IU life

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Dream Triage (or: I’ve got 99 problems and they are my career options)

Published March 26, 2013 by pipsqueak

all hats and no naps makes jack a dull boy (via vicki caruana)

Today I felt so frozen with indecision and anxiety that I just shut down. I crawled into my bed, the possibilities for my future whirling around my head, and realized that I just can’t do everything I want to do. I just can’t.

I want to do so many things, after all! I want to direct movies, go on tour as a musician, start a non-profit, run for office, plan amazing queer dance parties, write a series of novels, go traveling, be a baker of tiny cupcakes, be a scientist on a boat floating through Antarctica. In all my dreams, I am super good at what I do. In fact, I exceptionally wonderful. I’m some sort of Natalie Portman-style wunderkind, writing beautiful poetry and feeding adorable vegan cupcakes to my crew of Arctic explorers as we circumnavigate the globe.

I’ve been a chronic dabbler my whole life, trying out every hobby and taking the most unrelated smattering of classes I can, searching for the perfect subjects for myself. And everything gives their own pleasures – the bubbly jubilance of dancing, the hard-won satisfaction of writing, the cool thrill of puzzling out a math problem. It’s great to try things out, and I’ve had a lot of fun.
It famously takes about 10,000 hours to get really good at something. And like all Plucky Young Things, I want to be really good at something! Life is hazy and directionless and difficult sometimes. If I’m going to slog through all that, I at least want my struggles to build towards something. I don’t wake up in the morning and think “gosh! how can I make myself even more milquetoast today?” Life is hard enough without the guilt of your wasted potential hanging around your head like a murky, smelly fog.

Some people are naturally really excellent at everything. You know the type, those intuitive geniuses? They treats new concepts like a Rubic’s cube: they turn it between their hands while staring intently and murmuring “hmm…. I see…”  for about two minutes and then toss it on the table, solved.

(via nj)

That’s not me. Nope. I’m the two-steps-behind student. I’m the one who gets hit in the first 25 seconds of the dodgeball game. I’m not naturally good at anything. If I’m going to make myself good at something, I’m going to have to basically slam my head against the books for multiple hours a day, for weeks on weeks on weeks. Then I might manage to get a vague feel for it. And I still have to exert massive amounts of effort in order to get any sort of finesse. This means that I have to be careful how I spend my time. I know I can go after something wonderful – the goal of learning to write powerfully and beautifully, for example – with everything I’ve got. But I don’t have time to pursue all my other dreams with equal gusto. 

I propose a sort of Triage system for dreams. I will allocate time carefully. I like writing. It seems to be my primary interest right now. So I will spend a good amount of time on that. The nice bit about writing is that it allows me a lot of flights of fancy. If I can’t pilot a boat to Antarctica, I can write about it. The other things I like to do will receive attention, but necessarily less attention, since I do not plan to pursue them as a lifestyle. This time that I’m spending on writing is time spent well, because with each clunky sentence and stillborn idea, I get a little closer to getting better at something that I care ab0ut. I want to one day write something beautiful. Until then, I will try again and again. That’s all I can do.


After College I’m Basically Screwed

Published March 23, 2013 by pipsqueak

As my freshman year of college draws to a close, I am rudely reminded of the fact that time is carrying me on a ruthless and irreversible line to The Real World.

Although, what does that mean? I’ve been in institutions of education since I was two. When I finally left the public school system, I felt like I had just finished a 12-year process of pulling myself out of a swamp. When I emerged, I was grubby, confused, and only had a few basic survival skills. I knew how to write a paper, how to raise my hand in class without having a panic attack, and how to make friends with someone who is also bored in math class. Having emerged from this exercise in endurance, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

Never fear! shout a zillion people in college. They are whispering hellions, darting forth from out of nowhere to hiss something about job markets and then disappearing into the mist. Each of them carries wisdom that would seem to be crucially important to my future as a Person Who Has Money To Buy Food, but at the same time, I just don’t know who to trust.

Don’t get a liberal arts degree. You’ll just end up working at Starbucks.

Ethnomusicology absolutely has a job market. Come to the Careers in Ethnomusicology Mixer so you can placate your parents!

Business school is the best way to a stable livelihood.

Undergraduate law degrees are a waste of time. Lawyers don’t even do pre-law. 

Your major doesn’t even affect what job your go into. You’re probably going to work at STARBUCKS.

What did the business student say to the English major? I’ll have a venti caramel latté, please.

And so on, ad nauseum. The only common theme is pervasive foreshadowing of a career in Coffee Artistry.

Here’s the thing I would like to say to the crowd that’s been telling me, basically, that the world is a hard place and that I am kidding myself if I think I will make money with writing. I know! I’ve been informed how screwed I am! Please, leave me to blindly row off the waterfall that you insist is my future!

pictured: a more successful cat than me (via ichcb)

this cat must be a business major.  (via ichcb)

I remain hopeful that my decision to opt out of business school has not doomed me to a life as a barista, that my interest in writing will be used for hashing out the symbolic resonance of those weird hanging cardboard ads at Target whilst scanning people’s groceries for all eternity. I would be incredibly grateful if I can make a living, at least part-time, doing something that I enjoy, something that is meaningful to me.

But hey, I know where I’m headed. No one is clamoring, or even vaguely trying, to read my work (except you, gentle friend). I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that:

a) a life in engineering or pharmaceutical testing or (insert other practical, lucrative, non-creative job here) would probably make me want to die


b) this means that  I’m gonna have to work an unremarkable day job and live off rice and probably not succeed at getting anything published until I’m about 40, if ever

But all isn’t lost for the artists stuck working boring day jobs, I think. Matthew Dickman, one of my favorite poets, works in a bakery. In the heyday of my high school career, I went 14 hours a day from school to work to extracurricular activities. Although the fogginess of the future is scary, I feel my pessimism has ensured. And as I mentioned before, high school taught me how to slog through the boring and difficult times.

Why Acting Class Kicks My Ass

Published March 12, 2013 by pipsqueak
harder than it looks (via weknowmemes)

harder than it looks! (via weknowmemes)

I’m in an acting class, T120: Intro to Theater Acting for Non-Majors. And I’m failing in the especially pathetic way that comes from trying really really hard but just not having the talent. My classmates know it, my pounding heart and adrenaline overload each day make sure I know it, and most of all, my acting teacher knows it.

He was under the impression that this was a class for Acting majors, for people with a passion. Instead, he got a motley collection of people ranging from silver-tongued, charismatic charmers to maladroit introverts like myself. I leave each class deflated, the damning, Australian-accented words of my professor ringing in my ears. “I’m sorry I didn’t give you bettah comments. I’m juhst… very disappointed. I don’t know what happened. It’s worse than the first time you did it.”

I had a naïve hope that I would be having a fun time hamming it up, learn how to be confidant performing and speaking in front of people. That’s part of what acting is, but really only the smallest portion. Most of it involves some sort of magical emotional alchemy that requires both loads of hard work and a germ of talent. This isn’t the fun group-improv activities of middle school drama club. This is Theatre, which, our professor told us with the air of a jaded veteran, is the hardest thing on earth. And I’m starting to believe him.

I’m gonna say something really obvious now: Acting is different from writing. I thought they might be similar. I thought that because I am a creative person, because so many of my writer friends are also actors, I would have able to do it also. HAAA. No.

Writers communicate their intentions from behind the safety of a screen of words. Sure, we put it out there for judgement, but we have ample time to reconstruct and edit our prescious little mind-babies before sending them out into the world to represent us. Actors rehearse, too. But then they go out there, and with their own bodies and their own voices inhabit the lives of someone completely different. There’s so much to deal with, and I don’t entirely understand it. Do you actors feel, in your work, as if you are inhabited by the spirit of some other creature? Is this comparable to when writers feel the force of something creative and unconscious steering the words they pick?

My professor said that actors have the privilege to live another life, multiple lives. In a different but equally valid way, this also true of writers. We experience the the emotions we write about. Writers have a protection, to an extent. We can remain anonymous if we please. Actors, on the other hand, have no such privilege. They perform for the audience with their own voices, their own bodies, their own real-time efforts. They make themselves so vulnerable. And what are they doing? Oh, nothing much. Just becoming people, emulating and experiencing a life they have never lived. And they perform for an audience of humans, who are expects at being people and know a faker when they see one.

unless you are performing for an audience of adorable puppies, in which case... lucky you.

unless you are performing for an audience of adorable and non-judgmental puppies, in which case… lucky you.


Published February 12, 2013 by pipsqueak
the answer will change your relationship to foam swordfighting forever

LARPing bring magic to your life… and awkwardness to your conversation when people ask you what you do in your spare time

live action role-playing game (LARP) is a form of role-playing game where the participants physically act out their characters’ actions. The players pursue goals within a fictional setting represented by the real world, while interacting with each other in character. The outcome of player actions may be mediated by game rules, or determined by consensus among players. Event arrangers called gamemasters decide the setting and rules to be used and facilitate play. – the omniscient Wikipedia

The first time the term LARPing was explained to me, unsurprisingly by someone who thought it was a little… eccentric, I quickly flashed through a variety of emotions. It went something like this:

  1. “Wait, what are the logistics of fighting and magic and such? Is this like a D&D model or…”
  2. “Wow, that’s a really geeky way to spend time. Definitely less socially acceptable than “Halo 9,” or whatever the kids are doing these days.”
  3. “It sounds… actually really fun oooo I may have to try that

So, yeah. LARPing. Although I was intrigued by it since I first heard of it in high school, I never donned my LARPing armor and ventured forth. For the one thing, most of the players were middle school boys, for another, playing seemed to mostly consist of whacking each other with foam swords.

meh (source)

no offense, kiddo. (source)

But years later, when my neighbor in French class mentioned that she was going to a LARP game the following weekend, and that the theme was The Vampires who Control the Secret Undead World of Bloomington…

Well, let’s just say that the next Saturday found me walking through the rain to the LARPing base wearing a crushed red velvet cape, a ratty black wig, and a Wednesday Adams style black chiffon dress. I also managed, with the liberal application of greasepaint and ripped-up facial tissues, to get a kind of flakey, “someone applied a cheese grater directly to my face” makeup look. Mmmm.

The game we were playing was called Vampire: the Masquerade. The premise is thus: there are supernatural creatures, including vampires, ghouls, werewolves, and many others, that lurk beneath the surface of society. The “Masquerade” is that the vampires keep their existence hidden from the snack food humans so they may continue to live their undead lives as they wish. There are multiple clans, each with a distinct set of traits and weaknesses. You pick a clan and then make a character from there, with different traits, abilities, and even a costume if you like.

creatures of the niiiiight (source)

creatures of the niiiiight (source)

The character creation was one of the most interesting aspects of the game to me. There are over a dozen different vampire clans you can pick from, giving you a predefined character type that you can then customize to your heart’s content. There is a broad spectrum of options, ranging from Clan Assamite, the leechy sorcerers, to Clan Ventru, the snooty ruling class. (I think have to say “Clan” first and then the clan name, because it sounds way more Goth that way. Or something.)

LARPing attracts a curious bunch of people. The largest portion of the group were men far beyond their undergraduate years – aging from late twenties to forties. Mon amie from French class and I were the only college-age women there. Although interacting with a group so removed from my own age range was out of the ordinary for me, it turned out that the experience of these LARPers made for a better playing experience. They were well-practiced in the methods of the same, and were happy to put the game on hold and explain things to me when I got confused (which happened at least four times an hour). None of them were your standard party hardy IU students. No one asked my major or made small talk about the last basketball game. Several people were tapping away on laptops, a small boy in the corner was playing a handheld video game, and the rest of the crowd was kicking back and bantering about food poisoning.

some decked-out vampire goodness (source: Malcar)

some decked-out vampire goodness (source: Malcar)

What they lacked in Urbane Etiquette Schooling they made up for in pure, joyous zeal for their roles. I’m going to make some amateur inductions and say many of these LARPers probably don’t fit in in normal, day-to-day life. I also imagine that many of them don’t want to, because they are bursting with desire to be something else, something flashy, mysterious, evil (in a fun way).

And the “something else” turned out to be really, really fun. Many of them slid into their new skins with remarkable ease. One preening bohemian managed to give the impression of reclining luxuriously on a chaise lounge while sitting in a boring plastic conference room chair.  A pet store owner transformed into a sociopathic, autocratic vampire prince. A softspoken student turns into a deranged undead flapper who soothsays with a piece of prophetic string.

I found that the more over-the-top the characters were, the more fun they were to play. LARPing has an advantage over real life in that setbacks and weaknesses, even ones as embarrassing as being transfixed by a fast food sign, just make the game more fun. I found myself designing my character to be the grossest and most misanthropic she could be. And lo! I transformed from lame freshman girl to a deformed and cynical vampire, skulking around the room and muttering under my breath with a bad French accent.

It’s undeniable that LARPing carries a certain stigma. It may bring to mind images of friendless losers and socially stunted people who may or may not have just blue themselves.

i don't think the dude making anonymous memes can really talk

is the dude making internet memes really one to talk? reaalllyyyyyyy?????

And sure, it’s not your prototypical grown-up hobby. But besides being socially unacceptable… where’s the damage? The LARP club was clearly a tight-knit group. Still, I got the impression that this was a group mostly comprised of working adults who had jobs, houses, kids. Most of them looked like they would be ill at ease at a polite office party. Something about the theatricality of their conversation, the way they laughed loud, made raunchy jokes, spoke over each other, seemed to affirm the idea I had gotten about LARPing: it’s for people who aren’t satisfied with living their mundane lives and watching adventures on television.

Compare to the Big Lazy Three pastimes: internet surfing, video games, and tv watchin’. At least LARPing involves being actively creative, expressing yourself face-to-face with other humans (albiet humans who have taken on imaginative new identities), and using your imagination in a dynamic way. In my extremely biased opinion, LARPing is both a fascinating world unto itself and the most unrestrained fun I’ve ever had with such a diversely aged group of people.

And if you think differently you can take it up with me. I’ll be the one in the corner staring darkly into the middle distance and hissing about “toreador scummmmmm.

nosferatu copy

all the haters wanna be me

Busman’s Holiday at Chocolate Prom

Published February 6, 2013 by pipsqueak

Busman’s Holiday is a local Bloomington band comprised of brothers Addison (drums, vocals) and Lewis (vocals, guitar) Rogers. If you are a Bloomington student/native and have not taken advantage of the jolly little duo that is Busman’s Holiday, you have made a grave error. They are the most charming. Here: take a moment to gaze upon their adorable brother dichotomy and listen to them while you read the rest of this article.

primary colors have never been so dapper

Having seen two shows – one at The Bishop, one at The Rhino Club’s Chocolate Prom, I am firmly converted to Busman’s Holiday. They are the dream Local Show, what you always hope for but seldom receive. I hate to be cynical, but too often, local shows by smaller bands fall under two categories:

  • noisy electric guitar with incomprehensible screamy vocals
  • bland, un-catchy acoustic guitar strumming and with incomprehensible mumbled vocals

Busman’s Holiday falls under neither of these dismal genres. They sound a bit like they should have been on the soundtrack of Juno, or maybe in a trailer for a Wes Anderson movie. Their literate lyrics transmit well live in Lewis’s tuneful tenor.

I’m a super person. I think you should know

that in the dark I glow

like a fluorescent, iridescent

piece of velvet Elvis art.

Mr. Spaceman, Busman’s Holiday

The two are also a delight to watch during shows. Their boyish/beardy dichotomy is visually pleasing – they look like slightly different versions of the same ruddy-faced blonde stock. Lewis is lanky, and hops to the beat with boyish enthusiasm.  Addison, the drummer, remains seated at a makeshift drum kit (he uses a valise with a dragon painted on it in lieu of a bass drum) He has a confident charisma and is very witty on stage. Bonus for bowtie lovers: they are usually more dapperly dressed than your average t-shirt-and-jeans grunge rockers.

aaah ironic indie silliness

and hey it’s not an indie band without ironic moustache silliness

During the Busman’s Holiday show at the Bishop, Addison quizzed the crowd on what was The Most Patriotic Love Song, offering an astounding prize to the winner. No one was able to guess, but he awarded the prize to the runner-up – an inflated, American-flag-print machine gun. She was delighted, and waved the gun at the crowd for a few moments before re-merging to dance.

At Chocolate Prom, playing to a mixed audience (which ranged from venerable old chaps to toddlers to a tiny middle schooler with the word “EMO” written in black sharpie on his left arm) they bantered less but cranked out adorable, danceable tunes. They opened the show with a cover of “Two of Us” so sugary-sweet that I almost melted into a pool of chocolate. True story.

Busman’s Holiday will be playing at Rachel’s Cafe on Valentine’s Day.

Philosophy Club Part 2 (or: you can bring a philosophy major to Pizza but you can’t make him think)

Published January 15, 2013 by pipsqueak

(this is a follow-up to Philosophy Club Part 1, easily locatable by virtue of it’s the only other post on this blog oh god I’m such a blogging baby)

Come, beloveds, travel with me to a magical room full of 18-22 year old white dudes, all very similar, but each with facial hair unique to only him! There is pizza in this room, and upon the whiteboard is the Philosoraptor, lovingly rendered in dry-erase marker.

no, seriously, stop it

Okay, now that we’re all there in our minds, eating pizza and references tired old memes…

Here a chin, there a beard, everywhere a chin beard

I previously mentioned how most of the attendees were… birds of the same feather.

chin beard/black shirt/talked about camus you know you made my ears hurt

But there were a few people who stuck out to me as remarkable, and renewed my conceptions of philosophy as a field anyone can benefit from, opposed to a pseudointellectual circle-jerk for guys with chin hair

chinbeard really

the circle of hair around my face helps me channel the flow of my wisdom

(I’m sorry I keep touching on the beard thing. Now it’s just petty, I know.)

The Outliers of Philosophy Club

Behind me sat a girl with fake-diamond ear plugs and nose studs, a powdery fake tan, dark eyemakeup, and long flat-ironed hair. From appearance alone, she didn’t scream “philosophy enthusiast.”

she’s evaluating anomalous monism right now, that’s her thinking face

She spoke with the universal Sorority Girl Drawl, but she introduced herself as a Philosophy Major. Later she said “I’m just reaaallly exciiiited to like, have a movie night, like watch The Matrix. That’s such a great movie, I love the epistemology and solipsism themes!”

There was also one (1) black guy, a soft-spoken slender guy with wire-rimmed glasses. He said he was into philosophy “just to find different ways to look at things,” a response that was remarkable amidst all the grandiloquence.

Then there was the homeless woman. She waddled in precisely on time, several large bags dangling on both arms. She was wrapped up for the weather and didn’t take off her headscarf or battered parka over the course of the meeting. Perhaps she wasn’t sure if she was going to be allowed to stay. She took two pieces of pizza and sat in the last row of seats. When we were given instructions to introduce ourselves with our major and why we came, she told us she hadn’t been in school for a long time.

“But I came here because I believe that philosophy can be very… nourishing for a person’s intellect. It can make us feel more whole, more complete as human beings.” This response drew a curt smile from the question asker.

When we were playing The Many-Brained Beast, an improv game where we constructed sentences by each contributing one word, she seemed confused. She was supposed to finish the sentence “What does philosophy do?” The words so far: “Philosophy… is… like… a… giant…”

“I don’t know,” she said. The club leaders laughed a little uneasily. “That works! Philosophy is like a giant I don’t know!”

this is gif contains the collected wisdom of philosophy club

The woman seemed lost, like this wasn’t what she came for. Later, during a group discussion of “soooooo…. what is philosophy, anyway?” she piped up once more. The room seemed uneasy with her, a bedraggled, somber interloper in a group of college kids with too much time on their hands.

“Well, Philosophy is a greek word, formed of philia and sophos.” She spoke with a tremulous reverence. It sounded like the definition touched her. “It literally means love of wisdom.”

And then another dude brought up pedophiles.



In conclusion

Philosophy Club didn’t teach me a lot about philosophy. I know I’ve been pretty harsh on the group. To be fair, it was their first meeting of the year, and everyone was probably just excited to eat free pizza and then get drunk later. Still, it had a men’s club vibe not dissimilar to The School of Athens, or, say, reddit.


I’d like to study why philosophy seems to attract this very specific type of person. In the words of one person I asked:

“White guys can do philosophy during the time they spend not being oppressed by society.”

Fair enough, I guess.

Philosophy Club Part 1 (or: an anthropological study of white dudes with unique beards)

Published January 15, 2013 by pipsqueak

Ah, Philosophy. That enlightener of humankind, propelling us from our animalistic darkness and onward, ever onward, towards the noble truths of life are at last revealed! So surely something called Philosophy Club would be full of clearheaded seekers of wisdom willing to debate and discuss and argue for what they believe in?


I visited the callout meeting of IU’s philosophy club for purposes of absorbing some new ideas + pizza. Here’s what actually happened:

The Minutes of the Meeting (recreated haphazardly):

7:00-7:10 – introductions + people trickling in late

7:10-7:13 – We were told that as a surprise, Don LaFontaine (of movie-trailer voiceover fame) was going to introduce philosophy club. Everyone became confused, milled around. The lights were turned off and 2001: A Space Odyssey theme played on a tinny laptop speaker.

An undergraduate dude with a big fluffy blonde beard got up and stood in the corner and asked us, in a rough approximation of Don LaFontaine’s grave intonations:

“Are you ready… to questions all your assumptions?

Are you ready… to deconstruct reality as you know it?

If you are, you might be ready… for Philosophy Club.”

7:13-7:30 –  explaining what Philosophy Club is, strange improve game involving the organizers of the club ad libbing answers to questions by each saying one word at a time, resulting in sentences that didn’t make sense (but were certainly quite droll in their spontaneous silliness!)

7:30-7:40 – more introductions because approximately 20 people sauntered in late

7:40-7:59 – small groups, discussion of the question “What is Philosophy to You?”

8:00 – abrupt adjournment of Philosophy Club, retreat of most members to after-party (like Philosophy Club, but at an apartment so there can be alcohol)

The Philosophy Clubbies:

Around forty people showed up to the meeting. Most of them, with a few interesting exceptions, were woefully similar. I’m going to make a generalization and call this person-type Philosophy Phil. 70% of Philosophy Club were PhiPhils.

The hallmark of a Philosophy Phil:

  • philosophy major or minor
  • caucasian as all get-out
  • unkempt beard thing OR stringy goatee. This element is very important to PhiPhil’s physical appearance, and a source of great pride. Beards were mentioned con frequencia at Philosophy Club. I don’t know why, maybe a performing hypermasculinity thing?
  • favorite animal is wolf
  • bonus: t-shirt with philosophy pun on it, ie:

although you may wish you kould

  • and lastly, a deep love of speaking at length and with an air of weary, knowing intellectualism.

Although the modern PhiPhil dominated Philosophy Club, there were a few members who were more unique. I’ll write about them tomorrow, when I don’t have my eyelids melting down my face.