progress

How conversations generally progress around our place:

“So, I’m thinking when I dehydrate the lemons and oranges today, I’ll put them in a glass container. The ones I have seem to be absorbing the plastic taste from the plastic container.”

“If only you could make a container out of dehydrated lemons.”

“Right.”

“And then they could make the plane out of the black box!”

“And they could make the driveway out of the parkway, and make the hotdogs out of the buns, and people would never run out!”

“And then standup comedians would be out of a job!”

“And then Louis CK would starve and die!”

2019 so far

I dreamed I was at work, editing a document in Word that kept making noises somehow. I kept zooming in on the text to see where the noise was coming from. I woke up to the neighbors’ fireworks and looked at the clock, and that’s how I knew it was midnight.

I am an exciting person.

year: a review

What can be said about 2018 except that it went by very quickly for a shitty year that felt like it was never going to end? You know, because of The Everything. The Overwhelm. The Unrelenting Horrorscreams of living in this now with these people in charge.

I spent the year feeling like I should be doing more, then tallying up what I was doing—the phone calls, the postcard parties, the donations, the bowlathon, the fundraising, the election protection—and I still felt isolated, depressed, exhausted, convinced I wasn’t doing my share.

Saying it was a hard year feels selfish. All things considered, I’m doing better than a lot of people. And at least I can get regular therapy for the depression and anxiety that have been breaking my spirit like it’s their job (it is. They’re very good at it, and I think maybe they got promoted or something this year because they’re showing some admirable hustle).

I wanted to put a regular year-end Top 10 list together, but I realized that I probably haven’t even seen 10 movies in the theater this year, or 10 concerts, or even 10 plays, which is rare. I spent a lot of time alone indoors, declining invitations and indulging the worst parts of my introversion (I did kick the shit out of my Goodreads challenge this year, though—woo!). I quit Facebook, deleted my Tumblr, removed all my old Rubbernun sites, ditched Twitter (for a while) but check in sporadically because it’s weird being THAT disconnected but every time I look at Twitter, I can feel my depression getting worse—like a hand reaching into my ribcage and dragging me down. But there’s also WeRateDogs, so.

I just spent a lot of time in my head this year. It was not a wise decision.

When I did do stuff, I liked these things. Maybe you will also like them.

  • Superchunk. I like Superchunk every year, but they put out a fantastic album in 2018 about the aftermath of the 2016 election and the importance of not giving in to despair. Their set at Riot Fest rocked my face off (and I don’t blame them for the skull-shattering migraine that followed. I blame the sun. And whoever decided to face a stage into the setting sun on a hot September day. Because why? Why would anyone do that?). Plus I got to perform some of those songs myself—figuring out the bass parts and everything—with the Merge Records Ensemble class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Weekly classes and the occasional performance with a group of friends and good musicians helped pull me out of myself this year. Learning an instrument in my dotage is a gift that keeps on giving, people.
  • Other music that was really good this year: All Nerve by the reunited Breeders. And I was so happy to see them live—they sounded great, and they played the Pixies’ “Gigantic”“Nameless, Faceless” by Courtney Barnett; the I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats covers project, particularly the breathtaking “Balance” by Dessa and “Color in Your Cheeks” by Ibibio Sound Machine; “An Ambulance” by Mike Krol, which we learned in Merge class and just could not stop playing (see also “Fifteen Minutes” because Mike Krol is fucking great); Waxatchee’s Great Thunder EP, especially “Singer’s No Star”; the album was a mixed bag, but “I’ll Be Your Girl” (“I could be your man, but I’ll be that much more…”) by the Decemberists was lovely, and “Sucker’s Prayer” sounded like an outtake from All Things Must Pass, in a good way; everything Lizzo does, including her Instagram; and I mean come on, Dirty Computer was fucking brilliant and that’s just the end of it. “I Like That” makes me cry every single time.
  • I read some great books this year: Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers (devastating. It absolutely gutted me); Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ When They Call You a Terrorist (research for work, because I got to interview her, but it was gripping and lovely and everyone should read it); Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties; George Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo (it’s from last year, but I listened to the audiobook this year and loved it all over again); Ben Passmore’s Your Black Friend (read this, white people).
  • GLOW made me so happy. Nanette made me think about stuff. And Flowers probably has a very limited audience (the humor is so dark it’s like if Anish Kapoor did a comedy series for Channel 4), but if you are that audience, you will LOOOOOOOOOVE it.

I don’t know. I guess that’s it. Here are some better year-end lists:

Let’s hope 2019 is less sucky for everyone.

sparkle, motion

What is glitter? GLITTER IS LIFE!

This NYT feature on the history, science, and cultural import of the greatest substance on earth is utterly delightful. It is also absolutely iridescent with fun facts and brutal truths:

  • “The primary functions of glitter are, of course, aesthetic; glitter exists so that glitter can be put on things that do not have glitter on them: Popsicle sticks, stuffed animals’ irises; Newt Gingrich.”
  • “The concrete floor was finely coated with what appeared to be crushed moonbeams. The forklift winked with shiny crimson flecks. The metal coils of the conveyor belt shone with a rainbow crust. And yet, the space gave the impression of being tidy and well-swept, not unlike a Dust Bowl kitchen if the prairie topsoil had been Technicolor.”
  • “Because glitter is difficult to remove completely from an area into which it has been introduced, and because individual varieties can be distinguished under a microscope, it can serve as useful crime scene evidence” (Ed. note: Glittercrimes is my new band name.)
  • And now the bad news: “’glitter is a petroleum product. It comes directly from fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are a very finite resource and we’re using them to make completely disposable things.’ (There are natural sources of glittery effects, too, like mica, a substance used in many cosmetics. It is mainly harvested from India, frequently in illegal mines, by children.)”

getting my money’s worth from grad school

This article in the Reader is some wrongheaded nonsense, and the fact that it came from one of the paper’s longtime theater critics, who really should know better, is baffling. But then, most people have dumb ideas about how nonprofits work, and I have an actual degree in this and have worked in nonprofits for a real long time. So listen up.

The belief that people who work for nonprofit organizations should make puny wages a) at all, and 2) regardless of job title or experience is flat-out poisonous. People who work for nonprofits definitely already make less than they would in the private sector for similar jobs across the board, from part-time office help to executive director. Social workers, music teachers, arts organization administrators, etc., tend to have advanced degrees that could command more money and benefits, but they also have a passion for their work, which papers over the cracks that come from taking a lower-paying job. Yet there’s always some busybody who thinks they can cherry-pick a salary off a Form 990 and accuse an organization of wasting money or overpaying employees or blah-de-blah. I’ve personally seen it at every level from psychologists who work with refugees (who were told they should volunteer their time instead of making, like, $40,000) to executive directors.

For example, Deanna Isaacs dings Robert Falls for making $570k as artistic director for the Goodman — a job he has held for 32 years at one of the city’s largest, most award-bedecked, best-known theaters. The Goodman has an $18.5 million annual budget, produces nine shows in its own two theater spaces, runs arts and educational programming in other locations around the city, and employs almost 200 staffers plus 250 contract artists and 500 volunteers. All of this info is available on the Goodman’s website, free for the taking. Any private-sector CEO with 30+ years’ experience running a company that large with that many people would make 10 times that salary. And no one is going to run the Goodman for 50 grand, or whatever Isaacs thinks is an appropriate wage (she doesn’t say).

Isaacs also asserts that executive salaries at arts organizations somehow are cobbled together from donations, completely ignoring ticket sales, grants, licensing, merchandise, concessions, and all the other sources of income a theater company might have. No, tiny donor, your $50 is not going into Robert Falls’s pocket. But the fact that you gave anything at all helps the theater get foundation money — grantmakers look at things like individual donations, even if those donations are small, when awarding the grants that fund individual productions and provide the overhead to pay everyone else’s salary and keep the lights on.

And I’m all for blaming every bad thing happening in the world right now on the 2016 election, but Isaacs’ assertion that six-figure NPO salaries in Chicago are Trump’s fault is. . . odd. I worked for the midwest’s largest social service agency from 2007 to 2011, and our director (also in the job for 30 years, managing 900 employees, 60+ programs in Chicago, plus a growing international presence that ballooned from three to 19 countries in the years I worked there) made more than $250k per year, which caused considerable gasket-blowing among the finger-pointers. But, I mean, for real. That’s a whole lot of job for the money. And it was long before our current nightmare.

What I’m saying is, no matter how little a nonprofit worker makes or how many hours they work or how much they do for their money, there will always be some dipshit who writes an article about how they’re still making too much.

So, yes. Support your local arts organizations and other do-gooders. And if you only have a little to give, a smaller theater or museum or charity can stretch those dollars further than the bigger-budgeted joints can. But all nonprofit work is worth supporting, no one should work for free, and there’s a huge difference between good oversight/stewardship of funds and some crank writing an angry missive in the paper.

Patience

Imperfect nerd heart. Photo: Amy Carlton

Imperfect nerd heart. Photo by me.

Good morning. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what to do with this new space. It’s all blank and empty and terrifying. After a decade of that instantaneous social media rush, which honestly was making me mentally and physically miserable (just ask my therapist!), starting to think in longer sentences and make space in my life for writing has been a relief, even if the transition is still a little rough. (“Oh, you’re addicted to nonstop cocainemeth? Replace it with this room-temp herbal tea. That you have to grow and harvest yourself. It’s . . . basically the same.” Or maybe exchanging a houseful of hungry tigers for a pet sloth. Or taking off the malfunctioning jetpack that burned all the flesh off your torso and just crawling into bed for a nap. Now I have time for handcrafting all these dumb analogies! Each day is a gift.)

Anyway. On to the serious questions. Is Mercury in retrograde every day or something? Because the people I know who believe in that use that excuse for everything (car problems, relationship woes, genocide) all the time. Also, why do people still think space rocks control their destinies?

Welcome to my thingy

Hello! How are you? It’s good to see you. You’re looking well. Have you lost hair? Done something with your weight? Me too.

Anywhat, I’m creating a new home for myself on the internet. I took down a bunch of my old sites that were gathering dust (RIP, Rubbernun) and spiffed up the ones I wanted to keep (lookin’ sharp, Flickr!). I might even go back to blogging on a semiregular basis, like the olden days.

Because, let’s face it, most social media platforms are totally fucking evil. It would be good not to use them anymore. But I still want to keep in touch with old friends. And post silly pictures. And make rude remarks about the news of the day. And scream like a ninny when I get to talk to Dolly Parton or whatever.

So I might do that here, under my own little shingle. (Many thanks to Mr. Jimmie for his shingle-hanging help.)

This is still a work in progress, of course. As are we all, folks. As are we all.