Obligatory end of summer update

Whoa, so I haven’t been around here in, like, forever. I’ve been splitting my time between working on a paper and actually having a social life for the first time in about a year. On Monday it’ll be back to having no life: I start my new job and then after a week of orientation it’s back to school. After taking part in the book discussion group earlier this summer, my professor–who has turned into something of a mentor this past year–gave me permission to sign up for her graduate seminar in Advanced Metaphysics in the fall, which will be focusing on feminist metaphysics this semester. I just got approved for that class on Monday by UNL’s Graduate Studies department, so I dropped my Spinoza class. Here’s the new schedule:

  • Intro to Physical Anthropology
  • Ethical Theory
  • Advanced Metaphysics
  • Fiction Writing
  • Writing Theory for Consultants (job-related)

In addition, I’m still volunteering at the LGBTQA Resource Center, so it should be a pretty busy semester. I’ll probably either end up killing myself or coming out totally prepared for grad school. My Philosophy of Language professor has been helping me with my paper. I’ve decided to write on the reappropriation of the word ‘queer’. Specifically, I want to explore how a word which started its modern life as a pejorative could end up changing connotations due to a conscious effort among
a specific language community. I suspect it has something to do with how much a word is needed to perform a particular job. Professor Dowell sent me some information about a conference coming up in November in Memphis that she said my paper would go over well at, so I think I’ll be submitting it.

Also, I had my almost-three-month hormone check-up on Wednesday. I switched doctors and am now going to Planned Parenthood. The doctor I was seeing at UNMC is more qualified, but it’s just easier to grab a 5-minute bus ride to Planned Parenthood than to venture up to Omaha at the asscrack of dawn, especially with how busy I’ll be this semester. They did more blood tests, and I’ll find out next week if they’re going to do anything with my doses. I have been noticing some significant changes already. The most exciting is that I’ve started developing breasts. They’re painfully sensitive and nearly microscopic, but progress is progress. Also, my body hair has started to diminish and grow more slowly. My skin also seems smoother and generally healthier, but I’m not sure how much of that is the hormones and how much is the fact that I recently started a new skin-care regimen. I’ve also started getting ma’amed a lot on the phone, which is a big plus. And today when I went to the pharmacy to refill my sleeping pills, which are prescribed under my full male name, the pharmacist asked if I was picking them up for someone else, which made me feel good.

Finally, on the dating front, I’ve met a lady whom I think seems like quite the winner. We seem to have quite a bit in common, and she is incredibly sweet and caring. The main problem is that she lives in Omaha and my piece-of-shit car probably isn’t fit to travel the highways. Also, she’s allergic to cats, which could be an issue…

Anyway, I’ll try not to disappear for weeks on end again. I realize that a lot of my friends come here to keep up with what’s going on in my life, which is nice, but I may be kinda busy for a while. I’ll still try to keep you folks posted.

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Finally diving back into the screenwriting game

So last night I couldn’t sleep, so I thought I’d write a little. For the past couple of years I’ve been toying with this idea for a screenplay but never really did any work on it because I wasn’t sure how it would go over. It’s about a trans girl who goes away to college and experiences college life as a trans lesbian. Basically a college dramedy for queers. The concept sounds a little lame, but I’m pretty good with dialogue and characters, so I’m sure I can make the script more than mediocre. I’m working on the outline right now, hopefully I’ll have a solid outline done in the next 48 hours or so.

The main thing that worries me is that I want the trans girl to die in the end. I want it to be shocking and get people to start talking about violence against trans folks. She’s going to get beaten to death by some transphobes who find out she’s trans. It seems like a bummer ending, but I really want to start a conversation about this, especially since the mainstream media doesn’t seem willing to. So the trick will be to really sell the trans character so when she gets murdered the audience’s hearts simply shatter.

Once I get a decent outline together, I may or may not post it. If you’re one of my writer friends, you will definitely see it, though.

Mark Twain on plagiarism: There are no original ideas

So, I’m a huge fan of Brain Pickings and I get their newsletter on my subscribing email (I have one email for personal/professional jazz and another for subscriptions), and this week said newsletter included this post about Mark Twain’s letter to Helen Keller about the plagiarism fiasco Keller faced some years earlier. In case you’re not familiar with the story, Keller once wrote a poem that was found to be strikingly similar to an earlier poem, yet she claimed it was her own original work. She was cleared, and these days most people think it was a case of cryptomnesia. Anyway, the gist of Twain’s letter is that “all ideas are second-hand.” As a writer and artist, I find this to be an incredibly apt observation.

I frequently refer to myself as a collagist because when I was 18 and first went off to college I came to the realization that nihil sub soli novum est. Every idea I had that I thought was great or award-worthy had been had before by someone greater or more award-worthy than me. I came to this realization first when I wrote a short story about AIDS that my teacher pointed out was uncannily similar to Ernest Hemingway’s famous short story, Hills Like White Elephants, which I hadn’t read yet. Then I wrote a screenplay about a child murderer preying on children in a working-class neighborhood until the adults in the neighborhood take matters into their own hands. One of the working-class adults marked the killer after stalking him and the rest of the community ganged up on him. I had no idea who Fritz Lang was at the time. Shortly after that I began working on an essay about how we can’t do anything without creating art, only to buy a copy of The Writings of Marcel Duchamp on eBay and see that Duchamp had the same idea 80 years prior to me.

Anyway, after getting really pissed off for a really long time that a bunch of great dead dudes were biting my game from beyond the grave, I realized that it’s probably something that every creative person deals with. In fact, it could be seen as a good thing: I am thinking along the same lines of some of the greats minds in 20th-century art and literature. This is probably a sign that I’m on the right track. Now what I do is I take other people’s ideas (or ideas that I assume have been had before me) and mash them up and try different executions and juxtapositions and so forth. I just make collages. In fact, recently I took the collagist title to a new extreme and have stopped doing any actual painting and stuck with creating collages. Last summer I made nearly two dozen collages.

So, the point is this: There are only a finite number of ideas that can be had, and with all of the people who have ever lived thinking of ideas for most of their lives, the chances are overwhelmingly great that nothing you think is actually original. The trick isn’t to do something new, it’s to do something better. Like I said before, Apple’s only innovations in the past 25 years have been in combining other people’s ideas into “better” ones and then marketing the hell out of them. And look how far Steve Jobs was able to go before his untimely death.

“We need a leader who is biblically based”

So the Reverend Ralph Martino just got done blabbing his word-flap on CNN about this big shitstorm with Obama alienating lots of black voters by showing that he has a heart. I sort of knew this was going to happen, because black folks in America are slightly more concerned with gender roles and norms than whitey. (Generally speaking; obviously, there are people who break the mold.) Anyway, when asked if he and Watch and Pray Ministries would still be supporting President Obama, he responded that they will be praying for them and went off on a tangent about how we need an über Christ-lover in the Oval Office. I think this is rather coincidental, because I just found out that I got an A+ on my paper about why atheists are qualified to hold public office. If I were clinically insane, I might think this was synchronicity at work.

Anyway, I won’t go into the fine details about why I’m opposed to deeply religious folks running things. If you want, you can read my full project, which is up on my Open Letter to American Atheists page. Really, it boils down to this: Christianity is a deficient belief system, and people who blindly follow its tenets are not going to have the problem-solving skills to run a country. It is perfectly possible to have a secular ethical system based on logic (again, read my paper or this post or the entry on Humanism at ReligiousTolerance.org). In fact, I think it is desirable to have an ethical system based on reason as opposed to faith. You see, the nice thing about basing things on reason is that you actually have reasons for them. Reasons which are objectively verifiable and don’t boil down to gut intuitions.

Also, I was shocked when Rev Martino said that his ministry prays for more than 32,000 minutes a week. What a waste of time. Prayer has never solved any problems. Active doing of things is what gets things done. That’s why it’s called “doing things.” Prayer doesn’t do anything other than shut down certain parts of your brain, causing you to mildly dissociate and think that things coming from your own mind are coming from supernatural fairy-being. Direct action is the way to effect change in the socio-political world.

SOrry, Christians, but you’ve had your millennium of dominance. Time to let the rational empiricists have a turn.

New page: Open Letter to American Atheists

So, I uploaded the final project from my writing class that I mentioned and created a page from part two of the project. It’s an open letter to American atheists, hopefully providing some advice on how to overcome anti-atheist prejudice in the political arena. View it here. The entire project should be available for download at the top there if you want to read it all; if the download doesn’t work, let me know.

The world is a terrible place

SO I disappeared there for a while! These things happen. I’ve been going through a really crazy existential funk. Basically I’m losing my appreciation for the academic world, which is the only place I ever really fit in, so I’m working on trying to find my place in the world, which is causing lots of depression. The good news is that I got a new writing project out of it. It’s another novel (I’m still working on the other one; that’s actually what I’m doing right now), and I think I may post the tentative first chapter here once I’ve fixed a few things. (It’s more of a brief introduction.)

In other news, I’ve been slacking off on my studies just to see how much I can get away with. I found out that English professors are oblivious to slackerliness, whereas philosophy professors can spot it a mile away and punish it (I got B+s on an exam I didn’t study for in Theory of Knowledge and a paper I didn’t do all the reading for in History of Modern Philosophy, whereas in my English classes I’m writing my papers literally hours before they’re due and not proof-reading them and getting A+s). I should be working on a paper for a writing class right now, but instead I think I’m going to watch some shitty History Channel “documentary” about UFOs, which I intend to write about later. I don’t like being a slacker, but it’s hard to work when you’re incredibly depressed, especially when you can get away with it and not have any negative repercussions. (I have resolved to work harder in my philosophy classes, and intend to study for my Philosophy of Language midterm for a considerable chunk of time tonight and tomorrow morning.)

To make matters worse, I had a dream last night that an ex that I’ve never completely gotten over was killed and replaced by a really obnoxious doppelganger who seemed to embody the antithesis of everything I loved about the real woman. I’m sure any psychologist reading this would have some things to say about that. (Incidentally, she was killed by a cute fuzzy bunny and a really adorable cartoon penguin. For reals. I wonder what that means?) Anyway, the point is I woke up wanting to shoot my subconscious mind in the face. It’s times like this that I envy the lobotomized. Life would be much easier if we were all mindless drones.

Anyway, since I know I have a few friends who check in here just to see how I’m doing, I thought I’d post an update. More to come soon (hopefully).

The trials and travails of transitioning

So it’s been a weird few days. Since I’m starting hormones soon, I’m trying to quit smoking because estrogen greatly increases the risk of stroke, which is increased even more if you smoke. (This is why it’s not a good idea to smoke on birth control pills.) I am generally a pretty heavy smoker; usually I smoke at least a pack a day, and quite often it’s even more than that. However, I’m down to fewer than 10 cigarettes a day and the cravings are starting to get more manageable. I’ve figured something out: when I feel a craving, if I just write (journal, short story, novel, anything) for a minimum of fifteen minutes the craving passes. It’s great that I’ve discovered this trick, because not only am I smoking less, but I am getting more work done than usual. Making all sorts of progress.

I decided to go through with the name change, but the family is not honoring the request. Oh well, they’ll come around.

Also, last time I went out for a cigarette (about two and a half hours ago) a group of little seven- or eight-year-old boys asked me if I was a boy or a girl. I told them neither and tried to explain the concept of transgender to them, which may or may not have worked. I figure that if I have trouble passing I can always use my visibility to raise awareness for trans issues.

I did, however, have a cold encounter at a gas station yesterday. I went to get a soda and for what I assume was my androgyny the cashier tried to refuse to help me. He didn’t say anything; he just acted like I wasn’t there. I just stood there and refused to go away until finally a line formed behind me and he was forced to help me. He did so in the fewest words possible and without ever making eye contact. What a winner. Seriously, though, that’s been about the worst encounter so far; most people don’t seem to even notice me, so either I’m doing an okay job of passing, or I’m failing miserably, or people really don’t care that much. I’m not sure how to find out which is the case; I’ll have to get to the bottom of this.