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“C VOID”

Forgetting me in the time of COVID

The trope of the time trap in fantasy and science fiction has been on my mind during this pandemic. My mind keeps returning to The Lotus Hotel and Casino in the Lightning Thief series and the Nexus in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe. These are places that once one enters, all sense of the passage of time disappears. Hours, days, weeks, months and even years can feel like one second, and one’s life is forgotten. The person is disconnected from their former lives. They forget their mission. They lose all sense of motivation or drive. They are stuck, save for some miracle rescue mission.

Another scene in literature has also been on my mind. In her book, Zora Neale Hurston describes a doomful moment when of a group of destitute people are praying through a hurricane against which they have no shelter or defense:

“It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night, it stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands . . . They sat in company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against cruel walls and their souls asking if He meant to measure their puny might against His. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”

-Zora Neale Hurston

I’ve been staring at walls. I’ve lost all track of time. I’ve lost track of myself. It’s like COVID equals a C[hristine] VOID.

To be fair, I can’t blame my lack of blogging on the pandemic. That’s been the state of this blog for years. But the fear and paralysis I’ve been feeling? Yeah, COVID-19, that’s all you. Doing my morning pages, a daily habit for many, many years now, has been spotty. A week will go by and I will not have written a word. This isn’t me.

I feel like I’m just waking up to something. Maybe it’s Death? Maybe it just took this long for me to realize I was wasting time. I don’t know. Something weird is going on. The compulsion to write is back in spades. It came back today, vomitous and vertiginous. Seriously, I feel nauseous and nervous. Writers, true writers, can’t help themselves. They write. They can’t NOT write. Today the wave of sick hit me when I realized I’ve been wasting so. much. time. I’ve been writing the wrong things. I’ve not been writing any things. I’ve thought about blogging then stopped myself. I don’t want to dive into the online environment at this time – It’s vulture culture. No, thanks.

But here I am, left with the dilemma of my orientation: I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer, since I could write. Essays, mostly, but poetry and fiction are my loves.

I could guess about all the reasons I’ve been taking such long breaks from my nature. But who cares? Being away makes me sick. My time constraints, my lack of confidence, my pessimism, my pandemic pastime of staring at walls, none of it matters. That was then and this is now. If I don’t write, I will …

die?

I don’t know. Maybe this is why I don’t sleep well. Why I’ve put on extra pounds this year. I feel off. I have felt off for a while, way before the pandemic forced us inside and away from each other. I’m sick of myself. I’m tired of this C VOID. I need more C. Less void.




Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 
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The Back Room

A short tale of being taken off a casino floor

a white tiled hallway, very long, disappearing into one point perspective. Bleak with fluorescent lighting. Empty.

I’ve never looked my age. This is OK now that I’m older, but when I was younger, it could be a problem. I have many stories, but here is one:

When I was 21, I took a road trip with my brother to see his high school friend, T, who was working in an Atlantic City, New Jersey casino as a manager. Our high school was small, so I knew her too and I was looking forward to saying hello. 

As soon as my brother and I walked into the casino, heads turned, but it seemed normal. It was during the day and the casino was relatively empty. 

We kept walking around. We found T. She gave us a little tour. I noticed that despite being with an employee, eyes were increasingly on me. T’s presence didn’t stop me from getting carded at every table we stopped at and every archway we stepped through. At one point, I was almost sure we were being followed by undercover security. 

At one blackjack table, the pit boss and a very large man in a black suit were whispering with each other and steely-eyed staring at me. 

Spidey senses: Tingling. 

I think T had stepped away at this point. The two men came over and said, “Miss, we need you to come with us.” 

I said nothing. Everything sort of froze in time. The cards at the table stopped being dealt and all eyes were on me. And like a young, inexperienced idiot, I got up off my stool and went with them. 

Fear level: high. 
Heart beat: increasing rapidly. 

The pit boss stayed behind but the large man and about 3 others, who literally appeared out of nowhere, escorted me and my brother off the floor. It was a total perp walk. Everything and everyone stopped to watch this little black suit funeral procession. 

Cheeks: Blood Red. 
Heart beat: Severe. 

We went through so many doors and down so many dark, skinny tunnels, I would not have found my way out to save my life. Thankfully I think T found us at this point and she kept assuring me it was all OK. She had been telling the pit bosses that she knew me and knew I was of legal age. She told us the whole casino was on edge because they’d just gotten dinged for allowing underagers in about two weeks prior, and this was all just paperwork and not to worry.

OK. Fear level: Decreasing. 
Heart Beat: Still Bad. 

But then, after a lot of walking, we suddenly go through a random door that I didn’t see before. It leads into one of those plain white rooms you see in movies where the large men beat the shit out of card counters. 

Welp. Fear level: Severe. 
Heart Beat: Almost System Shutdown. 

Another man was in this room with a computer (high tech, as this was the early 90s, which made the whole scene even more terrifying). None of the men said anything. They ran my license and confirmed I was legit. 

Computer man hands some objects to Large Man. Large man pounds the objects around, then flipped over my tiny, 2-inch wide wrist and pushed it hard with a stamp soaked in black ink. The stamp was some sort of square with lots of lines of numbers and letters in it. He (did I say he was very large?) man said, “OK. Just show dis at every table you’re at and no-one will bug you no more.” 

Confusion level: Shrodinger’s Cat. 
but, Heart Beat: Lowering to Intensive Care Levels.

Large Man was right. I didn’t have any more trouble. Actually, I never had to show my wrist to anyone. All the pit bosses’ eagle eyes spotted the stamp before I sat down. It was like some sort of casino magic. The rest of the visit went smoothly but I do remember not really being able to speak for the rest of the day.

——–

That is not the worst story of my life as a woman-who-looks-younger-than-she-is. I have a lot more harrowing ones. But that was a pretty, uhhh, interesting day. I told this story on Twitter, with GIFS. Follow me there for more tweet threads.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay
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Just got out of bed, or: what I learned from #blogtober

This is not the way I want to live.

an ipad with a white screen and black type. We see 2016's yearly calendar displayed on the ipad screen. A keyboard is above the ipad and a pen and blank notebook are off the side of the ipad

Happy Halloween, y’all!. I was almost asleep but I jumped out of bed to get this post in before midnight.

Wow. #Blogtober is over. Thankfully. Here’s what I’ve learned.

I do NOT want to blog here everyday. I’d rather blog occasionally with longer, higher quality posts than daily with shorter and iffy quality stuff.

Pushing boundaries sometimes works. National Novel Writing Month starts Nov. 1, i.e. tomorrow or in a few minutes from now. Forcing 50,000 words out of you in 30 days is a great way to test your creative limits. Will you shut down or will you surprise yourself with the ideas that appear from nowhere? Discovering a half-decent plot development is thrilling when you’re in the thick of forced creation like that. I wouldn’t say #blogtober was thrilling, but I was mildly surprised that I came up with topics that didn’t entirely suck. (Whether or not I did those topics justice is not up to me to decide.)

Inktober shut me down. I didn’t get #inktober done (yet – still planning on finishing it out despite the time limit being reached in a few minutes from now). It pushed me too far. The daily failure of drawing poorly shut my mind down. By Day 23 I was running out of ideas for relating the prompt to my life and depicting that graphically. And I began to dread the drawing itself. That is failing.

Blogging daily wasn’t a failure like that. I could continue, but why pressure myself? What am I gaining from this? In fact, the more I blog, the more I am at risk online. Someone will take offense at something, and I really am not interested in going viral for nefarious reasons. The internet used to be content-based. Remember all the “Content is King” mantra dudes? About 10 years ago, the more you produced online, the better things worked out for you. Now, it feels like the least amount of social sharing of thoughts and values is Queen.

Anyway. I’m tired and I’m rambling. It’s 11:41 pm and I am finished with the #blogtober game. I probably won’t garner much more insight about my participation in it until we are a few weeks out. Maybe then I’ll blog about it then.

Thanks for coming along with me every day in October! Peace.






Image by Pexels from Pixabay
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How to know if a hobby is going to stick

Look for behaviors that reflect the love of it.

black and white photo of a person on the beach doing a handstand

When our daughter was little she asked to be signed up for the next level of an expensive gymnastics class she’d taken before. We flat out said no.

“Why not?” she asked, disappointed.
“Because,” we answered as kindly as we could, “you’re just not that into gymnastics.”

Despite her ensuing pleas, we stuck to our guns. While we would’ve liked for her to get the physical activity of a gymnastics class, this particular (expensive!) one was not a great idea. In the previous class, her lackadaisical approach to the work was glaringly evident, especially seen against the jumping-bean energy of her classmates.

You may say that it was fear and we should have pushed her through, but it wasn’t her first gymnastics class. Her interest in it never improved. She simply did not have all that much interest in tumbling. She wasn’t practicing on her bed or outside on the soft grass. She wasn’t demonstrating any curiosity about the world gymnastics competitions on TV. The passion for it wasn’t there. We decided to move on to other activities to see what might stick instead of pouring money into something she barely did.

Living in a dense suburb gives you some keen insights into what passion looks like for kids. You can see kids engaged in their favorite activities every day. And I don’t mean on the playing fields. I mean at home. At the beach. On the sidelines. Waiting for the school bus or walking home. Gymnastics lovers are literally tumbling down the street. Soccer players try to wear their shin guards on non-game nights.

When a kid wants to eat and breathe a sport, even a promise of no vegetables ever again won’t make them give it up. It is then safe to go ahead and pay for that expensive club. You’ve found something that sticks.

Similar rules apply to adults. People who have passion for an activity DO THAT ACTIVITY. They do it for the love of it. Yes, while making a living off one’s passion would be ideal, passionate people don’t allow that to stop them from creating, doing, and being in that hobby. Sure, fear and lack of confidence are barriers for some creatives, but the question is – are they still practicing in the dark? Writers block, for example, comes from performance anxiety. Writers write, but when it comes to writing something that is meant to be seen by others, they may freeze from the fear. That doesn’t mean they stop writing. True writers, the ones that would write with their own blood if that is all they had left, still keep writing. They may let the public project languish but they are still pounding away in their journals or pushing out more poetry.

So if you want to know if something is going to stick, watch how that person behaves when they think no-one is watching. Dancers dance. Tumblers tumble. The love of it will leak out.


Image by jregerman from Pixabay
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Influencer fraud is a thing

a close-up of an apple keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has a custom key that is red and says "GET ME OUT OF HERE"

Today I retweeted a great rant on fraud in influencer marketing. The thread, tweeted back in August 2019 by social media expert Susie Parker contains awesome railing on the mess that is influencer marketing. (Also, behold Ms. Parker’s savvy use of gifs with each tweet. The gifs compel the reader to keep reading, to “solve” the “problem” of whether or not the words match the action in the video.)

In short, influencer fraud happens when individuals falsely purport they can provide a company access to followers who will interact with their brand. This interaction is measured in terms of clicks and purchases. The company pays the influencer for various advertising services.

The problem, which by some measures adds up to a 1.3$billion loss, is that a large chunk of influencer followers are fake. Dummy accounts bought for a few bucks.

I haven’t once bought followers, but I’ve never sought to be an influencer, either. Boosting numbers by any means necessary is the name of the game if big corporations are ready and willing to throw money at popular Instagrammers. I don’t like to see small business owners be bamboozled by social media mobsters but I cry zero tears over big agencies failing to do their legwork before they lay out cash. Those big agencies cry zero tears, too. They have plenty of cash to lay out, and the people making those decisions just need to show they have an “edgy” and “now” social media campaign out there. Enter fraud.

What I loved about Susie Parker’s rant is this: numbers don’t mean much. Don’t be dazed by the digits. Influence is the ability to affect others’ behaviors. People on Twitter with fewer than 5000 followers often enjoy much more engagement than those who have more than 10K, and the quality of those interactions is amazing. Susie Parker said “influencer marketing is dead,” and I agree. Influence, though, is not.

We’re exhausted by the Millennial and Gen Z Insta influencer influenza. Agencies will still pursue these “influencers” because brands are still sold on their effectiveness, but the creatives that know a little about psychology and how peer behavior works can make some strides in this climate. Quantity ≠ Quality.


Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay
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