Categories
Emotional Work Politics

Day 768 and Memory

I’ve not ever read Proust in its entirety because what am I an eternal being who exists outside of linear time? But, thanks to Wikipedia and university survey courses, I am familiar with its basic themes of memory and it’s frustrating insufficiency.

Anyways, when not pondering madeleines, I am often confronted by how resilient the mind is in protecting us from the horrors of the world. Memory is a very funny thing. As good a reason as any to maintain diaries or personal hagiography is that you’d be surprised at what you forget.

A doctor asked me to get a pelvic ultrasound. I surprised myself by saying absolutely not unless it’s an emergency life or death situation I am not doing that. And she, in sincere surprise, asked me why not.

And, because I guess therapy works, I recalled a pelvic ultrasound from maybe 10-12 years ago. I’d been referred in to a specialist as there was concern about a uterine cyst. This doctor, a gentleman over 50 in the kindly white gentleman archetype, who I did not know know, proceeds to tell me this won’t hurt.

But it does hurt. I am screaming bloody murder. It hurts so much I cannot stop. He tells me he will call security unless I quiet down. I cannot and I am in tears hysterically trying to convey the pain. I pass out.

I had utterly suppressed the memory till today. It happened to coincide with my husband mentioning a think piece in New York Magazine about women who empathized with the Clare Danes character from Fleishman Is In Trouble. There is a profoundly violating scene around reproductive health and consent.

And of course, because it’s happening to a striving insecure aspirant white bitch it totally doesn’t count right? Fucking Karens. It’s super cringe to consider where the system hurts you, because you dumb bitch, you benefit more than anyone else.

So I guess I am not surprised I had banished the experience of something bad but you know not so bad you are allowed to complain about it. And that is how the patriarchy perpetuates itself.

What I’m saying is that maybe you need to remember who it is that benefits from you not remembering the pain. Who benefits from forgetting? And trust me they are very scared when you realize that you remember.

Categories
Emotional Work Medical Politics

Day 765 and Kobayashi Maru for Women

I woke up to a totally off handed tweet of mine going viral. I had done some googling on the cost of pregnancy surrogacy and learned that it would probably cost $200,000 a pop. I’d never really considered the cost as to be honest as I didn’t think I’d be having children that way. The responses to the tweet left me feeling despondent.

Five years ago I did IVF to freeze embryos (and eggs too) and it kicked off a massive health crisis that I only feel I’ve gotten under control recently. It took everything from me. I was on medical leave, I sold my startup, and my marriage got to learn what “in sickness and in health” really means. It was awful. I am crying just remembering.

It took years to get healthy again. Of course, I first had to get stable at all. I spent years, and a huge chunk of savings, biohacking my way back to a body healthy enough to work. I’m thrilled to be back doing what I love most which is working with early stage companies. But work wasn’t the only goal of getting healthy.

I’ve had a fantasy that if I just kept at my biohacking that one day I’d be off all these medications. That I could truly be healed. That all this trouble and heartache wouldn’t be permanent. That I could heal myself. Unsaid in all of that, is that I cannot be pregnant and on the medications that saved my life. How is that for a kick in the teeth.

I’ve got two embryos and ten eggs and a fleeting dying ember of hope that I could ever carry them. I don’t know if having them via a surrogate is my path forward. Maybe there is still hope I could be healthy enough. I frankly don’t know and I’m not ready to say where my fertility is headed.

All I know is that this feels like a no scenario. That having a child in America is a fraught and expensive endeavor even when everything goes right and you are healthy and young. There is no winning as a woman as any decision around family is going to upset someone.

It’s the Kobayashi Maru for American women. Juggling your partner (or partners), your money, your home, your health and your fertility means balls get dropped. You are going to lose somewhere. And it really hurts.

Categories
Internet Culture Politics

Day 764 and Natalism

There are a number of cultural streams in American life that have all aligned around being natalist. You want your country to have babies because it’s good for the economy. And presumably also good for national security.

This fairly basic insight means everyone from techno-libertarians to Catholic homesteaders believes that Americans should be having more babies. It is not just the Quiver-full types having six babies anymore, so are our wealthiest aristocratic titans of industry.

But this alliance is missing some crucial basics. Like for instance the fundamental civilization level things we need to do to make it desirable and affordable to have children. It’s expensive to be pregnant, it’s expensive to raise children, it’s expensive all around to be parents. I spent $40,000 on IVF and it ruined my health. If I counted lost wages and being forced to sell my startup I’m the total costs is seven figures.

I don’t know if you’ve looked at just the costs around having a baby but it will shock you every time you turn a new corner in the fertility space. I learned today you will spend between $100,000 to $200,000 to hire a surrogate. It’s a person’s salary and a lot of medical care so sure that seems right but damn.

I guess I am interested in the math of Natalism to see if I could afford it. I am one of those “tech elites” that thinks we have to have children to drive the innovation of tomorrow. Our future is based on an optimistic hope that maybe we can push for a better future. Humanity won’t continue without children.

But I don’t have a body that is all that healthy without medical intervention. I live a normal life now and can work full time again because I take some exceptional medicine.

But it’s not medicinal regime that can be combined with pregnancy. So if I want to carry a child I have to go off what amounts to life saving medicine. Without it I’d be on bed rest. You can imagine the math I’m doing in my head? Do I want to pour another million into having a family?

So what’s a girl like me to do? Surrogacy right? But I’ve got 10 eggs and 2 embryos so assuming a third of them make it, that’s nearly half a million dollars in surrogacy fees. To get three kids. That’s a heavy price tag on the future. If more of them take it gets even wilder.

Now ok sure I’d rather we encourage a world where younger healthy folks do things naturally but don’t we want everyone going at maximum effort for a better tomorrow? Shouldn’t we want technology to solve this? Where are my artificial wombs at?

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 760 and Beginner’s Mindset

I recently decided to boot back up my Instagram account. I’d let it lay dormant for almost five years. A lot has changed since I stopped using it. I’ll withhold judgement on whether it is for the worse or not. Right now it’s mostly just modestly confusing. I feel like a beginner again.

Amusingly one of the first genres of advertisements I got was for Instagram editing tools. There is a whole cottage industry of paid applications that help you put together Reels and Stories.

Many of them are relatively sophisticated with templates that help you overlay text, audio, music and advanced video techniques. Being a creator these days requires a fair amount of sophistication so I’m not surprised to find $10 a month editing applications.

I am struggling to find to find the joy in the experience. It feels like like a lot more work to make visual content than written. Now, I grant that it didn’t feel easy writing at first either. Twitter was stop and go for me for years.

But Instagram is a more natural place for some of my interests like cosmetics and shopping. I want to give it a fair shake. And maybe I’ll find joy in the space with some time. But becoming fluent in the language of Instagram’s visual literacy makes me feel stupid. But I guess that’s what it feels like to be a beginner again.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 759 and All Dressed

Social media has given us so many ways to become fans. We have ever more content thanks the streaming wars. Give content a chance to live everywhere online and it will develop a fanbase beyond its intended audience. The internet gives small shows outsized impact.

I’m a fan of a Canadian comedy called a Letterkenny. It’s about a small town in Canada. It’s got people and their problems. It’s a very funny character study and has fundamentally warm and loving humor. I’ve watched every episode and the spin-off. I’ve taken a lot of solace in the very human nature of the show, particularly during the pandemic years when everyone felt far away from each other.

There is a phenomenon that is particularly prominent online called parasocial relationships. Someone creates art or a personality and it develops a fandom. Over time, the fans, through repeated exposure to a character or show, believe they know them like a friend. It is fun to be in the fandom. Enjoying art is a universal experience. I am a stan for Letterkenny. I’m in a parasocial relationship with the Letterkenny crew and it’s universe.

How deep is it? Well my husband and I recently ordered some Canadian chip flavor called all dressed featured on an episode of Letterkenny. The chip is, as the name suggests, every single type of flavor. It is salt and vinegar, bbq, ketchup (weird but crucial), and sour cream & onion. And it is absolutely delicious. As a Twitter friend said to me, it is the Dr Pepper of chips. It’s not for everyone but it’s spectacular.

All dressed ruffle potato chips

Because it is Sunday, I am taking a medically necessary amount of THC. I’ve had a gummy. And I thought this was a perfect moment to try the Letterkenny chip.

And it was indeed glorious. All dresseds is a chip made for the munchies. It’s got bite and taste and texture and it all rolls up into an experience. It’s a chip worthy of the extra attention of weed focus.

And because I am extremely online I shared my appreciation for it on Twitter.

Now on Letterkenny there is a clique called the Skids. They are the weird kids. They are the hipster ones. They are the nerds. They are small town weed dealers. Asking me to pick a favorite on Letterkenny is like asking me to pick a favorite child. One of the Skids is Roald. He is a loyal friend but his own man. He definitely likes weed. I love Roaldie.

And I’m delighted to learn through my all dressed munchies Tweet, that the actor who plays him, Evan Stern, is following me. He likes the tweet. What a perfect way to enjoy a very specific kind of fandom. A parasocial relationship’s individual manifestation through social media. Now that I’ve made a big deal out of all this I should probably say hi to Evan. It’s going to be weird no matter what but it brought me a lot of joy. It’s good to be a fan.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 758 and Two Sides

I somehow missed watching the Mandalorian when it came out. My husband isn’t really into Star Wars and I’m a Star Trek person so as just missed it. I started watching it today for the first time and I’m experiencing it somewhat fresh of its original release context.

But I’ve got a vague memory of the culture war issues that it triggered at the time. Somehow Gina Carano got coded to team red and champion of the downtrodden right wing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why except I think she mouthed off on Twitter. She sacrificed her career as a main character on prestige Disney tv show for shitposting. She thought she had social latitude that she just didn’t when working for Big Mouse. Shockingly naive if I’m honest.

That somehow everything has a side in the culture wars is a real tragedy of our time. Because a couple years pass and whatever dumb stunt that got you put on team red or team blue probably gets forgotten. Normal people have moved on and the discourse gets digested eventually into common knowledge. Memory is a fickle thing. Madeleines and Proust or something in that direction.

If you are team red you go into an alternate universe where apparently being a dick with a right wing slant on YouTube gets you 50 million dollar media deals. I assume there are as many opportunities as now being on team red is a real badge of honor and whole media ecosystems arise because it’s an actual demographic. Shocking somehow to some people but I guess I’ve always lived adjacent to team red. I’ve be always known you could make money on that audience.

I suppose the real tell is that if you are team blue you don’t really change ecosystems at all if you pick their side in the culture war. You get to maintain your plum gig at Disney. You do not have Ron DeSantis gunning for you. I hear that woke mobs come to get you but I’ve never actually seen it in action. The worst part of my chaotic evil leftist Twitter bubble stops at Taylor Lorenz though I am aware that a murky left exists beyond Chapo Trap House and I know about Tankies.

It just seems so strange to take sides in any of this nonsense if your aim is to make a living as a performer. Sure maybe you can cater to one niche or another. But really isn’t the whole point finding the things that bind us all in the human experience? I always assumed art was meant to transcend whatever petty shit happened while making it.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 755 and Instagram

I haven’t been on my Instagram account since 2018. I stopped actively posting in 2017. I’d become absolutely sick of the social media platform and the relentless aspirational influencer content marketing that had taken over my feed. I can’t say I’ve missed it, but I’ve decided to reinstall the application and begin posting again.

I’ve been a participant in the “creator economy” long before it had a name. A college friend set me up on a WordPress blog after a fellow student had written a piece criticizing me for being interested in fashion on campus.

I’d written something about designer denim in the competing school newspaper. My friend told me I needed to watch out as this new nemesis was going to ruin my Google results. From these petty seeds a fashion blogging “empire” was born.

I have some dubious distinctions from being early to social media. Women’s Wear Daily claimed I was the first person to liveblog fashion week in 2006. I turned that into an advertising network for online lifestyle publishers called Coutorture. It was eventually acquired by PopSugar. I went on to work at a number of luxury and fashion brands before starting my own cosmetics line.

I’d like to think having been there from the start of the creator economy counts for something but the harsh truth is that once you stop posting you tend to disappear from any social network. I stopped fashion blogging for my own enjoyment once I made it into a career.

During my girlboss years as the CEO of Stowaway Cosmetics being on Instagram felt like a part of my job. I had enjoyed it more when I wasn’t obligated to look cool. I remember 2012 Instagram fondly as a place where you followed photographers and fashion insiders at work. By 2016 it was loaded with aspirational lifestyle content. I felt like I all I saw was sponsored content.

Somewhere in that timeframe I racked up 30,000 followers. I don’t think I ever maintained anything remotely professional. It was just pictures of whatever was happening in my life so the usual mix of food and travel. It didn’t seem like a huge loss to walk away.

Oddly even if my follower count on Twitter isn’t actually that much larger than my Instagram account I feel like I’m much more influential there. I’m better with words clearly. I am a shitposter so it always felt lower stakes. And maybe that’s why it’s less of a burden in my mind. I do Twitter joyfully.

But I’m going to experiment with Instagram again. I’ve got visual things in my life that are worth sharing as I’ve now got a totally new aspirational lifestyle. I’ve graduated from fashion influencer to doomer optimist. Homesteading and cozy farmhouse is it’s own aesthetic and maybe I’ll enjoy sharing mine. And I’ll admit that I’m not at all above coveting back on gifting lists. I guess if you enjoy that sort of thing find me back on Instagram. Or if you want to send me some free stuff I’m open to getting back into the SponCon game.

Categories
Travel

Day 751 and The Voyage Home

I began my long many legged journey back to Montana at 5:30am GMT+1. Most of my west coast friends haven’t even gone to sleep for their Friday nights as I set off before dawn on Saturday. Time zones are fun.

Journeys home make for a great narrative arc as we follow our hero from foreign lands back to his or her native land. My home is Montana so the trek from Prague is many legs and transitions.

Vaclav Havel Airport 5am in snow

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien’s theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

The first quote that comes to my mind is William Gibson’s theory of jet lag from Pattern Recognition. My soul finally caught up with me in Prague and now I’ll be waiting on my soul tail cruising behind me as I cross a continent, a channel, an ocean and another continent. I’ve got no lost luggage but a lost soul is a perpetual risk of globe trotting.

I used “The Voyage Home” as my title as it happens to be tied for my favorite Star Trek movie (along with Wrath of Khan). Yes, it is l own as “the whale movie” in which a pair of humpback whales must be brought from the past to save Earth. It is called the Voyage Home as Spock is being brought back from Vulcan by his crew after a death and rebirth sequence.

Trailing souls and rebirths are satisfactory metaphors for traveling. We work to maintain our sense of self even as our surroundings change. Sometimes those changes are transformative.

And like Spock I am stumped by a key question. “How do you feel?” Unlike Spock I do not fail to understand the nature of the question. I am sad, ashamed, angry and tired after the second visa failure. But if I must imitate everyone’s favorite Vulcan, you can tell my my mother I feel fine. Or I will soon. I am knitting together the timeline of my future with my soul in tow.

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 750 and Interstitial

If you have ever stayed in an airport hotel or a particularly standardized corporate hotel, you’ve encountered the grand global homogeneity of acceptable hospitality.

Airwave bedroom at a Marriot in Prague

This aesthetic owes a debt to Silicon Valley and the way we’ve sanded off peculiar edges and smoothed over individual characters to make the real world’s brand book as consistent as our virtual ones. It’s called Airwave.

If you enjoyed the silky sameness of a WeWork or a perfect Airbnb or the reclaimed wood counter at a third wave coffee shop in Prague or Frankfurt, you’ve enjoyed Airwave.

If you travel enough, you find the aesthetics comforting eventually. As if your entire palette or taste profile was subtly sifted into the window of preferences set by an art director at an advertising agency in Brooklyn or Amsterdam.

Soothing sameness

Sure you seek out newness and novelty, but also you are glad for the suite at the just nice enough Marriot which delivers you a club sandwich with a request to room service. Remember when Jonny Mnemonic screamed for room service? If you are of a certain age I bet you do.

Ah the height of luxury for a data currier criminal of cyberpunk legend is now the expected outcome for the rootless cosmopolitans. Who is to stay which of us as a worse dystopia?

Categories
Travel

Day 749 and Beef

Living in Montana means I have no shortage of excellent beef. I’ve yet to have a bad steak or even a mediocre burger when I’ve shopped locally. Grass fed free range Montana beef is a luxury that is worth it.

I’ve got higher standards for meat because of it. So it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that the Czech appear to have the same affinity for meat as Montanans. I had some truly excellent beef in Prague. And I didn’t even eat a single steak. It was all peasant working class cuts.

Beef Goulash from Pilsner Urquel

Obviously I made time to explore beef goulash while in Prague. It’s not made with expensive cuts of beef. It’s generally Chuck or round. It’s stewed to be tender. The goulash I had at Pilsner Urquel was less than $20 and was absolutely stellar. I don’t drink but the few sips of dark beer I had cut the fat and spice perfectly.

I also I unexpectedly had one of the best burgers of my life at a butcher’s shop called Naso Maso. Their beef comes from Czech Fleckvieh cattle and is butchered in Jenc by hand. The shop only has a few seats but you can come in and order a burger to be grilled on the spot.

Naše maso cheeseburgers

Blessedly the Czech don’t have the same regulatory habits as the Germans so meat can be served rare. Nothing is worse than overcooking a hamburger in my book. Smash burgers were clearly invented to sell low quality beef. The Maillard effect isn’t enough to overcome the fact that it is lower quality.

It’s a real pleasure to enjoy exceptional beef from people who clearly appreciate everything about the nuances of the execution. Montanans and the Czech clearly share similar values.