Monday, January 31, 2011

Ask your doctor

As I'm considering ending this blog, I'm going through old entries, including ones that never got published. Here's a bit of fluff, for your amusement (or not):

I think it's outrageous that prescription drug prices are so high. In this country, not only is Medicare stymied by laws preventing price negotiation with the drug companies but we pay for all those expensive "ask your doctor" ads. Drug companies should not be advertising drugs in the same manner as, say, Gatorade. But they are.

I've read that enormous research, and more money, goes into naming these drugs. Market research involving focus groups and surveys costs a hell of a lot of money. What a waste. Call the stuff by the name of it's composition. Wellbutrin is Bupropion hydrochloride (C13H18ClNO•HCl). No, it's not easy to remember and it doesn't conjure up any feelings of "well being". It is a prescription drug (though why and how it works is still somewhat of a mystery, contrary to what most doctors and all drug companies want you to know).

I was trying to find a few new ways of saying goodbye in my e-mails and came upon a list entitled "Goodbye in over 450 Languages".

Some of these have enormous potential for new drug names! The word goodbye is a great name for a drug. Goodbye to urinary urgency! Goodbye to hypertension! Goodbye to all my ailments!

If you work for Pfizer, Eli Lilly, or any other drug company; hey, this one's on me!

A small sampling of the words:

Aceh (Sumatra): Troklom - I don't know what this would be for - any suggestions?
Arabic (Syria): Xaatrek - mood stabilizer for science nerds
Belorussian: Pakul - perhaps that's where Paxil comes from?
Azerbaijani (Iran): Xudaafiz - sounds suspiciously like Sudafed, but this version would be effervescent
Coeur d'Alene (Idaho, United States): Qhest - renders you happy in spite of existential angst - maybe it's the potatoes
Finnish: Kuulemiin - meaning, "until I hear from you" which suggests a short-term pharmacological intervention - possibly for anxiety related to anticipating test results?
Ilonggo (Philippines): Panamilit - when they know enough about memory to target specifics - this one would be to enhance the ability to learn Central American language
Khakas (Siberia): Animçox - oh so much more than your ordinary erectile dysfunction tablet - it turns you into the stud you never were
Malay (Malaysia, Brunei): Permisi - performance anxiety blocker - excellent companion drug to the one above
Mapuche (Argentina, Chile): Peukallal - a mild purgative, of course
Mòoré (Burkina Faso): Niidare - goodbye to nihilistic thoughts, just by taking a pill - it's a miracle!
Livonian (Latvia): Nemizpäl - antipsychotic for social anxiety and mild paranoia
Náhuatl (Mexico): Amoxtla and Quinmoxtia - remedies mild megalomania (otherwise known as moxie or chutzpah) - in two dosage configurations
Turkish (Turkey, Northern Cyprus): Elveda - sedative for elevation phobia or euphoric - highly addictive

Don't forget to ask your doctor. Side effects include: head scratching, misdiagnosis, bewilderment and ridicule.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Those that are verbose and tangential are doomed in this day and age***

A tweet can only be 120 characters long, but Facebook’s status updates can be a whopping 420 characters. Wow! Ten more*
Uh oh. That was the Twitter maximum.
This wordy woman needs more characters than that. I am fast approaching the Facebook**
Well, this wordy woman who never could get to the point and loves tangents is starting to have a problem with the Web. Facebook is killing small time blog comments. I’ve stopped leaving comments on other people’s blogs, as I’ve noticed I am wanting to hit the “like” button, find none, ruminate for a moment, only to discover that the only thing I’m thinking is “like”, feel ridiculous, and move on. I can only assume others are feeling similarly.

My goodness, I've used the word "only" a few too many times, and would prefer to comment on it rather than think about revising what I've written. What's a sloppy thinker to do?! 
Of course, there’s also the attention span issue (which might also have something to do with my lack of willingness to think about editing). If we’re becoming used to reading small bits of information, if one exceeds those limits, readers are lost. I am, too!
I just read An Important Post about retaining one’s blog visitors in the Era of Facebook, and I know I’m doomed. I’ve been doomed since I first started blogging, since I’ve never followed the Three Big Rules of Blogging:
  1. Keep it short.
  2. Keep it simple.
  3. Keep one’s blog limited to one subject.
My wordy writing? It’s becoming limited to That Which is Private (for the most part). Yes, folks, I’ve threatened to stop blogging a number of times, and though I’m not exactly threatening to stop now, well. . .it’s winding down, isn’t it? Like a relationship that’s run it’s course. . .things simply peter out. . .
The couple sits at the restaurant table and hasn’t a word to say to one another. Everything has been said. Every secret has been revealed. Though every day brings much that’s new, it’s been too long since those delights have been shared, and so. . .
*characters to go.
** limit.
***There's actually Four Big Rules of Blogging. The 4th is: Make sure your titles are readable by search engines. This one, obviously, is not. Nyah. Nyah. I did it on purpose. As they say, "You're only hurting yourself." I can't help it. I am, by nature, a contrarian, so if "they" say do it This Way, I  will probably not. Ah well.

Image note: Willem de Kooning Woman V 1952-53
I once found De Kooning's work scary and offensive. No longer. 
What does it have to do with this post? I'm not sure, but it feels about right. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reading (and not)

A friend sent me this link to a blog post entitled "Reading as A Comfort." Reading it, I thought, "Oh, I don't do that anymore." Upon a moment of reflection, I realized that this is not entirely true, but for the most part, well, it seems my reading days are over (at least for now).

Sure, I still read. I read articles on the Web. I read parts of books. I may read an entire book, but as it's usually not fiction, I might pick it up in the middle, and return to the rest of it a year later. As for fiction, well, I'm beginning to be a what I used to call a "movie person."

Oh, how I am moaning to myself, thinking back on a time when I had a friend's kids in my car, with their father, whom I hardly knew, and his 12-year-old son asked me if I'd seen "Moby Dick." "No, I read it", said I. When I suggested he borrow the book and give it a try, the father harumphed and said "A picture is worth a thousand words." He was not a reader. I was appalled.

Of course, a part of me was disturbed by a parent dissuading a child from reading, but another part of me was just being the snob that I was. I've always thought words were superior to any visual art. A good book,  well. . .I'm not enough of a writer to describe the feelings I once had for them.

If it wasn't for fiction, I think I wouldn't have made it through growing up. I lost myself in books. Comfort isn't a good enough word. Books were survival. I could have done with less food and worse shelter, but I could not have done with less books. No library? I fear I would have died.

One particularly bad summer, I read at least two books a day. I hung an adding machine paper roll (anyone remember those?) on the wall of my bedroom and carefully wrote down the name of each book I read. I read a mystery novel each night, which I would consume in one gulp, not sleeping until I knew who dunnit (even if I had figured it out).

On weekends, a friend and I would go to the library and take out all the books we could carry about a subject we knew nothing about. We'd sit in her basement, drawing and reading at the same time, and sharing factoids with each other. Of course, today, we'd probably be doing this online.

Though I sometimes wish I had an iPad and all my books on one device, thinking "to heck with paper", there is something so comforting (there, I said the word) about a pile of books. Imagining myself back in time with my childhood friend, surrounded by hard cover books with their crinkly plastic library wrapping gives me a warm feeling. The library itself makes me feel good. A town without a decent library is not a real town.

Now, that is an archaic notion, isn't it?

Right now, I'm surrounded by piles of books, and yet I'm not reading them, at least not with the same fervor that I once did. When was the last time I let myself be lost in a book? It's been quite some time.

Yet, the stacks that surround me give me pleasure. I pick them up, read a few paragraphs, desire to read some more, but yet. . .

It seems I've become a do-er, not a reader. I want to spin yarn, draw, play an instrument, cook something, putter around, play with my cat, or write, talk to a friend. Time is short!

Is that all there is to it, the fact that time moved more slowly when I was young? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Perhaps I don't want to be lost in anything these days.

But, yes, I miss the fictional worlds I once was so in love with. In reading, say, Trollope, I came to know people and times I could not get to any other way. I'm glad for it, but I fear that the power of fiction has lost its allure. I seem to like present day reality far better. Even while writing this, I am thinking, "I could be spinning up that new fiber." There's just to much to do, not enough time, and certainly one lifetime is not enough.

It certainly sounds as if I'm enjoying life, so this must be a good thing, no?

Image note: Frontispiece for the 1861 edition of Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White."

I think back on discovering so many authors, and think it was like discovering new and unexplored territory, or finding new love. Are those days over for me?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to become a tattooist (a quick history)

Once upon a time, there were very few tattoo artists in the United States. I can't find the exact numbers, but I wish I could. I believe that there were something like 300 tattoo studios in the entire country in the middle of the 1960's. In 2000, there were over 20,000.

When I first started tattooing, just to give you a reference point, it was illegal to tattoo (or be tattooed) in Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and its boroughs. It was illegal in some other states, too, but I don't remember where (and it doesn't really matter). I know about the northeast.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to learn how to tattoo. I went up to Spider Webb's shop, wherever it was just north of the Bronx, and asked him just how to go about this endeavor. He told me that I could be his apprentice. It would cost me $2500 and I'd have to be his sex slave. I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. I didn't do it, but I know some women who did.

The other option was jail.

So, I went to art school. Truth is, folks, if you want to be a tattoo artist, learning how to draw well is a very good idea. Doodling scary monsters and cute fairies in your sketchbook isn't the best preparation for tattooing. Why on earth aspiring tattooists don't go to drawing classes is beyond me. Maybe it's a holdover from the idea that tattooists are rebels who have no respect for authority and wouldn't set foot in a classroom. It's pretty funny considering that the traditional route to becoming a tattooist involves an enormous amount of respect for tradition and hierarchy. Here it is:

First, you get tattooed. A lot. You watch and learn as much as you can, and when you figure out that you can't learn just by watching and that the tattoo artist isn't going to tell you anything for free, you start asking for an apprenticeship. Back in the day, there were so few tattooists that getting an apprenticeship was really difficult. You had to be a really good artist (or willing to be someone's sex slave). Even then, you still had to be a good artist. On top of that, since there were so few tattooists, you had to be willing to live anywhere.

Apprenticing starts out with doing all the dirty jobs. You wash the floor, clean up people's puke, clean up the tattoo area, make coffee, scrub all sorts of things, run the autoclave, empty garbage cans. . .you get the idea. Maybe, just maybe, if you're really good, you get to draw up tattoos that you have to promise to pretend the real artist did. You must show you are absolutely 100% devoted to the person you're apprenticing to and you never say "no" to anything they ask you to do. You must watch every single tattoo they do.

When you've proved that you're willing to "eat, sleep, breathe, and shit tattoos", you tattoo yourself. Then, you tattoo someone you know. Four times. Then, you do a little tattoo. If it's okay, you do all the crappy little tattoos that the person you're apprenticing to doesn't want to do. You do that for at least one year.

Generally, you do all of this for one year without getting paid. After that year, if neither of the parties haven't killed each other, you get to work for a percentage, but you still do the crap work. You are finally asked to tattoo the person you've been apprenticed to.

During the second year, things usually heat up and the competition starts. For some reason, tattooists don't like to have anyone around who does things differently then they do, or does anything better. If you do anything better than the person you learned from, they usually will start messing with your tattoo machines, or telling customers how lousy you are, even if you work for them.

I forgot about making tattoo needles. In the old days, you couldn't just order pre-made tattoo needles. Needle making was an art. It was a messy, stinky, toxic art, but it was an art. Tattoo needles are not single needles (unless you're in jail). They are many tiny eye-less sewing needles soldered together. These needles are smaller than any you've ever used for sewing. They're soldered in groups that are round for outlining, and side-by-side flats for coloring. Nobody knows for sure when they first started being made, but around 1980 people started making "magnums", which are groups of flats soldered on top of each other and at an angle (hard to explain in words). There's also ovals, and some other truly esoteric variations, all of which are now a lost art. They're all hard to make, require the use of an eye loupe, a lot of concentration, excellent eyesight, and an even steadier hand than needed for the actual tattooing. It's easy to blunt or barb a needle tip, and if you don't catch one's mistake, it'll mean scarring and pain for a customer. Truth is, I was delighted when pre-made needles became cheap, but honestly, none of the them were as good as the needles I made myself, even though I loathed the work and feeling sick after every single time I'd spent a day making them.

Anyway, learning to make needles was a big part of being an apprentice. If you couldn't make needles, you were out the door.

You had to learn how to rip a tattoo machine apart and put it back together again in working order or better.

You also had to learn how to take shit from anyone. Nobody called it hazing, 'cause that'a frat boy term, but hazed you were. Women who wanted to be in the biz had to prove they could "take it like a man." This meant that you were intentionally subjected to every sexist behavior known to man and could laugh it off, or even better, be ruder and nastier than any guy could imagine.

So, now we've got a lot of tattoo shops, more tattoo shops than we could possibly need. Truth is, tattooing is an excellent paying profession, and better yet, most of the money one makes is under the table. In this economy (or in any) it's a great gig.

But, things are slowing down. What's a tattooist to do?

Well, one thing that's happening is the old apprenticeship system is being thrown out the window. Once upon a time, I would have said "Great! It's about time!"

Now, I'm not so sure. Instead of having classes at art schools, what's going on is that tattoo shops are setting up their own little schools. Generally, they're charging something like $1000 bucks a day for "talented artists" to learn the basics of tattooing.

Back in the 90's, a shop in Florida tried this, and they got death threats. It was absurd. How to tattoo has been a well kept secret, or at least how to tattoo well, and others wanted to keep it that way. You are not supposed to sell this knowledge. It has to been given in the traditional manner. Anyone who breaks this code is, well, subject to death.

When I heard of this, I thought that if tattooing got more popular it would probably wind up being taught in schools. Real schools, mind you. Nothing wrong with that, in my humble opinion. If it was taught in schools, maybe the sexism and the abuse would slowly fade away.

It's interesting that even though tattooing has become pretty much mainstream, it's still an outlaw's job. The people who own the shops may not be the misfits, but the "artists" still are. Now, the person behind the operation wants to make as much money he or she can, and what with all the tattoo artists out there, and the fact that the majority of people only get one tattoo in their lifetime, dangling the carrot of becoming a tattooist in one week for less than the price of a semester at college seems like a really good idea to these entrepreneurs.

Sadly, right now I know of two guys who are freshly out of prison who think they've been favored and privileged by having their artwork judged worthy enough to get into one of these scam classes. One person was told "we'll waive your fee!" He's all psyched up. Guess what he's going to do? One week of unpaid labor in a tattoo shop, at the end of which he'll be told to go around asking other people to be an apprentice. Just like in the old days.

One really lousy shop in Maine did this for years. They were only open during the summer in a very busy tourist town. Each summer, they had people paying them to work there, in addition to making who-knows-how-much money doing little tattoos at $175/hour.

I'm feeling a little amped up over this subject tonight, as must be obvious from my rambling.

The little town in which I opened the first tattoo studio now is home to two. One is owned by someone who owns a few, and it is a corporation. Nothing wrong with that, but it does speak volumes to me about the owner's number one priority: money and liability issues. Tattooists and customers alike generally believe in near mystical ideas of what getting a tattoo and being a tattooist mean, and owning a corporation is not part of it. Once upon a time, being the star of a reality TV show would have been seen as selling out, too, but that's another story.

These days, everything has changed, but a lot of folks haven't quite gotten that. Most tattoo studios are as authentic as Hot Topic. They're carefully designed to look like places where you'll have an outsider outlaw experience, kind of a Disney-ian idea of a tat shop. The average tattooist is still a fuck up, and the shops hire and fire 'em quickly. The really good artists generally open small studios that only do custom work.

One thing still hasn't changed a bit. Tattooists and shops still talk shit about one another. Some of it's true, and some of it isn't, but when was that any different?

In 1961, New York City made tattooing illegal. The reason was that tattoo shops spread hepititis. The real reason was that there was so little business that some tattooists spread a rumor that another shop was spreading the disease. Their rumor backfired. No work for anyone.

If there's a moral here for the present day, I can't pull it together.

Image note: This is where you'd sit to get tattooed by Tatts Tommy, the first person who opened a licensed tattoo studio in Maine. Contrary to what most people think, Tommy was not a Mainer. He had been a tattooist on the Bowery in New York City in 1961, when it was made illegal. Having always enjoyed hunting and fishing in Maine, he came up here to ply his trade. It was a good move. The guy was not much of a tattooist, but he was a colorful and sometimes truly offensive individual. When I first met him, I stuck out my hand to shake his. He was the oldest living tattooist in the country, so I was thrilled to meet him! Well, no sir, he would not shake my hand. He pulled down his lower lip to show me the "Fuck You" tattoo he had hidden inside. Then he said, "A woman's place belongs in the bedroom and kitchen, naked, not in the tattoo parlor." Heh, I'm glad I met the guy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ambivalent post (neither the first nor the last)

Yesterday, I was having an email back-and-forth with a friend. We were discussing ideas. I was feeling feverish, and in the midst of this, I got overly aggressive with my assertions, and lapsed into self-righteous ranting. It wasn't the worst of emails, but I knew the minute I hit "send" that I should have thrown the thing into the trash. I knew I'd gotten nasty.

It's a day later, and I still feel badly about it. This makes me wonder how people who are constantly engaging in this kind of behavior can live with themselves. Maybe if one does it enough, it doesn't feel so awful.

Unfortunately, I rather think that's true. Some folks are even proud of their mean spiritedness. The other day I was waiting in a drive-thru line and noticed that both cars ahead of me had nasty bumper stickers. One proclaimed, "I ♥ Haters!" The other one read, "I may be fat, but you're ugly, and I can diet." I just googled that one to make sure it was correct, and I got 188,000 results in .33 seconds. You can get a bumper sticker, mug, key chain, or coffee mug with this lovely sentiment stamped upon it. Let me ask you this: Why?

I know why I was mean yesterday. It was personal. We all occasionally go over the top when discussing subjects that are important to us. But, as far as day-to-day being a jerk for the sake of a laugh goes, I just don't get it. I was in some pain yesterday, and that does account for some of my poor judgment.

Is it possible that personal pain is what drives all the awfulness around us? Buddha would have said "yes." Suffering causes suffering.

Fear, insecurity, and jealousy certainly have something to do with all the offensive bumper stickers that I see on a daily basis. Around these parts, there are many variations on the "My kid beat up your honor student" bumper sticker. Is it wrong of me to point out the grammatical problem of "My kid is an honor student because they have better drugs than your kid"? There's probably a bumper sticker that makes fun of people like me who correct other peoples' grammar. I generally don't (at least not in person). However, finding a typo in another person's writing is what got me into trouble yesterday when I read so closely that I forgot an actual human being whom I care about had done the writing (and even if I didn't know the person, normally I would still try to be decent).

So, back to other things, because no one (I hope) would appreciate any more of my self-chastisement.

Gun rights folks seem to really like their bumper stickers. "Keep Honking - I'm Reloading" is #1 (with a bullet). This one really scares me: "Warning! Trespassers will be shot, stomped, violated, strangled, mutilated, kicked, beaten, and boiled alive. Leftovers will be fed to the dogs." I'm not making it up. You can buy this sticker here, here, and if you'd prefer the milder version, "Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again", well, there's 13,600 google hits for that particular warning.

I believe I've gotten the message.

I will not be posting it at the top of this entry.

Image note: George Morland 1763-1804 "Two Men Hunting Rabbits with their Dog, A Village Beyond" I wanted to find a nice painting of people hunting. Makes little sense, really. I found this, and thought it quite sweet (though, of course, the rabbits wouldn't agree).

Addendum: Y'know, it only just occurred to me that "I ♥ Haters!" might not be nasty at all. It might actually be simply delightful. Maybe the modern day Jesus would write that on a napkin when he's having supper with friends. Maybe we should all ♥ the haters instead of making fun of them like I am tonight, and make the world a better place. Maybe I should throw out this blog entry. Maybe not. Hey, I'm only human.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Silly things

Ah, Adrien Brody. Great in "The Pianist". Otherwise, I just use you for entertainment value. When I'm at the yarn shop, I google your name so I can show your lovely visage to other women. Here's some of the reactions I've gotten (paraphrased): "Julie Rose! I thought you'd go for someone more manly!" Um, what's not manly about Mr. Brody? He doesn't look all that girly to me. Is it the fact that he's skinny? "You find him attractive? I don't get it!" "Look at that nose!" "Wait! I thought you liked Johnny Depp! Well, they're both kinda odd looking, now that I think of it." Yes, folks, these are the things women say to one another, and I'm not talking about young women, mind you. Many of these women are over fifty. Shame on us for being so childish!

Sure, he's not everyone's cup of tea, what with his big, broken nose, but he's certainly a handsome man. Okay. Not everyone thinks so. He's a bit of a test of character, in my humble opinion. Those who think he's ugly don't have enough of an imagination. Uh oh. I may have just judged you.

Yes, this is silliness. Now that I put up a list of this week's popular posts, the entry about my older celebrity crushes are going to come up again and again, and so I felt I must add some of my newer ones. Why? Why not? It's fun. I don't have to be serious all the time, do I?

I just deleted the sentence "here's another one" for I discovered that a still photo of Paul Dano doesn't grab me at all. Not one of 'em. However, I've enjoyed him in many films, especially in "The Good Heart." Last night I watched two more films in which he has starred, and realize he's either been typecast or pretty much plays the same character no matter the role. Doesn't matter to me. I've enjoyed them all. "The Extra Man" is good fun, especially as Kevin Kline is also in it, and "Gigantic" is a strange little film with a few gem-like scenes that I'm not sure held together well, but as I watched it on Netflix and the internet connection kept being dropped, it took me well over three hours to watch all 98 minutes of it.

These are not exactly film reviews, are they? I must admit my review of most films is pretty shallow, as is this blog entry.

I usually don't analyze a film unless I hate it. I should re-watch "Forrest Gump", a very popular film I remember ranting about, and give you a good meaty blog entry. I don't remember much about it now, except thinking it was ridiculous that a person who could be untouched by serving in Vietnam should be celebrated in film, even fictionally, and the fact that I was relieved that only one of the four people I saw the film with enjoyed it.

This reminds me of the last film I did not enjoy, some adult cartoon whose name eludes me. I went to see that forgettable piece of fluff with an even larger group of people. One of my cousins had said it got the highest percentage of favorable ratings (from actual film critics no less) than any movie had ever gotten on Rotten Tomatoes (no link to that here). How could it be lousy? So, we all went to see this film. ..whose name is. . .um. . .Wall-E! Well, anyway, after the first ten minutes, I was bored. Yes, I do get bored. I get bored when I have to waste my time. I sat in that theater thinking "Oh, I'm so jaded. Everyone else is loving this, I'm sure. What am I going to say when it's over? Should I tell the truth?" I was dreading the inevitable after movie conversation.

Much to my surprise, not one of my relatives enjoyed the movie. What we did talk about that evening is why on earth every single critic out there loved the film. We read the reviews on the web, and clucked our tongues. I do have a bad memory. What did those critics say? I do remember that I breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, even I, who thinks she doesn't care what others think of my opinions, doesn't really want to be the lone voice of reason in a world of inanity. That would make me crazy, no?

Happiness and stuff

At the end of the year, there are eulogies for the famous dead. Some of these people have taken their own lives. People then say, "Oh, so-and-so was so successful! Why did he commit suicide?!"

Happiness has nothing to do with how successful or talented a person may be. Having a lot versus having little has nothing to do with how happy a person may be. Yes, a recent study showed that money does indeed generate happiness, but only up to a point. As long as a person has a roof over their head, enough money to pay for food, heat, getting their car fixed (or taking the subway), we're all about even.

Being talented may even contribute to being depressed. If one is successful and depressed, one may feel guilt. If one is talented and not successful, one may feel like a failure. Others may judge for not using one's gifts.

There's just too much focus on success in this culture. In a society where adults generally don't play (except in sporting activities or in competitive games such as chess or Scrabble), we can't just "be." If one plays an instrument or sings, we can't just do it for fun. We can't do it in public (especially singing) without being judged as an eccentric. If we write, we must be writers. If we paint or draw, we must be artists. If we do anything, we must "be" that, instead of just doing it.

The "idle rich" used to excel at this. Who would think I'd use them for an example? A cultured young woman would learn to play an instrument, paint, read well out loud, speak a second language, amongst other things. A cultured young man might be an amateur botanist. None of this was considered odd. It was just being a person of culture, which once upon a time was considered a good thing, and not being "an elitist."

Of course, folks who don't need to work for a living have a lot of time on their hands, but heck, us Americans have a good deal of it, and watching a lot of bad television shows or spending one's evening hanging about and drinking beer isn't the best way to spend one's free time.

But, I've gotten off my topic. Excuse me, I've got the flu (but what excuse do I have for any of my other rambles?)

I have many things I'm quite good at, and I say that without any pride. It's simply true. Truth is, it's been a problem in my life. If I articulate that, many people take offense. I "should" be delighted with this problem. I should be grateful for being multi-talented. I am grateful. It has made life quite interesting for me. I am never bored (except when deeply depressed).

However, deciding "what to do" with my life or "what to be" has been problematic. How the heck do I choose?! Truth is, I never did choose. I've been a transcriptionist, tutor, waitress (briefly), receptionist (awful!), clothing store owner, tattooist, musician, weaver, crafts teacher, illustrator, fine artist, web designer, sheep farmer. . .and I'm probably leaving out something. I worked at McDonald's in high school, and was actually "good at it", enough to be slated to go into training to become a manager, something so abhorrent to me that I immediately quit that loathsome job.

I bristle at "being" anything other than simply a human being. Oh, how people argue with me! Julie, you are an artist! You should "own it"!

Why? Why is saying "I am a _______" of any worth?

Well, if I wanted to be a real success at anything, it would be helpful.

Folks, I am an underachiever. The truth is, even though I wouldn't mind being more financially secure, I really have no desire to be successful. Being successful, to me, is feeling a-okay with just being. I think if more people spent time pursuing that goal, everyone would be a lot happier.

Those of you who are something might feel a bit better if that thing wasn't working out that well. In these days of high unemployment, simply thinking of ourselves as John or Ryan or Sally or Michaela would probably be of great value. Think of all the people who become depressed upon retirement. They've stopped having a reason to live, or simply something to do. Even the most avid golfer might get tired of playing golf all day. Vacations are simply that - vacations.

If we all learned to play an instrument, sang and played in public, or with friends, read out loud, took up plein painting, wrote for pleasure and not potential profit, were amateur scientists, and did not judge ourselves for how far we took any of those things, everyone's life would be ever so much richer.

If we could stop asking ourselves why we've "failed" at not making any money doing things that are pleasurable, our lives would be far nicer. Then, perhaps folks wouldn't get to the point where they're wondering why they're still miserable if and when they achieve success.

Everyone says money doesn't buy happiness. Everyone says success doesn't buy happiness. We have scads of magazines at the supermarket showing us how messed up celebrities' lives are just to remind us of these facts. But, no, we do not honestly believe it. Maybe it's time we tried.

Image note: Marguerite Gerard"Artist Painting a Portrait of Musician" Before 1803