Month: April 2007

Good news, bad news and 25% more communicatrix

good news bad news

I’ve been AWOL, I know, with both good and bad reasons.

First, the good. I saw Uma for the first time in weeks and she is doing so amazingly, astonishingly well, I almost did a cartwheel. It is good that I restrained myself, as people might then have to visit me in the hospital, and I think we have all had quite enough of THAT lately. She looks healthy and robust, she’s talking, she’s reading, she’s hanging out, she’s getting her words back, in short, she is well on her way to being 100% pre-trauma Uma, which is fantastic news, no matter how you slice it. I floated on air for the next two days…

…at which point I crashed, hard, just like my poor, poor hard drive. I’ve finally learned my lesson: I already have a bootable clone of my backup computer, and tomorrow, as soon as the Apple store opens, I’m getting two more backup drives. One will be a bootable clone of the G5, the other will just be Insane Colleen’s Redundant Copy to keep offsite. Because I never, ever want to spend three whole days restoring my data again.

And for those of you Mac-heads who have yet to get smart, may I just say “DiskWarrior” and “SuperDuper.” Saved my bacon. Mac tech, alas, did nothing…again. Total waste of time. Five hours of time.

Oh, and for those of you I’m supposed to do something with in the next four weeks, if we made plans to do so in the past eight weeks, I’m apologizing in advance if I don’t show up, all my calendar data since the last backup is gone with the wind.

Finally, an announcement I’ve been waiting to make for a month: my NEW NEW NEW newsletter launches this week! Chock full of life-changing secrets, money-saving tips, winning lottery numbers, Furry pr0n and tasty recipes using common, everyday laundry products!

Actually, it’s just one solid article on communicating, writing, self-expression, etc, and some mini-reviews of cool stuff, for now. I’m trying to be more disciplined in this vehicle, since I tend to meander on the blog. (And intend to keep doing so!) You can sign up by clicking on the gigundus banner to the right or right here. No spam, ever, I promise. Knowing me, I probably won’t even use it to try and sell you anything, I’m such an old hippie.


Image by carolitajohnson via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

The end of the world as we know it?

xmas display

Let’s get this over with right up front: I’m a believer in the apocalypse, at least the man-manufactured one that seems, barring a late-Act III entrance from some serious, ass-kicking deus ex machina, inevitable.

Additionally, I must confess that I came to my knowledge/world view late in the game, getting turned on to Kunstler and peak oil and other earthly delights after the vanguard, but apparently before the bulge of the curve. Ironically, I find this unbelievable: how can a political dunderhead like me be early to the party? Is it possible that the majority of my countrymen are more preoccupied, more obstinate, more, okay, stupider than I? For chrissakes, Will Rogers, American icon, pointed out the folly of ignoring the obvious more than 50 years ago; are people really so dense as to not get that, like land, at some point we will have burned through our supply of dead dinosaurs?

And really, really, does anyone actually believe in suburbs as an inalienable right? Of sprawl as manifest destiny? While we’re at it, does anyone actually believe in Manifest Destiny anymore? That some unseen power said “Poof! lucky white dudes! You really are my favorites! Grab what you want, pave over the rest and throw up a Starbucks every 500 yards! And get me a decaf Venti soy latte, while you’re at it, I’m cutting back on my caffeine intake.”

Besides, as Kunstler himself points out in, among other writings, this excellent review (of what looks like an egregiously irresponsible book), for this you’re chewing up resources? For 99¬Ę tacos and “Tuscan” minimalls and 3-Day Blinds and Axe? I’m no purist, I love In-and-Out and I drive my Corolla and I spend most of my waking life in front of a computer that will eventually kill off a square mile of rainforest or something when it hits the landfill, but Bratz dolls? Putting aside the allocation of precious resources to perpetuate several particularly nasty features of the patriarchy, on a purely aesthetic level, they are ass.

Like I said, I’m as bad as anyone else when it comes to much of my consumption, meaning it is thoughtless. I do not think about blood-stained oil when I curse the traffic on the way to my shrink appointment; I’m adding to the problem with almost everything I do, and thinking about the extent to which I’m stomping the world to death with boots, Australian Blundstones, borne to me across the ocean on fairy wings, natch, makes my head throb. How do I change!?! Where do I start!?!

Alertness, right now, is all I know I can do. And I know it is the thing to do in part because practicing it is so alarming. How starkly I am struck by my ability to take things for granted when the power goes out for 26 hours. 26, you see? Every last minute counted.

I’ve implemented a few things to help me stay aware and awake, which I’ll share not to lord it over anyone (who am I to talk?), but in hopes that it might help a few overwhelmed types like me find a place to start:

  1. I’ve trimmed down my possessions to the point where everything has a place, I can put my hands on most of them without too much thought, and there is plenty of space in between them.
  2. For the most part, I did it by reasonably “responsible” methods of recycling and reducing consumption. On the recycling side, I’ve increased my reuse of items, paper, mostly, before sending things off to the Magical Recycling Place. (I’ve always been a fanatic about reusing bags and rubber bands.)
  3. On the consumption side, I simply buy far, far less than I used to, purchasing used items where I can, borrowing where appropriate (e.g. the library instead of the bookstore), buying fewer trendy/disposable items and thinking about whether I can wait or do without before I buy.
  4. Also concerning consumption, I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of fuel I use by quitting acting (which is mostly auditioning, which is mostly driving) and working from a home office. I live a little too far from the public rail system to make use of it, and buses are notoriously slow here in L.A., caught in the same traffic as cars, so I still drive my beloved Corolla. I’ve toyed with getting a Prius or a biodiesel conversion, but without retiring my car, I don’t know how much good I’d be doing. The only long “commute” I have now is my weekly Toastmasters meeting, 10 miles away in the Marina. My plan is to finish out the year there, then look for a Toastmasters within walking distance of my home.

Not that much, really, but a start. And for anyone who’s interested, #1 has improved my life in many ways besides feeling better about not being such a piggy. My stress level is down and my productivity up, if not in all areas of my life, at least in some.

Besides the peace of mind that comes with a reasonable baseline of organization has got to have some salubrious effect on the world, as well, if only in that it frees me up to think more about serious matters. Right?


Image by C-Monster via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Frugality: the art of looking at things inside out

tall glass

One of my odder fascinations has always been with the homely, humble art of thrift. I’m sure it springs partly from my fear of money (more specifically, of living out my retirement years in a shopping cart). Like lots of 60’s babies, my young world was populated by adults who lived through the Depression; spend enough time in the Museum of Rubber Bands and Grocery Bags, it’s bound to influence you.

But my passion for thrift is about more than saving the odd dollar or being able to wave the flag of righteousness. Frugal living satisfies the urge to create, to conjure. To think outside the box (which can be re-used as an inbox, cat bed, fort for the very tiny or jaunty chapeau for the mad). It’s contemplative and giving, not loud and grabby. And as life gets louder and faster, I value quiet, both internal and external, more and more.

I remember the excess of my father’s house as just that: excess. Too many things, too much noise, too much churn. TVs everywhere, closets bursting with unworn clothes, new cars before the last ones were old cars, jewelry bought at a premium and given away on eBay. Pointless, inelegant things, like the $300 throw pillow covered in, I shit you not, seashells. Because there’s nothing that spells comfy snuggle on the couch like a gigantic coral reef against your head. And how.

I’d blame it on his significant other, who was clearly the shopper in the family, but the truth is, Dad just as down with the always-on, bigger-is-better, 20th century-American lifestyle. Or inured to it. Or something. He lived in those houses, he drove those cars, he chose that life.

Taken too far, or course, thrift veers into tightwaddery, its dingy, B.O.-stained cousin. I’ve learned the hard way not to cheap out on health care, for example: an early, scary brush with an HMO OB/GYN has kept me on the straight and narrow for over 20 years. And don’t get me started on the freezing showers and the three-square allotment of toilet paper of my maternal grandparents’ house, a falling-down paean to thrift fondly dubbed “Gloomy Manor” by the ones with the bag collection.

Goodness and greatness both lie, as usual, in the ho-hum middle. What seems to work best for me is a foundation of alert and sensible thrift, gently padded here and there with worthwhile luxuries. As I drill down to the center of the mess that is my money, I get comfortable both with having more and needing less, with conserving usually and splurging occasionally. True, my version of splurging, lunch out at a restaurant just because, good incense and candles, 2-color Pantone business cards on heavy stock, is probably laughably tiny to most of my neighbors in a 5-block radius.

But I don’t live in a 5-block radius anymore. I live on a big, beautiful planet.

See? It’s all in how you look at it…


Image by Richard- via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Taking the introvert on an outing

wilshire and rodeo, 9pm

Really, if I look at it, my life has been one long, loopy trajectory that’s about me getting down with two things: (1), I am a BIG nerd; and (2) given my BIG NERD druthers, or at least a return to my default settings, I would not be a Mad People Magnet but That Crazy Lady Who Never Leaves Her House.

I mean, really: a huge part of why I quit acting, you know, aside from the bit about the Changing Media Marketplace and aging into non-castability, was because I came to despise going out on auditions. De-pise, I tell you. The traffic! The parking! The incessant nattering in the waiting rooms! The deep and mind-numbing crapfulness of the copy. The smiling. Seriously, it gets to you.

But I recognize that while I must acknowledge and embrace my truth, that I suck at what makes extroverts thrive, I must just as surely continue to bravely fight against it. And so I continue to put myself out there, at Toastmasters, at TequilaCon and tonight, at a (god help me) networking event for actors.

The damned thing of it was, I had a great time. Not a long time, but a great one. I met a handful of total strangers. I walked right up to them and started asking them questions. They seemed happy to talk to me. I was delighted talking to them. They gave me information I needed, how to make my column better. And I gave them information they could use, how to walk up to people they’d never, ever met at a networking event and talk to them. Cards were exchanged, promises made. I was in and out in just over an hour.

Afterward, because it was a cool, clear night and because it had been a long time since I’d been in West Hollywood, I took a bit of a walk down Sunset. And since I’d turned my lights on, as it were, I wound up interacting with some of the denizens: the cashier at Pink Dot, who (understandably) had a scrim up between himself and the world, but who came around from behind it when I asked him about the journal he was writing in. Three, count ’em, three valet parkers. Some sundry passersby. And one very stylish young man who, as I was breezing by on the way back to my car, told me he liked my style. No charge.

And after that, because it was still a cool, clear night, and because I was feeling so good, I treated myself to the long way home: farther west on Sunset, San Vicente down to Wilshire, Wilshire all the way back to the crib. There was no traffic, there were only green lights. It was like I’d time-traveled back to 1987, the first time I came out to L.A. as an adult, and fell for the magic and possibility of the place. When I’d prowled the city incognito, pretending to be the person I couldn’t imagine being then, on my own, sponsored by no corporate entity, making my way on my wits, creating the days as they came. Here I was, 20 years later, living that life.

Patience, friends. Patience and persistence and knowing when to ask for help. Some luck. Lots of hard work.

And yes, putting myself out there, even when, especially when, it felt better not to.

That is the truth. That is the gift.

That is the work…


Image by California4Life via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

She who will not be ignored


I’m all for blogs, clearly.

But there is, when all is said and done, something about a book. You can bring a book on a train! You can read it in bed or on the couch or in the tub. You can love it up and pass it along. And while I’m delighted when people find my online presence, and even more delighted when they pass it along, it’s just not the same. I can’t, you know, sign it with a Sharpie or anything.

Besides, this is not some short-time romance. As a girl, I’d always imagined the books I’d write someday as my offspring. I could see them in my mind’s eye far more clearly than I could some bucket of DNA with a pink or blue bib around its neck. So despite all the very smart things my pal, Michael Blowhard, has to say about the folly of book writing, I’m down with it. Or up for it. Or whatever it is the kids aren’t saying these days.

I have no delusions about the wild fame or fortune that will be mine when I corral the genius that is communicatrix into a 6″x9″ stack of dead tree guts. It’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll be self-publishing, via Lulu, perhaps, or, if I’m feeling particularly daring, ordering up a stack to keep in my garage. Which, since I don’t have a real garage, would be my living room.

I spent my weekend among a small sample of the millions who believe they have a book, or two, or seven, in them. Sitting amongst them, I’m even more certain: both of the pointlessness of my writing a book and the absolute necessity of it…


Image by Cade via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


Feminist Kermit

It pains me to confess this, but for a slice of my misguided youth, I referred to myself as a humanist.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love skeptics, literally. While I hew to the woo, myself, I’m extremely pro-atheist: they tend to be smart and open-minded, which makes them very, very good in the sack. But I wasn’t using the term to refer to my (non-)beliefs: I was (incorrectly) using it to explain why I was not a feminist.

So my embarrassment comes in two flavors: first, that I was a sloppy hypocrite, submitting my beautiful mother tongue to the kind of abuse I’m quick to criticize in others (especially xenophobic chucklehaids who blather on about the importance of us all speaking “American”); second, that I even momentarily abandoned the sisterhood. Mea culpa, ladies, and it won’t happen again.

Sadly, oddly, of course-ly, I got careless because I had it so good. As a white, American consumer who came of age after eight incredibly privileged years of private, all-girl schooling and the Second Wave of feminism, I was able to take much for granted. And oh, how I did, from the water that came out of the tap of my own, private bathroom (and the janitor who came running when it didn’t) to the assumption, assumption, that of course I would run the agency some day if I wanted to, Dad. Duh. (Rolls eyes, shoves fist into Doritos bag, returns full attention to Bullwinkle rerun.)

Since it turned out that I had even less interest in than I did aptitude for the game of advertising, I quit long before there were any ceilings in sight, glass or otherwise. And being cursed neither with extreme good nor bad looks, I really wasn’t exposed to much in the way of overt misogyny. (Well, an old Italian man tried to grab my boobs in a caretaker’s shack on Murano once, but I was more startled than offended. I mean, he was like a thousand years old, for chrissakes. It was probably considered a compliment at one point in his sorry lifetime.)

Somewhat complicating matters, a lot of sisterhood-y stuff makes me cringe. No, I’m not one of those Delusional Donnas who says she can only be friends with guys. I like the dudes, provided they’re not exceptionally dude-ly. I also like the ladies, provided they’re not too lady-y. I’m not a girly girl or a manly girl or a womanly girl, I’m a person, dammit, and as such, I like spending time around other people with whom I share significant areas of overlap. I have friends of all genders (if you met them, you’d understand.) Provided you don’t like sports, this could mean you, no matter what you’re packing in yer khakis.

But for as apolitical as I usually am, and despite all the nasty baggage that F-E-M-I-N-I-S-M carries, I’ve had to throw down again. There are just too many he-man woman-hater clubs out there. Hell, there are too many she-man woman-haters. Tune in to my girl, Laura Schlessinger, if you don’t believe me. And if you have the stomach for it. (Come for the unshakable defense of children; stay for the potshots against the Great Liberal Unwashed!)

In case you’re wondering, it was this Kathy Sierra business what finally tipped me to go public. Say what you want, if you’re a dude you can usually say what you want without having vile, violent threats of a sexual nature heaped upon you. But if you’re a woman in Man Land, a.k.a. anything besides recipes, lipstick or frilly underpants? Apparently it’s only a matter of time. I mean, Sierra writes about marketing and computing, stuff that shouldn’t even remotely trigger this kind of vitriol.

There have been a couple of misogynist-flavored comments left here on communicatrix-dot-com. Initially, my first response was to flare up with monstrous umbrage. After months of schooling at the feet of Twisty et cie, though, I think I’ll just answer with links. Or, as my new best friends at Feminism 101 say, “hand the newbie a cluestick”…


Bonus linkage:

Feminism 101 FAQs (aka the Introductory/Survey Class, aka a Cluestick)
I Blame the Patriarchy (aka the Advanced Class)
Good take on misogynist mishegoss on the Guardian (via Dave Greten in the comments)

Image by digitaura via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons (By-NC-ND 2.0) license.

the communicatrix elsewhere: pride, the bitch goddess

draak sessie 4 iii

As Professor Tom Leykis says, I can advise on mistakes because I’ve made almost all of them.

One of my big lessons this spin around seems to be about ego: specifically, keeping it the hell out of the way. Pride has kept me in more foolish situations for more years than it’s comfortable to remember, and frustrated more personal and business relationships than I could list.

I decided to write about pride in this month’s acting column because it’s a particularly sticky wicket for performers, who have to have a certain amount of it to get up in front of everyone else and shake what their mama gave them, but only just so much and not a bit more, or they will be slapped down especially mercilessly. (In case you hadn’t noticed, people can be particularly cruel to performers (or, as The BF calls them, “Celebrities: Our Most Precious National Resource.”)

Follow the link, and lemme know what you think.


Read “Don’t Let Pride Kill Your Career: The Four Traps to Watch Out for If You Want to Go the Distance” in The Networker, on

Image by bruno tessa via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.