Thursday, January 8, 2009

ars bellum

Over a good cup of tea, I had a conversation with an old friend about who we were in college, who we are now, and what we thought of ourselves, how we projected ourselves. We discussed how we had first perceived each other, and how different that perception was as compared to our own ideas of ourselves. It made me think of this essay contest the University had- "the Skin I'm in" about who you are, issues of gender, culture, sexuality, blah-dee blah-dee blah. I could have won some money, but I was no longer a student (ha ha ha!!!) Anyway, what came out of that was worth so much more than 250 bucks. Here was my entry:

The skin I’m in is a projector, film strip flapping, reflecting and directing all eyes, all gazes, because let’s face it, we’re judged in less than thirty seconds by our appearances.
How does it affect me to be different? The great failure of this question is that every single human being, no, let’s narrow that down, every single person who sees your question is different from every other. I don’t think it really matters what color or orientation, what gender you are, or what culture you come from. You are not the same as me, and I am not the same as any of the thirty thousand or so students in this University.

So what is the question really about? Is it about what my skin is? A sheath of living organ that feels and registers sensation by sending messages to my brain through a system of nerves? I doubt it. All biology aside, what’s the point of asking? Is this really going to be about how I feel other people looking at me, judging me, and my personal testimony to how I am me despite the constant molestation of other people’s opinions and force of will on me every day?
This is not my therapy session- this is my ars bellum- my art of war.

We have established that we are being looked at, therefore we are objects to the gaze of those around us. But am I going to tell you how I feel about being an object? This is pointless. The goal of every object ought to be becoming a subject.

The skin I am in is my tool, my weapon, my projector, the canvas from behind which I shine only the image I want you to see. Actors and actresses learn the skill of pouring their personalities, spirits, selves, out into full-wattage beacons to hold an audience in thrall. We all know people whose presence can be too big for a room- these are the souls who have learned how to use the canvas of their skin- how to be a subject.

How to be a subject- in other words, how to take control of the skin that they are in, and thereby take control of the judgments and opinions formed about them. In short, the skin I’m in has become a powerful mind control. Few people have such dedication to their own opinions that they are not willing to be bent by a confident soul.

I have been given access to places I should never be allowed, I have dated far more attractive people than myself, I have never been turned down in a job interview and the professors in my classes wrote me glowing recommendations because of my assumed confidence when I enter a room. I got into Grad School on letters and an interview alone. The world is dying for someone who wears his or her potential like a glowing sun under his/her skin.

When I was a child, my mother told me stories of getting into exclusive clubs in Manhattan by projecting an image, by looking and acting and talking as if she belonged there and no one could dare tell her no. I have heard over and over how there were lines around the block, and the bouncers would open the rope as she walked past all the people in line. This image has never left me, and it was so simple, she said. Just act like you belong there. Just act like there are no ropes.

This is a motto, this is a mantra, this is my method. Just act like there are no ropes, no obstacles, no barriers before you that could matter. I have been complimented on my powerful confidence, but the honest secret is, I doubt myself daily. I know I’m not what other people imagine, I’m no genius, nor am I a great passionate beauty- not really. But you believe I am because I commit to the image. It is a decision, like so many other things in life, a decision to use the skin you’re in. A decision to meet all eyes on you, to be looked at, and be no object, be no one’s judgment, be no one’s stereotype.

This decision has cost me- there are those who are terrified of anyone who changes the status quo- but these costs are few and far between. Actually, most of that cost was high school, but what I discovered was that though they are afraid, they are also deeply envious, and will follow the lead if you are brave enough to set it.

The skin I’m in? This is my tool, my weapon, my means of success, my ars bellum.
How does it feel to be different?


Some things I've learned about writing-

You know, I've been doing it for so long, that alot of the techniques I use I simply take for granted. But I'd rather not talk about things like rhythm and pacing- I don't know how much I'd have to say about that anyway.

I wanted to talk about how simple it can be to write a good blog- a medium much like the essay of earlier years- non-fiction, personal and intended for public consumption. My blogs are usually shorter than my essays, but I've been thinking about trying my hand at a few topics for essay writing. The truth is, I'm good at it, and I like them. So I wanted to share some things about writing something non-fiction, personal, and for public consumption.

I think that the hardest part is starting. Most people that want to write have something they want to talk about, so the issue is likely how to write it out. As soon as you sit down in front of your blank page, the perfection of the shape of your idea is daunting. How do you disassemble it and put it out there the way it ought to be? Sometimes it's so perfect I think I don't really need to put it out there at all.... But then it wriggles its way to the forefront, ready to jump out of my mouth where I know I really won't get it just right. It makes my hands itch, it whispers to be said, go on, flex your fingers, go on, do it, write me, say me, you know you can.
And I know I can, but I don't know if I can do it well.

So how do you start? I try to think of my audience- not the whole wide world, mind you. That will cripple you faster and more thoroughly than chopping off your hands. For me, I imagine a conversation partner, one of my friends or my husband, to start with. Someone you know who will let you talk. I find that parents are rarely the right Reader to think of, because of the inherent criticisms. You start defending before you start arguing.

So think of someone you know who will read you with enjoyment, because they love you, they love what you want ta say, etc. At first, this person will be the only audience member you can and should pay attention to, but hopefully, as the idea begins to bloom on your page, it is the writing itself that holds your gaze.
When I imagine my Reader, I feel the pressure come off, and either I can go right into it, BANG, or....

I really feel that what I want to say is important, so I have to find the heart, the kernel, the meaning, the POINT. The reason why it matters. The thing that will connect my experience to something in the human nature and condition. This is a lot simpler than it sounds, because humanity is basically the same at it's core, and has been forever. The question is, why do you care?

And that may be the biggest hardest question to answer. Why do you care? What is it that makes your heart react the way it does? Some of you will sit and think about that. Some of you are like me, and you'll write a few drafts before you figure it out. But it is the engine that drives this whole thing, you know that, don't you? If you didn't, you wouldn't want to to write, let alone write about your idea.

So, you have homework to do. Figure out why you care about what you want to write about. Send me your ideas and reasons why at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Oh Jesus come soon...

Why the Human Race Sucks, Vol. 1

Follow this link to discover something called the Great Toxic Garbage Island.

In the ocean are vortexes of currents that create in essence the biggest eddies in the world. Here, all our dumped garbage gets broken down and floats, plastic, tires, buoys, every kind of trash. The worst part about this is, the plastic does break down into small bite-size nibs that the leetle fish eat. The little fish eat them, and on the story goes until we are ingesting our own garbage. It makes me think of Fight Club: "Selling rich women their own fat asses back to them."

We sow toxins, we reap toxins. In between California and Hawai'i is a massive area of toxic stuff, some say the size of Texas, others say twice that. I imagined actual mounds of trash, which there is sometimes, but nothing like the bergs of gunk I had in my head. Really, there's miniscule bits that create a film of plastic. You really want to get depressed, watch the film on the link. The main guy curses up a storm, I mean really. There are certain words that just don't need the F-bomb, but this guy spreads it around anyway. Other than that, you GOTTA see this. You really wanna get depressed....

It makes the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" kind of funny....because we're ingesting our own toxic waste, which I don't doubt does something to our brains....oh Dear Jesus come soon.

We're such asses.