Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Big Fat Body Image Post

I woke up this morning to find that world affairs looked a little something like this:
Then again, maybe world affairs are always like this, but it seemed more pronounced today. So, I would like to acknowledge the fact that there's a whole lot of things going on out there in the big wide world and that today's post is rather muted in comparison. But it is linked to something I just saw in the news and I'd like to start there.

The University of Minnesota, my alma mater, has a study that's been mentioned in several papers (for some reason, I couldn't find it in our local Minneapolis paper - there was a link to it but it didn't work. Figures). According to this article in the Atlantic, the study focuses on how to talk to overweight kids about obesity. I was hoping for a more hard-hitting article with something that... well, something that I didn't already know. It seems fairly clear that talking about healthy foods and how to eat well rather than body image is more beneficial, especially after learning in Health Psychology that being overweight does not necessarily cause health problems (ie: you can be healthy and be overweight). But this became more complicated with the article's mention of dieting, especially as I'd just come across this article about how dieting can actually cause more problems (another topic we discussed in Health Psych). And all of this occurred after my friend Sarah and I had a conversation about weight and I kept finding this Facebook ad randomly popping up on the sidebar:

Before we delve any deeper, I need to mention that this post is going to be highly personal. Though I'd rather not disclose too much to the internet, I feel this post really won't work as well without this background. As I've briefly mentioned on here before, I've been overweight for most of my life. Technically, according to BMI measurements, I'm still overweight. Yet when I go to visit my family in Indiana, my grandmother talks about how skinny I am. Yet I don't feel skinny - I don't really know how I feel. It changes depending on the day and my attitude and what I'm doing. Sometimes I don't think about my size and other times it's all I can focus on. When I moved to Minnesota, I was somewhere around 170lbs and around five feet tall, which is considered obese by our medical system. Once I started being more active (taking required physical education classes, which I loathed due to having to run miles as I'd never run before) and decided to cut out soda from my diet, I lost weight. I started eating better and cared a little more about how I looked and started feeling better about myself. I lost even more weight when I started college and had the reverse of the freshman 15, but I would never recommend losing weight as I did then - I didn't eat enough, felt perpetually run down, and started developing a bit of an obsession with food, always wondering when and what I would eat next. Last spring (and by last spring I mean 2012, not this year), my mother had a heart attack and we learned that she has a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM for short), in which the muscles of the heart develop in such a way that they are thicker for no apparent reason and cause the heart to have to work harder for it to pump. I don't have the condition myself but I do have the slight possibility of developing it and certainly carry the gene for it, as my mother's side of the family is full of heart problems. And growing up in Indiana, where I grew up, has a strange conglomeration of Midwestern and Southern diet and high obesity levels. Moving to Minnesota, which I think just got labeled the most active state in the country, or at least Minneapolis the most active city, changed a lot of this. So I have quite a history and personal connection to issues of weight and diet.
The main idea with all of this is that I have absolutely no idea how to feel about studies on weight and diet when I have a terrible conception of these things myself. I still feel much larger than I am and have no idea of how others see me. Every time I am weighed at a doctor's office, I'm worried it will be like the time my first doctor in Minnesota gave me a sad, condescending look and said, "You really need to lose weight." I can't buy clothes without worrying about whether or not I'm gaining weight because I had to buy a larger size or whether the clothes fit my body type. Despite all the body positivity about plus-sizes I see, such as the Facebook ad up there, it makes me uncomfortable because I don't think of myself as plus-sized - so why does this ad come up? I'm utterly for body positivity, yet I was never happy with myself when I was heavier - not only because I felt the pressure of a society obsessed with being skinny, but also because I truly didn't feel well being overweight. Now I feel healthier but I still don't feel completely comfortable with my body. I admire people, no matter what their size, who feel confident and comfortable with their bodies and not constantly care about how others see them. I described the sense that I think I'm heavier than I actually am, not just when I look in the mirror but when I just sit or walk and Sarah had the great phrase of an "irreconcilable sense of mass" to describe this feeling. No matter what size I am, I feel bad about it and feel like I take up this lumbering, ungainly sort of space. My fascination with yoga and running has evolved greatly in an attempt to change this perception, to be more positive about my body and be happy with it. It's helping but I still have a lot to deal with - especially given the fact that I can't watch TV or look at a magazine without seeing something about dieting and weight loss.
Being a cultural studies major who happens to have a lot of focus on feminism, I've talked about women and weight a lot. From Susan Bordo's Unbearable Weight to the film Killing Us Softly, I'm well aware of how the media portrays women and their bodies. Sometimes, I feel a little too aware. I can't tell when I'm being concerned about my health and when I'm just being concerned about my appearance. I blur the line between healthy eating and forced dieting. I try not to care about what others think but find that I can't help but ruminate on it. Though I am fairly healthy, I really want to lose another ten or fifteen pounds. Susan Bordo talks about double binds, of being pulled between two unequal things, and I feel like I am trying to be body positive for others while not have a very strong sense of it for myself. I'm trying to love myself as I am while constantly trying to change myself. I want others to love people for who they are while being supremely aware that I am still attracted to thinner people, not larger. I can't tell if I'm making these decisions because I personally believe in them or if it's what society has trained me to think. And then I feel entirely like I'm talking the talk of body positivity or health but not walking the walk of either.

Part of my problem is that I have had such negative experiences with weight - being so overweight so young with a sedentary life style and poor diet was not good for me. I do have a possible precondition towards heart ailments so eating well and exercising is really important, plus I happen to really enjoy it. For a girl who hated running when she first began, I've really grown to love it in a similar way that I love yoga, because when I'm doing it, I don't worry about how I look; it's about how I feel. I feel great when I run, like I am invincible and can do anything. I wish I could feel like that when I dress up to go to the theater or hang out with friends. It's not that I always feel this way, but it is a persistent, nagging strain of thought that is more present at some times than others. I also put a lot of value on compliments, perhaps too much, and I when I get them about my appearance, I'm always grateful and surprised. I try to buy clothes based on how the make me feel so that I can feel confident while in them. I have insecurities and they manifest themselves in how I feel about my appearance and weight. Given that I've always cared more about brains than beauty, there's the other issue of
worrying about shallowness. While I am generally not critical of others' appearances, I am a harsh mental critic of myself. Furthermore, having a love-hate relationship and fascination with Hollywood is unhelpful. I always wonder how I would feel at a red carpet event or walking through the streets of L.A. Los Angeles is a city like any other, but given it's stereotypes of caring about intense fitness and fad diets, I wonder what it would be like. But like other cities and states, I think it depends on what part of L.A. you're in.

Basically, it's all kind of a mess and a slow process towards any sort of acceptance. I definitely respect my body more than I used to, which is good, but I'm also concerned about moving towards respecting it too much, while also feeling that I do have to care about what I look like in order to make good impressions because that's unfortunately the society I'm a part of. I'm trying to accept that it doesn't matter what clothing size I buy as sizes vary depending on where I'm shopping, and that having sizes 4 through 12 in my closet doesn't make me some sort of bodily oddity. My Health Psychology class also helped with the assurances that food and exercise are more important than weight. And along with yoga, running, and (interestingly enough) getting tattoos, I'm growing to feel better about my body both inside and out. I try not to focus on these sorts of things too much because there's so much more to the world than just my mental and physical presence but it also frames how I see everything else, and I would prefer that framing to be a positive one.

Perhaps what's most saddening of all is that I'm not at all alone in feeling negative about my body, that few of my friends haven't had these sorts of issues, not exactly in the same way that I have but still being concerned with weight and appearance. Teenage girls are written off as shallow and ridiculous for caring so much about how they look, but think about the magazine covers and TV shows and ads they're surrounded by. How often do you see an ad where a guy cares about what he looks like? There's a few, but not as many as there are for women. Even while I might achieve some sort of balance about how I feel about my body, I may never be convinced that I am attractive to the opposite sex because women are shown as always having to work to look attractive while for men it's portrayed as effortless. In my spare time, I enjoy buying used copies of Cosmo in order to feel perpetually confused and worried about how women are represented in magazines. Here's what I saw in Cosmo's October 2011 issue that I came across at Half Price Books:

Huge photo, I know and not the best scan - I tried. Focus on the one in square that I made (although they all deserve a read because... really? Really, Cosmo?). Going by these guide lines, a woman is never supposed to get too comfortable with a man, never complain about how she feels or looks because that will break the mystique of her being the "hot new girlfriend." There are so many things wrong with this I don't think I can cram it all into one post (and I won't - I'm thinking about doing a series of posts on Cosmo anyway, because I have really complicated, nuanced feelings about this magazine). But I hope that it's pretty obvious that I hate this advice and think it's a terrible double standard that a girl can't complain about her body but a man sure can if he wants.

The thing is I wish I were in the minority of feeling like I do about my body. But I'm not. Reading Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher and Susan Bordo's books has made me terribly aware of how widespread these issues are. Eating disorders that were once only found in Western Cultures are now appearing elsewhere and these issues are only growing and changing, not disappearing. It worries me because if we can't feel comfortable in our own bodies, how can we possibly feel comfortable in the world around us? These issues are about health and wellness in more than one way - not just physical but mental health. And when the acceptable ways one can look gets whittled down to a more and more exclusive definition, and discussions on it are shoved aside as silly "girl talk," it makes me wonder how we're supposed to find a place to feel comfortable about ourselves when we reside in a society that doesn't seem to want us to take up space at all. Which is perhaps why I like this quote:

Maybe it would simply be easier if we stopped caring about it all together. Instead of trying to work to make everyone feel beautiful, we accept that beauty is too complicated to be pegged down into physical appearance and worry about much more important things, like courage and compassion and courtesy and apparently a bunch of things that start with the letter "c." Perhaps we should understand that beauty isn't just something that's seen but felt and is perceived in something more than visuals. You get the idea.

Once again, no neat answers here and nothing finished up. All of this is ongoing and a battle I fight with myself and the world around me. But writing about it helps get it off my chest and perhaps ease my fears that I alone feel like this. I often think about what makes being human so hard and it seems I'm not the only one to wonder that.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Notes in a Bottle: On Publishing

“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.”  - Margaret Atwood
Not long ago I came across an article in The Guardian (one of my favorite newspapers to which I've recently become addicted to reading) about John Green and self-publishing. As "to publish or to self-publish?" a big debate amongst writers right now, I happen to be self-published myself, and I quite like John Green, I was curious about the article. But when I read it, I came away feeling a little...well, hurt.

I love John Green and his writing and I wholly agree with him that writing and authorship is not a single, individual effort made in a locked room by an individual genius (as auteur-style thinking has led us to believe) but a collaborative effort. Writing - and any cultural form or medium - does not occur in a vacuum. And I respectfully disagree with Mr. Green that self-publishing completely promotes this.

Not that Mr. Green is wrong to make these comments. In certain ways, self-publishing absolutely can promote this idea that writing comes from a single genius and needs no editorial team or promotional group or agency to sell it. It creates a space where you can publish your work just as it is without recommendations or changes made by others, and send out your manuscript in a "pure" sort of way, untouched by anyone else. I don't agree with this way of thinking about authorship - sure, I might have put the words down on the page, but the ideas are solely mine - I was inspired by something or someone (and likely many somethings and someones). And my writing could certainly benefit from proofreading, questioning of the storyline and plot devices, and general constructive criticism. I don't disagree with this at all.
However, I feel like there's a slight assumption in this article that worrying about how working with a publishing company might change your novel is a bad thing, or people only self-publish so they don't have to be criticized work with others and so they can leave their manuscripts "pure" in the way that they envisioned it. Perhaps my media history class in college tainted my mind in this way, but after diving deep into topics regarding the MPAA for film and debates about authorship, there is some trepidation on my part about ending up with a publishing company that doesn't like the sort of stories you tell or the sort of characters you portray and forces you to change them. If you get a good match with companies, this likely wouldn't be a problem. But that's the part that's troubling to me - how do you find a good publishing company? So much of what we discussed about in my media history class was about how areas like self-publishing are becoming popular because of how little the author profits off of their work. While certainly agent and publishing firms should make some part of the cut - it is a collaboration, after all - some of the returns authors make verses certain individuals in the companies is pretty troubling. The realm of copyright is also confusing, as some firms control the copyright more than the authors, and when this comes down to distribution and how books can be accessed, this gets problematic. I like Creative Commons and copyrights that allow for rather open access and distribution but some publishing firms are very against this and want absolutely no access unless it is granted by the publisher. Neil Gaiman has some very good thoughts about this on speaking about the Open Rights group, which you can see here:

I have very unclear feelings about copyright - one one hand, I hate plagiarism. On the other, I love fanfiction, I write fanfiction, and I'm totally cool with people writing fanfiction on my stuff (not that I'm at all on a level of prestige for that. Ah, maybe one day...). I like what Gaiman says about allowing authors to have the ability to say yes, allowing people to do what they like with their works. But at the same time, it isn't just the author that creates the work - it is in part their agents and editors and companies. Authors are also influenced by the culture they are apart of and how culture reacts to their books. I could dive off into a very long debate about fanfiction and authors who are very much against it, such as Anne Rice, George R.R. Martin, and (of all people) E.L. James and how this view of writing and characters as personal property that belongs entirely to the author baffles me. However, that's a topic for another time. What this gets at is how complicated ideas of ownership are when it comes to something like a book that is both physical entity but also a collection of ideas and influences. It's messy and there's no one sole person it belongs to. So who should have the most rights over the material? Honestly, I don't know.
Which is where self-publishing comes in. While I have had limited opportunity for collaboration (I did have someone work on the presentation of my ebook and make BookStubs for promotion), I at least have a clear idea of who makes the profits on my book and have quite a few liberties with my book. I created a Facebook page and a Tumblr for it this morning, which was really fun (but is going to be a ton of work to maintain and I completely understand why people hire marketing and social media experts to do this for them). But the main reason for me to go the self-publishing route is how difficult it is to make it into a publishing firm. Unless you want to end up in a slush pile somewhere, you pretty much need to have an agent in order to get published. However, agents cost money and many agents now are not accepting authors who are not already solicited - something that publishers request that you are in order to accept your manuscripts. Which is why you need an agent. But if you need an agent in order to get an agent... well, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. It doesn't help that many publishing companies are being bought out by larger ones and providing fewer places for new authors to be published. And there's also the time element in publishing. While I was in no hurry to get published, I did want to put myself out there to see my writing would do and what it would be like and I didn't have the time, means, or resources to go through the traditional routes. Breaking out into the publish world is difficult and if I want to test the waters and go through a means of least resistance, why not self-publish? I actually want to use this as a stepping stone, as perhaps a means to be picked up by a traditional publishing company so that I can do collaboration and find a group that respects my interests and whom I can grow and develop with as writer.

I reacted to this article pretty strongly and perhaps I took the whole things personally rather than reading it as Green's critique of self-publishing firms, not self-publishers themselves. Maybe he's frustrated at constantly being labeled as someone who's revolutionizing the publishing market when really he wants to emphasize that he's not doing this on his own and that collaboration is important. But I wish this article had incorporated how difficult it can be to go through traditional publishing routes. Self-publishing is usually portrayed as something that well-off people do because they have the monetary ability to indulge and publish their own works. But I went through a group that publishes ebooks really cheaply because I DON'T have the monetary ability to self-publish through other firms, I don't have the budget to hire an agent, and I haven't had the time to research on my own what sort of publishing firms would accept unsolicited manuscripts in the genre that I write.

I'll segue into an attempt to pull this all together with the book I'm currently reading, Virginia Woolfe's A Room of One's Own. This is a wonderful read and gives a very interesting perspective of gender in writing. While I'd love to discuss that, it's not entirely relevant here and is a topic for another time. Woolfe overall premise, however, is important to writing and being able to be published. She argues that one needs a room in which to write in order to do so and if you do not have these means, writing will be difficult. Many of us now have spaces to write in - and computers make this so much easier - but we still have difficulty finding ways to get our writing to an audience. We want that audience not because we are interested in profit or making money, but for the same reasons that John Green illustrates - storytelling. We want to tell our stories and we would like people to read our stories and give us some feedback and maybe a little bit of money so we can eat and think and write more stories. That's it. That's what writing is. Why publishing in general makes this difficult boggles my mind.
But hell, writing itself boggles my mind most of the time. I realized how important seeing myself as a writer is to me in the past month or so and, while talking and drinking with some friends, the topic of what's a "deal breaker" for you in a relationship came up. It occurred to me pretty quickly what mine is: not taking my writing seriously. When I tell someone that I'm a writer and they react like, "Oh, that's cute" or downplay it, it makes me pretty upset. Worse yet, if I feel like I can't even tell someone I'm a writer because it seems they won't care at all, I'm even further frustrated. Why is writing so difficult to talk about? Why is it seen like less of a career option? This comic that my friend Sarah sent me implies how other professions would sound if we spoke of them like we do of writing. It's funny and yet too true.

Not that writing is the only field met with such frustrations. I'm looking into dramaturgy right now as well, which is mostly only volunteer work. Between that and my blogging and my limited book sales, everything I do doesn't make money. Which is why I need writing to start working out for me and why I need to find something else to do besides theater work and writing that will make money so I can at least eat and pay rent. Now I finally understand why people become lawyers and doctors because of the stability and clarity involved. Not so for my muddled liberal arts path.
But yes, back to publishing - it, as so many other things I've discussed here, is complicated. While I have gone the self-publishing route, it's too early to tell whether it's outcome is more beneficial than just ending up on the slush pile at a publishing company. While I am at least published - which is better than a slush pile - I'm also missing out on all those awesome rejection letters to pin to my wall (though do rejection letters only come if your manuscript is solicited? I think if you just end up on the slush pile, you just get uncomfortable silence. Alas...). I'd really like to go the traditional publishing route because I would like to have physical copies of my books and I would like to have readership and - oh, what they hell, as Sarah and I have both said, we'd like to be required reading. I'm no auteur, but I do want my writing to reach an audience, not to be hidden away or lost at sea. And it's very difficult to know where your note in a bottle is going to go or how it's going to be read when it's hard to see where the waves lead.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Magic of Gifs

For reasons I can't explain (it's the internet, it defies explanation half the time), Tumblr, as well as much of the world, has been having a debate on the pronunciation of GIF for about... well, forever. I say it with a soft "g" but I sincerely don't care how you pronounce it. It's like tomato - depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, it sounds different and it's really not the end of the world if you pronounce it differently - we know what you're talking about. (Besides, GIF is an acronym and it's not as if people are blatantly mispronouncing a word that does have a very specific way it should be pronounce, like the word "peril." I had a teacher in fifth grade that told our entire class that, by the pronunciation listed in the dictionary, it should be pronounced "pearl." Don't ask. I have no idea how she was interpreting the phonetic pronunciations given, but it's memories like these that make me marvel that I have any grasp on English at all.)

Regardless, GIFs have become the object of some fascination on the interwebs, mostly because... well, they're brilliant. If only you could print them off, then they would be like the magic moving photos that exist in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. What's more, they allow for an interesting play between language and images in a fun little linguistic interaction.
Here's a brief overview a certain part of semiotics and linguistics as it pertains to what I learned in cultural studies. Semiotics is the language of signs and focuses on the interaction between the sign (a thing that carries a meaning other than itself), the signifier (the thing that gives meaning - the words or the image), and the signified (the thing that is evoked in the mind by the signifier, the mental concept). The example that's always used is a tree - the word "tree" would be the signifier and what is signified is that plant-like thing that grows roots and has leaves. Of course, one signifier can represent a lot of different things. There are thousands of different kinds of trees and it depends who's looking at the signifier as to what they see it signifying. Roughly, a signifier is the denotation of something, while the signified is the connotation it has.

Of course, when I started looking at GIFs more closely, I was really intrigued by this. As GIFs are often used to convey emotions, especially those that are complicated and maybe can't be easily described, I started thinking about this a lot. GIFs manage to express things that words alone cannot, through quotes and facial expressions or certain gesture. People LOVE to express themselves through GIFs - if you're familiar with Tumblr and the way its users respond to posts, it's often through GIFs. Of course, this makes it difficult at times to interpret what a person is trying to convey while at other times, it's incredibly clear. I wish I'd gotten the chance to talk about GIFs as signifiers in my classes at school as they seem rather complicated - they often come from film or television shows, they can incorporate both words and images, they often take the place of someone expressing their own reaction. How we even begin to describe what they signify is sort of a mystery and it takes some training via exposure and reading these signs in the ways that the internet is accustomed to. Those who are literate in GIFs, so to speak, would understand that if I were to write something like, "How I feel when someone asks me if I've ever heard of Tom Hiddleston" and I posted this picture below it:
They would understand that I am aware of the actor, I have some degree of emotional complication with his existence, and that asking me about it may provoke interest, alarm, and other strong responses, as opposed to thinking that asking me about Mr. Hiddleston causes me to turn into Benedict Cumberbatch reacting to Josh Horowitz asking him about fanfiction during an interview. There is a certain way in which GIFs re-associate source material to different ideas in order to tie-in certain concepts or reactions. Which is rather beautiful and fascinating.

Of course, this gets really complicated, not just from a linguistic standpoint, but from an ownership standpoint. I wrote an essay last fall for a class that focused a great deal on authorship about how GIFs complicate things, especially when they are created by fans but come from material that might be copyrighted by a studio. It's a certain form of piracy, but if you've ever reposted something on Tumblr or used a specific GIF without crediting it, you'll know that GIF creators can be very possessive of their material. Reaction gifs are less this way, but there's still a certain privileged given to GIF creators and a certain regard for them. I don't know the first thing about making GIFs, so anyone who has that ability to use software in such a way has my utmost respect. It is sort of an artform in its own right, especially when certain manipulations are done and certain affects are added. But there is certain complication in posting these in the public sphere for free from materials that are copyrighted and profit-driven, and considering them artistic property of the GIF creator.

My friend Sarah posted some thoughts on this a while back (long, long ago as I've been meaning to write this post for many months) and I've simply copied and pasted her words because they were so wonderfully phrased:
I was thinking about this yesterday: you should write a post on GIFs and GIF possession. When does a GIF become "public" and when is it someone's "artistic property"? How do the rules of exchange on Tumblr affect this possession and distribution? In what ways does the distribution, possession, and creation of GIFs--especially for fandoms--reflect the inherent characteristics of the fandoms themselves? In what ways is it actually and often a strictly-governed means of idolization? How does creating elaborate GIFs (like with filters and colors and words and shit) of characters, moments, relationships, etc., remove those things from their original contexts and create something different that is PERCEIVED as the truth because of its overwhelming visual and emotional attractiveness? Like visual fan fiction? In this way, the relationship between fans and their -doms is seen in an interesting way: GIFs contribute to the cult of personality that surrounds fandoms and injects their content with doses of fantasy; that cult aspect actually reduces the original nature of [insert noun] in favor of an image that rewards the maker/viewer with even more emotional satisfaction. Does a fandom actively work to preserve that high? Are GIFs a function of that? You know me, just doing some thinking...

This would be a beautiful project on fandoms, let me tell you. The bit about visual fanfiction - so true. Shippers use gifs all the time to splice together scenes in order to build the possibility of their OTP. Often fanfiction stories stem from GIF scenes or inspire GIFs to be made about them. Fandoms are very much about GIFs and the possibilities they hold for expressing certain aspects of the show, telling different stories, reinventing plots and characters, and, perhaps most importantly, having fun. GIFs are really, really fun. I'm having a massive flashback to my senior project here, thinking about how much fandoms are about play and playing around (which would explain why they have such an interesting in acting and in actors - they both "play in the sandbox" in many ways) and GIFs can allow for an ease in expression, quick, witty humor, and simple entertainment. So way to go GIFs; you are awesome.
And, because I am slowly becoming more tech savvy, I figured out how to share that paper I wrote on authorship! Yay! So, if you're interested in reading ten pages of me blathering on about fandoms and authorship and The Avengers, give that a read. In the meantime, I'm going to figure out where I want to upload my senior project so that's finally part of this blog. Since that's a major part of this whole crazy endeavor, after all.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hunger Games

I sat down at breakfast this morning to brainstorm ideas for today's blog post, fully intending to write up something more on the fangirly side of things. That didn't happen. My father got out the can of whipped cream to put on his pancakes and left it on the kitchen counter in front of me. Curious about a promotion I saw on the side about ConAgra donating meals to Feeding America, I began reading the can and found this:

I'll type this up as I imagine it's relatively unreadable in the picture. It says:
Help us donate one meal to Feeding America. Go to and enter this 8 digit code. [code given] For every code entered, by 8/31/13, ConaAgra Foods will donate 12.5¢, the cost for Feeding America to provide on meal through its network of local food banks. Maximum: 3 million meals. Guaranteed minimum donation: 1 million meals ($125,000). Limit 5 code entries per person/computer each day. Valid in U.S. only.
This program was created out of good intentions, I'm sure. But when I read this, my first reaction was unbridled fury. Why do I have to enter a code to get ConAgra to donate money? Why can't they just do it when I purchase one of their products? Why do they have a maximum donation cap? Why is there some goofy limit to how many codes you can enter per day? WHY DOES HELPING PEOPLE HAVE TO BE SO COMPLICATED?

Despite this all, I entered the code and was happy to see this graphic, assuring me that people were actually motivated to go to the website and enter their codes:

Over 2 million meals - that's great. They've almost met their "goal" (which is described as a maximum on the can, but a goal here). But ConAgra is a huge corporation and I can't help but think, "Dammit, this could be so much more efficiently done." Wouldn't it be easier for everyone to automatically donate when their items are purchased? They don't have to maintain the website (at least not in the same way), they don't have to count on customers to read their product labels entirely (how many people really do this, I wonder? I read food labels all the time, but I'll essentially read anything that's put in front of me), they could easily achieve their goal in a few weeks. Why the complicated hoops to jump through in order to help others?

As my father hypothesized, there's probably some sort of legal reason for all of this, or it was a sincere effort suggested by someone in ConAgra's marketing team that got rather distracted from its root cause. It doesn't make me any less frustrated. Maybe I'm asking too much - obviously this is doing some good and is far better than nothing. But I can't help but think about how much better it could be, how much more efficient it could be. I suppose that by going to this website, you find out more about the Feeding America campaign and get facts like the one shown above that 212,050 children face hunger in Minnesota. But at the same time I can't help but worry about the "slacktivism" idea with social media providing new opportunities. This message popped up after I'd entered the code:

"Tell your friends how easy it is to help end child hunger." Now I feel like a slacktivist for entering the code (and complaining about having to enter the code at all) instead of going out and working at a food shelf or volunteering for a community organization. But at the same time, it feels a bit like ConAgra is working in the same way by deferring the effort of action onto its customers instead of just doing it themselves. It's not that I don't want to actively help end hunger - I do. It's that ConAgra has a lot more money than I do and it seems like they should be able to donate because they want to, not because I'm buying their products or wanting to see that their customers actually care about this sort of thing (generally you shouldn't make assumptions about your customers, but this is one assumption I think you should make). Instead, they give me this interface that keeps reminding me of the Coca-Cola reward codes that you can enter to win stuff. It feels too much like a game of entering numbers to reap rewards and it gives me an uncomfortable feeling. What's more, I don't know enough about what kind of meals Feeding America provides to know if I've really done any good. Again, it's better than nothing... but what exactly does entering a code do? Is this really a good way of trying to achieve change? But what other options do we have if we don't have the time or abilities to do something more with our time? And why of all places did I see this add on a can of whipped cream, perhaps one of the most unnecessary food items in our refrigerator?

*sigh*... And the plight of the skeptical altruist continues.

I would say no more posts on food and hunger, but... we all know how that's going to turn out:
However, I promise - I PROMISE - my next post will be about gifs. I've only been meaning to finish that post for the last... oh, five months, and I absolutely, positively will be publishing it on Wednesday.

The real question is, if everything I've assured you of on posting is a pack of lies, can you trust me to actually post on gifs on Wednesday? Good question - we shall see, won't we? :)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Brightest Heaven of Invention

I have been making grandiose allusions for some time to the internship that I'm currently engaged it but really haven't said very many concrete things about it. Which is a shame, really. Allow me to take the opportunity to finally do so and explain how I've finally (fully) accepted what I want to do with my life.
Yours truly is currently an intern in the Education Department at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Though I have been working there for over two months now, I still get really giddy when I tell that to people. It's one of my favorite places in Minneapolis, a theater I greatly admire, and an interesting and exciting place all around. This past weekend I had the last day of an acting class I was able to participate in as well as the amazing opportunity to work in a corporate event through the education department.

The acting class helped me realize how much a part theater is already a part of my life. I'm deeply interested in people, I care about how people think, I want to explore how we communicate, how conflict arises, and how people deal with it. I write stories, want to give something back to all of the things that have fueled my imaginations, and express something through words and storytelling that I cannot express in any other way. Laura, my acting teacher, emphasized that acting is based on concentrating 1000%, focusing outward, not inward, to remember that it is about the characters you are interacting with, not what you yourself would do, and communicating and focusing on the thing that you want (because characters always want something, don't they?). Through activities such as re-imagining what a pencil could represent other than a pencil (a tiny javelin, a telephone pole, a light saber, what have you) the students in my class realized how imaginative and creative they could be and found a wonderful freedom and ease in acting. Acting, simply put, is playing (there's a reason theater shows are called plays, after all). Laura referred to our acting space as a sandbox and encouraged us to play in the sandbox, a metaphor I love very much. And it felt exactly like that - playing in the sandbox, molding nothing into something much more, turning simple scenarios into elaborate tales and neutral dialogues into complex scenes of conflict and characterization. It was the first class I took after being done with college or the last class to take, depending on how you want to think about it, and it was the perfect way to tie up all the academic things I've learned and translate them into modes of action by reawakening some of the more creative centers in my mind. Simply put, if you ever get the chance to take an acting class, DO IT. It's an experience you won't regret. It really built confidence in myself and helped me better understand the relationship between physical action and mental thought. Actually, I realized after the first class or so how much acting is like yoga - breathing is important, concentration is important, and I feel refreshed and cleansed afterwards. Now I understand why so many actors do both.

That's part of this realization. The other part was the corporate event with a company that works with designing technical devices to help create laboratory instruments for medical researchers. They partnered up with the Guthrie to kick-off their conference in Minneapolis this year with a mock trial of their products in order to better understand how their employees market their company. By having a "trial" of product versus system - does their company sell products or systems to customers? - in a staged court room in the Marriott in Minneapolis with legal teams built up of actors guiding marketing teams to develop this debate, rather than just having Powerpoint presentations for hours at a time about their services. Not only was this method much more engaging and entertaining, it was fun and incredibly useful to the company. The trial did not go as planned - the trial was slanted in favor of a certain outcome but it didn't necessarily have to turn out this way, as a jury made up of employees had the final say on which legal team won. The jury - by incredibly close margins - decided against the presumed outcome, which helped the company understand that perhaps their communication about sales wasn't getting through to their marketers the way they believed and understood that more information would need to be given to their employees in order to shift the focus internally.

I don't know much about technical lab instruments, but I do know a little bit about products vs. systems thanks to my dad's work in IT and management consulting and this is an important issue for the company. I also know a bit about how technical people work - they're pretty left-brained and such theatrical work would be a bit frightening to them when suggested, as was the case here. The corporation was a bit worried about how the event would work and how their employees would react. All the employees knew was that they had been summoned to court and when they walked into their meeting room face to face with a simulated courtroom (designed and set up by the Guthrie's Education Department), there was some confusion. But once the "legal case" began after a round of Powerpoint presentations to describe some of the work the company was doing and break-out sessions where groups formulated their arguments for product versus system debates, the entire atmosphere of the room changed. People willingly referred to Chris, our actor playing the part of the judge, as "Your Honor," objections were made, accusations of perjury were insinuated, and fun was had by all. Sitting in the courtroom, keeping time for the speakers, I found myself easily slipping into this narrative and had participants trying to coax me to manipulate the time keeping to cut off the questions being asked about their argument.

A room full of scientist willingly (and perhaps a little unknowingly) engaged in a play, becoming a part of this fictional courtroom that helped them think differently about their company and how they market themselves. They had fun, yes, but they also interacted with their work in a different and perhaps deeper way, seeing how others around them viewed the company's work differently. My left-brained friends argue all the time that they can't be creative and don't know how. This showed that that is entirely NOT the case. As Laura explained and revealed in acting class, everyone is creative. We think of plays and acting being about fictional stories and narratives taking place on stages, but it is so much more than that. Acting is everywhere. It's most clearly seen in kids doing make-believe and just generally playing, but it's in how we talk to each other, how we deal with conflict, how we try to understand our world. If you've ever talked to your parents differently from how you talk to your friends and talk to your co-workers in yet another way, then you've acted. If you've ever lied, done role playing, used body language to communicate - yep, acting. It was Shakespeare, after all, who said that all the world's a stage and perhaps we've heard those words so often that it sounds trite and we've forgotten how really true that is. Theater happens all around us and this project and the acting class has made me vividly recognize this.
I'd like to end this with another bit of insight. Laura said in the last night of our acting class that actors don't do what they do to be famous. Some do, she admitted, but most do it for others - to better understand and explore the human condition. Doing so, she explained, helped to make people more understanding and inquisitive and, she proposed, if everyone played like this, the world would be a happier and more peaceful place. I certainly like to believe this. Perhaps it would explain why I've always felt so comfortable around actors and in theaters - they're people and places with understanding and acceptance, a place to work and imagine and change. It's a sandbox and a place to play.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Food For Thought, Part 2
I have a weird relationship with food. I believe I've mentioned this before, back in my earlier posts about the Live Below the Line Campaign (and yep, you guessed it, I'm just now getting around to wrapping up the loose ends with that). Part of this comes from living in the US, in a place that has no clear cultural cuisine, or at least one that isn't very balanced. I also live in the Midwest, which is limited by its growing season for what sort of local produce we have and how much it costs to import other foods. And, personally, I've just developed a weird relationship with food, based on being overweight for most of my life, being surrounding by ads for dieting and weight loss on TV shortly followed by McDonalds and Burger King ads, and struggling to eat healthy in college while also managing to eat enough and find time to eat so as to not be distracted by how hungry I am in class. Not to mention that my mother works in food service at an elementary school and I've had an interest in cooking and nutrition for a long time.

So when things like the Live Below the Line Campaign come my way, especially when my favorite actor happens to be a participant in it, you might forgive me for belaboring it so much. It's incredible and unfortunate that something that is necessary for survival and something we all need (ie: food) is so ignored while simultaneously being so fetishized. Food, in short, is complicated. I'm going to give a brief run-through of some food-related topics I've been wanting to discuss that goes as follows: a few more thoughts on Below the Line, musings on food cost and food waste, and trends and fads amongst consumers (I mean that both as people who eat and people who consume in the more economic sense). And if we have the time, maybe some thoughts on foodies, gourmands, and food porn. So...

(Sorry, not sorry. Been waiting to use that gif forever.)

First off, the Live Below the Line Campaign. I've already discussed it before, so no need to rehash that again (but feel free to read my earlier posts here and here if you have no idea what I'm blathering on about). There's a few brief things I'd like to return to for a moment, however. One of these is this article from Harper's Bazaar, in which Tom Hiddleston recounts his experience in participating in Live Below the Line. I think perhaps one reason this post got shoved off into the slush pile of drafts instead of being finished sooner was because I knew I would have to deal with the fact that Tom Hiddleston is a really good writer. I mean, who does he think he is, Scott Fitz-

But in all seriousness and sincerity, this piece is wonderfully written. I mean, I've got a little bit of the Hemingway mindset of, "It's better writing than mine and therefore I hate it," but really I love this article. It wonderfully balances a humbling experience with the knowledge that being able to do this comes from a certain privileged and how easy it is to not think about what you're going to eat in a day or where the food will be coming from. So I really love this, even if it makes me feel like Owen Wilson in this gif about my writing:
Also, this quote from the article kept lingering in my mind the past few weeks, in a way that I kept mulling over it but had somehow forgotten the source until rereading the article and found that maybe it related a little too much: "Steve Jobs once said: 'stay hungry'. But that great innovator was speaking metaphorically in the language of creative ambition. In his field, he’s absolutely right. Real hunger, however, kills the spirit."
This popped into my head the other night at the end of my shift for my internship. I generally work from 4pm until 9pm, which is a nice evening shift. The problem is that my body refuses to adapt to these hours and eating breakfast, lunch, a snack or maybe a small, packed dinner at my internship, and then another snack when I get home. That should be enough food (I think), but my body can't figure out how to regulate and balance it and so I just end up feeling hungry 70% of the time. It doesn't help that I don't eat much meat and thus many of my meals aren't very filling. And that I might be part-hobbit. I, of course, have never been really hungry. But it is hard to focus at work when my stomach keeps growling even if I've eaten because I'm used to a certain routine I've had for a long time and now I don't have that. I can't imagine what it would be like to try and have a job when you've got no money in our banking account for food.

This is part of the reason why I decided against participating in Live Below the Line when it occurred at the end of April. I was still trying to adapt to my work schedule and deal with finals, so I didn't want to risk not eating enough and having it affect me. I did, however keep a short journal of what I was eating and noting how much I was spending on meals based on the receipt for a grocery trip. A few things I'd already had in the cupboard and thus had to estimate and I did end up getting coffee or got a snack on the run from my internship to class, which would generally be rare for me, but it was interesting to see how much a simple muffin cost in perspective of what I would be spending if I were participating in Live Below the Line. The school week looked something like this:
Monday Total: $4.14 (muffin cost $1.71... this appalled me)
Tuesday Total: $6.73 (damn you $4 mocha)
Wednesday Total: $3.36
Thursday: $2.40
By Friday, I'd given up calculating because I was becoming too worried about what I was eating and trying to see how little I could spend on meals without starving. Which was kind of a fail. I mostly gave up though because it was really hard to eat as I usually did at all bouncing from class to internship. I'm impressed with anyone who can eat healthy and regularly with a schedule constantly in flux. Despite all this, my totals for meals is still relatively low. Again, I don't eat much meat (some weeks none at all) so that helped I suppose. It's a total of about $16, $17, which for four days... I can't decide if that's about average or how that works out. I think it's high for as relatively little as I was consuming... but I don't know. How much does the "average" US citizen spend on meals a week? There's too many variables - I don't know how you'd ever figure that. I do know that I can tell the difference when I feel like I'm eating well and when I'm not - and that week didn't feel so great. Am I accidentally living on a terrible food budget without even knowing it? It changes from week to week, depending on when I last went to the store and it doesn't help that every time I try and keep a food journal, I also feel the urge to cut back what I eat, which is not helpful in the least. And so the answer is - I still really don't know what my food budget is. Although, those few days look pretty similar to how my last week or so has been.

My struggle was trying to still eat healthy (enough of a challenge in college as it is when you come back from class starving and you simply want to attack that box of Cheez-Its in the pantry). Despite what this graphic that spread around Tumblr claims, eating healthy is NOT CHEAP. The rebuttal included is really wonderful and well-put. This graphic assumes that you have time to cook, access to a grocery store, and of course, most importantly, money. The emphasis on the classist view that the New York Times graphic poses and the fact that it ignores systematic reasons for people eating fast food is one that I think is really important and too much ignored. Having grown up in Indiana, a state full of factories, farms, and blue-collar workers, dietary habits there are far different than in Minnesota. Hell, the grocery stores are even different. I'd never seen a Whole Foods or organic produce sections until I moved north. Then again, the organic movement was growing by the time I moved to Minnesota, but still - it's a very different relationship with food between the two states.
I was discussing the issues with the cost of food with my friend Sarah and she mentioned a documentary called A Place At the Table. It's a new film and available on iTunes and on demand, as well as in theaters here in the US. I'm really interested in, especially as it deals with food waste and cost as well as talking with Michael Pollan who wrote a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I read for one of my cultural studies classes a few years ago. It's a very interesting read, even though I don't agree with some of his solutions for changing the way we eat and get our food, but it's wonderful if you're interested different food movements and issues such as consumerism and food, the organic movement, and local food movements. I also own another one of his books, In Defense of Food, but I've yet to read it (it's in the "too read" pile of books... soon, I hope).

It's also important to note that all of this discussion with poverty and hunger is, as alluded to above, occurring at the same time that things like food porn, foodies, and new sort of "dietary identities" are being formed (vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans, gluten-free, etc). It seems like these identities have never been so widespread as they are now, perhaps because we don't have to worry so much about eating to survive. In the US, many people have easy access to food and don't think of it as survival but as pleasurable or means of living a certain way. Being a vegetarian (and being a rather lax one, I guess you could say), I sense - at least in the United States - is a privileged and a luxury. You don't have to worry about where you're going to get protein in your diet - you have access to other options like tofu and veggie burgers or whatnot, and you don't need meet in your diet to keep you full or warm. I could never be a full vegetarian because I've yet to figure out how one can survive harsh Minnesota winters without at least occasionally eating beef stew or chicken. I think what frustrates me most about vegans and vegetarians who insist that everyone be like them is that they assume that everyone will be able to maintain that sort of diet. Vegetarianism, if not executed well, can be very, very unhealthy. It almost seems that it seems like when we didn't think about food as much, it was easier, but that's of course a romantic, rosy retrospection notion - I think we've always thought about food, especially when it was much harder for us to obtain.

Eating seems to be something that we humans are fascinated by and have a very complex relationship with. On one hand, we're obsessed with food when it comes to food porn, and we can't get enough of it. But on the other hand, we're worried about dieting and restricting what we eat and making our kids take fruits and vegetables in school lunches. But there are also numerous kids on free lunches, watching food be wasted and many Americans and people around the world who can't get enough food. And then I think of how I ate when I stayed at a luxury hotel in Denver last Christmas (paid by a very long term accumulation of hotel perks points by my father traveling for business) and I get even more flummoxed. (Great word, flummoxed).

There's more I could discuss on this but I think perhaps it's best to leave it here. The discussions over food are on-going, as could my posting on it. But for now, I'll stop here and fret over my own dietary habits. Late night eating is bad for you... tell that to someone who hasn't eaten dinner for the past five nights.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Batch of Feminism, Poorly Organized by the Blogger

Heyo! It's late, but still Wednesday in my neck of the woods and so here is a belated and rather abbreviated post for you. However, it'll still be lengthy because I have a TED Talk for you :D This one is on children's movies and "manhood." Take a watch:

This is all feels really timely, given my recent musings on Disney princesses. I don't really have any more substantial thoughts at the moment other than "YES THIS GOOD." So if you would like something with a bit more deeper content and using film theory to look at things, I highly recommend this post from Three Chic Geeks on Sherlock Holmes and the Male Gaze. If you're familiar with Laura Mulvey and her theories, you'll be flailing in academic glee over this - plus it's a brilliant post that gave me a better understanding of the flaws of the Sherlock Holmes and why it's sort of a complicated interaction between liking the show and yet still critiquing it. But that's a different blog post - hopefully one coming soon! (Yes, yes, I know I keep saying that. How is it that I'm busier this summer than I was this past school year?!)

Anyway, there's two random, fandom-related things on feminism for you. Ooh, and bonus: this article on Much Ado About Nothing and slut-shaming (which was totally the basis for a reflection paper in my Shakespeare class). There's really no rhyme or reason to this being thrown together, so my apologies for this weird mix of things. But then again, if I'm going to write about feminism, why not throw a whole batch of somewhat related links together? (BTW, feministbatch wasn't a username on Tumblr, so I took the liberty of stealing it :D)

And on an utterly unrelated note, last night I dreamed about a rouge hedgehog running around the Mall of America. What is my life?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Meta Work

I'm not having an existential crisis after graduating. But I might be having one about blogging.

Unfortunately, the whole Ad Sense failure actually is more of a problem than I thought. I was really hoping to find a way to profit off of this adventure, as selfish as it might make me feel. And as my easiest outlet for it failed, I feel like I've hit a bit of a block. Other options could involve drawing stuff and marketing that way, but considering I can't draw, it's not like I'm going to be selling hedgehog merch any time soon. I guess this means I'm just going to have to get a real job after all. *sighs*

Part of this blogging identity crisis stems not only from the realization that no one is going to magically swoop down and find my blog and think, "Hey, yeah, this girl who says 'things' and 'stuff' a lot and uses way too many gifs of British actors is really great and should write stuff for our publication" or that I'm blissfully going to be able to start my own little paid blogging enterprise, but that I honestly have no idea what this blog looks like as a whole. I was trying to write another one of those "uncontrollable fangirling posts" this week (it was supposed to be today's finished product; clearly that didn't happen) which beautifully collapsed because I can no longer talk about Tom Hiddleston like a rational human being. It's sort of a problem and yet impossible for me to describe without feeling like a total fool - which I am, but more like a fool unable to say something that isn't "asdfhsdfjhdfk" (aka: lots of hand flailing and strange noises).

I feel unable to say anything that makes sense or isn't sort of shallow. I think part of it are my worries that college has left me feeling like I don't think deeply enough and I can't see the world complexly enough unless I have a class to guide me while also feeling like I might be a bit too deep and referring back to theoretical texts too much and alienating people because I tell them that reading Shakespeare isn't hard at all after reading Descartes and Hume (actual words I said over graduating weekend. God help me). But I also think that the Ad Sense rejection got to me and re-awoke the idea that I don't write a serious enough blog or that I'm utterly inappropriate. "Why do I care so much of what Google things about me?" I pondered this week. Well, Google is a big company and well-respected and people really, really want to work for them. And it feels a little bit like biting the hand that feeds, criticizing a platform that allows me to do a very, very incredible thing that I wouldn't be capable of otherwise. I feel sort of bad calling Google evil overlords now (I didn't mean it seriously, I was joking; but your evil checker thing is still kind of creepy) and am once again faced with the uncertainty about how to feel about something that everyone respects but I find lots of issues with (wow, this is a lot like how I feel about Hollywood... Interesting...)

Anyway, I've been thinking too much about blogging, writing, and life, so by now you've probably realized that the opening was just a denial and, yes, I probably am having an existential crisis. Bollocks.
(There it is. The real reason no one can or should take this blog seriously. However, this is a positive in my book; I take things too seriously so I need a space to play around a bit.)

Perhaps what causes me a lot of grief out here and why this blog often feels kind of scrambled and perhaps not "serious" or "mature" is because I write a lot of self-reflective posts like this. I do a lot of meta-commentary on myself because I enjoy it and it helps me account for where I'm coming from and what I'm doing. I like processes and showing my processes. It may be messy, it may not be what's considered "professional," but it's how I work. Maybe this is because I'm one of those people who likes watching film commentaries and behind the scenes footage because it adds to the magic of the film, while others might find it taking it away. I like seeing how things are made and I especially like to do that with my writing. Not that my processing out here is at all magical. Bizarre, maybe. But hopefully the allusion works. I want the construction of stuff out here to be as visible as possible, without compromising privacy for both myself and readers, and without completely creating an artifice of an internet personality while also accepting internet me is not exactly like real-life me (but they're also not as different as I sometimes might think).

Umm... (
Another issue came from doing research about Twitter apps for my internship this week and learning about how many apps can be added to it. Now I understand why on Twitter people specifically follow me because I follow back (for the most part) and why if I don't follow back, they automatically unfollow me in a day or two. There are apps that allow you to keep track of this and optimize for building the biggest social media presence possible. There's something kind of selfish and soulless about this, and I'm rather back about following suite. Not that I don't do it to some extent - I follow well over a thousand people on Twitter and I can't read all of their tweets, but if they're an artist or writer or musician or involved with some really interesting program, I will follow back because I want to support them, even though I'm just another number on their page. I'm at the point where I want to have lots of followers, but I still want to be able to know everyone who's following me. I want to be as personal with them as possible (even though I often fail at reaching out to followers. I sort of suck at internet communication - surprisingly).

I guess I don't know what to do. I trust my audience enough to show my vulnerabilities which I think is good. I need trust out here in order to write to an audience of many of you who I've never met, never seen, and perhaps never spoken with, online or offline. It's not about quantity, it's quality - and you guys are quality readers. I read this great article about blogging that my dad sent me, and I agree with all the things it says. But there's one key thing that it's missing - what makes persistence easier. And for me, it's having readers that want regular posts and updating. I'd like to think I'd keep blogging if I didn't have readers but I know that's not true; it truly keeps me motivated, as I think I've probably gushed about before. But just in case I haven't done so enough - or you're a new follower (and there's a few of you just via the Google thing on the right side of this page alone. Hello new friends!) I'd like to take the opportunity to thank you all. Each and every one of you.

Why does this matter? I need a quote from Emma Watson (in all honesty, I'm beginning to feel like if I'm not quoting Tom Hiddleston these days, I'm quoting Emma Watson. What is my life?). She said this really brilliant, wonderful thing at the MTV movie awards: "I’ve often gotten teased mercilessly, but I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in — even if it makes you vulnerable — amazing things can and will happen." I feel really, really vulnerable out here blogging but I feel comfortable doing it, which allows me to take risks that maybe I wouldn't otherwise. While I'd like to grow readership, I really don't want to lose this great, supportive space I find myself in. It's a quandary.

Maybe I've been listening to this song too much this week and it's affecting my thinking, but I've been thinking about fame and celebrity as much as I always do and this new song by Lissie has been absolutely stuck in my head:

If I had to choose one thing that represented my current views on fame, this would be it. I don't want want to be famous if I have to be shameless - yes, this. I want to take risks and be vulnerable, but that's not the same thing as being shameless. I don't want to feel judged for what I do and I don't want to feel like I have to be elaborate or over-the-top or obnoxiously arrogant in order to have readership. I guess I don't want to have to make a name for myself when I feel like it's already made - I don't want to have to remake myself or be something I'm not comfortable with. But at the same time, I often think in terms of, "Will this post be popular? Will it attract internet attention? Will it garner a lot of hits?" Often I end up ignoring those initial thoughts and focus more on what I want to write and what I think many of you readers might be interested in. But it's tough. I want to be famous and I don't want to be famous. I think I've said this several times before but I'm going to keep saying this. Celebrity culture and its affects on society are super interesting (and let me tell you, working in the education department of a theater makes this abundantly clear).

(Also, if you're interested in seeing someone look at the lyrics of "Shameless" in comparison to internet fame, check this page out. I happened to stumble upon it while looking for that great pic about fame and street cred. The post is wonderful and really worth a read.)
The TL;DR of this all is I'm sort of stuck in a rut and I don't know what to do about it. I want to be more active with my blogging - I keep saying all these things that I want to do, but I don't really feel like I'm doing them or are in a stable position to be able to do them. And once again I feel like I don't know what I'm doing with this blog. We were talking about characters and getting what they want in the acting class I'm taking (damn, I should have written about that instead of this long, rambling madness) and I feel like this blog is a character without motivation. I mean, I am motivated - I love all you dear readers greatly and I love writing out here. But I was also hoping for it to lead to something more, even it if it was just the secret longing to make a few bucks off of ads on here. I constantly and recklessly envision myself doing something great with this thing. Maybe it's time I once and for all define what greatness is by terms I feel comfortable with, not by what some people have chosen as gauges of it elsewhere. But it's hard when people continue to get that worried look in their eye when you talk about working a minimum wage job after college and that you have no idea where your fall rent is going to come from. Thank God my parents and their friends and my friends are supportive and understanding and don't think little of me for not knowing what I'm doing with my life; if I didn't have that I'd be having a much more serious patch of worry than I am currently.

Perhaps it matters less to me about having lots of people knowing my name, but who knows it (hmm, and there I go indirectly quoting a Goo Goo Dolls song. Nice). Where exactly this leaves me, who knows. As always, this blog is a work in progress. Because if it was ever finished, would it really be blogging? It implies a sense of continuation, an ongoing endeavor, and I like that.

And to wrap up things here in a very messy post, I'd like to pose an inquiry about guest blogging. I'm thinking about looking for other sites to guest blog myself (one of which I was recommended to read called Three Chic Geeks and I love it very much) but I was thinking about adding guest blogging on here. I know many of you are writers - so would there be any takers? If you like this idea or would be interested, please let me know! And then I'll figure out a way to add on contributors or something. I'd like to be able to talk about more things on here and, really, I'm not the authority on much of... well, anything. So if you're even the faintest bit interested, drop me a comment or an email :)

Finally, thank you for dealing with the word vomit. I feel much better for it and maybe I can finally get to a month where I don't need a whole bunch of self-reflection in order to spit out posts. But I sort of doubt it :P
How relevant. Internet memes for the win.  (