Ten Things I’m Grateful for—Amsterdam and Berlin Edition

Continuing the gratitude-listing tradition from last week and beyond, here’s a quick post on ten things I’m grateful for as I close out the unbelievable second week of my artist-in-residence post at Hack42 in Arnhem, Netherlands. Only I’m not actually in Arnhem. That would be too residential. I seem to be in Amsterdam. No, wait, Berlin. No, wait, back to Amsterdam. Danke, Universe.

1. Embarrassment of riches of photos from my friend Dennis van Zuijlekon the Photographer’s second photo shoot, a portraiture one. That my friend B.R. the Editor—who recently started this cool podcast—helpfully points out makes it next to impossible to choose an author photo, because there are so many good possibilities there.

It’s a punk-rocker!

It’s a an actress!

It’s a hacker!!

Bwahaha. Oh, commitment issues. You’re fun. 

2. Van Gogh Museum, Oasis of Matisse, and oceans of bicycles in Amsterdam. Amsterdam feels like home. It’s so safe! So free! So cold in July! I want to have babies on bicycles here. 

3. Amazing journalist-activist Brenno de Winter, who has been targeted by police for his “acts of journalism.” A new hero. A feeling of refuge. An incredible cook. 

4. Art business insights from the kind folks at Berlin Noir by Checkpoint Charlie

E.g., people do not want the bracelets on the shelf. They want the one on your arm. And they do not want the toy cars in the tray. They want the ones in the back that look like the ones out front. 

Maybe people want what seems real? Or maybe we don’t know why they want those things, just that they want what they see. Like the stockings experiment that’s one of my favorites but I can’t find the citation for offhand… Nefarious researching researchers took identical stockings. Placed one, I imagine, on each arm. No—more proper. On benign objects, surely. And they had passersby in supermarkets feel them and say which they preferred. People can give you lots of reasons why they want what they want—and in this experiment, they did. But at the end of the day Woody Allen was right. The heart wants what it wants. (And people tend to prefer the stocking on the right, probably because of right-handedness and the effects of hand dominance on nerve ending development. That’s my guess, anyway.) 

5. Running into Claas, a very cool organizational change consultant who steered me to Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, a very cool artist space in Berlin. 

6. Talking with music producer Ksenija Ladic. Ksenija offered a brilliant insight that I’m grateful for as an artist, that might help others who do independent creative-intellectual work, too. “The deadline is the performance,” she said. This works on several levels for me as someone who used to be pathologically deadline-oriented. But deadlines are, in fact, only performances—for most of us, most of the time. And performances—showing up to play—are deadlines, too. Collaborative art is beautiful that way. 

7.     Singing with Olaf Bahn in the park between Art Center Betanien and the East Side Gallery. Olaf is the Director of what he calls the First Offline Radio, Veganes Funkhaus Europa, which roughly translates as Fuck You European Vegans. This seems like as good a time as any to cite to recent research on how sarcasm is really good for you

Anyway, Olaf was playing the guitar in the grass, and I started dancing and singing with him. We improv-ed a few songs that way that I wish I had written down now, as usual. My improv singing is my best, and it makes no sense because as an artist, I want it to be perfect, I want to compose, rewrite, produce, rehearse, and have it be so much better… But then that gets in my way. Just showing up and playing with other people is magical. Not only do I get over the crushing performance anxiety that sometimes keeps me from making a sound when I’m by myself. But I flow. Sometimes. Magic.

8. The discussion with a wonderful tutoring student thanks to my occasional employer Ingenius Prep that led to a fun interview idea. Invite: Eichmann, Arendt, Glenn Carle and Martha Nussbaum to debate similarities and differences between U.S. post-9/11 violations of international law and the violations thereof that landed Eichmann in Jerusalem. Is it weird that I want to make Eichmann and Arendt hand puppets, put on a suit that does not hide the fact that they are hand puppets, and interview Carle and Nussbaum that way? Or is it only weird that I would post that on a blog because I really, really want to actually do it even though I know it’s weird? (Sigh.) Message. Being on it. 

9. Poetry book pretty much ready to publish after 10-12 years of writing, a year off and on of intensive rewriting, structuring, and new writing. I ended up combining what were my first and second poetry book manuscripts, along with a bunch of paintings from the last year or so. So the online version of the single poetry book coming out of that will be illustrated with paintings, and probably the print version will be unillustrated since it’s so much harder to make a properly illustrated, physical book… The online version might be free, I don’t know… But I know I’m happy this is coming along, grateful for help along the way, and excited to cross it off my list soon and move on to the next priority project(s). Showing up to my life as an artist. Doing my work. Being open to changing what that means, life and art being changeable things.

10. Completely accidentally having the time and mental space now to rewrite some of my dissertation research as (Continental hacker) conference and peer-reviewed (political science) article submissions. As soon as I figure out how to add these to my updated publications page, you can read the first one—on advancing equity in medical diagnosis—as a working paper, along with my Chaos Computing Camp lightning talk summary. And another reformed diss chunk/infosec conference paper/article draft—on a confirmation bias, why it matters in tech-mediated security decisions, and how to neutralize it in lie detection—will be out under submission and up on that page soon as well.

11. Recharging with new friends.

12. Too many things to be grateful for to limit them to one list.

13. Good direction on my one primary goal for the next month. Probably mostly from Lisbon, I’m going to hone in every day to the process of one of the following goals as primary—

– (Re)writing the apocryphal album, (re)learning to play and sing while playing the piano, learning music production on a free copy of Protools I should get any day now, recording the album, doing open mics. Showing up to play as a musician.

– (Re)writing a novel, probably pulling the screenplay draft I wrote last spring in LA, chopping it off at page 60, and adding a bunch of new stuff, both updating it with a bunch of crazy shit that’s happened since then and fictionalizing more so it’s more plausible.

–  (Re)writing a nonfiction book, probably pulling a bunch from my old blog. 

–  (Re)writing a historical fiction collection of interviews that turns into a mystery novel, Interviews with Dead People, that I had also started on my last blog.

  (Re)writing and illustrating the first two in the children’s book series Where the Wilde Thinks Are, What Kind of Bird Am I? and Our House.

– Writing and illustrating the next two in that series, one on trust and justice as forgiveness, the other (or maybe the same one) on policing and the surveillance state.

– (Re)writing the critique of the surveillance state that may or may not have gotten me informally exiled, but I trust the universe, and it’s fine, it’s cool, I love the world, I have lots of friends who love me, I need very little and I am free. I feel so safe in Europe. I feel so at home in the Continental hacker community. And for the first time in my adult life, I feel worthy of love and like it’s actually only a matter of time before somebody kind and weird like me sees me for who I am, picks me up off the shore where I am only mildly dashed but completely autonomous and grateful to be here, and loves the shit out of me. I might even come around to talking about that fantasy in a sweeter way. As long as I can still do the punk-rocker hacktivist bit. 

 Shut down all the defunct interrogation programs like I’ve been meaning to do since 2008, by planning, testing, and launching a Kickstarter with a clear call to action for this purpose.

– Pick a field experiment, any on my list of over a dozen field experiments I’ve been meaning to run. Find an organization that wants to pay me to run it. Have fun with that. 

This choice must happen tonight. With 100% commitment. Or not.

This choice should be easy. I’m a writer first. What I want to do first is write. Writing makes me happy. I can do it anywhere. In fact, I have trouble sometimes making myself stop to do other things. I have in the past made money doing it. In fact, I have made five figures in half an hour doing it. (I gave it back.) Plus, I want to have published my first novel before I’m 30. At this point I have to settle for “while” instead of “before,” publish it myself, and do it before Thanksgiving or it’s not getting done. So probably I want to prioritize a novel draft. Just pick one and just do it. (Twitch, twitch. Must shut down defunct interrogation programs. Research question: Can I do that with a novel?)

But then a piece of me has always loved singing. I’m not getting any younger, and that matters for female artists even though I want to kick that little voice out of my head. And I worry if I find my voice, I can translate my poetry and politics for a mass audience like no one else—and if I don’t, I might hit the point I’ve reached a few times in the past, when I can barely make noise at all. And I can’t let myself be silenced, even if it’s only me doing the worst of it, because people are basically good. The world is basically good. I am basically good. And I am gonna show up and play. 

So I still have to pick one priority goal for next month, commit to it 110%, set it in stone—perhaps literally, with the help of a laser cutter— and then finish clearing this month’s goals—the second article manuscript rewrite/submission and poetry book publication—stat… 

And also work on all these as also-goals next month—

 Rewriting and submitting the psychophysiology chunk of my dissertation research to Psychophysiology already.

 Rewriting and submitting the public administration chunk of my dissertation research to Administration & Society already.

 Find a job that pays me money and stuff. (Research questions: Can I make money making art instead? Wasn’t that the plan? What about just not making money? How often do people literally starve to death in Western nations?) 

– Find a place to live where I have a place to sleep that is mine and stuff.

– Briefly consider rearranging order of these secondary goals.

– Take an acting class. Find a theater family. Make pretty stories with my body and voice in this way, with 

– Re-try stand-up again.

– Paint three painting commissions.

– Walk forever and ever, until my head clears with the summer sky and my thoughts fly like birds, not listless but without indentation.