Fireflies and Bats

Last evening I jogged at twilight—my companions: fireflies; crickets; a chunky raccoon scampering across the way; a spry dear subsequent and parallel to the raccoon; and, perhaps coolest of all, a couple of bats who kept up pace and circled my path occasionally, presumably to echolocate and nab the fireflies.

Come to think of it, I posted in late 2014 of how a bat circled me at twilight as I played droney, open-tuned acoustic guitar on the stoop of the yurt I was vacationing in just off-shore from the southern fork of the American River west of Tahoe.

A casual reminder that I’m way more goth than I outwardly seem.

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Planned Parenthood

At seven minutes, this video is about three times longer than the edit that’s laden with the huge meme-flavored block text “HOW TO SILENCE CRITICS OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD” that will make the rounds around social media—along with its other sound-bite brethren on both sides of the table—and that will do anything but silence those that already have their minds made up. Those who are willing to shout and deflect and insult and stew in the tumult of political “discourse” that occurs on social media daily, hourly, minutely, and that affects, as Warren pronounces, all of us.

But I can’t just re-share a morsel that tries to encapsulate it all at a glance; speeches like this one are where the substance resides, and Senator Warren does not waste one second sensationalizing.

I know I’m connected with people online who resolutely fall on the other side of this issue, and I don’t think I can lob any image, quote, or speech their way that will change their minds. Hence, sharing this is more for myself and others who are willing to think and respond critically; to let her language, reasoning, and passionate admixture thereof inform us of how we should discuss and think about these issues, and then go off and do it, as the kids say, IRL, where you’re most likely to present to a friend, family member, or colleague an angle they hadn’t previously considered.

In real life, where presence plays a factor. Where disconnecting from the conversation is more difficult than just closing a browser tab.

Terrification

The more you understand something, the less you need to fear it.

Usually.

The anxiety dreams and nightmares of my youth have been all but erased due to my understanding of the world, understanding about my lack of knowledge, and other mechanisms for action within my own psychology. When I first saw the below animated GIF, I immediately understood why it would be perceived to be terrifying, hilarious, both, or neither. It also triggered an association for what was for me another association trigger: One of the most disturbing films I’ve seen, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

terrification animated gif

Not scary per se, but disturbing. Unsettling. An unplaceable oddness. In Mulholland there is a masterful build-up, starting with a cryptic scene in a diner, which ultimately has the character who is describing a state of pure terror to another, walk outside to confirm that fear, as a horrid creature slides out from behind a corner in a most inhuman way—not only is the figure petrifyingly ugly, but the way it moves is the clincher: nothing human moves like that, in a linear, gliding fashion, and in such a triggered manner.

That scene reminds me of one of my most fear-inducing recurring dreams as a child: alone at my house, walking downstairs from the safety of my room, all the windows dark with night, and as I walk towards the kitchen, the head of a figure, presumed to be a robber intent on killing or harming me, quickly pops up—the moment of paralyzation occurs, the head slides away from whence it came, not slow, but not too fast; it doesn’t mind being seen. The paralysis melts, and I have to wake up, because that’s it: that’s the end. The unanswered nature, combined with the uncertain demise, is what makes it so terrifying. The chills that I would get in Lynch’s surrealist mind-maze were the same that I’d feel in that dream and others.

That a few frames of a presumably screeching elderly woman exiting stage-left in a weird manner can elicit the heights of cinematic tension through mere GIFfery is fascinating, lending versatility to how the web can provide media-feels in an instant. But it also further defines the five minutes that Lynch crafts through his singular direction—it is a scene that will live on, beyond the ephemeral meme-sharing thrills that come from a copy & paste, and into how we relate our waking- and dream-selves to ourself and to those around us.


Further reading: Alex Gladwin does an excellent job of analyzing the whole scene in his write-up, The Tuesday Zone: The Winkie’s Diner Scene from ‘Mulholland Drive’.

Original GIF post here.

Serial Self-misrepresentation

My time off since my last role has been varied, plenty of good and bad, but lately has been suffused with struggle and difficulty, both emotionally and physically. I mention this because I seem to have become a serial self-misrepresenter online: when I mention problems/struggles in my life to friends and family directly, they are taken aback. Almost everyone responds that from my photos and posts I seem to be so happy and successful, but it’s rarely how I feel. I think I censor the bad/sad/confused feelings and try to communicate neutrally or positively via imagery or absurdity, probably because I have a hard time processing all the terribleness of the world or what to do about it, especially when I’m fraught with my own baggage.

[Note: this is an abbreviated version of a Facebook post shared to my friends. I’m leaving it out of context as both a minor insight into my character and as a point of exploration for later expansion.]

Technology and Community

At the forefront of getting older in a major metropolitan area is the continued emphasis that should be put on community. People treat each other differently when there’s connection, understanding, empathy. Often this connection is strongest when you’re a few feet away from someone—the bandwidth with which you can experience those emotions is extremely high. But when that opportunity is not available, meaningful connection is not a lost cause. There are ways to link people to other people, and then there are ways to study, organize, and improve that connection with a now-familiar method: technology.

I’ve worked on products that have reached millions—even tens of millions—of people. [Quick ego check: I still find this mind-boggling and am humbled at what can occur through sustained team-effort.] Getting feedback was sometimes solicited at the company-level, for business reasons; sometimes at the journalistic level, for publicity, review & quality reasons; and other times it was incidental: people knew—and sometimes knew intimately—the product in question, and would not hesitate to give their opinion, feedback, and critiques. Luckily for me, it was often good, and an intriguing joy to listen to.

Having strangers, acquaintances, or friends know about—or be users of—something you created isn’t community per se. But the conversation that arises can be considered fringe aspects of community. For instance, with video games, like a lot of other hobbies/diversions, there is common language (argot, even), shared experience, organized gathering, criticism, critique, and influence taken and given to other forms of media. I choose that example because I used to work in that industry, albeit from one (very large) corner; my experience was thus limited by time and insulated by other factors, namely, working for only one company on one franchise. I also choose that topic because of the strife and crisis that it as an industry, a medium, an art-form is facing.

Not long ago I was introduced to a new type of community concept that has been around for centuries if not millennia: that of yoga kula. “Kula” is a Sanskrit word meaning “community” and I was exposed to it, in theory and in practice, when I completed a certified 200 hour yoga teacher training last October. That committed study has impacted my life in a profoundly positive way. But the relationships built and explored with my other classmates and the instructors were not confined to our daily study within the venue of study—we are in touch and connected, even when we haven’t spoken in many weeks or months. There will always be more ideas, more practice to explore; it is an unending community, and one that deserves to grow.

I want more—and new—impactful experiences like the one mentioned above. Who wouldn’t?

Currently I’m, with careful deliberation, seeking my next professional move. I look forward to discovering roles that not only align with my technical skills, but roles that offer causes I can get behind. Namely: creating understanding, building relationships, empowering individuals but also fostering lasting, harmonious relationships between people.

[Note: I wrote a specific cover-letter to a company recently that explored a lot of these ideas, some verbatim. I decided to spin it off—and expand upon it—as a post here.]