I Make Playlists: Halloween

31 Oct

For your listening pleasure: four hours (!) of curated Halloween music. Includes the scary, the silly, and the sad, from pop to folk to novelty songs to hip hop to metal to showtunes to spooky theme songs. Ghosts, candy, witchcraft, monsters of all stripes, and that song from Beetlejuice.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/6r4I6WRlLNuYVUh2SfPAWJ

Not included: way too many songs by singer-songwriters using the word “Halloween” as an excuse to talk about their breakups, none of which appeared to have happened on Halloween or have anything to do with the holiday at all.

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Not Being Ok

31 Oct

I’ve been in a depression spiral since my last project was finished. I should have expected it–the post-show drop is real, and then my period happened, and that was kind of it. For a while I thought it was just a little bit of a spiral, but, I mean, no, it’s kind of not. I’m trying to work on a post about the joyful success of my return to the stage and the Kickstarter, about how AMAZING it is to be selling CDs, and about how much I love my life, but instead I’ve been spending a lot of time not sleeping, not eating, sabotaging my own health and budget and deadlines, and forgetting to wash my hair or change my clothes or do the dishes.

My goals for today:

  • have a fun Halloween with some of my most beloved friends
  • finish just two items for work
  • go to bed when mr. biscuit does, rather than at 4 in the morning
  • try to be OK with a couple of things:
    • needing some help or some sunshine or some water
    • where I am
    • not being OK

Because I’m not OK right now. I’m not anywhere near OK. That’s hard to admit, but I can feel it in my chest (like it’s full of concrete), my throat (breathing feels like too much work sometimes), my head (foggy), my wrists (they ache), my jaw (clenched).

I painted my nails and blow-dried my freshly-washed hair, and that helps. I ate some vegetables, and that helps. So I’ll achieve the first three of these goals, and that will help with the fourth.

I’m just trying to be OK with not being OK for a bit. It will swing around eventually. It will swing around sooner if I stop beating myself up.

Love Stories: I Love Them. But.

24 Oct

I like romance in my media.

It feels a little bit odd to type that like it’s revolutionary, because it’s hella not. Stories of romance have been around since the first cavelady got a prehistoric crush on the clan leader. Most of modern media is full of romance. Much of that romance is shitty, unhealthy, underdeveloped, and/or totally nonsensical. Much of it is aimed at female audiences to the exclusion of all other stories. There is a boatload of really valid, really good criticism and scholarship about this problem. Far too often, female characters only exist to be part of a romance. I totally understand the desire to see female main characters exist in stories without romantic components. I am super glad that neither Moana nor Jyn Erso ever kissed anyone on screen. I only ship Katniss Everdeen with years of intense therapy.

But I also really like romance, ya know?

I have a great husband who I not only love, but also like and respect. He loves me, and (tragically rare in heterosexual relationships) he likes and respects me too. We support each other in our separate endeavors and work together towards our joint goals. We play video games, harass our cats, share stupid jokes, eat too much junk, and sometimes even go to the gym together. We’ve been through some rough shit together. We enjoy each other’s company. We ease each other’s fears and take care of each other. Having him around makes life easier, better, and more fun for me. Plus? Also? I like sex. Getting down with myself is pretty swell, but having sex with another person is just the bee’s knees. Like let me tell you about the other night–wait, no, my mom reads this.

Again, I totally understand the criticisms levelled at the vast swaths of media where the single female character only exists as a prize for the hero. That trope is bullshit. As Princess Jasmine once said:

Fucking right you’re not, Jasmine. You’re a strong, independent princess who keeps a fully-grown tiger as a pet for some damn reason.

But what I’m saying is that I like having a good romantic life partner. It makes me happy. And when I’m enjoying the exploits of fictional characters, I want them to be happy too (eventually, as much as possible after much turmoil). To me, being happy included having a good romantic life partner. That’s not true for every real person, I realize, and it needn’t be true for every fictional character. But for me it’s true, and that’s what I tend to want in my fictional characters.

As a consumer, I seek out media with female main characters*. As a creator, I create female main characters almost exclusively**. Whether I’m consuming or creating, I want female characters that I can desperately and deeply relate to, and I want them to do several things:

  • have a goal (save the world, get tickets to a sold-out show, find her glasses–whatever it is, something that feels important to her)
  • fight like hell to achieve that goal, even if it changes
  • move the plot along in interesting and dynamic ways (related to point 2)
  • do something pretty cool (related to point 3)
  • have deep, important relationships with interesting and varied female friends
  • wear attractive but comfortable footwear (THAT MEANS NO GODDAMNED SPIKED HEELS IN ACTION SITUATIONS)
  • engage in consensual, mutually satisfying sexy-times appropriate to the audience

That seems like a long list, I guess? But it’s really not. Han Solo does most of these things. So does Peregrin Took. So does Sebastian the crab. None of them are even the main character. Most of this is just par for the course in creating a well-rounded character***. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Too many female characters in movies, books, TV, video games, comics, plays, whatever, are straight up not well-rounded. They are one-dimensional objects who exist to give the hero something to achieve, and the creator/audience something to project their fantasies on.

So yes, if that’s all your heroine is doing? If she can be summed up in one word, whether that’s “princessy,” or (God forbid) “badass,” “kickass,” “strong,” or any of their nonsensical ilk? Then fuck right off. I will take well-rounded, three-dimensional female characters who never go to Bone Town over some cardboard cutout of The Hero’s Reward any day.

But I really like romance in my adventures, and I don’t feel like I should have to pick one or the other. I want stories where the interesting, flawed lady protagonist gets to do interesting, awesome things while falling in love with an interesting, flawed other character. I want lady characters who fight to save the world/their friends/the MacGuffin/10% on car insurance while standing back to back with their supportive, competent, blisteringly attractive lover, both of them wearing sensible but flattering footwear.

There’s no fucking reason consumers should so often have to choose interesting female characters OR female characters who fall in love. I am sick to fucking death of it. Creators have got to do better.

Related: I should be working on my WIP.

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Memo to Self: RE Stage Fright, Stress Dreams, Panic Response

23 Sep

Nerves are a sign of investment in the quality of the upcoming performance. Tune your guitar and practice your chord changes until you feel better (if you never do feel better, well, maybe try tuning again? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor).

As a wise friend of mine once said, “Just keep your soft palate nice and high through the long ‘o’ in ‘gloria’ and we’ll all get through it.”

I Cry Sometimes (TW: self harm)

9 Aug

“It’s been a long time since you cried after.”

It really has.

I cry a lot. Movies and books make me cry. Songs. Commercials. My cats. Pictures of really cute animals. Bad things too: feelings of guilt about events five, ten, twenty years in the past. Physical pain. Fear. Loneliness. Impotent rage. Feeling trapped. Being yelled at. Exhaustion. I have cried in the parking lot of more than one job, trying to make myself get out of the car.

I also don’t cry a lot. Like I want to cry, but I can’t, because something in my brain has stopped me, so instead I get that tension in my temples that means I’m going to cry, wrinkle up my face as though I were crying, sometimes in an attempt to force something out, sob once (dry, like when you’ve thrown up everything in your stomach but your gag reflex doesn’t know that), and maybe one tear trickles out of each eye. Very disappointing. The tension never goes away. It’s like having to sneeze but never doing it, or being like two centimeters from an orgasm that you never get to have.  The relief and release and validation of actual tears never happens and I just wind up feeling silly and having a headache.

That’s happened a lot more over the last few years. Sometimes I was just too damn tired to cry, I think. A friend of mine used to joke that I only have two speeds: 80 MPH, and couch coma. I don’t know how to moderate very well, I have a tendency to overcorrect one way or another, and then next thing I know I’ve been going at 80 MPH for a thousand miles, I’m almost out of gas, and the nearest gas station is over the state line, and I have to shut off the AC and the radio and pray the fumes will get me where I’m going.

That metaphor got a little stretched, I admit, but assume that I have a tendency to get into situations where “the nearest gas station” is the next time I can stop moving without feeling like I’m going to lose literally everything, and “the AC and the radio” are anything other than the very, very, very basic staples of life*. Like a lot of people, I try to self-medicate away my depression (and, ya know, poverty) with Busy, with projects and jobs and gigs, with the feeling I have worth because I have something important going on. Meanwhile my anxiety is losing its SHIT, my body is suffering, and the only sane guy in the Central Command Zone of my brain throws up his hands and starts to shut down the non-crucial systems like “be nice to mr. biscuit,” “wash your face,” “do anything but sleep when you get home,” “make decisions,” or “cry when sad,” because there’s no energy for anything except “show up for work” and “don’t crash car” and “continue to breathe.”

I spent a lot of my life pushing myself to the point of exhaustion because I firmly believed myself to be a Lazy Bitch, and for a long I was ok with being exhausted. I was wasting all my potential anyway, so I should at least suffer for it. Then at some point (my sophomore year of college) I began to fantasize about hurting myself so I could rest. “I would rather stab myself in the leg than write this paper,” I said, which was a joke except that it wasn’t**. And then, a scarily long time later (this year), it occurred to me that thinking about driving my car into a concrete wall so I didn’t have to go to work was Not Healthy, and also probably some of that self-harm that I was always telling my friends was not healthy, and I should quit my job at the VERY least.

I’ve been having trouble crying over the last couple of years. After the situation with my grandma. Her memorial happened. I was a champion. I helped clean, I looked nice, I smiled and made a joke, it was all good. After, my family was in the guest room talking about something, and something was said (what? I don’t know anymore), and I broke. My dad noticed first and tried to catch me, so he could hug me and keep the pieces together, but I am fast and agile when I am breaking, and I power-walked out of that house, weeping like the world was ending, and just kept walking until my feet hurt too much to keep walking, because I don’t think I was wearing shoes, and then I sat down in the grass on the side of a quiet rural road and I cried and cried and cried. Eventually mr. biscuit came to find me*** and helped me back into the house, and I Started To Feel Better, because goddamn, y’all, I do not like being sad. I know how to deal with anger, with fear, with jealousy. Grief? I don’t know what to do with grief. You can’t punch grief. All you can really do is feel it or ignore it. Feeling grief is fucked up and hard, so I chose to ignore it.

I stopped crying as much and started don’tcrying a lot more, because when I started to feel sad I shut it down fast like a freak. It bled over into the rest of my life, so that I started shutting  down other things–pleasure centers, self-care, rational thought (my depression was loving this. It was like Depression Christmas. My anxiety was less enthused because I would get too tired to care, but then it got happy again because I would try to bury my guilt in activity).

“You have to feel this,” said a voice in my head, and I replied (out loud) “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.”

At first not crying felt like a victory, but that was never going to be sustainable. Over the last…months? I’ve been trying to deal with my inability to cry, to process my feelings in a way that feels healthy. Much of that is just trying to make myself feel safe. A lot of really terrible shit happened to mr. biscuit and I over a short time, and while he came out of it stronger, I came out of it a giant wreck. My current life plan (working from home in a very low-stress job, staying mostly in my jammies, sitting on the porch a lot, not doing many things that require me to leave the house) is a very direct response to that. He’s taking care of me a lot–he brings in most of the money, does the gross chores, never mentions the state of the house, assures me it’s ok if I don’t want to get another job yet, doesn’t yell at video games as much because it makes me nervous–and that’s ok. I’m trying to gently re-introduce some of the things I used to love that also caused me stress, just to see if I can do them if I’m careful. If I can, great! If I can’t, it’s ok.

I used to cry after sex–not a lot, but more than what I assume is typical. I love sex^ and I love mr. biscuit, and I love having sex with him and I love feeling big feelings, and a lot of times all of that emotion would bubble up in my heart and I’d crest that first big orgasmic wave and whatever noise I was making would just become a gut-wrenching sob, and mr. biscuit would have to stop whatever he was doing and hold me until I stopped crying and calmed down. Like, this was fairly regular. I would cry (or laugh, or once I even started singing) a lot. As my brain stopped doings things that weren’t Survive, and my sex drive plummeted, so did the times I was so overcome with joy and pleasure and safety that I would weep. The other night it happened for the first time in years. I cried for what felt like hours^^ and I felt so much better afterwards.

“It’s been a while since you cried after,” he said, with a very particular smile of his that is impossible to describe except that it contains a universe of love and tenderness.

“It really has,” I agreed.
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I Make Playlists – Henry VIII

1 Aug

I’m kind of a little bit obsessive about Tudor history. You’re surprised! To be fair to you, I’m very quiet about things I’m interested in. I also really like to make themed mixes, whether to burn to CDs (my favorite, perhaps because I am An Old) or listen to obsessively on Spotify.

I’ve made a lot of mixes I really love, but I think this is among my favorites of all time.

Hank 8

A Mix for Henry VIII,
His Wives, Mistresses, Would-be Wives, Children,
and Daddy Issues

(I never could think of good songs for his sisters, and am open to suggestions).

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/1ayYy7A8R5uvYIGffWvhoa

Wives
Being Queen Won’t Get You Ever After Anymore – Joni Minstrel
Ring the Alarm – Beyoncé (Catherine of Aragon)
So What – P!nk (Anne Boleyn)
Careful What You Wish For – Eminem (Jane Seymour)
Survivor – Destiny’s Child (Anne of Cleves)
I Never Loved You Anyway – The Corrs (Catherine Howard)
The King is Dead but the Queen is Alive – P!nk (Catherine Parr) (apparently this is some kind of Japanese exclusive and the real track isn’t on Spotify, so listen here)

Mistresses and Would-Be Wives
Hot ‘N Cold – Katy Perry (Madge Shelton)
If You Seek Amy – Britney Spears (Mary Boleyn)
Womanizer – Britney Spears (Christina of Denmark)

Children
King Nothing – Metallica (Henry Fitzroy)
Who Are You – The Who (Edward VI)
Killer Queen – Queen (Mary I)
Run the World – Beyoncé (Elizabeth I)

Hank Hisownself
Make it Rain – Ed Shereen
Used to Love Her – Guns N’ Roses
Henry the 8th – Herman’s Hermits

I well and truly love to hate Hank 8. He was just such a douche.

Still Mad

29 Jul

In 6th grade, I placed into the gifted program.

The gifted class necessitated a couple of us leaving the regular Social Studies class halfway through*, which was its own special brand of hell for me: I placed in midway through the year, and was never convinced that everyone else knew I was supposed to be going with those kids now. I lived in abject terror that I was going to get up one day and people were going to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. I missed a couple of classes because I was paralyzed with this fear.  When I finally managed to get there it was fine, mostly. I liked the regular teacher of the gifted class. She was tough but fair, she loved history as much as I did, she kept a handle on the other kids. Unfortunately she got sick, and we had a long-term substitute for a while. I don’t remember much about her–middle school was a goddamned chaotic time, all bullies and raging anxiety and terrible decisions, and my memories are not clear–except for two things.

The first is that she did nothing to stop the other kids from harassing me. Kids are mean. Kids who have been told they are smart are brutal. I was probably a pretty weird kid–I have no real frame of reference because everything seemed normal to me, but I was the third tallest person in the whole school, I carried my D&D Player’s Handbook around and tried to get people to read it so we could learn to play, I had a bad perm, I talked to myself**, I read all the time, I daydreamed constantly, I still sometimes chewed on pencil erasers when I got nervous. I was probably pretty weird. At the very least I was pretty visible. Because I had not yet learned that my size and strength give me power, they made me a target. This had been a problem for many years, and some teachers handled it better than others. The normal teacher in the gifted class handled it well. The long-term substitute teacher in the gifted class did not handle it at all. There were only like 8 or 9 students in the class. I don’t know if she didn’t realize or just didn’t care.

The second is that she made me read my story out loud.

For some reason we were assigned to write short stories, potentially as part of a unit on epic storytelling. I being, 10 or 11, crafted a wish-fulfilment first person fantasy tale wherein I had a talking dragon, a magic sword (with a name!), a handsome boyfriend, and an important quest. Was it good? Hell no. I was 10 or 11 and had attention problems. Stylistically it was a pastiche of the books I valued most at the time: Pern***, The Hero and the Crown, and the Sweet Valley/Girl Talk/Babysitters Club genre of Cool Older Girl Does Stuff books. It switched from 1st to 3rd person by the end, which I realized but was too lazy to fix. It opened with the main character yelling “MOM! WHERE IS MY MAGIC SWORD?^” I’m sure I tried to rip off Gone with the Wind at some point. It was a hot mess. But it was ambitious, and it was an assignment I completed on time, which put it well ahead of most things I did, and it made me happy.

I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure it was an OK story to write, but I was ready to turn it in anyway. Well, the long-term substitute did not want us to turn the stories in. She made us read our stories out loud, standing in front of the class. I don’t remember what this was supposed to teach us. I remember standing in front of peers who hated me trying to read a story with character names I couldn’t pronounce, I remember stammering and stumbling and paraphrasing so much the sub told me to sit down, I remember people staring at me with naked hatred on their faces, or openly laughing. I remember that two other kids had made me the bumbling antagonist in their stories. I thought one of them was my friend, but in her story I was not only a monster, I was half a monster and the other half was one of my biggest tormentors, a guy nobody liked. I remember the long-term substitute didn’t say a goddamed word about any of this. I remember she made me get up and read my story out loud again after everyone had read theirs. And I remember people laughed.

I didn’t even turn it in. I think I threw it away, but I was pretty dramatic; I might have flushed it down the toilet.

Everyone gets nervous when someone reads something they’re written, right? Right. It’s not a secret. I’m old enough and have practiced enough that by now it only makes me want to die a little bit. Maybe I could lapse into a coma until they’re finished and have come up with something good to say about it? That sounds perfect. Of course, I have to actually show someone what I’ve written first, and that doesn’t happen often^^. I don’t trace all my Writerly Insecurities back to this moment–don’t be ridiculous, they began much earlier–but I can tell you that It Did Not Help, and Yes, I Am Still Mad.

I remembered this today when reading a Facebook thread about school-age humiliations, and realized halfway through typing an abridged version that I was shaking with rage. Healthy? Probably not, but healthier than crying in the corner, I think. I just wanted to be the hero for once, rather than the butt of the joke. Yes I’m still mad. I’m mad as hell.

I’ve been reading a lot of old stories today, and writing a lot of fiction in the last several weeks^^^, and finding most of it good. I even revisited a WIP I’ve been struggling with for years, found it good, and found a lot of new energy for it. I get paid to write nowadays. It’s my job. I have a lot of hobbies and pastimes that let me be the hero AND the butt of the joke, because it’s not a bad thing to be both. I wish I could go back and tell that poor little kid who was me in 6th grade that it’s going to be ok.

Mostly though, I’d have a few words for that long-term substitute.

 

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