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Did I tell you I took an ACTlab class this last semester? 

No?

Did I even tell you what the hell ACTlab is? 

Well, if you want the official version, you can check out their website. Here's the quick and dirty: ACTlab is an experiment. It's a "new media" class that is officially linked to the Radio, Television, and Film department at UT, though the pedagogy free-wheels across sociology, psychology, gender and women's studies, queer theory, literature, semantics, etc. And in ACTlab, you express and grapple with theory by making shit. No paper-writing, no staring at a hateful blinking cursor, no banging your head on the table due to a peer's narrow-minded reading of some concept or another. Everyone has to put together three projects, and they can be...more or less whatever you can make good. A piece of film, a game, a performance, a hacked piece of machinery, a sculpture, a song, an animation. It is entirely open.

I loved this class.

I am so accustomed to my own neurotic and isolating form of creativity, that I was both terrified and enthralled by what this class required of me. As many of you know, I love the concept of DIY, but am thin on actual DIY skills. But because the focus in ACTlab isn't on perfection so much as ambition, daring, and exuberance, it felt like I was finally allowed to just play.

Enough blather. Go check out my projects already! Oh! Didn't I mention? They're all on my ACTlab website. <3
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Wow it's been a while you guys. Let me get you caught up on my past three months:

WRITE WRITE WRITE READ WRITE WORK WORK WORK pause for tendonitis WRITE WRITE WRITE WORK WORK WORK WORK.

Now you're caught up.

So obviously I've been bloody rotten at keeping up with you guys, and will likely remain so for a while. If you've got good/bad news to share, need to whinge on an empathetic shoulder, or miss me horribly and yearn for my glorious conversation, drop me e-mails at zenithblue@gmail.com. I am also bad at keeping up with my e-mail right now but I will do my best to stay in touch. I am also get-in-touchable via facebook. Just don't try to get me in on Mafia Wars, I am trying to graduate my program with at least a part of a novel.

I miss you all and hope someday I'll have a slacker job again whereby I can surf the net all day and read your blogs. Love.
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This Tuesday [info]deadkytty9 and I ventured, finally, to  the Harry Ransom Center for their tour. That's right; I have been here for two years and have not yet really explored the HRC (though I did go to one of the reading rooms with my Romantic Lit class, where I got to breathe on Cassandra Austen's personal copy of Emma). The truth is I have been intimidated. It's a huge collection, and trying to figure out where to start and how to proceed gives me the fantods. Ridiculous, really; I'm going to pass up one of the best reasons to come to UT Austin just because I've got the Stendahl shakes? 

So, let me tell you what we saw just in the lobby and the gallery (disregarding the milliions of manuscripts and artifacts within the bowels of the collection): a Gutenberg Bible (illuminated with what looked to my undiscerning eye with blue Bic pen); the first photograph; an exhibition of Fritz Henle's photography; a hundred plus beautifully bound and beautifully illustrated copies of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat (which became a Victorian sensation upon its translation in 1859 by one Edward FitzGerald, and as you can imagine is treated with all the cultural sensitivity one can expect from that particular time period); and one of my favorite Frida Kahlo portraits, "Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird."

Evidence that we do more at UT than paint ourselves orange and pound the snot out of Sooners. Though we do that too.

 



It's odd to know how much stuff we have, and while I'm glad a lot of this material is in the hands of trained archivists in one of the most climate-controlled environments in the state of Texas, I do wonder if there are places and people that have firmer claims to these treasures. Still, collecting all these physical artifacts in one place makes good sense from a research perspective. The collection is fully open to memebers of the public, as well, which I find beautiful. You too, dear reader, can waltz into the building and read Tennessee Williams' first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire (spoiler alert: Blanche and Stanley run away together in this version. No joke.). You can walk into Earl Stanley Gardner's living room. You can read Carson McCullers' letters, Edith Wharton's letters, Henry James' letters, Paul Bowles' letters, and so on.  

Also if I ever have any degree of success as a writer the HRC is my retirement plan. Selectively, of course. The eight-grade Newsies fan-fiction and the blues song I composed for a grade-school project on Roald Dahl's BFG might not make the cut. 
 

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A half dozen MFA students with a sudden surplus of spare time equals what? Birthday tribute videos, that's what!

We're all pretty good at lip synch too. )
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An essay I wrote for my "Metaphysical Messages" class. The original had footnotes, which I don't feel like figuring out how to format in lj, so they're rendered here in brackets and small text (to differentiate them from the copious amounts of parentheticals I seem to use these days). This was written for a comics skeptic, so apologies for anything that comes off didactic.

Invisible Arches )

an excerpt

Mar. 14th, 2009 09:11 pm
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...from a paper I had to write for class, about my relationship to experimental or metaphysical fiction. It was really supposed to be more narcissistic than it turned out...but I've been wanting to write about my first reading of Infinite Jest for a while now. There's nothing in this piece, yet, about the visceral feelings, about the personal feelings, about seeing my own loneliness expressed in a way I couldn't even have expressed it. But it's a start.

So of course you grow up... )
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Motherfucking finished.
Screw your rules, I'll use as many syllables as a damn well want to.
Because I am too tired to count.
And also because I am fucking rad.
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Four pages to go.
Ass chafed from brick-like words.
Anyone have lube?

Please don't judge harshly;
Poop metaphor's all I have
Left in broken brain.
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Life imitates art.
Writing on hysteria;
Now: panic attack.
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Each word emergeth,
Like a too-large brick, through my
Dainty aperture.
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I'm reading Freud again for the first time since my undergraduate career--Studies in Hysteria. I'm always interested in cutting back to Freud's own work, as opposed to some of the more strained interpretive leaps his followers have made. Freud tends to get a lot of flack from critics because he was wrong about so many things, and, more often, because his work has long out-lived its shelf-life in terms of therapeutic usefulness (Oedipal nonsense and penis envy being rather less useful in the long term than an early modernist gentleman might have anticipated). That said, Herr Doktor was really pretty revolutionary in some regards. While some of his systems and equations don't quite hold up, his is the first modern construction of trauma. He has an understanding of pain as an event that must be processed actively, or else it will come out through the body in some grotesque manner. That doesn't seem so far wrong to me.

Okay, yes, hysteria as a disease is a patriarchal artifact, a pathologizing of women's bodies. Freud as a man immersed in his own time was not interested in deconstructing that myth; he was interested in finding ways to treat patients. And megalomaniac he might have been, but how many people--how many women--did he empower to own their own pain? He notoriously hijacked the personal narratives of many of his patients. But did he also allow them access to language they didn't know they were allowed to use? Did he also allow them to see themselves as human beings with internal worlds as vital and as real as their male counterparts?

whinge

Mar. 3rd, 2008 09:32 pm
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Of the 360 warm/hot days of the Texan year, I picked the nastiest, wettest, coldest one to get locked out of my house. It wasn't even my fault; my key didn't work in the back door lock, which I didn't know, since I never really use the back door. But now that the doggerson is back there, I managed at 10 AM to get myself stuck outside with no cell phone, no jacket, and no computer. Luckily I had my Wollstonecraft so I went to class and shivered for two hours, then got on the school computer and e-mailed Hodge in Houston who called the landlord who called the locksmith. Finally at 5:30 PM I was allowed back into my house, after a full day of shivering and misery. This was the suckiest day I have had in a year.

In further bad news, the doggerson has no microchip. I'm in a tizzy because I don't know if I can afford to keep him, but he's more or less the perfect dog for me temperament-wise. I'm trying not to panic. It's only been one weekend that he's been here, and there's time for his family to find him. I got some flea treatment so now I can shut him in the garage for the night--I felt bad that he was stuck outside for the rainstorm last night, but I really don't want my cats getting anything from him.

Now I'm supposed to work on homework--I'm supposed to write a happy ending to No Exit, which frankly I just don't much feel up for. I might just have a bath and read some shojo manga instead.

I'm going to Portland on Friday, and because I'm so stressed right now it's becoming hard for me to look forward to. It just seems like a lot of work, when I want to have a few days to do nothing. Well, since I'm staying with [profile] drawgirl I should be able to balance a major slack binge with some fun and excitement. Would it be totally lame if I spent part of my vacation in Portland re-playing Final Fantasy VII? And if it is lame, do I even care?
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...is that I now have a playlist entitled "Anthems" on my iTunes.
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If I can avoid a nervous breakdown I'm going to kick this week's ass.

In other (related) news, I am so behind on comments, e-mails, and phone calls there is no chance I will ever catch up. I suck and I'm sorry.
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You know how there's supposed to be five stages of grief? Well, it strikes me that you can chart out a similar process for contextualizing/processing the various feedback you get in a particularly spirited fiction workshop. I'm trying to accept that these stages are inevitable and necessary to the workshop experience, as opposed to functions of my temperamental and contrary nature.

1. Defense: This one usually happens during the workshop proper, where your reactions to every criticism leveraged at your work are a set of  knee-jerk protests. "But that's not what that meant...but you don't understand...but you're reading it wrong..." and so on. An emotional desire to stave off perceived attack (and possibly a temporary inability to differentiate between your text and your person). The best way to survive this is to keep your fucking trap shut so you don't sound like a defensive whiner. This feeling may be an inevitable part of the process, but that doesn't mean it's attractive.

2. Despair: After you're done feeling self-protective, you succumb to a (hopefully temporary) belief that everything negative said about your work is true, that every criticism and complaint has equal weight, and that the task of revising and editing is so insurmountable you may as well sit in the corner of your office running the edge of your manuscript back and forth across your wrists in the hope that you may hit a vein, rather than attempt to salvage this decrepit piece of shit you inflicted upon your  intelligent classmates. You in fact hypervalue any negative input over positive statements in this stage.

3. Defiance: Suddenly, going over the workshop in your mind, you realize how many insensitive, prescriptive, or flat out stupid things were said about your work. You dwell on the two or three absolutely foolish remarks that inevitably come up in the course of the workshop, and manage to generalize these gems of stupidity, dwelling now on the insipid and thoughtless. You begin to suspect you have cast your pearls before swine, that your first impulse was correct: they didn't get it! This stage may involve listening to Irish punk music on repeat or pacing your house delivering a swear-laden philippic at the imaginary presence of your detractors.

4. Epiphany: You suddenly remember two things. One is that you wouldn't have taken the story to workshop if you thought it perfect. The other is that you, yourself, have your own aesthetic tastes and readerly concerns and textual philosophies to apply to the workshop feedback. In other words, you recall that you get to filter all this feedback through and towards your own goals.

5. Recuperation: You approach the feedback from a new and more balanced standpoint, remembering that you cannot denigrate your own tastes and concerns just because they don't match someone else's. You realize that, even if you ignore the prescriptive comments or the less helpful suggestions, these same comments point out how certain readers will approach the text. Sometimes this will give you an idea how to change your work; sometimes you'll be liberated to ignore their feedback entirely. You integrate the feedback that seems most conducive to the story you want to write, and take the feedback that seems to come from a place of taste or temperament with a grain of salt. The most important thing to remember is that if everyone in the room likes your story, you're doing something wrong. Writing is not a democracy. No one can tell you what to write or how to write; all they can tell you is how they read it. This isn't information to be taken lightly, but it's not information that should undermine your own sensibilities.
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As much as I complained about it at the time, I'm currently really missing Kaiser Permanente's habit of passing out anti-anxiety meds like so much candy. Easy-to-get klonapin sounds like it'd hit the spot right about now.

I will say, I feel absolved of all the vague guilt I've ever felt about my previous forays into mental unhealth. At Reed my easiest classes were harder than my hardest classes here, and I took four a semester instead of three, and also worked twelve hours a week on top of it. No wonder I had a meltdown per semester. I mean, the not-sleeping and erratic eating sure didn't help (which probably has to do with why I'm not having a meltdown right now, because I've decided in my old age that sleep is totally awesome). I'm not saying I'm not a maudlin little freak; I'm just saying it wasn't all my maudlin, freaky fault.

So: yeah, no meltdown yet, but as I mentioned to [profile] lagizma the other day, it's the time of the semester where my pee smells like coffee. Maybe I should just cut out the middle-man and pour the coffee straight into the toilet. I am wound a little bit tight right now and my to-do list now has totally stupid items on it like "eat dinner" and "have you left the house today?" because otherwise these things might not happen. Bear with me, people. It's just a few more weeks of this.
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My colleagues were with me as far as "child of a changeling trying to establish personal identity and understand her family legacy by trekking out across a dangerous uncharted faerie wilderness," but then I lost them with the phrase: "...accompanied only by Bill, a magical tapeworm."[Poll #1057991][Poll #1057991]
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...was pretty much the best in my life.

More later. Bed now.

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