re-invention. And maybe she's right. Maybe for all of our touted photo-tele-interwebbing connectivity, we're actually more isolated than before, just by virtue of the fact that we can never truly escape our before.

Not that we every truly could. But at least before you could bundle up your before into subconscious insulation and gallop off into the sunset without everyone you ever knew getting a front row seat. I know that nostalgia is like those icky chalky Valentine's day candy hearts though- always looks better than it tastes. But still, don't you long for the good ol' days when you could completely sever ties with everyone just by hopping in your horse and buggy and heading due West? Rob banks without security cameras and invisible laser beams ruining your fun?

But alas, in these days of social security numbers and Google-earth satelites and reality TV shows, we are nothing if not kept-tabs-on. "Truth" aside, (because what does that mean anyway?) the world appears to be more of a stage now than it has ever been before. Marketing experts want to know all about your buying habits. Medical experts want to know all about your living habits. The government is keen to eye your political leanings. Join a facebook group. A panlist. Cringe in horror when someone from your distant past uploads a photo of you in the peak of your adolescent awkwardness for all the virtual world to see.

I don't really know where I'm going with all this. Waitwait I do, but it's a forked path so let's do one of those Choose Your Own Adventure dealies:

If you want to read something uplifting, scroll to conclusion 1.
If you want to read something cynical, scroll to conclusion 2.
If you want to read something ambiguous, scroll to conclusion 3.

1. Maybe it's not a bad thing that we're moving away from the once-traditional smalltown "community" towards a Big Brother-esque mixture of complete isolation and complete transparency. Sure, increasing the critical strike change of your WoW death coil to help your guild isn't the same as bringing a ham home for family dinner, but you could argue that some people who would never have found any outlet or community before the internet are now surrounded by like niche minds. See: ferret-lovers. beanie-babie-lovers. sneeze-porn lovers. etc. And with the confidence to know that you're not alone in your insanity, maybe you'll find some insane calling in an insane locale and be insane enough to move there and do it. Maybe you'll have the confidence to envision and then enact insane things like happiness , cooperation, and peace. An island made entirely out of marshmallows. A great job with health insurance which revolves around kittens and cartoons and sunshine.

2. Gen Y is fucked. The economy is fucked, the education system is fucked, and this very obvious fucktitude is underscored by the subtle but constant crescendo of a soon-to-be devastating spiritual bankruptcy rooted in our ever-increasing alienation from nature. Political upheaval, famine, war, some sort of dark overlord... all of this only slightly mitigated by the possibility of a Water World-esque post-apocalyptic landscape. Gunna get me some swimmies and goggles and have a splashhappy time. Everyone is watching you and nobody cares because we're all going to die, so move somewhere hilarious to do something that doesn't suck before you get too old to go to the bathroom by yourself.

3. The universe as you experience it is an illusion, is always in flux, and yet it is always connected, as it all originated at the same moment in time, keeping in mind that time is also an illusion, just like integrity, privacy, and this thing:

So it doesn't really matter where you go because you always were where you're going to be......

I'd like to amend my previous post. I think everybody's goal is to do stuff they like in a place they like with people they like. If you've got even one out of the three, that's a damn good start. And if you're tired of chilly darkness nipping at your heels for half the year, and have always dreamed of making stories come to life, you might have to be brave and take a plunge in the form of crammed-full U-haul barreling towards the Pacific. Or at least that's what my gut's been telling me when it's not delirious- drowning in delicious, anxiety-soothing dairy products... ah to be giddy and gassy and on the verge of forging a new trail.

That's all I got folks. Mostly I don't know what the f I'm doing with my life, but I think I'm in good company. Tell me what you think. And think about what you would do, where you would go if you knew that nobody you've ever met, nobody who's ever even a vague acquaintance of your distant facebook friends, would be able to know about it. Also, where's your crazy dream-relocation? I'm thinking tie between Thailand, Burma, and pre-Miraz Narnia. But not the bloody freezing part that's close to the stupid wardrobe please.

Keep me posted.


Monday, March 16, 2009


These are all real things I did today in an attempt to justify not writing this:

Voluntarily cleaned the kitchen (unheard of.)
Extracted a tick out of my cat's neck (also unheard of. Their gross little jaws make me nauseous.)
Ran up and down and up and down and up the hill, exhausting entire Thriller album.
Made a new running playlist.
Researched Siddhartha, Monsanto, Bullfrogs, and the history of toothpaste.

I don't know quite what it is about the blank page which is so anxiety-provoking. I've mentioned before and will repeat (if only to affirm a twinkle of writerly sanity) that when I finally get through all the hemming and hawing and Billy-Jean-Is-Not-My-Lover sprinting, I usually am pleased with at least a kernel of what I end up with. And yet, the sitting still seems a Herculean undertaking.

And I don't use that adjective lightly. Gazing into vast and utter incompleteness of a project is daunting, but infusing that barren landscape with all of the intention and story and artfulness and humor you know that it should have often seems positively preternatural.

That's because it is. You're making something where once there was nothing. It's a fucking headache. Even God got tuckered out after six days of the whole rigamarole.

I've been thinking a lot about my brother lately. Mostly because we are stuck on this godforsaken hill together with Russian-Roulette-on-wheels as the only escape vehicle. (what'll it be today? faulty brakes? blown tire? a gruesome death-squeal every time you flick the blinker?) He took the year off from college and has four years of collegiate requirements ahead of him. I cannot believe. CANNOT BELIEVE. That I am a teensy bit jealous.

See, back when I was in school I had this really great catch-all excuse for anything that ailed me creatively. If it weren't for the Man, I'd have the freedom to make my Opus. Damn the Man, with his busywork and finals and required readings (which I didn't do, but which the stress of not doing undoubtedly clogged my creative pores with guilty, Ivory, heteronormative, puritanical junk to the popping point... seriously. Being bossed around is super hard. Poor me poor me etc. etc.)

Hmmm..... Cut to post-Man.

Now that I am both Manless and Opusless I'm feeling more hopeless by the moment. Because if all that's standing between me and those amazing pet-projects I dreamily envisioned during loooooooong, poorly organized psych lectures is me, then what was stopping me in the first place?

No, shut up. The answer is not me. Shutupshutup. I mean, it is me, of course, but I'd like to take a moment to expound upon the possibility that "me" is less the answer than the problem.

When I am scribbling in my notebook, I write all sorts of bullshit that nobody, including me, will likely be able to understand. When I sit down to write a blog post, I have a certain expectation for myself. For you, the reader.

When I sit down to write a book, this expectation is launched into hyperspace with the help of all sorts of combustible anxieties ranging from "are people going to buy this?" and "can I really get away with doing this for a living?" to "what defines my existence if not my actions? and shouldn't I be maximizing my self-creation by soaking in all of the scholarly brilliance of minds past instead of watching Gossip Girl and writing for teens? or does the transitory nature of life point to ultimate understanding as a transcendence of minutia into a broader acceptance of the unity of everything? Should I cast off all worldly possessions and go move to Varanasi? Do they get Gossip Girl in Varanasi??? [Enter every hysterical doubt about Love, Art, Religion, my Purpose, my Body, my Brain, my Sanity, etc.]

[All afforementioned players strike up a blaring ticker-tape parade across my prefrontal cortex complete with bagpipes and tubas and confidence confetti. ]

Even when I'm being super nice to myself, when Ethel* is tied up in some cerebral cellar somewhere, I psych myself out with...myself.

Anytime I sit down just for the fun of it with absolutely no expectations, without narrating my own creative process as it's unfolding, without freaking out about how much I haven't done, and how much I have to do, and what this process implies about my worth as a human being and my ability to function in society and find meaning and avoid being run over by my own shitty car... stuff gets done. And really, can we ask anything more of ourselves than to get some stuff done? Even if it's not the best stuff, the perfect stuff, its stuffliness alone should suffice in the face of nothing. Procrastination. Endless potential without followthrough...

I think if Old Testament God had thought too much about the longterm repercussions of his creation-binge he wouldn't have bothered to get past light and dark. Who needs all that water and wind and all those beastly seagulls shrieking around all over the place? Not to mention man and sin and Cain and genocide and totalitarianism and zealots endlessly trying to put words in God's mouth... figuring out what he was thinking... though if God is omniscient then he knew that would happen... knew that I'd be thinking about his thinking from the very first thought... in which case what sort of divine wisdom am I supposed to be gleaning from this cyclical-

NO. Enough meandering. Back to business.

I'm sorry I haven't been more active on the blog recently. When I finish a post I can't wait to start a new one, but with each passing day it gets more and more difficult to live up to my own expectation of what would justify and ameliorate such an extended absence. So let this be a lesson to... me. Just do the stuff and worry about what it means later. Because even after all that brooding you're not really going to know what it means anyway, and interesting work is absorbed and torn and tasted and digested by a million different people who won't give a damn about what you thought it meant anyway, so you might as well just get going gone.

Gone from where? More like gone from whom. I think.

(therefore I waffle.)
[and want a waffle.]
(and have no discipline)
[or future.]
....or talent or time or tact or grasp on reality or
Rinse.. Repeat..

There's only one conclusion and it's agonizingly short: Do stuff. Do. Stuff. This blog post marks my emergence from a (truth be told) pretty depressing bout of unproductiveness, and it sucks to feel like a shmuck. Sucks even more than the possibility of failing miserably at doing the stuff that you're not doing. Logically this makes sense, but I don't think logic has ever been man's most closely heeded advisor, so don't beat yourself up for knowing and not listening to this. Every day is a new day with new stuff to be done. So do some easy stuff or some hard stuff without worrying which type it is and what it will mean, it's just stuff all the same. Do let me know how you're doing. Do reward yourself for little victories.

And do know that the do-itude of yesterdays has no bearing on domorrow...

Much Love & Productivity,


Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Musings: Amazing Animation

That's right people, I'm not giving up on Monday Musings, even if I've missed pretty much every Monday since its inception. Take this as steadfast dedication or mulish stubbornness... either way it seems to be a solid virtue on the ancient path of getting shit done. 

Yesterday I rented Monster's Road, a documentary about a prolific yet obscure clay animator named Bruce Bickford. I highly recommend the film- this guy is fascinating. Not only because of his talent or unbelievably voluminous attention to the tiniest of details, sculpting dozens and dozens of almost identical forms descending in size millimeter by millimeter, not only because he's essentially a one-man movie-studio and his father is positively Shakespearean with his half-genius, half-curmudgeon, all alzheimer-inspired haze of eerie pondrances, but because Bruce is clearly working through some issues.

This guy is the perfect example of why 99.9% of art and literary criticism is laughable. Before I saw the documentary I sat through Bruce Bickford's animated short Prometheus's Garden, and I was throwing around all sorts of ancient Greek symbolism, Dadaism, stuff from Freud and Proust, isms here, isms there, isms isms everywhere. Turns out Bruce was beat up a lot as a little kid, and he vented his frustration by imagining a word in which "little guys" could have power- the power to punish jerks, to become giants, and the power to create. 

Bruce shakes his head with bewilderment describing his reaction when someone asked him to describe the symbolism in his film... for Bruce, a story is just a story, and there doesn't have to be an explicit reason for the warrior to morph into a giant werewolf/milkshake... (you just have to check it out, believe me.)

It's not entirely uplifting. Bruce's work has been largely unrecognized and underappreciated, his relationship with his father seems icy at best, and although he has produced a massive amount of material and is proud of his work, sometimes I thought he seemed a little lonely surrounded by all of his thousands of sculpted clay figures... a little lost.

But he's also extremely self-reflective and admits that all the dark fantasies which resulted from his sucky childhood were channeled into his art. I find this idea extremely appealing. Especially during a time when I'm looking back over the past 17 years in academia and hating myself for not being more...

More of everything. More social, more serious about practicing music, more accepting, more relaxed, more adventurous, more studious, more fun... Sometimes it seems like there's no hope of starting today fresh because there have been so many shitty days prior. Days when you didn't do your best, days when other people screwed you over and stole away your sunshine, days of disappointment and failed diets and dumped dates. Sometimes it feels like you're working against the massive pull of that vast darkness, and that it's not even logical to hope you can overcome.

Well Bruce didn't overcome so much as repurpose. He took all the blackness and rolled it around in his palms until it was soft and pliable and he used it- prodded and sculpted and beat it into hundreds of thousands of frames of concentrated energy... truly an art of catharsis. This guy has modeled one rocky childhood into an ever-evolving, unbelievably complex source of inspiration. None of this art would have ever existed if he'd grown up with The Cleavers.

Which is to say, don't despair of an un-ideal past, of missed opportunities and regrettable happenings which you think may be holding you back. They might just as well be the very palate which you'll use to paint the newest, most innovative, and passionate chapter of your own story. 

We're all goddamn crazy. And people who seem the least crazy are usually simmering the fiercest just below the surface. So take all that crazy and use it to sculpt something awesome. You are in charge of your story, and you might as well make it so that all the bullshit was worth your while in the end. Then you'll have gotten the better of every darkness. You'll be using it, instead of the other way around. 

I'm not saying artists are the happiest people in the world.  But I am saying there's a reason perfect people don't make art. Either they don't exist, or they don't have enough clay. 


Keep smiling, keep believing, keep me posted.