Sunday, December 16, 2007

bring out yer blogs!

hello all,
even though i have been blogging for a few months now, i'm actually getting really into subscribing to blogs and reading them on a regular basis. within the last week, i've subscribed to so many new blogs that i usually have at least 100 new blogs to read on google reader every day. anyway, if you have a blog, please post it in these comments and i will subscribe and maybe add it to the blog list at the right. thanks!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

not funny #4

ever see those goddamn commercials, with the lady who is like, "i was given two months to live by my doctor. and then i went to Super-Duper Cancer Instituter and my new doctor told me: you have no expiration date." or those fucking pharmaceutical commercials for chemo blood supplements that are like, "i'm ready to fight." i'm get so sick of some of the language surrounding cancer. i understand celebrating the survivor, and keeping hope. i know these are real necessities. but sometimes it goes too far. and i feel like commercials like these are thumbing their noses at the rest of us. like it's my mom's fault she couldn't "kick" cancer. two of the strongest, bravest, most hopeful people i know had cancer. and they still died. the strength of will can be powerful indeed. but sometimes illness is just too real. it's not just in our heads.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

not funny #3

when one of my best friends was going through chemo, i remember very distinctly that moment we were watching TV and she turned to me and said something like, "you know it's not just my head that goes bald. i feel like a 9 year old...." she giggled, but bitterly. i think the thing about chemo and cancer in general is that a lot of it is just romanticized. the throwing up, the balding, the pain. there is something about these parts of sickness that seem heroic--a type of vulnerability that rears its head. but then there are the other things. like constipation, or uncontrollable gas, or returning to pre-pubescent genitalia. i don't know how anyone could see these as heroic. but they are a reality.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

not funny #2

here is my second bumper sticker/t-shirt piece. i have never underwent chemotherapy myself. but i watched both my mother and one of my best friends go through the vomiting, aches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, etc. of chemo. logically, i understand why chemo is a very effective form of cancer treatment. but emotionally, it has never made sense to me why you need to make someone very sick--usually sicker than they already are--to make them better. i wonder how many oncologist encounter moral dilemmas when they watch a patient retching and screaming in agony because of their prescription. "first, do no harm" seems like a joke at that point. as an onlooker, a caretaker, a friend, chemo has made me sick as well. it's hard to explain. maybe it was that gleam of courage, fear, vulnerability and stubborn determination in my mother's eyes as she sat with an iv in one hand, sipping apple juice with the other. it was just so overwhelming. it made me feel ill. growing from the pit of my stomach and barely staying at the back of my throat. maybe it was my own fear physically manifesting itself in my digestive system. maybe it was pangs of sympathy. i don't know. i only know: chemo makes me sick.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

on humor

did a lot of writing today. about an hour of it consisted of brainstorming a series of bumper sticker/t-shirt slogans surrounding my newly found closeness to mourning. i hope to post more of them as i draw them out (we'll see how that goes). if i do, the series will be called, "not funny."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

on grief and creativity

i have been writing a review of Eileen Tabios's new book, The Light Sang as It Left Your Eyes: Our Autobiography and it moved me in a kinda major way. i wrote about it on friday in my journal, and i wanted to share that with you (with minimal edits).

sitting on the couch after baking this afternoon, i read eileen tabios's account of watching her father die. it brings me back to those cold december days of driving into boston to watch mom slip from confused sick child to comatose belabored patient. i wonder what mom would say to me, right now as i struggle to be the artist none in her family could be. almost everyone has had the training--endless music lessons, from piano to violin to koto. among those in my mother's family, there were poets, performers, potters, painters. i say that as if she wasn't one of them. she was.

over my piano--the one i have played since i was a child--hangs the last oil my mother painted. i consider it her best--dynamic and haunting, a pastoral scene that seems anything but. yet as much as everyone who calls/ed mom family has been an artist, none have done what i am doing now, giving up livelihood and respectability to claim their career as "artist"--on their tax forms, at dinner parties, in their own minds.

none of them have had the courage (stupidity? naivete? desire in the first place?) to do this. tabios let her father's time of passing become fodder for her art. she writes of her discomfort, her dissatisfaction with doing this. but it marvels me. i recall how mom's death marked a sudden dearth in my creative life. until that day she vomited her last real meal, i had been rapidly creating and exploring.

then it stopped.

for months--years actually--i found no solace in creating, no meaning. i tried. i would touch pen to paper and force out lines, only to drop the instrument and spend the next two hours staring off into space. i couldn't even cry sometimes. but when i did, i lost all faculties. unable to keep from spewing all the liquid in my body from every orifice. shaking, uncontrollably until i was just too tired to continue. finally, last january, six years after my mother's death, a grant opportunity forced me to revisit that era of creative famine.

i wrote a proposal for a solo opera about cancer called "una corda."

yes, it took the grant--the possibility of fame, prestige and money--to integrate the most defining moment of my life into my art. after failing to submit the proposal, i've worked on it very little since. but reading eileen tabios has forced me to wonder, what would happen if i just grit my teeth and walk down that path? who would i meet, and what would they say?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

process, process, fucking process!

so, because i mentioned that damned comic to all of you, i have actually been trying to work on it all week. and then i read this comment by la rebelde and something hit me. maybe i can actually post it without all the fanfare. maybe i can reveal to you my crappy sketches and my chicken scratch handwriting. maybe this isn't the project to get nit-picky and super anal about. maybe imperfection has its charms.

and so it goes. it's not like i'll win a macarthur with this comic. geez! and then i can cross something off my damn list! woohoo. okay, so in the interest of respecting the creative process, below i am sharing every bit of this comic with all of you. i beg your patience. please note that if you click on the images, they will open bigger on a new page. (incidentally, i have played around with the comic medium. you can see some examples of my comic post cards here and here.)

draft one:

the text reads: panel 1: *a 'funny' joke from the shop...*; "hey, why are women so bad at measuring?"
panel 2: "he, he. i dunno, why?"
panel 3: "cause they think six inches is this big!"
panel 4: *in my head, i think of a funny response...*; "hmmm"
panel 5: "why are dykes so good at measuring?"
panel 6: "'cause when six inches is this big, they return it to the store!"
panel 7: "he, he." *smug look*

well, this was really rough, which was fine. so then i began drawing a more refined version of it in pencil, here:

and then it hit me. it wasn't necessary to cram eight panels into one sheet of paper, since it wouldn't show up so well online (as the scan above shows). so then i started drawing individual panels at about two per page. my plan was to sketch out each one and then trace it with pen onto vellum.

so here is page one:

and here is the first image traced onto vellum:

second page:

of course, the fatigue sets in and my drawing slowly got sloppy:

but note the valiant effort of trying to perfect my hand grasping the makita brand sander.

and finally, i tried to start the next one with my hand beginning to cramp:

and then i thought, "like i'm gonna get a macarthur with this comic! just post the fucking thing!"


Sunday, November 25, 2007

on roots

this weekend i've been cooking a fair amount. surprising, considering that we ordered t-day dinner in (for the past four t-days, i have cooked a huge meal for family and friends; this year we took a break). last night, i cooked oatmeal bread based on this recipe from the slow cook. my version wasn't nearly as light and fluffy as the slow cook's (probably due to the fact that i used whole wheat flour for half of the recipe), but it has been delicious.

today, i decided i wanted to tackle the roots i bought. last week, for my birthday, wonderful partner took me to an excellent foodie-type place called zoot. there, we tried a beautifully earthy root salad that has haunted me all week. so when i went to the co-op yesterday, i loaded up on beets, parsnips, turnips, and carrots. if there were rutabaga and celery root, i would have gotten that, too. so, after much web research (is that an oxymoron?), i found a great recipe at tea & cookies and combined it with this one at recipe bazaar. here is the dish going into the oven:
and here is how it looked after the oven:

and finally, my dinner plate from tonight:

note the slice of oatmeal bread that i baked last night. the sausage is locally made bratwurst that i sauteed in beer. the potatoes are left over from some i bought to make mash to use up the gravy we ordered in for t-day. anyway, it was very yummy.

nothing to do with the lotto, i know. and you might say it has nothing to do with art, either. well, i'm trying to get back on the artist's way and i'm on a chapter about abundance. one of the tasks is to bake or cook. i guess this is my version.

on how to do everything and yet nothing at all

so yet another t-day has come and gone and here i am on the other side of thirty. and i'm both moving and stuck at the same time. ever have one of those days (or months, or years) where you feel like you are doing a lot of things, yet nothing seems to get DONE? well, welcome to my world.

things have been getting done, i mean, kinda. i finally uploaded that website i've been working my ass off to complete. you can see it here. it turned out pretty okay, and far more web compliant than i thought when i started.

this being my second web gig, i have one more to go before i'll be out of those gigs. i've been writing to people on craigslist to try to get freelance stuff, but alas! if any of you readers wants a webdesigner, lemme know. ah, who am i kidding? most folks who want to do web design either know how to do it themselves or are willing to shell out lots and lots of money to get someone with a graphic design degree to do it. but i thought i would ask.

so, like i says, i feel like i'm doing a lot, but nothing gets done. nothing of mine, that is! in fact, last week, i sat at the piano, and worked on a few lines from a song i've been writing. great! now it's further along, but how much do you wanna bet it won't be done by the end of the year? have i mentioned that list i keep on my wall of my projects in progress? have i reported checking any of them off?

i guess what i'm coming up against is a deluge of inspiration, but a certain lack of focus. every time i read a friends blog or look at a book, i think, "cool, that's actually doable, i can do something like that..." and the truth is, i can. but what happens when i have this scattered body of work, everything a first go, but hardly any sophomore works in the same medium? am i destined to do one-offs for the rest of my life? how the hell can i expect someone to pay me as an artist to do that?

one person who has actually been inspiring me in these moments is kristina wong. it seems she went through similar woes only a couple of years back and now i look at her and am totally inspired by where she has been going. then, of course, the insecurity sets in, where i think: well, kristina is so good at just getting stuff done, and she's started to focus on stuff, and maybe i think i can do stuff like she can, but what if i try and find out i'm not half as talented as she is? and stuff. it's a tough place to be.

and i've been working on different blog posts for a while, and this isn't even one i've been working on! shit on a stick, i say. shit on a stick. well, if you see a comic posted here about my days at the shop, please know that i've actually finished one of my projects, as tiny as it might be.


Saturday, November 17, 2007


very quick ones. number one: i quit my job at the shop. it was time. number two: i have started tutoring, although i only have one student so far. number three: i turn thirty in seven hours. woo-hoo! now i won't feel like the baby around all my friends! i have been working on posts for this, but will upload them upon completion. just letting you know, i'm still here!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

oh yeah!

btw, i wanted to share with you, my dear readers. a couple days after my depressing post, one of the craigslist leads i wrote to (under the assumption nothing would happen, of course) sent me a message that they wanted to cast me in a new play. and so, i am the "puckish" character in an ensemble production called, "nighthawks," written by alpha, of passion fruit video.

so yay!

hi there, ho there

haven't posted for a while. there's been a funeral and deadlines and such. i'm considering leaving my woodshop job in pursuit of greener pastures. the shop has become a bit of an albatross in my life, i no longer enjoy just working with wood. my friend at the shop has quit and there are some unpleasant people there.

the idea is to make more money so that i can work less. we'll see. any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

on employment

right now i am sitting at my desk, at home alone. one of us being out of the house in the evening is a rare occurrence, something that both my partner and i tend to strategize and plan for. i had thought i would write or work on one of my websites, or at least, do something that i hardly have time for.

i sat down, opened the short story i've been working on and then decided to checkout what kinds of jobs were on craigslist. i've been contemplating looking for another job. life at the woodshop has become more chaotic and as much as i still enjoy making cabinetry and furniture, there are many things about the shop getting on my nerve. it also pays very low, meaning that it takes time away from my art while not giving me enough money to live.

well, looking at craigslist jobs is probably one of the best ways to get discouraged really fast. no, i don't have a degree in graphic design. i haven't worked 5 years as a web designer and i don't feel like making a site for your eyeware. i don't want to give up my weekends, and i don't want to work for free or very little.

shit on a stick. is this all that is out there? i have so much to say, but i'm getting sick of this screen. maybe i'll go pop in my old standby, pride and prejudice with colin firth.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

hello out there!

just a quick note, if you're out there, i'd love to get a comment. even if it's just, "i'm reading." thanks!

Monday, October 8, 2007

on happiness

i just got back from the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. it was a strange experience, seeing the girl i've known so long at the alter, with a minister, wearing a $4000 dress (that she apparently bought for $500 on ebay), smiling and crying. i still remember that morning in sixth grade when, in the moments before the bell rang for homeroom, she pulled me right next to the radiator and whispered in my ear, "i got my period." being who i am, i of course said, "what?" but once i understood it, we were really bonded for life. i knew i was the first person besides her mom and perhaps her sister to hear this news. and ever since, i feel like we have been a kind of family, albeit not always in touch.

it was an overwhelming weekend for me. i got to hang out with a few other friends from my adolescence. i left massachusetts when i was 13 to move with my parents to japan. even though that experience was confusing and strange, i took it as it was. having moved to the japanese countryside, i took it as a given that my new friends would look at me as some exotic presence. but i never thought the friends i left behind in upper-middle class wellesley would see me any different. having gone back and experiencing a strange aura about myself, this was the first time i realized that what had been very matter-of-fact for me was actually out of the ordinary for my friends. i was not only their friend that moved away, but their friend that moved abroad. not only was i their friend that moved abroad, i was the friend that somehow fully assimilated the language and culture of that new and very different place. i guess as much as i see our world as transnational, it dawned on me finally this weekend how that experience might have seemed, well, glamorous. even though i felt it as an experience of deep estrangement, from the onlooker, it was an experience of broadening.

and here i show up--men's suit and all, wearing a bowtie and designer haircut. when asked what i did, i said, "i used to work at university of texas as a lecturer, but now i'm trying to be an artist full-time. meanwhile, i work in a woodshop, sanding." my friends took it with aplomb. even though going back to my place of origin made me realize exactly how different my trajectory was from many of my friends, i was really heartened by a certain bond that radiated warmth and renewed compassion.

you see, during my years of college, i learned to hate many things about my childhood. i hated my upper-middle class background, i hated the wishy-washy liberal values, i hated the manicured lawns and preppy clothes, i hated the perfect, hetero-normative families. but my opinions slowly softened since college. my hatred turned into critical observation, into contemplative problematics. now, instead of hatred, i enjoy exploring the tension between loving collective politics and procedure with an undying desire to get rich. my once radical politics are a bit more pargamatic, and somewhat lazy. and even though i see the problems with marriage, i also notice myself staying home on weekends and savoring domestic bliss with my partner, so much that i find myself daydreaming about our future decades together; marriage seems like my kind of bag.

and there i was at a straight wedding, surrounded by upwardly mobile young professionals, bawling my eyes out.

my friend had planned for everything. it was a moving ceremony and a mean after party. it kept me thinking about what my own "wedding" might look like. who knows? the room was mostly awash with urban professional asian americans. i believe there were something like 40 yale mbas there. lots of lawyers, bankers and doctors. it's not the kind of room i'm used to working. a kind of culture shock. but i was smiling all weekend. and then the bonny bride (she really was bonny, glowing, in fact) took the time to call me and another old friend to her honeymoon suite just to spend some time talking with us. she was so in the moment, happy and yet caring, i was overcome with emotion. it was really inspiring.

somehow, the weekend has made me very contemplative. nothing like a blast from the past to help me assess where i am right now. how is my current state fitting in with my plans? how am i going to get where i'm going? and how am i going to do it, even if i don't win the lotto?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

on termination

today was my last day of individual therapy. it's a big day in a lot of ways. i've been seeing a therapist for almost six years, this particular one for almost five. the relationship with one's therapist is a very intimate one--albeit complicated and one-sided.

we first brought up the idea of "termination" about two months ago. after flaking out on several appointments, i faced up to the fact that it could be a possibility. i'm at a different place in my life. despite the economical hardships i explore here, for the first times since perhaps my childhood, i have been experiencing a prolonged and constant content with my life--happiness, if you will. so it turned out that every time i went in to therapy, i didn't have topics of deep significance to "work on."

i feel a bit lonely about it. besides the fact that my therapist is very good, i've grown to like her a lot. and she has really helped me dig myself out of depression--a depression i've had since i was at least ten years old. (the image of jung above is a kind of tribute. my therapist mentioned a couple of times that of the psychoanalysts, jung was her favorite, though she always refused to identify as a jungian.)

when i quit my job, my therapist gave me a discount on my sessions. i ended up paying half of her hourly fee. before i went to session today, i imagined winning the lotto and handing her a big check to make up for the money she discounted me. i imagine she wouldn't take that money now.

anyway. i'm not completely out of the care of mental health practitioners. i still go to non-individual therapy and you might see me writing about it here in the future. but for now, please share my bitter-sweet triumph. here's to hoping for continued mental health.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

on making a wage

so you might recall a little while ago, i wrote a post about how i make money. this is a bit of an update. i'm still working at the wood shop and the grocer, but i've finally started working on the websites and i've made a little chunk of change with the deposits. once those are done, i will be posting links to them here.

i'm really glad to be working on these sites. i enjoy it and it doesn't make me feel grimey. i am pretty confident that my sites are cleaner, easier to use, and generally better than what most people with dreamweaver would design. but then i hit a wall.

you see, even though i design better than most amateurs and even some pros, i am now behind the "industry standard" for web design (there is a whole list of standards for websites that corporations and government institutions strive to uphold. in my experience, small businesses and artists are about 50-50 in upholding them). i've been looking at a lot of sites and without getting into too much mumbo jumbo, i've realized that i need to update my process for design. i learned web design about three years ago now, and it's beginning to show.

not to say that the sites i'm already designing are not up to snuff. after extensive research, i believe i have asked for nothing more than what my clients will get. i've seen people ask for more money and design sites that are uglier and less functional than what i'm working on.

but here is where i have to contemplate something. i can learn a fair amount on my own about updating my design process to be closer to "industry standard." but somewhere along the line, i could learn a lot more if i took a class of some sort.

part of me wants to learn more just out of principle and pride: if i'm gonna ask for money, i should execute it to the tee. another reason for learning this new set of web skills is that once i become current with my design strategies, i could potentially ask for 3-5 times as much money as i am asking for on my current design projects--but is it worth it? should i spend the equivalent of what i would charge for building an entire site to acquire some new skills that may or may not yield an income? i mean, web design is great--it's creative, i can be my own boss (kinda) and it has high earning potential. but it's not my passion. it doesn't make my ears tingle or give me a sense of purpose. would it be better for me to spend that hard-earned money on something else, like a trip to a new city that could inspire my writing, or renting video equipment for a weekend, or renting a rehearsal space for a new show or... rent? credit card bills? insurance?

i don't know. if any of you fair readers has any advice, i'm open to it all.

on winning

hello everyone! on sept 18, i won my first lotto! i got a whopping $2! here is the image of my winning ticket in all its glory!

now, if i could only add several zeros to the right side of my winnings....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

on the lotto and the arts

so, yesterday, my partner and i watched an indy film with alan rickman in it called "snow cake." As the opening credits rolled, both my partner and i saw a tiny credit line like the image above. i exclaimed, "funds from the national lotto!? where is this?" beautiful partner told me it's a canadian film, so i said, wow, the canadians sure do know how to use their lotto! our neighbors to the north are mighty enlightened! then she said, "you should blog about it!"

so after some poking around, i found out that this film was not a canadian production (even though it was set and filmed in ontario) but a uk production. turns out, it received 1 million pounds (sterling, that is) from the national lottery of the uk. upon even further investigation, there is an entire public body, the uk film council, that awards money to film projects from the national lottery fund.

according to the uk national lottery site, 28% of the lotto money goes to "the good causes"--health, education, environment, community, "charity," art, sports, and "heritage." 16.7% of that goes to the arts. a sizable amount. in addition, the film council has a page dedicated to diversity in film. looking at the budget, the film council has granted money to huge films like "gosford park" as well as to lesser-known shorts, amounting to nearly 10 million pounds (roughly $18m dollars). this is huge, and is only the film arm of the "arts" portion of "the good causes."

in comparison, mega millions and texas lotto are a bit more vague, 35% of megamillions goes to "whatever the state chooses." and the texas lotto site breaks down the funds as shown in the left graph. note that absolutely none of it is designated to the arts, or even health care. recently, i found out that the 8 billion that was supposed to be going to texas education from the lotto (according to billboards i see) is actually not accurate at all. it turns out that a lot of that money gets redirected to other things. what? i don't know. texas public schools rank between 25th and 39th in the country, depending on your source, making me really question the efficacy of "lotto education."

now, i could go on and on about the hypocracy of the texas and megamillions lotto. but instead, i'm more interested in how other nations view "the arts." i remember when i was taking classes in conservatory, one factoid we learned in our intro music history class was that austria spends 20% of their national budget on the arts while the u.s. spends 0.02%. that was the late 90s, but i doubt much has changed. here in the states, the arts are often relegated to the category of "product." therefore, non-commercial arts and artists must struggle to: a. make our art "commercially viable," b. find private wealthy benefactors who support our work or c. learn to starve. whereas some places see the arts as part of the public sphere--where art is part of the political and structural fabric of a culture. the arts in the u.s. are in the private sphere, indicators of taste and consumption, commodities that gain or lose value over time.

this yields varying results. the recent boom of local opera houses would not have happened if the u.s. had as many large-scale state-funded opera houses like germany or italy. these larger opera houses have been bogged down by the responsibility to stage well-known, canonical operas. conversely, local opera houses have taken the route of putting on original operas or smaller programs, creating vibrant programs supported by younger crowds.

even though i know there are exceptions like this, i get very angry about the state of the arts in the u.s. but it's not just "arts funding." artists and the arts suffer from other institutional failings. if we had some type of social/public safety nets like healthcare or welfare, i believe our experiences would be radically different.

my favorite example is j.k. rowling. her whole thing is that she was on welfare when she wrote the first harry potter book. in britain, it's relatively easy for someone to get on welfare. not so here. who knows if potter would have ever taken flight on his nimbus 2000 if britain's welfare system were similar to ours? but we know what happened. thanks to that year on the dole, rowling has become the richest woman in britain. her personal taxes alone have paid for that year on welfare hundreds of times over, not to mention the business she has brought to britain through a film franchise, merch, and potter-themed tourism. if you ask me, britain made a very good investment in that particular artist.

i know britain has its problems (racism and xenophobia come to mind). but from this side of the pond, i can't help but envy those artists on the other side.

confession # 1

forgive me readers, for i have sinned.
this week, i forgot to purchase a lotto ticket for tuesday's drawing. i must atone for this misstep.

i will continue using this forum for other confessions i have.
in the name of the art, the craft, and the inspiration,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

on dreams

about two weeks ago now, i had a dream.

my partner and i were running a bed and breakfast. austin city limits (ACL, which usually happens about this time of year) was in town and we were hosting lots of musicians and fans for the festival.

now, we were running a pretty modest b&b, so when we looked at the roster, we were quite surprised to see "Sir Paul McCartney" as a guest arriving that day. apparently, the ACL organizers had a mix-up and forgot to book a VIP hotel suite for him.

so paul mccartney arrives at our house, complete with his entourage. he was nice and all, and complained about being tired, so we showed him to his room. i kept calling him "sir paul," which made me cringe. i've always thought he was the "boring beatle." just as he was settling in, he kept flirting with me--touching my arm, calling me "hun" and "love" and looking at me quite intently with those droopy eyes. man, this guy must be getting murder through his divorce! i thought. but i wanted to be professional about it, so i asked if he needed anything. he said he wanted water. i went to our pantry to get him a bottle of water, only to find we had run out. so i go back to "sir paul" who had started dozing off on his bed and told him, no we didn't have bottled water, but we had filtered water. i then said, i know he's a singer, so i thought be might be particular about that type of thing. he said, yeah, i'd prefer bottled. so then i asked, any particular brand? and he said, no, as long as it's bottled. then, as i turned to leave, he said, wait, i'll come with you! i rolled my eyes to myself but said, okay, "sir paul."

there was a convenience store just two blocks from the house. "sir paul" kept chatting me up and flirting, which kept disturbing me, since i'm probably way more butch than him and he seems to usually like blond femmey types. but i wanted to still be the professional host. we walked into the convenience store, where i knew lots of the black women and latinas who worked there. i got a box of bottled water, but had to set it down because "sir paul" was getting rowdy with some folks in the street. when i returned to where i set down the water, it was gone.

knowing that the folks "sir paul" had harassed just stepped into the store i was in, i walked with "sir paul" down to another convenience store, that had a small cold-cuts station and lottery ticket cases. i bought a case of water, and asked the cashier to look after it while i located "sir paul" in the store. i heard some other ladies talking about him. when i finally found him, the cashier had re-sold my water to someone else, and the water case was empty. then i walked up to the lady behind the bakery counter, who i apparently knew, and told her: you know what this means, right? they always sell out of water when a war happens. i think we've invaded iran!

and the dream ended there. i'll leave it to you, my lovely readers, to interpret its meaning.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

on donations

one of you lovely readers has suggested i add a donation link to this blog. so here it is: if you would like to donate money to me or this project, you may do so by following the paypal link below. if you donate money and i do end up winning the jackpot, i will return your donation times 20, or donate that amount to the artist, organization, or charity of your request. if you think of it as an investment, a 2000% return is indeed good. hee hee. (please let me know if this button doesn't work!)

on sickness and health

i'm a bit of a hypochondriac. i'm not ashamed to admit it. sometime i will post on the many reasons in my personal history why i am.

but this week, after visiting my primary care physician (pcp) and taking a blood test, a breath test and a fluroscopy, i have been thinking about the relationship between art, health, and capitalist society.

where to start? let's start at the end. today, i found myself sleeping an obscene amount, and not in that lazy, let's enjoy saturday because we can, way. i feel my body just refusing to wake up, as if held down by an enormous weight. i've decided to blame the prilosec, which i took for the first time yesterday morning.

i have a cough that hasn't gone away for about two months. it's one of those intense coughs that makes me double over sometimes in fits. it interrupts conversations, it keeps me awake, it makes my partner look at me with those very concerned doe-eyes. for the first three weeks, i thought it was just a bacterial bronchitis and that it would go away. but finally, i decided to go see my pcp. she listened to my chest, looked at my throat, and very patiently and thoroughly asked about my symptoms and diagnosed it as allergic bronchitis--a cough brought on by the post-nasal drip caused by allergies. this made sense. for anyone who lives in central texas, you know that allergies afflict everyone for at least a few months a year. pollen, mold, and various animal allergies are almost always abound. so doc prescribed a generic antihistamine (which cost less than the generic claritin i've been taking) and a generic nasal spray (which has an awful taste and burns my nose).

two weeks later, although my symptoms were okay during the day, i would still have coughing fits at night. i went back to my doc on thursday. she shook her head a little and after asking whether i've been consistently taking my meds, she said, "i think it is probably acid reflux, but i'm gonna have you take some tests to make sure. once you're done with those tests, immediately start on prilosec."

so i went in to the lab, after getting my blood drawn to check my cholesterol (which is yet another problem i have, i believe it is genetic), i breathed into a bag, drank a nasty drink, and then breathed into another bag. then yesterday, i scheduled a fluroscopy. it involves not eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum (i remember saying to the person who scheduled my appointment, "not even water?!") from the night before. then, they made me drink this fizzy drink that "inflated my stomach" and then i had to drink barium. if you've never had barium, it's basically liquid chalk. she took still pictures of the barium going down my throat and into my stomach. it was kinda neat seeing my own stomach on the screen in front of me. she took pictures of me swallowing barium while standing up, while lying on my stomach, and then she took "different pictures" of me on my back. then she told me to be on the lookout for constipation. wonderful.

but this whole ordeal has made me very thankful that i have insurance. at least for now. i enrolled in COBRA when i left UT. this is a way for me to keep the same insurance i had as an employee at the same rate UT had been paying. it sounds like a deal, but it still costs me over $300 a month. but with my monthly medications, office visits, and therapy, i usually end up breaking even. the thing about COBRA is i'm only eligible for 18 months, so it will eventually run out.

the real rub is the fact that UT doesn't recognize domestic partnerships. if my partner and i were married, i'd have free insurance and it would only run out when my partner left her job. whenever i think about that, it becomes acutely real and material how homophobia affects my life. it will cost me $4000 in health care to be queer this year.

but after briefly taking a tantrum about heterosexism, i begin to hate the state. ever since that time in a london hospital when i hypothesized having HIV to a doctor and her saying, "we'll take you on--for free." i have been ashamed of the U.S. health care system. we live in one of the only first world countries where poor people (and even middle class people) are not allowed to be sick. when we/they are "allowed" (though local grants and non-profits) to be sick, we/they must accept that the care we/they receive is inferior to that of upper-middle class patients. it becomes painfully clear that the lives of the poor and uninsured are less important than others.

i have had a strange relationship with my health. it just happens that i seem to develop ailments that are not usually diagnosable with the textbook symptoms. the cough mentioned above is just one example. it took me many years of uneven periods with different nurses and doctors before i was finally diagnosed with poly-cystic ovaries. it took going to one of the best gynos in the city to come up with a treatment plan that didn't involve birth control pills that i did not want or need to take. it took that diagnosis process to reveal i was clinically depressed and at risk for diabetes.

none of these revelations would have happened if i had been going to an hmo or medicare. the doctors just wouldn't have had the time, patience, or resources to figure the whole thing out. and these doctors were available to me because i had/have one of the best insurance programs in the state.

almost all of my friends who are artists full-time are uninsured. some are in heterosexual marriages that allow them insurance, but those friends are few. almost all the dykes i know who don't work for UT or IBM are uninsured or under-insured, even if they do make an okay living. everybody i work with, including my boss, is uninsured. i have a good friend who will be paying off a $200k hospital bill for the rest of her life. sure, she only pays $20 a month now, but if she were to come into any money or assets, she would basically have to give it up right away.

a lot of political analysts seem to think the 2008 presidential election will be decided on health care. i doubt it. lobbyists are too invested in for-profit health care. and for-profit health care is here to stay. whereas before, places tried to keep it under wraps that they were curing people for money, now it is becoming more obvious. i heard that a lot of hospitals in the area are beginning to call patients "customers" complete with the "customer is always right" mentality. and hospital and pharmaceutical boardrooms are filling more and more with business tycoons and accountants rather than doctors and researchers. many doctors, who feel it defies the hippocratic oath, grumble, even start their own clinics. my old-school physician father in-law said, "it's not about doctoring anymore, it's about getting the patient out of the facility as soon as possible." the pensive look on his face said a lot.

i don't look forward to losing my insurance in less than a year's time. in all likelihood, i will end up joining some type of health plan, no doubt much inferior to my current plan, but something that will let me sleep at night.

it's just i feel that along with equality, choice, and speech, the right to become ill and have access to the best care is a fundamental human right. doesn't that fall under the "pursuit of happiness" that our country was founded?

when i hit the lotto, i think i'll just buy a group insurance program and just allow anyone who wants to join it. especially those dykes and artists. they'll be first to get on.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

how i make money

while i'm waiting for the rules of gravity to lift me up from living down, i still have to support myself. it's not the easiest thing. here's what i've been doing to keep afloat:

confirmed sources of income:

  • my "savings" from over fifteen years of gifts, inheritance and, yes, saving my own money from my old job. this source is rapidly running out.
  • my job at the shop-i work at a woodshop, where we make mostly custom-designed cabinetry. i went to the job with no skills. i started as the "sander." i never appreciated the importance of sanding wood until i began doing it all day. sanding is still my main duty, but i have been learning to do assembly an other things. just yesterday, i learned how to use the band saw and the drill press. very exciting. i also recently learned how to use the router.
  • NEW! working at the local japanese grocer. i start on sunday. discount, here we come! woo-hoo!
  • web design: although i haven't actually seen any money from it yet, i'm currently working with three clients, and they are all good for their money. if all goes well, this will get me a reasonable chunk of change by the end of the month.
  • selling stuff. my biggest sale was my old 1971 honda trail bike i had bought two years back. it had given me headaches, mostly of the department of transportation variety. otherwise, it ran fine and would have given me cheap transportation. but alas, i just couldn't go that extra bit to get it street legal. i sold it almost a month ago for less than half what i paid for it. i was very sad about the whole thing, so to mourn my loss, i drew the above picture of the engine starting shaft. thanks to the sale, however, i kept afloat okay for august.
unknown or mix-success sources of income:
  • ebay: i listed my first ebay item last week, and the bidding is actually getting pretty high. at least higher than i expected. this evening, i'll be listing more items. i have a huge cache of pretty nice clothes i needed for my administrative job at UT. now that i wear a stained t-shirt and shorts to work and have plenty of casual clothes for every other day, i have no need for the amount of slacks, dress shirts and blazers i own. i love mens clothes and have gotten attached to mine, but they would serve me better as cash than languishing unworn in my closet.
  • i sold one book, a duplicate copy of "citizen 13660" last week. like the clothes i own, i have many books that my academic job demanded that i do not need. i'm beginning to create a pile of books that are not needed anymore. but for a lot of reasons, this is much harder than sifting through my clothes. sigh.
  • ads and affiliate programs: over the past four months i have earned about $2 from this. boo-hoo.
  • items at cafe press: i took this anatomical heart image from my mail art and slapped it on merchandise. i wonder if i actually designed a t-shirt front whether this would work better....
failed sources of funding:
  • grants, competitions, and fellowships: i've applied to about twenty so far, to no avail. i'm trying a new tack of applying to (unpaid) residencies. i hope that works. i'll be posting those details later on.
  • translating work: had a possible client lined up, but backed out on me.
  • selling my art at art galleries

Sunday, September 2, 2007

more lotto plans

in the past week, i have imagined yet more ways to use the money in my imagined lottery win. the first idea came to me while i was in one of the locally-owned bookstores. i saw many books, trinkets, and puzzles that could only be sold here, not at chains or even amazon. we are lucky enough in austin to have many independent bookstores. these stores encourage local art and community building. yet they are always in danger. i think the stores in austin are doing okay, partly due to the "shop locally" campaign of austin. but it made me think, if i won the lotto, i should try to help these places out. how would that work, i thought. then it came to me: i could buy books from these stores and have then sent to... local prisons and schools! how great would that be!

my other idea was one i have had for over a decade. i want to start an organization for artists of color. something that would grant money to artists as well as provide gallery and performance space, host retreats, and so on. i still haven't quite figured out the specifics for this dream, but it has been bothering me for a while. the beauty of funding such an organization with lotto money is that by sheer virtue of the large endowment, it can afford artists of color more "plush" grants that would hopefully enable them to refuel from the too-often cobble-together living we tend to have. because even when we do get grants, from people of color organizations, too, the most it will do is pay for a couple months rent. and usually we are required to put in some administrative or educational labor, which can be anti-creative to some. i myself love to teach and work with others throughout my creative process, but i know many artists who find this part of funding to be particularly tedious. with my dream organization, i would fund artists for at least a full year, on an upper-middle class wage, and only require them to do what they wish with the organization. or something like that. it would have to vary. flat out grants to some, residencies for others, lectures, and so on.

of course, the question i ask myself when i have these fantasies is always: that's good and all, kt, but what can you do now to work toward these ideas? i often fear that my lack of funds hinders my ability to help myself and others with the resources i do have. it also makes me wonder, if i'm doing so little now, what makes me think that having a lot of money will make me do better?

when people talk about the ethics of art, they often only refer to the image, metaphor and message art often embodies. but what about the ethics of process? what about the entangled web of representation/ideology and commerce? we are not so virtuous as we like to see ourselves. i would love to run this blog and my personal site free of advertising, but i would also love to earn money from them. it makes me think of played-out metaphors between art and prostitution. and the best thing i can think to do in these moments is fight as hard as possible against paralysis. which is difficult, because it means i will inevitably make mistakes.

but then again, the best place to make mistakes is in one's art, right?

on clerks

last tuesday, i stopped by a gas station to pick up my tickets while filling up my gas tank. i actually didn't think they would have lotto tickets, but i was pleased to find they did. when i got to the counter, the clerk was a young effete man, wearing a middrift-showing teeny tiny shirt, very tight jeans, and a red ballcap slightly askew. he also had long hair pulled back in a ponytail. his eyelashes were long, dark, and perfectly curled, while his eyebrows were two perfect arcs. i enjoyed talking with him, even though he was very indifferent to me. i kept imagining the fierce drag queen he must be once he clocks out in the evening.

the thing about the clerks is that they have thus far occupied marginal parts of society. they have been latino, south asian, and queer.

even more evidence of the strange places in society that the lotto occupies.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

on buying lotto tickets

since i decided i wanted to do this project, i started looking for places to buy lotto tickets. it can be surprisingly difficult finding a place to buy. or sometimes, you're in a place, like the HEB down the street, and in order to buy a ticket, you have to go to a separate queue from the checkout, where they have the western union and prepaid cell phones.

the lottery is by design laden with class problems. in many places, it is the only form of sanctioned gambling, because it funds the state. here in texas, there are billboards touting that the texas lotteries have supplied $8 billion to texas schools. but the problem is that it is really another way to drain the poor and working class. i see it as similar to tobacco tax, where government basically punishes people for something socially unacceptable or wrong about them--being addicted to a government subsidized substance and being poor or in need of money.

i bought a ticket yesterday on the way home from work. the place i went to is on the east side, where the student apartments converge with black and latino communities that are slowly being pushed out of the city. they didn't have a lottery sign out front, but the mosaic of signs hocking generic cigarette prices by the carton, phone cards, snuff, and western union services made me strongly suspect i would be able to find lotto tix.

being a friday, the moment i stepped in the store, there was a long line by the check cashing counter. everyone in line was chicano, no doubt many of them day laborers working for nearby construction, landscaping, and cleaning companies. covering the store's street sign read a huge handpainted banner declaring, "cambio 1%." remembering that the liquor store where i once worked charged 7% in goods for check cashing, it was no wonder this store was so popular. as i took in all the signs, i noticed the tell-tale case of scratch-off roles next to the register, and just as i was about to ask the clerk whether they sold mega million tickets, he handed the man before me at the counter three sheets of mega millions numbers saying, "good luck."

the clerk was a well-dressed south asian man. he took the scan-tron form in my hand, put it through the lotto machine and gave me a ticket. as i handed him my dollar, i asked for my form back, and he defensively told me that since it had been folded, he figured i didn't need it anymore and tore it up. ah well.

but this is a scene that happens everywhere. stores run by immigrants, acting as places for other immigrants and people of color to provide much-needed resources. but these resources are also flawed and wrought with the manipulative signs of late capitalism: to get your paycheck, you need to give up 1% of it; to have a crack at being rich, you have to pay money that is really more like throwing it away; to support your family, you need to give up another percentage to use western union; to talk to them, you have to buy a phone card.

the only people who regularly use these stores are working class, immigrants, and the desperately poor. i suppose every once in a while an artist like me trying to play the lotto goes in, but then again, i'm now in manual labor, with co-workers who cash their checks at similar places every friday. i'm a part of this culture, now, yet in the position of observer.

i can't help but dwell on the injustice while also feeling a twinge of class guilt when i buy these tickets. i'm amazed that exploring my dreams through imagined riches also bring me back to a certain reality and adjusted perspective.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

my first ticket: alas!

here is my first ticket.

there were no matches with the winning number. there was no winning ticket, so the jackpot has gone up to over 200 million. later on today, i'll be buying another ticket for tomorrow's draw.

incidentally, this is not my first lotto ticket ever, however. that would be three plays i did in december while visiting my partner's family. my mother in-law, a very successful surgeon, saw that the jackpot was high and said, "maybe we should play!" so i volunteered to get her a ticket. she gave me some money and told me to buy some for myself.

it was a good excuse for me to actually buy one, since i so often joked about it. so i went into a liquor store while my father in-law walked around looking at wine. of course, the form is stupidly simple, thus paradoxically confusing. i filled it out totally wrong, so the nice korean man had to tell me how to do it right. i chose one number and requested two quick draws. that yielded nothing, too.

i remember joking with my partner about how even though i saw her parents as wealthy, they wanted to play the lotto. just goes to show that we're always wanting more money, even when we have a lot. i wonder if i win this jackpot whether i will still want more...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the method of "starving artist: the lotto plan"

i decided to begin the piece this week, tuesday, to be exact.

even though the idea was in my head since april to do this, it wasn't until the last few weeks that i've heard myself actually thinking about "the lotto plan."

then, once i decided i would actually do this piece (as most artists i know, i have a long list of pieces that are stuck in my head and never actually executed), i set out a method.

first, i researched the types of lotteries in texas. i went to the website and looked at everything from mega millions to scratch-offs. each game had its merits. i toyed with many possibilities. mega millions had the biggest jackpot. scratch-offs would have better odds and more colorful pieces to use for my physical documentation of the piece. texas lotto felt more "local." and texas two-step kept beckoning me everytime i would pass the billboard going home from softball.

i ultimately decided to play mega milions because it was more in the vein of how i envision "the lotto plan."

firstly, when i fantasize about being rich, i do it in an obscene manner. none of this semi-tasteful upper-middle class shit. no, i want to visit a new country every week. rent a villa in tuscany and fly me and my family out on a private jet. i want to donate several years worth of operating budgets to multiple non-profits. i want to endow a chairship, send multiple people through college/art school/med school, buy a 67 mustang for myself and an early model datsun z for my partner and outfit them to be fueled by bio diesel. i want to wear bespoke shoes and suits while tromping the grounds of my scottish castle. i want to sponsor solar panel programs for low-income, first-time homeowners, only, of course, after slapping panels on every property i own. these things cannot be done with a mere 500 grand (which, after taxes and paying off my loans and debts, would be more like 100k). no, if i'm going to win, i'll need the bucu bucks, at least 10 million to start. secondly, this piece is less about actually winning than it is the ritual of buying the tickets, waiting and hoping. it's about examining my own struggle for financial security whilst trying to remain artistically authentic. it's about seeing exactly how far my imagination can go if the sky is the limit, and then somehow reaching for those dreams with what i have in front of me. it's about that cheesey metaphor between the whims of the arts establishment and the near impossibility of the lottery draw.

after deciding on mega millions, i had to choose numbers. when i was doing my initial research, i carefully copied down a list of numbers that had thus far yielded the most picks (the website breaks down and publishes this information). but again, i realized that somehow this needed to be a very personal set of numbers. i did various types of brainstorming for numbers. i played with birthdays of myself and those in my family, birth months and years. i figured out my numerology number. i added every number in my birthday together, i multiplied the number of people in my family times other dates. i came up with a set of numbers. i then eliminated any figures with the number 4 in it (4 is a very unlucky number in japan, as it is a homonym with "death"). then, with a dash of chances processes and intuition, i came up with this set of numbers:
2=my numerology number
7=the birthday month of both my partner and my father, and the day of my brother's birthday
11=my birthday month
29=my current age
37=the year my mother was born
8 (megaball)=my mother and my brother's birth month

and so now you know my game! wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

starving artist: the lotto plan

when i became a "full-time" artist seven months ago, i only had a vague plan: i would support myself by spending my savings for a while, apply for grants and fellowships, and take freelance jobs here and there to make ends meet.

i auditioned for stuff. i submitted my work to film festivals and exhibitions. i applied for every grant, award, and residency i could find. and then i started receiving the inevitable: rejection after rejection.

around mid-april, the string of rejections lead to a deep neurosis about my financial stability.
my money was disappearing quick, and very little i did would replenish it. i sold some things. i put ads on my website. i opened a cafepress store. but my neuroses lead to me spending more time thinking about money rather than being creative. what use was it for me to quit my job if i wasn't going to make things?

at the advice of my therapist, i took a part-time job sanding in a woodshop. i enjoy it a lot; i use my hands and have to trust my senses with every piece of wood that hits my workbench. working with wood is an engrossing craft, even meditative.

but as much as i enjoy woodworking, i know that it is not my calling. and even though i took it to earn some money, i'm making less than half of what i did working at UT.

so even though i am not nearly as neurotic as i was about four months ago, money is often on the mind.

when i am this strapped for cash, i find myself budgeting on what i call "the lotto plan." i think a lot of us do it--think about all the things we would do with more money than we can even imagine. my plans (which i will probably explore here over time) often involve: paying off my student loans and credit card debt; donating money to various social justice and arts organizations that need it, commissioning art from my artist friends; paying for my partner to go on leave; flying a whole bunch of friends and family to austin for a huge party; buying group healthcare for all these uninsured dykes i know; traveling to a different place every month...

"the lotto plan" has been very active in my mind. i find myself telling folks, "when i win the lotto..." i'll buy you a horse, i'll get us a pool, i'll buy that table saw off you, i'll own a biodiesel truck.

it's exciting to think about the possibilities, even if you are faced with the impossibility of numbers. in my mind, getting a sizeable grant or competitive residency feels just as hard, if not harder, than winning the lotto. i remember a professor from college telling me about how competitions were decided on what a judge ate for breakfast.

all these factors have lead me to a perform conceptual piece i will carry out for the next year called, "starving artist." here is the score"
  • i will buy one mega millions lotto ticket for every drawing (tuesday and friday)
  • i will use numbers that are personally significant
  • i will use only one set of numbers throughout the year
  • i will collect the stubs and mount them on a medium as an archive/visual aspect of the piece
  • in the event that i win something, i will claim the prize and retain a copy of the stub to be added to the piece
and so, the journey begins.