Guide to this year’s Techweek in Chicago, as a non-dev/programmer/entrepreneur

This is a guide for people who are more interested in the cultural and societal implications of technology from a non-technical background. (I’d recommend attending all the “future of TV/media”  talks as a  beginners guide to video distribution and social media use.)

Thursday, June 27th:

The US  First Robotics Challenge, from 12pm – 4pm.

“US First’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

KIM DOTCOM WILL BE SPEAKING at “The Downloaded Era: Battle for Internet Rights“, 4pm – 4:30pm,

“The debate around how we should view the concept of intellectual property and copyright in the digital age has continued since the launch of Napster in the ’90’s until today. Why is file-sharing still so limited and how has it affected the world at large?”

Friday, June 28th: 

Funny or Die‘s “When Humor is Serious Business,” from 11:00am – 11:30am, featuring Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover. (I have an inkling what Glover will discuss, but being as I have never heard him speak, he might surprise me.)

“Funny or Die is now synonymous with Internet humor…What makes their business model so successful? How do they acquire high quality content with a low budget? What does the future of Funny or Die—and Internet entertainment in general—look like?”

Digital Art; From Easels to Pixels, 12:00pm – 12:30pm

“Art infilitrates everyday life, and every surface, object, or open space is fair game for medium. See how artists are incorporating technology into their work, whether as a means to an end or as the finished product itself. These people are innovating on what it means to be a traditional artist and the burgeoning interest in creating art meant to be consumed in digital form.”

The very ambitiously titled “How the Second City Can Become the First in Fashion,” 5:00pm – 6:00pm

“Take the tech from the West and the high-end fashion from the East and meet somewhere in the middle. Where do you end up? Chicago, of course. Combining the best of both coasts, a slew of Chicago startups are leading the pack in terms of the merging of high-tech and high-fashion.”

Saturday, June 29

In the wake of Hasting’s mysterious death and the conspiracy theories suggesting his car was hacked I feel compelled to attend “Driverless Cars: Speeding to the Future,” 12:30pm – 1:00pm

“While flying cars are still just a figment of our collective imagination, self-driving vehicles—such as the Google Car—are on the imminent horizon. Not only does this technology have the potential to prevent millions of injuries and save countless lives, it also has the power to disrupt the flow of trillions of dollars in industry revenue. Nearly everyone will be affected: suppliers, automakers, service-and-repair shops, insurers, energy companies, hospitals, and car rental companies, to name a few. Undoubtedly, there will be huge implications for all transportation and logistics—the backbone of every company’s supply and distribution chains.”

Entrepreneurship in Eastern Europe, 1:30pm – 2:00pm

“Eastern Europe’s tech scene is small but growing. Find out what Google is doing to facilitate the growth of the tech sector in Poland and beyond, what ideas are brewing in that corner of the world, and how they plan to impact the future.”

 “Is the Internet Destroying the Middle Class?,”  2:00pm – 2:30pm

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Yeah, the “Exploding Actresses” tumblr is sexist…

People tell jokes about violence against women all the time, either because they don’t realize violence against women is a cultural norm, or because they think laughing at said cultural norm will somehow make it less horrible. This is the only way that I rationalize the astronomical rise of the tumblr “Exploding Actresses” and the lack of any adequate critique of it as a form of Internet art.

As the title of the viral tumblr suggests, actresses explode. Not any random actress in any random movie either, these are actresses in movies very much beloved by women. There are GIFS, YouTube videos and stills.

“Have you ever imagined your favorite actresses and Disney princesses without heads?” opened one gleeful blog post about the subject. Huffington Post labeled their “hilarious” post about it “satire” but was unclear as to what was actually being culturally commented on: that women iconography was being destroyed rather violently, or that a male was behind it?

Them exploding is no big deal,  it’s a joke, it’s supposed to be funny, all the write-ups imply. This is problematic for a variety of reasons but Lindy West can explain those best somewhere else.

Perhaps the tumblr creator Simone Rovellini — who lives in a country the UN flagged for having particularly bad domestic abuse problem  — didn’t mean to be sexist with his movie choices or in picking the “greatest actresses in film history,” and merely chose the movies he did because the depictions of love in those movies make men’s heads explode. Or maybe he was implying that while watching these movies might make women happy, it will really leave them braindead. Oh wait. Both of those reasons are still sexist.

It’s interesting to note that as Rovellini’s mini-art project picked up press all over the world, he began exploding men’s heads in his work. Still only in movies beloved by women though. Hmm.


real talk on mental illness following the biking accident, from the bath

I can’t believe I made two of my previous posts private the other day. Part of me was ashamed– the mental health issues, mostly — and I felt like they were unfinished bits, which was why I took them down.  But that was me doubting myself. Diary-like entrees don’t have to be perfect personal essays. I can always use the material again for a healthcare or mental health post, and the republishing of some bits shouldn’t be a problem if I do sell a piece anywhere.  Now I am ashamed I hid them, to think that I faltered like that. I am ashamed I was ashamed.

I am still focused on fixing myself, which is still taking precedence over writing for money, so that has remained consistent at least since March. A therapist is still in order now that my crotch pain has subsided and I feel like I can walk like a normal person. Some people would put mental over physical health, but I am lucky to have a patient mate.

When I’ve talked about my mental illness before to friends and family, I always talk about me “waking up” because I describe it as if I am no longer sleeping, I know who I am again. But then, something happens to shake up my worldview and I realize I had fallen back asleep and didn’t even realize. Going to NYC (and seeing friends and family) always wakes me up, and this time I hope, pray and wish I stay awake longer than I have previously. (I was in NYC recently to write about GF2045 for VICE’s Motherboard.) Another way to describe it is I have lost myself, or personality, somehow so to fill the personality void I absorb the ones of those around me. Or I could get really emo and link to Tor Amos’ “Silent All These Years” but my situation isn’t really like that.  I’ll go with the obscure Von Iva’s “Same Sad Song,” which doesn’t really fit either, but… maybe if they were combined.

I am telling you all this, dear Internet, because while looking at the VICE suicide fashion photoshoot I was overcome with thoughts of Emma Bernstein, and in examining my behavior while remembering her it became apparent I have now completely processed her death. Her influence was what made me want to be a writer, and in thinking of her, I looked at my writing career with a new perspective.

There were many times when I was flakey, promised things I couldn’t deliver, and let people treat me like a doormat. I had issues meeting deadlines and  failed to negotiate properly for what I wanted or needed and misunderstand what people were trying to teach me. My ability to produce good work is what saved me during my post-accident mania, I think. (My accident roughly 5 years ago also relit my writing desire, so I guess that is the one positive outcome out of all of that, even though right before the accident I was serious about modeling and improv. Why I am still doing journalism despite preferring creative writing and performance art — and even going to school for it– is something I will need to transition to, and soon. )

Another pattern emerged during last night’s porch-in-the-moonlight reflection: I’ve had relatively manageable depression since high school and was also “moody as fuck” (my troubled parents failed to notice this but my therapist freshman year of college was not the neglecting sort), but following my accident — specifically the concussion– I became what one therapist described as manic and maybe ADHD. My moods would fluctuate from uncaring, cold and full of hatred to overly enthusiastic exuberance of emotion and energy. I engaged in reckless, selfish and intentionally hurtful or self-sabotaging behavior. I have many apologies to give now… and many mistakes to correct. Here’s hoping that come tomorrow I still give these same fucks.


2 posts have been made private….

as I would like to use snippets from the last two, as they relate to health care, elsewhere. For money. 

If you were linked here, well, you’re out of luck. 

 


Mandy Stadtmiller has been on my mind lately, while the Universe punches me in the crotch

favorite shoes

Possible alternative title: My vagina gives me much trouble in 2013. (Oh no, that’s  so victim-blaming. Maybe try, how the current health care system failed my crotch! Or make it something about the lack of bike lanes! Or the dangers of a sedentary life style! The modern condition! I have many ways I can take this… )  

Stadtmiller, recently profiled  in the Observer as being a “gross over-sharer” and a  “crazy woman” is dare-I-say it, fast becoming an inspiration to me. (Not linking to piece because it was rude and reeked of internalized misogyny.) I’ve always found Mandy’s writing  fearless, and her transparent but self-deprecating style — she makes herself the butt of her jokes many times — has made me an admirer. I wish she talked about mental health more though, so I would feel less a fool.

So yeah, if my mother and my mate want to harass me about all these posts about my crotch, well, I am going to direct them to Mandy. I’m already getting slack from gamer males, whispering in my head-setted ear late at night while I try to take a control point or shoot a sniper, about me liking to slice my pussy — a reference to my Thought Catalog piece about my vagina.  It’s unsettling, which was probably why they were doing it — to mess up my game — and I  took the verbal abuse and shrugged it off without comment.

Anyway, see that photo above, of my favorite flats that I have been wearing since last summer? It is the perfect visual metaphor of how unstable my life has been, both mentally and physically.

Of all the things the grey-haired veteran journalist-types taught me before they were laid off, one was ringing true now: I must first take care of myself. Which explains all these posts about my crotch, see.  I must take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.

As you can probably guess by this post, the pain in my crotch woes continue because nothing is ever that quick-fix easy. (A lot of my other woes continue too like some same old Sam, including  me failing at various work plans like leaving the house or sorting my freelancer issues, of which I now have 6. Ugh, help. Co-working spaces in Chicago, anyone?)

Once again, the pain is partially my doing too: I was too delighted this Sunday with having full hip rotation that I pulled a muscle – the psoas – in my crotch, right side.  I was feeling sexy at the time, and still only partially regret it — having full movement made me so very confident. But then it came, like a punch from the universe. In my goddamn crotch.  I  floundered in bed for at least an hour sobbing from the pain,  a long hot shower did nothing to soothe it, and I  thought very seriously about going to the ER. I didn’t go, because what can they do besides fondle my crotch and give me painkillers I’d refuse to take?

It was quite possibly the worst pain I have felt since the accident, and I was limping well into the night. When the pain and the muscle spasms finally subsided around 3am, I masturbated furiously and to my satisfaction everything down there was still working. Thank the gods. Yeah, I am so male in that way, of wanting to make sure my junk is still fine. This way of thinking, as a woman, is a luxury in many parts of the world I realize.

(Is no one going to hire me full-time now that I mentioned masturbation in multiple posts? Am I a disgrace? These are interesting branding questions… questions Mandy probably knows the answer to.)

mandy crowdsourcing med

Speaking of Mandy, Stadtmiller gave me an interesting idea yesterday, about crowd-sourcing my medical bills. I don’t know if I am cool enough to pull it off, but I really do want some x-rays down there and actually go to a physical therapist instead of doing shit from home. I also think my last doctor missed some things. My essayist friend Rachel Rabbit White suggested I clean up my last post and submit it to xoJane, but I am unsure of what to focus on in the re-edit. If I do though, I would ask for some medical bill help.

I am officially getting tired of all this pain shit. I want to be running, dancing and biking already goddammit, but I know that is out of the question right now given walking normally is still a motherfucking problem.  I feel like my crotch pain — what I’ve currently self-diagnosed as a  grade 2 psoas strain — has been slowing me down for years. I am getting incredibly impatient with the limits of my body right now, if you can’t tell, and it is not helping my mental health or work issues. Ugh.

Not to end on a completely negative note; all this pain and self-reflection has forced me to slow down and re-evaluate things in my life. (Like, not freelancing for so many places, learning how to say no, figuring out better time management and what not, etc.) So, there’s that.