Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the realism/cynicism spectrum

the other day, a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about yarn bombing here in minneapolis.  it was a story about the phenomenon and how the bombers are often art students, organized and seeking to share their vision with the rest of the populace.  my own natural reaction was "can you make any money at it?"  i then continued to expound on how youth, the aristocracy, and the very lucky are the only people able to engage in anything for its own sake, such as art, haute couture, and around the world ballooning.  one can never know what others are thinking, but i am guessing a great many people would label such a comment as "cynical."  au contraire!

true, inquiring about the possible financial gains of yarn bombing instead of the intended message (whatever THAT is) may seem a little crass, but it is not cynical, simply realistic and based in my own reality, which is the only reality i know.  nevertheless,  it got me thinking.  the very next day, i had a similar conversation with an old theatre chum who said she has no idea what she was thinking pursuing a degree in theatre arts.  i think her exact phrase was "ick!  how gay!"  we discussed how our changed/enlightened perspective was not cynicism, but informed realism.

i have noticed in recent times the words "cynicism" and "realism" are often interchanged.  is it a linguistic trend?  further evidence of our society's polarization?  or are those 3rd grade teachers slacking on the dictionary in class?  actually, it is a matter of perspective that shifts with age and experience.  young people (who tend to be stupid at most things) consider everything as either idealist or cynical.  wiser people ("wiser" and "older" being synonymous of course) have learned that everything is not black or white, that some ideals are necessarily rudimentary while others are only as useful as they are flexible.  in other words, we embrace realism.

where are you on the that perspective spectrum?  here are a few questions to help you navigate your self discovery map:

·       i enjoy coming to work each day because:
1.     i feel good about my contribution to society
2.     it is secure, provides benefits, and pays a reasonable wage
3.     every day i am one step closer to retiring and telling all these clowns to jump off a bridge, especially that bitch, Sheila, in H.R.

·       my marriage will last forever because:
1.     my spouse and i are madly in love
2.     my spouse and i make a good team
3.     "forever" is a relative term

·       when i step into the voting booth:
1.     i feel invigorated to be exercising a right secured by the founders of this country
2.     i make my choices based on reasonable expectations i surmise from what  i perceive to be the real person behind the candidate
3.     i pick whatever thieving bastard happens to be at the top of the list so i can get my "I Voted" sticker and enjoy the rest of my paid two hours off work

·       my friendships tend to be:
1.     energetic and fun; i have many people i can count on
2.     categorized into close friends and friendly acquaintances
3.     based on who buys the beer, 'cause you can't trust anybody anyway

·       when i hear the phrase, "you can be whatever you want to be," my reaction is:
1.     absolutely!  all it takes is hard work, a positive attitude, and tenacity
2.     that can be true, but it is not always going to happen
3.     sure, you can be whatever you want to be……on LinkedIn

·       in general, i look at life as:
1.     fruit on a tree that is there for me to take and eat
2.     vegetables in the ground, that must be dug up, sorted, washed, and cooked before they will provide any sustenance
3.     a series of ridiculous questions that i have already wasted 5 minutes of my life on because it is what it is anyway

the results:

if you choice mostly #1, you are having fun.  enjoy it while you can, because a time will come, sooner than you can ever imagine, when you won't BELIEVE you ever were some one who chose mostly #1!

if you chose mostly #2, you are one of those that embrace realism.  aren't those people that chose mostly #1 just the cutest things?!!

if you chose mostly #3, it is amazing that you have even gotten this far in this post.  congrats!  there is help for you yet!  enjoy The Onion and don't take things so seriously.  after all, you can't do anything about it anyway!

Monday, April 18, 2011

crochet, money, and the suspension of disbelief

like other crochet artists, I enjoy the process of creativity.  many of us yarnie types have other interests that reflect our love for transforming an idea into a piece of art, whether tangible or intangible.  in fact, my undergrad is in theatre and i always enjoyed the performing arts in addition to crochet.  the artistic process, regardless of the medium, involves a reciprocal agreement between the artist and the audience; in theatre, the artist asks the audience to suspend their disbelief.  the more i pay attention to my surroundings, however, the more i realize that commerce is hijacking this social contract  and bastardizing the hell out of it.  frankly, i think the world of money-making assumes i am a dork.  well….sure, but being a dork, i am not sure what to think of this.  should i be offended?  should i be amused?  should i be offended AND amused?

the interesting thing about this approach from the world of commerce, is that the world of commerce doesn't seem to think that i will be offended OR amused.  the world of commerce, seems to believe that i won't think anything of it at all, won't even notice,  and makes no effort to be sneaky or even subtle about it (as i certainly would).  the world of commerce seems to think that i am so cynical and tainted by it's previous transgressions, that i do not care about being asked to suspend my disbelief in an absurd manner, even for a dork.  now, i have pretty thick skin and a skeptical streak, so that conclusion is not entirely inaccurate, but i find it a little presumptuous to make a leap as huge as the ones i've encountered recently.

Arby's.  ham and cheese, roast beef, soda, curley fries.  ok.  i pull up in the drive thru and it is the same identical voice repeating the same identical phrase with the same identical cheerful, warm and welcoming vocal pattern every time.  "Welcome to Arby's!  What can I make fresh for you today?"  the first time i didn’t think much of it and thought it was two different employees tag teaming to get my order right.  after a couple of visits when the actual drive thru dude or dudette was obviously not happy to be the Arby's drive-thru dude or dudette offering to make something fresh today, i finally figured out that the same identical voice repeating the same identical phrase with the same identical cheerful, warm and welcoming vocal pattern every time was not a real person at all, but a recording.  i'm a dork, remember, so by definition it takes me a little longer to catch on.  i must say, as i drove off with dinner bag in hand, i felt a little betrayed.  it wasn't two people trying to outperform themselves for me, it was a voice from California and a kid with pants slung below his ass just trying to get me through the damn line.  bummer.

to you, Arby's may not seem a glaring example of exploding suspension of disbelief in the world of commerce.  if this is the case, the evidence you seek is at Bank of America.  just about every financial institution has an automated feature these days.  you can call on the phone, follow instructions presented by a kind voice, push a few buttons on your touchtone phone (or talk to the fake voice, lord help you), and transfer money, find branch locations, hear your balance, etc.  it is accepted that the voice is a recording.  in other words, we have voluntarily suspended our disbelief; we all accept that the voice is not a real person.  we KNOW it is a machine.  we ACCEPT the machine.  we EMBRACE the machine.  and yet, when one calls Bank of America and engages the fake machine voice, one hears an interesting and subtle sound as the fake voice replies to your genuine queries – the gentle tapping of a keyboard, the keys popping lightly up and down as if the fake voice is typing for you, engaging every research tool to answer your question.  remind me again.  who is the dork?  what is the purpose of this?  why must i have theatre to transfer my own money from one account to another?  if i accept this theatre, and suspend my disbelief, why must Bank of America push me one step past our social contract?  are they trying to confuse me?  distract me?  insult me?  give me a subconscious, but blatantly false, sense that my money is being handled by a human being?  perhaps, they are just letting me know that THEY are the ones who control the boundaries of reality where my money is concerned, just like Arby's controls the boundaries of reality over my dinner in a bag.  i guess there isn't that much difference between a kid with pants slung below his ass and Brian Moynihan, except for maybe $9 million and a smug grimace.  jamocha shake, anyone?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

changing diplomacy and crochet

one of the things i admire about crochet (yes, "admire" is the correct word), is its ability to be frankly honest.  this sounds strange, admittedly, but it is a redeeming quality of this particular fiber art.  if i am working on a design and during the course of obtaining that desired outcome make a boo-boo, my project is going to tell me in no uncertain terms that it just isn't going to happen.  a knitted project is one of intricate and complex loops and, if i drop a stitch, the subtle and diplomatic character of knitting will only reveal my mistake many rows later, when it all starts to unravel.  while a fine and beautiful knitted sweater or scarf will try to carry on, will quietly deal with the pain i have inflicted with my needles, a crocheted project will scream at me, "WHOA! wtf is THAT?!  you want a HAT??  HA HA HA!  guess what, dumb ass!  you now have yet another COZY!"  this is why i love crochet.  this is why i admire crochet.  it is this facet of crochet that i have decided to weave into my own life.  join me!

some may call me foolish.  after all, one cannot go around referring to every one else as "dumb ass."  or can we?  as a 44 yr old woman from Minnesota, i propose that a little more "dumb ass" action would make life better for all of us.  think about it.  in your work, your relationships, your daily communication with people you encounter, wouldn't you save yourself and every one else a little more time if you didn't have to diplomatically tell people to knock it off (what ever "it" may be)?  how many times have you had to rephrase a corrective request to make it understandable by the recipient?  each time you repeat your request to the person who is blessed with your wisdom and insight, you have to take one tiny step closer to the "dumb ass" option anyway and, if you are lucky, you will only have to repeat yourself three or four times, all in the name of diplomacy.  when it is all said and done, and a significant chunk of your time is gone forever, the dumb ass will of course be thinking, "why didn't you just say what you mean?!  dumb ass!"

go ahead and laugh.  tell me that i am digging my own grave, that i am burning bridges, that i am sealing my own doom.  guess what?  i am not afraid because i am not alone.  as i wander through society, i notice every day that more and more people have decided to join the revolution -  the cab driver who i cut off on Lake Street, the woman behind me at the check out lane at Lund's as i fished for 38 cents in the bottom of my purse, the dude behind the deli counter who made my sandwich wrong -  we are all joined in our commitment to rendering a sharp spanking on the butt of diplomacy.  think of the strides we could make if Obama and Boehner would abandon the thesaurus and the facial tissue and toss around a few "dumb ass" compliments to each other via CNN!  you may now label me an idealist.

it is true, many believe the niceties matter, but few of us are well versed at using niceties as effective feedback.  the first victory of the revolution will come the day "dumb ass" is categorized as a term of great regard in the niceties manual.  in fact, one should consider it a compliment when referred to with this term of endearment.  after all, if the speaker didn't think so highly of you, didn't value your time, didn't respect you and your need to keep your life on schedule, they wouldn't bother with a term that is truly meant to inspire immediate action.  why, one might even be so bold as to say "dumb ass" instrad of "i love you!"  i, for one, know that the next time i am lucky enough to be called a "dumb ass" i will smile and say, "thank you!"

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

need your thoughts!

you are smart.  after reading a few of my blog posts, you have easily determined that i am currently a free agent, a bird in the sky, a dandelion in the wind.  in other words, i am not employed full time.  you have also read about my efforts to embrace this "junk drawer" life and piece together income to support my family AND achieve a liveable lifestyle wherein i can actually spend some waking hours with my children.  as a result, i am trying to get creative and i need your opinion.

as you can gather, i enjoy writing, i consider myself pretty good at it, it is something i can do wherever i may be, so i want to explore that avenue.  a few weeks ago i answered an ad for a part time writer who can provide "witty content."  interesting, huh?  what is this opportunity?  worth an email.  i received a response right away, suggesting i take an online test (free of charge) for an Internet Dating Assistant.  apparently, based on my score, i may or may not be invited to manage online dating for busy professionals.  what does this entail?  writing emails "on behalf of" men (sometimes women) who are seeking a date with another party but who are too busy to engage in this part of the online dating process themselves.  my "goal" would be obtaining a meeting with this romantic interest with the busy professional.  at this point, i do not know with any certainty if i would be posing as the busy professional and interacting with the romantic interest or if the material i write would go to the busy professional for review by him/her before it is sent to the romantic interest.  i have considered taking the test, to find out more.

what do you think?  take the poll on my sidebar and let me know.