Saturday, December 31, 2011

Autostereogram Fun! (II)

The purpose of this entry is twofold: first, I wanted to log an even 20 posts for 2011 before the new year (a pathetic goal, I realize. Here's to working on spending even more time not pursing a job in favor of writing about myself in 2012). Second, I recently accessed Google's statistics for my blog and figured out the only post regularly bringing a LOT of people in is a random image of an autostereogram I put up about a year ago. Apparently if you Image Search autostereograms you get my blog near the top of the list. Go figure.

So, in a shameless attempt to up my numbers all across the board, here for your viewing pleasure are some more fantastic autostereograms! Happy 2012, yo.


Cool vortex!

Penguins on ice!

Maybe just for good measure, and perhaps to fuck a little with Google's SEO, I'll type autostereogram one more time: autostereogram. Only on Minor Fiascos.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I've shied from appreciating film and television as serious art forms lately in favor of using both mediums as a means of straight-up escapism. Life, man... sometimes you get enough of an emotional roller coaster as is. At any rate, last night I felt up to the challenge of sitting down and digesting a movie that had potential to be quite heavy, and I'm so glad I took the risk. I've waited for the 2011 British indie flick Weekend's DVD release for several months now, seeing as I missed it in theaters due to my dating a guy who simply had no interest in artsy excess. Lo and behold, Weekend is actually now available on Netflix instant and has no set date for a home release, so I'm glad I caught it while I can.

I should say now I'm a sap for most movies featuring gay protagonists (always more than one lead character in gay films). Brokeback, Milk, My Own Private Idaho, Mysterious Skin... each hooked me in a way most films don't, probably for so shallow a reason as that I'm actually able to identify with the relationships unfolding onscreen, whereas with most mainstream movies I'm really not all that able to connect emotionally to a straight man staring wistfully at an equally straight woman. I know what I'm supposed to feel is between them, but it doesn't bowl me over head-on, plus 99.98% of the time it's going to work out in the end for the happy straight couple, so yay. Mystery solved.

Weekend was written/directed by the up-and-coming Andrew Haigh and stars Tom Cullen and Chris New as the most appealing two guys I've had the pleasure of getting to stare at for 97 straight (ha!) minutes. I have a lot I want to say about this one, but I think what I'd like to focus on in particular are two of the quieter moments I noticed that will likely resonate more deeply with gay audiences than straight ones. The first is situated very early on: Russell - a quiet, amicable, and emotionally lost twenty-something - leaves early from his best friend's dinner party with the excuse that he's tired. The next several shots establish his solitary journey home, and it was during this sequence that I knew how honest the film was going to play out. Because Russell doesn't end up at home, but instead soon sits alone at a gay bar, drinking and staring and eventually trying to check someone out in a bathroom.

What's so telling is that he actually *chooses* this isolation over the fine time he was having at the dinner party. His motives are the same as mine whenever I make an excuse, leave early to go home, and end up somewhere completely off the radar: I'm used to operating this way, and I do it every time with the hope that something more might come from abandoning my straight friends in the straight world and running off into the night. He's lonely, repressed, and wants connection... even if it is just drinking and staring. This same sequence is likely viewed by a heterosexual audience (and I can make an educated guess at this because I actually did watch the movie with two straight girls) as: guy leaves dinner party, guy changes mind about going home, guy ends up at gay bar. What's lost in translation is the knowledge that this action wasn't an impulsive decision on Russell's part, but a routine aspect of his life that takes place beyond a veil of white lies serving to keep his straight persona separate from his (potentially viewed as) seedier nighttime tendencies. And that very distancing is what fuels the loneliness, the repression, and the shame. Russell's not closeted, he just believes that in order to remain an upstanding member of Britain's contemporary heterosexual culture, he needs to fit in with the straights.

The second small moment takes place much later, and again focuses on Russell. He's sitting at his goddaughter's birthday party, surrounded by good friends and happy children, and his face is completely detached from the situation. He's there, but he's not. It's not as though he's not paying attention - he smiles and actively participates - but his eyes continue to stare, vacant, and the camera lingers at such a distance that the audience can actually feel the level of detachment Russell is experiencing. A straight viewer might interpret his stoicism as a pronounced anxiety over the departure of the man he's spent this titular weekend with , and to an extent they're right. What's more, though, is that Russell's opened himself up enough to his emotions to realize that the world he's currently sitting in (read: one populated by straight adults with their own children having a ritualistic birthday party) is one he'll never, ever get to legitimately be a part of. His gaze is vacant because mentally he *cannot* truly connect to the situation around him. There's just no common undercurrent of understanding: these people will *never* know what it is to feign tiredness as an excuse to slip off to a bar populated by their own kind in an attempt to feel a true social connection, just as he will *never* know what it feels like to birth a child into a heterosexual culture and participate in all events and rites of passage therein. He is destined to be an outsider in this world, unable to connect because he simply does not have the common wiring necessary. Russell's two days with Glen have enlightened him to the extent that his routine unease in birthday party-type situations is finally making sense. And let me tell you, that's a crushing realization to reach.

Otherwise, the cinematography is naturalistic to the extreme, the dialogue is real without ever once teetering into a severely boring moment, and the audience is treated to some fantastic nudity. What's more, if Weekend's objective was to tell a story as truthfully as possible in an effort to foster a connection between itself and an isolated viewership, it succeeded admirably. I felt good after the film was over, mostly because I knew other guys were going to watch it and connect, and that very connection proves none of us is so alone in our thoughts as we might think. Russell and Glen part ways with a sense that life is for the living, and you've got to embrace who you are before you can take an honest shot at making the most of it. I'll definitely be re-watching this one... a good three or four times.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Letter

I made it back to good ol' Bend, Oregon today (That's right... again. I'm almost up to a free trip on my punchcard.), and one of the first things my mom had to say was that *everyone* was angry with us about my not sending a letter along with our Christmas cards this year. She let me know that some people - whose names she wouldn't reveal because she didn't want me talking with them - have gone so far every year as to save each one "in those little plastic page protector things, which they put in a binder, which they keep in a special drawer so the collection isn't lost." Then she told me I'm a star and one day I'll be a success, and that I just have to keep trying and it's not easy for anyone, except for all the kids with jobs whose parents she's talked to. The ensuing shoulder-squeeze-from-the-back-seat maneuver she pulled left me squirming awkwardly out of her grasp, at which point the proclamations ended and she started letting me know I needed a serious attitude adjustment towards those who actually loved me in life.

The point is, I'd actually completely forgotten about writing a letter this year. It hadn't crossed my mind a single time. I started soul searching for possible explanations as to the how/why of it, and all I came up with is that I really have no fucking idea what mom, dad, and brother bear were doing all year, while I myself was mostly a worthless heap of angsty nonsense. All in all, it doesn't add up to much more than some pesudo-whiny monologue where I actually have to talk about three other people in addition to just myself. In short: it would've been just like this blog, but less narcissistic.

I contemplated writing a letter for this post, so that the eight of you who actually claim to read Minor Fiascos would be the only eight souls in the world who knew that I actually *did* produce a letter this year, but letters are like super hard to write, and again with the whole me not knowing what anyone else did all year thing.

So just take my word for it: 2011 was a half-n-half year: a good chunk of it delighted, and an equally good chunk crushed my will to live. I used to be that eighth grader who hung out on the playground's fringes, eating Corn Nuts and listening to Blink-182 scream about how nobody likes you when you're 23. "It's so true," I thought. "Nobody does like you when you're 23."

And then 23 actually came. And went. And now I'm 24, and I finally understand what Mark and Tom were singing about. I understand that from a third-party perspective I may appear to have a lot going for me. Internally speaking, though, my accomplishments mostly serve as cruel reminders of the person I *could* be if someone would ever willingly hand a job opportunity my way. But I digress. The points of this post: no Christmas letter, but it's cool because if you're reading this it means you read my blog and so enough said, and also 23 is a super harsh year in terms of adult realities and adolescent idealism just completely fucking crashing up against one another.

Here's hoping the one that gets me a job wins out.

Monday, December 19, 2011


The other night I found myself ordering a Super Taco at El Rancho Grande, the local mexican food joint that's open well past midnight and features a kickass salsa bar. The Super Taco was fantastic, but is not the subject of this post.

On my way out the door, I took a moment to examine the flyers and neighborhood postings taped to the wall. My time with Nonchalance taught me to demonstrate extreme curiosity regarding walls covered in flyers, as they're a super obvious opportunity for an intriguing mystery to begin taking shape. How else these days could anyone looking to screw with people address an audience with complete anonymity? It can't be done any other way, I tell you.

At any rate, I quickly spied a nondescript sheet of paper taped near the bottom of the collage of colorful ads for guitar lessons, used furniture, and Spanish tutors. This piece of paper was plain white, and featured a totally normal typeface that read: "Help Pan with the MAZE. Helen wandered into the MAZE weeks ago. She hasn't been seen since. This MAZE needs our attention. For more information, please contact Pan." The bottom third of the flyer was devoted to tear-off tabs that all sported the slogan "Help find Helen" alongside a web address.

I was floored. Clearly this was the start of some brand-new mystery. Who was Helen? Why was MAZE capitalized every time? What did any of this mean? I grabbed a tab and started walking home, super anxious to look up the website and fall into another grand adventure.

Fuck, I love adventures.

But it turns out I was kind of drunk (hence the Super Taco at 1 am in the first place), and in the course of gesturing wildly to my fellow drunkards on the walk home, the slip of paper with the address escaped my jacket pocket. I realized what had happened after it was too late, and no amount of googling the relevant keywords revealed anything useful. I went to bed a sad man, and awoke having completely forgotten the incident.

On my walk to the coffee shop that next morning, I found myself practicing a routine eyes-to-the-ground maneuver in an effort to avoid contact with a crazy guy yelling at a bus on the street corner, and at the exact moment of looking down I stepped over the scrap I'd dropped the night before! Normally I don't pick anything up off the ground in this city, but such is my ravenous hunger for intrigue that I lunged for it. Triumphant, I marched to Cafe Abir ready to be blown away by whatever lay in wait.

As it turns out, "Pan" referred to the small Pan Theater in the East Bay, the MAZE is the humorous nickname its volunteer workers have given the series of hallways you have to navigate to reach the stage, and Helen is a poor elderly soul who got lost in the hallways on her way to view a performance this past holiday season. The whole effort that necessitated the flyer in the first place is an ongoing grassroots attempt to raise money to demolish the hallways and erect a new theater entrance that minimizes patron hassle/confusion, and that's the extent of it.

I was mildly crushed. I mean, I wanted to trip into a hallucinatory world of sleuthing, and instead got to feel bad for this crone Helen. On the other hand, I had to applaud the Pan Theater people for creating a flyer so nondescript and intriguing that I actually took the time to look something up that ordinarily wouldn't have piqued my interest in the slightest.

This is the future of advertising: subtle trickery. I can't wait until the day that mysterious opportunities left and right end up leading participants to the new flavor of Doritos in the chip aisle at Safeway, or a website for the redesigned 2013 Nissan Xterra. Let's hear it for creative duping!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

They Pegged Me...

My result for The LONG Scientific Personality Test ...

INTJ -The Mastermind

You scored 45% I to E, 32% N to S, 52% F to T, and 16% J to P!

You are more introverted than extroverted. You are more intuitive than observant, you are more thinking based than feeling based, and you prefer to have a plan rather than leaving things to chance. Your type is best described by the word "mastermind", which belongs to the larger group called rationals. Only 1% of the population shares your type. You are very strong willed and self-confident. You can hardly rest until you have things settled. You will only adopt ideas and rules if they make sense. You are a great brainstormer and often come up with creative solutions to difficult problems. You are open to new concepts, and often actively seek them out.

As a romantic partner, you can be both fascinating yet demanding. You are not apt to express your emotions, leaving your partner wondering where they are with you. You strongly dislike repeating yourself or listening to the disorganized process of sorting through emotional conflicts. You see your own commitments as self-evident and don't see why you need to repeat something already expressed. You have the most difficulty in admitting your vulnerabilities. You feel the most appreciated when your partner admires the quality of your innovations and when they listen respectfully to your ideas and advice. You need plenty of quiet to explore your interests to the depth that gives you satisfaction.

Your group summary: rationals (NT)

Your type summary: INTJ

FURTHERMORE (from Wikipedia)...

Hallmarks of the INTJ include independence of thought and a desire for efficiency. They work best when given autonomy and creative freedom. They harbor an innate desire to express themselves by conceptualizing their own intellectual designs. They have a talent for analyzing and formulating complex theories. INTJs are generally well-suited for occupations within academia, research, consulting, management, science, engineering, and law. They are often acutely aware of their own knowledge and abilities—as well as their limitations and what they don't know (a quality that tends to distinguish them from INTPs). INTJs thus develop a strong confidence in their ability and talents, making them natural leaders.

In forming relationships, INTJs tend to seek out others with similar character traits and ideologies. Agreement on theoretical concepts is an important aspect of their relationships. By nature INTJs can be demanding in their expectations, and approach relationships in a rational manner. As a result, INTJs may not always respond to a spontaneous infatuation but wait for a mate who better fits their set criteria. They tend to be stable, reliable, and dedicated. Harmony in relationships and home life tends to be extremely important to them. They generally withhold strong emotion and do not like to waste time with what they consider irrational social rituals. This may cause non-INTJs to perceive them as distant and reserved; nevertheless, INTJs are usually very loyal partners who are prepared to commit substantial energy and time into a relationship to make it work.

As mates, INTJs want harmony and order in the home and in relationships. The most independent of all types, INTJs trust their intuition when choosing friends and mates—even in spite of contradictory evidence or pressure from others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJs are apt to express emotional reactions. At times, INTJs seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact they are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those they care for. In social situations, INTJs may also be unresponsive and may neglect small rituals designed to put others at ease. For example, INTJs may communicate that idle dialogue such as small talk is a waste of time. This may create the impression that the INTJ is in a hurry—an impression that is not always intended. In their interpersonal relationships, INTJs are usually better in a working situation than in a recreational situation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Third Space

definition: Any place in the world that is neither your home nor your work. The Third Space is also mostly open to the public, and is generally hurried through by robot citizens so as to avoid close inspection of its intriguing alleyways and trap doors.

When it gee-wowed me: Again, during my stint as a copywriter for Nonchalance. Those people are obsessed with the Third Space, and I have to say I'm now pretty into it as well. Case in point: during Phase One of the Games of Nonchalance, a player finds himself sitting in the reception area of a 16th-floor office space in downtown San Francisco. Suits hurry by. Important-looking people whisper together urgently on their way to the elevator. All the furniture is dreadfully void of character. The player feels like he doesn't belong here. "Is this right?" he thinks. "Don't I need some kind of clearance to be sitting in this reception area of the 16th floor of this random downtown building? Am I going to be arrested?"

Well, no. Turns out a huge portion of the world is open to everyone, all the time, always. Aside from the obvious sidewalks, parks, freeways, alleyways, and public restrooms, you've also got entire skyscrapers, hidden parklets, back stairwells, parking garages, cemeteries, churches, and office building hallways that are all designed to give off the impression of exclusivity, when in fact they're anything but. The best part is that no one can really do a goddamned thing about you being in any of these places.

That security guard at the front door? Yeah, he's totally useless. Go ahead, ignore him.

Anyway, Nonchalance's games and projects are all intended to make players more aware of this great big beautiful public space around them, to have them step out of their regularly scheduled walk to work - even if only five feet in the wrong direction - and examine that one alleyway with that one giant cat spray painted onto that one lonely wall. If you've never noticed it's there before, it's because you're not letting the world thoroughly batter your senses with stimuli. You've let the man tell you that your place is this one stretch of line between Point A and Point B, and god help you if you ever try and shake it up. I mean, holy hell, you'll probably end up murdered or raped if you step out of line. Or worse.

And who knows what you'll find if you follow the alleyway to the lonely cat. Mystery and intrigue lurk behind every corner.

Conclusion: Nonchalance also champions Pervasive Play - a term coined for taking this newly reclaimed Third Space and turning it into one giant adult playground. After all, what happened to the world between ages 9 and 30 that made it so uninteresting? More appropriately: what happened to you? The next wave of totally immersive entertainment would be foolish not to maximize Third Space use. It's free. It's near-limitless in size. And it has so much hidden potential just waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Joan > Conan

I've watched two documentaries on comedians lately: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. Both are strikingly similar in that they follow two stand-up personalities as they attempt to claw their way back into stardom - and, accordingly, cultural relevance. Throughout the course of both films, Joan and Conan also reveal wildly unexpected offstage personalities, touching/strained dependencies on assistants-turned-family, and dogged work ethics that quite literally left me feeling exhausted on my couch just from watching.

The reason I'm writing is that I've always been a huge Conan fan, and I've always thought of Joan as that semi-funny bitch on the red carpet with all the plastic surgery. And that's pretty much where my opinion of her ended. If I wanted snark, I had Kathy Griffin.

Fast-forward to the present. I still think Conan's great: stellar onstage presence, deliriously absurd (yet intelligent) bits, and a willingness to make a complete ass of himself - and half of rural America - through preposterous prerecorded segments. I won tickets to see him live during my summer in LA, and he was just as charismatic in person. The problem with his documentary, though, is that it bares completely the unpleasant, real version of Conan. He's a dick to his staff, he makes an uncomfortable level of fun of Jack McBrayer during a backstage visit (seriously... I was fidgeting and almost unable to look at Jack's upset face), and he goes on and on about how much he hates personal encounters with fans, despite needing their adoring presence to survive as a performer. Its a hypocritical, stodgy, honest portrayal of a guy who I wanted no choice but to love, and now that I have a choice, I'm not sure I'm so into it anymore.

Joan, on the other hand, came out of nowhere like some whirling dervish - all fists and elbows and attitude. As I said earlier, the annual Academy Awards had turned her, in my mind, into some red-carpet bitch. A well-edited trailer for her documentary was really the only thing that drew me in. Well, that and boredom.

Turns out, the lady's fucking hilarious. And I say "fucking" here because she's also the most profane 75-year-old woman I've encountered. Watch as Joan spends a year jetting from one run-down venue to another, desperate to entertain and willing to do literally *anything* to keep people laughing. The difference in personality between her and Conan is astounding: while both are on their "last leg," Joan's approach is to appreciate everything. No fan is too unimportant, no venue too tiny. She gets by on just a few hours of sleep a night between cross-country flights to increasingly desolate middles of nowhere, and the downtime she does have is spent awash in self-doubt, an agonized appreciation of the little she's perceived herself of achieving, and a desire to ensure everyone everywhere knows how much she appreciates their presence. It's a polar opposite approach to the entertainment business, and while a lot of it may have to do with Ms. Rivers' reluctance to fade into the obscurity of old age, she remains charming.

Maybe I'm just getting gayer, but I think I'm more into Joan. Her rich history in show business, her wall of joke files (seriously astounding), and the fact that within 15 minutes her personality had triumphed over the strange wreck that is her face all have me rooting for her continued floundering, if not downright success. Conan, however, can suck it. I've seen what he thinks of fans like me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Something Fun

I spent a half hour before bed last night reading my posts from two summers ago, those fine months spent at Disneyland as an official Cast Member. Damn, I had fun! I also realized I haven't done such a good job lately of really trying to relate an experience to you all. In trying to figure out what's going on around San Francisco that might make for an interesting read, I continually draw a blank. Not for lack of detail to write about, but because I think the whole experience is so overwhelming that attempting to single out any one aspect is near impossible.

So here's this instead: I drove from Bend back to SF yesterday. The trip consists of two self-patented key Phases, each with four sections. From North to South, they are:
- Phase One: Bend to Klamath Lake, Klamath Lake to Weed; Weed to Shasta; Shasta to Redding.
- Phase Two: Redding to Dunnigan (505); Grassy Fields (505); Nightmarish urban sprawl (I-80); Richmond to San Francisco proper.

Phase Two is notoriously god-awful. Not only do you have I-5 to conquer, but once you've finally managed its 160-mile stretch of nothing, an even more boring series of grass fields looms (excusable only because it's super easy to break the law and use your cell phone here), followed by a guaranteed traffic jam for 65 miles.

When I stop and think about it (which the traffic jam allows ample time for), though, the funneling process I go through to take me from rural highway to urban parking spot near my apartment is remarkable. Wading through millions of people and their cars, taking a specific series of exits, crossing multiple bridges, turning an appropriate number of lefts and rights, and finally pulling into whichever patch of pavement is lucky enough (and empty enough) to have me is just such a process. And then once I'm out of my car and walking to good old 2423 Post, the relative silence of the street is staggering considering the onslaught of mind-boggling stimuli I just had to deal with to reach a specific point in the city that, from afar, looked SO busy.

And I have this ritual of putting on the entire Suburbs album by Arcade Fire as soon as I start crossing the Bay Bridge. Little else is as epic as approaching the SF skyline with Arcade Fire blasting, the buildings looming larger and larger and larger until before you know it the vista is too IMAX-y to appreciate as a whole and you're submerged, and all around you is the city and lights and traffic and incredible rolling hills that you have to shoot quickly up before you can come barreling back down the other side of, all the while dodging bikers and crazed cabbies and homeless slinkers and drunk couples pirouetting off sidewalks, neon signs flashing left and right to the heavy beat of "Modern Man."

It's all fabulous spectacle, to be sure, and little else makes me feel so alive. Also, knowing what I'm doing has helped substantially, because my first few visits here I was too concerned about not getting mowed over by crazy Californian drivers to pay any attention to these man-made vistas.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Different folks, different strokes

I took an entire college course on the ethics at play behind magazine covers, and these antics happen more frequently than you'd think. Regardless, I wonder if TIME has an explanation other than that they didn't want the cover story they were working on for *weeks* tossed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interactive Narrative

Definition: the intersection of storytelling, visual art, and interactivity.

When it gee-wowed me: During my several month stay at Nonchalance headquarters. I would sit every day at the office facing a fantastic map on the wall. This map visualized the entry points, segue ways, and end points of each of the three phases of the Jejune Institute - the interactive narrative game that, in this humble blogger's opinion, is trailblazing in the realm of immersive media.

I could trace, for example, a curling arrow from an icon that read "flyer with phone number" in the bottom left corner of the map, to a "Jejune Institute Orientation Meeting phone message" icon. This same icon was also reachable by two other arrows, which directed players from "graffiti art with phone number" and "Dolores Park radio transmission", respectively. In essence, a willing participant could access the phone message from one of three distinct entry points to the game, and also have no idea that the other two existed. Then, once the phone message was digested and curiosity actually led a participant downtown to the orientation session, literally so many variables for alternate modes of play presented themselves that how and what a person explored within the game's narrative became their own prerogative. Indeed, from the "Orientation" icon, the map on the wall became an intricately linked labyrinth of possible paths of narrative travel, some dead-ending, others leading a player to the very heart of the game.

And I think the dead ends are what made the Jejune Institute so special. Consider, for example, the elaborate backstory constructed for the purely fictional Hip Hop Shoe Repair, itself a now-decrepit, in-story hangout for the fictional characters who used to populate the Mission. When they track it down through various means, players come across a chained-up newsstand on Valencia Street that apparently doubles (in-story) as the Shoe Repair stand. Whether or not you are then supposed to glean anything meaningful from the structure in order to advance your own narrative is a question that took me and my intrepid partner about twenty minutes to determine.

Was the newsstand actually a piece of the puzzle, or was Nonchalance's goal of reclaiming the Third Space (more on that at another time) as an adult playground actually working? Because when it comes right down to it, you really start to appreciate a chained-up newsstand the more you look and realize how beautifully random and absurd its existence is. Here I was seeing an unremarkable little detail of the city in a brand new, devastatingly exciting light, and it made me want to treat every object I passed with the deserved level of reverence.

Though the scrutiny ultimately led nowhere, the experience of the narrative turning literally everything into a potential clue for our discovery was a feeling of real-world excitement no single-medium-bound story could ever replicate. The more you looked, the more you noticed the stuff around the city that really was an element of Nonchalance. You also started seeing everything that wasn't in the same mysterious light. And everyone knows mystery is what makes the world go round.

Conclusion: The more irrelevant detail an interactive narrative provides, the more meaningful and immersive an experience it weaves. I am reminded of Roland Barthes' essay "The Reality Effect," which explores referential and aesthetic restraints in literary narratives. Put very simply, the more meaningfully random the descriptor, the more tangible the experience. Without Hip Hop Shoe Repair, the Jejune Institute still would have kicked ass - it just wouldn't have kicked ass so fully. A newsstand is a newsstand unless it's a clandestine hangout.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Future 2.0 (take seven)


I think this visual is the closest I can get to explaining the paradoxical nature of the decisions I was - or wasn't - making these past several weeks: do what your gut says, not what your brain thinks; follow your heart, not your head; reach a decision and then question your logic until anything definitive has turned back into a good old-fashioned "?" again; ask for advice and listen to none of it; etc.

And so on and so forth, until we've gone there and back again in proper herculean hobbit form. Fuck I'm clever.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: I shall hang my hat on two unlikely job opportunities, and if neither works out (or the universe's vast intricacies presents an even less likely third option) I"ll be back in Oregon by Christmas. Portland ho! Probably. Either way, I won't whine about it. Promise.

Last night was fantastic. I went out with three girlfriends to Moby Dick, and I'm not even being boastful when I say I don't believe a better time could have been had by any of the Castro's other Sunday-night drinkers. I received my all-time highest number of paid-for-by-random-people drinks (two), indulged in a celebratory bowl of late-night chili at Orphan Andy's, and then was treated to a walk all the way home from the Castro because the 24 Muni line was in a perpetual state of "calculating...". Oh, plus the men's lacrosse team who asked for their picture taken in front of the bar, only to let me know after I had agreed (and after they'd started stripping) that the picture needed to be of them in their underwear. Insant Good Samaritan karma, right there.

It's good to know that after considering and obsessing over all possible 3,487,622 potential courses of action I could have taken with my life as of last week, the one I settled on and am traveling down includes a mostly-naked lacrosse team.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back to the Drawing Boards

My Plan:

1) Stop entertaining any notion of taking the job with Collectors Weekly. If I'd wanted it, I would have jumped at it immediately. On a related note, it wasn't a good move on their part to have me spend the entire first trial day writing about glass.
2) Don't move to Portland... yet. Portland will still be there in January - and Oregon's mountains will have snow fit for boarding by then, too.
3) Spend the time between now and Christmas really trying to find something exciting here in SF that pays well. I understand this will be difficult, as hiring during the holidays is gauche. Plus, nothing super awesome has worked out so far - but that's okay, because I really feel like I've focused my interests and aspirations in the past few weeks, and that's going to help the hunt.
4) If nothing surfaces, head to Portland. Snowboard, drink staggeringly exceptional beer, hang out with all my best friends, and continue pursuing a dream career.
5) Or freak and move to Paris.

I'm feeling good about this one, people. Let's hear it for defeating indecision!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Me For a Day

Wake up. Decide you can't tell what time it is based on the window light, then decide it doesn't matter because you have no one expecting anything from you. Then feel guilty for squandering one of your final days in beautiful SF by lying in bed. Then think about coffee. Wonder if anyone has sent any messages your way since you fell asleep last night. Reach for your phone. No messages. Think about how you have to leave this goddamned city. Then think about how it might not be any better anywhere else. Hug your pillow.

Consider your plan of action: shower, maybe trim the facial hair. Spring out of bed. Springing is better than any other method of leaving your bed. Walk to the bathroom. Decide that since it is Thursday, and your chances of being seen by lots of gay men are statistically much higher tonight than they were for the past several nights, you should definitely trim the facial hair. Once you are finished, hop into the shower. Hopping and jumping are your two means of entering the shower. Anything less active is not acceptable. Make funny little singsongy noises as you soap yourself, then realize people might think you're a freak if they overhear you. Decide not to care. But it's so hard not to care.

Contemplate breakfast. Opt for a sandwich somewhere, what with it already being 11:23 and all. Bring a book with you, wherever you go, so you don't look like the single most lonely kid in this city.

All things considered, days off kind of suck.

Walk to the coffee shop. Consider the sad-looking people walking around you. At least you don't look as sad as them. Pay no attention to the happy ones. They're fools.

Sit outside and eat your sandwich. Be happy you can buy yourself a sandwich. Those guys over there look like they want your sandwich. They aren't getting it. Stretch your legs out in the sun. Sun rules! Read your book and think about how quaint this moment of your life will look from the future. Just a young you and a book and the sun. Almost no worries. Almost.

Except for all the worries! Gahhh. Stifle them.

Walk up the street to pass time. Head into the comic book shop. If nothing else, bookstores of any kind make you feel right at home. Walk serendipitously to the graphic novel memoir that most closely aligns with your life at this moment. Buy it. Smile and be nice to the comic book guy. Wonder what his worries might be.

Walk to the vintage furniture store. See the coffee table you were meant to own. Talk yourself into spending $175 on it. Marvel that you are at a point in life when $175 on a coffee table, of all things, is not only feasible but exciting. Worry for yourself.

Go to the park. Sit on a bench in the sun and take turns staring at the cityscape and reading. Watch the people in the park laugh and socialize with their dogs. Wonder if you are making the right choices in life.

Happy. Sad. Ecstatic. Elated. Miserable. Angsty. Nostalgic. Psycho. Happy.

Meet up with your friend for a beer. Discuss the serendipitous nature of being at the exact spot drinking the exact beer with the exact person you did the exact same thing with exactly a year ago. Wonder what this could mean in terms of you and your choices. Contemplate the harsh reality of leaving a city that has such beautiful sunny days midway through November.

Head home. Make your usual dinner: chicken, black beans, broccoli. Think about how you spent over $200 today. Decide this was a responsible move, despite not having a job at the moment, because at least it wasn't $200 spent on drugs.

Get dressed for a party. Go to the party. It's a gay party! Not one of the guys is attractive. Think about how you've managed to live 16 months in the gayest city on the planet only to spend one of your final Thursday nights at one of the least attended, least attractive get-togethers ever. Consider the sad nature of this situation. Think about the guy from your previous relationship and what all his exceptionally handsome friends must be doing at this same moment, probably less than a mile away.

Take lots of jello shots. Pretend not to care. But also you don't really care. It's more like you think you should be concerned about this situation rather than you really feel concerned, and you don't like the way you let what other people think of you control so much of your life. Realize no one outside of the party knows how ugly the party itself is. Realize your own perceptions are what will continue to bring you down. Tell yourself you are only 24 and you have so much more time to make it right. Then wonder what making it right means.

Exit the apartment. Walk down Haight street to get home. Consider the very act of walking down Haight Street. Realize that you finally feel comfortable in this giant magical city and that you are actually one of the very few people on the planet who has the privilege of casually walking down Haight Street after a gay party to get back to your own apartment in San Francisco. Think of all the men in the world who lay alone at night wishing, in all their separate languages, to be in San Francisco. Many would probably literally kill to be in your shoes. Are you an asshole for wanting to give this up? You're here, goddamit. It doesn't get better than this.

Enter your own apartment. Fall onto the couch. Stay up until 2 reading your graphic novel memoir. Realize most people who move to big cities at 24 feel the way you do. If you could just hunker down and make it another year, you'll probably be transformed enough to manage for good. But at what cost? Will you be the empty husk of the idealistic person you once were, or a new version altogether? Is the past at 24 something worth holding onto? Should you really be trying so hard not to change, to harden? Is this plain old growing up, or is this growing up unhappily? Where do you expect to find better conditions for happiness? Is substituting palm trees and Victorian architecture for rain and moldy housing really going to help? Will you end up worse off there than here? Should you just grin and bear it? At what point will it be too late to make these kinds of decisions? How many more years do you have when decisions like this can still be pulled off? Why are you so insane? How does everyone else just go about their lives as if they don't think these things? What's satisfying about a life without way too much contemplative thought? Are you ever going to change for the better? Will you ever be happy with a respectable career? If you turn tail and run from a writing position, what won't you run from? When is anything going to make sense? At what point is grasping for straws here versus there going to make no difference in terms of how it all turns out? How? Why? What?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It Wasn't All for Naught

Sixteen months in San Francisco. Holy cow. I feel as though I've lived within the frame of a postcard for so many days. Similar to what we learned with Blue Velvet's ear, though, surface-level beauty and sunshine doesn't a perfect life make.

I'm anxious here. A lot of people perpetually bustle. Muni rarely provides a pleasurable experience. Web developers take precedence over virtually any other professional skill. I can hardly hear myself think.

But the pho! and the men!

The men. How they prance. So many from so far. Each one restless, grappling for something. The surface-level fun of it all strains to contain so much pressure for genuine connection. Sex isn't the ultimate satisfaction - a truth etched into the older ones' faces.

And the twenty-somethings! With their bikes on the park under the sun passing a joint. How I would so like to feel like I belong among them, instead of like some kid who's a perpetual tourist.

Those twenty-somethings. They each know more people in this city than I will in the entirety of my life, but in most cases, those relationships are hollow. Everyone is an acquaintance. Few are actual friends. It's hard to find friends when you're pinballing between start-ups and don't know which surreptitious individual it'll pay most to shake hands with.

Oh San Francisco. I really don't know about you. Love. Hate. Not very many in-betweens.

But you weren't all for naught:

- I Freelanced as a copywriter for the coolest hybrid arts agency ever.
- I worked for almost an entire year within the Wikimedia Foundation.
- I witnessed firsthand the influence of Apple on an Apple-mad culture.
- I got to strut my stuff down the streets of the Castro on warm nights.
- I relished an eager, youthful relationship that impacted me for the better.
- I will never have to wonder what it would have been like to live here at 23.

These experiences will only shine brighter with time.

It's been formative, yo! Onward and upward.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Oath of the Comm Intern Brethren

Congratulations. You, the reader, have proven worthy of entry into an ancient and honorable line of interns: that of Jay’s Right Hand. Take this responsibility and run with it, for only then shall the Gods of a real job smile at you. Some succeed in this endeavor; others fail. Your destiny rests solely upon your own two shoulders, so don’t let yourself down.

Now, you will repeat after me.

I, ______________ (your name), promise to:

1) Log into my email account ( every morning before arriving at the office and check my Google Alerts folder for any news items worthy of the media report that I will then write. For my convenience, a copy of a standard-looking media report can be found here. I will then send this media report to

2) When I arrive at the office, I will say hello to Manuel at the reception desk downstairs because he is nice and aged.

3) When I arrive at my desk, I will log into the Online Ticket Request System (OTRS) here and parse through the spam/media requests that have popped up overnight. My login credentials are username: aevert and password: wikione. I will respond and forward and forge templates.

4) I will take the news stories I deemed significant enough for the Media Report and turn them into PDF files using this converter, and then I will upload these PDF files into the Dropbox folder titled ‘Coverage 2011’. My credentials for accessing dropbox are my email ( and my password (w******).

4) I will update the WMF Global Press Contact List here with any new information Jay sends my way, making sure to keep it super nice and orderly.

5) I will maintain the organization of the Merchandise closet, the Merchandise archive, and the poster/craft area, for even though I likely will not hang much on the walls, those who came before me did and it is a time-honored tradition that must be respected.

6) If I prove myself worthwhile, I will assist Jay with any writing / editing responsibilities or projects that he assigns me, even if it’s really nice outside, for special projects are my area to shine and prove my worth. This being said, I will be wary of becoming the office bitch for anyone else. My devotion lies with Jay and Jay alone, unless I am legitimately interested in someone else’s work.

7) I will use my free time to create a personal Wikipedia username and edit actual Wiki articles, for this is how I will come to appreciate and respect the community.

8) If fate ever crosses my path with a former Comm Intern, I will show deference.

I am ready to learn the New Way. I will go forth and work hard. But not too hard.

(commence sacrificial lamb slaughtering)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On Leaving Wiki

If there’s one thing my time spent here at the Wikimedia Foundation has taught me, it’s that nerds have no shame about taking the loudest, nastiest-sounding shits I’ve ever encountered. Nine out of ten who relieve themselves in the stall next to the one with the big window that I habitually lay claim over at approximately 11:13 every morning do so with a near-epic level of accompanying flatulence and splatter sound effects. I’ve seen residual toilet bowl streaks every color of the rainbow, and I can’t believe these people who take such abnormal poops don’t wait after they flush to make sure any embarrassing remnant has washed away. It’s baffling.

Of course, there does lurk below this observation another concern, which is: why am I so secretive and dignified about something that doesn’t really deserve a huge amount of discretion? If everyone is taking horrific craps, shouldn’t I be down with following suit? Is anyone sitting in the stall next to me ever thinking “now there’s a guy who poops silently. Hot damn.”

Troubling, to be sure. Let’s blame it on St. Francis again.

But back to Wiki. I can recall a morning in February when I stumbled into this place an eager, wide-eyed naif. I aimed to prove myself and land a job, and while I earned Jay’s favor, the job part didn’t work out. I can’t much help the fact that I’m not willing to move to India or Brazil for a Communications position - never mind that I don’t even speak the languages. And so I sat here and wrote. And edited. And organized and efficiencized and used the label maker to a near-extreme degree. Large photos hang on the wall where I wanted them to hang, and banners ban where I wanted them to ban. The entire merchandising system runs the way it does because I was all “oh no you didn’t!” when I saw how it worked previously, and 2011’s forthcoming Annual Report is going to read extra delightfully in certain segments because I’ve proved trustworthy enough to pen entire 200-word segments of the document. Yay for me.

What I think I’m getting at here is that this internship experience has primarily functioned to make me confident in my ability to walk around a legitimate work setting and actively contribute to its output. With Apple, the system was set up such that a monkey could do my job - and the monkey could probably do it better because I don’t think monkeys feel shame to quite such an acute degree as humans.

Plus I really enjoy feeling guiltless about the work I contribute to. Spreading free knowledge to the entire population of the globe? Yes, please.

I’ll miss it all, that’s for sure. Part of me feels like this is one of the final bastions shielding my young-adult existence from the epic reality of full-on adult life. God knows they’ve got enough M&Ms and free pop around here.

When I do leave, a week or two or whenever from now, it’s going to be a proud departure. Because this is one opportunity I took maximum advantage of here in SF, and it’s largely kept me afloat.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

VIP Nonsense

My good friend Edlyn - she of the naturally optimistic outlook on life and perpetually singsongy cadence - somehow got me to agree to attend San Francisco's first annual Masquerotica event last night. The conversation went something like this:

- "AJ! What are you doing tomorrow night?"
- "Whatever it is, I hope to not be sitting and staring into space. Like I am now."
- "Come to Masquerotica with me and my boyfriend! I'll get you a VIP ticket and you can pay me back."
- (internal monologue: Just do it, AJ. No regrets, remember? Live, pussy boy. Live!) "OK!"

Turns out "VIP" meant shelling over $120 plus a surcharge fee in exchange for such extravagances as a special coat check, meet-and-greet with the fetish masters, nonexistent light food fare, and two drink coupons that gained me access to the least satisfying vodka cranberries I've ever chugged. Basically, $65 over the standard ticket price = a shot of liquor.

But it wasn't all bad! The whole thing positively oozed an intense Halloween atmosphere, and I couldn't help but think, as I watched two bound Asian women struggle to balance lit candles both in their mouths and in the delicate pocket that the smalls of their backs created, that if my mom could see me now, she'd quite literally shit her pants.

Lots of costumes were funny in a that-person-is-so-fat-and-hairy-he-should-really-have-more-on kind of way, while others were super elaborate. I also got a kick out of a humongous bed that comfortably fit thirty lounging people, plus a few waiters who crawled around feeding everyone strawberries and chocolate. I know, I know, it kinda just sounds like one big disgusting sex orgy, but the lights were actually turned up pretty bright and the decor was colorful and festive, and it really came across as more of a PG-13 porn bash than anything truly hardcore.

Plus there was the dance hall that seemed exclusively devoted to gay men in jockstraps and football pants (I'm sure those pants have a more technical name), but all that happened there was my deciding I needed to leave. Something about so many gays all hopped up and dressed in the same slutty costume makes me feel straight-up empty inside. I ditched out on Edlyn and her BF and managed to hail a cab pretty quickly - an act that always temporarily renders my life quite adult-like in a Sex and the City kind of way.

The cabbie was from Russia (I think), smoked a cigarette as he careened through yellow/red lights, and kept asking me about "all the naked womens at the party." I told him I'm gay, and then we didn't talk much. Cathleen showed up back at our apartment around 1:45 and made me a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, which I scarfed. And that was that.

Friday, October 21, 2011

All Those Wasted Hours

There's a reason I haven't posted since February (missed you guys and gals), and that reason has since come and gone. I could dwell on my time at Apple, and how I messed up and let 1 Stockton Street take the rest of my life down with it... or I could choose to focus only on the few exceptionally fun times had with the few exceptionally cool friends I made there. Instead of either, though, I'm opting for the route where I suppress all emotions toward it until there's enough distance between it and me (read: like three years or something) that all I remember is the gold. Adult of me? I thought so, too.

What I can say at the present moment (which, as this super-cool new blog font, titled "Luckiest Guy", reminds us is October 21, 2011 [?!]) is that I have seen the bottom, my friends, (or, as close to the bottom as I can see, what with being 24 and super privileged and all) and it's no place I'm eager to return to. I mean, I actually hadn't written a blog post in over eight months because I didn't want to have to face the state of my life by typing it all out again. And that's no good. No good at all, I say I say. I now present a brief list of lessons learned since my last posting:

- No retail. Ever again.
- Don't settle for anything that feels deeply unsatisfactory longer than six months. After six months, it stops functioning as a learning experience and instead starts eating away at dreams and self confidence and such.
- Writing is therapy. Don't stop writing. Even if it's mindless and not for profit.
- For the majority of their users, Apple products are a status symbol and nothing more.

That last one was starting to get a little harsh, and here I am breaking my own self-imposed rule from three paragraphs up. I'll instead continue with a fantastic quote that I carry around with me for times just such as this:
“Always in the big woods when you leave familiar ground and step off alone into a new place there will be, along with the feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the Unknown, and it is your first bond with the wilderness you are going into.”
Thanks, Wendell Berry! Basically, what I'm getting at here is that, now that I'm finished with this past experience, a lot of options have presented themselves. Many of them would be easy, safe choices, and would allow me to return to the comfortable lifestyle I'm used to in the best state on the West Coast with the friends and family who have always been totally awesome and there for me and will continue to be/do so. OR, I could carry on with what's hard and challenging and continues day by day to shape me into a more self-reliant, confident individual. Whatever that might be.

I'll say again that my dad's heart situation, which began almost a year ago to the day, has put a lot of perspective on the decisions I make. It's easy to declare my intention to push forward and challenge myself and truly approach every situation with the goal of being as genuine as I can, but it's quite a bit more difficult to actually live that way.

So here's to the decisions we make that lead us down the paths of self discovery. And here's to giving everything we care about, or knew we once cared about, every effort to work out the way our once more optimistic selves intended. I'm here in the present moment and it's all stretching out before me, and I'll be damned if the Unknown isn't scaring and inspiring me in equal parts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bloggie Dearest

It's been a while, because my life sucks! Just kidding. My life rules - or, at least, today it's ruled. So far. I mean, I finally have stuff worth typing about, and I'm not just repeating what I already speak aloud ten times daily (for the uninitiated: "I hate Apple! Apple f***ing sucks! Why oh why did I work so hard in college to graduate into so meaningless and numbing an existence as matching rich people with the "best pair of headphones" and restocking Norton Antivirus software?"). While I'm still working retail three days a week - which equates to the longest 24 hours of my life four times monthly - I also managed to land an internship at Wikimedia! Yay! (Or, "I love Wikimedia! Wikimedia f***ing rules! Thank God oh thank God I worked so hard in college to graduate into so meaningful and stimulating an existence as _________________ [I haven't actually really done anything yet]".)

Maybe it's just that I woke up early. Or maybe the past three weeks' worth of flu-like symptoms (yes, I barfed! Several times!) have, in some placebo-like fashion, cleansed my system in much the same manner as a raw veggie fast might. Over raw veggies, I'll take barfing any old time. Regardless, this morning I woke up to Velvet Underground crooning on my fancy new iPod/alarm clock thing (present from Mom... I'm not about to spend my hard-earned money fueling the corporation that routinely brings me to my knees [in defeat, not over the toilet. Wrong knee-falling context.]).

A hot shower would surely have topped off what were unknowingly the first few minutes of a glorious day, but a certain roommate of mine was immersed in her normal 30-minute-shower-with-the-bathroom-door-locked-and-a-seeming-determined-disregard-for-responding-to-loud-knocks/protestations routine, which might be acceptable if said routine didn't always happen when two other people also need to use the bathroom, in which case at least leave the door unlocked so we can grab our toothbrushes, yeah? But so anyway I eventually stumbled from the house, re-parked my car (an activity that in itself would have guaranteed a disastrous, nihilistic day if I were headed to Apple), saw a rainbow, immediately got caught in a fierce hailstorm, walked a few blocks to the Castro, and ran spot into a certain shaved-headed individual who also happens to work at Apple and is the most charismatic human being I've had the pleasure of knowing (and before any of you get any ideas, he's 40... not that I'd let that stop me with this one). As is always the case around him, I immediately became awkward and sweaty and blundered my sentences by trying to articulate about ten different sentence options at a single time in what's always a severely misguided attempt to appear/act normal. He smiled, congratulated me on my "rainbow-internship-hailstorm that I just saw going to" (okay, so it wasn't that blundered, but still) and recommended what was, in his words, "the best coffee shop for the best cup of coffee you will ever drink- and just down the street!"

I mean, how could I say no (other than the fact that I was literally incapable of saying 'no')? Turns out he was right. The coffee was a dream and I can't wait to go back. At any rate, after this superb cup of coffee, I took the underground MUNI to New Montgomery Street - the underground subway system still excites me an irrational amount every time I use it: there's no traffic, it's underground (!), and I feel like I'm living in a city at least twenty times larger than San Francisco when I'm down there hurtling through the dark. New Montgomery Street is a magical confabulation of everything that's right about downtown San Francisco (also, it isn't even close to the Apple Store), with delicious sandwich shops and art students and huge brick buildings everywhere.

But so anyway the Wikimedia offices are perfect and beautiful and located on the sixth (and fourth) floor of this great, old, six-story brick confabulation. There are giant windows and wide open spaces filled with funky chairs and dry erase boards and I have my own desk with a computer and pens and a stapler (!) and everything. Oh, and the sweet-ass kitchen is stocked with all the pop and candy I could ask for (resupplied monthly!) and I can already feel my office ass expanding in, and filling out, my office chair. It's a perfect working boy's dream. My boss people are easily the two coolest people in the building (right after Miguel, the door guy, who I wisely made a good impression on day 1). I kind of just sit and listen to them talk, all the while drooling because what I'm overhearing is so effortlessly intelligent and funny.

Today I have: attended a creative brainstorming meeting with Jay (Boss 1) and an outside creative consultant regarding Wikimedia's outreach efforts for 2011 - highly kickass; walked through both floors of office space with Jay and an eager assistant, the two of us listening to his grand vision for how best to utilize the wall space with photos and banners that really communicate Wikimedia's mission - the whole situation was fucking hilarious, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thought so; attended a lunchtime discussion hosted by an Egyptian Wikimedia staffer who's actually been in Cairo for the past three weeks; ran and picked up sandwiches; and closely read over Wikimedia's five-year plan, which I'm now apparently supposed to transfer into an online format. Further directions pending.

This whole time I've been sitting here considering how lucky I am NOT ONLY for this to have happened to me (and of course it never would have happened without the hook-up of a lifetime from my friend Deniz, who deserves a shout-out even if almost none of you know her) but also that I landed this particular internship under the tutelage of these particular two people (who, let's hope, don't turn into total duds now that I'm writing this), because if I'd landed anywhere else in these offices I'd guaranteed not be having as awesome a time as I already am. The whole thing's just super lucky.

Now all they need to do is pay me, because I'm already dreading work at the Big A-hole tomorrow...