Wednesday, September 26, 2012

News and negativity

I was told tonight that I shouldn't follow the news as much as I do. The rationale of this being that following the news causes one to disproportionately focus on negative aspects of life.

It could be argued that the process of intaking information about situations beyond one's own control doesn't actually accomplish anything. Ya know, aside from slowly driving you mad. And yes, perhaps it does take a certain amount of mental masochism to listen to/read it daily, but I can't bring myself to turn my back.

There is part of me that can't let go of the thought that if I turn my back, I am perpetuating the mentality that it is better to stick one's head in the sand. It is a mentality that causes complacency which makes change impossible. 

But wait, now I have to ask myself, when it comes to situations far out of my control, what change am I even making? All I'm doing is sitting here and reading. What sort of impact is made based on whether or not I have read or listened to a piece of news?

Back in July a segment came on NPR about the rebel-held Syrian village of Atima. The woman reporting from the village was asked a question that I have since been unable to get out of my head. "Why won't anybody help us? We wont forget this. When we control Syria, we won't forget that you forgot about us."

Those words have been burned into my head, but what has that accomplished? 

The girl who asked the question was mourning the loss of her brother and you could her the pain in her voice. For me personally, to ignore the overwhelming hopelessness, anger and confusion in her voice would be near impossible. Thus, listening to that segment inevitably means taking that in.

Okay--so I have heard her pain. It has been burned into my head, but that doesn't help her. That isn't going to bring her brother back to life.

What has been accomplished by listening to, and registering her pain? A minute amount of understanding? (I say minute because within my realm of experiences, there is no way that hearing a few sentences could ever allow me to fully understand what she is going through.) But what does THAT accomplish?

I have no idea.

Maybe nothing.

Funny thing is, this advice has come at a time (unbeknownst to the giver) when my news intake has greatly increased. As the anniversaries of Occupy have come to pass in New York and Oakland, over the past couple of weeks I have found myself almost obsessively picking through the internet to find articles that might give me some insight into how things have gone.

The problem is, reading isn't doing--but I can't do anything in a city I'm not in. I can't help someone in a country I have no access to.

Okay, so obviously there is guilt on my part over not acting. The answer to this guilt isn't very complicated--I should act on things within my reach. But that still doesn't address the big issue here--what is the point of listening to and reading about things that aren't within my reach?

Is there any productivity in taking in pain I have no control over?

Is there any productivity in learning that our ship is sinking and educating myself on why it is sinking, if there isn't anything I can do to fix it?

Friday, June 29, 2012

What ever happened to humility?

I had a rude awakening the other day.  Humility is not valued in our culture.

Realism and success do not go hand in hand. To be successful, one must be overly confident. Is illusory superiority a natural trait in humans, or is this a recent development? Perhaps it is a side-effect of a society that from childhood tells us all that we are special just for standing there; that gives out awards for meer participation.

A New York Times article from last year stated that, "In the 1950s, 12 percent of high school seniors said they were a “very important person.” By the ’90s, 80 percent said they believed that they were." Causation aside, as a result, it appears that it is now commonplace to walk around with a bloated sense of the self. As this overly confident attitude has become the norm, I have to wonder how others perceive those of us who do not feel comfortable boasting about ourselves in such a manner. If exaggeration of one's abilities has become normal, does that mean that if you talk about your abilities in a purely realistic light it will still automatically be assumed that you are bragging, in turn leading others to believe your capabilities are lower than the factual level you stated?

Sure, I could use a little more confidence in my stride, but this goes beyond confidence. This is arrogance, and that is something I absolutely despise. Yet my experiences continue telling me I have to adopt that type of mentality to get anywhere.

So what, I become someone I hate for the sake of any possible success? Do I have to willingly brag about myself if I want to progress? Should I be running around telling everyone how fan-fucking-tastic I am? That I am something special? That I am unique?

I'm not. And neither are you.

None of us are.

I've got the sick feeling that this I am so fucking amazing attitude may actually be dangerous. If I am so fucking amazing, it would also follow that I am always right. If I am always right, why on earth should I compromise with that guy over there? I'm the amazing one. I am the one who perceives reality properly. Can anyone say they don't notice an unwillingness in our society to not only compromise with one another, but to try to fully understand the viewpoints of others?

While we're here, I propose we rid our vocabularies of the word "original". Rather I say we refer to what we think of as "original" and "new" as an evolution of something past, because that's what everything "new" is, isn't it? It's a reorganization, modification, or extension of something already in existence. We may think we have created something that has never been done before, but that creation was made with blocks that were already in existence.

I don't mean to sound negative, just realistic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"What you see is what you get. My God, I don't have the time nor the energy to live up to some persona."

I was talking with a friend recently about the concept of creating a persona for oneself. It seems to be the artist thing to do.

A quick preface; I have certain issues with using the term artist on myself, but that's a whole other can of worms for another time. So let's just say that, as a "creative type", I have spent a decent amount of time wondering if at this point in my life, I should be working on creating a persona.

In the process of thinking about this, I had to ask myself, why do we even do this? Why am I thinking about doing this? The main conclusion I have come to is that the creation of a persona is done essentially to create a more marketable self and that right there is why I don't think I can do it. It is a process that requires creating a new self--a self that is a commodity and this is something that has a stench too artificial for my liking.

So unless I am totally off base here, I get why people do this on a surface level, but I am still trying to figure out the reason on a deeper one. Are our true selves so borring that we have to create something new for the world? Or is it that the concept of exposing our true selves to the world is so terrifying that we feel the need to create someone new. Perhaps the process of having a separate self for the public is used to protect the personal self. Someone used so that the public doesn't get to have everything.

I see a risk to this process though. The creation of a persona is something that seems to have a lot of upkeep, and when a person spends so much time working on this public self, one may run the risk of neglecting the private self. If you neglect that private self--your original self, at a certain point, after a certain amount of neglect, all you may have left is your persona. It is a sad concept to me.

I also have to ask, why do we need to be so marketable? Is it because the more marketable we are, the higher chance we have of becoming well known? What on earth is the point of becoming famous if you are famous for being someone other than yourself?

Something I love about being in the graphic design field, while most other creative fields require fame as a part of success, there is no real fame in graphic design.  No one, save for other designers will know, or even care about who you are. When on a class trip to New York, we visited Mike Perry's studio. One student asked him, "what is it like to be famous?" to which he replied, "being famous as a graphic designer is the least famous you can be." No one stops you when you're on a plane and goes 'Oh my god it's Mike Perry!'

Well shit... I guess I've just answered my own question. Not wanting to create a persona isn't the answer, it's that I don't even need to, and for that I am glad. It means getting to put my time into what really matters--working on my real self.

So I guess that's all there going to be. My incredibly flawed, fucked up, loud, clumsy, obnoxious, personal self. At least it beats presenting a fabricated faux-me.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Socks, underwear, cat toys, and ear plugs. In a post last year I mentioned that these are the things that seem to disappear from my life on a regular basis without any explanation. I feel the great need to add highlighters to this list. The only logical conclusion I could come to is that gnomes must be coming in the middle of the night and stealing these items from me.

It's maddening.

It doesn't matter how many highlighters I buy, they always disappear despite my having no recollection of actually misplacing them. One could argue that the inconsequential nature of these items makes them easy to misplace without realizing it, which may be true for the highlighters, but what about the ear plugs that are never used outside my bedroom? Where do they go? They have to go somewhere.

I should be writing a 10 page paper right now. Something about Hindu untouchables. I haven't entirely fleshed out the topic... It was due today at five pm, so of course writing an entry on my mostly neglected blog seems like a good use of my time right about now.

Monday through Wednesday are supposed to be "silent week" at USC. It's the time when you don't have class and teachers do not schedule tests or give homework. It's intended to be used to study for finals. However, this particular professor has decided to ignore this. Dick move sir. It wouldn't be as frustrating if it wasn't an official thing. It's actually on the academic calendar. So perhaps my procrastination on this essay is my passive-agressive method of coping. Or just a bullshit excuse.

Speaking of school, I allegedly graduate from USC on the 11th of May. I say allegedly because I still have two weeks to fuck things up. Anyways, I'm not sad, just... well, school has been my whole life, so it's strange that it's going to be over (for now). That isn't to say I haven't ever had a job. I do have a job, but working part time while you are in school is different from working without school in the picture.

As much as I bitch about deadlines and homework, I love college. I love to learn. But that part of my life is over. Not the learning part, the college I mean. Of course I can and will continue to learn without having people tell me I'm supposed to, but there is some fun in being in an academic setting.

And now time for another digression.

This is the apparently culmination of my career as a graphic design student. By that I mean it was my final project for Design 4, not that it is my best or favorite piece. It's a redesign of a craigslist "Free Dirt" ad. Try giving Stuart a call. It might still be there.

I went to school for four years and the last piece I produce involved playing with dirt for hours. No it's not photoshop. I don't know why some people thought it was. I'm not sure how I feel about it though. I know I need to redo the color correction...

I don't make art. I reorganize meaningless piles of dirt. What does that say about me?

Craigslist free dirt ad redesign.

I should really be the poster child for Roski. Have your child attend the USC Roski School of Fine Arts and maybe they too will pass off playing with dirt or dead animals as homework.

What was this post supposed to be about again?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy March.

I haven't written anything here in over three months. When I left you last my dear readers (who am I kidding, does anyone actually read this?) I had been spending nearly all of my nights down at Occupy LA. Shortly after I wrote that post on what the Occupy movement had accomplished, I left it. Yes, I do see the irony in that and perhaps I will get into my reasons in another post.

Okay... so what has happened in this past three months...

  • For those of you who don't know, my Octobet is going to be published in a typography book called "Type Object". It's a compendium of typography made of physical objects. The author's first book is Type Image which is was pleasantly surprised to see on sale at the Blick art store. Anyways, in January I got send a PDF of the final draft of the book so that's pretty rad. Until then I was reluctant to tell too many people because there was always a chance that it wouldn't happen. After getting the final draft though, it actually seems real.
  • I'm in the process of working on a new font. Technically I should already be done with it, but I'm really behind. This one isn't anything crazy or experimental. It's a non-novelty, yes that's right, useable, serif type-face.
  • I enrolled in an Introduction to Folklore class at USC and I am absolutely obsessed. I never knew that Folklore was a serious discipline and I am devastated that I am only just now finding out that there is a Folklore minor at USC. On a more positive note, I am going to be attending the Western States Folklore Society conference this April in Sacramento. I'm incredibly excited and plan on seeing how many of my text books I can get signed.
  • My birthday just passed on the first. I'm 22 this year, which is an incredibly anti-climactic age to turn. So... there's that.
  • I decided about a month ago that, for health reasons, I am going to start eating meat again. This  has been an (unsurprisingly) painful process.

Speaking of unpleasant processess, I also decided that I am going to go off of Effexor, an SSRI anti-depressant that I have been on for the past 7 years. Unfortunately the process of weaning off of it can only be described as complete fucking hell. You can't stop taking it all at once unless you want to risk ending up in the hospital. I was at 225mg of a generic (less potent than the regular) and have been going down 37.5mg at a time. Currently I'm at 150mg. I haven't lowered my dose in weeks because the process of going down a dose is awful and to be honest, I am scared. Each time you go down a dose you have to deal with the symptoms all over again for 1-2 weeks. 

I don't want to go back to the dizziness, vertigo, nausea, lack of appetite, insomnia, stomach aches, brain zaps, and the nightmares. Not to mention the mood swings. One hour I'm crying, the next I'm perfectly fine, and the next I agitated as all hell. When you're going off of an anti-depressant and you find yourself constantly crying for no reason at all, it's hard to believe that you are mentally capable of living without it. All I can do is remind myself over and over again that it's purely chemical, but it's hard to listen to someone who bursts into tears for no reason. Each time I go down a dose I become a perfect candidate for mayor of crazy town. 

But that's not the worst part. The worst thing is knowing that no one you know fully understands what you are going through. There is knowing and there is understanding, and this is something you can't understand unless you go through it yourself. I can tell you that even when lying down it felt like my head was spinning all over the place, that the thought of eating anything was the most revolting thing in the world, or how when I turned my head in one direction, it was another few seconds before my brain would follow. I can tell you that for about the first week after going down each dose I didn't want to sleep alone. That every night I would lay in bed crying and I didn't even know why. That I was scared to go to sleep because every time I closed my eyes I would see the same images from what had to be the most horrific nightmare I have ever had replay in my head. I could tell you that the only thing I wanted was for someone to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. But telling you only results in you knowing, and knowing and understanding are two very different things.

I've done a lot of reading online and found blogs and forums of people talking about their same experiences with the withdrawal, which has helped me not feel so incredibly alone, but reading these things online doesn't compare to talking to someone you know. I'm planning on going down to 112.5mg either this Sunday or this Monday since that will be my spring break. With any luck it wont be as awful this time but I'm not going to keep my hopes up.

So I wasn't exactly expecting to talk about anything so serious in this post but... whatever.

Happy March.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I don't like nature.

I may be an environmentalist, I may be from Topanga, and yes, I do find nature aesthetically pleasing, but I do not particularly enjoy it. As soon as I could, I moved out of Topanga and into the city. I don't miss the forest fires, flash floods, land-slides, boulders blocking roads, packs of coyotes yipping throughout the night, or that one mockingbird that lived in the tree outside my bedroom. It's infernal chirping throughout the night was intolerable.

I moved out of Topanga because I didn't want to deal with nature, however tonight has proven that it is inescapable. On this particularly windy evening I had a palm frond thrown at me. To clarify, it was not thrown at me by a person. No. It was the fucking wind. This can only mean that the wind has gained a certain level of sentience and is out to get me.

Have I mentioned that I don't like nature?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My two cents: what has occupy accomplished?

I want to take this time to address all of the anti-occupy rhetoric that has been going around lately. Since the beginning of the occupy movement, I have been told a lot of different criticisms about what I and my fellow occupiers are doing.

We are lazy.
We have no goals.
We are destructive.
We are dangerous.
We are bums.
We are spoiled.
We should stop complaining and get jobs.
The list goes on

Of all of the critiques I have heard, the one that continually surprises me is the claim that we are wasting our time and that this movement hasn't actually done anything. Now, I have done by best to sit by and politely listen, but I think now is it time for me to respond.

What have we accomplished? Though I could list more, here are the two most important things I believe we have accomplished.

The 99%: You are not alone
I'm sure we all have that little voice in our heads that tells us how small and insignificant we are. It is the voice that tells us that as individuals, it is impossible to make a cry loud enough to be heard. It is the same voice that says that one person can not make a difference. The voice yells every night telling you that you are alone.

The Occupy movement has proven that voice wrong. As Occupiers, we have come to realize that we are not alone in our frustrations and our fears. You and I are not alone in our feeling that something is wrong with the direction our society is moving in, and we as Occupiers have come together to express ourselves and turn these feelings into action--To shed light on growing income gap between the 99% and the wealthiest 1% of Americans as well as the fact that we live in a country where corporations have dominion over our political system. By giving hefty donations to the same politicians who are responsible for regulating them, they are allowed to run rampant. Though they have the rights of people, they do not have the same accountability. I could go on, but I am not here to tell you what we are protesting. My point is, we as individuals are now aware that we are not alone in our grievances. We now know that together we have power, and we do not need money to have a voice, which brings me to my next point:

The change in political discourse
To put it quite simply, it is impossible to ignore this many people. Before the Occupy movement began, the main thing being discussed in Washington was our countries debt. I do not mean to say that this is not an important issue, but it is not the only issue. This movement has put the previously pushed aside issues of of income inequality, the concentration of power within our country, and political and corporate accountability right up front and center for all of the world to see. And as we all know, this discussion has been far but limited to Zucotti park. Occupations have not only popped up all over the country, but also in over 80 countries all over the world.

I would also like to take this time to ask everyone who has been criticizing the movement, how many of you have been down to a camp site more than once or twice? How many of you have been been actively involved in the GA's and committee meetings? If you have, than I would love to hear what you have to say, but if you have not, I must apologize, but your criticisms are based hearsay. That is all the news is these days. If there is anything I have learned (for a fact) from being heavily involved in this, it is that what the mainstream media reports, and what actually happens is drastically different. Do me a favor; go down to the camps and experience it for yourselves. Talk to people involved and formulate your opinions based on more than skewed news articles.

So  that's my two cents. Take it or leave it.