What’s In It For Me

This question is interesting, and often too telling. But I offer no solutions.

What’s in it for me?

Looks and sounds like a question but frankly it is not. What it is, is a statement, marked with implications. Give me something in return, for something that I do for you. It is completely understandable, for we all want compensation in any form.

Doing anything out of the kindness of your heart is in a sense a form of payment. But being kind and filling your heart with joy and humanitarianism doesn’t feed you or pay your bills. Favors and acts of kindness are meant to be done because they are something you want to do. This sense of kindness is self-induced. You want to help; therefore you do, and you leave feeling gratified because you did something for somebody. You were wanted, were helpful, and achieved in bettering someone else’s life either for a moment or forever. Being wanted is a phenomenon. Somebody needs you…you…of all the people in their life. You are the one they chose to ask for help of some kind. And you feel the urgency, delight, the honor as though you were a golden child–somebody, whoever that is, needs you.

I hate being asked to do things. Depending if it is the beginning of the day or end, I get flustered with the ask. In the past, I worked and went to school. Stressed about making money to pay my rent, and other bills, while at the same time, stressed about doing all of my reading, essay writing, and notes. Being asked to do something for someone else usually filled me with terror, because all I could think about was my time: my rest, the stories I could not write, other opportunities, family obligations. For me, I am someone who will most likely offer their assistance, which completely obliterates that feelings of terror and stress. Offering means I have made a choice to help and most likely that person will be grateful for it.

I worked with a girl who was in her early twenties, who constantly felt used, all the time when she would go out of her way to help someone. I was skeptical about her feelings, not because I did not believe them, but the way she spoke about the lack of appreciation. She had a tone that suggested she wanted something in return, a tone that said I did this for you, so you can recognize it. Two camps exist: the ones who do things out of the kindness of their hearts and the ones who do things for praise. Her experiences with helping people, often make me think of my question: what’s in it for me? Therefore, what was in it for her? I knew this girl only by her work ethic, and it was not very strong. She was not lazy, but she was sly. Always finding a way to get out of work, whether it was by asking or by smiling a very fake and adoring smile. She worked and she did not work. Like all of us, she had to work, as we all do who must survive. It is understandable. We try to get through the day without breaking a sweat, trying desperately to make it to that last minute, the purgatory of time where we are so close to leaving, and yet still feeling the hot hell of work licking your back. But when we make it out and we realize it was not as terrible as it could have been, therefore justifying those hours, possibly finding some moral. There is no thank you when it comes to work, it is not in work’s nature. I understood this girl, but I was unhappy with the way she treated work. Her idea of doing something for someone else was merit based, as though she was collecting chips so that she could cash them in one day. She is the type of girl to always ask for help, and try to sweet talk her way out of helping others, but when she does help, and she does not get the intended appreciation she deserves, she is quick to recognize it. It is an unbreakable cycle.

I am afraid to ask for help. Maybe that is a sign of weakness or maybe it is the other way around. Yet everyone needs something from someone. When I ask for help, I always think: What’s in it for them. Whether one believes it or not, you are at the mercy of someone when you ask for help, and at the same time there is a value that is placed on the one being asked. There are the ones you ask to do something for free and the ones that are asked for a fee. Compensation of some sort is used as a bargaining tool for someone you desperately need. The freeby is someone who will do it because they want to and see that you need help. It is easy to take advantage of these types of people. It is easy to get taken advantage of when you are desperate. I usually do not ask for help because I have nothing to offer, and it comes as a surprise when someone helps me without nothing in return. Since I have no money to offer, I must offer something else. Usually, it is my physical abilities. However, I am skeptical when it comes to physically working myself, considering that it is sadly in a positon I am in. I am someone with a white-collar spirit, always hoping to reside in a professional environment, but has worked service or blue collar jobs where the work is sometimes physically demanding. What I am afraid of is breaking something, ruining something or simply dying. Maybe it’s a phobia. Maybe it is smart thinking. Or maybe, I need to get into better shape so that I could do physically demanding work without fear. Then again that has nothing to do with an accident. It’s just recently I’ve attempt my bid at getting jobs that require my mind rather than my body, however until then I stand for 8 hours and move constantly, which is good, frankly, however it makes me shy away from help. What’s in it for me, if I throw out my back, or break my something–I’m toast.

This act of selflessness and need seems to be primitive. As it is in our very nature as people to help each other. Besides physically demanding work, I think of what I could never get out of my head. “Don’t be a mark,” was something my mother has said. It feels as though it permeates my existence. It comes from my mother helping and never, when she needed it, getting any help in return. What’s in it for me is a valid question. A question, however, which requires essential navigation so that it might get to the appropriate meaning. Maybe asking the question: What’s in it for me? can only be paired with the saying pick your battles. When is it appropriate to say What’s in it for me? Some might say your friends are only people you never ask. But then again, would your friends let you borrow a lump sum of money, and give it to you out of the kindness of their heart. Maybe it is all relative. However, it is impossible to not want something in return, even if it is your friends. In a time where things are getting more expensive, as the citizens are paid less and less for everything, time is money, that old saying, and there is very little time we are willing to waste for nothing. There is no solution. There are people who have that luxury of helping without clauses in the verbal contract, and there are people want nothing else but to help someone.

 

At Last; or Completely Remembering That I Had a Blog

At last…I’ve returned to my blog. For some reason. It’s been a whole entire year. Holy shit. That long? I have Interweb ADD.

There’s something quite invigorating when stepping away meanings that there’s a chance to do something different, and really define what a blog is supposed to be. Is there such thing? The true essence of bloggerness?

It’s just a place, a web space for pixelated thinking.

Time to define it for the rest of us, this bloggness.

A Small Date Night: Part One

Date Night, Part One of a four or five hour date… After a night of ledier (I guess this would help) and then a nosh, we walked down Octavia street of Hayes Valley in San Francisco chatting about whatever we were talking about, and then suddenly we came upon this mural and this printed statement: Before I Die.  (This article will tell you more about it). It was interesting, uplifting, a bit of downer, sort of, but nevertheless, bold as hell! I like this sort of stuff, when art just slaps you in the face. But during all the beautiful things I happened to come upon this–photo Clearly this is something that is urgent. I thought it was funny and I don’t mean to glorify the word “bitches” but it was interesting to see the memory of B.I.G. live on. I found it hilarious. However, then I saw the bottom quote. “See my grandchildren”–Damn, straight to the heart of the matter. I didn’t have a long ponder about it, but it’s so touching to see this.

This wall that stops you and almost commands you to write on it. It’s every three to five year old dream! But for adults, more or less. I wish I had another picture, but I guess the link would have to suffice. TBC…

Badluck, and Lemon Bars

Off to a cocktail party. Sadly, I was supposed to make kick ass Lemon Bars, and I did, however they resemble, well, not the brightest yellow ever. Not like Bruce Lee’s jump suit. Anyway, they were DOA and it’s heartbreaking.

Their appearance may be crap, however they taste amazing! But presentation is everything. Time to hit the grocery store and get something that isn’t filled with chemicals because I never want to go to a party empty ass’ed.

Never go to a party empty ass. That’s half the lesson of this post. The other half…um, attention? Something like that. The oven is a sinister beast.

-F

In defense of “Write What You Know”

I believe personally in just writing.

Just write.

Some people will be good and some will be really, really bad.

Lucy Blue Writes

librarianIn a recent writers roundtable over at comic and fiction writer Sean H. Taylor’s blog (Bad Girls, Good Guys and Two-Fisted Action, and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out), we talked about the best and worst advice we’ve ever received as writers. More than half of us piled on the hate for that cursed pearl so loved by high school creative writing teachers everywhere: Write What You Know. What a load of crap, we agreed. How boring would fiction be if writers only ever wrote what they knew? There’d be no science fiction, no fantasy, no horror that didn’t make you cry and throw up, and very little romance of the slightest interest to anybody but the parties involved. I was part of the lynch mob, I freely admit. I think this idea of writing what you know has produced more soggy, self-indulgent crap calling itself…

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When the News ends

Trust me this isn’t about the actual news. I think there’s only been one day in history where there was nothing to report. But what I’m referring to is The Newsroom. Quite late on the band wagon, I know, but I couldn’t help it after I was in between shows. Boardwalk Empire had ended, and was going to begin it’s last season; The Leftovers had ended as well. I was looking for something to fill up my empty bingwatching hours, and after careful consideration and listening to the echo of my friend from years before, decided to watch The Newsroom.

Aaron Sorkin, the writer/creator of The West Wing, a show in which I admittedly started watching because of Mary-Louise Parker, who yes, only appears for a dozen episodes. I have no reasoning to this except that after her crazy performance in Angels in America, well, I wondered. My boyfriend enjoyed that show too, saying, “Finally, it was good to see a smart republican” (Sounds like Will McAvoy, the ingeniously smart republican. He has logic.)

That was during my following the actor years instead of the creators: directors, writers, producers. Until Sorkin wrote The Social Network, he faded from my memory; until I realized he wrote The Social Network and then Moneyball and then The Newrooms I was thrust into a new sphere of something I can barely explain. The man who created “the walk and talk”–a genius, because I realized that you can pack a ridiculous amount of information while you walk and talk; to me, this is just great writing and many would agree. You have to be quick and you have to be smart when you tackled Sorkin. Of course his genius is all because he’s a playwright, and for any writer being a talented playwright is being a great writer. The goods ones are able to make dialogue compelling, stable, and connecting. People talk, that’s real life. And people say crazy shit, that’s just life. Sorkin made even the most unobtainable people real.

This is what was special about The Newsroom, regardless of the changing of the staff of writers and what not. It, was, still, good! I didn’t loose interest in the second season with the framed story–it was definitely a challenge. I maybe biting this from another author, I’m not sure, but the frame tale is a hard one, seeing the characters at the end and then going back in time and unfolding story. For me as a watcher, viewer or reader, I like there being a secret, a mystery, going with the flow and not absolutely understanding why but that it happened because that what was supposed to happen. Some people can’t function that way, believeablity (Not a word, obviously…) matters. (being believable matters). A frame tale tests your endurance. It’s like being given the answers to the test, getting an A and feeling as though you didn’t earn it. I like build up. But even though I was given all the info I could possible have or need, I was still surprised by the other piece of information that further enslaved my imagination.

I know I speak of the second season first, but it’s the most recent, and I should go back and talk about the first season. However, I don’t really know what I can say.

I think what I mostly wanted to do was marvel at the show, especially how it made me LIKE Jeff Daniels. Being one of the Dumb and Dumber dudes, I refused. Worst idea ever.

I don’t know how authentic the movin’ and grovin’ of The Newsroom is, however, Sorkin makes it look like too much fun. And I love it. The idea of doing a show about a Newsroom, just News and the people around is a challenge. Sorkin excelled at making it not only look like a place you wanted to be, but compelling and entertaining for the simply fact that he a character and dialogue expert. I couldn’t ask for more, except maybe for more seasons.

When I watch TV shows, which are few; and when I watch movies; which are few, now (have you noticed the prices!), I wanted to be stimulated, not by effects or explosions or whatever the fuck, but stimulated by crispy dialogue, a magnificent story and great, complex, and complicated characters. I don’t have the money to waste on crappy movies these days or the time to waste of shitty shows. There’s very little content out there that is good, rare that something is great and not just with writing, which by far to me is the most important, but with the director, for a writer must push a director’s imagination to the brick.

It’s quite sad that The Newsroom is signing off. Having Sorkin so accessible is and was a treat. With the third season coming soon, in less than a weak, I will be sure not to miss a thing! More than anything I am praising the show. I hope Sorkin comes back to TV, soon. Until then I guess we gotta look out for that Steve Jobs movie. I hope it has a Social Network kind of spin on it. I never thought Jobs was a saint, but thank goodness for a convenient product that took over the world.

I am…Francisco Carranza, thank you and goodnight.

P.S. I should edit to alleviate the embarrassment of my malfunctioning grammar.

Potter Nostalgia

I don’t know who is keeping track, but this happens to be my fourth blog post throughout my bloggin’ time. Production is awfully slow. I am having trouble with coming up with things to write about or maybe, I do not find what I have experienced quite interesting. But don’t we all? This is a mini-return, and happily with something about Harry Potter. You will see this has nothing to do with the published short story by Rowling…

*Refer to “paragraph” 4 for more information.

I have taken a vacation away from the, or what I like to think, seriously “literary” novels I’ve been reading and have subjected myself to some Harry Potter-ness. Why? I don’t know. At some point during the week, I found myself gravitating to these books, but since I’m also an impatient person (sometimes) I can’t help to read and watch the movies that go along with them. So I am cocooned in Harry Potterism. This could potentially be good and bad maybe? Nevertheless, I’m not a pretentious son of a bitch that wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy a little bit of missed YA connections. The whole YA thing doesn’t happen to be something I missed, since I never really read any of it. For some reason though, a little HP happens to trump the mixed feelings I have about YA literature. It actually makes me feel a little cool. Anyway, I don’t know why this HP nostalgia has struck me. It’s a bit delectable to watch and read. The whole world your transferred into kind of makes you forget any crisis coursing through your life.

Here I sit, watching The Philosopher’s Stone or “Sorcerer’s Stone.” Which curiously makes me wonder, why are Americans unaccustomed to the word/name philosopher? It’s quite sad. That discussion is quite old, though. I am barely half way through, the Halloween scene has begun–you know, before the trio meets the troll! Oh my god!  “TROOOOOL in the dungeon, TROOOOL!…thought you ought to know.” What I’ve noticed about the first book is the nonchalant use of the language. There wasn’t any reluctance in telling the story, even over analysis of situations as though it was a curious thing, bizarre or episodes being real or not: it was just natural. The immersion of your mind and the novel was instant. Here we go! it’s Quidditch time! Damn! They were hella’ young. Buckin and Boomin’ all over the place.

If your wondering: I am writing and I am watching. I do think that I will end this post before the movie ends. So I’ll keep the spoilers freshly contained. This also has nothing to do with the recent news of Rowling publishing that new Potter story: Holy smokes, have you read it? The internet went bonkers! It was some serious Black Friday smack, internet and literature style. My own Potter buzz began a little earlier than that, and so, it was quite a coincidence when it happened. There something similar that happened to me a few weeks, maybe a few months when Gabo died and the day before I decided that I would try to reread One-Hundred Years of Solitude. It was so weird, another coincidence. I don’t know. I’m not that special nor powerful as my mentor’s husband would say, but it was kind of cool. Not the dead part.

I will be finishing the movie soon enough, right now Dumbledore has arrived and is speaking to Harry about the mirror–super creepy Mirror (of Erised). If I looked into that thing, what the hell would I see!? There are a few things, but I can’t make a firm guess. That may have rendered me a bit needy and wanting of everything in life. Who doesn’t, though? I think my wants are pretty specific.

Just as I end this, the Centaur, Firenze, showed up. Obviously I’m nearly at the end. Time to watch the chess game and meet Volderface, soon enough!

Until next time!

-Francisco

 

Americanah’some! A Little Review of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Just finished Adichie’s Americanah. I do not know why it took me a week to. Maybe it was the density of the subject (encompassing class, race, hair, immigration, etc…) and its length, though I don’t think 475 pages is very long. It doesn’t take long to get in to, for you are instantly transported into the world Adichie creates (or wants you to see, illuminates). This is little sliver of Lagos, Nigera, America (spanning from Baltimore, New York and New Jersey, if I remember correctly: it was a long book!) At first I thought I would hate the protagonist, Infemelu who carries the weight of the novel. What does it mean when you’re a Non-American black: Are you Black or African (Nigerian specifically)? By the end of the novel it answers that question, subtlety…metaphorically? According to the novel America you become stripped of person you were and are forced to take on a new identity. Maybe this why identity is so important to people in America and to people from other countries, because America tells you, NO, you are not allowed to be this person, so you are forced to be another person. I want to say, at the core of the novel, this is what it is telling the reader. Moreover, how do we define ourselves, again? And why do we have to? (I am not a transport from another country, though I have an obsession [sort of] with immigration).

Ifemelu is the strong woman who questions everything in America, specifically about race. Which I have mentioned before. Underneath the strange love story, which seems to be a necessity in every story, the subject of race is gushing. In America you will never be considered who you are, because all that everyone sees is what you look like, the color of your skin, the coating that people judge you by. Sure there are tell-tell signs of where you came from: clothes, speak, words, looks (not skin color, but the formation of your frame or face). By having black skin, you must just be Black. By having brown skin, you must be one of the variety of Latinos, or just plain Mexican, it’s the easiest Latino ethic group to remember. (And saying Hispanic is just plain offensive.) Same thing with Eastern countries, someone is just Chinese or Indian, etc. Ifemelu’s blogs about race seem to answer a few of these questions about race; what’s interesting is that ethnicity is never mentioned; it’s all about race. Does ethnicity even count? Or am I missing the point? People like making race simple and it is not, it’s a complex rubix cube. Trying to tell someone who you are is not enough; nobody really cares. They pretend to, because in their minds they have figured you out and it easier for them to have their idea of you in their head then to implement the truth. And weaved (no pun intended) throughout the narrative, that is talked about it, is beauty. I these parts of the book, Infemelu’s hair crisis as both serious issues and funny circumstances. Already she is a naturally beautiful girl, everyone says she is, but it’s hard to tell when a character named Kimberly says, about every Black person, this “beautiful” person and so on as a way to soften the blow that their Black or to increase their confidence and self-esteem? It was hard to tell. Simply, Kimberly was not doing it for the sake of saying beautiful because it is her favorite word, but she did not want to come off as racist? Why was it so hard to say Black? Is it the heavily emphasis on the Bl sound? It is a quite striking word. Is there a feeling that you get when saying Black, as though it a derogatory term? Having that tact on early in the novel is interesting, I have a strange feeling that everyone who says Infemelu is beautiful or pretty or even gorgeous, I feel like is lying to her. It confuses me! I’m skeptical throughout. Beauty is connected to race; to one group you are beautiful, to another you are interesting and exotic, to another you are ugly. For Infemelu beauty was both within and out; it was something she focused on early in the novel, but nevertheless as money and power became prevalent, beauty did not matter.

In all, what I read made me think and some people think it is not possible to learn anything from fiction writing. I think differently. We learn experiences and human nature and to question reality. Americanah is thought provoking, beautifully written and necessary. I almost want to say a Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the Nigerian, Isabel Allende, but some people do not feel that she is not in the cannon. I have no comment, not that I don’t want to take sides, because I no for a fact people like controversy. It would be neutral to say she is in her own league and should be treated as such, one without a comparison for her freshness. There was an odd sense of One Hundred Years of Solitude in this, but maybe I am going off the deep end. Overall, this book had everything I enjoyed. Race, class (which I know I failed to talk about, but then I was be here all day, and writing a novella), beauty, immigration (see latter comment about class) hair, etc. Most of all, I highly enjoy women writers of color, the ultimate underdogs. Even saying that sounds offensive. Nevertheless, it is difficult. I give this book Four and Half stars and already cannot wait for the next juggernaut to spill out of Adichie’s mind.

 

-F

 

That Music Discovery Feeling

It’s not everyday that one gets into that mood to search through the worldwide web, or YouTube for a new sound. Ironically, for me, I am searching for an old sound that is new to me. I want to pride myself on my knowledge of music–I only know songs, nothing really beyond that, not who wrote it or produced it or who played in the band. I have to say that is quite lazy on my part. There is no excuse. Maybe I should stop this blog post and start reading up on my discoveries.

Nope, I tried. I can’t. Not today at least.

Today, I was trying to get down like James Brown because I had a crafty feeling. It was titillating. And then I thought it would be wise to play some music. Usually that is difficult because I can never settle on a playlist and then when I do, I begin to hate the songs that are in that playlist and then I start to make another playlist and then I forget what I was supposed to be doing. Writing? OK, maybe that was predestined. But I’m glad I did. I stopped fumbling with my iPod and went onto YouTube and began to shuffle through a mixture of Crooners, Soul Masters and Soul Queens, Jazzy fellows, Girl-Groups and Dusty Springfield (who I already know very well, just to hear When I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten…Oh my god, have you heard this song? It fucking amazing.) I happen to discover a few others people to add to my collection of musical intellect: Candy and the Kisses (Um, what a pimp ass name! I hope you agree), Maxine Weldon, Vivian Reed, Peter and Gordon (I know weird departure; at least it’s not Steely Dan or George Strait), some other Del Shannon songs, Eddie Floyd (who was thrust into my face by a dear friend, a soul aficionado), The Hollies (who are OK for what they do) and finally and I don’t know why it has had such an effect on me: Irma Thomas “Soul Queen of New Orleans”. She probably would have had the same success if Etta James or Aretha Franklin rule the world; nevertheless, they are too awesome to even shit on, so let me shut my mouth…

Anyway, Irma Thomas’ “Break-a-Way” is way too good to miss. As soon as I saw it–just the title, I thought, oh, another break up song or something to that effect. But then…nope, not even close. It starts subtlety loud and then you’re off. One cannot simply explain to you, one has to simply enjoy it. So enjoy.

 

Damn fancy! The hair could have been more epic, but it will do.

Part-Full Timer

I think the hardest thing in the world is landing a job, blogging and writing all at the same time. Some say it’s like a full time job–the looking for a job part; nobody cares about the blogging or writing stuff.

Laboriously looking, searching with every doubt possible that you’re not good enough. You seriously start to question your worth. Oh lord, I will never be a security analyst (or guard…guardian of the midnight prowlers) or a plastic salesmen. It’s not that there are no jobs, but that you’re not qualified for them. I spent most of my “working career” as an English tutor, and as other lowlandish things, have gained no respect. Being someone’s private grammatical Superman, trying to save their badly constructed sentences (not that I’m judging because lord knows I’m just a pretender) has no weight whatsoever. If anything, I’m more like Antman.

What the fuck?

Why aren’t tutors respected, like at all; or am I just in a place where that shit seems so “fluffy” as my mother likes to call it? I have no problems working, don’t get me wrong. When I have things to do I do it. And just because there is no callous on my hands doesn’t make me any less of a man, right? (Don’t answer that, all those worker bees need not express their contempt–mostly because I will not listen…that was harsh.) When you have been  geared towards helping others you want to continue that, and it has been hard to. And when you get made fun of for it, like it was a total waste of time, well you start rethink everything. (No not the classic, Who Am I? What Am I Doing? questions. They’ll only drive you insane with a Prius fuel efficiency).

To help or not to help, that is the question?

Answer: when you have the qualifications, well then that makes all the difference. And when you’re paid a decent wage, I think you get more elated when someone learns the true mean of Who and Whom–or there, their, and they’re.

Though tutoring was fulfilling, there just wasn’t enough money (and lets be honest, you can’t survive on coffee, air and college student’s analytic interpretation of Cat In The Hat or Hop on Pop, thus I have to enter the “real world” and play the Game of Jobs.  Failure Is Coming–maybe.

-FC

Introducing Who?

I resisted creating a blog because I was against the whole idea of providing content for free. Well, I guess those ideas have changed.  When I thought about it, I realized I would be falling into some hipster pretension–the basic too good for blogging mentality. However, having developed an interest in personal essay writing, which I realize is an awesome form of therapy–or psychotherapy–not to mention cheap–I couldn’t help but to flesh out some humorous, embarrassing, tragic, weird or enlightening experiences for the greater good of the craft or to keep a small sliver of memory and balderdash. I quickly got over the free content thing; and now somewhat fully equipped to dive in deep to the Blogosphere (it somewhat appropriate to use this word, now).

I had to understand what the blog could achieve beyond the enjoyment of writing. Since nobody walks around with copies of their fiction, essays or mad dope poems: the blog evidently offers accessibility. You can sell yourself lickety split.

Regardless, I have no set agenda, nothing, not even a clue. Nevertheless, that’s the beauty of blogging; whatever is on your mind, whatever you see, experience, notice and wonder about can be splayed out like road kill. Especially with the growing state of pop culture, one of my absolute favorite things in the world: movies, TV, music, literature, Opera, theater all of which has encompassed my world now. And the growing state of weirdness in my own life. Truth be told it could be weirder, I’m really waiting for the day I surprise myself.  Essentially in a nut shell, blogging is about writing–yes, yes, and, of course, or at least I think so, having something important to say.

Maybe that’s what it is–I didn’t have anything to say before–which is one of the reasons I didn’t blog-out. Now, I feel like I do.  I consider it all for the fun of writing, sharing a perspective and experiences for the good of entertainment and writing. So–Que sera, sera!

-FC