Bigger on the Inside: the story of a tattoo

If you’ve met me in the real world you know that I’m small and quiet. Not shy so much (anymore), not untalkative (I can talk your ear off), but loud is not a word that would be used to describe me. A bit bigger on the inside.

the only time i’m loud is when i dance
it’s the only time i don’t mind making a statement or being seen.
so when i woke up the morning after getting a gorgeous, bold, bright, colorful tattoo
i’m not going to lie, I freaked out a little.
and then I called on my aunt
you see, she has tattoos
and her daughters have tattoos
and she’s very no nonsense.
she laughed and told me I was fine
which I was
this year had a rocky start
fueled by a rocky ending to last year
and i think it all caught up with me in a moment of nagging self doubt
fueled by the world yelling at young adults for being irresponsible when they are just different
(i’m 27, do i still count as a young adult? i don’t know anymore but i’m surely not a day over 17 in my mind)

I posted a photo of it to instagram and twitter
(pictures or it didn’t happen)
the lyric
i am bigger on the inside
it’s an Amanda Palmer song
the internet is a magical place
and some times human things happen
she saw the tweet
she tweeted back “holy shit”
which i took to be good
then (i found out hours later) she posted it to facebook
and wrote about how surreal it is
(and now i’m writing about how surreal this is)
that i got a tattoo of a lyric from an unreleased song
(that you should listen to, grab some tissues)
a song, that doesn’t feel quite real to her,
because she hasn’t set it down,
made it official,
but there her words are, inked in my skin.
and something is alive and real in that.
something beautiful, enough to be believed
but i’ve heard the song enough in person and on youtube
to know that this song was something
i needed to hear
need to hear

and then,
it’s an intentional reference by her to Doctor Who
a show i enjoy immensely
i’m also small, only brushing 5′ tall
i’m much smaller on the outside you see

we are so much bigger
than another one can ever see
trying is the point of life
so don’t stop trying

promise me 

Tattoo done by Splat at High Priestess in Eugene, OR. He’s awesome!
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This is what social media lets us do: Story of an Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Party

A year ago I opened my mouth on Twitter and opened myself up to an amazing opportunity in which I organized a house party with Amanda Palmer. I spent a year imagining how it could go, and honestly every dream, every imagining I had was blown out of the water by what did happen.

Amanda Palmer Kickstarter Party in PDX
Sitting downstairs, almost everyone. New friends <3

I offered to organize a house party as a backer reward for Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter. It’s amazing what happens when you say yes. Fifty strangers offered me up money, with no guarantee that I wasn’t a psycho going to run off with their cash. One of them offered up her house. We came together, brought food, brought drink and made something magical happen. We were strangers, loosely bound together by the fact of being in roughly the same geographical area and being fans of AFP. Using social media we were able to connect, people who may never have connected in this way.. we connected, unsure of the end result but willing to give it a chance. It was an act of trust, of faith in humanity – which I wrote about how doing this restored mine. We’re a community, unbound by geographic restrictions.

The day of Amanda texted me, stuck in traffic – this non Portlander will never again forget that the Seattle-Portland corridor gets massively backed up every afternoon and will warn every person who tries to make the drive. We texted back and forth for a while, talking about traffic and that night. But mostly how that week had been a tough one, and well, regardless of what had been happening, I was confident there would be a lot of love and friendship waiting in the party house. I didn’t really know how right I was. I had hoped… but really, I’ve never felt so connected to people I’ve just met.

Amanda arrived, walking around the corner of the house to the backyard. A silence dropped. I got up from my seat and ran over to her, I’d promised a massive hug. There was a moment, a hug, a kiss, a thank you. A moment where all that mattered was, we’re here, we’ll make things okay, celebrate life, embrace the shit. A hug. A kiss. A thank you.

Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter House Party, Portland
Amanda Palmer: Laughing, misheard lyrics, “Cat’s got your soul”

You don’t realize how powerful eye contact is, how powerful touch is, how powerful simple words are until you find them (almost) missing from your life. Researchers say you need 8 meaningful touches a day to maintain emotional and physical health. I’ve counted days where I never touched another person. Every hug I got that day, every kiss, every moment of eye contact was a salve on my psyche and my soul. These strangers, many now friends, created this bubble of trust and happiness. I think for everyone. I don’t think I’m the only one who can say that last night changed me.

Amanda sang, and we sang with her, she read from Neil’s new book, we ate and drank, we played Mafia/Werewolf. I cried. I had too many feelings. I think mostly I cried because I was so fucking happy at what we had created. Fifty-odd people cuddled into a den, the only light a lava lamp. Singing sad songs, listening to Amanda sing. All. the. feels.

I got to have them because I trusted the people I was around. It was okay. People I’d only just met gave me their hands, led me their strength. We felt a gamut of emotions, collectively breathing in something bigger than ourselves.

Early on in the night I got to talk about social media, and how it really is just a tool, no more, no less than the people who use it. How I wrote a portion of my master’s thesis on studying how she did things. The thesis that landed me my job. Getting to hear Amanda tell me that I got it, that I understood was an amazing validation. Fighting the good fight got a little easier. Comrades.

I know I missed moments of brilliance shared between others. I couldn’t be everywhere. I hope everyone went home a little bit healed, a little bit happier, a new friend made. I made friends with another dancer. I sat on the floor with Amanda while we got back massages from some lovely people. A moment of release and contentment. I was told I was gorgeous by a lovely girl. I got to hug people. My friend and I were able to give someone a couch to crash on. Many made a concerted effort to take me aside, look me in the eye and thank me for organizing this. I don’t think I could ever really say how much that night could have been different if they hadn’t been there. If they hadn’t been willing to be a part of it. It was our party. I may have orchestrated a few things, but everyone there made it what it was. So if you’re reading this: thank you.

Last year I wrote: Sometime next year I’ll be hanging out with some new friends and our favorite musician, enjoying life because we all took the chance to trust a stranger and make magic happen. I don’t think I knew how right I’d be. We made magic happen.

Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter House party, Portland Oregon
Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter House party, Portland Oregon

The Thing About Things

i can carry everyone i love in one phone application
built to optimize the facetime with the ties i’m bent on making
actually i want to be alone
to mourn the loss
of what this cost
i collected you but now you are all lost

— The Thing About Things

Yesterday Amanda Palmer posted a song she’d performed for the first time last week. It hit me right in the feels and left me sobbing into my pillow. A tweeted at her:

It’s true these words. Some of them, are thoughts I’ve been struggling to coherently form. And others from the song were thoughts I’ve been needing to think. Things I didn’t know I needed. I want to tear my room apart and go over every little thing I’ve kept wondering why I’ve kept them all and cleaning out the things that aren’t real. The thing about things is that they can start meaning things no one actually said.

I could write for a long time about this entire song, but I want to really look at this one verse. It shows the triumph and the failure of being connected at all times. i can carry everyone i love in one phone application / built to optimize the facetime with the ties i’m bent on making. We’re always connected to the people we want to connect to, the people we think we might connect to, the people we wish we could connect with. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. We pour our emotion into apps and hope that something human comes out. We don’t sit in silence, we flick our thumb down the screen pulling the refresh from the ether. We don’t want to miss a chance at something great and while we’re glued to a 4 inch screen the world around us keeps going.

actually i want to be alone / to mourn the loss / of what this cost. We don’t look up. At dinner we’re glued to our screens, on the bus, in between meetings. We forget to see the people next to us. The connections we’re bent on making fizzle for all our efforts. We collect our memories, our ideas, our friends, our idols in our phones, in our computers, on our TVs and Xbox’s. i collected you but now you are all lost. We put things away, each in it’s own app. Organizing as to keep connected. And in forgetting to look up, to see someone, really have that moment where you say ‘I see you’,  we’re connected yet lost. We lose.

Social media is a tool, full of potential. I’ll be the first to go off about how great it can be. I’ll also be the first to say I wish we could quit it because we’ve forgotten how to be human. So many people don’t connect their worlds across digital and physical worlds. We act as if they’re different places where we can be different things. And maybe they are, maybe sometimes it’s good to pretend so we can find out who we really are. But when we sacrifice our humanity, our connections to others, that’s where we fail. We try to keep connected, but in the barrage of media we become over saturated and we lose. For all our connections we connect less. We don’t look each other in the eye. We try to collect what we think is important and in holding on to things we don’t see what really is important.

The Online is Real, and it’s Time We Realized That

Lately I’ve been frustrated with (some) people on social media. The unabating desire to share the most mundane things, and the unchecked thoughtless way in which people talk to others that they do not know, or even those they do. Sometimes from behind thin veils on anonymity, sometimes not. And I’m realizing, it’s not the online, or the social that has me disheartened and worried for our future… it’s humanity in general.

Unless you know it’s safe. Don’t read the comments.

Comment sections are where the worst in humanity comes out (and sometimes the best, but I feel that is the minority). People feel the need to comment, to assert their rightness, or stature. They piss on good ideas and rip apart genuine individuals. In the real world we can walk away from and generally ignore the crass and abusive people trying to make our lives as miserable as theirs. Online, it’s harder. Words stick in the ephemera.

We’re in an odd in between stage in society where the fact that what is online is in fact real hasn’t really permeated the hive mind yet. The problem of intangibility of the internet, social media and the Cloud makes it harder for people to reconcile that what happens there will or can have real life consequences. Though it does seem that people have no problem reconciling buying sometime online with packages arriving at their door. But the idea that what we say has any effect on another individual seems beyond a lot of people.

Now that I think about it, most of the people yelling loudly and crassly enough to be heard above the din, are probably the ones that would say it to your face too. But some aren’t.
So what’s so wrong with society that we feel the need to be mean, to tear things apart and forgo any attempt to be constructive or nurturing. Because this isn’t an issue with the digital or the internet. The internet didn’t cause the bullying, it only amplified it. Made it something that we can replay outside of our mind. It’s there for us to read, or listen to, or watch.

When do we start teaching people lashing out won’t make your fears go away, that treating someone poorly is never the answer, that even if you disagree that person has a right to their opinion. When do we start treating the disease and not the symptom?
For that matter, not just when, but how?

Everything is Relevant

Sometimes I get asked why I like Amanda Palmer so much, what is it that draws me to her as an artist. Aside for her lyricism it’s the mind behind it all. Honestly, the more she talks the more I believe that she is one of the people who gets it: it being a myriad of things. Gets that every artist, every person is out there trying to do things that matter. Every person is just that, a person. That the things that are relevant to life, to us, are what we say, not what someone else tells us is.

That’s a very terrifying, liberating thought in today’s mediated age.

A couple weeks ago when I was at her show in Portland she took a minute to tell us a story about the night before and how she had ended up at a Garbage concert. Now if you aren’t familiar, Garbage hadn’t put out an album in 7 years. They got back together and created an album that’s received a lot of positive reviews, but as a band they also received a lot of criticism for not being “relevant” anymore. Apparently the singer told this story mid stage and pretty much ended the debate by screaming out (in her Scottish accent) Who’s to say what’s relevant?.

Exactly.

As Amanda told us this story she went on to say that this is everything we’ve (the fans & her) have been talking about for the last year or more. We are the media. We decide what gets told and how far, how fast it travels. For anyone that works in the creative industry, in any form, it’s inspiring. Big businesses don’t get to decide what matters anymore. The internet has given that power back to the people as long as they’re willing to take it.

Amanda Palmer also has a videographer documenting her tour. I’m so glad that she captured this moment pre-show of her going off about relevancy. (transcript below)

Everything is relevant!
it’s relevant if you make it relevant and this is everything that is going on right now. it doesn’t matter what all these opinions are, it doesn’t matter who’s pointing the finger, it doesn’t matter who dictates when a record is good, or bad. all that matters is what’s really happening on stage. all that matters is what’s really happening when you put your headphones on and listen to the music. and people are learning that they won’t be dictated to anymore what’s hip, what’s cool, what’s relevant, what’s irrelevant. your power is now stripped. there’s a room full of people there to make it relevant because they love it and they want it.

I want to just say “this” and leave it. But what kills me (in a good way) is that this is what I’ve been saying for a couple years now. “[People] won’t be dictated to anymore.” The gatekeepers have lost control. Many of us are relying, more than ever, on our own decisions, on the opinions of people they trust. They don’t want a corporation telling them what is cool or right or best. Sure, we still have a lot of people who eat the spoon fed pop and drink the kool-aid. And yes, sometimes I enjoy it too, but not because it’s popular and what I’m told to listen to/read/enjoy/do. The landscape of media production/consumption is rapidly changing and it’s pretty freaking awesome.

If you want to hear Amanda speak for herself, she starts in on this after a couple of minutes.

#insurancepoll : the problem with healthcare

About 8 hours ago Amanda Palmer posted the tweet below to Twitter. I’ve been watching the feed all day, chiming in from time to time, mostly reading, absorbing and thinking about my own experience.

Twitter exploded. Read the feed for yourself. It’s heart wrenching the stories being told in 140 characters. The visuals of families, their lives decided by where they live and what job they’ve managed to hold on to. Anyone doing okay writes how lucky they are.

I’ve been on several sides of this messed up coin, the seemingly basic human right to be taken care of and healthy that’s oft debated.

My family has been lucky enough to always have insurance, though I know we paid (pay). My dad, the only one who could work, had his job long enough that we didn’t run into too many issues with pre-existing conditions. But he was a mill worker and if our family had been “typical” we probably would have been fine. (the more I grow and learn the more I realize that we were more typical than society would have us think).

My mom had been diagnosed with diabetes at age 8, back in 1963. I was a health risk to her and her condition was supposed to leave me mentally or physically disabled (I’m fine). When I was 2 or 3 she stopped working – I don’t know for sure if it was the benign tumors they had to remove, or just the beginning of a long downward slide that was started with the stress of pregnancy. When I was 5 1/2 she was diagnosed with Kidney failure, a terminal condition. For the next 17 years we fought to pay the rent, the bills, we fought insurance companies & medicare & social security. We fought to keep our heads above water.

We had insurance, and my dad switched jobs, and our insurance got “better”… but we still paid more than $1000 out of pocket every month. Add to that rent & utilities & food for three mouths all out of one paycheck and a small social security stipend. Insurance doesn’t save you when you’re really ill, it just keeps your head above water long enough for you to realize how badly you’re drowning.

In late 2009 I moved to France for a year, sometime just before Christmas I contracted bronchitis nearly bad enough to be hospitalized. I couldn’t lay down, you could hear me trying to breathe in the next room through a closed door. We called an emergency doctor at 2am.. all in all I paid maybe €150 ($250) for the visit(s) and medications. France doesn’t have completely socialized health care, but it’s a far cry better than the privatized nonsense that is healthcare in the states.

The next year I moved to London, not even 2 weeks after the move I managed to break my wrist in an opening tube door (I know, talent). 4 doctor visits, 3 x-rays, and an MRI later I never paid a cent to the NHS. Being American I spent several months terrified that a bill would arrive demanding money until a British friend explained to me that they don’t pay for their health care.

Now I’m in a very lucky situation. The company I work for provides us with what I’ve come to realize is very good insurance. I still have a high deductible, but nearly everything is covered to some extent and I don’t need a referral to see a specialist. I recently had to go in and see a sports medicine doctor, between his visit and the 4 x-rays they took of my knee I only paid $37. I’m really very lucky.

The thing is I shouldn’t be lucky. The situation I’m in should be at the very least normal, if not expensive. People who are much more ill than I have ever been should be able to take care of themselves without worrying about food or rent or bills. This is an industry that shouldn’t be about profits. This is an industry that should be about healing people. Just as the teacher or artist or writer does what they do because they love it so should other industries (not that some don’t). But we can not allow a system that’s focus is profit to take care of us. The inherent corruption in focusing on profits first tears apart the beautiful things of humanity. When we are healthy, when we are comfortable we can do so much more than when we are sick and afraid.

Community: blurring the digital and physical

Organizing a house party for Amanda Palmer has restored my faith in humanity.

Often the internet serves to remind us where we have failed humanity. Its stickiness immortalizing each individuals poor choice in memetic infamy. Sometimes though it helps us remember that the digital world has made our small world a little smaller, our communities are unbound by geographic location. We are human. Whether our interactions are part of the digital ephemera or the fleeting moments in the flesh, our interactions are with other individuals.

Amanda Palmer – Theatre is Evil                            (pay what you want & download, click the image to visit her website!)

At the end of April 2012 I opened my mouth on Twitter and wound up organizing an effort to fund a house party with one of my favorite musicians (and thought leaders): Amanda Palmer. $5,000 was on the line. I put up my credit card in a show of faith. Faith that people, for the most part, are honest and good. That a person’s word is good enough to trust them unless they prove otherwise. By the time my card was charged approximately 40 strangers had entrusted me $100 each to make this night happen. As of today around 50 strangers have trusted me with their money. Just as I trusted them to pay me, they’ve trusted me to make this happen. And it’s going to. This is the power of yes, the power of trust.

It’s a wonderful, terrifying, and strangely beautiful thing that has happened. This is what community is. People that trust each other despite only sharing a tenuous link. What makes this so different is that this community, while actually sharing a physical location, was formed by ties on the internet. The digital landscape that was once – and still is – being touted as the end of communication and human interaction is bringing people together, face to face.

This is the power of social media, in our hyper connected society we still find a way to interact and make the world about people. It’s wonderful because people are believing that others have the capacity to be good. It’s terrifying because its a new way of looking at the world – and that we have to see the ability to believe in good as wonderful. It’s strangely beautiful because strangers are coming together over something that has touched their lives to make something greater than themselves.

Most days I can’t believe I’m a part of something that has the potential to change our society for the better; I’m so fucking lucky.