Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Do One Thing

I've been playing roller derby for almost 10 months now. I'm far better on my skates than I was 10 months ago, but I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be. Lots of things still terrify me about the game, and the amount of both skill and knowledge that I have to acquire to get there is often completely daunting.

Months ago, a teammate let me in on her personal mantra for derby improvement: Do One Thing.

It's impossible, in the limited practice time my team has, to learn everything all at once. And trying to do so will likely just muck you up on the track, whether you're trying too many things at once, or not concentrating on nuances of a skill, or even just not paying attention to where other people are. You can't do everything. So Do One Thing. Pick one thing, each practice, and make a concerned effort to do that thing to the best of your ability. Maybe it's holding the inside line and not letting the jammer past you while you're holding it. Maybe it's the perfect 180 single knee fall. Maybe it's keeping an eye out behind you while you're skating forwards. Whatever. Do One Thing.

One of my biggest issues on the track is that I get frustrated with myself far too easily, as my knowledge of the game and strategy far outweighs my personal physical ability actually, y'know, do any of those things. (Stop taunting me, Tomahawk stops.) And it trips me up. I start thinking about what I want to do, what I should do, and the next thing you know, I'm in my head not paying attention, and the jammer has danced past me without even a glance from my direction.

Last night, though, I Did One Thing. I made a concerned effort to listen to my teammates, to pay attention to where we all are on the track. By doing that, during scrimmage, I was able to see two of my teammates pull out to the front of the pack, chasing down the opposing team's jammer, and to hear a 3rd behind me, caught behind the other team's blockers. And I was finally able to put listening skills and derby knowledge together, as I skated in between the two groups, forming a bridge that kept the pack intact, and enabled my teammates up front to knock their target out of bounds. It was a tiny thing, a thing that only lasted a few seconds, but it was One Thing. A thing I'd never done before, and my first conscious instance of being able to put all the pieces of the derby puzzle together, at once, on skates, in the middle of an actual jam.

It felt pretty damn awesome.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Roller Derby & Branding, or, We Love the Petty Stuff

I can't believe I'm writing a blog post about this. I really can't. North Central Regionals ended YESTERDAY, and SOMEHOW, I am still involved in a conversation about TEAM COLORS.

Fighting on the internet: we're all winners, here!

So here's how this came about:
In the North Central Regional tournament final bout, Windy City (Chicago) was playing Minnesota. My home bracket is Eastern, my current bracket is Western. I'm not super familiar with the teams in North Central, besides by name only. Having attended college in Wisconsin, my choice in who to root for in this bout was based on one thing: Whoever isn't Chicago. So, let's be clear here: I WAS ROOTING FOR MINNESOTA.

When I tuned in to the bout, from my apartment here in Boulder, CO, several minutes after the bout had started, I realized that I had a problem: I had no idea which team was which. This shouldn't be an issue, I thought. Teams have different colors. So which team is which color? Looking at the pixel-y scoreboard on the WFTDA free feed, Windy City's logo appeared to be blue/black/white. Minnesota's logo was red/gold. Simple! I will root for the -- oh. Wait. There's no red/gold team on the track. There is one team, in black/white. And another in blue/black. This... this does not narrow things down. Maybe the logos will be on - no, I can't make out the logos on the uniforms of either team, they're too low-res. Furthermore, neither team's uniforms had the names of the players on the back. So while the announcers were able to identify each player by name, I had no idea who was who, or who was playing for who.

At that point, I did what any reasonable netizen would do: I asked The Googles. Pulling up Minnesota's page, I was greeted with a front page full of RED AND GOLD. Ok. Still not helping. So I looked for their team picture. Their allstar team does not have a picture in the "teams" section of the website. So I looked at their home team pictures. They have 4. Their teams skate in: orange/black, pink/black/white, green/black, and red/white. None of these are their logo colors, nor are they the allstar team colors. I remained confused.
{Update, 1/30/13: Team photos are now included on the MNRG site. There is still no team that uses Red & Gold as their colors.}

Finally, through the grace of the internet, I asked the feed announcers to clarify. Luckily, they did, and all was well. But somehow, this turned into a giant can of worms that I am STILL TALKING ABOUT.

(For the record, Windy City was skating in black/white, and Minnesota was in blue (aqua) and army green, not black. The low res feed was clearly not helping me out yesterday.)

Issues that appear to have been conflated in all of this:
- I do not hate MNRG, their fans, or anyone else associated with the team.
- I do not hate their All-Star team's colors.
- I don't think their logo is ugly. (Or stupid, or anything else.)
- I do not think their uniforms are ugly. (Or stupid, or anything else.)
- I do not want their colors to be black and white.
- I am not calling for the skaters to stop training to address this concern.
- In the face of Nationals, I do not believe this is a pressing issue for anyone associated with the team. (If it is ever addressed at all, it is an off-season discussion.)
- I don't think the MNRG All-Stars are the only members, or only "important" members of their league.
- I am not belittling their current fanbase, who clearly already know that the MNRG All-Stars skate in Aqua and Army.
- I don't expect anything to change because of me.

All that said, I have to admit: I'm confused as to why MNRG uses colors in their logo that do not correspond to any other color scheme in their league. I'm confused about why their allstar team and their logo are different colors. I don't understand what purpose it serves, on a local OR a national scale. I don't understand how it helps their branding initiative, or enables MNRG to be recognizable as an entity.

Logos are not just a cute picture that you slap on a shirt. They represent an aspect of a branding initiative that is meant to distinguish your product (in this case, a roller derby team/league) from all the other similar products out there. In the case of derby, this is critical. With 1000 leagues worldwide and growing, with (let's assume) more than triple that many teams competing (home teams, jr teams, etc), it is important for these logos and these brands to be unique. Because, let's face it, there are only so many skull/skate/derby pinup variations to go around. (I'm being facetious, internet. Not every derby league loves these things in equal measure, or at all.)

To make that uniqueness resonate with your fans, or to be accessible by potential fans, there needs be some sort of consistency within the brand. In the case of a sports team (on any level) this is usually by team colors. The team colors reach across the brand. They're the color of the field, the color of the uniforms, the color of the rally towels. (Again: I'm aware that derby does not have fields. Or rally towels. Yet.) They're a way for fans to identify not only as supporters of their chosen team, but to identify each other, as a community. You're never going to mistake a Jets fan (green and white) for an Eagles fan (forest and silver).

Now, derby is a little different. We have leagues, and within those leagues there are travel teams, home teams, junior teams, maybe even a rec team. I'm not saying that with that much diversity involved in a league, that all teams must have the same colors. (While some professional sports teams, such as the Phillies, tend to integrate a common color scheme across their farm teams as well, it is not the gold standard. Nor is it a wholly accurate comparison, since farm teams for the parent league play other farm teams, not each other. I digress.)

However, it seems logical that the travel team, the allstar team, whatever you call it, should be the core of the league's branding effort, at least on a national stage. They are, after all, the team that observers in other cities (states, divisions, countries, whatever) think of when they think of the league. When my dad calls me from Philly and talks about Rocky Mountain, he's talking about the 5280 Fight Club, not the Red Ridin' Hoods or the Sugar Kill Gang.

And to that end, it makes sense, to me, to have your league branding effort and your allstar branding effort synch up. Have the logos match. Have the colors match. You can call them the 5280 Fight Club, or the All-Stars, or the Liberty Belles, or whatever you want - but to everyone in your non-local market - anyone that isn't a rabid fan (and let's be honest - that's most fans. The conversion rate from "new fan" to "megaloyal fan" is pretty high, but every new fan has that initial entry point.), they're simply Rocky Mountain. Minnesota. Philly. They're synonymous, and they're the largest public face your league has. What advantage is it to have them represented by different things? By having a disparity in your league/allstar branding effort, you're simply making it that much more difficult for a new/potential fan to identify your product.

So, after a really, really embarrassing amount of back and forth on this with people I've never met on the internet, it has come to light that the reason for the logo/uni differential is... tradition.

MNRG were one of the first flat track derby leagues during the derby resurgence of 2004. The logo, designed then, was never conceived as a marketing tool for a broad audience. As for the evolution of the uniforms, away from the logo colors, I have no info. But basically, the reason for the split is "that's how we started, we're not gonna change it now!"

Which, to me, is preposterous. You're not the same team that you were 8 years ago. Not only are you a different team, but derby is a different sport. To hang on to this old logo, sentimental as it might be, is looking backwards, not forwards. While some might see it as a nod to history, to tradition, the fact is, it causes confusion and breaks up brand consistency. Refusing to evolve your brand is not a cute, kitschy kickback. It's a stubborn, shortsighted means of denying growth to your product's development.

At this point, I'm half tempted to start pulling up various timelines depicting the brand-growth of professional sports teams, from conception to how we know and love them today. Things that include changes in team location, name, color, logo, font, uniform style, hell, even socks. The thing that make these changes necessary is time. Repositioning your brand helps to distinguish it from other similar brands available on the market. The thing that makes these changes stick is consistency. Sports teams change their branding initiatives all the time. But when that happens, it's a systematic, across the board change. Their new uniforms match their new website match their new hats, match the new colors of the dugout and the new logo on their stationary. They don't change the team uniform colors, then keep the old colored logo because it reminds them of their history. That's inconsistent, and doesn't send a coherent message to their consumers. (They do, however, keep an archive of the old branding, and continue to release "retro" styled products. That's also a completely different positioning of the old logos.)

I'm quickly losing steam here, so I'll sum up:
I don't hate the MNRG logo. I just think that it's inconsistent with their brand. If they had someone take 5 minutes in photoshop with it, to update it to their All-Star teams colors of aqua and army (and changed the website color scheme accordingly), everything would be hunky-dory. In synch. Not confusing to new fans - and, yes, there will be new fans, who will be just as confused as I was by their current lack of consistency.

Next month, MNRG (who sadly fell to Windy City) will face Charm City (Baltimore) in the first round of the National Championship tournament. Both teams will be playing live in front of a non-local, to either team, crowd. The broadcast will be viewed not just by fans of the teams, or the divisions they play in, but by all roller derby fans. But Charm City's colors are actually red and gold. Short of the announcers announcing, over and over, that MNRG is in the aqua and army (because fans do not all tune in to the feed at the start of a bout - and the vast majority of fans will be watching this from home, not from the Broomfield Even Center.), it will be up to the fans at home to figure out who is who. And a 10 minute Google search that solves the problem only by process of elimination is not good marketing. Not for MNRG, not for WFTDA, and not for roller derby.

{Update, 1/30/13: Michael McFarland has written an awesome article about the specific artistic flaws of derby logos, that compliments my issues here almost perfectly. Check it out: Rebranding Roller Derby: Athletic Logos and Sports Design

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Coming Clean or, We Call This Burying the Lede.

I've been rolling this around in my mouth for days, now, and I still don't know how to say it.

I've typed more than a handful of versions out, and none of them seem right. The thing is, I'm leaping in to NaBloWriMo, and I honestly don't know how I'm going to manage a month's worth of entries without coming clean about this to the blog.

And I tried do a "short" version of it, but it just turned into a long version anyway, so if you're interested, read on. And if you're not... I dunno. Skim. Maybe there'll be important bullet points along the way.

When I started this blog, I had every intention of chronicling my story of quitting grad school and moving on with my universe, through the lens of depression (which every therapist I've ever been to has agreed has some sort of hold on me), general anxiety (only the more recent therapists have agreed that this might be a thing), and social anxiety (subset of general, painfully obvious to everyone around me.)

It has been, and is, harder than I thought it would be, mostly because it's difficult for me to write about how hard things are, or to wrap things up in a tidy bow at the end of posts. The thing is, depression sucks. Anxiety sucks. They're not "oh I had a bad day so I took a bubble bath and now I'm better" posts, they're "I'm too incapacitated by sadness to take the 10 steps from my bed to my bathroom to fill up the bathtub" posts. They don't end on high notes, or with solutions. And I've been scared to post, publicly, about how I'm "really" doing.

The other part was that aside from a few moments of abject depressive hysteria, very few of the things I was writing felt true. And since I couldn't figure out why, I just... didn't write.

Switching gears: A few years ago, a friend of mind who did happen to see those depressed-hysterical thought-spews recommended a book to me. I glanced at the author's website, but never really followed up on it. It had a hokey title, and sounded like a self-help book. Neither of these things have any sort of appeal to me.

But funny enough, something about it must have grabbed me, because every few months, I'd go back to the website, and wonder if there might be something to all of it.

Last month, I was low. Lower than I've been in a really long time. Hysterical, phone-a-friend, serious thoughts of self-harm low. (It's hard to say any of this out loud, in public. My gut instinct is to cover it all up with platitudes and denial - "I'm ok now." "I'm fine." "Don't worry about me"'s. I don't want anyone to swoop in and try to save me, but at the same time, I desperately want to stop hiding the sheer fact that yes, sometimes there are these things, and they're bad things, and they're terrible, and they're hard, but they're TRUE. I'm not comfortable hiding my depression anymore.) After a late night at a friend's place, freaking out her boyfriend with my crying, I did one of the hardest things I've ever done as an adult: I walked into a bookstore, and headed for the self-help section.

The best part of this was discovering that the book I was looking for was not, in fact, shelved in the self-help section. It was in Psychology, which, ironically enough, made/makes me feel less crazy about the whole thing.

I picked up a copy of the book that my friend had recommended to me years ago, and started reading the introduction. And there, at 7pm, in this independent bookstore in the heart of downtown, I started crying. It would've been sobbing, probably, if I hadn't learned how to cry silently years and years ago.

3 pages in, and already the author had identified behaviors and patterns that I could barely explain to myself, let alone verbalize to other people. Things that I had been thinking about and living with and knowing for as long as I can remember being able to, y'know, think.

These things in my head, about my head... they weren't just symptoms of the depression, of the anxiety. They're a whole separate thing. And it's not bad, it's not scary, it's not yet another disorder to lump on top of the others, it is, at its heart, just a different way of interpreting sensory data, and a difference in how data is processed and acted upon. Not bad. Not scary. Just different.

I identify as what Elaine Aron calls a Highly Sensitive Person. If you're interested, you can poke around on her website. The link she includes to the basic assessment test is super telling, and likely does a better job of explaining what being an HSP is and feels like than what I could do in my own words. (For the record: Aron suggests that if you score a 14 or higher on the self test, you are probably Highly Sensitive. I scored 23.)

Reading her books have been a strange journey of self discovery for me. I'm not learning anything new, per se, but it's wonderful and scary and freeing to not only have a name for what goes on in my head, but to know that there are other people out there. And to know that I'm not broken.

So there. That's that. I'm an HSP. I'm not sure how that information is going to manifest itself in this blog, but I felt that it was important information to share. Maybe it'll give you a better perspective on how I live my life, make the decisions I make, think the things I think. Maybe saying it out loud, in the blog, will let me be more open and honest with my process - both how I'm progressing, and how I'm getting there. Right now, I'm really not sure.

But being open about feels real, feels true. Feels like a Thing I Need To Do in order to keep moving forward with things.


Now you know.

Friday, September 23, 2011

One Day: A Solo View

So, I won't lie. I forgot that Weds was 1DASV til I was already in the middle of it, and a friend tweeted about it. Whoops.

Sept 21, 0:00
I am on the loveseat with my boyfriend, watching a David Attenborough documentary about birds, eating edamame that he made for me, drinking wine, playing Tiny Tower on his iPad. He is, at various points, working/watching/sleeping. We've been shaky, lately, but I am, for the moment, content.

Boyfriend is breathing deeply, asleep. I wake him up and tell him to go to bed. He is doing this new thing where he wakes up at 6am, no matter what time he goes to bed. I think it's looney tunes, but then, I'm the insomniac, not him. He goes upstairs. I continue playing Tiny Tower.

1:00 - 2:00
Tiny Tower. Its repetitive actions, plodding pace, and minute increments of progress compels me. One more update. One more update. Oh, only 5 more minutes til the Optometrist is stocked? I can wait that long. 3 more minutes til the Game Store is stocked? I can wait that long. Hey look, if I wait 10 more minutes, I can place this new bitizen in their dream job! I can wait that long!

Meanwhile, my boyfriend is upstairs, asleep, and my body, exhausted from 2 hours of roller derby practice, doesn't know what the fuck I'm doing.

2:00 - 6:00
I head upstairs and crawl under the sheet, still clothed. I have a new pillow at his place (procured by me), and I wonder if being able to sleep on a pillow of my very own will make things more comfortable for me.


The pillow is great, but I toss and turn for an hour. Big spoon is uncomfortable. Little spoon is uncomfortable. Him touching me at all is uncomfortable. Him not touching me at all is uncomfortable. I feel bad, like my constant struggle with the covers must be keeping him awake. He has to be up in 4 hours. I should just go home.

I only know because I feel him stir, and it seems to be light out. I guess I didn't leave. I guess I must've slept? It doesn't feel like it.

I hear the shower running. Still feel uncomfortable. Oh. I slept in my clothes. Again. Is it my boyfriend or his roommate in the shower? Is it really this bright out? What time is it? Oh. There's no clock. Maybe I'll try sleeping again. I drooled all over my pillow.

Boyfriend emerges from bathroom, damp. "Are you waking up, or just getting back?" I ask. He went to his crossfit class at 6.30, howeverlong ago that was. Or maybe he's just getting up. I don't know.

"Just got back."


So really,

He goes downstairs to make breakfast. I stay in bed, uncomfortable, somewhere between awake and asleep. Did I sleep? I must've, Did I sleep well? No. I'm sore -everywhere-. Is it from the futon, or - oh. I had practice last night. Maybe it's that. Maybe I shouldn't've slept in my clothes. Maybe I should've gone home like I'd planned. Maybe this stinks. Ugh. Why is it so bright. Why can't I just be asleep.

I toddle downstairs. Getting dressed is easy, when you sleep in all your clothes. Back to Tiny Tower while boyfriend finishes up some worky things from last night. His roommate comes home, and I tune out while they talk about their plan for the day - to head up to Vail and sign the lease for their ski cottage. Did I mention that it's bright out?

The boys have left, I've cleaned up the dishes from last night, plugged in the iPad, and need to move my car before it gets a ticket. They invited me to Vail with them before they left, but I'm exhausted, no idea if I'm going to go.

I drive the 3 blocks home (I drove over after practice. No walking places further than my couch happens after derby practice.), and my version of breakfast is everyone else's version of snack. Leftover pasta and tomato sauce, which I may or may not have accidentally left on the counter last night.

Twitters are twittered, nap is no where in sight, I'm eating cookies. They are also a part of breakfast. Boyfriend and roommate swing by, I've decided sure, why the hell not, let's go to Vail.

En route to Vail. It's my first time up there since living in Colorado - the last time I was there was right before I moved out here, for my uncle's wedding at his house in Avon. Sitting in the backseat, I'm able to do a thing that was impossible for me to do when I drove my family out there - namely, relax. I continue to check the twitterverse, continuing to not care about any Facebook changes, distressed at the futility of the #TroyDavis case, and sad when I learn about R.E.M. breaking up. I make a few poorly received Orange Crush jokes. Then we drive through the Eisenhower tunnel, and I put on a PowerPuff Girls birthday party hat that I find under one of the roommate's seats.

Happy birthday, Christophe.

I still have no idea what this video is about. Were videos in the 90's ever "about" anything? Or just there as visual background noise? I'm looking at you, 120 Minutes.

The boys spend the drive up brainstorming their newest business venture. I'm flattered that they ask for my input, but they're talking techy things, and the best I can contribute is "bacon". For the record, at some point, one of them mentioned Klout. So it seemed obvious.

Vail! It looks exactly the same as I remember - pretty, but vaguely EPCOT-esque. Roommate's favourite bar/grill doesn't open til dinner, so we're left with a crapshoot for our lunch options. I dither for longer than I think either of them appreciate, but we end up, accidentally, at a fairly decent Italian place. Overlooking the only alley in Vail (as we learn from a passing tour group), we chow down, then head out. Coffee is necessary before heading to East Vail to sign the lease.

We arrive at their ski condo, a basement level with a hot tub and a small yard, overlooking a creek. The leasing agent, who told us to meet her there at 3, isn't there. We mill.

Leasing agent arrives. Doesn't have the key. Luckily the door is unlocked? She is confused to learn that people are currently living in the space. We do a walkthrough, and despite several line items in the lease still being incorrect, they sign. I'm not as cranky as I may appear to be at this point, though I have very, very little patience for their leasing agent. Business taken care of, we get back on the road, headed towards Boulder.

It appears to be fall in Colorado. I've been here for 4 years, and I'm not convinced that the in-between seasons actually happen here. Mostly, I think I'm spoiled by Philadelphia's lush springs and technicolor falls. The leaves are changing in bits and pieces in the scenery, and I need to remember to google for an apple farm.

I need at least 3 more colors to register this as "fall".

Back at the Eisenhower tunnel, we encounter mysterious construction traffic, and I learn what coming up in the winter will feel like.

Slow. Waiting. Forever.

Frisco. Bathroom break. I don't think I've been in a highway-side bathroom since my roadtrip to Idaho with the boyfriend, and it brings back an odd sense of deja vu. There is no baby changing table in the women's bathroom, which I learn when I exit my stall to find a woman changing her son on the bathroom floor. In other news, nothing says birth control like a baby on the bathroom floor of a gas station.

Home. I passed out somewhere between Silverthorne and Golden. Boyfriend offers to stay and nap with me, but I feel... edgy. Overwhelmed. ("Can you ever just be... whelmed?") I stumble eagerly into my own bed, and promptly pass out again. The wind is chilly, blowing through my bedroom window, and the sky is clouded over, either having just rained, or threatening to do so in the near future.

I dream, but nothing I want to remember. The dream unfolds in the style of Law & Order, and I wake, concerned that someone may have been investigating the death of my relationship. There's got to be something in the air, as texts received during naptime reveal that boyfriend is not feeling particularly awesome, either.

I settle into my evening routine of faux-domesticity, pretending that I am capable of feeding myself (dinner: Goldfish crackers, more chocolate chip cookies, some chicken/cilantro dumplings I find in the freezer), or of watching things on the internet that do not resemble giallo films, either in parts or in full. Hell's Kitchen, The Basketball Diaries, Modern Family... I suppose one out of 3 is better than usual.

By the time I'm exhausted enough to pretend to be able to fall asleep again, it's well into the next day. The boyfriend is inevitably waking up as I'm going to sleep. Again. I listen to the world waking up as I fall asleep.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Photography Magic from The Impossible Project!

Fun Fact: The "I Got a New Camera" song sounds suspiciously similar to the "I've Got a Dollar" song.

Just in case you were wondering.

So, I could tell you a long drawn out story about how I won this delightful new camera you're about to hear me brag about, but the camera isn't really the important part. Neither is the film I got for it, which is a photography thing I've been lusting after for the last 4 years.

The important part, really, is that this film exists at all.

Some of us might remember, back in the long long ago, when analog roamed the earth, that there was a thing called print photography. But humans, being the impatient, insatiable beasts that they are, decided that printing your own photos, by hand, was too long and arduous a process. They wanted vacation snapshots nownownow.

And, lo, a company called Polaroid was called forth from out of the void, and gave unto us INSTANT FILM. Pictures that were developed AS YOU WATCHED. With all the chemical doohickeys locked in the image itself! It was the stuff of magic. Magic and endless snapshots of your dog, and your feet, and anything else you could imagine.

The colors in Polaroid instamatic film weren't as clear as the colors in regular ole film. The edges were never quite as sharp. But who cares. (I never did.) They were PRETTY and they were FAST and, if you were the creative sort, there were all sorts of neat modification-widgety things you could do to your film.

Then digital happened. And, let's face it, digital killed the analog star. Polaroid film couldn't compete with this new wave of cheap, instant photography. The company folded their film production division in 2008. SAD TIMES.


Shortly after Polaroid broke all of our instant photograph-loving hearts, several intrepid ex-Polaroid employees came together to save the world. Or maybe just start making instant film again. With their 500 years (combined) of accumulated knowledge and experience with Polaroid film, cameras and production, production machinery purchased from Polaroid, and even the space of an old Polaroid production plant, our heroes swore Nay! We shall not let analog instant photography shrivel in the sun of new technology! We shall invent anew, and give rise to a new, better, instant analog film type! And we will save the 300,000,000 already existing Polaroid instant cameras from living sad lives on peoples shelves, and in closets, and in landfills!

Then, with a mighty roar, and some explosions, and a Tesla coil or three, they made it happen.

(Ok, I made most of that up. The details, anyway. The facts are still true.)

I followed the story of The Impossible Project from the second it was announced, waiting, anxiously, for them to give me new film to feed my Polaroid I-Zone.

(This is a Polaroid I-Zone, a last-ditch effort from Polaroid in 1999 to drum up interest in analog instant photography. Targeted at the Teen/Tweenager market, it took postage stamp sized pictures with an astounding lack of clarity or depth. It sucked. I loved it. There is no way in hell The Impossible Project, or anyone else in their right mind, will ever make film for it ever again.)

In 2010, TIP began production of its new films, PX 100 and PX 600, made for use in Polaroid's most common instamatics, SX-70s and 600s. (And some others, like the Spectra. You have an internet, you can Google these things.) Like many specialty products, it was priced just beyond my price point for fun things. So I gazed longingly at the website, and dreamed of a day when I would have the disposable income to play with my Polaroid cameras again.

Fast forward to the other week, when I mindlessly (but excitedly) entered a contest on Jeff Hamada's most excellent blog, BOOOOOOOOM, to win a camera and two shiny new packs of Impossible Project film. IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT FILM, I thought. HOT DAMN YES PLEASE.

Sometimes I forget that Boom (sorry, Jeff, I can't keep counting those O's) is a super popular blog with a brajillion readers - so I was a little surprised when my inbox was suddenly flooded with the thousands of responses the contest generated. Since I was a tiny speck in an infinite sea of awesome entries, I mostly forgot about it.

Til last week, when Jeff emailed me to tell me that I'd won.

Wait, what?


So here we are now. I opened the door today to find this (and this is where I spare you the boring pictures of things like a standard size USPS shipping box sitting on my doorstep):

please enjoy this cameo appearance from everyone's favourite vibrant, healthy, long-lived cactus.

A new (to me) Polaroid Sun660, and two packs of Impossible Project film - 1 of their new PX-70 Color Shade PUSH, and 1 of the PX 600 Silver Shade.

While I am COMPLETELY aware of the irony in using myNikon CoolPix digital to take pictures of my NEW POLAROID CAMERA AND FILM, I just couldn't justify using such wonderful, anticipated new product on a shot of - well, itself.

I have grand plans for these 16 shots. Some Rock Paper Scissors Championship action, to be followed up by a road trip to Montana/Idaho with @woodardj, destination: IronMan.

In the meantime, I'm going to go back to grinning at my new film, figuring out how to make Instant Film Transparencies, and singing the I've Got A Camera song. (It's pretty terrible. Not as terrible as the I-zone. But I love it all the same.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Guess what, Buttercup

I'm pretty sure when I started ReVerb-ing, the intention wasn't to shift the entire concept of my life, and begin to rejigger the construct of my universe. Oh well. There it is.

I've spent a lot of time this year thinking about what makes me happy. Not my parents, not my teachers, not my old boss... me. Working towards that lofty, ethereal idea -- I mean, it's not only hokey, but straightup, it scares the pants off of me.

Oh, M'ris! Hooray! You're doing things that scare you!

Seriously, shut UP, brain, internet, did I ask you? No I did not.

See, I've been hardwired to believe that my worth is in what I do. Not just the act of doing things, but the things themselves, those were assigned a societal value, and that value was my value.

Without those things, I'm not quite sure where I stand.

See, I took a semester off from grad school this term. In all likelyhood, this semester will turn into two, likely into forever. And with that, I'll be flushing (x) number of years down the tubes, not completing a degree, disappointing my parents, the admission committee that gave me my scholarship, and, y'know, the whole damn universe. At least, that's how it feels, when I step back and think about it.

There's a very good reason for not finishing my program, though. It's so simple: I hate it. I'm not learning the things I want to learn there, the skills I want to have. And, y'know, it makes me miserable. Showing up every day to participate in a dialogue I don't agree with (structurally, ideologically, ethically - yes. Just yes.) is, was, has been, killing me. Eating the little pieces of my soul where I had my wishes and my values and my concepts of success. Showing up every day and effectively being told "No. That thing you want to learn? You're in the wrong place for it. We can't (won't, don't want to) help you. Here, learn all these other things that you hated in undergrad and still dislike now!"

It was eating me alive. But I was so wrapped up in the end goal, in the finishing for the sake of finishing. In the making other people happy, making other people proud of me, that I couldn't see it. This semester allowed me to take a step back and realize why I was still in the program - and it wasn't for me.

The second I realized that, that I was putting myself through hell just to make someone else happy... that's when I realized that something was seriously fucked up. I didn't realize I had to quit school - that came much later. But there was a teeny, tiny part of me that realized, for maybe the first time, that it's my life.

There's a lot of backstory and therapy to the weight of that realization, that I'm the one driving this hovercraft, that I won't get in to here.

I live my own life. The decisions I make are my own. They make my own path. I can choose things that I want, I can choose things I don't want. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? I mean, I choose what I eat every day. That's easy. (Pasta yes, eggs no. See? Simple!) But on a larger scale, somehow, that was just all lost to me. I was wrapped up with pleasing my parents, pleasing my professors, hell, even pleasing my teachers from High School. Every person who ever exclaimed how much "potential!" I had, or how "intelligent!" I am, or "what a good writer!" I could be, if only I applied myself. Those messages got stuck in the cogs, wheeling around and around until I didn't even realize that their messages, their hopes and dreams for me - they weren't mine.

There's so much I want to expound on there - concepts of self, idealistic interpretations of "intelligence" (there's probably a conversation about "the greater good" in there, somewhere), constructs of worth, societal expectations of your garden-variety antisocial nerdling.

But the point of this entry is simply this: I quit grad school. I've never been happier. And I'm ready to move the fuck on to the next part of my life. The part that I choose, that isn't chosen for me. The part that makes me happy, even if it makes everyone else scratch their head.

I'm not quitting learning, and I'm certainly not quitting trying. I'm just exiting out of a structure that wasn't right for me, in the hopes of finding something that is.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

About A Dog

My friend's dog passed away unexpectedly last night. He was bitten by another dog in the neighborhood, infection set in, and he passed.

I am basically a wreck.

Smokey belonged to my teammates, Baconshark and Tits McGee. Baconshark had brought Smokey home back in 2007, with the money he'd won at that year's RPS championship. I wasn't in the picture at that point, but Smokey was clearly the Victory Dog.

The next year, I tripped into the arms of a rowdy gang of jackasses more affectionately known as David Bowie's Package. After on-purposely getting drunk and accidentally winning the 2008 championship, Baconshark kindly drove me back to his house in Jersey, where I met Smokey. As I laid down on the sofa to pass out, PJ laid my giant check up against the seat, and I curled up. Hours later, I awoke to a large, skinny, furry blanket draped over me - Smokey was unwilling to share his sofa, and was sleeping on top of me like an adorable blanket. There's a picture of this, somewhere. I wish I could find it.

That was the beginning, they say, of a beautiful friendship. I moved out to Colorado shortly after the season ended, and only really got to see Smokes a few times a year. He was never, of course, my dog, but in my head, he was always the team's dog, the unsung, most adorable member of The Package. Trips to Jersey almost inevitably would end up with me at the Williams-Mercer Zoo, adults ("adults") in the kitchen/dining room doing adult things (talking/yelling about loud music), while Smokes and I would curl up on the floor and make googly eyes at each other. Maybe I just made the googly eyes. He just wondered where this extra human came from, and why there were so many snuggles.

I would badger Karen for stories about her adventures with the pup, jealous that I never got to spend as much time with either of them as I ever wanted to. And she'd humor me, telling me about the songs she would make up for him while they were taking walks together, or mundane things around the neighborhood that made him skittish. I'd sit around and wonder how so much dog could fit into such a tiny frame. (Seriously, where does the dog go on greyhounds??) And Smokey would grin, and writhe around on his back, and get loved on. Because this dog loved his people, and all the people loved this dog.

And so I'm sitting here at 4am, still crying, after sobbing on Jon for an hour after I heard, for this pup that I only tangentially knew, and for his people, who loved him so much. For Kevin and Karen, who are now down a best friend, and for their little one, who will never get to meet his big furry brother.

There are things I want to tell you about Smokes, about his giant, kind eyes, and his adorable greyhound grin, and his endless patience for the humans (me. Others.) who insisted on his post-racing career as a pillow. But instead, I'll tell you this: David Bowie's Package rules. And so do you, Smokey. <3.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

People for a Panda-Neutral Society - Ignite Boulder 14

I mentioned that I had submitted a spark for Ignite Boulder 14.

Though my spark wasn't voted in by the people of Boulder, one of the organizers decided to include it anyway. After stressing out about it for weeks, attending several practice sessions with the other presenters, and frantically finishing up the slides seconds before the deadline crunched down on our heads (my boyfriend and I were both presenting, there was some serious work-couch going on that night), I was slotted to be the first speaker at Ignite Boulder 14. Take THAT, voters!

Here's how things turned out:

It's something like 3 weeks later, and I'm still getting stopped in the street by strangers who need to compliment me on my talk. Item 1, I'm no good at compliments - not receiving them, anyway - so this is a pretty excellent exercise in how to be a real human, in that regard.

Item 2, I'm really, really proud of how this turned out. I researched the crap out of it (and half of what I learned didn't even make it in - there could almost be a Part 2.) and spent forever rehearsing it, so I'm glad it went over well.

Item 3, this was my first time being intentionally funny in a public setting. I was terrified. What if I wasn't, y'know, any good? If my idea of funny wasn't anyone else's idea of funny? I'm so relieved that people liked it.

More than that, I'm thrilled that people got it, that they get my sense of humor. That sense of accomplishment (and of acceptance) is huge. I've never felt anything like it before - and I'm not gonna lie, I like it. I want to keep feeling it.

I have no idea what the next step is in any of it, or where to go from here, but I'm moving forward, looking forward to finding out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Following Through

Looking back on last month's brilliant (brilliant?) ideas for the new year, here's how things are progressing:

I bought my derby gear! Tried out for the Denver Roller Dolls soon after, and gobbled asphalt. Lesson learned: learn how to skate BEFORE trying out for a league. Luckily, there's no short supply of derby in Colorado, and I was able to find quite a few places that look pretty good. For now, I'm going to be practicing with the Wreckin' Rebel Rollers, a pickup league down in Denver. I like the women and the atmosphere - it's very laid back and focused on building skills, not competition. Once I get comfortable there/on skates, I'll start looking in to tryouts for leagues and such.

Here's the bruise I gave myself last week: Basically, I'm terrified of stopping. Falling down is way easier. Stopping results in falling down WITHOUT control.

Despite coming back bruised, sore, and wondering what I'd gotten myself in to, I am super super excited to being going back weekly (possibly twice a week, if I can stand to put my body through that sort of torture.)

BIFF volunteer orientation is tomorrow night! I'm excited to get my schedule locked down, and to meet the other volunteers.

Vacation semester: I gave myself a month to fuck around, and now that's over. I'm slowly getting back in to the grind of doing work, which stinks, but going at my own pace is nice. Working with my therapist, I've emailed my professors about how last term ended, and am working on getting myself on solid academic footing re: vacation semester. (So I'm actually on a hiatus instead of accidentally dropping out.)

Don't think I mentioned it on here, but I've been bandying about the idea of submitting a spark for Ignite Boulder for more than a few months. Ignite is a community speech event, where each presenter has 5 minutes (and an automatically advancing powerpoint presentation) to speak to the crowd about whatever they think is important. My spark, People for a Panda-Neutral Society, is currently up for vote at the Ignite website. I'm actually more terrified of the voting process than I am of speaking. And yes, this speech would effectively be a scientifically accurate version of my "Why I Hate Pandas" rant. I did some actual research on my usual sticking points the other day, and it tuns out that pandas are EVEN MORE USELESS than I'd originally thought. Hopefully, PETA-loving Boulder will be interested enough in this spark to let me actually talk. (If you'd like to vote and help convince them, that would be swell.)

Books: haven't actually been back to the library yet, mostly been catching up on books I have lying around the house. With a truly excellent used bookstore not a mile from my apartment, the stack of unread novels has grown near-Hoarders high over the last year. It's nice to start making a dent in it. Here's the damage so far:

1. Spider Robinson - Night Watch
2. Bentley Little - Dispatch
3. Frank Beddor - The Looking Glass Wars
4. Shreve Stockton - The Daily Coyote
5. Orson Scott Card - Treason
6. Robert Thurston - Robot Jox
7. Orson Scott Card - Ender in Exile

It's New Hoth City cold out there right now (the temp in Boulder fell 110 degrees (counting windchill) overnight the other night. Seriously. Right now it's -6. Ick.), so tonite seems like a good night to do some laundry, clean, watch movies under the covers, etc.

Oh, except I also decided that since derby practice is canceled (the warehouse we practice in isn't heated, so being there would've been pretty bad news bears all around), I'd join one of my twitter friends' Mah Jongg group for the night. I've never played before, but it's the first step towards becoming a proper old jewish lady. Excited!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Going In With a Bang

2011 is only a week old, and here's the list of dumb shit (awesome stuff) that I've already committed to:

- Signed up for the Colorado Warrior Dash on August 20th. Fuzzy viking helmets and fire pits at ~10,000 feet? I'm gonna die.
- Resolved to write at least 1 piece of handwritten correspondence every week. (Want to be the lucky recipient? Comment.)
- Read 50 books. Given how I've started off this year, I suspect that I'll win this one before the end of the semester.
- Related, make friends with the local library again.
- Also related, keep a running tally of those books here at this blog.
- Also related, actually document the number of times I read Treason in a year. I'm prepared to be mortified.
- Also related, read more short stories from internet-only (or mostly) publications. Clarkesworld, I look forward to being friends with you.
- While I'm at it, hell, let's keep a movie list, too. Netflix isn't particularly good at keep tabs on what I've watched. Maybe if I watch Mindwarp enough times, it'll magically appear on DVD.
- Create it Forward -- I'm going to send something handmade to the first 5 people who comment on this statement. I guess it was supposed to be a Facebook thing, but it's here now, too, so we'll see what happens w/ that.
- Submitted my volunteer registration for the Boulder International Film Festival this February.

Now I just need to keep up this momentum.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Plan.

Welp, Reverb 2010 is over, and while I might still plug in a few entries from the prompts, I think it's time to face the cold hard reality that ReadAGoddamnBook cannot exist on Reverb prompts alone.

It's time to refocus, and figure out what the hell this blog is going to be all about. I don't want to turn it into a journaling space (lord knows that Livejournal sees more than enough of that from me), but I don't want to hide behind a stringent concept. Reverb has shown me that there's something... freeing in being publicly honest about how my brain functions, and I don't want to lose that in this space. But I'd like to hone it in.

So let's start with this:

I finally admitted to myself that I'm burnt out on grad school. To that end, I've committed to taking a vacation term next semester.

Now, when I tell people that this is a thing that's happening, the first question that gets asked tends to be "Well, what are you going to do instead?" There's no answer that makes them all happy. People want me to have a gameplan, a long-term goal. The truth of it is, the thing that's driven me to this vacation term is the fact that I don't. I've been on this path for so long, that I've lost track of what it is that I want. So long term plan? No fucking clue. It's not on the table. That's not what this is about.

I want to take this term to figure things out. Try new things, fail at a couple of jobs that I'm not totally in love with. Volunteer. Teach. Maybe even write. Do things that terrify me. Date. Address some issues and concepts that I've toyed with, but never faced headon. Talk to strangers. Not default to obscure minutia and snark as conversation points. Catch up on schoolwork. Proofread a paper. Recalibrate. Readjust.

I'm not sure how it's all going to pan out, but I'm pretty stoked to try.