jedusor: (seattle gay pride)
Becoming A Sports Person has really opened my eyes to what a dick I was when I was A Non-Sports Person. Not everyone falls into these two categories--there are plenty of people who just don't care about sports, and don't feel the need to make that part of their identity. But there's a large number of people, myself formerly included, who don't like sports and have to make sure you know that. They have a lot of opinions about how useless and ridiculous and harmful sports are, and they say repeatedly that they don't care, but it's hard to keep believing that when they won't let you change the subject.

I've tried to unpack what exactly it was that made me so hostile to sports before I tripped and fell into hockey; I think it was that the whole idea was so very unappealing to me that I didn't understand how it could appeal to anyone. Sports get so much attention and money and energy from so many people, and it irritated me that all those resources were being wasted when those people could have been doing something productive, or at least something actually fun. On some level, it just didn't compute that other people honestly got the same enjoyment out of sports that I got out of the things I loved. Especially because they all complained so much when their teams lost--and boy, if my seventeen-year-old self could meet the me of today, she'd get a nasty surprise there. I think there just isn't another realm of interest that fits this structure of constant emotional highs and lows, and so I had no context for understanding why anyone would want to subject themselves to that. It just seemed like a colossal waste of time. There's really no way to convey the joys of sports to someone who has internalized that.

For my last birthday, I received this from my mom and this (reverse) from my friend Carrie. Neither of those people get sports, but they don't need to get it to understand that hockey matters to me. They put their own resources into it purely for my sake, and that really means a lot to me. That's the kind of person I aim to be, when it comes to things I don't get. It's a hell of a lot easier for me to be supportive of other sports fans now that I am one, though a few (particularly football) still don't appeal to me. But there are other things I don't get, like shoot-'em-up video games, or following celebrity news, or fashion. There are things to criticize about those pastimes, like there are things to criticize about sports, and it's okay to have those conversations. But I am trying not to be a person who talks endless shit about things other people love.
jedusor: (seattle gay pride)
(My little brother posted this the other day, and it turns out I have rather a lot to say about it, mostly working through things about my past self I see reflected in it. Apologies to Clay if I'm projecting too much; I'll let him figure out how much of this applies to him.)

I used to spend a lot of time feeling curious about what other people were thinking, and frustrated that they wouldn't open up and tell me. Why wouldn't they just say the things in their heads? Just throw things out there, don't worry about how people will judge you! It doesn't matter what they think!

Except there are reasons that people judge each other, and there are reasons not to share everything that's on your mind with whoever wants to know. When I used to toss out whatever I was thinking without much filter, the people around me were judging me. Not just on a negative-to-positive scale, but in different ways: as a confidante, as a participant in a community, as a potential babysitter, as entertainment value, as a drain for their social energy. I may have scored more highly on the entertainment-value scale among my peers when I was fifteen than I do now, but I'm certain that I'm now seen as safer to be around by people for whom socializing requires a lot of energy. I may have been more fun at parties back then, but now I'm more likely to be considered a good resource for friends in need of someone to listen to their problems and support them in their decisions without turning the conversation back to themselves. There is social value in being an open book, but there are also social costs. And I still do tend to express my thoughts more than other people, but I pay more attention now to the question of what is an appropriate context for doing that, and I try to respond more to cues of discomfort from the people I'm with--which, if they aren't also open-book-type people, may not be explicitly verbalized.

Being forthcoming with your thoughts also opens you up to criticism--sometimes well-deserved, if those thoughts were inappropriate to the social context or just not developed enough to be worth sharing. People don't need to be afraid of criticism to prefer not to invite it--or to put themselves in the position of deserving it. It makes sense to consider a thought before expressing it, and it makes sense to choose not to express it if you don't think it's worth expressing. If speaking up in a social setting is a process that costs you energy--which it does, for many people--it makes sense for self-care reasons to default to not expressing your thoughts unless you see a good reason to do so. It may be easy for me to run my mouth off about nothing in particular when I'm bored, but it's not easy for everyone, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Not everyone falls at one end of those extremes. For most people, expressing random thoughts as they cross their mind happens more around people they know well, people who aren't forming initial impressions and won't allow a careless remark to shape their general view of the person. Those relationships take time to develop. I've had a lot of relationships that went from zero to sixty intimacy-wise over the course of a single conversation, and while that can be wonderful and exciting, it's not always wise and it's not for everyone. It's okay to be more reserved around people you don't trust. And telling people who are being reserved to be more forthcoming is disrespecting their choices about how much they want to share. Everyone gets to make those choices for themselves.

Here, I think, is the crux of this: a thought unshared is not a thought wasted. A thought to which I am not privy can still have value to the person who thought it. I am not entitled to the inside of anyone's head; trust is earned, not deserved, and that applies to even the most silly and inconsequential of thoughts, because people judge each other for being silly too. No one is obligated to be interesting to me, and if I'm going to decide they're not being interesting enough without taking the time to get to know them and let them grow comfortable with me, then my definition of "interesting" needs to be reexamined. And indeed it has been, and as a result I have a lot of good friends I might not otherwise have bothered to get to know.
jedusor: (you can play)
And I know I could be more clever
And I know I could be more strong


I love this. I keep listening to the song it's from ("Out on the Town" by fun.) just for the part with that bit sung over and over, because singing along to this is more comforting than anything else to me right now.

I don't particularly love the song. Like most fun. songs, it's catchy and has kind of problematic lyrics. In context, I don't really love this line either. But interpretation is everything, and to me this phrasing doesn't mean "I'm not good enough." It means "This isn't as good as I get." It means "I have the capacity to be better."

Control is important to me. Being a kid was awful, because I hate being expected to do things for reasons I don't understand or agree with. And being in control of my own personality is incredibly important to me--that is, how I present myself and am perceived by others. Not whether they judge me favorably, but whether they judge me accurately. One reason I love studying social heuristics is that it helps me understand the tools people use to perform those evaluations.

"When you talk to a new person, you are making you. Inside of them. And you don't wanna do a bad job. [...] Judgment is just someone creating you inside of their head without your permission, without full knowledge of who you are. They're making you, but they're making you improperly." --John Green

I want to have the ability to make myself properly. In other people's heads, and also in the course of my development as a human being. There's not much I'm afraid of, but the idea of having reached the limit of my potential terrifies me. I never want to plateau. I never want to be as good as it gets. I could always be more clever and more strong. There is always room for improvement. That certainty grounds me; it keeps me going.
jedusor: (neuron art)
Here is why it bothers me that all the songs are about romantic relationships:

Because even though I'm sick and the weather sucks, I still choose to drive eight hours round-trip from Chicago to Ann Arbor to have dinner with a dear friend I haven't seen in over two years... and I hear "oh, are you two dating?"

Because I talk about my favorite hockey player, how invested I am in his success, how his incredibly distinct playing style helped me understand when I was first learning about hockey that the guys playing are not just interchangeable uniforms, that there are nuances to each player's game that make them special and interesting and worth distinguishing... and I hear "aww, you have a crush!"

Because I sometimes hold back from telling my friends how much I care about them for fear of being misinterpreted, and every time I realize I'm doing it I lecture myself about how ridiculous that is, but it's not entirely ridiculous, because it's true that affection will very often be interpreted as romantic interest.

Because I say I love and I hear so why don't you marry no matter the context, no matter the history, no clarifications asked, just knowing grins and assumptions all over the place.

I just want some different songs once in a while, I guess.
jedusor: (neuron art)
Here is what I love about babies, all right. Adults, they see somebody do something they can't do, and they go: "Wow, that's amazing! I could never do that." Or sometimes: "Ooh, I'd like to learn how to do that someday." Babies, they see somebody do something they can't do, and they go: "Oh hey sweet, empirical evidence that this thing can be done! Move over, bitch, lemme try!" And then when they can't do it, they try again. And then they get frustrated, and take a break to scream, and then they eat something or sleep for a while, and then go: "Oh yeah, that thing! MAYBE I CAN DO IT NOW." You gotta admire that.

On pronouns

Jul. 8th, 2013 09:36 pm
jedusor: (seattle gay pride)
I don't know firsthand what it's like to be misgendered; I'm mostly cis, enough to be comfortable with the pronouns people generally assume apply to me. (I do actively dislike being referred to as a "woman" or a "lady" and strongly prefer "person" unless gender is pertinent information to include in the conversation--which it almost never is--but it's not upsetting on the level of misgendering.) But I once corrected a friend on someone else's pronouns and was incredibly taken aback by his derisive eyeroll, and that gave me a little bit of an idea of what trans people have to deal with. It's easy for me to assume that because someone is progressive in other ways, and is part of social circles that are generally safe spaces, that they understand and are supportive of gender diversity. But there's no way to predict that for sure. Every time a trans person corrects someone who misgenders them, they run the risk of being shamed or dismissed. I think that sucks.

For the last year or so, I've been making an effort to incorporate "what pronouns do you prefer?" into introductory small talk when meeting a new person in fandom, along with name and location and such, and to use "they" when I don't know someone's preferred pronouns. Of course fandom isn't the only community where the question is relevant, but it's the only one in my life where pretty much everyone automatically gets what I'm talking about and gives a helpful answer. I've never had a negative reaction, and there have been a few "oh, that's awesome, I should start doing that" responses.

In theory, I'd like to do this with everyone I meet. In practice, it is not always helpful to initiate a discussion of gender politics while shaking hands, and a lot of people would be offended by the implication that their gender wasn't obvious from their presentation. When I worked in retail, I had to heuristically assume gender constantly, because I was expected to address people as "sir" or "ma'am." Now that I don't have to do that, I generally don't use those terms. It's pretty much impossible to go through life without assuming anyone's gender at all, but it's possible to be aware of doing it and avoid it when it's not necessary, and I'm working on that.
jedusor: (fandom: i heart yaoi)
Amanda Palmer recently broke a million dollars on the Kickstarter for her latest album, Theatre Is Evil. The original fundraising goal of the Kickstarter was $100,000. Here is a blog post wherein she talks about what she did with all that money. It involved a lot of wiggle room.

Now she's going on tour, and she's not paying her backing musicians. When people reacted badly to this, she wrote this blog post basically saying, "it's not about the money, it shouldn't be about the money, don't be mad because some musicians are happy to play for hugs and free drinks."

This intrigues me because of what it implies about her psychologically. I think the underlying problem here is that AFP doesn't understand how her social position has changed over time. She broke into the music scene in Boston, where there's a strong creative community that values art for art's sake and ideas like "it's not about the money." As she makes clear in that blog post, she used to be one of those struggling musicians who would happily play for bar peanuts. That's the kind of worldview she's coming from, and she's never shaken it off. She takes a lot of pride in that.

Which is fine, from an ideological perspective, but from a practical perspective, it means she acts like she's still a broke street performer. The way she talks about bumming off friends and family for eight months while putting together this record in the "what I did with my million bucks" post leads me to believe that she actually still thinks of herself as a broke street performer. Sure, she makes shit-tons of money, but then she spends it all on elaborate stage shows and music videos and Kickstarter rewards for her fans. If she pours everything she earns back into the art, I think she feels like it doesn't really count.

What it seems like she's missing, kind of ironically, is that social status isn't all about the money. She can spend every last cent in the bank on wigs and turntable decorations if she wants, as it sounds like she may have in fact done, and she'll still have fame, fans, and resources that put her in a position where it's very easy to take advantage of people. Yes, I'm sure there are many musicians out there who would jump at the chance to make music with Amanda Fucking Palmer on whatever terms she cares to specify. They might be the same people who would be perfectly willing to play a bar gig for free because a buddy asked them to. These situations are not the same, and the fact that AFP thinks they are makes it abundantly clear that she doesn't understand the influence she has. She uses it, constantly--did you see the part of that blog post about how she asks fans to bring free home-cooked dinner for her and her band at all the shows they play?--but she doesn't understand it.
jedusor: (axe murderer)
Here are a few realizations that fundamentally changed the way I interact with the world, spread out over the last ten years or so. I suspect they're not the sort of thing that can really be shared--they kind of represent the results of long build-ups of understanding, rather than being independent nuggets of magic knowledge--but at least one of them has yielded a "WHOA, MIND BLOWN" reaction when I told someone about it, so I figure they're worth writing up.

  • Labels are summaries, not definitions. They can be useful and valuable tools of communication, but you can't understand something complicated by knowing what it's called, especially when the details vary between instances of it.

  • Neural configurations and activity don't lead to thoughts and feelings and perceptions; they are thoughts and feelings and perceptions.

  • People are, in most of the ways that matter, not that different. This is not the end of the world.

  • Nothing is "just" pretend. Pretending causes reality.

jedusor: (kinky me)
The Safe, Sane, Consensual vs. Risk-Aware Consensual Kink debate kind of applies to politics, if you think about the underlying values behind the semantics. Theoretically, there's the SSC school of thought, which advocates an ideal regulatory environment but can't seem to settle on realistic operational definitions for those regulations, and then there's the RACK approach, which places both power and responsibility on the individual. But in practice, most people basically just want fairness and personal satisfaction, and case by case, we're all trying to nudge the rules closer to letting us have them.
jedusor: (white collar kiss)
I was talking to my boss yesterday about how my friends tend to be older than me. I've always known this was a trend, but I didn't really realize until I was explaining it to her how particularly true it is right now. I still have a few friends my own age who live elsewhere, but not here. I have two Seattle-area friends who are 26 and two who are 29, and all the rest I can think of are in their 30s or older.

I made a graph a few years ago of the ages of my LJ friendslist and hypothesized that the age I would get along with best was around 30, but that social circumstances had led to my befriending the upper end of my own cohort and the lower end of my mom's. I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but current evidence certainly supports the part about me liking people in their 30s. I think that's how old most of my puzzle, yuppie-nerd, and poly-kink friends are, which is most of my friends. This might be why I didn't make many close friends in college--I had a lot of acquaintances, but the only person from Clark I connected with and felt comfortable around (and the only person I've really stayed in touch with since graduation) is Gerry, who's in his 40s. People my age tend to bewilder me. They're always texting right there in front of me while we're hanging out, and they never say what they mean, and there's so much drama. I realize that's a generalization--as I said, I do have friends my age elsewhere--but that was pretty much what college felt like for me socially.

There's also this distressing pattern wherein I have a friend who I believe to be close to me, and who behaves like we're close, and then out of the blue completely cuts me off and refuses to respond to my attempts to contact them. This has happened four times now with people who were important to me. I realize that the common denominator there is me, and believe me when I say I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I did and how to prevent it happening again, or at least predict when it's going to happen (and if you have any theories, by all means lay them on me). But they've also all been around college age. Four is not a sufficient sample size to draw conclusions, but it's enough to make me pretty much okay with not seeking out younger friends right now.

Even if my older friends do always tease me for being a baby. It's a cross I must bear.
jedusor: (hips)
Man, you know what just doesn't make any damn sense at all? Worrying about weight. We're all just organisms, right, and we're all made of cells, and for some weird reason a whole bunch of people have decided that they have too many of this one kind of energy-storing cell and they need to make it go away or they're somehow not good enough. And okay, yeah, there's a weight range that is healthy and going too far above or below it can cause problems, but that range is a lot wider than people seem to think. And you know what actually is shown to have deleterious effects on your health? All that fucking worrying.

And I get that everyone wants to be attractive, and life is in great part about getting laid, but here's the thing: fat people get laid too. I know plenty of fat people who have happy, healthy sex lives, and I know plenty of skinny people who don't. You know whose sex lives suck? People who worry about their damn weight.

(And don't tell me fat people worry about their weight more. I have known way too many skinny people to fall for that shit.)
jedusor: (neuron art)
"Time makes more converts than reason." --Thomas Paine

Let me start off by saying that I myself am not very good at changing minds. Theoretical understanding of a concept does not necessarily equal practical expertise. I even know exactly what parts of the process I'm bad at, and I'm working on getting better, because I believe this is a very important skill. This is not what I do when I want to persuade people. This is what my study of the decision science literature has led me to believe I (and anyone) should do.

Jonathan Haidt came up with this great analogy to explain how decision behavior works: the rational brain is not a scientist, it's a lawyer. It's not analyzing and fighting the impulses coming out of your emotional brain; it's constantly working to come up with workable justifications for those impulses. For example, there are many logical reasons to be vegan, and I list them when people ask why I chose that lifestyle, but in truth my own path to veganism did not involve much logic at all. I wanted to be vegan because of a visceral distaste for the idea of meat and animal exploitation. I did the research, and I found the evidence to back up my choice, but the choice itself was not rational. I don't eat meat because, in short: corpses, ewwwwww.

When someone's mind is functioning like this, arguments tend to be heated and pointless. (When both people's minds are functioning like this, the arguments are even worse. I'm giving the reader the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the position you're trying to promote is, if not the actual correct position, at least logically defensible.) These instructions are not about how to win an argument, and following them is not a way to make yourself look good to observers. This is about actually instilling doubt in the person with whom you're communicating.

1. Don't focus on getting them to agree with you right now. If they end up expressing agreement during just one conversation, either they were already on the fence or they're saying it to shut you up. Think of your goal as getting them to continue considering the topic on their own time.

2. Start by getting them to want to agree with you. Think of ways things would be better for them if they were on your side.

3. Present your facts in I-statements--this is why I believe this, it's my understanding that, etc. Don't make it about them. If you used to agree with them, tell them that, and try to establish commonalities. The more they can see you as a peer and not an obstacle, the more likely you are to get through to them.

4. Don't shove evidence in their face and demand a response. When you ask people to consider facts that counter their beliefs, their beliefs actually grow stronger. This probably has something to do with defensiveness. So try to avoid getting confrontational. Give them things to think about, not things to react to.

5. Wait. This can be hard, but really, these things need time to percolate. It took me years to be ready to challenge my own thoughts about abortion. Some people take decades to be ready to challenge their own thoughts about things like religion. In the meantime, be available to answer questions and provide information, but don't keep bugging them about it. That won't make them any more open to listening to you.

6. Don't get meta. I don't think this is a problem for most people, but it's where I fall hard. I see people expressing certain thoughts, or justifying themselves in certain ways, and I just can't help telling them all about why they believe the things they believe. This does not help. Ever.

This is not to say that heated argument doesn't have its place. Anger is a powerful tool. If you want to fire up people who already agree with you, change laws, start social movements, then torches and pitchforks might be your best bet. Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" is a fantastic book for atheists, and for religious people who are already massively disillusioned and looking for evidence to hand their lawyer brains. But it's a terrible book for the currently pious. It's way too confrontational and condescending.

Being confrontational and condescending can (doesn't always, but can) stomp people down. It can show everyone else present that you're right and they're wrong. But you're not going to honestly change anyone's mind by ripping them apart.

Conformity

May. 28th, 2011 05:25 pm
jedusor: (axe murderer)
When I was twelve, I spent an afternoon hanging out with a girl who was not like most of the people I knew. I think her name was Morgan. She was also twelve years old. She wore enormous hoop earrings and makeup applied so expertly that I wasn't sure it was there, and she liked SpongeBob SquarePants. (This was 2003, when it was fashionable for teenagers to like SpongeBob SquarePants.) She acted very bored, not with me so much as with the world, and I didn't understand her very well.

I told Morgan that she seemed normal. I said it apologetically, because in the world where I grew up, that wasn't a compliment. I spent my childhood around freaks and hippies, geeks and jugglers, people who valued intelligence and originality.

She didn't seem to mind at all. "Why don't you want to be normal?" she asked.

"Because then you're just like everyone else," I said. "You're just a conformist."

"What's wrong with conformity?"

I was flummoxed. I distinctly remember struggling to even process that question. I ended up stammering something about how I wanted to do something important with my life someday, and that I wouldn't be able to set myself apart if I never did anything differently, but it wasn't a real answer. I didn't have a real answer to that question. Conformity was bad because it was bad, that was all. When I liked things that other people liked, when I got into Pokemon and Harry Potter and Avril Lavigne, I insisted that they were exceptions, that they were good despite the fact that they were popular. I kept doing this through adolescence--sure, this song plays on the radio all the time, but it's actually a pretty great song. This TV show is actually totally awesome, even though everyone watches it.

I was a pretty smart kid, or so I believed because I'd been told that so many times, but I somehow never scraped together the sense to consider the possibility that things might be popular because they were good.

I didn't have an answer for Morgan because I didn't understand what I was talking about when I used the word "conformity." Conformity, in the context that I meant it when I denigrated it, means behaving in socially standard ways because they are socially standard. There are often excellent reasons to do this, which is another thing it took me a while to realize, although it can be dangerous to get in the habit of it.

But there are other reasons to engage in socially standard preference behaviors. It's possible to like a band or fashion for its own sake, not because everyone else does. I am of the opinion that Lady Gaga is a damn good musician, and I didn't come to that conclusion based on how many other people agree or how many people don't. I just like her music. And yeah, some people tend to blindly follow the trends, but trends don't exist because of the people who follow them once they're already there. Trends exist because of a whole lot of people who, individually, just like the music.

It's also possible to engage in a particular behavior not to join the masses, but to understand them. I read the trending tags on Twitter on occasion, not because I think I'll find anything particularly worthwhile there, but because there are a lot of people in the world that aren't me. I don't watch Glee because I think it's good; I watch it because there are a lot of kids growing up right now whose worldviews will be influenced by it, and I want to have that cultural context. (I also watch it because there are two plus-sized characters and five queer characters, and even if they're all as two-dimensional as the rest of the cast and the plots suck like they were written by Edward Hamhands, I can't help wanting to support that kind of presence on such a mainstream show.)

I'm not just figuring all this out now. I think I had most of it worked out in my own head by the time I was sixteen or seventeen. It's just hard to articulate, because preference behavior seems so ingrained. And it's really not. That's just mixing up the concept of ingrained behavior with the concept of impulse. Preferences are extremely impulsive, but they're not predetermined. They can be influenced and to some extent controlled by the most random factors. One of the factors that tends to determine my behavior is the drive to understand how people think. Sometimes that means taking conformist behavior seriously, and sometimes it means identifying and examining it in myself.
jedusor: (bowling pin)
Hey, self! Refer to this when feeling crappy for no apparent reason!

❒ Have you eaten in the last eight hours? Most of the time, this is the problem. You should know this by now.
❒ Have you been getting enough sleep? Most of the rest of the time, this is the problem. You should know that too.
❒ Have you showered recently? Feeling grungy makes you grouchy.
❒ Have you been outside at all in the last two days? There are physiological reasons that you as a human require a little sunshine once in a while. Yes, even though it makes you squint and gives you headaches. Deal, princess.
❒ Have you been brooding over your past interpersonal cockups? Knock it off. There's learning from your mistakes, and then there's shooting yourself in the emotional foot, and harping on shit you can't change does not ever help anyone.
❒ Are you wearing jeans around the house when you could be wearing comfy flannel pants? Why would you even do that? What is even wrong with you? Change your damn pants!

You are in general a pretty happy person, and 99% of the time, your bad moods are really easy to fix. Quit stomping around in a huff for hours on end when you could be solving the damn problem.
jedusor: (Default)
I just posted this comment in [livejournal.com profile] imagines's journal:

I always have one clean file with the actual story and then a second file with stuff like title ideas, summary ideas, outline notes in approximately the correct order, phrases/lines I want to include later on, scenes I wrote out of order (because I cannot write big chunks of new words when there is text under what I'm writing, I have to work off the end of a document, I'm OCD like that), factual details I want to research, head-sorting-out exposition on characterization/motives/backstory that's too explicit to go in the final piece, etc. etc. etc.

I never used to do this, but now it's an invaluable habit. I don't actually remember when it started. I'm fairly sure I kept some sort of notes file for my NaNo novel in 2007, but I don't think I did it for shorter pieces until more recently. Now I create the notes file before the story file more often than not, and I almost always have both files open side-by-side when I'm writing, so I can refer back to my notes and modify them as needed.

The notes file usually starts out as a single vague stream-of-consciousness paragraph consisting of one or more horrifically run-on sentences, sometimes c&p'd from an e-mail or comment conversation, that outline the general idea of the story. This is not always grammatically correct and usually involves a lot of handwaving and swearing and injudicious capitalization, e.g. "and then Character A is all 'fuck that noise, I want some cake' and rushes the bakery and Character B is all like OH NO YOU DON'T YOU LITTLE SNOTRAG and whips out her katana and they have a karate duel (katanas/martial arts historical connection? research this) and while they're beating the shit out of each other they hash out the misunderstanding with the shoelace from earlier. and B realizes that with the shoelace thing out of the way there's no actual reason to deny A cake but by this point it's about PRINCIPLES and shit, except I think it'll prob be A's POV so this will have to be revealed all subtly through dialogue. So then B has A pinned down with the katana at his throat and the sweet old baker dude sticks his head out the door all 'why hello there B, would you and your friend like some cake' and B is like 'fuck it' and internally resolves her shoelace issues (hm, maybe it should be B's POV after all) and shares the cake with A, and cuts it with the katana, and that should be metaphorical but for pete's sake don't overdo it like you did with those motherfucking trees. close with them hanging out together by the pool later in the afternoon and baker dude coming out and asking why there's a shoelace in the oven."

Then I pick this apart into an outline, bulleted by scene, with notes separated at the bottom and potential titles at the top, like so:

Cake Or Death? Torte Liability?

-opening scene: baking cake, shoelace gets lost, argument, B stomps off
-epic hunt for shoelace (introduce baker dude during this scene)
-confrontation, fight, shoelace revelation, baker dude offers cake, B cuts it with katana
-pool scene, baker dude comes out and asks about shoelace

baker dude's relationship to B? family?

look up katana info

first line of last scene, before baker dude shows up: "It's called an aglet. Everyone knows that. It's the most widely known little-known fact in the history of pointless trivia."


Sometime during this process, or shortly after, I usually get an idea for a first sentence. I occasionally write a line or a snippet of a scene out of order, but those go in the notes file--the actual story is created from beginning to end, and I need a solid first line before I can get down to the business of producing words. I also need white space--not only do I have to write from the end of the document, but if I'm at the bottom of my screen, I have to add in a bunch of blank line breaks to give myself some room. If I need to go back and add in a chunk of words in a scene I'm already past, I do the same thing with the line breaks.

From there, it's a constant back-and-forth between writing from the outline and modifying the outline to fit what I'm writing. I delete scene summaries from the outline once they're written, and I delete notes as they become irrelevant, so my notes file shrinks toward the end of the story. When I'm done writing, I delete the empty notes file. I usually let the story sit for a few days before coming back to edit, but I rarely do a large-scale rewrite--as I said, I do the bulk of my rewriting before the first draft is fully complete. Most of the stories I've been writing lately are fanfic, so once I've gone over the final product a few times (and sometimes sent it to a beta-reader for comments), I post it on my fandom journal.
jedusor: (this is cool)
I just stumbled across a lovely example of the concept of the hipster: "Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend's Too Stupid To Know About" by Tullycraft. It reminded me that I'd been meaning to try to find Pierre Bordieu's 1963 book “Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste" online, since my library doesn't have it. I heard of it through a New York Times article called The Sociology of the Hipster, which is worth reading. Anyway, in the process of googling the book, I found a critical review of it and just had to stop and giggle for a moment about this: a critique of a critique of critiquing critique. Beautiful.

I've been thinking a lot about hipsters lately. My first exposure to the term was in early 2009, when I was linked to the photo blog Look At This Fucking Hipster. (Well, technically my first exposure to the term was probably in QC, but I don't think I ever really noticed it there.) I spent some time clicking through the blog, trying to figure out what on earth the pictures had in common. The blog is a lot funnier now that I have some background.

That NYT article defines hipsters by their judgment of taste. I think that's mostly accurate. A lot of subcultures involve judging taste--that's how you differentiate the in-group from the out-group*, by finding out what you agree and disagree about. But hipster culture is defined by value judgments of personal choice, to the extent that even an acknowledgement of the existence of the culture is an insult. No one wants to be called a hipster, because that means you care what other people think. The successful hipster manipulates other people's opinions of their taste while simultaneously cultivating an image of nonchalance.** There are more tangible hipster indicators, trucker hats and that particular kind of glasses and so forth, but they're all derived from the practice of judging judgment.

We all judge each other. I make a habit of fighting to the death to prove wrong anyone who gets all noble in my face and tells me they don't judge anyone. Bullshit. You do, and it's a good thing that you do, because if you were not capable of using heuristic mechanisms to take mental shortcuts through the maze of social interaction, you literally would not be able to function. (If you don't believe me on that, let me know and I will expand on the point with examples and citations until you do. I'm A Behavioral Neuroscientist, Ask Me How!)

But hipster culture isn't just about judging people. It's about judging people's judgments, their choices of clothing and friends and particularly music. The only other subculture I can think of that is focused so exclusively on judging taste is scene culture, and that overlaps significantly with hipsters.

And we all do that too, judging people's taste. Determining shared taste is important in the early stages of friendship, when you're deciding whether you'll get along. But I think it's important to distinguish between determining taste and actually placing a value judgment on it. Personally, I'm trying to move away from doing that. It's easy, so easy, to make fun of people who honestly love Twilight, or listen to Justin Bieber, or make a big deal out of Valentine's Day, or voluntarily wear crocs. Those value judgments are not ones I would make. But, and this is the culmination of a great deal of academic pondering, fuck that shit. I'm not making any promises, because sometimes the snark cannot be held within, but when it comes to purely aesthetic choices that don't actually matter to me, I'm making an effort to knock it off.

*I'm talking in psychological terms here. "In-group" and "out-group" don't just refer to high school cliques; they apply to any social community.
**This sentence is lifted directly from a disagreement I had in the comments of my little brother's friend's Facebook status with someone (I think he was fourteen years old) who claimed that Luna Lovegood was a hipster. I corrected him thoroughly.
jedusor: (looking at the stars)
I read "At Swim, Two Boys" for the first time when I was seventeen, because Kit told me to. I absolutely loved it--I actually typed out one scene that was more than two thousand words long because I wanted to be able to come back and reread it after I returned the library book. I still have that file on my computer. This past Christmas, Kit and I agreed to buy used copies for each other (I think the one I got her was a dollar and eight cents on Amazon) and I just finished rereading it.

The plot is great, and the development and the overarching themes and all that, but what I truly love about this book is the writing style. It seems dense at first, but then it draws me in and makes me forget that it should be hard to read, because it flows so beautifully. While I was reading it, I had to keep a notebook nearby because I kept finding bits I wanted to write down and think about later. It's really amazing, how engaging it is. I read an interview with the author, Jamie O'Neill, in which he says he never read as a child, not even his schoolbooks, didn't finish a single book until he was seventeen. He spent all his time swimming off the coast of Ireland, where he grew up. I guess that's as strong an argument as any for "write what you know."

This isn't a review or a recommendation. I do recommend it, definitely, but I'm not sure I'd be able to convey my love for this book if I tried. This is just a brain-dump of the quotes I scribbled down while I was reading, along with some informal and generally incoherent notes about them. It's mainly for my own benefit, both to organize my thoughts this time around and for the benefit of my future self, since reading this book at 20 was very different from reading it at 17 and I'm sure my perspective will be different again next time. None of this will make a whole lot of sense unless you've read the book. (Which means Kit is basically the only person on my flist who cares, but I suspect she's going to play in this entry like a sandbox, so I'm posting it anyway.)

Warning: long, spoilery, and textually NSFW.

'My aunt once told me that nothing is gained by clinging to life save more life to cling to. The world I find is embarked on a grand adventure. I find I choose to play.' )

Organ Trail

Feb. 3rd, 2011 02:16 am
jedusor: (badass geek)
I've played Oregon Trail a total of one time, when I was maybe eight. I died because I refused to shoot any animals, and never touched the game again. Until just now, when I discovered Organ Trail, a fully playable zombie apocalypse version of the game. While I still wouldn't want to play a game that simulated hunting animals, I'm totally fine with squelching zombies, so I gave it a shot.

I spent a somewhat embarrassing amount of time playing, and I realized: this game is just like life. The inexorable plodding of time, balancing priorities, dwindling supplies, random surprise benefactions and equally random surprise emergencies, panic as a resource that was just fine a second ago is now completely gone, reluctant acceptance of unfair deals (that other survivor wants HOW many bullets for one muffler?)... it's a perfect little microcosm of adulthood, minus all the awesome.

Everyone else played this game endlessly during childhood and then had this revelation in the other direction, didn't they?
jedusor: (Default)
I've been writing a lot more recently than I have in years, probably because I now actually have the time to get ideas down when they pop into my head. I mentioned in my end-of-year meme that I wrote over 60,000 words in 2010--probably about half of that was written during the last three months of the year. (Most of it was fanfic, although NaNoWriMo, while it didn't work out for me, did yield several original ideas I've been poking at.)

I was thinking today about the writing process, or rather my writing process, and how mentality and environment affect my ability to write. For me, there are two main aspects of writing: idea generation and first drafts. I prefer to write from the beginning to the end of a piece rather than jumping around between scenes, and I do a lot of restructuring and editing in between chunks of new words, so my first drafts tend to be pretty close to the final product. I know you're not Supposed to do that, and the whole point of NaNoWriMo is to get out of that habit, but I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that it's how I work best. Especially when I look at my '07 NaNoWriMo novel, which I have tried to revise several times without much success. So instead of fighting my urge to rewrite while writing, I'm trying to embrace it and work with it, and it's resulted in several pieces I'm pretty happy with.

Idea generation, unsurprisingly, seems to happen mostly when I'm letting my mind wander. I'm not sure why, but my best fiction ideas usually come to me while I'm falling asleep and my best academic ideas usually come to me when I'm doing boring, repetitive tasks. Several times, I've tried to generate fiction ideas while stocking merchandise at Williams-Sonoma by thinking about fanfic, and accidentally ended up writing treatises in my head on things like the neurological motivation for RPS and the connection between accuracy in social judgment and psychological health in celebrity-fan relationships.

Getting down the actual words requires different circumstances, and I'm still figuring out exactly what the right circumstances for me are. If I'm at home, I need silence for any kind of writing, and I usually need to be alone for fiction writing, although having people around can actually make academic writing easier as long as they're quiet. Considering this, it's weird that the most productive place for me to write right now is the bus. I discovered this a few months ago, when I needed to go to work right in the middle of a thought. I pulled up a notepad application on my phone, just to finish the paragraph before the right phrasing went out of my head, and wrote several hundred words during the twenty-minute ride downtown. I picked it back up on the way home, and ended up riding all the way to the end of the line and then catching another bus back to my stop because my writing was flowing so well that I didn't want to get off. I think I wrote 1300 words that day in just a couple of hours. The majority of the 10,300-word fic I spent the end of December on was written on the bus, using my Sidekick's thumb keyboard. (Which, let me tell you, ow. I tried using my laptop, but it's hard to see the screen and I get paranoid that people are looking, and I'm also wary about leaving it in the break room.)

I'm not sure why the bus is so inspirational for me. I think it's partially that the internet is available but not easy to use--cutting myself off from the web entirely doesn't work well for me because I'm the sort of person who stubbornly resists authority even when it's in my own head, but I'll happily choose not to dick around on the internet because it takes forever to load and scrolling is a pain in the ass. It also may have something to do with thalamic response to the white noise and vibrations on a bus. Maybe I should buy a massage chair.

In the end, I think writing, for me, can be broken down into creativity and focus. Idea generation requires creativity without focus, whereas pounding out the actual words requires creativity and focus. Sometimes I get focus without creativity, which usually means a lot of rereading, minor editing, and staring at my outlines. It doesn't feel productive while I'm doing it, but I actually think those periods are a helpful and even necessary part of the process, letting the work I've done sink in and looking at it like a reader would.

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