American Specialness, Ideal Selves, and Fantasy Selves

I really like living in America, honestly. My parents came here to escape a culture in their home country that did not like people trying to be ‘special’. The intellectuals were persecuted, as were artists and musicians who were thought to be too Western. To ‘stand out’ was dangerous, and could get you killed. Your identity was the identity of your group. You were dissuaded from being an individual.

In contrast, American children are nurtured from an early age to think of themselves as special, unique, and irreplaceable. It’s a sweet thing to tell your kids, and if it helps them do better in elementary school or feel happier, then go for it. I don’t want to judge one way or another. After all, my parents came here — in a way — for the chance to raise a kid they could encourage to be special without worrying she might be imprisoned for ‘overly’ intellectual or artistic pursuits.

But at some point, we all grow up and have to deal with the rest of the world outside the cushion of parental supervision/reframing. And the more observant among us will eventually realize that no, we are not actually special. Or alternatively, we are special like everybody else. Then it potentially gets weird, because we’ve been groomed since childhood to value ourselves for being special/different/unique (if we were lucky enough to live in America), and now we find out that we are probably not as special as we thought we were.

To deal with this psychological tension, a lot of people develop an alternate imaginary self, who can go on being ‘special’, even if the person’s everyday persona and interactions with the world are not that special. For instance, you could have someone who works as a paralegal by day, living her ordinary life in parallel with an alternate daydream she has of becoming a world-famous chef. With time, this daydreamed alternative self may become so enticing to her that she will make real plans to re-direct the course of her life to approach becoming this alternative self: signing up for cooking classes, starting a cooking/recipe blog, starting a catering service, etc.

The world-famous chef scenario is an example of the alternate self being an ‘ideal’ self. I think of that as a self that is theoretically achievable in the real world if one works hard enough and has the right opportunities. The other kind of alternate self people typically develop to deal with ‘not being special’ in daily life, is the fantasy self. It’s a self that isn’t theoretically achievable in the real world if one works hard enough and has the right opportunities. For instance, becoming an immortal vampire elf, or having all of Superman’s powers. This doesn’t mean you can’t have outlets for enjoying these fantasy selves. There are plenty of video games and anime conventions and internet groups around for stuff like this. A twist on the fantasy self definition would be a self that is hypothetically achievable in the real world but for moral/logistic reasons not practically achievable. Examples fall in the realm of desires that are extremely illegal or have fatal side effects.

I think having these other selves can really enrich a person’s inner experience, and improve overall quality of life. And as long as the person isn’t committing actions that harm themselves or others, it should probably be their own business what they want to think about on their own time to satisfy their [culturally indoctrinated?] desire to be really really special.

I’ve thought about this stuff a lot lately in the context of how some songs can temporarily build/strengthen emotional connections between a listener and their ideal or fantasy selves, projected into the backdrop of the music. Motivational music, for instance, can help connect to the ideal self. Music connecting to fantasy selves is something particularly interesting to me right now, because in a way the fantasy self does not belong in the ‘real’ world, yet the powerful emotions one can have under the influence of music can make the fantasy self seem more real. Revenge fantasies are a big theme in a lot of country music (at least in my limited exposure to country music) and one has to hope that listeners will interpret that music as catharsis rather than motivational.

I think the space of fantasy provides a wider range of options to explore than the space of ‘ideals’. In my day-to-day life, I try to approach my ideals, but if I want to be entertained by something breathtakingly creative, I’ll spin out fantasy lives and worlds. If I’m going to bother to explore a new persona in the Otherworld at all, I’d like it to be appreciably different from who I am becoming in the real world. It’s more interesting that way.

thoughts about 2017

In 2017, I’ll have a weird schedule because I’ll be working unpredictable shifts at the Day Job (which I love but can’t talk about), and typically won’t know if I’m free on a particular weekend until a day or so before.

This makes it pretty much impossible to book shows in advance since I won’t know which weekends I have to work at Day Job, and I have to be essentially on call to work those weekends. I’ll still be able to do studio recording and song composition since I’ll still theoretically have free weekends, they just won’t be conducive to way-in-advance planning.

I’ve felt in the past that it’s always been rough on my music career when I have to spend a prolonged time (e.g. 6 months) off the performing circuit, even if I’m making new material during this time. To try to deal with this, and also have fun at the same time, I’ve been thinking about putting together and recording 52 video blogs next year (2016), to be released on every Saturday of 2017, to see how people like that.

I don’t really want to talk in detail about me and my life since at least half my life is Day Job stuff that I have to be vague about, so I thought I’d pick out some topics that I personally think are interesting, and informally poll you folks out there about what you’d find interesting as a 10-minute video topic.

At the moment, I’m thinking of a bunch of mythology and ancient civilizations segments, because I love mythology and ancient folklore. I’m familiar with the Hellenic, Norse, Egyptian, and Hindu mythology, less familiar with Aztec and Celtic stuff, and curious about all of it.

Other topics I’ve thought about are Interesting Asian Women in history, cognitive neuroscience / social science topics, consumerism, social vs. economic vs. cultural capital, and positive psychology.

What do you think?

List of things I wrote in an old journal from college

Projects that make me happy when I do them:

Music (recording, production/composition)
Performing (concerts)
Writing (stories)
*Pictures (composition, costumes/outfits, makeup, hair, accessories, backdrops, lighting, modeling)
*Acting (film, theater, musicals)
Art (Drawing, Digital Art, comics, paintings)
Adventures/Exploring Interesting Spaces

Science (there’s a very long list of things about science that I like, but won’t go into here)

*these things I get to think about when planning music videos, depending on the music video.

..yes I am slowly planning a music video.

Kaylee and EGL

I got into a discussion with some people today about Kaylee from Firefly, and her interest in frilly things combined with her genius for machines. I made the argument that these two traits are not as unconnected as they may initially seem. They may, in fact, stem from a common personality characteristic: complete indifference to patriarchal conventions.

She’s in a male-dominated profession and, while others might succumb to stereotype threat, she does not care what the social attitude is about her choice of work and does not let that affect her.

She chooses a frilly dress that is outrageously girly, but which does not cater at all to the male gaze. Which is not to say that wearing skimpy clothing is bad, but simply that she’s chosen her aesthetic because she likes it, and hasn’t stopped to worry about whether Simon will find it particularly attractive–even though she has a huge crush on him.

After coming back from RuffleCon this past weekend, I observed that a lot of the girls I talked to were working in technical/analytical fields (programming, statistics, math), or had earned graduate level degrees from highly regarded institutions. And they love frilly dresses. It’s an extremely well-run convention, that happens to be something like over 70% female.

When I was a kid watching TV shows and movies, I was always led to believe that societies populated and run predominantly by women were supposed to look like the Amazon women depicted on screen in skimpy leather outfits. But see, that’s the effect of the male gaze in film. It’s 2015 now, and I’ve yet to see a predominantly female-run society/organization–serving predominantly female consumers–that prances around in leather bikinis.

I have, however, seen them prance around in frilly dresses and cute bonnets.

New cover photo, the many faces of Psyche Corp.


Photo credits in clockwise order starting from the bottom left and spiraling slowly inward:
1) Screen capture from a music video filmed and directed by Brandon Herman
2) Screen capture from a music video filmed and directed by Brandon Herman
3) Babs Who Takes Pictures
4) Babs Who Takes Pictures
5) Babs Who Takes Pictures
6) Robert Szatmari
7) Michael Blase
8) House of Indulgence
9) Self-Portrait
10) Kyle Cassidy
11) Selfie while on a photo shoot, makeup by Embry Blue
12) Babs Who Takes Pictures
13) Screen capture from a music video filmed by House of Indulgence
14) Screen capture from a music video filmed by House of Indulgence
15) photo by Seriah Azkath, taken while filming a music video

Press Release: Album 5 Is Coming This October!

First, dear known and unknown people of the Internet, thank you for supporting the Album 5 Kickstarter. Since you guys responded so quickly that we reached funding goal within 4 days, I was able to send out the manufacturing order to the factory early, and the beautiful new CDs (here’s an art preview for Backers) will arrive at my place shortly before October. In addition, I ordered about 66% more units made than I originally planned to order, because of how great the response was. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

This latest album, “Romance of the Counter-Elite”, features a cover of “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe. Un-mastered demo versions of the other 4 tracks of the album can be found on my soundcloud. Besides the cover of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, the remaining songs of the new album cover dark and multi-layered themes, especially focusing on dystopian storylines:

Monarchy” describes a cycle of oppression perpetrated by successive demagogues who each promise to liberate the poor from misery, if only they will help overthrow the current monarch.
Nine Lives” describes a country where all citizens are born with nine distinct personalities, and must choose only one to survive into adulthood, destroying the remaining eight on the Battleground of Dreams Forsaken.
Dance for Me” is an exploration of how the counter-elite are seduced by the elite to join in a corrupt power structure that they may never find the courage to overthrow.
Lady Perilous” is a song sung by a Siren who delights in luring sailors to their deaths.

Short bio of the band for newcomers: Psyche Corporation is a fairytale cyber/steampunk band fronted by a former Ladies of Steampunk model and programmer who combines dance with a powerhouse vocal range. The band is named after a dream manufacture group from a future where neural implants allow people to download dreams from the Internet. Songs deal in dystopian themes as well as more lighthearted filk works, such as “Perl-Operated Boy”. The musical style spans genres of trip-hop, electro-rock, and world music.

You can still pre-order on the Kickstarter here:

Psyche Corp. has upcoming shows at RuffleCon in Stamford, CT on Friday October 2nd, opening for Rasputina. I’m also performing in NYC at DROM on Oct 4th as part of the Anachronism Steampunk events series. In November, I’ll be headlining the Time Traveler’s Ball in Cincinnati, produced by the Pandora Society.  More info on upcoming shows here: