29 July 2011

if a quiz is quizzical, what is a test?


In a none-too-rare moment of procrastination, I took a personality test. Normally, I don’t take these things too seriously. I mean, there are personality tests in magazines like Cosmo. But after suspending disbelief, I started noticing patterns. Namely, to what extent my paranoia dictates the way in which I think.

The medium of the test truly makes a difference. I know I can’t be the only one who, when taking a personality test in a magazine, has peeked at the results then tried to engineer my responses so they align with my perceived ideal. It’s fairly easy to tell which are the “correct” answers. For example, the responses to the question “What do you do when you see a cute guy across the room?” are something along the lines of a) avoid him like the plague, b) make eye contact for a few seconds and smile, or c) take off your top. The person is immediately determined to be cold, “normal,” or kind of skanky.

But taking a test like this online was a completely different experience. First of all, the subject matter was less trivial. Instead of focusing on dating etiquette, or trying to determine what type of man is best for me (nerds or artists. how groundbreaking.), this quiz was about my work ethic and habits. I had to actually stop and think about what my honest response would be.

The method for answering complicated my process as well. There were ten bubbles for each statement, and I would have to rate the statement’s relevance to my personal philosophy on a scale of one to ten. The thing is, some of the statements had multiple clauses, and some were more relevant than others.

Therein began my struggle. How do I compensate for any discrepancies? As a result, there were not many responses on either extreme. Not everything can be distilled as simply as “exactly like me” or “exactly the opposite of me.” Plus, my responses could vary dramatically depending on my state of mind or time of day, but that does mean that my response would be any less true. As I was looking over my responses, I realized just how noncommittal I came across.

Then the paranoia set on. What if my test was being live streamed where someone could tell how long it took for me to respond? Could someone see how many times I changed my answer before I settled on what was as close to the truth as possible? Was that part of the test? If I were to conduct this sort of experiment, I would definitely take these factors into consideration.

Of course, I know that it would be incredibly impractical for someone to carry out what I have just described. I also know that my tendency to overcomplicate things plays a large part in this caffeine-fueled rant. I mean, I sort of know. A part of me still wonders if someone is as dedicated to being a creeper as me.

26 July 2011

work in progress

I am currently working through a new idea, but as I was procrastinating, I stumbled upon a personality quiz at http://psychcentral.com/personality-patterns/. Here are my results. I don't think they will surprise anyone.


You are thoughtful, rational, and comfortable in the world of ideas. People find you interesting to talk to. You're the living embodiment of the saying "You learn something new every day." In general, those with a high score on the "intellectual" trait are employed in such fields as teaching and research, and are enthusiastic about reading, foreign films, and classical music. You do not avoid abstract conversation, experimenting with new ideas, or studying new things. It bores you to stick to the straight and narrow of what you already know.


You are thoughtful, rational, and comfortable in the world of ideas. People find you interesting to talk to. You're the living embodiment of the saying "You learn something new every day." In general, those with a high score on the "intellectual" trait are employed in such fields as teaching and research, and are enthusiastic about reading, foreign films, and classical music. You do not avoid abstract conversation, experimenting with new ideas, or studying new things. It bores you to stick to the straight and narrow of what you already know.


You feel it's important to work according to a plan and finish every task, to do things correctly and thoroughly. You are not the kind of person who abandons a project before finishing it, or slacks off when you've lost interest.


You appreciate art, beauty, and design; you know that they are not superficial but absolutely crucial to living the good life. You have good taste, and you're proud of it. Those with a high score on the "aesthetic" trait are often employed in literary or artistic professions, enjoy domestic activities — doing things around the house — and are enthusiastic about the arts, reading, and travel. You don't think it's pretentious to be moved by art and beauty. You're not one of those who believe it doesn't matter what something looks like as long as it does its job.


You strive to master everything you undertake. You tend to learn quickly and do not shy away from challenges. You are not a "que sera sera" type of person, nor do you go easy on yourself when attempting to master a new skill or get a job done.


You are an honest, fair person. You don't lie or cheat to get ahead. You treat others with respect and hope for the same in return. You do not feel that you are above the rules that everyone else follows; you are definitely not willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.


You like to think a task through before you embark on it. If it's the slightest bit complicated, you make a list (even if it's only in your mind) and methodically work your way through it. When you have a goal in mind, you're not satisfied until you reach it. You are not one of those people who ignore the details, and you don't understand how anyone can get anything accomplished without thoughtful planning ahead of time.


You are a quick study. You generally don't need to have things explained to you more than once. When presented with a problem, you will often have an instant understanding of where to look for the solution. You do not take your sweet time when presented with a new task to complete or problem to solve. You don't avoid assignments that require you to learn new skills.


You like to get to the bottom of things. You're not content knowing what someone did; you want to know why they did it. You don't simply take things as they are and move on; you're not content skimming along on the surface; you don't feel you're wasting time by digging for the meaning of things.


You enjoy teamwork, play well with others, and prefer getting along to winning. You're not compelled to win every contest nor to be right all the time.

Normally, I would end this post with some sort of conclusion about what I have learned about myself. But not today. I'm tired.

24 July 2011

relational paranoia


I know that I write quite a bit about not being self-conscious, touting its advantages and preaching self-confidence. But, writing about that got me thinking about times when I feel self-conscious, and, conversely, times when I do not feel self-conscious. My brain is a vicious chocolate and vanilla swirl.

I can tell when a relationship is successful by the frequency with which I don’t feel self-conscious. That statement is in no way revolutionary. But I know that we’re solid when we can be in complete silence and it’s not weird. In fact, as horrible as it sounds, some of the best times I’ve had with my friends are when we’re not talking at all. You should know that you mean a lot to me if I like to simply be with you.

But then I got to thinking again. What if I had completely misinterpreted all those interactions? What if what I considered blissfully quiet car rides and relaxing afternoons were actually horribly awkward experiences for the other party? While I was perfectly content, the other person may have been suffering in silence, struggling to break the tension I failed to notice. Now I’m the asshole who stared out the window the whole way to the restaurant. I’m the creeper sitting on the floor with her nose in a book. Great.

The risk of misinterpretation extends beyond physical encounters. As some of you may know, the easiest way to communicate with me is through text. They are called CrackBerries for a reason; mine never leaves my side. Although texting is convenient, I can’t help but worry about each one I send. Funnily enough, my biggest challenge is punctuation. The irony of a prospective writer tormented by punctuation does not escape me.

If I am excited about my response, I will include an exclamation point. But, the more I include, the more disingenuous (or creepy) my message comes across. Likewise emoticons. “Hi!” “I’m so excited to see you again!” “That was so much fun!” :] :] :D

In addition, I don’t like texting fragments, so most of my messages are punctuated with commas, periods, and even the occasional semicolon. I know that the inclusion of these punctuation marks makes even the most casual text seem formal, but I can’t break myself of the habit. A dangling text makes me uncomfortable.

The trouble is, someone who is not familiar with the way in which I speak and write might misinterpret my messages as stuffy or even standoffish, of which I am neither. I’ve tried combating this problem by omitting capital letters, but I’m not sure about the degree to which I’ve been successful. I’m concerned that my texting looks more disjointed than ever. Or like I have issues with typing like an adult.

Of course, there’s a definite possibility that I’m overthinking the situation, as usual. Maybe no one else dissects every social interaction like me. And if I've made you feel uncomfortable in any way, I'm really sorry. I understand.

22 July 2011

social experiment: making life difficult for others


This post was supposed to be published days ago, but, ironically, I experienced technical difficulties.

12 July 2011

i suppose i did this to myself

As it is summer, I now have time to do things that I cannot during the school year. Unfortunately, this newfound freedom has given me the opportunity to rekindle a relationship that I classify as tumultuous at best. I’m talking, of course, about my relationship with arts and crafts, which I lovingly refer to as DIY (do it yourself).

I don’t remember when I realized that I was crafty, but as a child I always found myself fidgeting, perpetually seeking something to do with my hands (insert inappropriate joke here yourself, because I’m not going to). Over time, I have taught myself to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, and cross-stitch. In other words, if my previous post about being an old woman didn’t convince you, these tidbits ought to do the trick.

These little hobbies may seem harmless to you, but you, my friend, are wrong. Arts and crafts can consume your soul faster than you can ask me why my bedroom smells like craft glue and sadness.

It all starts with an introduction. A fleeting glance, a bit of hearsay, maybe even online research, for you modern folk out there. When I come across something I like, something doable, I am instantly attracted. I have to know more about it. How can I do something like that for myself? I find the way that makes the most sense and, while the pace varies depending on my initial interest, I pursue.

Once I figure out exactly what it is I need to do, I begin to feel myself being drawn in. Out of curiosity, I ask around about similar experiences, taking mental notes about what to do and what to avoid. I invest both time and money into preparing to take the plunge. All this preparation builds until it spills over and I have to do something.

Before I know it, I’m hooked. I spend every waking hour devoted to my new hobby/obsession, neglecting to eat, sleep, and converse with less insane people (I still have time to talk to myself). I have to finish this, dammit.

After the first project is finished successfully, I become insatiable, immediately moving on to increasingly more difficult tasks, sometimes working on multiple ones simultaneously. Anything to get my fix.

Inevitably, this whirlwind phase must come to an end. I realize that my fingers are now blistered, and there is superglue under my fingernails that will probably never come off. Either that or I lose interest and seek something else to do.

Eventually I stop altogether, and may or may not return. In the meanwhile, I’m going to continue making friendship bracelets and painting my nails. Not simultaneously, of course. They would ruin each other.

Yes, it is taped to my laptop. And yes, that is a unicorn murdering ponies in front of a rainbow.

01 July 2011

foucault and twitter: analyzing the author function

Or, How Twitter Inspired Me to Change My Life. Except, not in an earth-shattering way. More like in an “oh, well this is an interesting way to think about a social networking site” sort of way. Come on. It’s Twitter.

In today’s society, fame can be achieved in a multitude of ways. There are still the tried-and-true methods of attaining this sort of status, such as possessing a talent or acting toward the betterment of humankind, yet with the “advancements” in modern times, these traditional methods are no longer the only manner with which to gain fame, or at the very least, infamy. With the rise of social media like Twitter, it has become more and more difficult for celebrities today to maintain a superhuman image because they do not adhere to Foucault’s “author function.”

In “What is an Author?” Michel Foucault emphasizes the inextricable link between the author and his or her work. Foucault first distinguishes a “writer” from an “author,” in that “[a]n anonymous text posted on a wall probably has a writer—but not an author.” In other words, the author is one who not only produces a work, but also takes ownership for that work.

Following this logic, in taking ownership of the work, the author and the work are forever associated with the other in what Foucault refers to as the “author function.” The author becomes the creator of a genre unique to his or her name; by attributing a work to a specific author, there are certain expectations about the work that are formed simply because of the use of a name. As Foucault writes, “the name seems always to be present, marking off the edges of the text, revealing, or at least characterizing, its mode of being.” The work and the author are therefore eternally tied.

Forming this link is important in acquiring cultural capital for the name. Cultural capital is, according to Pierre Bourdieu in his essay entitled “The Forms of Capital,” the intangible set of skills or knowledge an individual possess. Cultural capital may consist of education as well. In this case, the cultural capital comes in the form of reputation. If an author has been established as esteemed in his or her genre, his or her subsequent works will be preceded by that reputation. Readers familiar with the author’s previous works will buy the book based on the name, and will read with a set of expectations.

While this link is often made unconsciously in the reader’s mind, there have been deliberate efforts to maintain the cohesion between author and work as long as written works have been in existence. As previously mentioned, the author’s name becomes a form of cultural capital when associated with its works, and the relationship between work and author forms, ideally, a cohesive entity. Unfortunately for those who enjoy the definitive categorization of work and author, such is not the case.

The challenge, however, emerges when an incongruity within this entity becomes apparent. In writing history, pieces of information (like letters with contrary ideas, for instance) are simply ignored if they do not adhere to the already established image of the author. It has been pointed out multiple times that written history cannot be taken as absolute because of what has been omitted. In trying to keep the singular image of author and work united, historians have oversimplified the author as a person. There is a split, then, between the authors as persona and the author as person that cannot be reconciled.

This problem is not antiquated; it still exists in the form described, but there are also new ways in which this problem appears. A modern manifestation of this problem is visible in celebrities today. Like authors, movie stars create a genre for themselves that associates them with certain types of productions. Katherine Heigl has been branded as a romantic comedy actress, while Vin Diesel is automatically associated with action movies. Like the author, a movie star’s genre is not associated with his or her true self, but rather with the sum of the movie star’s work. If the aforementioned stars were to trade genres, the results would not be quite as well received because of the strangeness that comes with defying the established order.

This problem becomes more complex with advances in technology. In the past, it was much easier to suppress information that does not support the author’s image. If a historian encounters a letter from a branded “progressive” that contains explicitly racist sentiments, the historian could simply omit the letter, or frame the statements in such a way that would absolve the author within his or her historical context, thus maintaining the projected ideal. However, with more and more celebrity Twitters, there are fewer chances for someone to censor the author (or celebrity, in this case) as a person. There are some merits to the ability that technology has afforded for people to express themselves without censors. For example, talent that ordinarily would not be revealed to the world could have a worldwide audience in a matter of hours. But, as is more commonly the case, ignorance can be spread with the same, if not greater, velocity. The carefully constructed persona can be shattered almost instantaneously with something as extreme as a racial slur or as simple as a poor understanding of basic grammar. Once the author is able to interact directly with his or her audience, he or she is no longer a genre or sum of works.

The author is a person.

Is being a person necessarily a bad thing? As a person myself, I am inclined to believe that humanity is not a treacherous thing. And, while it is refreshing to be reminded that the shiny people onscreen are human, part of me still wishes to uphold the sense of mystery once associated with the stars. Call me idealistic, but I like to believe that the people who are in the public eye and making fortunes deserve to be there.

Yet, despite knowing that my youthful delusions can be dashed with one tweet about rapid bowel movements, I recently joined Twitter. From an outsider’s perspective, I saw Twitter as something frivolous. People vomit up mundane tidbits about their boring lives as they happen and other people eat that shit up. Even though nothing seems super important, there is this sense of urgency behind each insipid tweet. Everyone must know that I am eating a sandwich right now. It is necessary that everyone know that my poop is taking forever.

Since joining the dark side, I’ve been able to see things a little differently, especially as a writer. Having a character limit, not even a word limit, forces me to think about what it is I want to say, and how to convey that message most efficiently. Conversely, since each tweet only consists of 140 characters or less, it’s okay if what I say isn’t profound or earth shattering. Above all, Twitter has inspired me to simplify.

I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or not, but after joining Twitter, I began to simplify my life in other respects. I stopped wearing as much makeup. I cleaned out multiple boxes’ worth of clothing from my closet and gave them away. I even thinned out my Facebook page (which is a big deal). I think I realized, subconsciously, that I am in no way qualified to make grand, sweeping statements about the meaning of life. Painting my face a certain way or draping fabric around my body isn’t going to tell people who I am, but instead will offer a projection of how I want others to perceive me. And no one page is able to tell someone about every facet of my being.

So what can I do? I can offer little snippets of myself, and hopefully someone will be able to arrange those snippets into a more complete picture. I know that I’m going to have to shit out thousands of terrible pieces before I write something truly brilliant. This piece is probably one of those shit-thousands. But it’s better that I write little things, inconsequential as they may be, than nothing at all. Unless you think that this was a total waste of time. And maybe it was. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a waste of time. Does it?