Thursday, June 5, 2014

On Scientific Theories, Or "You Keep Using That Word..."


First, we need to make sure we're using the correct vocabulary and everyone understands what everyone is talking about.

Hypothesis: a tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test its logical or empirical consequences

Theory: a working hypothesis that is considered probable based on experimental evidence or factual or conceptual analysis and is accepted as a basis for experimentation 

In everyday conversation, we tend to use theory to indicate an idea, or a passing thought, or how a certain thing should work (but likely may not work since we aren't working in a perfectly spherical vacuum). This isn't necessarily an incorrect usage of the word, but we need to remember that when discussing things in a scientific context, the above definition is the one to apply.

You all should have learned this in, like, 8th grade science. A hypothesis is what you start out with in an experiment. "I think thing A works like this." You then do experiments to test that hypothesis. If your hypothesis was correct, and you and a few other people do similar experiments and you all come up with similar enough results, then and only then do you have a theory. The Theory of Thing A. Or maybe [Your Name]'s Theory of Thing A. I mean, Einstein got to have his own theory; why shouldn't you? 

We have Theories for all sorts of things. I'm sure you all learned about the Pythagorean theorem in your geometry classes. There are theories relating to pretty much every branch of science and math, and all using that same definition: a hypothesis with proof to substantiate it.

So when people talk about the Theory of Evolution, or the Big Bang Theory (not the TV show), those are hypotheses that have the support of evidence behind them. They aren't hare-brained fever dreams or wild speculation, but ideas regarding the nature of the universe that have been supported by the evidence found.

It seems like much of the religious science-bashers keep thinking of this word "theory" in the wrong terms, and it is supremely frustrating for those who separate their faith from facts. I know plenty of people of faith who wouldn't for one second try to argue the validity of the Theory of Evolution because they've read up on the history of the science behind it (it's not a new idea, kids). But they don't see the science as a threat to their faith, but rather as a justification of it. They don't feel threatened by it, nor are they compelled to resort to the "yeah, well, so's yer face" defense. They find the divinity in the miracle and diversity of life as it is, take their stories of creation as the tales they were intended to be (well, at least that's my hypothesis), and go on with their life.

Don't misunderstand me: your faith (or lack thereof) is your business. I'd say it takes just as much faith to say with certainty that there is no God as it does to say there is. We have no absolutely definitive proof, one way or the other. As a friend of mine said recently (after which, I told her I was gonna steal the crap out of this line), the plural of "anecdote" is not "data." If you have had an experience that validates your faith (for either side of this debate), that's cool for you. You probably know several people who have had personal experiences for which they determined the only explanation was that there is (or isn't) a God. It's still anecdotal. It still can't be quantified, qualified, and tested. So can we please try to separate faith from facts? Faith is about believing without evidence. That's fine. Do your thing. But please stop trying to tell people it's fact, that it's certain, and that you have proof, because it isn't, and you don't. That's what makes it faith. Accept what faith means, be cool about it, and let it go. There really doesn't need to be this antagonism between people of faith and people of science. People of faith can stop trying to tell scientists what they should be teaching, and scientists can leave people of faith to do what they will in their churches/gatherings/whatever.

Now, quit being so damned bitchy with each other, or I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I will turn this Internet around and we can all just go home instead of going to get ice cream.

Tl;dr: Faith is not fact. Theories are supported with evidence. Stop being rude and insulting in your conversations with people who don't agree with you.

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Depression, or Getting Through It

First, most important thing to say: I am not diagnosed with clinical depression. I do not constantly struggle with it, and I am in no way intending to insinuate I do. I know several people that are and do, and I know that though I occasionally have depressive episodes like what I'm about to discuss, I don't deal with it in any sort of chronic way. Consider yourselves disclaimed.

Also, you should be forewarned, this post is primarily catharsis for me. I went through a thing, and I really need to let it out. I haven't really been able to talk to much of anyone about it, and while the internet can be kinda judgy, I don't have to endure the looks of pity, sympathy, disappointment, or concern through my screen.

Around about the time of the last post I put up (a couple of months preceding, actually), I was going through a significantly rough patch. My boyfriend of about four years and I had split (amicably) around April of last year, I had been unemployed for most of a year, not counting getting fired from a temp job around the same time I lost the boyfriend, and things were really getting to me. While I had a roof over my head and food to eat, I had no reliable transportation, and therefore no reliable means of obtaining a job or even pursuing any sort of hobbies outside of my house. I will never want for indoor entertainment; I love making things, and reading, and writing, and watching movies, but even these held little joy for me. It was very Curse of the Black Pearl, and I found myself drowning in apathy.

I am NOT an apathetic person, and I have spent most of my life, even after separating from the oppressive faith of my youth, having hope. There is always something to look forward to. There is always something new to discover. So much wonder in this universe, and there is so much we don't know.

But I despaired.

I looked at the wonder of life and the miracle that is this vast and unknowable universe and I thought, for the first time in my life, "What's the point?" I thought of how tiny and insignificant a thing the Earth is in the larger context, and again how tiny and insignificant I am upon its face, and I could see no way that anything I could ever possibly do could make any sort of impact, positive or negative.

I don't honestly know what hurt more: the despair, or the disappointment in myself for losing hope. I felt like the most useless lump of wasted space, and I hated myself for feeling that way. Every rational thought in my mind told me that I was being overly emotional, that I was just down because of stupid, temporary life things, and that I could make it better. For every rational thought, there was an opposite and even louder voice rationalizing why everything was, in essence, ruined forever. I couldn't do the jobs I needed to do to make money and live because I have ADHD, which keeps me from being as effective as I otherwis be. I couldn't do the jobs I love and want to do because I didn't have the money to get to auditions and things. Clearly, I wasn't good/driven/passionate/talented/dedicated/WHATEVER enough to manage to do absolutely anything to get where I wanted, which obviously meant that I didn't deserve that happiness.

God, I write it all down now and it seems so stupid. My ex (with whom I am still very good friends) saw a little of my suffering and strongly recommended I seek help. More rationalizations followed, detailing why I couldn't.

Few people knew how bad it was. I am an actor, after all. But at the worst of it, I couldn't handle talking about myself at all. Like, people, just being courteous, would ask me "how are you" and it was everything I could do to keep up the mask.

But this is how it diverges from clinical depression. My circumstances changed and I got through it. I got a steady job, which brought with it a steady paycheck, a new place to live, and then even a car. You don't even know how big a deal that car is to me. I ended up needing a little bit of help from a friend to actually get it and drive it off the lot, simply because a stupid ticket depleted the savings I'd managed, but I was able to pay him back for that in a matter of a couple of weeks. Other than that, that car is completely in my name, and I didn't have to get anyone else's help just to get the loan. It is huge for me, and I can't be happier with it.

And that's the thing. People with clinical depression suffer, regardless of how well things are going. I have only suffered like that twice that I can remember. They were the only two times in my life that suicide was even a thought in my mind. LET'S BE CLEAR. I am not now nor have I ever been truly suicidal. But it's a testament to the darkness of my state that I even thought of how much simpler it would be to just stop. I am the most stubborn, mule-headed, persistent pain in the ass most of the time, so giving up is just not part of my life. Quitting is for the weak, the lazy, and the entitled. I am NOT a quitter. Dammit.

I did get through it, though. My life turned around, and I moved forward. When I think about that time, it still hurts a little. Granted, it hasn't even really been six months yet, so I think that's fair. And I think it will always sting a bit. But I'm kind of okay with that. Looking back at how miserable I was reminds me of the things I need to do to avoid being there again. I have to stay occupied. I have to have some sort of gainful employment. I have to have a car. And I have to have a performance outlet.

Looking forward, I really need to get better at keeping track of when auditions are for things in which I want to be involved. This year, I completely missed the Shakespeare In The Park auditions by, like, a month, because I'd totally forgotten about it in the fog of "get a job, keep a job, get a car, keep a car, don't fuck up." I'm getting to a point of stability, so hopefully I can find something that will scratch that itch for me as well as fattening my portfolio.

Things aren't where I want them yet, but I have hope. And that's really what's important.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

On Arguments, Or Try Talking With People Instead of At Them

Random observation:

Why do we keep trying to make everything fit binary systems? Black v. white. Male v. female. Blatantly Aggressive v. Doormat.

Maybe this has escaped notice, but we live in a world of shades of grey. There are very few absolutes, and simple solutions are rarely effective.

And I know exactly why people shy away from genuinely accepting that as reality: it's hard. It's really hard. It means we constantly have to think. About our choices. About our thoughts. About whether or not the knee-jerk reactions we have are coming from reasoned, rational places, from outdated instincts, or from concepts and standards that have been imposed upon us by the society in which we live.

All we can really do is tap into our empathy. Try to understand WHY people are doing what they're doing. You don't have to agree with it, and it's understandable to attempt to change someone's mind, but you also have to respect that, at the end of the day, you may not agree, and that doesn't mean you care about each other any less.

So people are different from you. BIG FECKIN' DEAL. Given how vast and unknowable the universe is as a whole, there's bound to be some pretty awesome variety. How's about instead of focusing on the differences, we focus on the similarities? You like cookies? HOLY SHIT SO DO I!! You dig olives? Not really my bag, but that means there's totally more for you. It. Is. All. Good.

When people say things that sound so freakin' ignorant that they make you want to punch them in their whole face, take a breath. Try to think about why they would say that. Odds are they aren't just trying to get a rise out of you, but rather are speaking either from ignorance or belief (which are not mutually inclusive, thankyouverymuch). Ask them why they think that. Help them to see the fallacy in what they believe rather than smacking them over the head with it. Guide them to the light rather than shining a flashlight directly into their eyeballs.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On 9/11, or Can't We All Just Get Along?

So, today is a thing. A day on which our sense of superiority and security was shaken. Angry, misguided zealots chose to attack innocent, unarmed civilians in an attempt to knock us down a peg. Lives were lost, and under-appreciated, under-paid public servants followed their calling, risking and sometimes losing their lives to save others.

That event sparked a war that has continued these last twelve years. Many more lives have been lost in the wake of that tragedy. 

But something good did come of it. At least for awhile, it didn't matter if you were from New York or Texas, California or Nebraska; it didn't matter what party you aligned yourself with or what other things we all had going on. For a time, we were all just Americans. We became that which we so often say is the best thing about our country, but we so often fail to demonstrate. We were one. 

*sigh*

At heart, I remain a dreamer. As often as my faith in humanity is trampled and abused by the actions and words of people who honestly should know better, I still have to believe we can be better. So it is my hope that someday, this tragedy will be used as a catalyst for peace rather than an excuse for continued war. I know that as long as politicians-- no, *people* place more importance on power and the bottom line than on doing the Right Thing, that dream will remain out of reach. 

So it falls to us. We, the people, from varying backgrounds and with varying labels we use to define ourselves, who must rise above the oversimplified sentimentality that these powermongers would use to control us. We, who must use the faculties granted us to THINK. 

It's difficult. It's always easier to just go with the flow and not to think too much. Hell, that's how I am able to enjoy movies most of the time without hulking out in a feminist rage. But when it comes to the serious stuff, we can't afford to be so cavalier. We have to do better. We have to stop relying on mainstream media, advertising companies, and Hollywood writers to do our thinking for us. 

I know it's a lot. It means sacrificing that latest episode of Real Housewives or that extra hour or two of browsing through pictures of cats. But if it means finding better ways to deal with your fellow humans, don't you think it's worth it?

And empathy itself is difficult. We have so many instincts screaming at us, saying "that person is Other" and demanding that we shun, ridicule, or despise Other. We can do better than that. Unless you have some sort of brain dysfunction that leaves you incapable of thinking about more than just your basest instincts, we all have the cognitive ability to be better. We have the ability to recognize that the urge to commit violence on someone who dresses differently comes from that stupid, lizard-brain place. Now, when that place is saying "fire bad," you should listen. When it says "need water" after you've been wandering the desert for a day or two, it knows what's up. When you are in a social situation and that part of your brain is telling you someone is a threat because they look different, you need to tell it to shut the hell up and get back to you when your life is actually in danger. Now, if that different person pulls a gun on you, sure. Until then, we all just need to take a freakin' chill pill and live and let live. 

Tl;dr: 9/11 was tragic, but please stop using it as an excuse to be a dick. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

On Tact, Or I Will If You Will

To anyone I’ve ever offended because I’ve come off as playing Devil’s Advocate, poking all kinds of holes and whatnot, I am sorry. I do, however, want to explain why I have a tendency to do this.

I have spent large portions of my life around various people with some very judgmental attitudes. I, myself, used to be very judgmental, and I still struggle with making snap judgments sometimes. Enter The Devil’s Advocate Phenomenon. In an effort to minimize my own reflexive harshness, I tend to try to see the other side of things. I make myself think about what could have motivated a person to do something that seems strange or wrong to me. And, beyond that, I remind myself that these other creatures walking the Earth are just as entitled to their own choices as I am, and if it doesn’t directly involve me, my opinion really doesn’t matter.

So please, try to understand that I’m doing it as much for my own sake as for anything. I see so much judgment and vicious bile slung hither and yon all the time, and so often it’s about the most ridiculous, superficial crap. I can’t take it, so I say something. I try to be tactful, but if there’s stinky, stinky bullshit afoot, rest assured that I’ma call it out. If that bothers you, feel free to unfollow now. I apologize if my words offend, but that will not stop me saying them.

On a slightly different note, I've been on my own a lot lately, which has afforded me some good reflection time. Thinking about my priorities. Thinking about how I'm going to achieve my goals. And also thinking about the attitudes I have about myself and where they've come from. See, I've spent a fair portion of my life walking the very fine line between being perfectly self-confident and being overwhelmingly neurotic to the point of paranoia. I think many people, meaning well, have confused my veneer of confidence for a through-and-through arrogance and felt compelled to "tell me the truth about myself." Sometimes, it has been from a place of meaning well. Sometimes, it's been in an effort to take me down a peg. Sometimes, it's been to get me to do what they want.

I want to make something very clear: when I want your opinion, I'll ask for it. In writing in this blog, it is totally fair to assume I'm asking for it, and usually, what happens on the internet is usually to be taken with a grain of salt anyway. In person, however, I have ZERO tolerance for emotional manipulation. If you want me to do something, ask. If I say no, respect my no. Yes, I'm a painfully stubborn ass sometimes. But y'know what? If you can't convince me, that is just as easily because your argument is flawed as it is because I'm stubborn. So get your facts straight the first time rather than trying to manipulate me into thinking I should do something because I owe it to you or whatever. And while, as you might have guessed from what I said about calling out the bullshit, I am a big fan of being direct and being honest, I sometimes have difficulty if someone giving me "constructive criticism" is doing so out of a genuine concern and desire to help me improve or if it's some sort of manipulation. That becomes a trust issue, of which I have many. So do me a solid. If you feel like I'm making a mistake of epic proportions, try to let me know about it in a tactful way. I tend to get really neurotic, so sometimes careless remarks stick with me way longer than I would like.

However, if what you have to say is something to the order of "[person/group of people] thinks [x] about [thing you do], so you should stop," let me help you save your breath: I don't want to hear it. I am looking at going into film, and if I spend all my time worrying about what people think of me, I am never going to leave my house. So button it. I can't afford to care. If you think I'm doing something that is damaging to my person, I might hear what you have to say. But I refuse to sit and pine over whether or not people like me. Ain't nobody got time for that.

I realize as I'm reading through this that it might all seem a little hypocritical. "Oh, it's okay for *you* to speak your mind, but other people can't call you on *your* bullshit?" That's really not what I'm trying to go for, here. I guess what I'm really trying to say overall is that tact is important; understanding is important. It's important for people you don't know, and it's important for people you do know. Just because you see someone you don't know from Adam and your first thought is "what the hell is s/he wearing?" does not entitle you to treat that person rudely or to assume that your opinion is in any way relevant to the situation. If you feel you absolutely *must* voice your opinion or concern, please try to be respectful and tactful. Short of someone committing violence or some sort of harassment upon the person of another, you're already stepping outside of the circle on the Venn diagram that encompasses your business.

Tl;dr: If you must voice your unsolicited advice, please do so in a tactful and respectful manner.

Still tl;dr: Don't be a dick.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Drives, Or What The Hell Am I Doing?

So, I, like many others here on The InterTubes, have a Twitter account and a tumblr, both primarily to follow celebrities whom I admire. Part of my motivation to do so is (as I have come to discover) a misplaced hope that I can glean some sort of wisdom from them on how to achieve something like what they have.

See, I have this totally unrealistic dream of getting into film. Movies, TV, I don't even care. But beyond that unrealistic dream, I have a mission that is damn near delusional: I want to represent my demographic on film.

I am a big girl. I am 5'7" and weigh over 200 pounds. A fair chunk of that is muscle that never really goes away as long as I'm not bed-rest-ill. But I jiggle when I wiggle.

I am also friggin' sexy. I've been told this by numerous sources, so I can say it with some degree of certainty. I'm curvy in the traditional, littler-in-the-middle sort of way. Plainly put, there are many ways wherein I fit the traditional standard of beauty.

But how do we see larger women? Mothers. The bitchy, fat friend. Comic relief, either as "the funny one" or the disgusting object of scorn. This relegation to supporting cast grates my cheese. Where are the women like me? I'm beautiful, intelligent, and strong. Where am I in film?

But I digress. Aside from being representative of a bit of a niche, it seems like there is a dearth of information on how to actually achieve success in film. It's all "Get an agent" and "Audition for everything."

Here's a tidbit: THAT'S NOT HELPFUL. What agent? Just any agent? How do I decide which agent is going to be a good fit for me and is going to actually further my career?

And audition for everything?! Are you feckin' kidding me? That seems like a pretty awful waste of everyone's time. If I walk in for something when *I* know I'm wrong for the part, and *they* know I'm wrong for the part, is that really going to net any positive results? I mean, if it will, I'd be willing to give it the old college try, but it just seems like everyone would walk away from it irritated.

And anyway, how do you even do that? What happens if you get cast in two separate parts? How do you prioritize that kind of thing? How do you know which is the role that will connect you with a better job down the line and which is more of a dead end?

It just feels like there are a LOT of unwritten rules about this stuff, and I can tell you I am really friggin' tired of it. Can someone just tell me? Tell me what I'm supposed to do? Show me a road map? Even if it's just, like, in crayon and with stick figures... I just want to know how I go about doing this. Vague platitudes and cliches are lame, thoughtless answers. So knock it off and give me something I can actually use.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Acting, Or Thank You, Tom Hiddleston and David Tennant

So, if anyone ends up reading this that *doesn't* know me, I am kind of a nerd.

Blogging about costuming, ranting about everything under the sun, whoda friggin' thought, right?

What may not be so readily apparent is that I'm an aspiring actress. I haven't done much with this dream, in part because I'm in no financial place to do so, and in part because I'm terrified of failing. Neither of these things is unreasonable, but both will prevent me from achieving anything and I really need to get past it, but delving into that particular neurosis is not the purpose of this particular blog.

Tonight, I finally sat down and watched Tom Hiddleston's NerdHQ* panel. He was, in a word, inspiring. I haven't gone full fangirl about Mr. Hiddleston, though I've been an admirer since I saw him in the first Thor movie. More recently, however, I've allowed myself to be drawn into his fandom a bit, and after watching that panel as well as his appearance as Loki to introduce the Thor 2 trailer, I'm sold.

There are as many types of actors as there are kinds of people. Some do it as just a job. Some do it because it's fun. But a select few do it because there is nothing else they could possibly do. I don't mean that in a belittling, "they have no other skills" sort of way. I mean it in the same way as if someone were to observe a fish and say that it swims. Well, of course it swims. It's in its nature to swim. If it were not to swim, it would die. THAT is what acting is for that select group. Acting is part of their biology. They breathe it in and it courses through their veins, bringing them life and filling them with, as Loki so eloquently said, "glorious purpose." When they speak of their vocation, they come alive, animating and sparkling like a diamond suddenly thrust into the light, dazzling and breathtaking to behold.

Tom Hiddleston is one of those select few. So is David Tennant. They are nerdy about their art, and it is a marvelous thing to witness.

Watching that panel reminded me why I love to perform. I love that feeling of bringing something off of the page and breathing life into it. I love researching roles to see what other actors have done with them. I love filtering the role through my own body, making it uniquely mine. I love finding a character in myself, as well as finding myself in the character, making that connection, then being the conduit through which the audience connects to that character.

So, filled with my own glorious purpose, I will start making strides. I will not let the minutia of the everyday deter me from my goal. I will succeed, and someday, I will be sitting in my own panel at NerdHQ, fielding questions from people whose lives I have touched, and maybe, just maybe, I will be able to inspire the next generation as I have been inspired by those two skinny British blokes.

So thank you, David Tennant and Tom Hiddleston. Thank you for being so passionate about what you do. Thank you for your inspiration. I needed to be reminded, and I will not forget.

* For those not familiar with NerdHQ, it's an event run by Zachary Levi and the other fantastic people from thenerdmachine.com that happens simultaneously with San Diego Comic Con. They have all kinds of groovy stuff going on, but the big thing they do is Conversations for a Cause, wherein they hold mini-panels with whatever celebrities/industry guests they can manage with the hectic SDCC schedule; audience members pay $20 for a ticket to these intimate, 300-seat-audience panels, and all the proceeds go to benefit Operation Smile, a charity that facilitates reconstructive surgery for children born with cleft palettes.