Sunday, October 31, 2010

Otter Time: Hammering Out a Halloween Costume With Limited Money and Time

No, this has nothing to do with math, The Science, or anything that attempts to disprove things with a control at hand and/or an experiment that will uncover some sort of data to compare and contrast to.

This is just an excuse to write the story of my Otter Costume.

Perfectly non-mathy and non-sciencey.  Except for marine biology.  But, that doesn't count as science, right?

Anyway, one day--er, rather, night, while I was hard at work on my computer...

I had remembered I had been asked around five times that day the Halloween question:

"So what are you going to be for halloween?"

"Don't know."

"Have you decided your costume yet?"

"What's a costume?"

"What are you going to dress up as?"

"A rhetorical question:  Do you really think I care?"

"Mommy, why does that girl look so freaky?  Is that her costume?"

"She's a freelance designer in this economy, sweetie.  You'd look scary, too."

That last one kind of hurt.

So, I thought and thought and thought.  And then I thought, "This is ridiculous.  Just put make-up on; that always scares your friends."  And then I thought, "No, reverse drag is not something I am comfortable with--besides the last time I walked into a party all girled up for a drag night, it became clear quite quickly that everyone else's idea of 'drag' was drawing a fake mustache on, meanwhile I was in stiletto heels and a black, sleeveless dress.  I did not want to repeat the same mistake again.

But, then days went by, I forgot, I ate some cheese, took the dog out for a walk, re-watched the 30 Rock episode where Isabella Rosilini attacks Tina Fey for the millionth time, and for a laugh decided to write my facebook status thus:

"Beryl Baker shall be an otter for Halloween."

I thought nothing of it.  It was a cute idea.  Absolutely ridiculous and absurd.

But then a plethora of people messaged me, replied, commented--I even got a facebook event invite for a possible show called, "Bring Back The Animals, BP Oil!"  But I don't think that was in reference to my status...

Anyway, turns out a lot of people love Otters.  A lot.  And, don't get me wrong; I do too.  In fact, I've grown up with the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a backyard of sorts, given my grandpa was one of the original peoples on the board to create it.  But, the pressure was suddenly on:  if I did not deliver an Otter costume that was adequate, then there would be a major Facebook Fail.

And I don't like being humiliated.  At least, not by others--I'll do it to myself, gladly, but no, not by you.  And that means you, Amy.

So, suffice to say a couple days ago I actually set myself to work.  I got some brown fur, I got some fake-kelp-grass-stuff and pulled out an old pair of brown slacks that never looked right and cut, cut, cut.

Here is the result:

And yes, I do generally tailer things to Carl Orff's O Fortuna from Carmina Burana.  I recommend it.  It makes things so exciting.

Happy Halloween!

Edited to add:
Animal Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's Not Me, It's You: Advice From the Non-Robotic

A friend of mine recently pointed out that thinking too much, and also thinking too much about oneself is probably more of a hindrance than a help.  This inspired the blurred thoughts below.

Do you have friends who have a knack for transforming dialogue into a monologue?  Are you often stunned at how whatever infinitesimally unique subject you bring up it amazingly is JUST like this one time that they had this one thing happen to them in Guatemala but it was actually their cousin's cousin's fault, not really theirs, even though the Mesoamerican Ambassador has put out a warrant on their heads for 5,000 pesos, and wow it's been two hours already and gosh you're so quiet what were we talking about before I got off on my tangent?

I am one of those people.  Or rather, I am a recovering self-addict.

"It's not you, it's me"

In hindsight, this phrase was at one point a smart way to reject someone kindly by saying you're really the screw-up in the situation (when you know in reality you wouldn't date that person even if the earth was being consumed by an epidemic bacteria and their breath was the only vaccination in existence...)

But, the phrase has become tinted with the reality that we all fear:  some sort of rejection is happening and whether or not it's for the benefit of one or both parties it's still happening and REJECTION IS NEVER GOOD.  At least, that's how it feels.  Culturally, (and I've mentioned this before in The Big Lie) I think Americans are terrible at handling criticism--and we're even worse at constructing criticism that doesn't take a turn into the personal.

But, the reverse of "It's not you, it's me" is never really discussed.  So, today's post is more or less about something I noticed I was doing the other day while out with a friend.

I was having the standard update/catch-up conversation.  But, I noticed that with every bit of information she was giving me about her life I was routinely comparing things she had experienced with mine.  And no, not the normal random-coincidence comparisons ala, "Wow, you ALSO were into recreating historical battles with miniature army men, complete with accurate calvary and infantry battle field layout?  That's so weird.  So was I!"  No, no.  If she said "Father" I was all ready to be like, "YEA!  I TOTALLY KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE TO BE A FATHER, TOO!"

That's when it got me thinking...

Prime Time

I'm sure this is normal--we all do this.  We all are primed, based off of our individual experiences in life, to have associated words, images, phrases or ideas that pop into our head, given whatever trigger is at hand.

In psychology and linguistics, this word-triggering phenomena is called priming; 'primed' words are words that are immediately brought to the surface of your brain by something external to you, usually another word.  As in, if one thinks of the word "salt" one is likely to be primed to think of "pepper"; you think of Kenny G, you think Tone Deaf.

So, it's no mystery that when the human brain is stimulated by some outer experience, it is then triggered to think of something in response, automatically--humans naturally have a give and take learning system; it's how we survive and it's how we communicate for our survival.  This particular process of data recollection occurs in milliseconds--i.e., one's brain is ready to react with thoughts, ideas, words and images before you can even begin to think to counteract this auto-pilot.

But, there is this sort of mania that comes with needing to voice each and every connection you see with what you're being told by someone else.  And choking them down ain't easy.

Thoughts are like hair-balls:  once they start to come up, it's hard to get them back down.

This interests me because, as I've mentioned previously, I consider myself a recovering self-addict.  I've wasted away many an hour in the past, dedicated to thinking about one and only one thing:  how crappy I am.  Not that there weren't some moments in which this self-evaluation was totally warranted.
Not one of my proudest moments.

But, there comes a sort of obsessive-compulsive behavior out of constant self-analysis and re-evaluation--and the more you think about it, the more you are self-priming to think about it.  Well, at least, that's how it feels.

The trouble is, how do you reconcile the need for self-appreciation day to day?  We're surrounded by all these other human beings that are constantly asking you to look at them, to sympathize with them, to reassure them, to approve them, to disapprove of the person they disapprove of--it's exhausting being human once you start to realize how often we're called upon to emotionally warrant each others' emotions.  Unless you're a robot.

         You're good to go.

I'm not sure what the answer is.  But, I do have some advice on what to do when you can't get "you" off the brain, every time someone else is talking.

DISCLAIMER:  Before I go on I'd like to state my advice doesn't guarantee the BEST LIFE EVER, or millions of dollars, or that one hot-honey (James Franco) swingin' on your arm down that rusty-colored carpet.  (I know you know this, but I like putting disclaimers at the top of paragraphs--it makes me feel powerful, as though I'm coming to a climactic moment.)  I am also not aiming to turn this blog into an Ask Beryl! posting for advice.  On the contrary, I'd much rather write up erroneous graphs and functions that help calculate completely unhelpful information.*  But, I got off on this tangent when I started writing and here we are.

Anyway, my advice to better oneself and decrease the unfortunate level of unhealthy self-addiction?  Think of the It's Not You, It's Me rule in reverse:

When someone is talking about themselves, it's really not about you, it's about them--as hard (and yes, as boring) as it feels, try to keep this in your conversation.  Or at least think it--thinking it is good enough for Year 1.  Granted, this brilliant reversal popped into my head when yet again, I was failing at paying attention to what my friend was saying, and thinking about this instead--but!  It was in the name of preventing future moments of failure at friendship.  See how I'm learning?

I just figure, at least from what someone else already pointed out, if you're really thinking about yourself that often and that much, it's probably not working in your favor--as in, you're becoming more self-conscious and worrying than you need to, and thus causing more unnecessary stress.  Again, you're not a robot.  Sometimes it's really hard to know the difference between what's helpful, mutual conversation and what's just taking advantage.  But, I'd rather question and learn more about how I'm communicating, and thus who I actually am, in a way that's humane--as opposed to well, robotic.


*Next week:  A function that defines how long it takes for a Google image search of any word to get to a naked/awkward sex picture.  I want to know what the likelihood of typing in my favorite childhood book will get tagged for a porn shot before the memories and nostalgia are forever scarred by a search engine, don't you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Lie

I Read A Snippet of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf And Now I Think I Know Everything There Is To Know About Humanity 

Hitler.  What a guy.   And I LOVE how I've already broken Godwin's Law.  What a beautiful Law it is, too:

So, using Godwin's Law, I have proven something already:  the following post's topic is absolutely useless, inadequate and riddled with argument holes as large as Canada.   Well, maybe Canada without the Arctic Islands, because honestly it's more water and ice than anything up there--and it's really annoying to draw all of those tiny islands.

It's amazing how many famous Canadians will pop into your head when one sits down and draws a map of Canada.  Obviously, this is a tactic American Foreign Relations need to use on any country that currently hates us.  But, I do think Canada has one up on us:  famous Canadian people are just so cute and cuddly.  Famous American people are frightening.  Ah, stereotypes.

I digress.  While running around online a while back, I inevitably ran across a mention of the Nazis--more specifically this snippet from Mein Kampf. As Adolf puts it:  “…in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted...Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X 

You know how in James Bond 007 movies the villain always reveals exactly what weapon or tactic he's about to employ to try to take over and/or destroy the world?  It's kind of...weird how Hitler...does that.  But, we now have a working definition:

The Big Lie.  [thuh big lahyn.
     -A lie so large, no one would think you'd be that crazy to lie about it and by the time it's revealed it's a lie, irreparable damage will have been done in the liar's favor.  

I could insert a WMD/Iraq War Joke in here, but honestly, it's not worth the joke because of how depressing it is, so instead I'm inserting a picture of a puppy.


But, there's a catch to Lying Big.  If I were to say to you, "I am made of cheese," you'd either agree that I eat too much of it, or not respond and question why we're friends.  However, you honestly wouldn't believe my hands really are made of gouda, or that I have cheddar elbows.  Sometimes I look at my stomach and see the similarity of consistency between my flub and brie, but that's a whole other issue.  

But, why doesn't this lie work?  Very simple.  It has nothing to do with you.  The Big Lie definition, therefore, has to be rewritten to have one specific addendum that is key to its success:

 The Big Lie.  [thuh big lahyn.
     -A lie so large, no one would think you'd be that crazy to lie about it and by the time it's revealed it's a lie, irreparable damage will have been done in the liar's favor.
    -Something utterly false that for some reason you believe will reflect on you, so you desperately wish to be true--so much so, that you'll risk the consequences of reality.

Enter, modern-day marketing.  

iphone = myphone, or me, me, ME

Have you noticed a trend in marketing recently?  Or perhaps, it isn't lately.  I've just had the unfortunate experience of realizing that the most successful marketing campaigns and massively-rich companies out there really have a grip on what the public wants to hear:  themselves.  They want to hear about themselves.  Or talk about themselves--basically anything to do with them is a-ok.  Meaning us. Wait, I'm getting confused. 

The most recent trick, however, has been to be quick and clever interlaying the use of our favorite subject and object pronouns:  I, You, & Me, or the possessive, My.  Any PR campaign that's out and out successful today has one of these words oh-so-delicately inter-spliced with the product itself:  Myspace, iphone/ipod, Youtube:  Broadcast Yourself, You HTC, etc.

Facebook remains to be a bit further out of that direct-campaign spectrum, but the general image that pops into your head when you think of Facebook is well, your face, or rather, your latest profile picture.  

Twitter is the same thing, except that instead of a picture you're given a 140 character limit to describe you--how tempting it is to one day reach those 1000 words equal to your Facebook profile picture, no?

We buy it because we love ourselves

I wish I was saying that in the happy-healthy kind of way, but no.  It's in the self-demoralizing, over-extreme polar opposites kind of way:  I-loathe-myself-but-also-can't-admit-this-outloud-how-obsessed-I-am-with-myself.  Remember the graph of sexy?  Insecurity runs highest when you're really trying too hard. 

I could be wrong but I think our American culture specifically has this tendency to repress--and each day our deranged self-love gets repressed, it becomes almost ferocious in its ability to eat anything up that quietly confirms this particular Big Lie:  You Really Are The Center of The Universe.  

And to top it off, these products allow us anonymity; no one will know how much you do love yourself because no one will ever know how much you really do log into Facebook and just reread your own profile or how dependent you are on your iphone, or how you'll cut a bitch for thumbing down your fan music video of Willow and Tara.


I've said too much.  But, this is my conclusion:  We are naturally self-absorbed.  But, we can't/wont/are told not to from the moment we're born.  So, we inherently repress and diverge that love into weird, unhealthy, obsessive habits.  These habits include:  live journal, blogging (example here), Facebooking, youtubing, iphoning, and if you were say, a 1930s German who is starving and being utterly handicapped by the Treaty of Versailles, that includes going to Nazi Ralleys and hearing about how you're part of the true superior race.


We need to buck up and start learning how to criticize constructively--and also how to handle criticism without turning to violence.  Because, if we don't know how to speak up ahead of time, and to handle a difference of opinion in the moment, much, much worse things will eventually bubble over.

And scene.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

All Your Base Are Belong to Mac: When Twenty Years Together Loses Its Romance

I find myself tapping the keys these days on the ol' macbook Core Duo 1.1 c. 2006, thinking on what to write next.  And then I remembered one friend pointing out my sensitivity towards infringing on any apple copyright.  So, that's when I realized I had to be as direct and infrige-y as possible, without actually infringing, as I...know.  This here macbook of mine has been through lots of things with me:  college, London, Chicago, a fellowship in sound design, and several theatrical productions (all requiring a different set of needs).  And I've worked with Macs consistently since I was a kid, as in way back when Apple called its computers Macintoshes and not just isomethings, and the first home computer looked like this and no, that's not a first generation ipod, that's a whole computer.

Stop laughing.  I played Oregon Trail on that.

Dammit, Mary

I also miss Myst.  Even though that was an Older Sister Game, so my enjoyment of it was more or less peripheral views of the screen as she played.

Anyway, looking back and looking at the present, I am questioning whether or not the mass-corporate We Have Sexier Sleek Silver Cases To Our Products Than You Do company is the Mac my family fell in love with twenty years ago.  When I think of Mac back then I get a fuzzy-feeling of funky computer programs and oddly quirky icons that were more approachable and oh-so-90s.  But, when I think of the Mac today, it's a totally different, totally distant, hyper-moderne, experience:

Wherefore Art Thou iBigBrother?

There are currently six computer product series...esesss... (yea, you try and pluralize the word "series" without googling it) that Mac is putting out currently:  the imac, the macbook, the macbook pro, the macbook air, the mac pro, the mac mini, and the mac minime.  I just made that last one up.  There are also, of course, the computer hybrids, the iphone, the ipod, the ipod nano and the itampon--which also, just as their computer counterparts, change at a rapid rate (within three years of origin there are over five generations of each product, not to mention software updates).

Not that these aren't beautifully crafted computers--in the very literal sense that they are beautiful--but.  But.  BUT.  I've noticed a trend with Mac:  put out one or two products every year or so that then rapidly change every month, if not every other week.  It's a bit...well, anti-green, really.  For all their sleekness and their revolutionary smallness, their touch-screen-makes-me-move-my-fingers-that-I-wasn't-exercising-before-in-Yoga-so-this-is-practically-like-exercise-right?-actually-do-they-have-an-app-for-that?-I-hate-yoga-but-go-because-it's-also-trendy-ness, I wonder if they're really just turning into the IBM Big Brother that had to be hammered in the first place.  Consumers are now more interested in buying the next thing, as opposed to using--and expecting to get--machines that are meant to last, given all the fancy-schmancy applications they have in the first place.

R.I.P:  My adorable, dying Macbook

Dammit, Stacey

I got it in 2006 back when it first came out with that college-student deal (you buy the mac, you get a discount, you look cool for having the non-conformist white computer, and it will last your entire undergrad degree).  And it's dying.  It shouldn't be dying.  It's been four years.  But, to do any professional work in sound design, composition and documentation, I have to "get the update" and this computer will. not. survive another update.

So, I'm looking at putting it into the earth.  But, it won't stop there.  Given how Mac is racing through its technology, I'm looking at having to buy a replacement every five years or so, slowly adding to this mortuary of computers that were cool for a year or so but then became pass√© and then became defunct...√©. 

Or idefunct.  Whichever you prefer, really.

I just want a computer that lasts--I want the Volvo of the computers to exist.  And I've come to realize that Mac is no longer that old-standard of stability anymore.  Or possibly, never was.  I was primarily playing kidpix when that first pie chart's data was being compiled, so really, I'll give Mac a little bit of the benefit of the doubt.


p.s.  This is just nit-picky now, but do you miss the rainbow apple?  I do.  I am tired of the silver-lined apple that seems to glint and glimmer from a non-existent coat of wax and studio lighting.  I am also frightened of 2010 Steve Jobs.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

99 Luftballons and a Balm Ain't One

Relaxation.  The more you try to let go and lift up, the less you actually do.  Outside problems seem to overflow too easily these days (the US economy, the housing market, China-Japan territorial tensions, there's a giant spider now living right outside of my window.)

And for some reason, my method of yelling "RELAX!" in the mirror isn't working.

So, I decided to investigate alternative forms of healing and healthy activities.  This is what I have discovered, thus far.

Bath Balms:  Ask Yourself If You're Really Ready To Go All The Way

Recently, while on break from my latest theatre gig off San Francisco's illustrious Tenderloin I wandered up to Union square.  I remembered there were pretty things up there that I couldn't afford, but I was allowed to breathe next to.  So, I went.  

Before I could get all the way up to William Sonoma, I was stopped by the welcoming aroma of Lush, the UK-based handmade cosmetics shop.  I hadn't been in one since my last visit to London 3 years ago, so I figured why not?  I rarely indulge in cosmetics, let alone indulge.

The gal that helped me let me try out different soaps (one felt like I was rubbing jello on my hand but definitely wasn't edible. I know. I tried.) and bath balms that were reminiscent of an alka-seltzer pill, but much bigger (imagine the dosage amount for a young hippo).

I ended up choosing a delightfully pale blue bath balm ballsay it four times fast now, wrapped up with lavender, jasmine and tea leaves.

Upon coming home, delighted in my first-in-a-long-time-fully-indulgent-purchase-for-self, I immediately turned on the bath water full blast and watched as my homemade anti-acid burst into bubbles and foam.  The blue color that erupted from the thing alone was fascinating against the pale cream of the tub.  I was so excited and simultaneously overjoyed that I had found, bought and was about to experience something that was meant for relaxation.


It became apparent rather quickly that freshly cut leaves, dried flowers and yes, twigs, are not exactly good to sit on top of, naked.  

And that's orifice, not to be confused with an orophus, which may be where Lush went wrong in the first place.