Capricon 37

I just got the notification from Delta saying that it’s time to check in for my flight tomorrow, which means it’s time for Capricon and I am insanely excited.

There are a number of reasons to be excited – Cap is one of my favorite conventions in the Midwest, I’m always game to visit Chicago, and this year I’m the Fan Guest of Honor at the convention itselfIf you’re a nerd in the area, you should join us. Capricon is always a blast and a great place to meet some of the coolest/nerdiest people in the Chicagoland area.

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At the convention I am scheduled for 14 panels/events/etc so I will be doing my usual schtick of running around like a glittery chicken with it’s head cut off. Please do say hello! I may not have much time to chat, but I’d love to see you.

My weekend schedule is below, for those of you who cannot make it to the convention, I’ll be in town until the 25th so please do ping me about hanging out!

 

Thu 3:30 PM 1hr 30min Birch A-Conventions in the Social Media Age

Thu 8:00 PM 1hr 30min Botanic Garden Ballroom A-Opening Ceremonies

Fri 11:30 AM 1hr 30min Ravina Ballroom C – Art Show Docent Tour

Fri 2:30 PM 1hr 30min Birch B-SF Art Classic vs New Mediums

Fri 4:00 PM 1hr 30min Elm-Kids Paint Space!

Fri 8:30 PM 1hr 30min Ravinia Ballroom A-Random Panel Topic – After Dark Edition

Sat 10:00 AM 1hr 30min Ravina Ballroom C – Art Demo 

Sat 11:30 AM 1hr 30min Birch B-Growing Up in Fandom

Sat 2:30 PM 1hr 30min Willow-To Grey or Not to Grey

Sat 4:00 PM 1hr 30min Birch B-Run a Con and Build Your Resume!

Sat 6:30 PM 1hr 30min Ravinia Ballroom A-Artist Showdown

Sun 12:00 PM 1hr 30min Birch B-Geek Parenting

Sun 1:30 PM 1hr 30min Birch B-And the Children Shall Lead…

Sun 3:00 PM 1hr 30min Botanic Garden Ballroom A-Closing Ceremonies 

 

Figure Painting

Last week I took a workshop at the Artist Student League: The Surreal Environment and the Model. It was amazing. It was physically exhausting. It was brilliantly challenging and I really can’t wait to go back.

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The workshop was at the ASL at 57th and 7th which is one of my favorite parts of Manhattan. It’s a mix of old brick and stone and a hint of not-entirely-boxy glass. It’s been a while since I’ve needed to be in Manhattan this early in the morning, and I wasn’t thrilled about my adjusted wake up time at first, but the view from the train on the way in was entirely worth it.

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This workshop was intimidating for a number of reasons. I’m used to painting in a public setting. This workshop was a closed door class, dude to a nude model being used, but painting in front of other people is just…weird. This class also called for materials much larger than I usually use – the minimum size paper (11″x14″) was the largest size I’d ever used up until last week. The smallest notebook I used was 11″18″ and I’ve included a picture with a legal pad for size reference with the other books I used. The biggest challenge, though, was that I’d never done any sort of figure painting before. I’d taken a figure drawing class at the ASL in March of 2016, but it didn’t occur to me that there would be much a difference . I knew this would be a directional change for me – most of my stuff is space or castles, but until 10 minutes before the class I didn’t think “hey, maybe you should take an intro class first…”

The class was vaguely structured as 10 1-minute poses with a short water change break. 5  2-minute poses with a water change break. 2 5-minute poses with a medium break. 1 10-minute post with a water change break. 1 20-minute pose followed by a long break. 1 hour long pose with water and stretch breaks every 20 minutes. We had two models during the workshop – M. on Tuesday and Wednesday and T. on Thursday and Friday. Both models were EXCELLENT. M focused more on fluidity in her poses, while T was more powerful. They were both stunning and I hope to work with them again in the future.

The first day was mostly spent working on seeing things less literally and loosening up my painting style. I was reminded that the goal was not a pretty picture, but an understandable rendering of the movement of figure and the relationship between the figure and the setting. I also was nudged into using more paint, which lead to a blocky way of painting that I *really* enjoy. I just about fell over when I got home. I’d grabbed a water and a juice during the long break after an urging to keep hydrated and it helped, but I was still exhausted and sore after two hours in the bath.

The second day I felt that I actually got the hang of the human body as a figure. I was pushed to use bigger brushes and fewer brush strokes which helped me loosen up even more.  The next challenge for me was to widen my perspective of the scene and not see a body first, inside of a scene. This may have involved a few tears of frustration on my end. Worth it, tears, though. My second attempt at the long pose ended up being one of my favorite pieces of the week. I also discovered how to get paint in ones ear.

The third day I started by buying bigger brushes. The three of them were $90. I may have also cried a little bit then. They took a little while to get used to, getting the correct paint to water ratio was painful and took both days, but were very worth it. I was pleased by the fluidity of my short poses, and the boldness of the long pose. By Thursday Eowyn had started to get used to the idea of me soaking *every* day for this amount of time, but she still had concerns.

The fourth day included both painting, reviews of our bodies of work, and a small celebration for our instructor’s birthday. I brought Will cookies, because Will cookies are the best. We did fewer poses, and I found myself frustrated with the longer pose, I focused too much on the power of T’s pose. It was frustrating to end on that note, but it was followed by an excellent review session – not just from the instructor but from the entire class. Getting home and photographing/organizing the work made me realize just how much painting I had done. That, and going through three different notebooks. On Friday, Eowyn also realized that if she wiggled into the opening of my robe a certain way, I’d carry her around with me. Bonus picture of the cat enjoying our heating pad cuddle time.

 

My favorites:

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This class was way beyond my comfort zone, but I’m looking forward to more of this painting style and to how this will change my usual style.

 

 

Previously Unexplored: Ireland


The beauty of Ireland has been seared onto my heart.

That sounds ridiculous and dramatic but I can think of no better words to describe the beauty and joy the last seven days have been.

Octocon was a flat-out amazing convention that I dearly hope to be able to return to. It was filled with beautiful new people, amazing conversations and sappy poetry that I may or may not get around to posting later with some of the sketches I did at the convention.


The last four days were spent on a roughly 400mile road trip with my dear friend, Gareth. We went from Dublin to Bray, Bray to Kilkenny via Sally’s Gap, Kilkenny to Galway, Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, and finally the Cliffs right back to Dublin. Gareth drove the entire way because he is a champion and also because I’m rightfully not allowed to drive in Ireland. Road trips can make or break friendships and I’m glad to report that he and I have not had to escalate our relationships to mortal enemies. Instead there was much laughter, car karaoke, and me telling him how rude his country is for being so beautiful. I mean, seriously, at a certain point it’s just excessive. 

Gareth was insanely patient with me and stopped every time I asked to take pictures and a few times when he could tell I wanted to ask but didn’t want to put us any more behind schedule. I am eager to get home so that I can post the pictures I took with the non-phone camera and so that I can get to painting what we saw in oil and in watercolors on larger paper.

In just a few hours I’ll get on a plane to London for a week of art classes, social shenanigans and adventure and while I’m greatly looking forward to that I’m already looking at my calendar to figure out when I can come back.

I have one more day in Dublin next week, but I know that when I leave here, I’ll be leaving a bit of my heart behind.

Triggered

I don’t know how to be on the internet right now.

All I did was click on that little fucking blue bird and now my skin is on fire.

It’s not even anybody’s fault.

I keep telling myself this.

It’s not helping.

This is news. These words are important. They should be everywhere. It should be known. This should be read.

But not by me.

Yes, I see the fucking irony.

I have taken my medication and my shoulders have begun their transformation from concrete to cracked egg shells. I have progressed from hyper-vigilant to hyper-annoyed.

How is this fair?

My abuser went to jail. They threw the fucking book at him. Three times the standard prison sentence.

He can’t touch me anymore.

Telling myself that doesn’t really help much, either.

I wonder how many more times this will happen. I wonder how many more women will come forward. I wonder how many more stories there will be.

How deep will I have to dive to avoid the accidental yet searing triggers?

How can I distance myself from this reality without distancing myself from reality?

My friends will understand.

Telling myself that again just feels shitty.

“Justice”

It’s been twenty years and I can still feel his hands on me. My skin burns – I am a patchwork quilt of scalding handprints. My arms. My neck. My legs. My face. Places you aren’t supposed to mention in polite company – but how could I ever be considered good or polite now? I am sure that at any moment, I will fly apart into a thousand tiny pieces of ash. I can still feel his hands on me.

Growing up, I thought that I should feel lucky. When I spoke up, someone listened. The police were called, charges were filed, and a sentence imposed. Twenty six years – a triple departure from the ‘standard’ ninety-six months due to the severity of the abuse. Justice was served. But I know the truth now – there is no justice for the victim.

The memories are overwhelming and thankfully broken – skipping around like an episode of TV on the DVR. When they surface so does a ringing in my ears. I cannot move. I cannot breathe. I am numb and raw simultaneously.

I am assured that given enough time and therapy that the panic attacks will subside. I will be able to remember without reliving – but how can that be enough? He is still there. In the back of my mind. Touching everything that I’ve fought so hard to make my own: my body, my mind, my sexuality, my consent. There will always be questions that I can’t ignore and can’t answer.

Do I love my husband’s curly hair because it is a part of the man I love, or because I was conditioned to? Do I enjoy that intimate act for the pleasure it brings my partner or because He taught me (at the age of four) how? Will I ever be able to pleasure myself without feeling guilty? I will never be free of this. I will never be free of him.

But today he will be released for a second time. When he came up for parole last year, I was unconcerned. Surely they wouldn’t see ‘good behavior’ in a man who while maintaining he had done nothing wrong blamed a child for being “too seductive”. Surely they wouldn’t ignore the fact that in his four appeals of his conviction and sentencing he argued that the type of abuse that he inflicted was “typical enough” to not warrant the triple departure. Or that the State of Minnesota lacked the subject jurisdiction. Or that he tried to sue the Attorney General for USING HIS NAME IN COURT DOCUMENTS. But they didn’t. They released him.

In February I got the phone call that I knew would eventually come. He had been arrested for violating his parole. He was found with two laptops full of child pornography and a further forensic sweep revealed conversations with underage girls he was trying to meet up with. Could I please write a victim impact statement to help with proper sentencing?

Two days of torturous reflection and stress eating later, I sent my letter. I had been conflicted about writing – with the parole violations and the newly acquired child pornography would they even need my letter? Was it worth the pain of facing these still smoldering wounds? His case worker promised to call me as soon as sentencing was over and when he did I wanted to crawl into the ground and die.

They gave him 90 days. They didn’t even make him finish his original sentence. There have been no new charges filed.

He will be free.

I will never be.

It’s been twenty years and I can still feel his hands on my skin. I wonder who he will burn next.

Sasquan, Exit Stage Left

Up until a week before Sasquan, the 73rd Worldcon, I was the Events Deputy Division Head and the Co-Director of the Hugo Ceremony. Resigning was a very difficult and painful decision. I did not do so lightly. Doing so left several of my friends in the lurch, and while I don’t regret walking away, I do regret the position I put my boss Jill Eastlake, and my co-director David D’Antonio in. They were both endlessly supportive during this entire situation and have taught me a great deal about how to make Events happen for a Worldcon.

It is common knowledge at this point that Lou Antonelli wrote a letter to the Spokane PD. It is also known that he went on the Superversive SF podcast and bragged about it. While many were rightly focused on David Gerrold’s reaction, the simple fact is that he wasn’t the only person harassed and intimidated, and he wasn’t the only one to report it. As the Co-Director of the Hugo Ceremony I reported my fear directly to my superiors. I did so several times – initially rather timidly because I didn’t want to make a fuss, but later rather firmly in a way that could not be misunderstood. One of the vice-chairs, Glenn Glazer, attempted to guilt me into not pursuing the complaint, and one of the Operations Division Heads, Robbie Bourget told me flat out that I hadn’t been harassed. When I pointed this out to them, I was told that I hadn’t ever made an official harassment complaint and lots of sarcasm that wasn’t in any way close to appropriate.

Senior members of the Sasquan committee responded to a member reporting harassment and asking for help with guilt trips, denial, victim blaming, sarcasm and dismissal.

In the interest of avoiding a he said/she said situation, I have PDFd all of the emails in this conversation and placed them in a Google Drive folder here:

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-XkKq2NGWUZfkEzMlNwMGl3amVndzZ1MmxmakhHUHpEdzJRNG1BOVNRYlBJZEZsd1dPT00&usp=drive_web

[EDIT – I have redacted the personal email addressed of those participating in this conversation. This is something I should have done before I posted, and I apologize for not doing so. ]

After a fair bit of crying, some time spent on the phone with Jill, and lunch with a good friend, I decided to resign. I cannot ever in good conscience support a committee that treats its members this way. Any member, including committee members and staff, should feel able to report violations of the code of conduct and be taken seriously.

Things did not improve when I got to the convention. I met with Pierre, one of the other vice chairs, who told me that because no evidence had been found online, it had been decided that I hadn’t been harassed. He told me that if I wanted to appeal this decision, I needed to speak to the Chair, Sally Woehrle. When I tracked Sally down, she gave me a number of excuses including “the convention could be sued,” “Antonelli would then become a martyr,” and “harassment is a legal term.” When I pointed out that intimidation (which is directly mentioned in the code of conduct) could easily be exchanged for the term harassment, she told me that I was bordering on irrational. And then, after all of that, she agreed that Glenn’s various responses to me were inappropriate.

It is going to be a while before I get over the whiplash that Sasquan has given me.

Deciding to speak out about this was in many ways just as difficult as deciding to resign. I was raised in and by fandom – so fandom is family to me in a very real way. Talking about this feels like airing dirty laundry, but if these sort of problems aren’t discussed, they will keep happening.  Reports of harassment will continue to be ignored and those who report them will continue to be mistreated. What good is a code of conduct if the committee doesn’t stand by it? We’re never going to make fandom a completely safe space, the world is full of people intent on hurting others. But we can, and we should do our best to make sure that our community spaces can be as safe as reasonably possible.

Oslo – One Foot In Front Of The Other

I have to admit, Oslo and I did not get off to a great start.

By the time I got here, I was jetlagged, hungry and wanted nothing but to fall over and sleep forever. But that was not in the cards for me.

When I landed, I found out that the host of the AirBNB I had booked, had accidentally double booked and I had no place to stay. Or even shower. Jesus, I wanted a shower. I found a Starbucks, got some hot chocolate and started to hyperventilate. Will, having just woken up, was as usual, endlessly patient, sure that something would work out. He was right, but I was too busy losing my mind to notice. After dicking around on tumblr for a while to think about nothing, I pinged my friend Jo, who suggested I just come join her in Stockholm. Two hours later, I was on a plane there for two glorious days that I hope I’ll get around to telling you about later. I never even left the Arlanda airport, and while usually that would have annoyed the shit out of me, I really didn’t care.

So, fast forward roughly 48 hours and I was back on a plane to Oslo. This time, when I landed, I had a place to stay (actually, the same place, there just wasn’t a person in my borrowed bed now) and a friend waiting for me. 

  I took a train from the airport to the city center and had my first glimpse of the actual city. I was massively disappointed.

Not every city can be Paris, and of course, not every part of every city is made for a postcard, but all I saw when exiting the station was the Raddison Blue across the street and lots and lots of ugly concrete. Once I cleared the end of the station, across the tracks I saw lots of modern glass buildings that all looked as my friend said “…like geometry problems I forgot how to solve.” Not exactly what I was hoping to find. After all, I can see plenty of that in New York. I did, however, see a rather full and lovely rainbow  

 and some excellent graffiti.  

 Eventually I found my lodgings and my adorably jet lag drunk friend. Both of us were rather hungry, so we stumbled down the street to a MAX (the local equivalent of Burger King), enjoyed a not terrible at all burger,  

 caught up on the last crazy month of our lives and sucked down the wifi. Suddenly, the place was closing. We had failed to catch due to the deceptive lightness of the evening that it had somehow become  1am. We headed back to the flat and swiftly fell over.

Despite my usual penchant for adventure, I let myself sleep in until about noon. My adventures in Stockholm had left me rather low on sleep (damned midnight sun) and I figured there was no use in starting a tour like this sleep deprived. I hung around the rented flat with Mark until the FedEx truck bearing his EuroRail pass arrived and then we ventured forth into the city. Mark had spent the better part of the day before exploring Oslo and quickly showed me the not bleakly concrete parts of Oslo. 

         
   

  

  

  

 I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of Oslo, but I didn’t get it. The city while charming in a way, is remarkably unremarkable. I felt like I could be in any Northern European city. The only thing that really stood out were the obscene food and drink prices. And a weird ass statue, but I’ll get to that later. I paid $2.50 for a bottle of water and $4.80 for a bottle of coke. Oof. Turns out that Oslo is the second most expensive city in the world behind Tokyo. Having seen both, I’d suggest Tokyo.

As unremarkable as it was, it wasn’t a terrible place to be. There were plenty of cobbled streets and old buildings to check out.  

  

  

 The location of my friend’s event was cool – tucked in an alleyway that I immediately dubbed Diagon Alley-  

 and close to the site of the 2011 bombings, which, not exactly cool, but certainly educational. Everyone who showed up was LOVELY. Someone brought food and cupcakes to share, and afterward showed us how to use the trams. She even brought us to Vigeland Park, the world’s largest single artist sculpture park. 

  

  

  

  

  The park was lovely and bright even late in the evening but had some FUCKED UP sculptures ala the totem pole episode of Hannibal. 

  Additionally a man playing soccer with babies 

 . So yeah, I was not prepared for that.

Oslo is a lovely, sleepy city. I’m glad I came, but I’m just as happy to be on my way. Next up (and again) Stockholm.

Danger, Will Robinson

When you are chronically ill, hope is a dangerous thing.

At first you do. You hope. You hope fiercely. It’s what gets you through so many doctor appointments and awkward procedures and pain-filled days. Hope is what gets you through. But eventually, that hope fades.

After going to get the ninth second opinion, your hope is beaten down. After the third surprise rectal exam, you need more than hope. And so your hope becomes steel. Steel that laces itself through your spine and your soul. It helps you stand up straight when you’ve gotten embarrassingly ill at a dinner party. It helps you keep your chin up when your latest doctor tells you that they found nothing new in the latest round of tests.

Last night I had an MRI. I was pretty annoyed going in. While I was sore and worn down, I wasn’t full on sick and therefore, getting imaging work done seemed like a waste of time and insurance money. The problem with scheduling imaging of just about any kind is that those procedures have to be set up usually at least a week in advance and my abdominal troubles have no interest in observing any sort of rational calendar. It’s like shooting at a target from on top of a moving train. It’s hard to get data, and this problem can’t be solved without data. It’s immensely frustrating.

So, last night I went to Weill Cornell Imaging and settled in for three disgusting rounds of contrast and half an hour in a giant magnet. And I got sick. I’m not sure if it was the contrast that distends your stomach or stress from pretty much anything, but by the time that they put me in for imaging I had already needed to take to pain killers and spent a while laying on the cool tile of the bathroom holding myself in the fetal position. It was the best thing that could ever possibly happened. I got sick right when I needed to be.

And now I have hope. And now I am terrified. Because what if the tests don’t show anything? What if this doctor gives up just like the last one? The last one was lucky and when I saw her the first time I hadn’t eaten anything in several days so she could go in immediately. She did a colonoscopy and found ulcers and though she had a diagnosis. But a year and a half later after blood tests proving her wrong, she threw in the towel. If this test shows something, will it be enough? I want to hope. I want to be better. But every time I get my hopes up, my spirit gets shattered when nothing comes of it. How many times can you get a punch to the gut like this before you give up? How do you find the balance between pursuing a cure that may never come and finding a way to live your life as it is so it doesn’t pass you by. I don’t know. Finding the answer so far has been terribly painful and I’m not sure I want to keep looking.

Sick Day

I have nothing new to say. The words I’m about to type have been typed by me and many before me. They’re not new, and I hate typing them.

I am tired of being sick.

I am not just tired of being sick, though. I am tired of being tired. I’m tired of being depressed. I’m tired of people not understanding my situation. I’m tired of not being able to explain my situation. I’m tired of not having answers. I’m tired of being told to be patient for answers. I’m tired of not talking about being sick because I’m worried that I talk about it too much. I’m just really tired.

It’s not going to magically get better anytime soon. I’ve been getting comfortable with the idea that I’ll always be sick and that this is just a part of me now. There is no Doctor House for me. This will not be over in a period of time that an episode of TV can cover. And yet, I must keep up hope, that there is some magical cure out there for me. I must at once accept my status quo and reject it. I must not talk about what I’m facing, because it’s big and dark and scary and sometimes really gross. But at the same time, I must be courageous and fight this battle and speak my mind.

I am tired.

I’m tired of this being such a big part of me.

80%

I’ve been struggling with a new symptom of whatever non-named autoimmune disorder I have: Immune-Mediated Cognitive Dysfunction. It’s a fancy way of saying I have brain fog.

For the last few months, I’ve been noticing that it’s harder for me to read and retain information. I’m more forgetful and sometimes I have difficulty saying words or even stringing sentences together. I need more sleep (9 to 10 hours) and I run out of energy faster. In short, my executive brain function is being put into “Power Saver” mode.

Just in case you are wondering, yes, it’s terrifying.

To be clear, it’s not that my reasoning abilities are gone, I just have less of them. I can still solve a task, it just might take me longer. I can still juggle multiple tasks, but I won’t finish them all as quickly or as cleanly as I once could. I am functioning anywhere from 80-85%.

This isn’t just something that sucks, it’s really difficult to get used to. My mind is still used to functioning at 100% capacity. I am not, nor ever have been a stupid person. And now, I’m not as smart. I’m not as quick. I’m not as bright. There’s not use saying, “Oh, that’s nonsense, you’re brilliant.” All the wishing in the world won’t make this untrue. I can’t stretch as far as I once could, and because of that, I’m still tripping up when I try.

So, please be patient with me. I know what I can handle – lots of trial and error in the last months have helped assure that I cannot miss the line in the sand. I know what I’ve got going on and what I need to do. Please don’t bring this up, or my illness in general, unless I bring it up with you first. I have to live it every day, it is therefore not my favorite topic of conversation. Please don’t question my judgement on how far I can push myself – I know. Sometimes I have good days, and I just want to have a good day and not be reminded of the many bad ones that I have. Please, be kind.

Nothing ever stays the same.