(long) What to put my time into?

It’s…interesting.

Over the past few days, I’ve been having a dialogue with myself about where to put my energies.  For example, with my homework, and from there out, with my art, creative writing, reading, blogging…music…?

I have seen some people online develop in a given medium very quickly, due to daily practice.  The most obvious example of this I can think of (and I hope I’m thinking right) is Charlie at Doodlewash, but as best I can remember, there are others whose names I have neglected to pick out of the ever-coming tide that is the Internet.

I’ve started to think about my activities, not in terms of what I do well, not in terms of what I presently can do, but in terms of what I want to do.

This is assisted, no doubt, by the curricula I’m presently studying…though that might get a bit arcane here.  Basically, when someone realizes they need information, they likely start out with a very poorly-formed idea of what it is they’re searching for, because they don’t know what they don’t know — and asking them what information they need is asking someone to define the parameters of what they don’t know…which, they don’t know.

When I first started researching Buddhism, for example, it was along with studies of alternative spirituality (particularly Theosophy and Spiritualism; I don’t remember whether Pantheism was along with, or after, this) and the Western Occult Tradition.  Right now I know more about Buddhism than most people around me — I know more than what every beginner book I’ve seen recounts, as though it’s new — but I reached out of my sphere, in the first place, to try and escape people and their twisting of religion to support their bigotry.

What I have found, over about 15 years of studying Buddhism, is that Buddhists have their own problems to deal with, irritatingly enough.  Not only that, but it’s kind of impossible to find an authoritative voice on the matter.  Buddhism is 2500 years old, and orthopraxic (right action) instead of orthodoxic (right belief), or so my World Religions class would have told me.

Instead of asking and expecting a clear definition of nirvana or Buddha-nature, it’s more like, “does the interpretation you’re reading agree with you or not?” or, “where are the holes, and are they large enough to matter?” or, “is this logically coherent?  (Be honest.)  If so, what are the consequences?”

I may not be reading enough modern thought, in this field, though.  I’ve come to realize that the world now is different than the world 2500 years ago, though people’s problems are still largely the same.  The issue with me is the idea that everyone’s “awakening” will be qualitatively the same; that inherently, everyone is the same.  This may have been unquestioned 2500 years ago in India, but I cannot go without questioning this, now.  Living in a major metropolitan area will kind of do that to a person.

In addition to this, the entire idea of a “soul” or spirit is one of these things which …I have not read a full treatment of, from a Buddhist perspective.  What I gather is that a phenomenal self is recognized, but that this self is constructed, and not essential.  This differs from, pretty much, every other religion I’ve studied; but it also becomes entangled in current-day discourse about constructivism vs. essentialism as regards gender; a.k.a. whether all gender is “socially constructed” or “inborn.”

As a person whose gender expression (and historically, identity) inhabits a range rather than a locus, it’s hard for me to have an opinion on this.  The major point is that Second-Wave Feminism (I think this began in the 1970’s) has tried to argue that what one is “born as” is what one “is,” with the transgender movement historically fighting against this.  This axiom would state that, for example, a transgender woman was “really” a man and thus could be excluded from “women’s space,” without everyone in the group feeling bad about it.  In consequence, everyone which was included looked similar enough to be assumed to be qualitatively similar (as definitions of “man” or “woman” did not go beyond physicality; causing the [hypothetical] inclusion of trans* men within women’s space, instead of trans* women).

However, the current state of transgender politics seems to be coming to a newer resettlement where very young children are expressing identity with members of a sex which they do not physically align with…so now it seems that the argument is again back to “one is born as what one is,” just that the mistake (and it does seem to be a mistake) of assigning a person to a gender category based on their physiology…causes more harm than good.

In short, we are back to an essentialist argument, but with what is “essential” being something one cannot physically see (though there have been studies showing similarity of regions of the brain between trans* women and cis (non-trans*) women, and dissimilarity of those same regions between trans* women and cis men, at the least; last I checked, trans* men were not well-known enough to have any acceptable sample size.

But anyhow…I’m not sure if I should be a philosophy major or something, 🙂 but my own experience of myself brings me to the point of feeling that …I do or may have a “soul,” which is distinct from other “souls.”  I wouldn’t say it to be irreducible to something like any other living being would experience — that is, I’m not sure at all that what I recognize as myself is “essential” — but there does seem to be something that sets me apart in this life, that, when violated, brings me illness.  That is to say, I have a “nature.”  It’s a very changeable nature, but it’s still a nature.

And this, in turn, is separable from an ontological stance which states that no one has a soul.  The clearest representative of this to me is Scientific Materialism, though I am not a subject matter expert on this, having veered away from materialist philosophies, myself.  I did purchase a book on Sartre (Existentialism) recently as well, and it would be interesting to see what he says about it…but this is mainly for my own breadth/surveying the field.

The problem I’m having is being unsure that any organized religion is actually and honestly for the good of its members (excluding the priesthood).  In short, I’m not sure if any of it is true, and I know there are vulnerabilities commonly found in seekers which are being played upon (notably, in Buddhism, the experience of psychic pain and the drive to death [thanatos — it’s a Freudian idea]).

I’m not sure I’ve seen the latter actually explained outright anywhere in relation to the desire for nirvana and cessation of rebirth; but I know that for me it has been an issue.  Buddhism was one of the things which kept me alive when I was going through a fairly relevant depressive phase, to the point where I realized that if Shakyamuni had ever actually existed, he was probably a depressive who lived before we had a term for it.

And…I have wandered far away from what started this post.  The question is whether to continue with this line of study, or drop it and find something else.

I am thinking that if, every day, I practiced guitar for at least half an hour, I would become fairly good at it, after a while.  This is, as versus my art.  I have to do enough reading as it is, but I could get back into that (reading for pleasure), as well.

Art is one of those things which I know I was praised for, very early on.  I know it’s something I’m relatively talented at.  But without a clear subject, it’s tough for me to get into; this being why I was prolific in the Art program at my Community College, but which I have trailed away from without the outside support and prompting.  I’m fairly certain that if I did get back into Creative Writing, this would in fact give me things to draw.

Of course, that’s Illustration, there — which is actually the drive which caused me to come back and try the Art program again in the first place.  When I first came back, I didn’t even know if I liked drawing, to be honest.  Things had just gotten really dull for me, where it came to image-making.  I remembered that I had originally liked to do it (when I was making a story with pictures [could you call that a comic?], as a kid), and I remembered that drawing the same thing over and over again — as I did as an adult — wasn’t worth it.  I’d get bored.

I re-entered with the hope that instruction and refreshed subject matter would help me see if writing and illustrating my own Graphic Novel was even something I would enjoy; and if not, I could just trash the whole Graphic Novel idea and work on pure writing, instead.

What I can say is that Art is difficult.  There hasn’t been a time for me when it hasn’t been difficult, except when I was a kid and didn’t care at all whether things looked wonky to other people.

And then, Writing…writing, writ large, 😉 isn’t hard for me.  Fiction Writing, though…is just psychologically difficult.  I have a habit of not being able to clearly tell the story I’m writing, apart from reality.  But through the Art program, one of the things I realized is that Art is not a representation of reality.  Photography isn’t a representation of reality.  Fiction writing, is not a representation of reality.  Neither is television, nor movies.

Verisimilitude to reality is used to a greater or lesser extent to provide familiarity and context to a story or message…to be honest, I’m not entirely certain what I or we are trying to get across in a way of thinking about the Humanities in terms of content as versus form.  The one thing I am certain about is that when one is within a story, that story is constructed around you, to a certain extent for you (and to a certain extent, by you).  For what purpose?  …I’m not entirely sure.  If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

In any case, thinking back on it…it does seem, now that I think of it, that I’ve found expression through writing and art, and now am re-trying music.  Music is interesting, though I’m so new to it that I’m not entirely sure I can say why.  Certainly there’s a rhythmic component, and the emotional states elicited by certain tones being played next to each other and harmonizing (or not).  Then, of course, being a time-related thing, it is also — like writing — linear in format.

Tonight I was just having fun with arpeggiating guitar chords — particularly, starting with the F-major that’s closest to the top of the neck.  I think I could, eventually, make a habit of writing my own music; the question arises of if it is what I want to do, though.  Do I want to write?  Draw?  Paint?  Play music?  Make beaded jewelry?  It’s fairly obvious that writing is part of my lifeblood — I don’t feel right when I don’t do it.

I miss my beads.  I stopped my practice and working on new designs when I realized that this was not something that I could rely on to pay any bills (except maybe a blog bill for a nice layout here, if I started on Etsy); but it is what got me into Painting (which enables much more subtle custom color adjustments).  There is a lot of work which goes into designing and constructing beaded jewelry which has to do with light and color…it may be playing with my tendency to engineer from prefabricated parts, as well.

(Two of my most favorite toys from when I was a kid were my Erector set, and a circuit board D got me for Christmas, one year…)

And, hey…I just realized the linear component to that, as well…it’s just that with what I do, there is the mode of interweaving that can be realized, as well as anchoring and knotting.

Interesting…but I think I should get some sleep, right now!  Heh!  If anyone has anything to say about the content we try to get across in the Arts & Humanities, I’m more than listening…

(long) What to put my time into?

Restarted playing guitar!

Sooo…I have not been having the most fun or productive past two days.  I think I’m getting library burn-out (working for a library half-time and going to Library School full-time means that I have to make time for myself to do things NOT library-related).

It’s very apparent that I have the need to work on my studies in the back of my mind for most of my waking time:  not helped by not having turned in those two 2-point discussion topics.  From my present vantage point, it seems that because I’ve expected myself to work for the majority of my waking hours (except when eating), I’ve opted instead to retreat to bed, instead of doing something for myself which constitutes “living”…like, you know, the reason for obtaining gainful employment.

This…isn’t really a healthy pattern.  I’ve been asleep or in bed the majority of today and yesterday, when I could have been up and active (or doing homework).  It has, however, been cold, dark and rainy for both of these days, so I suppose that didn’t help.

Tomorrow, as well:  more work.  My schedule is drastically different from what it was last semester, when I was working three days in a row and then had four off in a row (when I was attending classes).  Right now, my largest break in between work is two days, and I have schoolwork to do, majorly (not to mention chores) on the days when I am not working.

But I suppose I am in nine units, which by itself is at least 27 hours of time that needs to be set aside for studies.  Add that to the 18 I’m working, and…45 hours a week?  (At least there is no commute back and forth to school, in there.  Nor do I have to worry about food prep.)

Anyhow, while wandering around kind of like a zombie today and wondering what I could do with my free time (what’s that? you mean when I have a choice of what to do? …choice? what does that mean?) I recalled that in my last post I had said that if money weren’t a factor, I would be playing classical guitar.  So I wandered over to where my guitar was sitting (for about the past 6 months, at least), dusted it off, tried to tune it, and started playing around with it.  Just as something purely for myself, with no thought of employment strategy influencing my activities.

As guitars are wont to do with soft fingers, my fingertips on the left hand are now sore (I’m using a steel-string, which doesn’t help; but it’s still a relatively forgiving guitar).  If I keep this up, though, my fingertips should be better and callused by the middle of this week.  Once the calluses have built up and gone away several times, they tend to come back more quickly next time they’re needed.  It’s the same reason why I’ll be fine after beginning a new macramé project, once I’m two days into it:  the pinky skin that gets sore because of my knotting toughens up really fast, now.  It also recovers quickly after I stop, which is nice.

The inspiration for restarting this was GITS:SAC OST 3, Track #9, “Mikansei Love Story”.  (That is:  Ghost in the Shell:  Stand Alone Complex, Original Soundtrack 3, Track #9, “Incomplete Love Story”.)  It’s actually one of my favorite songs among the GITS: SAC OST tracks.

The thing about this track is that it cannot be picked out without using one’s whole hand, or alternately, multiple guitar players (which there are anyway, but to me it really sounds like the main melody is one or two people, using a classical style of playing).  Classical guitar uses one finger per string, excepting the thumb, which plays the two bass strings.  The way I was originally taught was not a classical style; we were taught to strum and use a pick, which feels to me, at this point in my experience, like a very limited way of playing (we were basically all playing rhythm guitar).

But I suppose that we were actually never even taught to recognize the chords as written in musical notation or by ear, either, so the class (or two) I took was accordingly, very basic.  Ideally as well, if I were using a classical style of playing, I would be using a Classical guitar, which has a wider finger-board and nylon strings instead of steel.  But at the time I got this guitar, I preferred the sound of steel strings.  My hands and body are also not as large as they could be, so it’s a bit easier for me to use a steel-string.

I have yet to see whether the size of this guitar (it’s full-size; whereas I learned on a 3/4 size guitar) is going to hurt my back again like it used to.  Optimally, that is, I’m not supposed to be looking at my fingers, but I am; this causes me to arch over the top of the guitar, and that can hurt one’s back over time.

Well, maybe I will try this as a way to unwind, when I’m too out-of-it to think, and don’t want to draw or read or write.  There’s something about music that gets me to wake up a bit, at least…

Restarted playing guitar!

Alternate paths…? Trying to get back into reading fiction and lit. crit.

(lit crit = literary criticism)

New developments:  I am considering what to do if I cannot hang in with the Master’s program.  It would have been fine, we were right on schedule, then…1/3 of our group paper is not submitted.  None of us realize it until after evaluation.  This is in the class where one has to get a B or above to stay in the program.

This introduces the issue of what if I get a B- or below this semester, and what happens if the same thing happens next semester.  I will not be able to stay in the program, in that case.  Then, I will of necessity have to figure out what to do as a career, unless I really want to try my hand at a different Library program.  Given, though, that I’m more interested in Information Science…things can be done with that which don’t require an ALA-approved program.

My top career choice, outside of Libraries, and with no more schooling required, is Publishing.  This is what my undergraduate training prepared me for; however, I have no experience in Publishing, as I didn’t take an internship during college, as I couldn’t drive.

Speaking of which, we’re moving forward on the latter point, now.  I am somewhat relieved, although I don’t know what the point was of waiting until the rainy season started to begin training.

Anyway, I’ve found through my work in the Library Science program that I do actually still like to read, and two of the easiest and more enjoyable tasks (for me) in this program are writing and editing.  I was told at University that Editing isn’t really a creative job, which at the time was something to turn me off of it.  However, it appears that outside of media and technology (particularly animation and video games)…I can’t say my impression is that creativity is highly valued in this country.

Sure, we have a lot of creative products (particularly in music), but are their creators being fairly compensated?  It’s something I haven’t researched, yet; but I know that far more manuscripts are written than published.  This pattern (from what I hear, having to fight to get paid) may be peculiar to the literary arts.

Still; especially from the days when I was looking at the possibility of going into Graphic Design…there were a lot of people who wanted designers to work for them for no pay, which is unreasonable considering that, at least in the U.S., we live in a capitalist society and need money to continue to subsist (or to get back to subsistence).

It’s the reason I don’t play an instrument at the moment:  what could I do with that, other than play music on the street and wait for donations?  If I thought it wouldn’t be a waste of time, I’d be playing classical guitar.  But it’s a lot of effort — and a time commitment — for perhaps negative payoff, in my case.  The upshot is that music is one of those things which is directly calming when I’m in an episode.  The downshot is, well, time lost:  and a lot of it.

It has been a while since I read for enjoyment.  I find myself wanting to read more, particularly where it comes to literature, literary criticism, and science fiction.  I don’t have a really strong background in fiction reading…or so it would seem.  Since I graduated, I’ve been largely staying away from fiction.  Reason(s)?  Many.

Case in point:  I picked up a book which I hoped would be on writing, today, that ended up being about Christianity and being a, “servant to the word.”  I don’t need this.  I wanted a book giving insight into writing, not insight into Ezekiel.  For that one particular writer, I’m sure Christianity very much informs her process; but I kind of don’t want to take on her mindset to be able to understand what she’s saying, because I know that mindset to be directly harmful to me.  I don’t want to sit through a sermon which is posing as a work on fiction writing.

I wonder if I was triggered?

Things like this — which have been extremely common in my literary experience — have, in the past, driven me away from the entire fiction medium.  What this does say, though, is that when I read things that other people have written…if there is something lacking or missing (and there is a LOT that is missing; to the point that I’ve just wanted to give up on literature), I can add it in my own contribution, and the relative uniqueness of my view will likely be a selling point.  But that won’t happen if I let a glut of religious Christian writers represent all of English fiction writing for me.

I think I have said it before:  my experience in the English program made me want to stop reading and writing.  The Writing-program side of it was relatively good; but not the English-program side.  The latter was where I ran into a Professor who said I couldn’t call people who owned African slaves “racist,” if they existed before the term was coined (SERIOUSLY???); and another Professor who inferred in front of the class that I was “Godless,” because I objected when she wouldn’t stop talking about her God in class.  Every.  Class.  About.  Her God.  (Her God is not my God.)

English class is not about religion.  I don’t know how many people think it is or should be, but in a publicly-funded institution, it is really irritating when you find yourself in a sermon that you didn’t expect and didn’t ask for and don’t want, and you PAID for this, AND it’s triggering you because you’re a minority, AND you get straw-manned when you object, AND your Professor probably thinks she’s doing something good by subjecting you to this, AND you have to drop her class to escape it.

Yeah, I was having problems back then, but this stuff didn’t help.

Anyhow.  I’ll try and read, more.  Maybe the science-fiction genre will have less of this…

Alternate paths…? Trying to get back into reading fiction and lit. crit.

Piercings, gender presentation, body image

I have just realized that, should I want a new piercing, I can get it at any time.

ANY TIME.  😉  Not just that, but any gauge.  Not ONLY that, but I can actually go up to 10g in my main piercings, if I decide that this is what I want to do.  If I plan on that, though, I’ll need to tell the piercer.  I’m not up to date on how far away the new piercing should be, from the old one; but if I go to the tattoo parlor I’m thinking of, they have very good reputations, and should know where to place it.

Several years ago, I made the provisional settlement with myself that I would not go above 10g until I had figured myself out more and was more stable…which, I am, now.  But I’d still like to hold myself to that gauge limit until I can reassess the situation.  Particularly, it won’t matter until I get to 10g and get comfortable at it.  Why 10g?  It’s pretty much a no-going-back girth, at which the ring diameter and thickness of shank (or wire gauge) appear close-enough-to-optimal, to me.

I am currently wearing 14g surgical steel rings, which never come out, and are treated as part of my body.  I’m actually still wearing the rings I was pierced with, though I’ve gone up and down in gauge several times (it’s a fairly time-consuming process to stretch [stretching can tear the flesh if done too hastily, and that has permanent consequences where it comes to any additional stretching], but it’s easy to take the rings out and let the piercings tighten or close).  This has been going on long enough that I’ve realized that I may not be able to wear conventional earrings anymore, without my piercings expanding from the weight and turning into slits…which can turn into migration, which can turn into a split lobe.  I don’t have this issue yet, and hope not to have it — but that means that I need to reassess my situation as regards my jewelry.

So while I really did enter into this with the opportunity to move one way or the other (as regards having expanded piercings or conventional ones); it looks as though the window of opportunity to have conventional piercings has passed (about…ten years down the line?).  My scars seem just permanently too loose, now.

Most of my conventional earwires are about 22g — it’s a fairly common size.  (I judge this from my experience in working with wire for jewelry; 24g is much too light, thin and weak for most earwires.  20g is nearly alternative-size.)  My piercings, though, are four sizes larger than that, at this point.

Generally, the sizes graduate in increments of two, so starting at 22, we have 20 (which is the largest mainstream wire I have, on a pair of gold-fill department-store rings), 18, 16, and 14.  The smaller the number, the larger the diameter of the wire itself (independent of whatever is made from it).  10g is two sizes up, and marks the beginning of the really beautiful carved and sculptural pieces, along with the beginning of the use of plugs instead of rings or barbells.

The major (psychological) factor restricting my entry into this is the availability of quality, safe, large-gauge jewelry…for the rest of my life.  It’s fairly apparent now that the “Modern Primitive” trend was, in fact, a trend.  There are still a lot of people around now, though — particularly young men — with expanded lobe piercings.  I’m not entirely sure what’s motivating people 15 years my junior to do it (who kind of missed the first wave with Gen X…and even I’m a Millenial), but that’s the trend.

There is also the possibility of making my own rings, but I can’t work surgical steel at this point (blacksmithing is an entirely different beast than silversmithing), and nor can I make a spring-loaded ring.  I can make 14g silver and copper earwires…which would seem the last-ditch effort to really wear elaborate decorative stuff rather than everyday stuff…or that which I can’t make myself.  This impacts me because I make jewelry.  Sometimes I want to wear it; but my jewelry suppliers do not stock quality large-gauge earwires.  Find a different supplier?  Find a different reputable supplier, more like…

The other thing I wanted to write about was going out of the house today with a little bit of stubble.  I was minorly concerned about it when I checked myself in the mirror before leaving (I had maybe 1mm of obvious hair growth), but I had left no time for myself to shave.  It was vastly more comfortable than I had imagined it would be — I actually had very little self-consciousness about it.  This, though, also implies that I really should avoid anything that will permanently eliminate this hair, in case one day I do want to live as overtly gender-nonbinary.  It’s not unheard of at all for transmasculine people to wear facial hair, even if they aren’t “passing” as male.  The biggest risk I have is from people looking at me and thinking I actually am male…

As regards the hair on my actual scalp, I’m coming to realize that it may actually look cute, loosely pulled back with the section which would have been bangs, cascading forward.  I’ve been avoiding it because I know it looks messy — but maybe there’s a place for “messy.”  “Messy,” may be better than, “I don’t know what I’m doing, let’s just do anything and get on with it.”  I’m considering, now, actually clipping the hair which does fall forward in a more organized manner, with the intent of wearing it loose.

Pretty much the only up-side to having long hair is being able to pull it back, and being able to braid it.  That’s…really, about it, for me.  I suppose I could try wearing it down again, and it might be cute that way, too — but then I have to deal with dust getting into it, and then washing it, and then trying to figure out how to dry it.  The point worth mentioning about pulling my hair back is that I’ve realized that I don’t have to pull it back tightly; a loose band will hold it, and not strain my follicles.

As far as clothing goes…?  I have been wearing femininely-gendered clothing to work, mostly out of habit.  I actually have been getting a little self-conscious over being assumed to be a man with a feminine chest, there (I suspect one particular observation to have been about the, “is it a boy or a girl,” question…talk about colonizing perspectives); but it’s generally been okay.  I’m not sure to what extent I want to wear masculine clothing, or to be seen as male.  I have pretty much no control over the latter, anyway; so maybe it’s a question better off not answered.  And as for the former…I just want to be comfortably clothed, and not put on display.  At least, not until I get my body back into shape.  😉

And like I’ve said before, having a female chest along with big muscles and a good amount of strength…is something I really want to get back to.  A lot of guys find it hot, too, which I have been a bit surprised at.  But I think to myself: big muscles, female chest, long hair, multiple piercings, may or may not wear “cross-gendered” clothing, may or may not wear makeup.

And yes, I am still intrigued about the possibility of a legal gender-nonbinary designation.  What I’m concerned about is government tracking.  It isn’t a big deal in a sane and well-checked democracy, but if things go south, I would not trust the government not to take advantage of my marking myself in any way to be a member of a hidden (vulnerable) minority.  I’m having a hard enough time reconciling my psychological status with the level of potential threat I’ve perceived recently, let alone someone designating “Third Gender” bathrooms which aren’t kept up to the safety or standards of the other two.

This is also a reason, by the way, I have not opted for testosterone.  I would no longer be able to hide as an invisible minority; and there are a good number of studies out on how marking oneself brings with it, stigma.  Not necessarily as much to trans* men, but I’m not a trans* man, as I’ve mentioned before (nor am I a trans* woman).  And not as much to White people, but I’m not White.

What I have found interesting is that in taking on the title “gender-fluid,” my gender has actually seemed to settle someplace within those giant bounds, more or less.  It’s still not anything that would be really free from stigma if it were to come to light…in 2016.  This is largely because of misogyny (as it affects men, women, and everyone else).  20 years down the line, if I haven’t been exterminated in the meantime, maybe it would be OK.  Of course, though, I can’t guarantee I’ll live that long.  Do I want to make it about what life I want to live now?  Or hold out for things to get better?

Maybe the question is whether I’m ready, now.  There are a number of things I am ready for; testosterone is not one of them.  It’s just too big of a shift, too soon.  And hey — I have held out for about 15 years, already.  If the time is right, I’m sure I’ll know it — and I can proceed with it, then.

Right now, I’m just getting ready for a needle through my ear…

Piercings, gender presentation, body image

What’s going on with me lately (ooh ooh ooh yeah)

As I look back over my past 5 or so entries, I find that the relative rarity of my posting as of late has led to some rather large gaps in my records.

The good thing?  I’m relatively on track with my studies.  The negative thing?  I still have those two 2-point assignments hanging over my head, even though they’re about two weeks late, by now.  I suppose that I can take some time within the next week to clear this up.

I did also try …looking into the Disability Resource Center for my University.  However, I have found no material indicating that they offer resources for off-campus students.  From past experience, I know this isn’t true — the last time I registered with them (years ago), I did receive an OK for additional work time.  Right now, I’m wondering if it’s worth it, though — especially as I have to re-register every **** semester.

(yes, I bleeped myself)

Anyhow…

In other realms, I was able to begin coloring my mandala with gouache last night (I can’t be expected to be working at all times), but have realized that perhaps I chose the wrong media for this, or at least should have laid down an underpainting in transparent watercolor, if not overpainting with it as well.

There was no paint laid down on the paper before the gouache.  Because of the relatively dry/thick character of the gouache, and the fact that I am using cold-press (rough) watercolor paper and not Bristol board, I now have gaps of white paper showing through between different areas of color.  There is one solution for this that I know of:  more paint.  It would work if I were using acrylics.  Problem is, I’m not.

The difficulty is that gouache has a tendency to lift from the paper if too much water is applied on top of previous dried layers (or at least, this was the case when I was painting on Bristol).  This creates patches of color which…are basically blistered; when the blister lifts, it is obvious — gouache, in my experience, isn’t quite so opaque as to disguise this.  (This is not an issue with acrylics — I am thinking of Holbein Acryla gouache, right now, but am not sure what the selling point would be of a hybrid between gouache and acrylic paint.)

Right now I’m wondering whether I want to try and salvage this, or start working on something more abstract and less precise.  I’m thinking of working with transparent watercolor first, maybe some loose wet-into-wet stuff, and some layering; then gouache as a highlight medium on top.

The benefit to using the gouache, though, I’ve seen, is that it generates very clear, strong, and pure mixes of color when one is using pigments which are high enough quality and in high enough concentration (and whose overtones are somewhat harmonious).  The difficulty lies in what to do with sometimes-obvious brushstrokes (I can play this up by not overmixing my colors), how to work with a media which gives very flat and consistent color, and how to avoid overworking an area to the point of the paint lifting off of the support.

What I’ve got now with my mandala is not past any point of no return (in fact it reminds me of how I almost gave up on one of my tomatillo drawings, which later turned out very nice); maybe I should keep working on it, just in an experimental manner, to see how far I can push the medium.  When I started making free marks on top of my …rather mathematical underdrawing, I could see the potential there for something which I hadn’t intended, but which might turn out to be worth the effort.

I also did experiment with gesso on top of a different sheet of this paper (the flawed one which I cut off the block before starting my mandala).  The gesso wasn’t worth it, in this case.  The major purpose of the gesso would have been to preserve an underdrawing; however, in practicality, it would have been a lot of work and would have smudged the graphite, anyway.  In addition, it provided a resist to the gouache, which meant that if I only sealed the lines and not anything else, it would show in the final painting!  (The solution to this would have been to seal twice; once over the lines, then another time over everything else; but I realized it would be too much work.)

I tried three variants of sealer:  Liquitex Basics white gesso, Liquitex Clear Acrylic gesso, and Liquitex Professional Matte (Glazing) Medium.  Of these three compounds, the Clear Acrylic gesso gave the least resistance when wet gouache was applied on top of a dry layer…so it would seem, anyway.  I can’t be certain of the exact viscosity of my mixture among all three trials…

Both the white gesso and the matte medium had a tendency to repel the paint, as is obvious from my test swatches; whereas the gouache soaked right in in the areas surrounding the treated areas.  The clear gesso, on the other hand, showed less of this tendency, but it also gave a texture that resulted in gas bubbles beneath my paintbrush, and thus a somewhat textured, or, “speckled,” tone, to the overlying gouache (I believe this was a blend of Holbein and Winsor & Newton paint).

What I ended up doing (to get back to the main narrative) was just erasing most of what I could, leaving a faint map of a drawing, then painting on top of this.  I did this because I didn’t want to get trapped in making outlines in fineliner and then painting on top of that style of ink mark — particularly because when coloring over lines is inevitable, do I want the viewer’s attention to be drawn to the lines?  And lines which show through in some places and are covered up, in others?

I can see it’s a relatively popular way to work, at least with ink and wash…but I struggle with being too tight in my drawings, anyway.  I don’t want to deliberately reinforce it.

And in other other news…my hair is getting on my nerves.  The rainy season has started, though, and one of the only good points to having hair as thick as I do is that it’s a fairly good insulator against the cold, and rain.  Seriously, though:  it’s, like, huge.  The benefit is that I can pull it back (I look kind of hot like this), and I don’t have to get it cut every few months.  The irritating point is that I can go to bed with it damp, and it is still damp in the morning, because it’s so thick that the air can’t penetrate.

I just realized that I have no idea how long it is, now, at all.  (The curls kind of disguise that aspect.)  Maybe a little past shoulder-length?  I’ve avoided cutting it because I don’t appreciate whiny comments from people I don’t care about, about “why don’t I have long hair,” like they should have an opinion and it should matter and I should care and I’m going to try and avoid mocking them, here.  It’s a sensitive topic — I’ve been singled out over my hair for my entire life — and it’s really angering.  But if it gets to the point of my ripping it out while combing it because I hate having to take care of it, again, and it’s gotten to the point of snarling, and making me want to scream and stab the mirror because ****it I’m not a ****ing doll, yes I’m getting it cut, because at that point I’m taking care of myself by cutting it off, as versus blending in to avoid sexual harassment.

I also want to get another (ear) piercing…which influences what I do with my hair (I’ll have to keep it very clean for at least 4-6 months, to avoid infection).  Because it’s cold, this makes an infection less likely to happen.

I just haven’t decided on which side to pierce– though I’m told getting a piercing on the right side only indicated one was gay if one was male and in the 1980’s.  😉  It’s still standard to get single piercings only on the left side, though, at least in the U.S.  This would be my third piercing…any more above that, and (legal) discrimination starts to kick in.  Though, technically, discrimination is fairly standard here anyway; I’d deal with it from being female, a racial/ethnic minority, not-straight, gender-variant, etc., but those are the big four, for me.

Which is, by the way, why I’m looking into the career path I am.

What’s going on with me lately (ooh ooh ooh yeah)

It’s so nice to get a day off…

Well, vacation (by which I mean my one extra day off between scheduling) is almost over.  The good part is that I am nearly entirely caught up with my work, from the time in which my main workstation was out of commission.  This is mostly due to marathon reading, yesterday.

It’s nice to know, at least, that my study and cognitive skills aren’t as diminished as I had expected.  Earlier this week, as well, I had a 4-6 page paper to turn in which turned into a 9-page paper because I did not read the requirements well enough (double-spaced! not 1.5-spaced!!).

At least the good majority of the work is out of the way.  I was seriously behind in my readings for my Database course (and still have yet to break into the optional ones).  I have one more reading to go, a late Discussion Topic on that reading, and then I can move on.  (– At least, so far as grading goes.  I’m fairly certain that I just got a 0/2 on the other Discussion Topic I missed, though I can probably still do the work, just for myself.)

Looking forward — I have the assignment to assemble a kit for (hypothetical) distribution within my Library.  Because the topic is a bit sensitive (but not forbidden) where it comes to publicly-funded libraries (well — I’d expect that anything catering to a minority audience would be, but especially if it falls within politics/religion/sexuality/gender/race [it’s not all of those at once, don’t worry]), I probably won’t broach the exact subject of my kit here.  I basically just picked the topic I did because of one of the newer under-served populations I’ve seen pop up, plus my own knowledge on the topic in question.

As regards anything having to do with Art or Creative Writing…that’s been, basically, on pause.  I have managed to make some headway in design on the mandala I wrote about, earlier, but have not reinstalled either Photoshop or GIMP2, without which — I don’t know how to reduce the DPI and compress the file size for Web publishing.  Nor do I know how to enhance photos without the help of a powerful image-editing program.  I can still take photos and upload them, but until I reinstall at least one of these programs, showing them to you all will be one of those things that probably just isn’t going to happen…

At least my data itself is secure, though.  (Backups.)  I’ve just spent a good bit of time looking through the folder where I keep the particularly nice photos — a bunch of them are higher-quality than I remember.  This is the first time I really let them fill the screen, though.  (A larger display size has a much different impact than a smaller one.)  I’m thinking of utilizing one of them instead of what I had settled on before, for my large canvas.

Do I wish I had taken more time out for art or writing, recently?  It probably would have been a more productive way to fill the hours I spent in bed, worrying about my computer — and I got nothing done then anyway, so I might as well have!

I am finding that the Database class is…interesting.  It’s creative work, but then it’s also very technical.  (Library work in general has been described as “socio-technical;” there are obvious questions that come up for me, like what we’re actually talking about when we’re talking about statistical correlations among members of a racial group.)  I’m planning on asking about the work of designing and constructing databases; it’s kind of fun for the “puzzle” and logic aspects of it.  I haven’t formulated my question, though; the concepts are still too fluid and fuzzy for me to get a good grasp on them.

I’m also new to design work that isn’t visually-oriented.  I kind of wonder what part of my psyche I’m utilizing in organizing surrogates (like catalog records), or in grasping what is meant by NT (narrower term) or BT (broader term) or RT (related term)…

I’m still not grasping all of it, by the way; but I have another three years to pin down the basics, so it’s not so bad.  😉

The farther in I get to the LIS field, though…the less certain I become of an ideal path.  I certainly have more respect for Public Librarians at this point than I used to, after gaining more insight into what their work is actually about (fulfilling community information needs).  Will I want to become a Public Librarian?  Probably not (although the job openings are less hidden), but I still respect them.

I also did come across an example of someone painting with gouache on top of gessoed cardboard; I believe this means that it is possible!  Heh.  I still need to try out my new colors, too.  Maybe I can make some time for it tomorrow, before I have to go to work and continue on with this week’s assignments…

 

It’s so nice to get a day off…

Nonbinary thoughts…

Been a while since I did an identity post, eh?

I really should be working on homework, but for the majority of the day, I’ve been working…so…more work is not high on my list, right now.  Something did come to mind, last night, though — as I was attempting to fall asleep.  This is the fact that California has recently legally recognized a gender status other than F or M.  This information came to me through the following blog:

California recognizes legal non-binary status

This, in addition to the fact that I have been invited to a gender non-binary group (I have yet to explore this), and was thinking about alternative body modifications last night…plus the fact that I’m back in Library School (we’ll see for how long) and have recently found pay scales for library work…it’s just something that opens up a lot of possibilities.  Particularly so, as the Library community is really, really liberal where it comes to minorities.

My attention has been drawn to my embodiment, recently, as I am back in Library School, and thus have to watch out for eating too much out of stress.  If I weren’t on medications, it likely wouldn’t be an issue; but small changes in my diet — like one sugared beverage a day — can cause me to gain weight, now.  Last night I was also paying attention to this because of my birth control:  my cycle has become so light on this, as to almost be nonexistent.  (Sorry, half the planet goes through something like this; so far as I’m concerned, talking about it should be considered normal.)

Last night was particularly tough, too, because it was hot, and I had ingested so much water (in addition to the problem of water retention, from my cycle) that it was causing a bit of pain.  I mentioned Spiro to M and D, who are relatively liberal on other medications, to the response that I don’t have to take a pill for everything (trust me, they take pills much more freely than I do).  Spiro is spironolactone; it reduces the levels of androgens in the body, but is also called a “water pill” because it causes one to have to use the restroom a lot.

Right now I’m still fighting with my acne and shaving my face at least once every two days.  I’m sure I wrote about this before:  I have a condition which causes my androgen (tested blood testosterone) levels to be high, which (along with feelings of security that I can’t be impregnated) is the main reason I’m on birth control.  The acne and the facial hair follow the high androgen levels; it doesn’t help that I seem particularly responsive to androgens.

I am not certain what is going on with my hormones, at the moment; I do know that no one besides me wants to test my testosterone again, even though my levels came up abnormally high when I had it done before I started birth control.  The facial hair hasn’t spread, but it’s still there, and will be there until I start doing something like threading or waxing or electrolysis (I think my skin is too dark for laser).

Given how many women I’ve seen go through permanent hair loss (lack of eyebrows) through plucking, though, waxing is a viable option.  The problem is becoming secure enough with having substantial hair on my face to give the wax something to stick to.  Before now, I haven’t touched it, because I have never really been certain I’d never go on testosterone, and if I went on testosterone, I’d want a full beard, not one which is thin in patches.

I know that if I do rev it up a bit and start exercising, this will increase my androgen levels…though that, in this case, with a higher metabolism and reasons to bathe more frequently, would likely be healthier than where I’m at right now.

The ideal case would have me working out to the extent that everything tightens up (in a good way) and I get a bit of muscular hypertrophy.  That is:  big muscles.  This, in addition to mens’ clothing (which I’d be able to wear better with less fat), and…maybe clearer skin and eyeliner…that would be ideal.  And at that point, facial hair wouldn’t even really look out of place.  It would be nice to be able to braid my hair back and be seen as a beautiful young man.  (It lasts until I talk.)

I know how to do this; the problem is getting it from the point of being an idea, to one of being a reality.  Right now I’m a little over 150 lbs — which is a weight that, at least, I feel secure at — though I’m told I don’t look it.  I’ve been told by members of the local Female-to-Male transgender community that working out for big muscles is stereotypical and doesn’t come close to actually living as a man.  The thing is, I’m not a man, and I don’t really want to live as a man.

I don’t really see myself as a woman, either, but it’s gotten to the point that I don’t correct people when they see what they see and it doesn’t match what I see.  I don’t need everyone else to agree with me.  What I need is some way to find my own way in the world and skirt the homophobes (some of whom are trans) and transphobes (some of whom are lesbian and gay) so that they don’t overly impact my life.

But wouldn’t it be interesting…to appear as a muscular and strong female in mens’ clothing, long hair, eyeliner, with multiple piercings and a non-binary license?  If I didn’t have to worry about negative repercussions, I could also do low-dose testosterone and go off of it after the voice drop:  but I have enough issues with body hair (and acne), already.  That stuff doesn’t go away, and it’s tough enough to empathize with other people who have it more profusely, without realizing I’d have to manscape if I did go on T.  Right now, at least, it’s manageable.  But I wasn’t blessed with the almost-no-body-hair gene.  Not to mention the party that’s going on, on my face.

And, my voice is already fairly low.

Then there’s what to do if I traveled out of state, or out of the country.  I’d think that being obviously genderqueer would kind of restrict travel options.

Changing tracks, a bit:

It was just recently that I realized that a significant number of abnormal reactions I’ve gotten from others on admitting I was attracted to them, may have been based on homophobia.  I don’t see myself as a woman, but it’s likely others see me as such.  In that case, I’ve got to be prepared to be a target of homophobia if I’m interested in someone of my sex, for more than friendship.

It’s apparent that, at least if I’m operating in a heterosexual mode, I have close to no sexual attraction to anyone.  But have I ever truly operated in a mode where I was both unafraid of and considering possibilities of being together with someone of my own sex?  It’s gotten to the point where I’m not even sure if I’m bisexual or pansexual anymore.  My interest in males is minor, and I used to get mad at them for assuming they could flirt with me, while I felt barred from flirting with everyone to whom I was actually attracted.

On top of this, I’ve found that I am really only marginally attracted to genderqueer people who were assigned male at birth.  I don’t know what is behind this; I know it’s politically incorrect to have one’s set of attractions include female people (binary [cis and trans] women, female-assigned genderqueer, and female-assigned transgender people, excluding binary transsexual men), but not male people (most binary cis and trans men, most genderqueer people who were male-assigned).  My feelings toward transsexual women [included above in “women”] are more complicated, because in many ways I feel a commonality with them.  I don’t know why.

I don’t know why any of this, really.  I know it isn’t quite politically correct, but for me it’s a biological tendency that I don’t understand, and which can’t comprimise for the sake of politics.

Outside of being attracted to the above group…I’m pretty much asexual.  In the pursuit of discovering or recovering the above sexuality…I’m (tonight, at least) seriously considering again identifying as gay, so I can focus on healing this rift in emotional connectivity that began to tear loose when I was 14.

I wouldn’t be a binary gay person (I identify with the term “gay” over “lesbian”, even though I’m primarily attracted to women, because to me “lesbian” implies womanhood) — most of the time, I have seen the mainstream L and G communities represent themselves as comprised of binary (cis and trans) men and women…I’m not a King either…I’m just…genderqueer.  I’m who I am.

And if people are going to outright assume that I’m lesbian instead of what I actually am, maybe then I do have something in common with lesbian people — and can gain from that community, even though I am not binary.

As a last bit:  a post came up on my Reader recently about otherkin; particularly, the wolf subtype.  One commenter directed a different commenter to the following TEDx Talk (which I had little luck sifting through the TED website to find).  I did find it easily on Google, however.

I figured I should watch it, before writing this post.

As regards the otherkin thread, I’ll leave that where it lies, for now.  Granted that the otherkin and transgender communities do overlap a bit; I know some people who fall within this range (though not many in person).

The above Talk was somewhat…interesting, though the speaker only really went into “trans”-anything as feelings of being at home (or not) in one’s body.  In this way, he could have been using the term “transgender” as a synonym for “transsexual” (as I’ve seen to be common practice).

There is another level to this, which is one’s sense of self:  gender identity.  He really didn’t go into this level at all.  So for me — I don’t really know what it’s like to be, probably, most of the women I’ve met.  I know I don’t identify primarily as a woman.  My roles as creator and thinker and writer come first.

My body isn’t my biggest problem.  Though I do feel like I would have been better off as a (cis) man, I’m not even a trans man at this point — and I’m sure most people would think themselves better off as cis men!  Especially if one could wish for and be guaranteed comfort in performing a gender congruent with their changed body.  I am leery of the thought of transitioning to male and hoping everything will fall into place after that, really.  I don’t think who I will be will change, and I’m to the Yin side of things as they stand, anyway.

And anyway, who says that being a man is better than being me?  🙂

Nonbinary thoughts…