Category Archives: Irritating Stuff

Why Rupi Kaur Gives Me Hope For the Future

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Have you heard of Rupi Kaur?

I hadn’t, until my 15-year-old stepdaughter asked if I was interested in reading her favorite book – a book of poetry, no less.

I am not normally a poetry person. I continually try to open myself to poetry, and there are some poets I do love (Walt Whitman and e.e. cummings and Mary Oliver come to mind), but I often struggle to make a connection to poetry. To hook into what the poem is conveying. I have problems finding my way in.

But when a 15-year-old girl gives you an opportunity – an invitation – to peek into her world, to have a glimpse of what grabs her attention, what penetrates her heart, what expresses even a sliver of her own inner life – you don’t say no. It’s an honor to be let in.

So, she deposited “Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur’s first book of poetry, on my nightstand. I’ll admit — it sat there for two weeks before I finally picked it up. But the universe has a way of tapping you on the shoulder by way of synchronicity, so when a close friend shared a Rupi Kaur poem on Facebook, I took the hint and immediately picked up the book.

 photo by rupee rags
photo by rupee rags

You guys – wow.

First of all, the language is simple and bold. There’s no fluff, no fancy constructs, no unnecessary elaboration. It gets straight to the point and immediately taps into some decidedly raw feelings.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Secondly, the subject matter speaks to what is arguably the every day experiences of many women around the world. It’s about hurting and loving and losing and healing. It’s about vulnerability and strength. It’s about learning to be female in the modern world. It’s about self-knowing and growth.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The poet is in her early 20s. She was born in Punjab and moved to Canada when she was 3. In addition to writing poetry, she performs spoken word and writes fiction and plays.

But to get to the point – Rupi Kaur gives me hope for the future.

Why? Well, millennials are often maligned in our culture, characterized as being lazy and self-absorbed and stupid. And, OK, when I see interviews where young people can’t correctly tell you who the Vice President of the United States is or who won the Civil War, I worry. I do. This characterization isn’t totally unfounded.

But when I read Kaur’s poetry, and when I know that it resonates in the soul of a 15-year-old girl on the precipice of adulthood, I’m fucking grateful. I’m grateful that our culture has birthed young women who are unafraid to speak about their experience, their emotions and their bodies.

For the past five years I’ve been involved with charity productions of The Vagina Monologues, V-Day and One Billion Rising. I know that odds are 1 in 3 that a woman will be beaten or raped in her lifetime. I know that we have thousands of years of patriarchal culture to unwind before women can feel safe and heard and equal.

But I think we’re making headway. The teenage girls I know are smarter about their bodies than I was at their age. They have less shame. Many have cultivated an emotional intelligence that probably outstrips men twice their age. They are empowered in many ways. There is still work to do, of course, but I can see how positive change has affected this next generation.

And it gives me hope.

Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Rupi Kaur (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

If you haven’t, check out “Milk and Honey.” And if you have, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

The Perils of Creature Comforts While Traveling Abroad

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Okay, you guys, I’m going to admit to something REALLY embarrassing.

I went to Starbucks. In Istanbul.

Now, I almost never go to Starbucks in the US. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I did. I prefer the coffee I make at home – nice and weak. Starbucks is generally too strong for me, and I refuse to pay that much for a coffee. I’m cheap and I have bad taste, what can I say?

But I do like my morning coffee – two to three cups with 2% milk and a teaspoon of sugar. It’s my ritual. It’s my way of alerting my brain and my body that it is time to get moving for the day. I look forward to it when I get out of bed.

I’ve been traveling abroad for a week now, and my routine is shot to hell. As it should be while traveling. Travel provides an opportunity to get outside oneself, to see things from a new perspective. And the only way to do that is to get outside the regular routine.

Except yesterday I was really tired and had a headache and I hadn’t had a coffee in the morning the way I like it in a few days and I have PMS and I’m grumpy. So when we surfaced from the Metro in Instanbul on our way to Ferikoy flea market, there was a Starbucks RIGHT THERE OUTSIDE THE STATION, and I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE A LATTE. Like my life depended on it.

I went whole hog. I opted for the Venti. Hubs didn’t want anything (he would not stoop to get a Starbucks in a foreign land), so I got in line and ordered my latte. And I felt pretty good because I could order it without knowing any Turkish because Starbucks is the same everywhere. “Venti Café Latte,” was all I had to say. Though I did end it with “teshekkur ederim” which, I’m told, is Turkish for “thank you” and is the only Turkish thing I know how to say on the spot.

I paid with my debit card instead of using up the lira I had in my pocket, which I thought would be better put to use at the flea market where they likely didn’t take credit cards. Between hubs and me, that card is the only one that works everywhere we are traveling because it has the chip and pin. All our other cards are the stupid American swipey kind that only work in some places in Europe that have the swipey thingy. Many of you who have traveled abroad have likely encountered that quizzical look someone gives you when you take your card and pretend to swipe it to try to convey the idea that the person needs the swipey machine instead of the regular machine.

Americans must look like lunatics to other people.

I paid and waited for my receipt. I stood there for a few moments, but when I noticed a long chain of receipts that had been spit out before mine, I realized the cashier had no intention of giving me a receipt. And since I couldn’t ask him in Turkish, I just let it go and moved on.

That was a terrible mistake.

You fucking delicious latte, you.
You fucking delicious latte, you.

I enjoyed the latte, my headache abated, my mood improved and we went about our day. We had hoped to visit Taksim Square in addition to the flea market, but it was completely cordoned off because of possible demonstrations. It was the anniversary of the conflict there between civilians and the government/military about bulldozing a park and the police were preparing for the worst. We read they had water cannons at the ready, and our host thought there might be conflict and possibly tear gas to dispel crowds. As fun as that sounds, we opted to skip Taksim Square. So after the flea market we hopped on the metro over to the old town and walked around.

It was a beautiful evening and we decided to treat ourselves to a special dinner at one of the rooftop restaurants in the area that offered stunning 360 degree views of Istanbul. Mostly I just wanted some wine. Not only had I not had coffee in a few days, I also had not had wine. It’s not that easy to come by in the areas of Istanbul outside the tourist center, and most of our stay has been visiting and staying in the not-so-touristy areas.

The beautiful sunset right before I realized what an idiot I am. Still, it's very pretty. It's too bad I kinda ruined it by being stupid.
The beautiful sunset right before I realized what an idiot I am. Still, it’s very pretty. It’s too bad I kinda ruined it by being stupid.

Since a touristy dinner was my idea, I told hubs I would pay. At the end of the meal, I got out my wallet, and to my dismay my debit card was missing.

You know that feeling you get when you realize you have done something terribly, terribly stupid? Yeah, that’s the feeling that gripped me in that moment. Tears instantly spilled down my cheeks (hey, I said I had PMS). I frantically searched my bag but knew I wasn’t going to find it. I knew where it was. At that FUCKING STARBUCKS.

Oh, the divine retribution, the perfect kharma of it all. I have NEVER IN MY WHOLE LIFE lost a credit card. I’m super persnickety about keeping tabs on stuff like that. My punishment for having a Starbucks in a foreign land was the stressful and irrevocable separation of my person from my one reliable source of funds, for the first time in my adult life.

Fuck me. If only I had insisted on a receipt. I probably would have gotten the card back.

I made a call to the Starbucks, but the person who answered didn’t speak English, and since I can only say “thank you” that wasn’t very helpful. Our waiter spoke to him briefly and asked if they had my card, but they said no. Another call to the Starbucks the following morning by our wonderful Turkish host confirmed that my card was indeed gone forever.

The call to the bank was super fun, too, let me tell you. Surprisingly, you actually talk to an American person when you call the fraud hotline to report your card lost or stolen. And the three Americans I talked to could not quite wrap their heads around the idea that I’m in TURKEY (where is that? I assume they asked themselves) and needed my card shipped to my next location in BULGARIA (even more head scratching ensued, I’m sure).

So, I will wait. Luckily, I am a “prepare for the worst case scenario” kind of person so I am not in any kind of bind without the card. I just feel INCREDIBLY STUPID.

I promise I will NEVER GET STARBUCKS AGAIN. No more creature comforts for me whilst traveling, dear friends. No more giving in to the familiar while exploring distant lands. That’s not what this journey is about.

And maybe it’s time to stop using the coffee as a crutch, anyway. Got it, Universe, thank you. Note taken.

I Don’t Give a F#@k About “The Interview”

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 12/18/14)

The-Interview-poster

If you’ve been following the news at all lately, no doubt you are aware of this thing called the Sony Hack and the pulling of the film “The Interview” from theaters. If you haven’t, read about it here. And leave a note in the comments about how you are able to avoid something that everyone is talking about, short of never going online again.

Seems most in Hollywood are crowing about how shameful it is for theater chains to cancel showings of the movie, forcing Sony to cancel the release of the film. Aaron Sorkin‘s pretty pissed about it. As are Judd Apatow, Ben Stiller and a host of others. There’s lots of talk about “free speech” and “censorship” and how un-American it is to capitulate to cyber-terrorists in this way.

Frankly – I think the reaction is about as American as it can get.

If you are under the impression that Hollywood exists as an exercise of our civil rights, you, my friend, live in a very idealistic world. One I’d like to visit someday, but I think might require loads of Xanax and endless pep talks from Oprah.

Hollywood’s main interest is the bottom line. Entertainment exists, by and large, to make money. Making money is the American Way. If you put some sort of obstacle in the way of making money, it is quintessentially American to remove that obstacle. If “The Interview” were to play in theaters over Christmas, at a time when many American families will be taking in a flick or two, it might convince some folks it’s safer to stay home. It’s not like theaters haven’t been subject to violence and terrorism in the recent past. If people avoid movie theaters over the holidays because of a perceived threat, remove the threat. “The Interview” is a threat to the bottom line.

Censorship is a part of the entertainment business. Why do you think you never hear the word “fuck” on primetime broadcast television? Because no writer ever wanted to add it to a script? Fuck no! It’s because “fuck” will alienate some audience members, which will mean less eyeballs, which will mean advertisers won’t be as interested in paying to have their ads run during your show. Most TV shows don’t exist to entertain us – they exist as an advertising platform. It’s the American Way.

Honestly, I really don’t care one way or another about the film being cancelled. It’s just as much an exercise of rights to pull the film as it is to show the film. Sony execs decided to make the dictator in the movie a real person because they thought it would be more provocative. They got exactly what they asked for.

What I DO care about are the work-a-day folks over at Sony whose personal information was leaked. Those in charge seem to be playing fast and loose with the private information of the girl in the office who gets the coffee or the guy who sits in the editing bay for 16 hours a day. I hope this whole debacle will serve as a cautionary tale to companies to take cyber security seriously. It’s all fun and games until you piss off one of the most volatile dictators in the modern world.

Why Getting Older Has Made Me More Indecisive and Less Opinionated, and What That Has to Do with Renee Zellweger’s Face

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/23/14)

Unless you are completely disconnected from the Internet, chances are you read something about Renee Zellweger’s face over the past couple of days. It seems just about every media outlet, celebrity journalist, blogger, and anyone with a Twitter account has piped in with their two cents. Scroll through your newsfeed and you’ll no doubt see before and after pictures of her face, expressions of shock and dismay, and opinions about women over 40 getting plastic surgery. Some people find her new look appalling. Some think we should just ignore it. Others have defended her.

My original reaction was one of mildly shocked confusion. How could someone’s face change so much that they no longer look like themselves? I clicked back and forth between pictures, trying to figure out what was different, but the changes are subtle. Yet, there’s no denying she no longer looks like Bridget Jones. I felt the familiar mild annoyance I generally do that women over 40 continue to perpetuate this notion that we all have to live up to impossible beauty standards, and continue to look like young versions of ourselves, even when we’re older. I, myself, have considered plastic surgery on this nose of mine, thinking that would solve some of my problems and people in Hollywood would like me better. So far, I’ve succeeded in talking myself out of that. I have worked very hard to like who I am, and I don’t really want to undergo elective surgery that may drastically alter my appearance. I want to look like me when I look in the mirror.

But then I read her response in People magazine and I thought, “Hey, she’s right, who am I to shame someone whose appearance has changed?” My confusion and annoyance about the differences in her face morphed into annoyance about all the attention people were paying to it. I liked that she had made many of the same changes that I’ve been working on as I get older, namely slowing down, spending more time with a few important people, getting more rest, nurturing my creativity, and learning more about my authentic self.

But then, goddammit, I read this article in LA Weekly, and my opinion changed again. Amy Nicholson makes a great argument that it’s okay – nay, that it’s actually very important – that we’re upset about Renee’s Zellweger’s face. The actress’s refusal to acknowledge that she has had any cosmetic procedures to alter her look, that they are instead the result of being well-rested and happy, is a terrible affront to all us average Sallys out there. No matter how much sleep I get, or how many home-grown vegetables I eat, I’m never going to look like a “movie star”. Nicholson argues that her changed appearance just proves that talent and personality are much less important than beauty.

I already know that beauty is king, I don’t need any additional reinforcement of that idea.

So, here’s where it gets tricky for me. I appreciate Zellweger’s response that people should focus more on the positive changes she’s made in her life to make it happier and more fulfilling, and spend less time obsessing about her looks. But I also agree with Nicholson, that ignoring it does nothing to mitigate the idea that women need to always look as beautiful and as young as possible, even if it means going under the knife.

This makes me want to tear my hair out! I don’t know what to think anymore!

I was very opinionated as a teenager, and in my early 20s. But since I hit 30, if you present me with two opposing ideas and make a good argument for each, I cannot decide how to feel about it. I no longer see issues in black and white. I’ve had too many life experiences, things I thought would never happen to me and family, that have forever altered my ability to see issues as inherently good or inherently bad. I tend to shy away from hot button issues because my thoughts aren’t generally solid one way or another. I’m terrible at arguing a point, especially with someone who is very persuasive, because I then see it from another point of view and my own arguments seem hollow.

I thought this development as I get older, this inability to be fervently opinionated, was the result of having a more tender heart, of feeling a little weaker. A friend (someone who is, coincidentally, a great persuader), challenged me that it is not weakness, but wisdom.

I’d like to believe my indecisive nature is a result of wisdom gained over the years, but I’m not so sure (ha! There’s that indecisiveness again). Now with Renee Zellweger staring me in the face with her new face, this issue is more confusing than ever.

Does anyone else have this problem?

renee2

NAKED PICTURES OF ME – Do I Have Your Attention Now?

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 10/13/14)

attention2

I’ve been thinking a lot about attention lately, and how it relates to art. Or, more importantly, how it relates to making a living in the arts. To distill it down to its essence, it seems you cannot have success ($$) without attention.
 
So basically, whether or not you are going to succeed, whether or not you are going to make money and not have to pack it all in and move back in with mom and dad back in Indiana, is all based on whether or not you can attract attention.
 
Yet I feel the word “attention” is much maligned in the media (thus bringing even more attention to it). “Attention” is often paired with “whore”, so anyone seeking attention is cast in an unflattering light.
 
I guess my question is, what does it take to attract attention to yourself, to your work? In a cluttered market, what makes you stand out? I’d like to think talent is important, but I’ve learned the hard way that talent is not an essential part of the success equation. It’s not really even necessary. I’ve been deemed “talented” by just about everyone I’ve worked with, but after 20 years I’m still just barely scraping by. I’ve been told by some of the most esteemed teachers in the business that I have “it”, that I have what it takes to “make it” if I just hang in there long enough. That I am special.
 
That’s nice to hear, but the harsh truth is that I am not special in the marketplace. I am either uncastable, not fitting into any perceived, marketable category (how many times have I heard “I love you, but I don’t know what to do with you”, or conversely, “I already have half a dozen women just like you on my roster”?) Too many soccer moms, too many funny aunts, too many nosy neighbors, too many average-looking, middle-aged women. I don’t stand out.
 
While I relate this conundrum to acting, I do think it applies to just about any artistic medium. What does it take to attract attention to the work you do? And how do you avoid being called an “attention whore” for trying to get people to look in your direction for more than half a second?
 
I know – you build a website, you send email newsletters, you post constantly on Facebook and Twitter, you send out mailers, you take class after class, you pay for casting director workshops, you “build your brand.” Hell, you make sex tapes or have naked pictures of you leaked. You spend 95% of your time promoting yourself and 5% of your time actually making art.
 
I think the way we educate artists is fucked up. I spent 7 years and $85,000 on my education. I spent 95% of my time working on my art and 5% of my time learning how to promote myself. I now can’t get a job. Why aren’t institutions of higher learning focusing more on how actors treat themselves like businesses? Why aren’t we learning how to make a business plan, how to set up an LLC, how to file taxes with deductions, how to create a marketing plan, how to have CONFIDENCE in your brand so that you can tout to the world how awesome it is? Artists should be required to minor in business or marketing.
 
Instead, it seems the only way I’ll every pay off my student loans is by getting a job outside my field of expertise, outside of the business that I trained for and paid big money to learn how to do expertly.
 
Seriously, though, and I know I’ve gone on a little rant here, but it is important – how do you attract attention without alienating everyone? You must be just as sick of getting invited to 75 improv shows a week as I am. Now that there are so many ways to scream out to the masses, how does that even get heard? Success is no longer based on what you have to offer, but on how loudly you can scream.
I told you there would be naked pictures of me.
I told you there would be naked pictures of me.

Don’t Feed the Trolls: Some Thoughts on Social Media Arguments

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/25/14)

SHAW

Yesterday morning I was greeted with a Facebook notification, alerting me that I had been tagged in a post. I sauntered over to said post, and read the article that my friend had shared. It was a highly incendiary article, written by a white male for the National Review, that calls into question the “war on women.” He posits that the battle ended long ago, and that the women won. He cited some statistics that backed up his claims that women are more educated than men, that there are more women in the workforce than men, and that single women out-earn single men. In a nutshell, he thinks women should stop bellyaching. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

I have this particular Facebook friend, and I suspect you all have at least one of them, that enjoys posting about highly controversial topics, presumably just to see what kind of shit storm ensues. I’ve gone back and forth about eliminating this friend from my list, but ultimately have chosen not to. While this friend’s views are often wildly different than my own, I find value in knowing how someone so different than me thinks about the world. Arguments are generally solid, and I find that sometimes it does give me pause to consider another point of view.
But yesterday I knew I was being baited.
I’m a feminist, and I do support several charities that work to end violence against women and girls throughout the world. For the past four years I’ve been involved with a charity production of “The Vagina Monologues” in downtown LA and during the show season post endlessly about it. Hell, I even make anatomically correct vagina cupcakes to sell as a fundraiser. I knew I was tagged in this particular post, in the hopes that I would willingly jump into the fray.
I opted not to participate.
While I have opinions about the article, I am of the firm belief that you cannot ever win an argument on social media. Nick Bilton wrote a great article for the New York Times where he ruminates on how engaging in discussions about highly controversial topics on Facebook or Twitter or other social media outlets is a fool’s errand. I tend to agree.
Here it is, about 24 hours after the argument began, and I see that the post has garnered over 250 comments. And while there are some cogent thoughts presented on both sides of the table, the discussion has devolved into name-calling, hate-speaking, and rape jokes most would consider to be in poor taste, especially if taken out of context.
In my opinion, arguments on social media cannot be won, and becoming involved in them is a waste of time and energy. There will always be trolls out there, ready to engage in a war of words. It’s just not a war that I think is worth fighting. While I think that information about controversial topics has a place on social media, I tend to let the information speak for itself. People can choose to read or not read the articles I share, and I do the same with articles that others share. I digest them and let them inform my worldview. But I don’t want to engage with the digital mob. At least I try very hard not to.
What are your thoughts about social media arguments? Do you think they have a place in our virtual world? Do you actively engage in them, or shy away from them as I do?

When People’s Outsides Don’t Match Their Insides

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(originally posted on www.createdbychance.blogspot.com on 9/3/14)

shallow

 

I can’t believe I haven’t learned this lesson already. You see, I still get confused when what people say and do don’t match how they look. I know, I know – don’t judge a book by it’s cover and all, but I find it particularly confusing when someone cultivates their look. You know – you wouldn’t wear a shirt that says “Marriage is only for straight people” if you are pro- gay marriage, right? Right?

Yesterday I got a haircut. I’ve been really wanting to chop it off, and I figured I shouldn’t trust that to the bozos down at Floyd’s Barbershop who normally cut my hair. While it looks rock and roll, they really are just a step above SuperCuts (no offense, SuperCuts, but I think you know where you stand in the hair salon line-up). I decided I would go to my friend’s stylist, pony up a little extra cash to go to a real artist. My friend has rockstar hair and it always looks good, so the stylist had that in his favor.

I knew what to expect before I met him, I went to his website, saw his photo, saw the types of cuts and styles he normally does. He’s a rock and roll guy, does styling for models and photo shoots and whatnot. His studio is a work/live loft space, it looks like an art gallery. Everything is all white, there are mannequins wearing weird art pieces/clothes, there’s lots of rock and roll type art on the walls (think Jim Morrison collages, that kind of thing). He himself had the look to go with it.

We got to chatting so he could get to know me a little more before he gave me a new style. I told him that my husband was apprehensive about me cutting off my hair, he prefers it long, but that he was cool with me getting a new style. If he didn’t like it we could have sex with the lights off. The stylist asked me what my husband does, and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: My husband is forming a charity organization to help build earthquake safe housing in developing countries.

Him: I don’t understand why those people just don’t move somewhere that doesn’t have earthquakes. And what do they really have to worry about? They don’t have anything anyway! What does it matter if their house falls down? They should just get a tent and move it someplace that doesn’t have earthquakes. (laughs)

Me: (silence)

Him: And I don’t understand why people have to go outside our country to help. Why can’t we just help the people that are here? You know, the homeless guy under the overpass? Go down to South Central and help those people. I don’t think we should be helping people outside the US.

Me: (silence)

It went on like this for a few more minutes. He was really impassioned about it, and I did not know how to respond.  He did just hear me say that my husband was devoting his life to helping poor people outside the US, right? I decided, after a prolonged silence to change the subject, since he was the one holding the scissors. But that really stuck with me. I guess, due to his very artsy appearance, I thought that he would be more open-minded. But he had a really narrow worldview, from what I could tell.

For the record, my hair looks almost exactly the same today as it did before I went in. I think perhaps this is not the guy for me. Maybe next time I should go to some really frumpy looking old woman. And she’ll be like super-open-minded and give me a really cool rock and roll haircut. I don’t know.

I just get so confused when people’s outsides don’t match their insides….