i need a new username.

This has been sitting as a draft since Jan 2009! This week I ran into more real life friends on Flickr and Twitter and it brought this all up again. Ugh, leftover old username. I think I’d been working around this problem by avoiding places where I had a username at all. Maybe that is the right solution anyway, to just use my real name everywhere. But, as drafted two years ago, something about having no nicknames makes me sad. And something about being renamed seems timely right now.

i’ve been “ookpik” online since 1997, when i took the name from a kids’ poem that i liked. it’s an inuit word for owl. it’s also the name of a kind of furry owl doll made for tourists. i thought that was ok for a long time, but now i think it’s too much appropriation and colonial weirdness. so i need a new username.

i’m posting about it here to ask for help. i have a common first name, a last name i don’t like, and no nicknames. ookpik was unusual enough as a name, and i’ve usually been early enough to register on sites i use, that i have no backup names at all.

something about having no nicknames make me sad.

So. Ideas?

Crap emails, man angst, better living through feminism…

I try to be calm and cool…… but my body language always gives me away & creeps women out some how. I start conversations easily, but I find myself saying too much or confusing women by saying things that they cannot understand or are too deep, for the amount of Vodka-Red Bulls that they have consumed.

This post at Letters From Johns reminds me of this (much longer and funnier) Crap Email From A Dude. They both remind me of crap emails I’ve received in the past from various acquaintances and from strangers who read about my vagina.

It’s weird to recognize a whole collection of traits— the insistence that they like women even though they are unable to avoid venting their anger at/about women, the over-analysis often constructed from one chapter of [dead guy of your choice], the obsession with yet lack of self-awareness (“I’m very direct, here’s 3000 words about nothing.”), the refusal of independent responsibility (“I hate it when people hang out with me even though they obviously think they’re too good for me.”), the fucked up gender stereotypes, the obsession with yet discomfort over sex… It’s a whole syndrome. In high school, my friends and I called these characters Deep Teen Smurf, or Bad Teenaged Poet.

Off and on, I’ve wished for a book to recommend to these guys, to help them snap out of it and get past being so angry and hurt about their entitlement not working out for them. I would call this book “Put On Your Big Boy Pants, OK Thanks.” I’ve seen The Gender Knot recommended as a book that explains how patriarchy even causes problems for men (while distinguishing those problems from the problems of being oppressed). So maybe that would work. It’s on my excessively long personal reading list for 2008, to find out.

G-rated YouTube porn, feathers.

I ran into this while I was looking for info about whether found feathers can have any germs or mites or whatever (probably not). I love the wealth of g-rated porn that has blossomed under YouTube’s anti-nudity terms of service. I don’t think they intended to create a video sharing service where only kinky sexplay is allowed (watching women fart, smelling socks…), but I guess that’s a fairly predictable side-effect of banning mainstream, tab-a-slot-b, show-the-boobs sex in an online space.

So far I haven’t found anything especially subversive— lots of groomed women and muscular men, lots of hypergender, whatever— but I actually like this tickling video because the tickler and the ticklee seem to have actual communication with each other. “OK, OK,” feet flex, feet relax. That’s kind of magic to see on YouTube.

Scar pride

{Flickr photo}

At first I was just looking for a few photos of people’s scars, having been reminded by Erin’s copy of the Learning to Love You More book. But, in typical internetto fashion, now I am intrigued by the patterns that show up when you look at a mass of public scar photos. There are some popular subjects— self-harm exhibitionism and processing, scars from pregnancy and cesarians (not so much finding episiotomy scar pics), voyeurism with optional processing (especially around major burn scars, and ritualized scarification by some African cultures), manifestos and statements about beauty and beautiful scars, and more general scar pride and storytelling. I find this last one the least complicated, the easiest to post photos without major accompanying comments. (In this one I’m only spotting basics, about how it’s easier to be proud of pretty much anything when you are cute and posing, but I still like how that calculator watch makes her look tough.)

Persepolis, surprises, posting to the future

This year’s Mystery Movie surprise screening at Cinecenta was Persepolis! I’d never been before, but the idea is that they screen something anticipated that hasn’t been released over here yet. Our only guess was that it might be that crazy Bob Dylan movie with multiple people trading the lead role… and then as soon as we had any kind of guess, I was worried that when we were wrong it would be disappointing. Surprises are fragile.

Seeing the film come up in black and white animation was so optimal that it felt sort of charming. This was the only upcoming movie I’ve been looking forward to, and almost the only one I even knew anything about. It’s hard to be more fun than anticipation, but I don’t think that accomplishment was the charming part. A guy from the Cinecenta staff had come out and introduced the screening beforehand, so already it was feeling like a human social event rather than a commercial transaction, and then it turned out to be a movie made by people I could picture in my head from watching the little making of feature on the movie website. Lots of people involved, rather than only vague forces of fame and culture and money. I think that was what felt so warm and fuzzy. (Maybe especially after considering a movie about Bob Dylan as a sort of opaque, unknowable icon?)

I don’t understand why more cinemas don’t put an effort into spectacles and gimmicks like this on a regular basis. Surprise movies (old or new) are going on my local cinema wishlist, along with having a human introduce each screening, offering table seating, downloadable mp3 commentary tracks, loveseat-style seating in more places than just the back row of The Roxy, and beer in non-plastic containers.

I’m not much for movie reviews, but I suppose I should mention that I liked Persepolis. Funny parts, sad parts, angry parts, cute parts, and a lot of characters processing ethics out loud, and integrating external wars and politics with internal, personal feelings. The animation was very beautiful. (And boy do I like the various Arabic Persian nose shapes that Satrapi draws.) I think you could check out the books and the movie in any order without wrecking anything.

This whole episode has been a curious test of my 7-day posting lag. When I realized which film was showing, I felt like I’d been hoarding information because none of my companions could read the future archives of my blog, where I’d stashed links and details about the movie. That’s exactly counter to my anti-exclusive motives for posting to the future. And then I felt disappointed that I wanted to write a follow-up post when the first thing I wrote about Persepolis might be due to publish less than a week in the future— my follow-up was at risk of being weirdly late. It turned out to be pretty well-timed after all, but it is hilarious the way media influences real life reactions. This is more disconcerting than the “I wish I’d brought my camera / Kodak moment” feeling.

Future, novelty, anti-competition

I’m currently posting at least seven days in the future, and I kind of dig it. At first, I just wanted to post a couple of things that would pop up on December 1, to give myself a deadline for building the new site templates. But now I like this restriction, that everything must lag by at least a week. It eliminates some kinds of elitism and exclusivity— I can’t be first, I can’t be fastest, I can’t be in the loop. Blogs are such a pro-novelty, pro-immediacy, pro-echo-chamber technology that putting a mandatory delay in there is interesting to me. And funny. It already makes the site seem strangely private, because I can see into its future and go there alone.

About this new design

I feel like a bit of a wanker talking about My New Website Design since the point for me is to be self-explanatory (I already talked about this stuff by posting the design). But I do like talking about design in regular words too, so here goes.

  • The monster’s name is Pearl. That takes some pressure off.
  • Mouthful of words.
  • Guts out.
  • Memento mori in general, and in specific.
  • These colours make me want to work.
  • The monster is modelled after the radiator that faces our toilet.

Toilet monster

  • There are more hiding throughout the apartment.

Hey you.

Maybe novelists are just nerds

This NYT article complaining about bibliographies in novels is hilarious to me. Have they never heard of sharing? Why this obsession with modesty?

“It’s terribly off-putting,” said James Wood, the literary critic for The New Republic. “It would be very odd if Thomas Hardy had put at the end of all his books, ‘I’m thankful to the Dorset County Chronicle for dialect books from the 18th century.’ We expect authors to do that work, and I don’t see why we should praise them for that work. And I don’t see why they should praise themselves for it.”

Do literary critics really have no interest in reading related books? Bibliographies are so clearly useful that I can’t understand anybody giving them the diss. Most of my reading list is harvested from the back pages of other books, especially for the indie thesis. I would love to see more bibliographies reference non-literary sources too: movies, art, people, places (you know, more like what websites do).

When websites post references and citations, that is taken as helpful even if it is a form of bragging. I guess on the internet it is ok to brag as long as you’re still contributing. I wonder how much that has to do with nerds taking delight in working too hard and caring too much. It’s not even real bragging or showing off, it’s just geeking out.

Jaron, wishing for crowd science

Digital Maoism Revisited lays out Jaron Lanier’s concerns that we don’t know how to build an open, optimistic kind collective intelligence. (I seem to have started collecting instances of people talking about The Age of Complexity.)

There is a third empirical problem to tackle, and it is the least comfortable. To what degree is mob behavior an inborn element of human nature? There are competing clichés about human identity: that we naturally and inevitably form into competing packs or that we would refrain from doing so if only we had decent gang-free peer groups in our teens. These theories can actually be tested. The genetic aspects of behavior that have received the most attention (under rubrics like sociobiology or evolutionary psychology) have tended to focus on things like gender differences and mating strategies, but my guess is that clan orientation will turn out to be the most important area of study.

I always find Jaron such a calm and polite writer, in contrast to the shit storms he occasionally stirs up around himself. I like this. “It is the least comfortable.” Such a considerate warning.

Regarding Sarah, among other things

Frame from 'Regarding Sarah'

In a discussion about music becoming meaningless, these two great moments:

“e.g., a type of music symbolizes rebellion rather than provoking rebellion, symbolizes outrageousness rather than being an outrage…” (frank kogan in the first issue of why music sucks, 1987)

i am afraid of the analogous phenomena happening: blog as signifier for experience, rather than experience itself.

I saw a great short film recently that had some smart ideas in this vein. Regarding Sarah is about an aging woman who starts videotaping her life because she is afraid she won’t remember it. Hilarity ensues, and eventually it becomes clear that the short film itself is Sarah’s final “highlights reel” about her life; once she completes it she will give up her recording habit.

(Aside: I wish you could watch this film online. How does that work for indie filmmakers? Is it helpful to show more people the film, or does that screw up festival applications and such?)

I remember the turning point of the film being something to the effect of, “It got to the point that I could allow myself only one hour of real living each day, or I wouldn’t have time to edit and review all the tapes.”

This was so analogous to the kind of media overload that people complain about on the internet— there are so many blogs to read that I don’t have time to write my own blog, there is so much writing to do in my own blog that I don’t have time to see people— that I may have started to hyperventilate.

I definitely started hyperventilating when Sarah began turning all her cameras off, one by one, saying for each one “I will no longer record myself sleeping, but I trust that I will still sleep,” and so on. (By the time the directors’ Q & A came around, I was all squeaky and kind of hiccupped out my question. It was dumb. Next time: deep breaths.)

The film ends with something like, “and I trust that God is recording everything perfectly, so it’s ok if I don’t remember it.”

I thought this was a new and strangely technological role to give to God. This is the first time I’ve seen a relevant spiritual reaction to excessive urges to record and interpret your own life. “When there was only one set of footprints, that’s when I blogged for you.” That would actually probably be comforting for a lot of bloggers.

The ending also brought a very old quote bubbling up from the depths of my memory. I’m afraid it is Perry Farrell.

I get off on athletes when they start getting all inspirational
Then they gotta go and mention Jesus and ruin it

I have no interest in relying on God to make life meet my expectations, whether by counting on a higher power to record my legacy or by any other method. I thought all those good ideas about media, time, memory and experience could have been pushed further than that. (My internal meanie-meter is going off right now, but I can’t find a way around it.) Why settle for faith in complacency when you could have a weird epiphany about technology, right?

I don’t know what that epiphany could be yet, but I think it might have something to do with these star employees from the tragic half-baked ideas department:

  • we are all fundamentally alone (an oldie but a goodie, right?)
  • lowering your standards is one way to trust more easily, but there’s a more powerful way that has something to do with love (this one is half-baked both in the sense of “that’s deep, man… [exhale]” and in the sense of “not very thorough”).
  • expectations: if they are wrecking your life, they are probably the wrong ones. (Also known as, “just because you want something impossible doesn’t mean God should do it for you.”)

And… insert some kind of joke about how I’ll keep you posted, except if I figure this out I’ll have no urge to post, by definition, but I’ll probably post anyway… except, you know, funny and not morose like this. Whee!