Tuesday, August 12, 2014

O Captain! My Captain!

Woke up to the very sad news, that Robin Williams is dead.

Mork & Mindy was one of the first TV shows I remember I watched, right next in my memory to Star Trek, Spock, Kirk and Bones. While Star Trek made me look out to the stars and dream of going where no humans have gone before, Mork & Mindy made me laugh as kid when I not always felt like there is enough in life to laugh about. Robin Williams' work has moved and touched me since, has brought fun and thoughtful moments. He brought a human warmth to the screen like not many did and do.

Meanwhile he struggled to find light and warmth and peace in his own heart and soul.

Another one we lost to the beast of depression it seems.

If I had any decent desk to climb on, I would do that and take a picture, like others are doing. A tribute to this great artist and man. But I do it in my thoughts: O Captain! My Captain!

Robin Williams will be missed.

Rest in peace.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

There is more than romance

Many people think that especially fairy tales are mostly about true love, but I disagree. Getting the princess is in the end the reward for mastering the tasks and successfully finishing the quest, but the story is about the quest itself. It's about developing as a person who proves to be worthy, worthy of true love and eventually the kingdom. Not talking about Disney movies here though, more what you can find in the books of the Grimm brothers and others. Disney very much reflects images of our (modern western) society, and our society pretty much has become obsessed with the idea of one true love and that romantic relationships are one of the most important things in life (besides having children and having lots of money maybe). When I look around though many people go from one (unhappy) romantic relationship to another, rushing like being just a minute alone is hell, but what stays are family and (non-romantic) friends. Or sometimes not. We devalue other important relationships in our lives because we are obsessed with romance and true love. That shipping wars are such a thing in fandoms of whatever kind of fictional world is not a surprise to me, it's sadly showing, that we see romance as the most important form of relationship between adults.

I vividly remember the flame wars about the nature of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle. Were they lovers or just close friends? I was happy with both versions. I could understand very much the yearning for a lesbian romance, one not portrait as sensation or coming out drama story, but just as relationship with its ups and downs (eternal thanks to Joss Whedon for giving us such a couple with Willow and Tara, despite that he broke our hearts killing Tara). But as well I loved the idea of two women being as thick as thieves, something as seldom on screens as lesbian romance (and not just rare on screens). We make a big fuzz about there having to be a difference, because the image of one true love is prevalent, and close friendships never ever can have even a touch of physical attraction to it. Well, in my view and experience the lines are not as clear cut as we prefer them to be in our societal concepts of love and relationships.

In fiction there is a range between wishful thinking, imagination and our real world experiences, between sparking and feeding (new) ideas and concepts and keeping it relatable and believable for the audience by connecting it to our (present) real world experiences. It offers a range of possibilities but as well poses a challenge. A writer might like to show something different from our experiences and common believes, the audience might like to see something different, and still it needs to be relatable enough to get and keep the audience emotional invested, so it has to be close enough to what we experience in our lives. Our imagination might not roam as freely as we believe it to. I notice that especially if it comes to relationships between characters. Two adults showing the tiniest bit of chemistry (and sometimes not even that is needed) and audience and fandoms talk about romance. Hetereosexual couples are still dominant, but even average audience seems by now to open up more to the idea of same-sex relationships, they are more and more shipped as well, and it seems to me not just by quite a loud LGBTQ community.

Look for example at the TV show Once Upon a Time. Okay, it is maybe one of the most extreme examples to choose from at the moment. It is a show with fairy tale (and other storybook) characters, so thanks to all the former romanticizing of fairy tales it is to be expected to be a lot about true love, and that means plenty of romantic couples. The show has a huge cast, so there are a number of possibilities. In fact there is pretty much not any possibility left out in the fandom, but of course there are fan favorite ships like RumBelle, CaptainSwan, SwanThief, SwanQueen, RedBeauty, SleepingWarrior, some canon, some not (for those all non Oncers, Oncers are fans of the show, these are names for couples, here a list). Not so serious was the CaptainFloor ship, which was more some of the fans making fun of all the shipping going on with the show, joking that Captain Hook had a special relationship with floors (liking to be sent down on them). Fans have noticed that the shipping for Once Upon a Time has reached a degree of sometimes being ridiculous, but that doesn‘t mean that there are no shipping wars going on (if you want to dig into it, Tumblr is the place to go nowadays).

To have another example, a new show (by chance airing on the same network): Marvel‘s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It‘s a comic world show, a world full of extraordinary hero folks, but the show is more about the not so magnificent, more normal human genius and misfit kind of people. Not a show to be expected full of romance though, more about heroic save the day and world deeds. Nevertheless right with the pilot talk started on forums and other sites about possible romances and shipping them, or not shipping them. And there seems to be not much off limit either.

But take a look especially at two characters of this show, agents Simmons and Fitz, often called Fitzsimmons even on the show. Two young geniuses, she more being into life science while he is the engineer, who are portrait as being pretty much inseparable. They seem to have gone through training at S.H.I.E.L.D together. Audience is divided though, if there is, should be, will be a romantic relationship, or if they are more like siblings. I find it interesting, that people feel the need to say they are like siblings, when wanting to see a non romantic relationship between these two characters.

Thanks to Harry met Sally we all know, that non-romantic, non-sexual relationships between men and women can‘t last, don‘t we. Maybe if they manage to see each other as siblings, but otherwise sex will get in the way, right. Right? We have less of a problem to see a friendship happening between two women or two men, but is that only because we mostly assume unless told otherwise, that people are straight, so we suspect no sexual attraction in these cases? But what about when a woman or a man feels sexual attracted to the same sex? Does that mean that lesbians are incapable of being friends with women without sex getting in the way, or men attracted to men, can‘t they ever have a a best buddy? If so then I have to assume that bisexuals or pansexuals are the most friendless people on earth, because poor us, sex should get in the way with every adult relationship we have.

It doesn‘t. And who says, that a good friendship can only be without any sexual attraction? Actually, in the case of true love a relationship is thought to work as romantic and as close friendship, because their is no true love without understanding and trust and all the qualities a close friendship has as well, just that there is sex too. Right?

But even a show like the Canadian Lost Girl barely goes beyond our concept of drawing this seemingly very clear line between romance and close friendship, that one is of sexual nature and the other cant‘t ever be of sexual nature. Lost Girl of course is my favorite show on screen at the moment, I love it for being campy as much as I love it for having a bisexual character as main protagonist and a lore, which make it look like it‘s no big deal at all, the fae world is a world where our human ideas of sex and gender don‘t matter as much. I hadn‘t that much fun watching a show since Xena and Buffy (can I call it the grown up love child of both shows?).

There is something interesting going on in fandoms by now. It seems, if it comes to the use of the terms ship and shipping, that some don‘t use these term anymore exclusively for supporting or cheering romantic relationships. Maybe it‘s just to avoid more shipping wars , staying open, undetermined about the nature of a relationship, when some wish it to be romantic and sexual while other would prefer it to stay non-romantic and non-sexual. Or maybe it is because cheering a non-romantic relationship makes as much sense. Maybe it is, because more people want to make known, that they want to hear as much about friendship stories as about romances.

When we think of the fairy tale The Frog Prince most think of the more or less love story between the Frog Prince and the princesses, but there is also the part about faithful Henry, the loyal servant of the Frog Prince. When his master had been turned into a frog, Henry suffered so much, that he had to wear three iron bands over his heart to keep it from breaking apart. A servant is not a friend, but clearly there is love in this relationship between the Frog Prince and Henry. Someone maybe should tell Henry‘s story.

Or take the fairy tale Town Musicians of Bremen, a story of an unlikely partnership between different animals, ending with them happily living together in a cottage.

Fairy tales are not all about romance and one true love pairings.
Wish we would get to see and read more about other close relationships besides romance between people.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Be visible

Why I learned to embrace labeling myself bisexual. Labels are not all bad, not all about stereotyping, they can create connections  and open up minds.

How would our societies be like, if humans were hermaphrodites? I mean, what if we each had a set of both, of male and female reproductive organs, able to impregnate as much as to become pregnant. We might have no concept of what we call gender at all, or a very different one.

Not easy to imagine that, is it. The idea of two sexes, two genders is something ingrained in our perception.
The episode „The Outcast“ of „Star Trek: The Next Generation“ introduced the audience to the J‘naii, a humanoid species, who have no sex and gender, are androgynous, or actually more genderless. The J‘naii are described as having evolved physically and cultural beyond a binary concept of sex and gender, any concept knowing different sexes and genders. J‘naii society views the concept of two (or more) genders as primitive and anyone identifying themselves as male or female as outcast, as ill or criminals. Some of the J‘naii though feel male or female, living it in secret. On a mission Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) works with a J‘naii, Soren, who confesses to him to identify as female and to be attracted to him. And Riker is attracted to Soren. Her secret is though discovered by other J‘naii, and after a trial Soren agrees to undergo a procedure to be „cured“ of her „defect“ to live a normal life among the J‘naii.

The episode was read by many as the one episode actually broaching the issue of homosexuality in the Star Trek franchise (something the franchise very much failed to do), the way the genderless J‘naii society was reacting to people identifying as male or female as an analogy to reactions in our society to homosexuals. I don‘t quite share that view, because the episode is more about how a person identifies concerning their own sex and gender than about sexual orientation. The problem is not that much, that Soren is attracted to a man, someone from a species still having different sexes and gender, but the main issue is, that Soren identifies with one of two different genders, identifies as a woman in love with a man. For the J‘naii it didn‘t matter if Soren would have identified as a man in love with a man, it was wrong one way or the other, but it probably would have for the broadcaster and the audience. It didn‘t help, that the J‘naii were portrayed visibly only by women, which I guess was done on purpose, taking the edge off the message this episode could have sent (I have more than one problem with portraying an androgynous or genderless species just with women). Maybe the writers had the intention to make this episode an analogy about homosexuality, but accidentally they wrote more of a story about gender identification, transsexual and transgender issues. One way or the other, they shied away from making a real stand for LGBTQI issues, diluting the message of the story to a general message of tolerance and maybe „who I love is my very own business“.

Actually it is something I think many people still confuse, sex/ gender identification and sexual orientation. Basically it is rather simple. One is about, which biological sex, or which (socially) gender a person identifies themselves with, the other is about which sex or gender someone feels attracted to in their (potential) partners. It kinda gets complicated though, because there are a number of combinations of the two different gender/sex related categories possible, not to mention different approaches to what defines relationship, attraction.
  • A person being born biological as man and not wishing to physically change that, but identifying as being gender female and feeling attracted only to women.
  • A person being born biological as woman but feeling to live in the wrong body and changing with medical means into a man, but in either body was/is attracted solely to men.
  • A person being born biological as woman, identifying as woman but liking to dress and behave more like a man, being attracted just to women.
  • A person with female features, female and male genitalia, identifying himself/herself as neither male nor female, feeling attracted to men and women.
  • A person being born biological as a woman, identifying as woman, preferring to dress and behave feminine, attracted only to men but less sexually, living in romantic relationship with two men, both men know of each other but are not in a relationship with each other.
  • A person born biological as man, still being in a man‘s body and not interested in changing that, but identifying sometimes as man, sometimes as woman, attracted to men and women, regardless if they are born or identify as male or female or something else, and living in a happy relationship with a man and a woman, who are in a relationship with each other as well.
(being born as I mean in the sense of being distinctly physical identifiable as at birth, not everybody is though)
This could go on for pages, but I think you got the idea by now. I hope you did.
On purpose I tried to avoid labels (beyond the terms male - female and man - woman; as difficult as those already are) in the descriptions here, because not all labels are always clear. A short overview of some:
  • one‘s own sex: male, female, hermaphrodite, androgynous, cis-sexual, transsexual, queer
  • one‘s gender: male, female, bigender, pangender, androgynous, third gender, cis-gender, transgender, queer
  • one‘s sexual orientation (expressing which sex/gender (potential) partners have in relation to one‘s own sex/gender): heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, monosexual bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid.
Oh, the world can be so complicate. No wonder, that some are tired of any labels and just ask to be taken as individuals. It gets confusing for many with labels when you for example consider all variations of sex and include variations of gender. Take the first example, a person born biological as man (born sex: male), not wishing to change that (biological sex: male) but identifying as gender female (transgender female) and attracted only to women. Is that person straight because of biological sex male, or lesbian because of gender female? Well, in this case the person is for sure monosexual (only attracted to one sex/gender). You think there would never be such a case? Right, sex and gender often go along, but not necessarily have to be one and the same, and not only because of people being in transition. The gender thing is somewhat random anyway, because it is not always clear what defines different genders, what makes a woman a woman, a man a man in our societies, and particular these definitions change. And no, not everybody and not all cultures believe, that only biological sex determines gender and/or gender roles. See Hijras in India or even Sworn Virgins of the Balkans. Think it is mostly our modern western society which assumes, that biological sex, or in other words just our physics, determines gender identity, what we are seen as in society, and what we ourselves believe we are and want to be.

I can understand, that people dislike labels.

For much of my life I refused to identify, to label myself mostly concerning my sexual orientation. Had less of a problem with gender labels on the surface, more questioned gender roles, but that might be partially because in the first half of my life had still a quite conservative idea of sex and gender. I felt annoyed and misunderstood when others labeled me nevertheless and when they tried hard to convince me, that I should adopt these labels they thought were right for me. Bisexual, lesbian, fluid, confused, tomboy, (soft) butch, ... nothing seemed to fit. I did get, that not everybody labeling someone does that with bad intentions. Some want to be helpful, make you feel part of a group, include you and not exclude you, want to give you orientation and feel okay, and don‘t want to make you feel small or ugly. But I didn‘t want to be all included, although of course I hated the feeling of being excluded. I struggled with my identity, who I was and wanted to be, be it gender or my sexual orientation or other things, but mostly I struggled with the nature of my relationships regardless what sex/gender the other had (Was what I was feeling and wanted love, merely physical attraction, sexually, romantic, just a friendship or more or what?). I didn‘t want to be excluded but on the other hand I didn‘t want to be limited either by being boxed into whatever category.

When I recently read an interview with Zoe Saldana, I felt very much reminded of this, of my younger self. What she said sounded so familiar to what I had been telling myself and others as twenty- and thirty-something. Labels? Not for me. And anyway, wouldn‘t the world be a better place without all these labels?
Maybe it would. Or maybe not.

I don‘t know about Zoe Saldana and others who are saying they find labels limiting, but I know, why I felt that way and said it for many years.

For one I had barely role models. I started to discover my sexuality in the 80s, as teenager, and there were not even many stories and people around to show me, that it was okay for me as a woman to like women, let alone to show me, that it is okay to still like men as well. Most certainly any “two hot women making out“ thing for male amusement and to boost ratings for TV shows were not helpful, the opposite.

The few people I opened up to about my feelings and attractions as teenager and twenty-something were mostly understanding, no matter if they identified themselves as hetero or homo, but they were only understanding in telling me, that I shouldn‘t worry, that it happens for some, being not sure, but that I would figure it out in time, if I am hetero or gay, after all the whole thing with romance and sexuality and feelings can be confusing, for some more than for others. Unfortunately I believed them, because, right, I was sometimes not sure, what I was feeling for friends, men or women, but that had not that much to do with their sex/gender (find concepts we have of differences between romantic/sexual relationship and friendship not the least bit self-evident nor clear)

When my sister came out as lesbian, for years I struggled to overcome the very stupid idea, that this meant that I had to be straight or bisexual, because there just can‘t be two lesbian daughters in one family. Don‘t ask where I picked up this stupid idea, but I had it. Worse, at the same time it made me feel bad about insisting I am bisexual, because, well, maybe it was just a convenient way out of the dilemma existing in my head, that somehow only one lesbian per generation could be possible. Maybe I was lying to myself to deal with imagined expectations? Or maybe I was right? Or maybe was right and wrong? I was confused, but not in the way many people think bisexuals are confused.

There had been moments I wondered, if I was actually more of a boy in a girl‘s body, but I had not much of a problem with the sex of my body, I like to be in a female body, I had more of a problem with my gender and even more with gender roles. Grew up in a mix of more or less progressive feminist and more or less tolerant conservative surrounding. I was a tomboy, playing with lego trains, toy cars, carving my own spears and arrows and bows out of wood, playing soccer and ice hockey, dreaming to be pirate, amazon warrior and astronaut, and I hated wearing skirts. As teenager I had my nose deep in science books and literature and craved for a computer (which we couldn‘t afford). It wasn't like I didn‘t care at all about makeup, hairdo and fashion, but it was low on my list of things to learn and read about. Just had a thing for cooking, but that was pretty much thanks to my granddad, who was a cook. At the same time I loved doing jazz and modern dance, and very much learned flirting through it and showing my feminine side. But as well liked to dress up like a man, adoring Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn and their fashion style (is it just my memories or were female ties not even a bit fashion in the 80s?). Occasionally people mistook me as a man (not easy, but guess it was more the way I move than my looks), and on the phone I seemed to sound very much male to some (a matter of pitch, intonation and phrasing). I am still not all sure if I just question gender roles or if I am as well not settled with my gender (or maybe both), but it made it not easier for me to come to terms with my sexual orientation.

Not to mention, of course I heard and read all the usual assumptions, believes and prejudices about bisexuals, which made it look like being bisexual is at best something transitional, but more like something no one wants to be, unless you‘re a crazy promiscuous hippie or so (prejudices which doesn‘t change with using instead pansexual as term, the prejudices are the same) No other label fitted, but bisexual was a label coming with a huge bag of negative ideas and feelings. Who wants to take such a label voluntarily and even with pride?

No labels fitted in my opinion, so labels at all were a stupid thing - that conclusion made things for a while easier, but not really good for me. It didn‘t change that I wasn‘t a heterosexual nor a lesbian woman, that I was attracted to men and women. I couldn‘t say either, that sex/gender barely mattered in my attractions, because actually it does. I might question gender roles, but I admit I have a hard time not to see or at least wonder about a person‘s gender. More, as much as I am attracted to many character traits regardless gender, there are a few I seem to find more interesting in either men or women.

I changed my mind, concerning labels. And it made me feel better.

For a few years now I define myself as bisexual, and stand by it. I stopped fighting labels and started fighting for people to see and accept me the way I am, being attracted to more than one gender. And there is a label for that, and I am not opposed anymore to use it. Right, it puts me in a box, and it makes people expect things of me that I am not, but I find it now more productive to fight the expectations and prejudices instead of labels. And I feel relief. It‘s a strange thing with always being somewhere in between, not one nor the other, something else, not exactly in the middle, more in a kind of no one‘s land: for a while it‘s nice, feels empowering even, but after a while it can become a somewhat lonely place to be. Finding others like you is more difficult when you have to use many words to describe, who you think you are, it is a little easier when having a simple label you can use. It still is not all that you are, but something to share with others, to find a common ground to begin with.

Right, the danger of labels is to be not just misunderstood but also to be exclusive, but on the other hand they can help us to make connections in a positive way. I can find others identifying themselves as bisexuals and they can find me. Identifying us makes it more likely to find people who share some experiences, experiences we maybe want to talk about.

We live in a world with ideas of gender, and with certain ideas of it. We are not a hermaphrodite or androgynous species (although the physical difference between the sexes are a lot less than many believe, and there are people having parts of both or being both). Maybe more importantly we have gender concepts defining gender roles in our societies, even though not all societies / cultures equate sex and gender, and though the traits and rules coming with gender roles are questionable. Maybe for some it is nevertheless possible to think all beyond gender and sex, but I have the impression many can not and won‘t, regardless how hard we fight labels in this matter. Maybe one day, but we are not there yet. The thing is, how we use labels, to use them as something to connect, to include, to give people means to declare and identify themselves as what feels right to them (and not to us). That way labels can be positive and opening up instead of limiting and negative.

I am bisexual. I am somewhere between gender non-conforming and gender fluid. I question gender-roles in society.

And you still know only little about me, but it‘s a start.
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Monday, June 17, 2013

Dreaming. The line between the realms of Hypnos and the waking world

Do you remember the moment in the morning, before you open your eyes? The very moment you come out of sleep and notice, there is a world around you? It seems like I am never able to catch that very moment. All of a sudden I am aware that there is a world around me, that I am in a world distinguishable from my own self. Sometimes that realization is a shock, leaving me in awe until I had my first mug of coffee. Occasionally the worlds my dream self created linger and creep into the waking world, but I know they're just dreams, or memories of dreams. Most of the times the moment goes rather unnoticed. I suddenly feel the mattress beneath my body, the blanket's feather-weight, something tickling my nose, hear a bird chirping its morning song, a tram screeches carrying its load around the corner, someone on the street might cough, a car starts, and thoughts of what was and what is to come are filling my head as if there had never been sleep… But the very moment of waking up eludes me, this moment of transition from sleep to being awake, the instant of crossing the line between the realms of Hypnos and the waking world. You're there and suddenly you're here.

It's the same with the moment when crossing the line into sleep, isn't it. It's not only less likely though to notice that moment when going into sleep, somehow it bothers me more, to catch the very moment of coming back into the waking world.

At times in my dreams I am in a movie theater, watching my main dream on silver screen, eventually me in one of the roles, not always as the star of the movie, sometimes just in a supporting role, and sometimes not even in any role. Or in between scenes of my dream I find myself in a movie theater, or in the end, noticing that I am watching the dream as a movie. No kidding. It happens even, that I become aware of that I am dreaming of being in a movie theater watching my main dream on screen. A dream within a dream. Of course, it might be all just impression and memory and nothing real, we can't trust just our memories. Even that I become aware of dreaming could be just a memory of something, which doesn't happen in real. For my and your mental sanity though let's assume, that once in a while I really become aware of dreaming.
I can even manipulate my dreams. The first time it happened, I was dreaming of having sneaked into a country at war, helping some people there and gathering information about what was going on in the country (yep, I dream that kind of stuff, mostly though if it's more a big disaster or dystopian post Armageddon world, but I never wear a cape or mask and are as likely to be the one in trouble as the one helping others in trouble). On my way out, on the way to the airport I realized all of a sudden, that I had no papers to prove, that I was allowed to be in the country, so I would get into trouble now trying to leave the country in any legal way. Ops. Instead of magically conjuring the right papers though, I rewound the dream, went a few hours back in the story, when I had a chance to get me some papers from a forger in the city. Hey, I wanted my dream to make a bit of sense, maybe not an award worthy screen script, but one not full of plot holes. Have some pride.

Don't do that often, manipulating my dreams, don't even try to. Thankfully seldom have nightmares, and I am a curious person, curious to see, what my (subconscious) mind comes up with without my aware self interfering. But I never had to learn or train to do it, as I never trained lucid dreaming, it just happens.
Being aware of dreaming while dreaming is called lucid dreaming. It's not as crazy as it sounds. You are not awake, you're just aware of being in a dream- although that is discussed, some say it's not a state of sleep but a short wakeful state. In my experience I am though just aware of dreaming, not of sleeping, meaning, I don't feel my body asleep (if you can feel that), I hardly sense my body at all in that state.

Recall only one incident where that was different, and I woke up while dreaming, staying in the dream for a couple of minutes. In the dream I dreamt, that I dreamt someone was in my apartment, I dreamt waking up (it's called false awakening), got out of bed, into the floor and found the door to my apartment wide open. Still in the dream I closed the door, but then heard something in the apartment, someone, breathing, suddenly right behind me. Somehow I managed to escape the arms wrapping around me, rushed into my bathroom, locked the door, and hid in the bathtub (what a good place to hide in a small bathroom, so undetectable). Yes, it was a nightmare. The eerie thing was, and it made the dream even more nightmarish instead of less, the moment I closed the door to my apartment in the dream I became not only aware of dreaming, I began to wake up. I began to feel myself in bed, the mattress, the blanket, stretched my legs, but at the same time I was still in the dream, just feeling the arms wrapping around me, breaking free and running into the bathroom. That was crazy, and very confusing. When I was in the bathtub in the dream, I finally opened my eyes in the waking world - and the dream was over, I was in my bed and not in the bathtub. The dream left just some unsettling feeling of an apartment door wide open, so then in real I jumped out of bed and went to assure myself, that the door was closed and had been closed. Dream within a dream while waking up. Some odd experience.

Since then I am fascinated with the moment of waking up, not just with the world of dreams, the transition from sleep and dream world to waking world and all in between. How do we know the difference, what is dream, what is real? Why is it that sometimes we can't tell a difference, why have some people difficulties to tell a difference? What about sleepwalking and sleeptalking ? What when dream and waking world intertwine?

This morning I all of a sudden was feeling my hand on the e-reader next to the pillow my head was resting on. Felt a slight ache in back, stretched my muscles, heard a bird singing and opened my eyes - all this in less than a second. Wide awake. Before there was nothing, or nothing I remember (besides that I was reading before I vanished into the world of sleep). Again the very moment had eluded me, the moment of transition, I just was awake all of a sudden. Maybe that is how it is most of the times, and I should just stop wondering about it.

How is it for you? Do you feel like suddenly being awake or do you have the impression, that it is a process, slowly coming out of sleep? And do you experience lucid dreams?

P.S.: It was not the writer's fault, that I fell asleep with the e-reader in my hand. It happens. The book  I'm reading at the moment is good entertainment, not the least bit boring, but not even a horde of playful, attention craving kittens could have kept me awake past night.
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Sunday, June 02, 2013

An Unexpected Introvert

After reading this blog post, The side of introverts people don’t see, I wondered, if I should put it somehow in my resume, that I am an introvert. Guess though, that many people would not have the slightest idea or understand, why I would do so. So just putting the label on won't do it.

Why I think it might be important? To spare myself and potential employers some frustration and wasted job interview time. The thing is, my resume, the jobs and some other things I did so far might not give them the idea, that I am an introvert at all. Worse, they might expect a different person, one quite outgoing and talkative, an extrovert personality. I can be outgoing and talkative at times and know my way with small talk, can even enjoy it for a short time, but it's for sure not a dominant side of mine, and hardly the first impression you will have meeting me in person. First impressions might go more into the direction of a reserved, calm though friendly person, some taking me as shy others as though as somewhat cold and arrogant. Occasionally people feel intimidated by me, maybe assuming that there is a keen mind working behind a quiet appearance, maybe fearing that I am dissecting them in just seconds and find their darkest secrets. Well, I might actually be interested in their darkest secrets, not to judge them and use it against them, but out of sheer curiosity.

In my resume you will find, that at university I was a student speaker, that I have done a lot of work with people, bit of social work, some teaching and some time in customer service and telemarketing as customer rep, supervisor and coach. What kind of person would you expect knowing that? Maybe a talkative or at least clearly outgoing and sociable person?

As teenager I was easy to handle in one thing: phone bills. Never caused any stress with that, because I hardly ever used the phone. I hated phone calls, and most people hated talking to me on the phone. Back then active listening was not yet part of my skills, I was just listening. If you ever have talked for minutes to someone just listening without giving you any sign of still being on the phone, you know how irritating that can be. So you can imagine the reactions of people knowing me better, friends and family, when I started working in a call center. Yeah, it was odd. But I like talking to people, even more listen to them, help them, solve problems, find ways for them to make things work. I like the job, despite that it exhausts me. Having to be sociable all day takes it out of me, after all I am an introvert. It took me though a couple of years to connect the dots and understand, that the feelings of utter exhaustion after closing time had to do not just something with the stress such a job always means (answering high rates of calls, multitasking, dealing with cognitive and emotional dissonance, handling sometimes quite emotional customers), but as well were due to my personality. In a way not the ideal job to do as introvert, you have to compensate more than your mostly extrovert co-workers have to for being talkative and sociable as part of your job. When I am on the phone in a job, you might think you're watching a clone of mine, with some different personality traits: charming, outgoing, talkative, big to flirt with words, thriving on small talk. In the breaks, off phone you will meet a different person at work as well, the introvert one, calm, reserved, not much of a talker. And though thanks to my jobs I have become slightly more talkative on the phone in private as well, you still will find me in private phone calls to be more the listener and to keep things short.

Think, what makes working on phone, being sociable all day on phone slightly more bearable than face-to-face interaction for me as an introvert is, that the lack of physical proximity gives me a chance to stay a bit in my own introvert bubble while interacting. It is still exhausting, but I struggle less with the sudden urge to jump up and leave for a long lone walk.

People expect something different after reading my resume, I know that, they told me. After a long day in an assessment center I was told at the end of the final interview, that I am not quite what they were looking for and not what they had expected of me. They had expected of me for example to be a lot more active in the group exercise, taking the lead from the start. Well, I am of the kind of people assessing situations first by observing for a while before "barging" in. And I don't barge in, but contributing is not a fully fitting term either. I am not shy to take the lead once I think I should take it, but not always see the need to do it, not when things are running fine, I don't want to be a lead for the thrill of the lead but for getting things done. I was too perplexed about it that day, and hadn't yet figured out, that I am an introvert and what that means, so I accepted their assessment with little discussion.

At another time, in a job I had just started with, the CEO took me aside after a week, and told me, I should try to be more outgoing, connect more with the people. By then I pretty much already knew the life stories of most in the company (it was a smaller one, about a 150 employees), and not just what one can find in their resumes and dossiers, while many already had learned, that I was a geek, film buff, liked photography and bicycles, and would prefer dogs over cats although liking cats as well. I sure had no problem with connecting with people, but the CEO thought I had, because I was not barging in everywhere, not chewing others their ears off. I am a listener, and one who knows to nudge people with just a few words to tell more - but mostly don't have to, many people have a tendency to tell me their life stories without any invitation. I told the CEO, that I did connect with people, just did it in a different way than she, or many other people were used to do. Well, I could prove I connected, but the CEO was still not happy with my approach, she seemed to be not able to accept, that there are different ways to get to know people, that some people ask tons of questions and talk all day, and others get the same information and connection with less questions and through observation. Not the only reason why I didn't last long in that company, we had plenty of different views and approaches, but it was one reason.

For job interviews it shouldn't be much of a problem to put forth the tiny talkative part of me, right, but it is. It might eventually make it easier to get me the job, but not actually to keep it. I am an introvert and I am not going to hide it.

Maybe I will find a reasonable way to include it into my resume, so the surprise is not as big as it sometimes seem to be in job interviews. But, now that I have thought a little about it, guess the better approach is to broach the issue in a job interview itself. Probably typical for an introvert I don't want to make a big deal of it, but guess I should. It might open doors, if not for me, maybe for others, spread the word, that very well introverts can do seemingly extrovert jobs, we just do them do eventually slightly different.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sleepless nights, rain, expressive shadows and why I think that BLOOD KISS the movie is a brilliant idea.

It's one of those nights. When the sandman let me down once again. Maybe he was just delayed for a day or more by some sudden mischief, everything is possible, particular when it's raining cats and dogs. Can't blame full moon anymore, that was two nights ago, the time when not just werewolves wake up. Not that I met any recently. Anyway. The city sunk into sleep and silence hours ago, but the same bliss was not granted to me. I am awake. Rain is pounding against the windows and drowning the streets. And I'm fairly certain I will regret in the morning, that I didn't follow that little voice in my head (or my guts, not always sure where it's coming from), telling me to get me a pair of rubber boots before the weekend , they might come in handy. Right, should have listened, now it's too late. But that is something to worry about in a few hours. For the moment I am sprawling on my couch with the laptop, trying to pour my thoughts onto virtual paper before they wander off in all directions. A spotlight next to the couch is the only source of light besides the computer screen, leaving most of the room, of my small inside realm in twilight, shadow and darkness. A scenery like in a film noir … introduce the brooding writer.

Or maybe like in a vampire movie. In the next moment the dark shape of Nosferatu might creep out of the twilight … The brooding writer would welcome him, they are partners in crime.

So make it a Vamp Noir.
Never heard of? Then it's time.
But let's not start with the end.

Film noir - one of the things I can't get enough of. The play of light and darkness, shadows, twilight, the visual style is a part of what attracted me to it many years ago. Film noir was influenced by German expressionism, and I have a thing for that, be it visual arts, literature or film. Fritz Lang's Metropolis, M and Dr. Mabuse, Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Murnaus' Nosferatu are on my list of all time most favourites movies. Expressionism wanted to reflect emotions and meaning more than physical reality, and describe the world from a subjective point of view. German expressionist films show that visually, creating bizzare abstract sets, using techniques like unexpected camera angles, little camera movement, high contrast and low key lighting. The protagonist of the film was often anti-heroic, on the fringes of society. And the films had dark themes of insanity, horror, crime, told from a more subjective perspective.

German expressionism influenced film noir and as well horror movies. So there we are, where film noir and horror connect.  While horror movies could absorb fantastic and supernatural elements of expressionism in the plot and in visual style, film noir turned to a dark mostly urban realism, working with characters driven by darkness and inner conflicts, morally ambiguous, flawed, brooding men, seductive femme fatales and menaced women.

I've never been much into simple crime stories nor much into horror film, my thing is more the tragic hero and the anti-hero, damaged characters struggling with themselves, society and life, being on the edge, making wrong choices trying to do good, or for once doing something good but doomed to fail.  One of my favorite books is Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, even though it might have been a bit odd for a 14-year old teenage girl to identify with a middle-aged guy in midlife crisis, but that's when I fell in love with that book, and it's ongoing relationship. By now I could nurture my own midlife crisis. It was the discovery of a beast inside which I could connect to and still somewhat can, the cynical tango of a human and a wolf soul distrusting each other, the struggle to adapt to a world one hates to the bones, the feeling of being trapped in between all worlds in some bleak nowhere.  At least Steppenwolf ends with a somewhat positive tone, the hope to find healing for the torn soul some day.  Not so film noir, they usually end with failure and no hope. But it is the anti-hero / tragic hero as protagonist what besides the visual narrative attracts me to film noir.

When it comes to horror movies I was if at all more interested in the psychological kind, or in werewolves. Not in vampires, nor any other creatures (completely ignore zombies here, for brevity, not to mention encounter enough will-less people in real life). As long as I can remember wolves fascinated me, starting with the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood (as kid I changed the tale for the sake of the wolf and a tomboyish Red). The picture of a human and a wolf soul in one person later got stuck in my head partially thanks to the aforementioned novel Steppenwolf. While vampires mostly were in control of who they were, and many even seemed to like to be the evil guys, werewolves more often were portrayed as out of control, struggling with their second nature, damaged characters. Well, see above. If it wouldn't have been for a certain vampire named Louis giving an interview I might still mostly ignore vampire movies. Alright, on TV there was Angel. And Spike. But you can bet that I shipped Oz and Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, until a certain very attractive witch named Tara showed up.  Which actually brings me back to what I wanted to tell here.

Bear with me, my mind works sometimes in warped ways. Especially does at night when the world around slows down. In the quietness the maelstrom of my thoughts seems to accelerate, and the thoughts jump around even more than usual. You think it drives just you crazy?

So, rainy night, film noir, tragic hero or anti-hero, vampire stories and Tara lead to ...

Vamp(ire) Noir

Okay, I left a few steps out on the way, trying to keep things kinda short here without being all dadaistic.

Tara was played by Amber Benson, who has a spellbinding voice and can sing (as proved on BtVS, and I point it out for a reason, see below), besides that she is a great actress (not only as Tara, also for example as guest star in one of my favourite Cold Case episodes). Not to mention she is a good writer (being Death's Daughter is not amusing, but reading about it is), film producer and film director (I so have to see Drones, aliens in an office, that is so, well, real) and she is a supposedly nice person (hey, I know, trying to make some extra points here, stop rolling eyes). One night, yes another of those sleepless somewhere at home nights but one without rain, I killed time on Youtube watching interviews and other videos with Amber Benson. And that is how a heard about …

Blood Kiss
and Vampire Noir.

It's a movie in the making. It's involving a detective, crime, vampires who are not all sparkly or staurophobic (afraid of crucifixes, not making this word up) and Hollywood, the Hollywood of the 1940s. Inspired by film noir. Enough for me to get excited.

No, it's not my idea, I am just embracing it. Because it's brilliant.

Michael Reaves is creating this new film, Blood Kiss. He is an Emmy award winning writer, whose work for television makes a long list, and additionally he wrote a number of novels and books. He wrote episodes for Twilight Zone, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Flash, Sliders, The Real Ghostbusters, Batman: The Animated Series, to name just a few, and was writer and producer for Disney's Gargoyles (pretty much the only animated series I ever watched all episodes of, loved it).

To make it even more exciting: Neil Gaiman will explore his acting talents for Blood Kiss. Neil Gaiman might so far be better known as one of the top fantasy writers, author of novels, short fiction, comic books, graphic novels and film. Just naming a few of his work: The Sandman, Neverwhere (TV series and novel, which I think had some charm), Coraline, The Graveyard Book and Stardust.

And then there is Amber Benson. And the huge chance to hear her singing again. Really, everyone should want that to happen. You want it to happen. We want it to happen (saying something three times was the trick to make a spell work, right?)

Okay, when you are now finally as excited as I am, or maybe even more (doubt that you can be) about the new movie, then help to make it happen. Blood Kiss will bypass the studios and needs us fans for funding. The Blood Kiss Team are people with names and good work and success, but that doesn't mean they have some gold-ass hidden in their garages or can spin straw into gold like a certain Rumpel guy. So Michael Reaves launched a campaign on Kickstarter. I have trust in the Blood Kiss team, that the script is as exciting as they say, that this movie can be something new. Let's help them to get started and show with your support, that there is an audience for their movie. Pledge like I did.

Still not excited enough?
Then listen to what Neil Gailman and Amber Benson have to say in their own words:

Neil Gaiman Blood Kiss Kickstarter Update

Amber Benson Blood Kiss Kickstarter Update


edit (29.05.2013):
First goal is accomblished. Fantastic! But you can still pledge, if you want to, and help to reach the stretch goals. Or spread the word. Thank you.