All I want for the mandated festive period is ...

I will post an actual Holidailies entry soon, but I just had to share one of my favourite pick-me-ups.

Red wings and darker beak.


I’ll save you the tally of scratches and cuts. It’s more than a few, and two are especially bothering me. I can’t seem to move my right hand without brushing or bashing its most irritating injury against something scratchy or pointy, and my left middle finger has become a dowsing rod for paper cuts.

This happens in cycles: my hands will be mincemeat for a month, and then normal again for longer. There are echoes of a worse time that I have to ignore. Don’t read the news, either. If you squint, you can see doom lurking in all corners.

In case of increased neurosis, throw self into a routine reboot. Three days to catch up on.

Sunday was another busy day at work, and I only had time to catch a quick bite between work and the Illicit Ink Underground show, but I was glad I didn’t skip the meal. I arrived at the Bongo Club just as my second wind kicked in, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. There were performances from familiar faces like Bloc comrades Andrew C. Ferguson and Gavin Inglis as well as people I hadn’t seen before, which is always a pleasure. Being an active part of the literary community here is far more important to me than I realised, and so I need to ensure I have the time and focus to participate.

On Monday, I was extremely lonely and found myself obsessively clicking on nothing in particular in order to find some connection. I didn’t find it. In fact, it made me feel worse, because everything I read was either depressing news about the state of humanity or cool things that my faraway friends have done or are about to do. Around lunchtime, I finally gave up and resigned myself to feeling lonely that day. I curled up with a book while I ate and immediately felt a little better, so I decided to try a new rule this month: no email, feeds, social media, or anything at all on my computer or other devices during mealtimes or other breaks.

Tuesday was a quiet day of database research and housecleaning, and then I spent the evening with friends in their lovely flat, enjoying a delicious dinner and their company as well as their small menagerie. I took the video above a few weeks ago. (I realised too late that I was filming in portrait instead of landscape mode. Please forgive me.) Something I regret about my time in San Francisco is that I didn’t make more of an effort to be social with my friends there. Social time has been something I’ve sacrificed often in the name of responsibilities. I won’t make that mistake again, and tonight was a good reminder.

Title credit: from “Leda” by H.D.

Fifty-fifty-fifty and burning all your money.

So I’m drifting on a sea of sadness and the only way I know how to get out of it is to shove this “too busy for [thing I like to do]” stupidity off the raft.

Last year I didn’t read many books or see many films, so this year I’m aiming to consume 50 of each. Throw your favourites at me in the comments.

And today I decided to add another goal onto that: I want 50 rejection letters for my writing. I’d rather get 50 acceptances, of course, but rejection means I’m submitting stories which means I’m writing stories which means I’m doing what I love. I’ll be tallying it up on my fiction page if you want to follow along.

Yesterday I finished the first draft of my story for Bloc’s show in the Edinburgh International Science Festival. As per usual, my first idea completely morphed into something else. It’s become a pattern: the first idea is the cocoon that turns into the butterfly. Or, in my case, the slipstream moth.

My Bloc pal Bram a/k/a Texture is always creating interesting, evocative stuff. He announced his new poetry video a few weeks ago but I just made the mental space to sit down and appreciate it. I was mesmerised. Tell me what you think. And please share it if you enjoy it.

Pop music.

Warning: this video is not safe for … anything, really. I don’t know. It makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe.

So yesterday I listened to the entire actual song of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” and blood did not seep out of my eyes. It’s not a horrible song, just a mediocre pop-ballad thing. I think the video is idiotic, but when parodies like this exist, I can’t complain too loudly.

Sharks recently mentioned Pop Danthology 2013, and while I am glad I watched it, I’ve never been so glad to see Justin Timberlake in all my life. His latest album isn’t doing much for me, but I’d rather listen to JT than the rest of the current pop stars.

Except for Lorde. If you want a fantastic pop record of 2013, Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” is it.

Writing from: bed. Listening to: both cats snoring, and they’re just out of sync. How do I sync them up? Please send me your tips.

Black swans surfing.

Sometimes we don’t struggle against the current. Sometimes we just go with the flow.

Writing from: bed, with the electric blanket on, both kitties in attendance. Listening to: the wind, which sounds like ocean surf.

Sleeping is a gateway drug to being awake.

(Ed. Note: I forgot to hit “post” on yesterday’s draft before I went out for the evening, so you get two Two TWO entries today.)

Okay, maybe I listen to things that aren’t They Might Be Giants. Sometimes. (Often.) So I’ll add a credit line to the end of each post.

Mako wrote this excellent post about film soundtracks two days ago. As much as I love listening to catchy songs with clever lyrics, I get distracted by them while I’m trying to work, so film soundtracks are solid listening choices for me. Today I enjoyed that Rdio station immensely as I cranked through some database stuff.

Because I am a little pathetic, I listened to Austra’s “Feel It Break” while eating dinner because that album reminds me of FunkyPlaid.

And this evening I spent some time talking to another musically-inclined friend, who recommended Bill Frisell’s “Nashville” album to me. I loved it, so I looked Mr. Frisell up on the intertubes and found this video of a duet he did this year with Chick Corea. I know next to nothing about jazz – so those among you who have opinions about this sort of thing are expected to share them and enlighten me – but I enjoyed this interplay between two different styles very much. Maybe you will too.

Writing from: a less cluttered table, lusting after a standing desk. Listening to: “Family” by Bill Frisell. Post title from: TMBG’s “Wearing a Raincoat”.

Enthusiasm and elitism.

Normally I try to keep the rants to a minimum here, although arguably this is the one place on the Internet I can guiltlessly rant until my fingers run out of steam. But over the past few months I have read a number of irritating blog posts by elitists directed at enthusiasts. I wrote most of this two months ago and decided not to post it because I didn’t want to be a giant whiny-head. But tonight, after watching this amusing and relatable video by Hank Green (especially 1:55-2:04), I’ve decided to post it.

First of all, I speak as an enthusiast, not an elitist. This should be glaringly obvious because this has never been a “subject blog” based on my interest in writing, information science, running, gaming, food, or anything else. I love many things and I write about them all here. Other words for an enthusiast such as myself include amateur, dilettante, and dabbler. The common vein here is a lack of ability, focus, and/or talent that separates this level of connection with a subject from a higher, elite level. Although I actively attempt to improve my skill in a number of different subjects, I have not yet attained elite status in any of them.

The blog posts I refer to often place the elitists as victims, dejected and despondent over the state of their fields being overrun by perhaps well-meaning but nevertheless hapless and clueless enthusiasts who plaster their fledgling fascinations over social media with the assumed expectation that they will be validated in some manner. A tangent to this phenomenon is the idea of the “fake geek girl”, which is one of the sillier notions entertained by the Internet herd, and so I won’t waste any time with it here. (If you believe that the idea of the “fake geek girl” has any merit whatsoever, stop reading this now and go away. There is nothing for you here.)

I was lucky enough to be born to parents who encouraged all of my interests, who never labelled my fascination with Sherlock Holmes and science fiction and Matchbox cars and trains as “too boyish” or tried to veer me back into the safety of “girly” toys, although I had Barbies and horse figurines and a dollhouse too. Moreover, I was taught to share the things I enjoyed, regardless of the level I would achieve in them. As a perfectionist, this wasn’t an easy concept for me to grasp, and I still struggle with it. It is a natural impulse to want to be accomplished at the things we love, and yet being good at something starts off with being bad at it. Ira Glass’ quote on creativity comes to mind:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

So, elitists, here is my question for you. Do you not remember being awful at the thing you do best? Maybe you didn’t start out at the same level as the rest of us. Maybe you were a prodigy. Fair enough. Maybe you were never awful at that thing. You’ve still improved significantly in some aspects, right? What if the then-you read what the now-you is writing about your thing? Would the then-you be crushed, deflated, humbled … or merely wonder what turned the now-you into such a pretentious git?

If I only ever run for the joy of it, if I only cook delicious food for my family, if I suck aggressively at the things I love and write about them here, it is okay. It is okay to love something even if we suck at it. And if you don’t suck at what you love, if you have the extremely good fortune to have externally-recognised success in it, relish your success in a way that doesn’t disparage amateurs. You were one once yourself.

The Scared is scared, a short film from Bianca Giaever.

Cocktails for Two

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.