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Masculinity, written and directed by women (The Rider, Leave No Trace)

As a female filmmaker this past year of #metoo has held mixed emotions. What started out as a frenzied campaign to uncover abuse and sexism in the entertainment industry has mellowed into a more sustained quest to raise female voices in all career fields.

I have been mostly quiet, just listening and taking in all view points. Sure, I’ve had a few inappropriate comments thrown at me by men, but overall I have been extremely fortunate in my life and never experienced any violence. Most women can’t say that. My responsibility as a white female creator in the age of #metoo is to listen and pay attention. Pay attention to the ratio of male and female creators. Pay attention to the roles and characters given to women. Pay attention to race and minorities, make sure their representation and portrayal don’t veer into caricature. Make sure there is an emotional truth to all my own characters.

These are rather big asks. It’s much more difficult being a creator now than it was a year ago. If I’m honest, I feel bogged under the pressure of it. And with that frustration came annoyance, too. Annoyance at all the male creators who write female characters without a second thought. For every one movie I can think of where a women created a renowned male character, there are a hundred examples of men creating famous roles for women. I became almost militant thinking about it – fuck every male director making films about women until we reach 50% female directors at the box office. Only when the female perspective is as pervasive as men’s can we stop caring about gender. I know feminism is everybody’s least favorite topic but that is the essence of what it means to live in a patriarchy – women’s stories are channeled to the mainstream by men and then becomes the de facto experience of what it means to be a women in the world. Women become participants, not creators.

I was over it.

Until I watched two little indie movies that are probably the best films of the year. Both written and directed by women, and both exploring masculinity and male vulnerability. So, don’t I have egg on my face, but I’ve never been happier to be wrong.


Chloé Zhao is a young Chinese-American filmmaker who received universal praise for The Rider, a stunning film about a young native American cowboy who loses everything when a head injury leaves him unable to ride anymore. I only learned after the movie was over that all the main characters are played by the same people who the story belongs to, re-enacting their lives, giving it an almost documentary-like style, but much more cinematic. It’s the finest portrayal on screen, probably ever, of the cost of traditional American masculinity, and the almost soul-crushing search for an alternative.

The part that really tore my heart out was the relationship between horse and cowboy, unspoken but absolute, mercilessly severed when the cowboy can no longer pay his way by risking his life. Love and intention count for nothing in the relentless face of culture, capitalism, and colonization. It’s a masterpiece.


So is Leave No Trace by Debra Granik. A veteran and his daughter live deep in the Oregon woods. Only in the evergreens can his demons be kept at bay. But the daughter is growing up and soon the two find themselves, unwillingly, back in civilization. They are placed on a Christmas tree farm and the veteran, who was able to find peace in nature, has to spend his days butchering innocent firs in scenes that are filmed completely ordinary, but somehow manages to look utterly barbaric.

Brutality against nature is a running theme. The film makes you realize that it is impossible to live in our society and not commit crimes against nature, one way or the other, every single day. Even farm animals have to pay their way, somehow. Only by living in a tent in the woods can you avoid this violence, but life in a tent comes with its own brutality. There is no escaping man vs nature, and that’s a hard truth for gentle, wounded people.

Eventually, the pair find a tribe much like themselves but for some people the pain of being part of society, a society that wage war and brutality against all living things, is too much to bear, and the idea of loneliness and isolation is the only thing that can spark a will to stay alive.

I couldn’t stop crying when the credit rolled. I’ve never so acutely felt the pain and alienation that many veterans have to live with. This film tapped into emotions I have never felt myself, yet they were in me, somehow. The pain of causing harm and having to live with the consequences. I would go into the woods, too.

Films are so powerful, and how delightful that two of the year’s finest deal with a different sort of masculinity, written and directed by women.

Creators, men and women, I’m honored to be among you.

Shittown: The value of a life

Spoiler alert: Do not read if you haven’t started/finished the podcast S-Town – a seven episodes, six hours long glimpse into one man’s life by the best podcast team in the world. Originally teased as a murder mystery in the South, it quickly becomes something much more. An audio odyssey that ‘reads’ like a Southern Gothic novel, except it’s all true. It’s something that didn’t exist a week ago. It’s something brand new. I loved it.

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Freedom, i-dom, me-dom, where’s your we-dom?

I am still reeling from the past couple of weeks. Not since 9/11 did the world descend so quickly into fear, hate and racism. It’s frightening. But I’m also starting to think this is a generational issue.

I just turned 32 this week. (Shout out to my fellow Sagittariuses – we are the freedom seekers, commitment-phobes and world travelers!) I know everyone likes to rep their generation as the best ever, but my generation – the tween/teens of the 90’s – was so far the only generation to grow up in a time where world peace seemed, not only possible, but right around the corner. Sure, the were a lot of awful civil wars and bloody massacres in the 90’s, but there was no one threat to the world. The two generation before had the Cold War to deal with, before that the actual World Wars. Before that, poverty and disease were the norm and there was no such thing as global media. Take into consideration that the average age of politicians is around 60 years old. They were raised in, and still live in, a slightly more black and white world. War is peace. Peace is war. And that’s before you take into consideration all the special perks and benefits that comes with being tight with the military industrial complex. The world is still ruled by old men. So we are special, us pre-9/11 children, nudged into our little bubble of 90’s liberty.

And I took full advantage. I traveled to over 30 countries on five continents before I turned 25. I never felt unsafe. Not even when I was mugged at midnight in a border town in Uganda, or on the Trans-Siberian railroad in the middle of literally nowhere across the Russian tundra. I’ve never felt unsafe around armed guards in airports; morocconightskynot in America, not in Bali, not in China. When my friends and I have been stranded somewhere we don’t speak the language, inevitably, we find rides. Once I was stranded alone in a Turkish airport as it was shutting down due to a “weather incident”, so it was probably terrorist related, but a man who barely spoke English found me in a crowd of thousands of upset travelers and managed to book me the last seat on the last flight to Sweden (I was going to Norway.) To this day I can only assume it was because of my blonde hair. And finally, the night in Morocco with my best friend being taught Arabic by two boys on a rooftop under the stars. Shukran.


That’s the world I live in and I refuse to surrender it to the warmongers and fear-mongers. This is not some arrogant, I-am-invincible bullshit. I know war is real, I know fear is real, but I also know that war is an economic investment by the elite. War has never not been about money, power and resources. There is no such thing as ‘just war’, no matter how much my political science textbooks would like to think so. Religious fanatics will always think their war is just. Western democracies hide behind the concept of just war to placate their morally righteous populations, when it’s really all about that money, money, money. Ask Dick Cheney. He never even bothered to hide it! But I would rather die than live in their world and that’s why I crammed as much life as possible into my young years. I know I might die at any moment due to this bullshit. But I will not waste any of my breaths cowering from it.

Which brings me to refugees. You would think the refugee population (now at a record 60 million people! Up from 45 millions just 2 years ago) would be easiest population to sympathize with. Imagine leaving behind everything you know; your house, your job, your possessions. Fleeing for your life and not knowing if your family is safe, or even still alive. The stories coming out of Syria are horrific. Young men who have no interest in military or political affairs being pulled out of their homes at gunpoint and forced to join an army that is terrorizing the rest of the civilian population. They fucking flee. Any rational person would do so. I would think it’s the right of every human being to not involve themselves in violence. I don’t know what kind of trauma has to happen to a person for them to happily point a weapon at someone and kill them because they feel different about the world we live in, but tens of thousands of people have to make that choice every day.


This could happen to you, or me. But right now, today, I don’t have to make that choice so I choose to stand with those whose choice is taken from them. Those who have lost everything. As I grow older I learn that the world will never be perfect; there will always be strife and suffering. Life is uncertain, except that one day you are going to die. You can live in fear of that, and cushion yourself in an autocratic elite-run state, kept artificially alive due to the slave labor of others and a security apparatus not afraid to kill everything that moves. Or you can embrace the fear, and move past it. Live in kindness. What a concept.

I think M.I.A. absolutely nailed it with this song. I haven’t been so moved by a work of art in a long time. (Video won’t work outside YouTube, please click the YouTube link after clicking ‘play’)

Ask yourself if any of the definitions and illusions you have about yourself are God-given and set in stone. Your ego, your freedom, your privilege. Is any of it earned, or even real? But the plight of our brothers and our sisters is real. Let’s focus on that.

The TPP is a nightmare and I don’t understand corporate greed

So it’s finally here. After years of fear-mongering among activists groups and Wikileaks, the full TPP text is finally released, on Guy Fawks day, no less! A complete corporate coup d’etat. A takeover of the state and a reemergence of divine power only rivaling that of long dead kings and popes. And the verdict? It’s worse than we imagined.

And by we I mean the handful of activists and awake citizens around the world. In the US, maybe a couple of millions of people. 5 millions, if we are lucky. Not enough to sway an election, or even make much noise. We fare slightly better in Europe, Australia and Canada. They actually like their universal healthcare over there and are willing to put up a fight. So-called developing countries are way ahead of us on this one. They have been screwed over by multinational corporations for over a century. They know the score. When big business with no allegiance other than maximizing profit moves in, it is bad news for citizens. They don’t care that they pollute the river; their children are not drinking from it. Their children are at a boarding school in Switzerland. They don’t care that the price of medicine goes up 5000%. They and their family have access to the best doctors money can buy.


The TPP, or Transpacific Partnership, is a 5544 page document covering every aspect of modern life. This particular “trade” agreement covers the 12 nations around the Pacific ocean and 40% of the global economy, but agreements for the Atlantic ocean is already well on its way with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), followed by Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), which somehow manages to be the most diabolical of all. TiSA wants to privatize EVERYTHING. Health, school, post office. Because, really, it is about time you start paying for that street light outside your home. Or how about the roads you most frequent? Better start saving. It’s only fair, after all, that firefighters get paid first, out of pocket, before they put out the fire in your home. Anything else would be socialism!

Yes, I’m getting silly because the whole thing is ridiculous. I don’t understand corporate greed. I mean, they already own, what, 80% of the world’s capital? Why are they so hellbent on squeezing out the remaining 20%? Why can’t they let “middle class” families have an extra $500 in their pocket a month to eat at a fancy restaurant once in a while, or take an overnight trip? Ordinary people in “modern” countries already spend at least 70% of their paycheck on bills and expenses. It’s not much left to have fun with or experiencing something new. The financial reality in the US is insane when you really break it down.

decayinghouse1 in 5 children go to bed hungry. 1 in 3 household are below $30,000 in annual income, which is the poverty line. You can’t afford anything outside bills and fast food, and when that depressing lifestyle becomes too much, you seek comfort and escape in drugs, and soon you and your family won’t even have a place to live. There are nearly 2 million homeless people in the US at any given time and 18 million vacant houses. But you can’t have them because, money. If you raise the annual income to $40,000 that’s 2/3 of the US population. So a family of 4 have an extra $10,000 a year but most of that is probably going to health insurance because at $40K a year, you are “fancy” in America. If you and your family want any kind of fun that has to go on a credit card. The average American family has $16,000 in credit card debt. Combined that’s 2,3 trillion dollars spent but not yet paid for by the American people.

Because they can’t pay! Wages in the US has been stagnant or declining for most people for over 30 years. 90% of the jobs created after the 2008 recession have been in low paid or part-time service jobs. 90% of the capital gains after the 2008 recession have gone to the 1% aka the millionaires and the billionaires. America is scraping the barrel at this point. There is nowhere left to squeeze.

Why, you ask? Let’s crank some more bankofanywherenumbers. Half of the world’s wealth is now in the hands of 1% of the population. Studies have found that every month around $20 billion are off-shored by multinational corporations. That is, tucked aside in anonymous bank accounts to collect dust and not be useful for anyone. American corporations tuck away $2 trillion tax free. For less than 20% of that the US could have free universities and maybe healthcare, too. The oil industry collect over $5 trillion (!!) a year in subsidies from tax payers around the world. That’s how much it takes to keep an industry going that is responsible for massive polluting and climate change. Of course, the American military costs around $600 billion a year to keep operating, and that’s the number they are willing to release.

They already have all the money! Why do they need every last bit of it?? Why are they willing to watch billions of people suffer and struggle in an eternal losing battle for a decent life? And who are the elusive ‘they’? The scary thing is, it’s not always ‘they’, it’s us, too. We turn a blind eye and excuse all sorts of misery. Is this level of greed part of human nature or is it an abomination, a cancer? Or is it normal, and it is kindness and generosity that is unnatural? I don’t know. No other species exhibit this level of greed. They just take what they need and get on with it.

Enter the TPP. So, since you already have no money after paying bills and are already $16,000 (plus student loan) in debt, prepare to pay even more for health care, school, electricity, banking, basic services all while the environment around you deteriorates rapidly because under the TPP it is illegal to sue corporations for environmental damage. Illegal! But they can sue you, the tax payer, if your activism for a clean, healthy Earth infringes upon their right to make money. I wish I was joking. Leading environmental agencies have called the TPP a nightmare.


It doesn’t stop there, however. Now that you are enslaved to your crummy job probably paying less than minimum wage, and you can’t go outside in your little spare time because the air is toxic after all the oil spills and forest fires, what hope of entertainment is left? The internet, right. At least no one can take away your creativity? Your god-given right to express yourself as a human being? Sorry, but yeah. The TPP will not only slow down non-corporate websites the way SOPA and PIPA threatened to do (both were defeated in Congress, probably because their corporate masters knew that a bigger beast was forthcoming) it will also intensify copyright to the point where if you upload anything on the internet that resembles anything under corporate ownership, it will get promptly taken down and you could get sued. Yeah, that means that YouTube video of your daughter singing Frozen songs. Copyright will also extend 70 (!) years after the creator died. Which means any form of expression for anything you like, created in your lifetime, is off limits. Goodbye, creativity. Hello, blind conformism. Your cultural heritage now belongs to a small elite. Suppressing knowledge that could spark new thoughts and a potential revolution? Gee, where have I heard that before? Just in every religious and political dictatorship ever. The only difference is this time it is a corporate dictatorship and profit is God. And they don’t need to burn books anymore because books are boring and the Kardashians are on. And you will know that, whether you like it or not, because it’s advertised on Facebook, on TV and in magazines. Banning knowledge is out; drowning in useless knowledge is in.

imaginationisendlessThat last part is serious because I truly believe what we are dealing with here is a crisis of imagination. People have lost the ability to imagine a better future, and that’s why we are in this mess in the first place. We can thrive without corporate overlords dictating our every move. Our lives don’t have to be written as depressed wage slaves before they even begin. It starts with waking up to what lunacy is going on. Laugh in the face of tyrants. It makes them a whole less scary. Laugh at the people protecting the status quo as it is something worth protecting. Figure out what really matters to you, and fight for it.

Socrates, Jesus, Galileo, Da Vinci, Marx, Einstein, King, and any other historical person worth remembering is on your side. They laughed, too. Then got to work.


I am a visitor here, I am not permanent (The Snow Leopard review)

It’s amazing how many lives one is allowed to live if one only pays attention. When I have a depressive episode, which can last anywhere from weeks to over a year, it’s like my life has pressed pause. I remember very little and no new core memories are made. I cease to live and simply exist. As a writer that is pretty terrifying because my passion is about stringing together events and emotions to create something worthwhile. When my life frequency hums so low it is hard to remember what it’s like to vibrate in unison with the planet, the universe and all other life. At those time I am extra grateful for all the hard work of other writers who help me remember who I am, and that we are all so very much alike.

I was raised on, among other things, audiobooks. My aunt worked, and still works, at the local small town library and has a passion for books. For years throughout my formative years she would keep us in a steady supply of at least two audiobooks at the time. For something close to a decade I would fall asleep to voices and stories and I still have the hardest time falling asleep to only my own voice in my head. Eventually I grew up to be a sullen teenager and the audiobooks stopped for about a decade, but lately thanks to Audible and phone apps, they seem to have made something of a renaissance.

I just finished The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen and that’s what sparked this post. It’s a remarkable recording, mainly because it’s an older Matthiessen reading aloud the adventures of a younger Matthiessen to a group of his closest friends towards the end of his life. This book topped several best-of travel memoirs lists and it’s one of my favorite genres. It’s pure accident I happened to find the audio version before a print copy but I’m glad I did. The recording is a little hard to get into. He speaks slowly, he is an old man, after all. But he speaks with passion and compassion, and some of his insight is startlingly perfect, even to a younger woman.

Matthiessen, a writer, sets out on a journey to climb the Himalayas with his friend in the 1970s. He is in his 40s and has just lost his wife to cancer. He has young children. He has traveled extensively, but an inner search for peace brought him to undertake this difficult journey at this time while his companion hopes to catch a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard, only spotted a handful of times by westerners at the time. The book burns slowly. He takes notes every day, through September to November. Most of he notes are about the trek and the local Sherpas that are hired to help carry their bags. He also meditates on his life back home and the journey that brought him here. He has excellent insight into universal truths of humanity, be they male or female, westerners or easterners, religious or non-religious. When traveling in these parts of the world, you can’t help but be fascinated with Buddhism and the simple, unfathomable life the villagers lead. Maybe you have to have experienced it yourself as an outsider to really grasp how hard that emotion is to convey because the last thing you want to do is to belittle them, or make them seem strange and exotic. Matthiessen manages this difficult task brilliantly, and I think that’s why the book has had such lasting effect.

It is, perhaps, one of our greatest struggles as educated westerners, this constant search for peace and balance. I’ve struggled with it a lot lately, and as usual, the book I need appears before me at just the right time. When Matthiessen sees a crippled child, no older than four, drag herself by her elbows along a stony path high up in a small mountain village, his natural instinct is to get her help, somehow, someway. But when the child reaches him, she offer an incandescent smile in a grimy little face. And he moves on, which was his only option to begin with, because what does he know of this child’s life if she is able to greet a stranger in such a way.

Whatever peace he finds is fleeting, and he does not shy away from his less flattering actions and emotions, as well. Fleeting peace, fleeting insanity. It can all be found in the solitude of the mountain. I don’t want to give away whether they saw the snow leopard or not, because it’s the driving mystery of the story. Eventually he comes to terms with the fact that if he does not see the snow leopard, it’s because he is not ready for it. And he accepts that, like a westerner, he is “forever getting ready for life instead of living it each day.” Which is a sentence I have written myself, time and time again. Not sure if it is a western problem, or just a writer problem.

The book brought back vivid, vivid memories of my own travels, which have been on hold for the past five years while standing still in beautiful Hawaii. Eventually, everything becomes ordinary and I stopped seeing Hawaii with my traveler’s mind. I stopped seeing the rain forest on volcanic mountain peeks, covered in mist, looming in front of me, mysterious and ancient, as I step off the bus. I simply saw my commute, stressing across the street trying to beat the oppressive humidity. But today I saw them, overlapped with the tales of the Himalayas in my earbud, and even further in my mind’s eyes, all the places I have been so lucky to visit.


Some memory imprints are purposeful; you make a conscious snapshot that you can always return to and feel exactly as you felt then. Some of mine are watching the sunset and then the endless starry night over the rolling hills of Uganda. Visiting an empty monastery deep in a silent Mongolian valley. I felt so out of time, I honestly expected dinosaurs to come trampling down. The first shower after a four day train journey spanning the entire Russian tundra. Ordering my first meal in Beijing. Getting lost on the islands of southern Laos while trying to spot a rare dolphin that will soon be extinct. Holding a koala in Australia. London at night with a beautiful blonde, 2 AM after-parties with characters out of Alice in Wonderland. Spending my 22ed birthday alone in Beverly Hills, learning that location means nothing without the right company. Some imprints are accidental, ordinary occasions that become momentous, like meeting my would-be husband in a dive bar at 3 in the morning where neither of us wanted to be but still, somehow, were.

As a writer I flick back and fourth through those moments, recalling how I felt, now removed, still having sympathy for that girl. At 30, feeling old and spent, with no clear path to how to finance the rest of my life while holding on to some shred of sanity, I became someone else. I dedicated myself to learning the absolute truth about the kind of world we live in because knowledge is free, yet I’ve also learned, comes with a price. “God offers to every mind a choice between repose and truth. Take which you please – you can never have both”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Truth or repose, said Matthiessen, in my ear today, quoting Emerson. I want both, of course, but for now I’ll settle for becoming a traveler again.


Scientifically speaking, past, present and future are all the same. Who you are at the end of your life is who you had the potential to be all along. And in that sense, everything is alright, always.

Climate change is personal

Re: The Point of No Return – Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

I haven’t been writing much over the past year. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s more that I don’t see the point. I’ve been struggling with depression on and off, and the worst part of depression is that everything seems rather pointless, in a vast existential kind of way. For me, at least, it’s a chicken and egg situation. What came first; intense knowledge of the impending doom of climate change triggering this mindset, or a built-in depression that leads me to seek out knowledge justifying my doom and gloom mood?

Most days I’m fine. I’m actually really good and I still have a hard time accepting just how blessed I have been in this life. Surrounded by love and support, countless trinkets and material items that make me very happy, lucky to have seen so much of the world at such a young age. Truly happy in my marriage. But still. What’s the freaking point of it all? My mother says it’s all this idleness. It would drive anyone crazy. She probably has a point. Plus no regular source of income leads to a certain stagnation, especially when one spent their 20’s flying off to exotic locations at the drop of a hat. So I finally got a job that I can feel good about, helping out good people with plenty of time to write on the clock. Again, I’m just too damn lucky for my own good. This is just background information. I don’t want anyone to actually feel bad for me because I don’t.

I’ve been thinking maybe I’ve just got too much education for my own good. I don’t think there has ever been a time when philosophy and thinkers have been especially encouraged but it feels extra hard today for some reason. Slogans like “in the age of information ignorance is a choice” sound very progressive and hard hitting but let’s get real. Ignorance is encouraged more than ever.

We are drowning in useless information. Opinions and emotions are encouraged over facts, which are considered boring. It’s all about your emotions. Or other people’s emotions, on reality TV. But real-real emotions, like depression and the inability to fit into today’s very narrow and rigid success paradigm, are highly discouraged. Because it might lead others to question their place in the system. I feel like I do this a lot when speaking to people, and I feel bad about it. So I laugh it off and apologize for being a “downer”. I’ve learned enough about depression to understand that it is a false reality, and not one worth spreading. If you have a solid grasp on your meaning of life, hang on to it with all you’ve got. Unless of course it harms anyone else. Don’t be a psychopath.

I spent some time questioning whether or not I am a psychopath or at least narcissistic. I’m pretty sure these things fall on a scale and if 10 is Ted Bundy and 1 is Mother Theresa I am maybe a four or five. I tend to be pretty self centered and I will bite your head off (metaphorically speaking) if I’m hungry or tired, but I also suffer from an overload of select empathy. Stories about animals suffering leave me in tears. I can’t really enter pet stores and shelters. I have two white little bunnies that I love like crazy. To me, one of the most amazing aspects of being alive is to have a little (or big) creature show you love and affection in return. We can’t really communicate and they have no inherent reason to trust me, but they do and we co-exist and show each other love.

climate-change-lungsI guess, to me, that is the core of being alive. If the universe is just one big experiment and all living things on this planet is a one-in-a-trillion coincidence among billions upon billions of empty stars and planets, then the reason we are here must be for the universe to experience itself through life, joy and love. This is a beautiful planet. Animals have beautiful, trusting souls. Individually, most people are beautiful, too. But collectively? We have near destroyed this planet. Maybe I was drawn to study sustainability to understand why. I have most of the facts now but I still don’t understand the way.

Fact: in the last 40 years 50% of all species have gone extinct. Fact: every second 5 babies are born but only 2 people die. Fact: since the 2008 financial crash 99% of all capital gain has gone to the 1%. In 2016 the 1% will own 51% of the planet’s wealth.  Fact: catastrophic climate change is now unavoidable. 150 years of industrialized civilization has essentially rendered the planet close to incapable of supporting life.

I think most people would like to think these things aren’t connected because once you realize that they are, it will change you. I will most likely not have children. I think in decades rather than lifetimes. I am so grateful for the wonderful three decades granted to me. I hope to have at least a couple of good ones more. I’m not naive enough to wish for decades of stable employment but I do wish to infuse my life with as much meaning as I possibly can and maybe make a small difference, maybe with my writing or maybe in a way that will surprise me. Because I am grateful I do not fear death, but I would like it to be on my own terms; not starving, fleeing violence. Over 50 million people (the world’s refugee population has increased 50% in the past 5 years) already find themselves in that circumstance right now. It will not get better. Our window to “fix” the world have closed and greed was the culprit.


Climate change. Such an innocent word. Unlike war there are not a handful of people responsible. In a way, we are all responsible, and then none of us are. I didn’t build the factories but I benefited from them. I didn’t kill wildlife but I couldn’t stop it either. I didn’t poison my beloved oceans but I live a lifestyle that require 100 000 ships to sail them at any given moment.

The sadness I feel in my heart stem mostly from the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way. This beautiful planet could provide for us, given the chance. We don’t have to destroy it to survive. What an insane time to be alive. It seems against all logic but maybe, in the big, big picture, things were meant to play out this way. Our amazing, crazy species came so far in such a short time. We created things that rivaled the beauty of the universe. We saw, learned and felt wonder. We allowed the universe to experience itself in a brand new way. And now the party is over. We are the last loitering guests. Only here to witness the demise of the lions, tigers and polar bears. In in some 20 million years the planet will re-balance itself and perhaps give life to new species. It’s more likely than not, given that it has already done that six times in the past 4 billion years. Maybe this, all of this creative genius combined with senseless destruction, had to happen for whatever will rise next to be born. And in that way, I get less sad. It’s almost comforting.


I’ll still keep fighting for a more sane world. I’ll love and take care of my little bunnies, my husband, my family and friends. I’ll try and help out where I can, write when I have time, travel some more when I have money. I’m still excited about all these things. I hope you are, too. I hope you are living a life that is meaningful to you, while remaining mindful to the world around you. That’s it. That’s all you have to do, really, that’s the only thing the universe requires of you. But you still don’t get to slack off, though. You still have to fight bullshit institutions and bullshit jobs, created only to keep a system that decayed long ago on life support. Try voting for candidates who want real change (not just saying it.) Start a new political party, or join one that is still not corrupted to the core. The unknown is scary, but the good news is, it really can’t get much worse at this point so let’s try something new. Let’s try politicians who put climate ahead of everything – even bribes and personal security. The media dictates what we care about. That’s a pretty important responsibility – make them fucking earn it. You have to help make advertisement-based corporate media obsolete simply by ignoring them, and by supporting journalists and writers with integrity. Most of them are freelance these days, or barely getting by. Cutting bullshit from your life will leave a void for a while, and that emptiness is going to be filled with sadness and questions, but don’t reject it. Just let it happen.

And what happens on the other side of all that? Maybe nothing. Maybe you only get to go quietly and/or screaming into that good night knowing that at least you tried. You may even earn yourself a smug ‘I told you so’ when shit really hits. But maybe, just maybe, we can also become the ‘change’ in climate change.

Review: Night Film: A Novel (2013) by Marisha Pessl

IMG_2856Wow. I don’t normally write a lot of reviews but sometimes I feel compelled. I have been transfixed since Saturday by Night Film: A Novel. I have literally done nothing else. I’m the kind of book nerd that, when I had to go somewhere, I bring the book with me just so I can be around it. I’ve dreamed about it two nights in a row; the book and tiny flashlight I use for reading late into the night falling to the floor when I can’t keep my eyes open. Yeah, that level of obsession.

This book is perfect for me because of the subject matter, of course. I love film, I breathe film, it is my first love. At the periphery of the story is reclusive cult filmmaker Stanislas Cordova. Author Marisha Pessl crafts this character and his entire career and work of art with startling realism to the point where all I want is for him to be real. In the book he has a massive, cult-like following – his career spanning form the late 60’s into the 90’s after which he disappeared from the world. Never appearing in public and the disturbing nature of his films, all which are impossible to find outside the dark net black market and underground secret screenings, Cordova’s legend grows and grows. He is a filmmaker who encourages you to live fearlessly by confronting your deepest fears and desires. Sovereign. Deadly. Perfect. If Cordova’s films do not drive you to madness, they will set you free.

figuresbathedinlight thelegacy asmallevil

What really sets this book apart is the delicious bonus material sprinkled through the book. TIME magazine articles, Vanity Fair articles, screen shots from the dark web, hospital records and notes really make this book come alive – and you believe. You believe in Cordova. Then there is an app for your phone with even more material – unlocked by scanning the right pages. Audio, interviews and even a film snippet and posters from Cordova’s films come to life in your hands. The only book I can really compare it to is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, which is amazing experience. That book is a “manuscript” from multiple people about a house that is larger on the inside than it is on the outside – and everyone who has read the manuscript has gone mad.

But I’m getting way ahead of myself so let’s start at the beginning. The story begins when Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found dead in an apparent suicide. This sets disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath on a quest to find out the truth about the elusive Cordova once and for all. This being a classic noir story McGrath is as usual a tortured but pretty bland protagonist. He is joined by a quirky 19 year old actress and a 25 year old James Dean-esque pretty boy with secrets. It seems unlikely but somehow it works.

The book is almost 600 pages long with twists and turns and a parade of interesting characters that all add to the legend of Cordova. I noticed that most of the low reviews on Amazon either said that the book was too long or that there were too many characters, but I only feel satisfaction that she did not let one stone unturned and the story moves with enough speed that all the different locations seem fun and interesting. And in the background looms The Peak, Cordova’s multi-million dollar mansion in the country side, which he has not apparently left since his wife drowned on the property 30 years ago and where he now makes all his movies.

“You’ll find that great artists don’t love, live, fuck, or even die like ordinary people. Because they always have their art. It nourishes them more than any connection to people. Whatever human tragedy befalls them, they are never too gutted, because they need only to pour that tragedy into their vat, stir in other lurid ingredients, blast it over a fire. What emerges will be even more magnificent than if the tragedy had never occurred.” – Night Film, p. 377

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It’s obvious that Pessl is a huge movie buff. The skill with which she crafted Cordova can only come from a true love and understanding of film history. I was not surprised at all to read on her website that one of her favorite artists is David Lynch (same as mine) and that she studied film and television. There is a certain power to artists who are able to create their very own universe. Tarantino, Jarmusch, Wong Kar-Wai are others I deeply admire. I can’t get over the absolute brilliance of creating a fictional cult filmmaker who lives in his very own Neverland where he creates his stories of truth and horror. In the real world, this is not possible – but what if? Once your imagination crosses that mental door step, there is no limit to the artist’s power. The myth of the man will forever be the truth, and the work will have to speak for itself. Eventually the novel blurs the lines between reality and the supernatural. Myths have the power to do that, especially when the truth is allowed to be so distorted and unconfirmed.

rscordovaThat’s what the book spoke to me about. It wasn’t really about the mystery of finding out the truth about Ashley, the truth about Cordova or The Peak, although that was important, too. I was blown away by Pessl’s ability to create a myth, which are becoming rarer and rarer in our society today. I wanted Cordova to be real because he was an adult fairy tale. An artist in absolute control, freed from commercialism, free to live and breathe his art. That doesn’t really exist anymore – it probably never did. But the myth is beautiful.

Sure, I felt tinges of jealousy throughout but more than that, I just love being a fan so much. I don’t actually think I’m capable of creating something so complete, ripe with all the longing and mystery and beauty we desire from art. But who knows. I think books tend to find you at the right time for a reason, and I’m feeling so inspired and ready to go into my unknown worlds right now. Small victories, I’ll take them. And feel blessed to exist in a world so full of creativity and beauty, always trying to press against that ceiling (or basement) holding new insight into the human experience.

The book ends the way it has to, of course, although I was in too deep to see it coming. It’s a book about obsessions that makes you obsessed with it. Are you investigating a reclusive filmmaker or are you in one of his films?

Outdated politics in a time of global crisis

Even with degrees in political science and sustainable development I still get overwhelmed when discussing politics. I think every existing political philosophy has merit. Conservative, liberal, libertarian, social democrat, anarchy. I think if you slavishly subscribe to only one that you are pretty uninformed. Each political philosophy, while claiming to be all-encompassing, is a pretty thin slice of reality. They have each evolved throughout the centuries, and have inevitably become twisted by powerful individuals seeking to turn an entire ideology to their selfish benefit.

As a Norwegian by birth and American resident by choice, I am often horrified by the social barbarism that is American social policy. Americans pay almost as much in taxes as Norwegians and they get less than nothing in return. Limited to no healthcare, sub-par public schooling and no higher education, low general wages, a laughable minimum wage, and crumbling infrastructure. Nearly 60% of the national budget goes to fund the military industrial complex because having over 900 bases spread across the world isn’t cheap. Understandably, most Americans I come across in my daily life are horrified by these facts, too. But it took me a while to understand the underlying American culture that is responsible for this climate to exist at all.

The frontier spirit of the 1800’s is alive and well in America. It manifests most noticeable on the right-wing side of the current political spectrum; in conservatives, republicans and libertarians, but I also notice it in many left-leaning Americans. This notion, this absolute belief, that you are responsible for your own circumstances. Never mind that we are living in extreme times, of wealth inequality, global capitalism, neo-liberal imperialism, 50 million refugees and displaced people, of massive consumption and resource extraction the world has never seen before. Less than 300 years ago, back in frontier days, America was an untouched oasis. Native Americans left little to no footprint on the planet at all. It’s almost impossible for us to imagine a time when you could just get on a horse and ride west, and when you found untouched land, you could claim it and be the rightful owner. Not only that, you were praised for your bravery of attempting such a journey. Sure, many perished and died in search of paradise but overall, America was pretty easily conquered. And now that land was in your possession, you could defend it by killing anyone who ventured onto it. For a brief moment in time, you were solely responsible for your life and circumstance. If crops failed, you died. If you got ill, you died. I don’t know about you, but I say luckily, we don’t live in those times anymore. We live in a complex society in which everything we do to survive is deeply connected with those around us, and now in the global age, deeply connected to workers all over the world whom we will never see or speak to. Unnamed, unseen workers feed and clothe us. Any service or help you need is only a phone call away. If your house catches fire, the fire truck comes blazing without you having to do anything.

Complex societies require complex politics, which again require a highly educated public. We have neither. We have simpleton politicians, half of which claim to hate government, and a corporate media news circus that breaks everything down to the lowest common denominator. America is officially an oligarchy – ruled by the richest to extract every ounce of wealth from a rapidly declining planet. Climate change is real, say 98% of the world’s scientists. Let’s debate climate change some more, say the world’s politicians. By 2016 1% of the world’s population will control 51% of the planet’s wealth. Football fields of rainforest disappear, cropped down and burned, every second. Some scientists estimate that we are losing dozens of species every single day, some not even discovered and could hold future cures for disease. One sailor even went as far as saying “the ocean is dead” because of the lack of life he saw sailing across the Pacific. Fish as a dietary staple may be gone as soon as 2040. It’s the main source of protein for over 1 billion people. As the oil wars burn themselves out, the water wars are just getting started.

We live in extreme times. We are surveilled, over-worked, undernourished. Those of us not caught in violence and poverty, are traumatized by images and wrecked with guilt. Depression is running rampant among those of us who are fortunate enough to have the time and security to feel it. Despite billions of years of evolution and fighting to stay alive, members of the most advanced species on the planet are now choosing to end their own life through lack of purpose. We live in pretty insane times, and the politics are not mirroring that at all.

Why should you care about politics? It doesn’t seem to do much. I’m always astonished when I run across people who act as though caring about politics is optional. As if it somehow doesn’t affect them. As if it’s just someone’s hobby.

The way I see it most of the above problems, as bleak as they seem, are pretty solvable. Through politics and an evolved consciousness. First we have to accept that we no longer live in frontier times. The world is full and we are all in this together. If consumption is what’s destroying this planet, the only one we’ve got, we have to question the motive for it. In the past 50 years the human race have been granted various rights through global organizations, such as right to life, liberty, security, and freedom from cruel treatment. But I find it very strange that the two most basic things needed to live within such rights, food and a home, are still not a right. To have a safe place to sleep and food to eat is the foundation of all life. And that still costs money, which is created and hoarded by a tiny elite, in effect making all other rights void because people have to submit to all kinds of cruel and undignified ways to make enough money to simply stay alive.

So it all comes down to money. The hippies and the Marxists got it right. Freedom costs money, and money is now more concentrated than ever. One of the most enlightening article I’ve read all year states that it will take 100 years for the poorest people to earn $1.25 a day. That is just about the most sobering thing I have read about the state of the world and global capitalism – the one that promised to lift us all out of poverty. If we keep going the way we do, there won’t be a planet left in 100 years for those people to be earning $1.25. The way we live is so unsustainable it borders on madness. Radical change is needed, fast.

For me, universal basic income is that radical change. Make money a human right. A small sum deposited each month into every person’s bank account – enough to pay for a small apartment and healthy food. Automate whatever menial jobs can be automated, get rid of unnecessary jobs, and raise the wages on the ones that are left for those who wish to make additional money. Those satisfied with a small space can venusprojspend their days creating art and inventions, raise children, talk philosophy or relax. Growing food can be a community service – each member working 4 hours a week. It might not be perfect but it’s a heck of a lot better than what we have going on now. Eventually the goal would be to phase out currency completely, something along the line of Resource Based Economy from The Zeitgeist Movement and The Venus Project.

And what will eventually happen to wealthy people? Seriously, who cares. A study concluded that the financial ‘happiness’ level is $75,000 a year. With that sum you can live in a nice house, in a nice place and eat good food and have hobbies. Everything over that amount does not increase your happiness. In fact, when you earn much more than that your unhappiness grows because of all the responsibility that comes with owning and maintaining so much stuff.

Eventually private property rights is something that must be discussed because it is absurd to live on a planet where wealthy people can claim so much space as their own and poor people will never feel secure. While I believe it is our animal instinct to want to claim territory, much like our animal friends in the wild, there must be a fair way to do so. Maybe it should be a human right to own land? But then who would decide who gets the best parts? Can we evolve beyond the need to claim territory? These should be the political questions in our time of crisis.

These are some thoughts I have been having lately. They align closely with the world’s various green parties, which I am thrilled to see are rapidly growing (no pun intended) all over Europe and even as a third party in the US. Unfortunately, I don’t believe in a utopia where one day all human beings will get along and share the same opinions, but right now, with our planet at stake, that should be enough to unify us and come up with a better path for the future.

Dear reader, I would love to hear your opinions on these issues – I’m sure I will learn something new :)

Station Eleven and other books like turquoise blue seas

How do you choose what worlds to get emerged in? I finished a book last week and I’m having a hard time moving on. My book selections are pretty random, but afterward I usually see the beautiful symmetry of adding this particular world to the thousands of worlds I already hold within. A Facebook link led me to a Buzz-whatever like list of books that “contain horror in completely ordinary settings” and I am so down with that. Of Station Eleven: A novel they said, “that moment of genuine terror when the internet goes out forever in this post-apocalyptic world.”

StationElevenCoverFor all my talk of wanting to usher in a new evolution of consciousness more aligned with the planet we live on, I’m not really into dystopian, post-apocalyptic books. They are too bleak and lack the beauty I crave in my worlds. I devoured The Hunger Games, and moved on. I’m happy that the movies are somehow better. But it’s not somewhere I want to live. I went into Station Eleven blind and found something I did not expect: a love letter to the times we live in.

Maybe post-apocalyptic books are boring to me because I know I won’t be around to see it. I would, without a doubt, be one of those to perish within the first few awful days of the collapse. If the world is going to absolute shit, hunger and mayhem, I would be running towards the blast just to get it over with. So reading about survivors in their terrible limited circumstances, with violent death and hunger the main driving forces, that’s just not worth sticking around for to me. Maybe it’s my suicidal tendencies speaking, who knows. But here author Emily St. John Mandel lifts a beautiful quote from Star Trek to guide her survivors – survival is insufficient. In Station Eleven’s world the surviving artists create a traveling acting troupe that preforms Shakespeare plays in the American wilderness after the collapse, and that is beauty in breakdown.

The book is a series of snapshots, tying the past and the present together. At the center of it all is an aging actor who collapses on stage while performing King Lear, and within a day the world collapses, too, from a deadly virus that sweeps the planet in matter of days. Mandel’s writing is beautiful and engaging, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to follow until the character of Miranda was introduced. She was the aging actor’s first wife, some 20 years ago, and all of a sudden the book takes on a tabloid insider’s perspective, with a young, small-town girl trying to make a home in Hollywood with a famous husband. Station Eleven is her creation, a graphic novel within the novel, about a post-apocalyptic society surviving in outer space. Her marriage only lasts three years, but Miranda spends 20 years working on the world of Station Eleven. She shows it to no one. To me, Station Eleven is a book about artists. It’s about finding your place in the world, and losing it, then finding it again. It’s about taking the world, this world, for granted. Throughout the book, you mourn the passing of civilization. You are reminded, with awe, how amazing running hot water is, how fantastic the grocery store is, and how fortunate we are to be able to care about tiny, insignificant things. You become nostalgic about things still available to you. Then endlessly grateful when you look up from the page.

That’s quite an accomplishment, using only words. It also made me doubt myself as a writer. I don’t know if I have the power to evoke all of these things using just my words. It’s hard sometimes, to know in the marrows of your bones that you are an artist, but then so often feeling so impotent to express it. If you do not create, are you truly an artist? Or just a wannabe.


whiteorleandertattooquoteI didn’t know what to read afterward, so I went back to the books I’ve been meaning to pick back up for a while. The books that shaped me as a writer, when I was still too young to worry about such things. I was a library kid from a very early age. When I was 9 or 10, in fourth grade, my class took a field trip five minutes down the street to our local small-town library and signed everyone up for their very own library card. I think I was the only one who used mine regularly. A few times a month I would spend an hour after school just browsing the isles by myself. I found Elfquest that way. I discovered Anne Rice and her vampires. And eventually I found find Francesca Lia Block, and suddenly all my unfinished ideas about a faraway land called Los Angeles and Hollywood would snap into focus and light up in technicolor. Block writes, or wrote, modern day fairy-tales set in Los Angeles, very teenage angst-y, sometimes supernatural, sometimes just weird, but always beautiful and enchanting. white_oleanderIt became my holy site and I spent my 20’s making pilgrimage trips to an overpopulated desert wasteland. Her style of writing seeped into my blood, but there is one book that does Block-esque writing even better than Block herself: the first 25 pages of White Oleander by Janet Fitch. It’s literally everything I have ever aspired to write. An artist goddess in white silk kimonos and blue gauze dresses, who floats through the art scene of Los Angeles in complete control, ruled only by the Santa Anas winds and the poisonous desert flowers in bloom. It’s the ghost of most things I have written. And I tried to re-visit it with an adult mind, but I’m still swept away, still want to live in this particular world.

These days I’m trying to find beauty in the unfinished journey. As long as you strive, you are still an artist. The finished work may or may not come. May or may not find an audience to inspire, but in this fleeting life you attempted to make thoughts into something real, something tangible.

A conversation with Edward Snowden in Hawaii (February 14, 2015)

IMG_2149-0On an unusual gloomy Saturday morning in Honolulu I was lucky to attend a (video) conference with Edward Snowden who called in from Moscow. The event was hosted by ACLU Hawaii and all 800 seats sold out in advance. The demographic was mainly older (60+) but with a handful of younger curious onlookers, activists and journalists. The moderator Aviam Soifer joked that he knew that some homeland security and other intelligence agents were in attendance but that they had to pay their $5 cover like everyone else and sit idly by while their most wanted man spoke to us in (virtual) person. It’s the kind of humor that flies really well in Hawaii – equality, absurdity and aloha. It’s a fine mix.


The event opened by showing the academy award nominated documentary CitizenFour so that everyone who hasn’t followed the Snowden story obsessively could be on the same page. It’s a really great documentary – emotional and human with the urgency of an international spy thriller. Snowden especially comes across as composed, a man on a mission, but infused with plenty of humanity. He never wavers in his values. And he still doesn’t, according to the thoughts he later shared with us.

Here is the conversation as it was broadcasted live on Hawaiian TV and a nice Civil Beat/Twitter recap.

Snowden is getting pretty used to these web dialogues (they actually used Google Hangout, for those interested in nerdy details like that.) The whole set up is a propagandist’s wet dream, with Ed’s face looming over everyone magnified x100, but to be fair that is the only way to conduct these talks. But the Wizard of Oz feeling doesn’t disappear – his words take on enormous importance, even when I thought his legal adviser Ben Wizner made his points more succinctly.

In my opinion, the most relevant observation Snowden made was about activists vs the state. That’s really what this whole thing boils down to – if the government is running rampant, ignoring the constitution completely, then activists have no other choice than to operate outside the law to promote true democracy. It shouldn’t be the activists’ burden to protect themselves against the government that spy on their citizens. Activists have to tirelessly work to CHANGE government – not work hard to always stay one step ahead using encryption, which is an exercise in futility, considering the government agencies budgets and technology. He also called out private corporations here, which he feels share some of the responsibility to protect their customers against invasive governments. But like we have seen here in the US, corporations like Google and Apple have only been happy to bend over backwards to give government agencies full access to their customers. This is a multifaceted problem, and Snowden is absolutely right when he says the burden of changing the entire system cannot fall on individual activists and consumers alone. They are the least powerful in this situation, but if the majority of them come together there can be enough pressure on organizations to change.

Because that’s the thing. Even after all the bullshit Snowden has witness and gone through, he is still, if I can reclaim this word from the right-wing lunatics for a moment, a genuine patriot at heart. He believes in democracy and the constitution. He is not a radical by any stretch of the imagination. He still believes that the system can reform itself. His act of civil disobedience came from a deep love of the country he was born into and served to the best of his ability. It was only when he realized that the rules had changed internally, while still giving lip service to the public about freedom and democracy, he felt a moral obligation to act. I don’t personally agree with his hope for true democracy, I believe this capitalistic system has run its course and if we don’t switch to something new fast it will devour itself and destroy the whole world, but I admire this man and his will to act on his moral convictions in a responsible, non-violent way. I admire him very much for risking everything for the truth.


They also talked about how there is no fair trial for Snowden in the current US justice system. The people who call for him to “come home and face the charges” should know that in reality what they are asking for is for Snowden to spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement (classified as torture by the UN.) The law under which he is charged is an eroded and archaic law from 1918 called the Espionage act, aimed to prosecute government spies who reveal government secret to foreign governments. Snowden is a citizen who took vital information to responsible journalists under the first amendment. He could have just dumped and released all the information online to total chaos but he wanted the information vetted through professional journalists to remove any bias he may have had as an information analyst.

“There is civil good in law breaking. If people did not break the law, the American revolution would have never happened. If people did not break the law, slavery would still be in place. Lawbreaking is one of the most important means of progress.” – Edward Snowden

Snowden talks a lot about government and IMG_2214surveillance. Balancing the government’s desires against the needs of citizens . As a systems thinker I get very frustrated when such important issues are being handled in a vacuum. He never talks about banks or corporate interests that supersede national borders, trash the environment and keep entire countries in absolute poverty. He is an expert on one thing, and after some soul searching I have to admit I like that. If he had opinions on everything under the sun, he would be taken less seriously and he can’t afford that in his position. He is a fascinating and complicated man who reveals very little about himself, and in this tabloid existence that can be frustrating, but he stands tall in his convictions. When asked if he had any regrets he said that he only regretted taking so long to stand up. He is part of history now, and these are historic times. It doesn’t feel like that on a day to day basis, but did it ever, to anyone?

“We need to seize the truth. Take it out of the darkness and bring it to the light. The government broke the law. No matter how many governments there are… we can say that there are more of us than them. We can win.”

His final words were met with thundering applause that made his computer back in Russia shake.


Art at the Hawaii Convention Center: For the adventurers; not to be mistaken for travelers for travelers know where they are going. Adventurers go into the unknown.