Lost Brain Cycles

Scalzi tweeted back at someone for criticizing him. He’d complained before about how writing during trying times sucked and someone essentially told him to get his act together and quit whining or whatever. Scalzi basically outlined how creating under bad circumstances robs an artist of their productivity and all creators regret having “lost brain cycles”

Damn that wonderful man. That’s exactly how I feel about it too.

I’ve got to study. I’ve got to occasionally do work. I’ve got to pay bills, go shopping, make food, clean up, do laundry, spend time fixing the kids’ problems and occasionally fix a problem or two of my own. All of that is time I could use to create. to write.

Obviously there’s times one must work and times one must play and sometimes there’s time to create- it’s not all about just creating. But when times are hard, it’s not just about time on your watch, it’s about energy, creative juices, inspiration and feeling well enough to even try. Because (and this becomes more true as you get older) you absolutely must give your body and brain down time. Even if all I did during the day was fret over bills, that was still stressful and upsetting and now I need “off time” – except now I’ve got to go to the grocery store and get food. Which is more stress; figuring out what I can afford and what is appropriate and what will stretch my dollar etc

After a few days of this kind of thing, there’s not much left in me for creating.

People say “just sit down and do it!” and I wish it were that simple. The last time I sat down with every intention of working on my writing, I got maybe a paragraph done before I realized I was falling asleep. The time before that I sat for 40 minutes and wrote perhaps one sentence, because my mind kept wandering away. Another time I re-read the same two sentences twenty times before I gave up being able to even understand what I’d previously wrote.

Duress is normal, sure. Creators can create under duress, sure. But we need basic survival things out of the way in order for creativity to continue. (This is why Patreon exists)

I wish I could create a fund for myself that made it so I didn’t have to fret over money, not clean houses and maybe even hire someone to do some of my basic errands once in a while. Or maybe just rent a cabin for a week. So I could focus on nothing but writing for a whole week. I wonder how much I could get done? I wouldn’t even have to worry about what time I slept or woke up. I’d get up when *I* felt rested and then after a few cups of coffee and sitting on the porch swing looking at trees, I’d get up and start writing. And knowing me, I’d write all day without even realizing what time it was. And I’d start yawning and find out I’d written into the night, I’d made quick food for myself and eaten while still writing. I’d fall asleep on the couch while thinking of my next chapter. I’d not want to stop until I felt finished.

It would be glorious.

But that’s not the kind of thing you can do when you’re still worried about how you’re going to keep the electricity from being shut off or whether you’re going to pass that next exam. In fact you’re probably going to fail in school which means you’ll never get a decent career which means you’ll never have enough money to even think about escaping this cycle of poverty; you’ll always and forever be fretting about bills, time and energy until you DIE and those wonderful stories trapped inside will never be shared.

JK Rowling, you say? May I remind you that she went through everything I’m talking about in the seven years it took her to write the very first Harry Potter book. Think about how much she could have gotten done without all that? Once she was on a decent track to financial non-duress, she didn’t have to take seven years to write the next book.

That’s what I’m talking about.

So support your favorite writer. Even if they aren’t writing anything right now.

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So You’re Going to a Haunted House

Well! You’re going to pay money to go to go a haunted house? Awesome! Let’s run through some basics first, shall we?

You DO know that this is live entertainment, right? This isn’t a movie, or a game or a museum. It’s more or less a participatory improv piece. You get to actually walk through a set and see actors perform for YOUR entertainment. How cool is that, right?! So remember that while this entertaining, the people you see in masks and makeup and puppetry and stunts are actual people – they are not there for you to hit, punch, kick or otherwise beat up. In fact, that’s known as assault and battery and it’s a very real criminal charge which you COULD get slapped with if you think it’s hilarious to abuse the actors in the haunt. Many haunts have security personnel walking through it at all times. Many have the OWNERS walking through randomly. Some even have video cameras. So you WILL be caught. Actors want to entertain you – it’s the craft and their talent. Don’t punish them for doing their job. Reward them by screaming, laughing, or even just nodding with a “well done” smile.

You know that you are no the only person doing this, right? Of course there are OTHER People who are also doing the same thing, both in front of and behind you. So let’s bear that in mind and not mess up their enjoyment, okay? Like don’t stomp all over their fun by pointing out the scares for them. They didn’t pay for you to ruin their fun. Also, try not to overact your part so that you physically run into those other people. Running into someone, being trampled or hit is no fun for anyone. And could get you in trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing.

You know that the actors in the house are all types of people, right? There is a surprising number of physically disabled, differently abled and plain old “freaks” who work the haunts. That girl with a bloody stump on her shoulder? It’s likely she actually does not have an arm. That guy in a wheelchair? Probably actually needs that wheelchair. Even the with with the cane could likely have a disability that requires her to use a cane. Haunted house work is one of the few places a person with a different type of body can not just be proud of themselves but really capitalize on it. Don’t be a douche and say stupid things about their difference. And for gawds sake do NOT go up and mess around with their device. Whether or not it’s “real” it’s a part of the show, not a toy for you to play with. Not only could you be messing with something the actor really needs you could be costing hundreds of dollars worth of damage. Whcih you will be liable for if anyone sees you. And actors have gotten hurt by patrons who thought they were being hilarious. It’s not hilarious to mess with someone’s medical device. We also clearly have all body types at the haunt. We don’t need to hear your opinion on body types either. A haunt is a place to be entertained by the fantastical – why would you want to bring mundane stupidity into the mix by commenting on someone’s looks or body type?

SPECIAL NOTE: Yes, we also have actors of all ethnicity and races too. That person who is wearing a full body costume and mask might actually be the race you are making stupid comments about so it’d probably be a good idea to shut your mouth about your ironic nazi-esque views. In fact, you people who think it’s funny to act like a nazi should probably just stay home. We don’t want your money until you grow up a little more.

You know that haunted houses are places of business and plenty of research and testing goes into how they are arranged and setup right? It’s not random that there is a horrific grating noise when you walk into this hall but a quiet whisper when you walk into that hall. Haunt owners and crew work very hard all year round to find the best ways to entertain people and they are good at what they do (or else the haunt would have closed down by now). It’s an actual industry. They hire artists to do sets, technicians to do sound and lights, computer experts for all manner of things… a LOT goes into the haunt before you ever walk in the door. So why would you want to waste your money by missing any of it? Walk in a normal pace! Look around! Not everything is terrifying, some things are actually crafty, artistic, interesting, even collectable items on display! There’s no need to run through with your eyes covered – if you don’t want ot get scared, merely walk directly behind another couple. If you are in the middle of a line of people, it is extremely unlikely you will get scared. Actors only have so much time to get each group and if you’re the third or fourth person, you’ll probably see the scare of the person in front far away enough it won’t bother you. Then you can appreciate everything in the haunt without being scared if that’s your thing.

You know the lighting in haunted houses is very very specific, right? It’s to highlight the things we have created for you and to make sure the actors can see. In fact, the actors can see you before you see them! So if you run around shining your cell phone light on everything you not only ruin the effect that has been created for you, you stand a good chance of annoying the actors who will not do the scare.

You know we don’t HAVE to scare you, right? Actors are allowed to refuse to engage with patrons – we don’t

    have

to come out and scare you if we think you’re going to give us a hard time, so coming in drunk, acting a fool, or trying to get the actors to break character will not give you new victims to berate if that’s your thing. We aren’t here for you to abuse. If you try to mock us or make fun of us, you will not provoke a fight, or look cool to anyone but you. We’re doing our job: entertaining you. Being the recipient of your derision is not our job. We will opt out. We are unsure of why you even do this. As another haunt friend of mine put it: ” You must remember, there is a reason why we are the actors and you are the patrons. There is no amateur hour at the haunted house. Patrons ARE NOT scary.” There’s a definite art to scaring and we don’t always hit the mark but that’s just how it is. You, on the other hand, are just acting like a fool. Mocking us and trying to scare us is the haunted house equivalent to heckling. It’s stupid and accomplishes nothing. We’ve seen enough of it to know it’s not impressing the people you are with either. You think you’re being cool but your friends are all rolling their eyes behind your back. They probably wont’ take you next year.

You know we’re employees, right? As much as we love what we are doing, this is work and we get paid for it (unless its a charity thing, but it’s still work- its just donation rather than pay) The whole reason we are here, as flesh and blood people rather than having an all animatronic haunt is because scaring is not a straightforward thing – timing, gauging reactions, “reading” patrons – it’s all part of the job that we do. We don’t scare everyone exactly the same way at the timing point. So if you have a little kid with you who seems to be having a truly terrified reaction, we may tone it down. If you have someone come through in a wheelchair, we’ll try to direct ourselves at their eye level. If someone has a panic attack we will alert the lead actor who will help them exit safely. If you have someone who is wandering aimlessly, we may wait for dramatic effect – it’s part of the art of scaring and we know what we’re doing. The house I work in is a “no contact” house – we are not allowed to touch patrons (though sometimes accidents happen) so imagine how much we go through to figure out ways to make you jump!

You know that everyone who works the haunt actually takes pride in their work? It’s no different than a movie – we are artists, craft-kin and techies who have a show to put on and we want to put on the best, most successful show we can. So trying to ruin the scares, mock the actors or otherwise act like a total douche-bag is nothing but a big downer for us all. In fact, many of us spend quite a bit of time marveling at people like you – why do you even come? You can go to your local sports-bar and act like a douche there for probably a lot less money and get drunk at the same time. Why harsh our squee? Do you go home feeling good that you stomped all over someone trying to enjoy their job? Really? Do you go to retail stores and make fun of the sales-folk there too? It just seems so unnecessary. Go in and have a good time! Enjoy what we have prepared for you!

so it begins again…

There comes a time when you are ready to get up into someone’s face and very carefully, very clearly, with all the gravitas possible, say to them “I have had enough of your sadistic shit and I’m not going to put up with it anymore”. I’m certain everyone has that point. Maybe most of you never get to that point. Maybe some of you get there far too often and begin to question your emotional stability. But everyone has that point, somewhere.

For most people, those of us who have a dollop of empathy in our psyche, that point can actually come on behalf of someone else. Perhaps you are an animal lover and have gotten there when you saw a defenseless creature being abused. Perhaps you have a special place for children and got there when you saw someone threatening a child. Maybe it a bit a nature – you couldn’t stand to see someone tromp on something that does nothing but bring joy and beautiful.

Whatever that place is, you are ready to take a blow for your anger. You are so upset, so incensed at seeing this injustice that you won’t even weigh the possibilities anymore. You won’t be worried about being hurt, you won’t care about who will be angry with you or mock you or write you up or whatever, you are just DONE with this crap and you aren’t going to take it anymore. When that moment comes, you will feel many things – fear, defiance and of course righteous indignation and anger. Maybe even a tiny delicious bit of a thrill, because there is a bit of exhilaration at finally reaching the end point and being free of the constraints of mundane decorum. It’s liberating – to use a cliche as it was intended.

This is normal and expected and probably accounts for at least half of the appeal of “good guys versus bad guys” stories. At least. In a way, it’s not even interesting to talk about.

What is interesting, however, is not even what that point is for different people, but how they measure that point, What makes them reach it. It’s not so much what is it that particular person holds so dear as to warrant this reaction – because we all have it in us, so we can all empathize with the turning moment which comes to define a “hero” – it’s how did this person get here? What were the stepping-stones to finally cross that line? And lastly, the question that consumes us becomes “once you cross that line, how far have you swung?”

Why I Take Selfies

1) I get worried I will die and my loved ones won’t have any current pics of me at my best

2) I want to remind myself that I don’t look as hideous as the world makes me feel sometimes

3) when I look good, I want to record it. Not so I can gloat about it later, but so I can build up a library of “i was looking good that day” – sometimes I will look back a month later and swipe through thinking “actually I had a lot of good days!”

4) Sometimes, it really is nice to have people say “wow, you look great!”

5) it helps counteract the reactions I get on the street sometimes

6) mostly I do them without makeup (or much makeup – sometimes I hide my face-picking which I think is totally fair) so later I can remember that I can look nice without exaggerating anything. I look okay as JUST ME

7) I imagine someday Lil Miss will look through my pics and maybe she’ll see her own looks peeking out behind my eyes and i want her to not be afraid of looking bad when she gets old

8) Some days I just feel good about myself and want to record that feeling

9) I remember looking at old photos of my parents (My step-mom and my birth-mom) and thinking many thoughts, all of them warm and wonderful. I want to pass that moment on to my kids

10) sometimes a selfie is a reminder of something that happened that was important. One of my favorites was “this is the face of someone who has taken her last final” – the day I earned my bachelors by taking my final final. It was a unique expression and I love looking at it because I feel that feeling all over again

11) I like to record how my hair changes

12) I notice how little my face changes

the “secret” to classism and the economy in America right now

If you’re middle-classish, have college education and want to find a job, you won’t find much unless you have one or more of the following:
1. connections
2. prior mentoring experience
3. specific skillset including software that is proprietary and not taught in college

The only way you can achieve these goals is to have interned or worked in the field for more than a year. That’s just how it is. You cannot gain these perks any other way (well you can probably get connections if you happen to be born to the right influential family but that’s not middle-classish)

Obviously, if you’re low-classish, and/or don’t have a college education, you need to rectify those problems first.

The point is, that the only way you can intern or work in the field for more than a year is if you can afford to *not make money* while you are in or just out of college. Even if you somehow manage to get a job in the field you study before you graduate, you will not be able to work enough to “make it count” if you are a full-time student. Only a few special are selected to get good assistantships during college. So obviously this is not an *absolute*. Lord in heaven please do not write to me full of “success” stories of peopel you know who managed to slide through this problem THEY EXIST OKAY? I ACKNOWLEDGE IT IS POSSIBLE. But it is a tiny possibility that rests on many factors including luck, knowing the right people and not having anything to lose and all the time in the world.

This is the current reality. Merely getting an education isn’t enough anymore. Companies that hire people to the middle-classish positions expect you to be out-of-the-box ready for their jobs. The only way you can possibly be that ready is to have managed to get those jobs before graduating. Or get a much lower job and work up to it IF the winds blow favorably during your employment. Of course you better be ready to work for peanuts if you get paid at all.

Most of us can’t afford to do that. So here we stay; on the bottom. Just the way they want us to be.

The only other answer is to learn a trade, instead of learning a field. IN fact, it seems that learning a field should come only AFTER learning a trade.

Clara and the Doctor

Eldest and I love talking about Doctor Who (and it took some time to get him hooked, gotta say) because we don’t quite agree about ANYTHING but we agree enough to really have rousing debates. The latest is that he doesn’t like Clara for precisely the reason I love Clara. She’s no Donna or Amy but I like Clara *because* she doesn’t have a personality focus. All the Doctor’s companions (that I’ve seen) had a very prominent personal focus for being on teh show – Rose’s romance and verve, Amy’s intensity and cleverness, Martha’s pining and independence, Donna’s boldness and peace-making, even Craig had his lovability and everyman-appeal. But Clara is just somewhere in the middle of all of them. A little bit of everything but none in particular. She was refreshing for me. She could say “no” to the Doctor, like Martha could. She could be clever like Amy. She could be vivacious like Rose. She could be demanding like Donna. She could even be lovable like Craig, wise like her grandfather Wilfred and dependable like Canton or even suspicious like Micky .
But the best thing about Clara was her story. Sure the seasons had some stupid episodes and there were times I found myself rolling my eyes are what the writers were doing but Clara’s character never disappointed me. She never went over-the-top and never faded into the background. She had nuance and style without hitting me over th head with her issues. What they did to her (via Danny) was horrible and scandalous and I think I was even more angry than how they treated Donna. But Clara still had her own story that made the Doctor himself want to understand her. She had a place in the universe – many universes – that went beyond her place as companion. She always felt like the Doctor’s sister, to me. And no other companion ever made me feel that way.
I think Clara loved the Doctor in a way no other companion ever had and probably never will.
If nothing else, I say to you, four words: The Rings of Akhaten