Saturday, October 29, 2005

How Bout a Little Manic w/Yer Depression?

Jeeze, CAS, why not broadcast your own personal neuroses to the world? There's a good use for bandwidth...

Ah, well. Forge ahead. I'm coming out of that oh-so-pleasant mood of the past couple/few weeks and inching toward the barrel of monkeys that is its flipside. Just like day and night, hot and cold, movies and videogames, ya' can't have one without the other. "Y'know," say people who apparently believe they were put on this Earth for the express purpose of telling other people how to live, "there are drugs that will even you out. Why don't you...?" "Yeah," sez me, "too bad there ain't any drugs on the market that'll stop you from being a self-righteous busybody who can't keep her nose outta' other people's business!" Don't worry, I'm sure someone somewhere will think of a psycobabble diagnosis for that, too, and then just watch the pharmaceutical industry jump on it with both feet!

See, apparently, there aren't enough REAL diseases, conditions, and other forms of human misery out there to make these people a good enough living. So they gotta' make shit up and convince a public filled with Baby Boomers (who, let's remember, began their lives with "Better Living Through Chemistry" and went on to Timothy Leary and the Summer of Love, followed by the Swingin' 70s and Reaganomics, so they got no problem at all thinking a pill can solve their problems) that they can't sleep without Ambien, can't fuck without Viagra, and can't function in the workplace without Prozac. Or whatever's the latest personality adjustment in a bottle. These folks go hand-in-hand with the plastic surgery industry, which as far as I'm concerned should be just as illegal as con games and credit cards. Oh, right, that whole credit card / credit bureau scam is still going on, isn't it?

Let's be honest. It's not that there aren't enough real problems for people to invest their time and money into solving. It's that, y'see, being real problems and all, they're like HARD to solve. Like, really hard, man. You can't fake solving something like malaria or starving children. Not like you can fake the shyness pill. "Here, Becky, take this pill and you'll be fine." "But, um, I'm still unemployed and up to my ears in debt, and my husband's still over in Iraq..." "But now you won't CARE! So you can just get on with your life." "Gee, thanx, that sounds great!" "It is. Grab some of those nose-job brochures on your way out."

And hey, I gotta' tell you. I'm not sure I'd want to live without my manic side. My in-between self is BORING as hell, she's the one who just goes to work and comes home, cooks dinner, maybe cleans my room or something. Sure, depressive me is a pain in the neck. She complains, eats too much, and sits around watching too much TV. But without her, who would I blame for being 40 pounds overweight? Besides, she's the price I pay for manic me -- the idea generator, the midnight-road-trip party animal, the up-all-night-with-a-project psycho artist who wrote Racing History for chrissakes. I need her. I love her. She's a blast. I can't wait till she gets here...

And besides, I got this radical idea that if you're truly unhappy with your life, you probably oughta' change it somehow. 'Cuz if we've built a society where growing numbers of the citizenry must voluntarily drug themselves into submission simply to function without going postal, committing suicide, or ortherwise falling apart, well... Blame it on my too-early exposure to Nostrodamus and all that crap, but gee, I'd say you're looking at the beginning of the end there ain't ya? Hey, today's movie recommendation (I got one for all occasions) is something called "Equilibrium," which you may believe is an action-skiffy-flick, but like "The Matrix" all the flash and dash is there to keep dumb people awake while the smart people get to play with some very interesting ideas. Rent it.

Maybe next time we'll talk about George Orwell and the War on Terrorism.


PS: Love and kisses to all my buds. Thanx for the emails!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pie in the Sky

So I watched this 3-hour special on The History Channel called "Failure Is Not an Option" today... about the mission control folks at NASA... covering the whole history from Mercury through Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, and speculation about beyond... Really cool stuff. Very emotional for me, as I've always been a NASA groupie.

I was born three months after the first moon landing. (My mom says I was there when she watched it on TV, but she could not tell whether I was interested or not.) And the first movie I ever saw in the theater was Star Wars. So I am truly a child of the space age. Carl Sagan was my hero. I read Harlan Ellison when I was in the 6th grade. And I finished writing my first sci-fi novel at 18 (yes, it sucked, but that's not the point).

But it was the Challenger explosion in 1986 that changed my future. Because that was when our country lost faith in the value of space exploration. Let's face it, the general public lost interest in the early 70s. But they were cool with it happening anyway even if they weren't looking. They got computers and velcro and microwave ovens and other cool stuff out of the deal, after all. Then BOOM.

By the time I was finishing high school, the hiring freeze was about all I knew about NASA. So I didn't bother dreaming about any kind of career that could have anything to do with it. I toyed with the idea of planetary science (my hero Sagan was in the dept at Cornell, after all) before I realized there were probably a dozen jobs to be had with the degree and what chance did a B student have? Right.

So off to journalism school. Communications, especially the written kind, that was easy for me. I toook the easy way out. I saw the movie "Contact" and cried like a baby. That could've been me. If only I hadn't been so...

Now I've seen all kinds of criticisms of NASA over the years -- more of that than anything else, really. As a child of the space age, I grew up being told that none of that mattered anymore, that the glory days are long gone, that we have enough problems here on Earth and blah blah blah. None of the great successes matter either -- people only talk about the failures. And they talk about somehow making space travel "safe," as though that were possible. We can't even make driving on the highway safe. We can't even make food and drugs safe. And we're supposed to make exploring the most inhospitable environment to life somehow safe?

Look. If you said, "We can afford to send some folks to the Moon, but we can't afford to bring them home. So they'll have to just stay there till they run out of supplies and then that's it." Certain death. How many people do you think would volunteer for the mission? A couple dozen? A hundred? A thousand? Easily. These are the same crazies in ancient Africa who said, "I wonder what's around that nearly impassable cape down shore from here." And then they went, and no one ever saw them again. Some died. But some of them set up camp and lived down here, made a village, brought up kids. And some of those kids wondered what was beyond the next horizon. And humans populated the Earth.

We can do it. Exploration is in our blood, in our souls. I'm tired of this culture of paranoia, anyway, everyone always talking about safety and security. That's what stagnating societies care about. You stop taking risks, you stop progressing, you shrivel up and die in your comfy little coccoon. Screw that. Screw safe.

Bring me danger. Bring me excitement. Extreme sports guys will risk their lives on some stupid hillside just for a few precious seconds of rush. Screw that too. We live vicariously through them, through video games and movies, content to pretend at adventure. Fuggitall.

It's time we not only accepted risk, but EMBRACED it. Make risk your lover. Understand that you are not as special and unique a snowflake as you think you are, that if you do something crazy and get your ass melted the world has not lost one nano-fraction the amount of beauty and wonder it loses every day by your not having tried. Neil Armstrong stood on the freakin MOON 35 years ago because a whole fuggin lotta people risked everything to make it happen. That's why he said what he said. He and Aldrin were THIS CLOSE to crashing that flimsy little go-cart of theirs, and they said no aborting man, not when we're this close. We're not putting our own asses ahead of the advancement of our fuggin species. And the risk paid off. The original 7 astronauts were TEST PILOTS, for fuck sake! They'd risked more than that just to prove whether some company's new guidance system might work. So don't think for a minute they would've pulled out of the space thing in the culture we have now.

And there's a bunch of people who haven't, who are still committed, who still feel the crazy pull of the unknown and most go forth to meet it. Whether that is intellectually, technologically, or physically. I wanna' be one of them. I took the safe and easy path 20 years ago, and guess where it's gotten me. Into a nice safe little day job where the only thing I can really accomplish is generating a little revenue for some stock-holder's pocket change. Screw that too. It's time to do something. To mean something. To risk something.

Anything. Because I can't stomach the idea, the ugly thought that's been rattling around in my brain for decades now, that I'm living at the beginning of the end for my people. Not just the US of A (we'll rant about that some other day), but my freakin species. Maybe Homo sapiens sapiens ain't so wise after all, if this is as far as we could go. If I wanna' keep going at all, myself, keep living and bothering to get out of bed in the morning, I gotta' think there's more to us than this.

Any HR people at NASA out there? I'm available. My resume's on the USAjobs site now. A more passionate cheerleader for the PR front you will never find, I guarantee. Heck, I'd even clean up the swearing for you guys. Really. Hell yeah.

Love --CAS

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Today is my 36th birthday, and a few things have got me down.

First: I have lived all over the US and known a lot of people. Some of them are very dear to me, but in memory only because through my own laziness or whatever I have lost touch with them. None of them know how often I think fondly of them, and I'm sure many of them have a bad taste in their mouths if they think of me at all because I've always found it easier to cut myself off completely from a previous life every time I move than to deal with the ongoing pain of missing somebody.

Names still haunt me. From Capuchino High School in San Bruno, CA (and neighboring Milbrae HS), Tanya Pavlov and Mike Geimer, Craig Chin and Mark O'Keefe, Diana Lucero and Zach Uribe, Yvette and the infamous Stu-Man... From Granby Memorial HS in Connecticut, Kristin Patria and Sue Huk and Scott Warren and Eric Mahl and Maura Lynch and Avery Glasser... Also from Connecticut Phil Owen Champigny... From Long Island University in Southampton, NY, of course Jen and Meredith (who I'm lucky enough to talk to once in a blue moon), also Colleen Graham and Kristie Twining and all the folks on SEAmester fall '92... From NW Arkansas Cory and Nancy Gray and Odis Holcomb, Bill and Bob Browning, Chris Landrum and Nicole, Valerie Darrow, Roy Swaty, James Crowder, Carlton "Joe Cool", and Mike McCollough... From Oregon Ocean Ford and Janneke, Jerry and Cricket and Alder, Dylan Turnbull... And the tremendous weight of guilt I'm carrying around for missing the wedding of a great friend, Luanna, because my work has in so many ways utterly taken over my life...

Ah, guilt. Never mind the family stuff. Haven't seen my grandmother or any member of my father's family in almst a decade 'cuz I can't seem to get myself to upstate NY to visit them. Hardly ever talk to anyone on the phone, not even my brothers and their very cool kids... I only see my mother, I think, because she lives so close to me.

Now, the second big thing is my writing. See, I do this science fiction thing. In real life I'm a technical editor and sometime designer for a magazine. But my heart and soul are wrapped up in writing, particularly this one project that I pretty much "finished" about two years ago. A few tentative attempts at publishers and agents, but let's face it the thing is a tough sell. A five-volume space opera about nobody characters changing the world, structured like some bizarro postmodern Don Quixote novella series, written by someone you've never heard of...? It's uncategorizable, unpredictable, funny and serious like a Joss Whedon story, filled with pop culture references and twisted cliches... Harry Potter it ain't.

So. There's that. It is, for good or ill, what I live for. And what have I done with it? Nothing. It sits on my computer hard drive (and several backup locations) wanting to be read, and I can't seem to get it out there. I'm not lazy -- I work full time on an editorial staff of 3 people that has put out 18 separate magazine issues in the past year. I'm not untalented -- on the contrary, I've dabbled in art, music, and writing in my life so far with some success in each. However, at 36 I'm walking around in a dumpy, out of shape body that feels pain nearly every day because of back trouble that came way too soon in life. So here I am feeling like a big fat failure.

Ah, fuggit, you say, jeeze... If you don't like stuff about yourself or your life then just get up off your ass and change them! Well, yeah, so that's the plan. Only it's kind of overwhelming when you're dissatisfied with nearly EVERYTHING. The best thing in my life is my "husband," the man I've lived with for 13 years. We are a match made in heaven or however you'd like to describe two people who are perfect for each other. So I got that going for me. And lots of people don't.

Thus begins this blog thing, chronicling what should be the beginning of my new lease on life. Or whatever. More to come, and I promise it won't be near as depressing in the future. That's the whole point, after all.

If any of the folks named above -- or others you know who you are -- are out there, please know that I miss you in so many different ways. If I could win the lottery and do nothing but spend my time writing and keeping in touch with all of you, I would. Maybe that's what this thing can do for me, can get started at least... Who knows? Stranger things have happened in all of our lives, and I remember living through some of them with some of you!

--Cheryl Scott,
signing off from Eugene, Oregon, on a dark and dreary night