My Noonday Demon

Hope is a strange concept for me to consider. It requires that I think about the future and for the majority of my life, the future has been a murky abyss of unknowing that sends me into spirals of anxiety at the very thought of it. The past is easier for me. It's painful and has a tendency to haunt me, but I'm used to pain. Pain is easier for me than hope. But as I read more and more of Andrew Solomon's The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, I have the smallest inkling of hope. I tend to live in a bubble, where I only have myself to compare to (this is slightly changing though, I have a friend (friend feels too familiar of a term, though) now who has similar problems). But reading about the experiences of others, reading their thoughts and realizing how similar they are to mine, is strangely comforting.

In the section on "Alternatives," in which Solomon discusses the alternative "cures" to depression that are not medication or talk therapy, Claudia Weaver's words struck me as they were so achingly similar to my own. "I felt very much in my own world. I felt I was different and apart. I felt small and that I didn't count, and lost in my thoughts, and almost unaware of other people. If I was out in the backyard, I would just wander around there, not seeing anything." And though I've never been married, I approach any normal social act with the same feelings Weaver had on her wedding: "During my wedding day, everyone remembers me as happy. I look happy in the pictures. But I went through the whole day feeling I should be in love, I should really be in love if I'm doing this. And I felt like a lamb going to the slaughter."

Lars von Trier discussed the idea, for his film Melancholia, that people with depression often feel calm during traumatic events that would cause others great panic - I wonder if this is because we are so used to everything going to hell in a hand-basket. In the same vein, I felt an odd sense of relief at hearing these horrible thoughts that other depressive people had. Perhaps it's that sense - I'm not alone. I often feel the opposite of what C.S. Lewis described as the beginning of a friendship: "You too?" Instead, I read about the thoughts of depressive people and while I will never have the guts or the courage to speak to them, my thought is always, "You too?" I feel like the angels in Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, perched beside other human beings but never having the ability to make an impact. Just there to observe.

I feel like this is the right time and the right place to say that I had a breakdown in college.

I"ll try to walk like a (wo)man who means business.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Foolish Love - Rufus Wainwright

Movie Reviews

I am severely behind on this.

Also, I took a trip to my local record store recently and found quite a few gems. They had copies of Eleanor Friedberger's New View, which is an excellent album. I've had He Didn't Tell Me About His Mother stuck in my head, which is a very pleasant song to have in your mental playlist all day. I found a used copy of Deerhoof's The Runners Four which is an exceedingly nostalgic album for me. I listened to it constantly back in 2007/8-ish. Hearing it again, I'm reminded of just how great the timing is on every single song. And I had seen Rufus Wainwright's first self-titled album constantly there but never picked it up. It was used, priced at $5.99 and part of me always thought, "Next time," figuring that next time it would be gone. It wasn't. And the price had been lowered to $3.99, indicating that this was an album they just couldn't get rid of. So, after paying for it, said album grew some limbs, I took its hand, and we walked on home.

I don't understand why it was an album they couldn't get rid of - it's excellent. Foolish Love alone is worth the $3.99 price. It makes me think, has Rufus Wainwright ever released an album I don't love?

Anyway, movies. Keep your focus straight, me. Movies. I would write about more films, but my time is limited today. So one.

Big Hero 6 (2014)Collapse )
  • Current Music: Because I Asked You - Eleanor Friedberger
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On Photography by Susan Sontag

 photo jane_b_1_1000_zpsusth09ic.jpg
Jane B. par Agnes V., 1986


Consummation. Voyeurism. Aggression. Beautification. Denomination. Collection. Preservation.

A photo is a quote. But a photo is not to a film as a quote is to a book. Film constrains your viewing pleasure to the time of the director. A book is always read at your time. However, the act of photography has indelibly become a part of our existence, not in the same way as a quote. Words describe. A photo shows. For this reason, this incredibly visceral, sensory reason, photography has shaped our social conscience in the very same way that we have shaped photography.

To be beautiful is to be beautiful on film. The very image of beauty we have is found in photography. Even that which we deem ugly was found to be beautiful by the photographer. Advertisements described the camera as a weapon to wield. Or photography was used as a census taker, with or without the sentimentalism (manipulation). Photos ward off our fear of mortality; we keep photos of ourselves in youth and are reminded: that is what I used to look like. A nostalgic, euphoric past in which nothing bad happened. We photograph because it gives us a connection with ages past. In the realm of photography, time is the ultimate judge.

Susan Sontag's On Photography is the most thought-provoking read I've encountered on the subject of photography and means so much more as we enter a digital age of photographic dependence. Sontag's thoughts on photography are in no way dated since they were published in 1973. And it covers such a broad spectrum - not just why we photograph, but also what we photograph and how photography has taken dominion over our culture. It is an essential read, whether in the age of the polaroid or the age of Instagram.

To experience a thing as beautiful means: to experience it necessarily wrongly.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Reflektor - Arcade Fire

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road has everything going against it in my book:

1. It's an action film.

2. Everyone really, really liked it and I am often suspicious of that which achieves both critical and popular acclaim.

3. It was considered a Summer Block-Buster film.

Usually, the kind of films that garner my attention more are the weird, the depressing, and, typically, from countries other than the US. The only few inclinations I had to watch this film were that I saw it among my library's collection and thus, had nothing to lose, and George Miller is part of the directors who made up the Australian New Wave film pantheon. And anytime I get to flex my pseudo film-knowledge powers and say things like, "Australian New Wave film pantheon," it excites me a little.

My dad may have helped garner some interest in this film series as well. He had a whole shelf dedicated to films he had recorded on VHS tapes. The whole Mad Max collection was on one tape. But instead of grabbing that tape, I always grabbed the one with Liquid Sky, Repo Man, and Koyaanisqatsi, with little to no knowledge of the black, Reagan-era humor of the former two or the zen pace of the latter. There were certain cult classic films I gravitated to and others I avoided. Mad Max, for some unknown reason, was one I avoided. Perhaps to my detriment.

We are not things.Collapse )
  • Current Music: Exit Only - Deerhoof

Listen To This

Finally! Some time to myself.

I finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and I found it funny that I was reading two books about multiplicity at roughly the same time (the other being Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley; I liked O'Malley's take on it more though). Sometimes this happens. I've often found myself reading books that have the same themes in them at about the same time. It has a touch of the uncanny about it, but these are just coincidences.

Now, I'm back on the non-fiction train again. I started reading Alex Ross' Listen to This and I'm really enjoying it. I've always had an interest in reading about music, probably because I played the clarinet in an orchestra/marching band for about ten years. I tried to learn how to play the guitar, then the flute, then I thought why am I even trying, but that was the depression talking (specifically, I wanted to learn how to play the flute so I could play some Matthew Friedberger melodies on it, like in Ruth vs. Rachel). There are certain things that just ring true when you've had an education in music, whether you've experienced ear training or just enjoy listening. Whiplash perhaps seemed the truest to me, how you fixate on certain sounds, even the hum of silence, because your ears can't forget their training. What Ross goes into is how you have to be trained to listen, just like how studying literature teaches you how to read and studying art teaches you how to see.

What really touched me though was Ross' bit on how to enjoy classical music. There's always going to be this elitist air about classical music because it is referred to as "classical." But at the end of the day, you don't have to understand the mechanics of a genre to enjoy it. We experience music in an entirely emotional way. I remember when I was a child, my parents would play classical music for me and my sister. And we would prance around the living room, dancing, imagining ourselves as fantastical creatures. You can enjoy art on an emotional level. You can enjoy art on an analytical level. I receive this reply all the time, when I tell people that I like to analyze books: "Well I enjoy reading." That's great! I enjoy reading too. I just like to analyze. It's not that one way of enjoying is better than the other; it's just different. I agree with Ross, that there is this very strong anti-intellectual spirit in America.

When you listen to music and you come to it with your experiences, your taste, your perception, you make it your own in time. Even if you don't understand it. That's the beauty of art: you don't have to understand it to gain joy from it. When I analyze books, I don't even really understand it. My perceptions are heavily biased as well - I was taught how to bullshit through education. It reminded me of how I couldn't listen to some artists because I associated them with past friends so much. I thought I didn't have a right to listen to that music. This is why I couldn't listen to Kid A or Belle and Sebastian for such a long time, because I thought they belonged to someone else. This is why I couldn't even bring myself to listen to Sonic Youth for such a long time. I would come into this music as an imposter, I felt. There was also fear, that in listening to this music, it would bring up all the pain of the past.

It did. But there's something cathartic in that. So I listened to these albums, artists, over and over and over again. And eventually, I gained an appreciation for them that was all my own. That was when I realized I had a right to appreciate that music. And everyone should be able to feel that way. As Ross says, you make the music your own.

Anyway, I'm also really interested in Andrew Solomon's The Noon Day Demon, which is described to be an atlas of depression. I'm kind of starving for a book like this, honestly. I've been searching all about the internet for experiences with depression (Tumblr, Reddit) but I just can't find anything that satisfies me. I trust Solomon, he's an excellent writer and researches his subjects thoroughly. In fact, I felt excited when I was searching for books on depression and saw his name.

I just have to wait for it to come in now.
  • Current Music: When I Knew - Eleanor Friedberger
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Books books books

Already, I love this. I"m also 29 and totally great. (From Seconds by Bryan Lee O"Malley) #seconds #bryanleeomalley

"Bread makes you fat?!"

Well, bread makes me sick. I was planning on writing a review of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds until I woke up today with a headache and a rather aggravating case of fatigue. This would be due to my inconsiderate choice on Sunday to have an espresso shake while I was out at a mall. The very fact that I was at a mall was not the healthiest choice for me, as people, in crowds surrounding me, makes my internal panic alarm start up. But I had decided to go out. And going out often means that I do stupid things in terms of my health, i.e. the espresso shake. I didn't think to myself, "Hey, they probably put cookies and cream gelato in that thing and all those gluten bits are embedded in the plastic of the blender! Not a good idea for a cealiac!" No. All I thought was, "Gelato + Espresso = good things. Also, vegan!" Ha ha.

So, I did finish Seconds and I really enjoyed it. When I was out at the mall, I discovered that they now have my favorite kind of store in the entire universe, a Used Book Store. And, as per usual when I am in a used book store, I looked and I looked and I looked and I looked. Until I happened upon copies of Jeanette Winterson's The Stone Gods, Art & Lies, and The Passion, which was great because those are the few titles that my local library doesn't have.

I popped into the UO as well which is always strange for me. There's something about working for a company and then being aware of the fact that you're going in there as a shopper, not an employee. I found a few tops I wanted to try on and, when entering the fitting room, heard a woman verbally dogging an employee. She was exceedingly venomous, talking in that hushed, passive-aggressive tone. I heard the employee say, "I'm doing the best I can," and the woman replied, "Well it's not enough." And I had a moment, standing there. I had a moment where I wanted to walk over to that woman and tell her, "You do not talk to people like that." But I chickened out. As per usual. Instead, I thanked the employee profusely as she helped me and tried to send her a sympathetic smile every so often. But she seemed so rattled from the woman that she didn't respond - which I understand. If I were in her position, I probably would have found a corner to hide from the world.

Anyway, a few days and I think I will be a-okay. For blogging. Working, I'm always a-okay. I still have about six books to finish, too. And a few garments to sew.
  • Current Music: I'm Not Living in the Real World - Belle and Sebastian
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1. I'm getting used to working much longer hours. I tell people I have two jobs now even though in reality I have three - with the writing and all.

2. Once I get a feel for how much leisure time I have, there will be more content. I'm just in that gray-zone of not knowing what I have time for and exhaust due to an annoying little cold I caught. I really wish this cold would just go away.

3. Gaycation is my new favorite show. I really hope a second season is in works. What is has taught me is that America is not ahead of any country in terms of equal rights - if anything, every country (America included) is behind. The episode on America was probably my favorite, though they're all exceedingly informative. I want to say that the episode on America was the most frightening for me, but Ellen Page's perspective on the matter is optimistic which makes me feel better.

As always, apologies for the lack of content. Everything's been really crazy on my end and it has been so quick that I haven't had any time to acclimate. I really, really enjoy all of my jobs though. I can't stress this enough.

It's difficult, but I'm happy. And that's all that matters.

(Also, Bentley just destroyed his favorite toy and now I'm running around like Parker Posey in Best in Show, demanding where his Cat in the Hat is. Only I know where it is - I have to buy a new one - and Bentley's a cat. I don't think I've mentioned how glad I am that I adopted my little guy.)
  • Current Music: Leaky Tunnel - The Fiery Furnaces

Up and Down

I'm in a liminal state. Or on the threshold.

I had good and bad news this week. The bad, that my short story had been rejected again but this is actually good news in disguise. I've come to appreciate rejections as they are chances for me to better my writing. Another chance for me to look over what I've done. In a way, rejections are an excuse for my perfectionism. "See? I told you I had to perfect this one paragraph. Now let me stare at it for three more hours." So I'm not so upset to have received another rejection. If anything, I'm excited to look this short story over again and to start researching more contests. I think . . . in order to survive as a writer, you have to love the process (write, edit, query, wait, receive rejection, edit, query, wait, receive rejection, edit, query, wait . . .). And ever so slowly, I'm growing fond of it.

The good news is so good that my emotions have been all over the place. It is the end and the beginning all in one. And so I've been crying for the end, hyperventilating for the beginning, and feeling intense fear for the future. Is this what it feels like when the notion dawns up you that you have a career? I don't know. All I can say is that I've had to be the perfect adult for the last few days and it's really quite exhausting/exhilarating.

So. I have a first draft to finish. I have a career to start. Things are changing. But things are always going forwards. I've been reading Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for a Time Being and every now and then, I'll snap my fingers. Just to remind myself: this is a moment. This is another moment. Time is always marching forwards.
  • Current Music: Time - Pink Floyd

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

"Feeling is frightening.
Well, I find it so."

I have been thinking about this recently:

Immediately out of college, finishing The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter, and feeling so excited about it that I had to pull out my collection of essays by Freud from a German Literature course. I had made it though college only due to one incredibly important trait in myself: perseverance. A "slump" is too easy of a term to describe what had happened to me. While I attended my classes and did the work, I was not there in those classes. I was too inhibited, from social anxiety, to even raise my hand in class to answer a question. I was scared and depressed all the time.

But then, this revolutionary book had come to me and I felt a surge of energy in needing to know more about it. I wanted to analyze it as thoroughly as I possibly could. This has been my curse/blessing since. Understanding a book more is my way of staving off feelings or thoughts that are too difficult. As long as I can analyze a book, I can ignore the voice in my head that tells me everything I do isn't good enough. I am not exaggerating when I say that I feel as though literature saved my life. Literature, creativity, laughter - these are my coping mechanisms.

I started scouting out authors who resonated with me in terms of "coping mechanisms" - Virginia Woolf, Fernando Pessoa, Marguerite Duras, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Osamu Dazai (you'd be amazed how many of these authors had a wonderful sense of humor) . . . and while I was in the library, I found a copy of Jeanette Winterson's GUT Symmetries. The stark language invoked a sense of loss in me that was difficult to express in my own words. My appreciation for Winterson's work led me to her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, the title taken from something her adoptive mother actually said to her. And as I read it, I had that strange feeling, that emotion that draws us continually to creative works:

You feel this way too?

And if we have to part, you will know that you were in a good relationship.Collapse )
  • Current Music: It's Never Over (Hey Orpheus) - Arcade Fire

State of the Reading and Blogging

If it seems like I've been gone for a long time, it's because I've had a lot going on the past week or so. I actually read quite a bit, so I've now finished Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and would love to write about that. I also finished Susan Sontag's On Photography. And . . . I've gotten further in Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races and it's been growing on me. I think it's the pace of the story that has truly won my affection. Very slow. A few of the descriptions are very interesting as well.

There's been lots of sewing so far. I finally sat down, looked at my fabric stash, and decided that I had to stop buying fabric and actually work on my projects. So far, I've finished a blouse with the Legend of Zelda fabric I found at the L.A. Garment District. Just today, I cut out the pattern for By Hand London's Anna Dress in a fawn-printed stretch-cotton twill I bought from Mood Fabrics. My niece also commissioned me to hem a dress of hers by a few inches.

My health has played into the silence as well. Having Hashimoto's disease means that sometimes my thyroid is fast and sometimes it's slow. Both complicate the matter of living a normal, feasible life. Lately, my thyroid's been slow which I thought was due to another medication or depression. So the past few days, I've been in a bit of a zombie state. But I know now. I can react to it. I can stop it from happening for a few months.

Everything will be okay, though. I just bought a copy of The Sims 4, so I can get my zen on while building houses. And I'll be back to write soon enough.