Sunday, January 31, 2010

Finding Hope

I am utterly bereft of a topic today, which can always prove dangerous.  Its when I have no creative focus that I start to turn inward.  And while omphaloskepsis can be useful in evaluating one's own character for flaws that can and should be improved upon, when one has recently had an emotional upset, it can become extremely detrimental.  Add to this a constant state of nausea as well as extremely poor sleeping habits, and you have what should be the making of some really fantastic creative material... right?

I would turn to poetry, but that kind of catharsis requires perspective, a luxury I currently don't have.  Songwriting seems the natural choice, except it generally needs to come from a place of joy for me, and while I hesitate to say I am categorically joyless, joyful is not a word I would use to describe myself at the moment.

What then?  Cryptic blog posts that hint at trauma but don't actually reveal anything?  (sorry)  Booze?  Tobacco?  Helpful potentially, but also self-destructive.  And while I have truly amazing friends, I don't wish to over-burden them with my pathos.  How, then, shall I channel my thoughts and emotions into something productive?

I think, just this once, I shall allow my over-abundant imagination to write its own happy ending.  It might not come, but sometimes we cling to hope not because it's realistic, but because we need it.  I wear a dove around my neck to remind myself that peace, hope, and love prevail, and I think its time to fulfill that.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happiness is a Decision

"Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." - Abraham Lincoln

I have battled depression my entire life.  Having a perfect storm of a high level of intelligence, a specific gift for music, and a childhood that from the time I was 4 until I was about 8 was in almost constant flux, I had some pretty serious emotional problems as a kid.  I had trouble making friends, trouble in school, and, as an only child, I spent much of my time in the company of adults or alone.

When I was about 19, things came to a head.  I got heartbreakingly, earth-shatteringly dumped right after my freshman year of college, then 9/11 happened, and then I found a loving and supportive group of friends... who didn't particularly place much value on education.  I dropped out of colllege and threw myself into this group, making a lot of different choices than those I had previously made, some I regret, some I don't.  But there is one choice that has changed my life forever.

At some point during all this chaos, I decided to try anti-depressants.  I had two solid weeks of being totally normal, and it was like a switch got flipped in my brain.  I suddenly saw how I had created many of the negative situations in my life, and furthermore, I realized what I should take away from them: how I could make sure things like that never happened to me again.

The thing is: life, on occasion, sucks beyond the telling of it.  Its hard, and its complicated, and the things that really shake you up always take you by surprise.  People die, plans fail, loves leave and hopes get crushed.    And that's true for everybody.  But it doesn't have to stay that way.  Sometimes I get so busy focusing on the ten careless words that momentarily hurt my feelings that I forget to remember the five that totally made my month.  

I haven't taken anti-depressants for about seven years, because that is the choice I made for myself.  I know the thought patterns that can lead to a depressive episode, and I choose to ignore them.  I know the activities and social patterns that will take me to "the bad place" and I avoid them.  And without medication, I am a healthy, functional adult.  And the very best part: its because I choose to be.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


The concept of Artificial Intelligence is one that has fascinated the world of science fiction for years.  Movies like A.I. and 2001: Space Odyssey are the most recent, but the concept existed in the general consciousness long before then.  Even the ancient Greeks were fascinated by the thought that their creations might be made flesh; Ovid wrote of Pygmalion, who fell in love with his own creation.

Pygmalion got his happy ending thanks to Divine Intervention, but it seems that we as a collection of storytellers don't think kindly on man's wish to create something living with his hands.  Stories where the brilliance of man leads to his creation of an artificial intelligence almost invariably lead to man's own destruction.  Still we continue to ponder our own ability (or lack thereof) to create life from the ether.

Why should this be so fascinating to us?  Perhaps it's something as basic as the desire to fully comprehend our own creation, our own "maker" if you will, whether you give it the name of science, evolution, or God.  For what better way to learn about the process of making life than to do it oneself?

Science has cataloged every step of the creation process of a human being.  And we believe that process is written into our very DNA, predictable because of its consistency.  However, the most brilliant minds in science have yet to explain why it works the way it does, and with such consistency.  And they also haven't explained why, despite astronomical odds to the contrary, any woman ever conceives at all.

I am not attempting to solve, or even to raise the debate of Science vs. God.  That discussion has been carried on for thousands of years, and by people smarter and more learned than me.  I merely point out that despite our best efforts, we are no closer to explaining the mysteries of life than when we saw demigods in the stars and believed that rotting meat turned into flies of its own accord.

Why then, should we not ponder our own ability to create life, or something like it?  If we can assimilate enough information about the human mind and how it functions, surely we can program a computer to think like a person... except we can't.  No matter how logical a system we can create, we can never fabricate that radical element, the ghost in the machine, the creative spark in the human mind that can leap from point A to point Q without passing through the points in between.  We can understand computers because we build them and understand how they function, but they can never truly understand us.

And it's possible that's our frustration.  While we can dream and envision a perfect form, we are crippled by our inability to perfectly create it.  Maybe that's why we continually tell ourselves the story of Pygmalion, with various outcomes, to laugh at our own ineptitude, or to howl at the skies, or simply to gather together and wonder: What if?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Blame it on the...

It has come to my attention that Californians seem to develop collective amnesia every year.  Every year strange droplets of water fall from the sky, and instead of thinking, "oh, its raining," the average Californian seems to think, "OMGWTFBBQ!!  Its Armmageddon!  Stormwatch 2010!!!!"  This is not in anyway meant to minimize the people who live in the mountains or near cliffs who's homes are actually threatened by heavy rain and mudslides.  However, this does not apply to 80% of Southern Californians who live and work in the urban sprawl that is the LA Basin and Orange County, and who still seem to be utterly incapacitated by water falling from the sky.

Here's the thing, kids.  It rains in California.  In fact, it rains a LOT in California from about November until about the middle of June.  But here's what I mean by a lot... it'll rain for five days straight, everything will get flooded and people will complain about how awful it is... and then it stops for three to five weeks, and people forget that it ever rained.

The unfortunate thing about this perpensity towards selective memory is that since they don't remeber that it rains, they also don't remember how to drive in the rain.  It seems more fender-benders and morbid accidents happen in the five total weeks it rains in California than any other time of the year.  So as a Public Service, I would like to suggest the following to anyone driving in inclement weather:

1) SLOW DOWN - Visibility is low, and wet roads make for crappy traction.  It might add 5 minutes to your commute, but isn't it better to get up 5 minutes earlier than to get to work an hour later because you hit someone, or worse... to simply not get to work?

2) Increase Following Distance - Because the idiots in front of you are probably driving too fast.  They didn't slow down, like they should, so they won't see that stopped car, that bump in the road, that animal darting across the freeway; until its too late.  By adding a few more car lenghts in front of you, you give yourself a few more seconds of reaction time, so that two-car pile-up won't turn into a three-car pile-up.

3) Stay Focused - I'm aware that the "no texting while driving" law is the most abused traffic regulation since the speed law, but seriously.  Your friends would much rather wait to hear from you when you're home safe than go visit you in the hospital. 

4) Pump the Brakes - Okay.  So you didn't listen to 1, 2 and 3, and you were going 70mph following someone really closely and decided to text your roommate.  FOR SHAME! Now that you're trying frantically to stop in time, don't just slam on the brakes, because eventually your wheels will lock and your car will keep moving forward due to the slick roads and your car's own inertia and forward momentum.  Pump your breaks once per second.  Its just as affective and will keep your anti-lock breaks from getting you into trouble.

5) Turn your wheel - If you begin to skid out of control, or hydroplan, turn your steering wheel in the direction your car is moving.  This will get your front tires aligned with your momentum and give you some control over what direction you're headed.

Alright, that's about all the bile I have for now.  Until next time, drive safe and stay warm!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Driveway Moments

I had a driveway moment today.  Does anybody else have those?  Let me 'splain.  Driveway Moments are when Freebird comes on just as you're turning into your neighborhood, and you can't possibly turn the car off until you get to the end of the song, so you sit in the car, letting the music wash over you, thinking of the last time you heard the song, or the first, or just listening to the music, analyzing the sounds.

Ever since I started working as a recording artist, I've been much more interested in what the makeup is of the songs that I know and love, what instruments are used, what effects, what the levels are, things like that.  So when "Name" by the Goo Goo Dolls came on just as I made my turn on Cherry today, I knew I was going to have a driveway moment.  As I approached my house, I thought about the song, what it had meant to me 10 years ago when it came out.  And I became absolutely obsessed with trying to figure out what the instrumentation was.  So there I sat, having my first driveway moment since moving into this house, listening for the three seconds of the song that I knew would tell me whether it was a 12-string or a mandolin.

I miss having time like that.  Usually when I'm driving, I'm running late or just on-time, so I have turn off the car regardless of where in the song they are.  It was nice to just sit, process the day for a few seconds, and let the sweet strains tickle my nostalgia into remembrance.  I think I need to schedule more time like that into my days.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On Safety in Group Situations

This was going to be a rant admonishing men for their bad behavior.  But after an evening of reflection, I've decided that a tutorial for the fairer sex might be a bit more apropos.

I see it all the time, especially at faire.  Girls get themselves cornered by the creepy, drunk, smelly guy (or girl, I've seen that too) and end up needing help from either a female friend or a male companion to escape the situation.  Sometimes in extreme cases, this can lead to everything from unwanted physical contact all the way up to rape.  If this has happened to you and you're fine with it... well, why the hell are you reading my blog?  If you're not okay with it, however, there are a few things that I have picked up from years of parties, performing, and living in LA that I would like to impart to all of you.  I would also like to add the caveat that these tips are in no way a replacement for good common sense, and I am in no way an expert.  I'm just a pretty, 5'3", 27-year-old that has never once been grabbed, kissed or touched when she didn't want to be.

First of all, always be aware of your escape route, and whenever possible, travel with a buddy. There really is safety in numbers, and even if you're just planning to meet someone somewhere and leave at the same time, at least there is someone else who is aware of your comings and goings.  When you arrive somewhere, note the lay of the land.  This will help you even in an uneventful evening, because you'll know where the bathroom is, and you'll also note any casual acquaintances that you can talk to if none of your friends are there.  If you must travel alone, make sure somebody somewhere knows where you are and when you're expected back.  Also, never leave a party, bar, whatever, without having your car keys in your hand.  The highest percentage of assaults against women are perpetrated when they are standing outside their car, digging through their purse for their car keys.  Don't be that girl.

Second, know how to spot your weirdos.  Your gut will generally tell you there's something not-quite-right about them.  Usually their body language or motor function is off, their clothes might be noticeably dirty or disheveled, but more than a visual cue, its that voice in the back of your head that says, "Danger!"  We're all equipped with this thanks to the glory of evolution and pheremones, and if you haven't cultivated the dialog between you and that little voice, its time you've begun.  If you are lucky enough to spot this person heading towards you, do what you can to escape the situation.  Cross the street, excuse yourself to the bathroom, find your group of friends and stand with them.  Anything to signal that you are not available to talk.  Try not to make eye contact if possible, because this signals interest.  Again, basic evolution here.

If you are unable to escape, for example you are already with a group of friends that don't want to leave, or you didn't notice them approaching you, watch your body language.  Make as little eye contact as possible, cross your arms over your chest, do NOT turn to face them.  If you can, pull somebody else (preferably male) into the conversation.  If you've done your homework and you have some friends with you or know which casual acquaintances are there, this can be done easily and smoothly.  Then, excuse yourself.  There are a million ways to do this, but the most important thing is that you remove yourself from the situation.

Sadly, sometimes this isn't enough.  And this is the point where things get scary.  They're following you, they're trying to touch you, perhaps they've grabbed you.  But 90% of creeps like this are not rapists or axe-murderers, they're just normal guys that have had a few too many to be able to read your signals.  Either way, your behavior in the next ten seconds will be the difference between marking you as a victim or or an adversary.  You want to be an adversary.  Stop, turn around and face them, hands crossed and look them square in the eye.  I am 5'3" and this works on 6'5" men.  I always do this with a smile on my face, because it tells them that they haven't even ruffled my feathers (even if inwardly I'm screaming), and say in no uncertain terms, "Back off."  If the situation is such that you need to be polite, you can say something to effect of, "I just need to get some air." or "I need to make a phone call."  Then leave the immediate area, find a friend, and stay next to them the rest of the night.  If you're there alone, find the host and ask them to walk you to your car, and go.  If you're too drunk to drive and you're alone... well, shame on you.  Call a friend and have them come pick you up, because its time to go.

Here's the thing ladies.  We are programmed to be polite and nice and not to hurt people's feelings.  This is what makes so many of us fantastic mothers.  But this will not help you when your safety is at stake.  I see so many of my female friends get cornered because they "didn't want to be rude."  Well, my dear gal pals, they were rude first by invading your personal space.  If you take nothing else from this article, remember only this:   Nobody's feelings are as important as your safety.  If you can keep this thought in your head, it will go a long way in making your social life less stressful and more fun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

SRPs of the World UNITE!

Its funny, since embracing the title of "Self-Rescuing Princess," I seem to see them everywhere.  In television, literature, movies.  But the best, the most inspiring places to find other SRPs is in real life.

I see them in the single mothers who balance a job, a hobby, and spending precious time with their children and families, and always seem to have time for their friends.  I see them in my coworkers, who are strong, independent single women who just want to find a Prince worthy of their awesomeness.  I see them in the every-day heroines that inspire me to do better, be better, think better, to live up to my own potential.

Self-Rescuing Princesses are everywhere, all around you.  All they need is a little push.  The goth-girl who's holding down a steady job would blossom from a kind word.  The corporate Queen's entire day would be made simply by having the door held for her.  And the up-and-coming professional just wants to hear from her Prince locked somewhere in a tower.

I charge you all to seek out the Self-Rescuing Princesses in your lives and in yourselves today.  You might be surprised at the beauty and inner strength you find all around you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 Resolutions for 2010

1.  I *WILL* do my "Geekend Party".  Two days of the entire Lord of the Rings Saga and the entire Star Wars Saga.  Games, snacks, good friends.  It will be awesome.  Oh, and the Star Wars Saga, for me, starts at New Hope.

2. I want to cook more this year.  I didn't cook nearly enough in 2009.

3. I will finish my MBA.  I will not have another degree that takes me seven years to complete.

4.  I will catch up on movies that I really should have seen.  I will lean on my friends for this list.

5. I will work towards finding the balance between work and personal life.  This might mean cutting down a little bit of both.

6. I will continue to seek my joy, and create it when its not particularly evident.  I have a feeling I have some trials ahead of me, but I know that with a good attitude, an open mind, and a loving heart I will overcome anything.  God does not give us burdens we cannot bear.

7. Speaking of God, I really, really mean it this year.  I will read the whole bible.  As a student of the world's religions, its ridiculous that I've read the entire Dao Tse Ting but not the Bible.

8. I will remember to carve out time and happiness for me.  No, really.

9. I will keep off the weight I have lost, and lose more.

10.  I will make a new Faire costume and a new Caroling costume.