Sunday, May 24

Who Killed the World?

Too many times I've opened up the editing interface for this blog with an idea. Some sort of loose concept of an theme I feel like I can work with.  Not necessarily a beginning, middle, and end -- but enough of a framework that I feel like a healthy amount of riffing will eventually be able to chip away enough marble to reveal the structure underneath.

Armed with that -- I drive in.

Doesn't always work -- my drafts folder is littered with half-cooked gems, misunderstood foundations that couldn't balance whatever asymmetric crap I stacked on top of it, and more than enough silly bullshit to remind me that just because I can string together words like notes flowing from the bell of a tenor saxophone -- that doesn't mean the results are always music.

But if anything above anything has hindered how much output actually gets published on this blog over the past few years, it's a simple mantra that I've been repeating to myself for a while now.

Don't. Bitch.

Stop whining. Don't just make excuses or fish for sympathy.
Nobody cares why things are hard. Things are hard for everyone.
The answer to every question you ask is always the same:
Fix it. Change it.
Stop accepting it.
Find a way. Make a way.

If you've known me long enough or read this blog or any of the other writings I've done for any amount of time then you know that's not always been the case. I've had my pity parties. I've looked back in regret.

After all, there have been bad moments.

A case could be made that a big part of blogging is whining. The diary tradition, the personal sounding board. I'm not saying that there isn't a need sometimes for "woe is me." I'm not discounting verbal investigations of frustration. I'm not refusing to see beauty in lament.

But "why are things sooo hard?" isn't writing. It's privilege.

..and privilege is bullshit.

So a lot more times than I'm really happy admitting, I've stormed into a post with something to say -- only five paragraphs or so later finding myself worn out on my own complaining. And If I don't want to hear it, why would anyone else want to read it?

Do I really want the true story of my life to be that there was always apparently five to ten purely circumstantial reasons why I couldn't find happiness? Wouldn't the time spent bitching about failed relationship after failed relationship be better spent making one work?

Exploring the road less traveled isn't supposed to mean never going anywhere.

And so a lot of ideas. A lot of concepts and inspiration. A lot of stories have simply stopped cold because when I read back to edit all I could see were the complaints. The excuses. The whining.

A cloudy mirror staring back at my frustration showing me the reason very little of my writing has ever been published. The reason  I'm not in a band. The reason I'm alone.

Simple truths. Common denominators.

Recognizing these things is useful. Dwelling on them never saved anyone.

Take what you can. Learn from your mistakes. Drive forward. Dive in.

[Now Playing:  Hiatus Kaiyote"Breathing Underwater" ]

Wednesday, January 21

Unpopular Opinions

You ever have something on your mind and you just want to talk about it? Tangents of thought just zinging back and forth inside your mind, needing something, someone to bounce off.

I work in this small office. There's usually less than 10 people here on any given day, and like 4 of those are managers/bosses. The rest are Republicans (I feel fairly confident that the managers align politically that way too, but it's hardly the point). Unlike a lot of places I've worked in the past, there seems to be a clear line between what people chat about and what they don't. Bosses around here seem to actively avoid small talk with the rank and file, and perhaps in deference to that example -- the rest of the group seems equally uninterested in socializing during the day.

And yet -- out of of all days out of the year -- this particular morning following a State of the Union address where Obama all but trolled his opponents would seem like one of those where loose conversation would be rampant.

If anything I'd think I'd need to be making an extra effort to avoid small talk around here today. But it hasn't happened. There's occasional whining about Obamacare, but compared to other places I've worked -- these people seem positively lazy when it comes to being wingnuts.

 But more than that -- there isn't really that much conversation at all around here at all. You'd think it would be refreshing, not to have to listen to politics or sports blather day in and day out -- but eventually the silence becomes deafening.

There's a lady I share an office with, but her main thing seems to be talking about cats. The other day she was given not one, but two cat calendars by coworkers and clients -- which she hung up on the walls and urged me to go through with her month by month, at which point I politely put on my headphones and feigned being busy.

See, that's all I really wanted. A chance to drown your bullshit out with my music.

And yet, the more time goes by at this gig -- the more the lack of simple human warmth seems to continually rise as a weakness. This place isn't just boring and uninspiring, it's sterilized. It doesn't feel like a workplace as much as it feels like a library -- and I'm really starting to wear out on it.

Then again, maybe it's me. Despite the fact that I'm relatively close in age to everyone here --  my tastes and habits seem pretty alien to the few who've tried to engage me. I like old cartoons and death metal. One of my managers is a friendly guy -- but he's deep into NASCAR and such, and whenever we've tried to find common ground there's rarely much to be had. Even worse, our differences seem so marked that even that occasional comfort in contrast kind of friendship that occasionally happens at a job when you get along with someone more out of a shared sense of struggle rather than any sort of personal compatibility only seems to go so far.

Over the years I've learned that hard way that engaging opposing political arguments only serves to poison the well at workplaces, and it's tough to share weekend stories with people who think golf and keeping their lawn nice is fun without having to constantly explain pop culture references or "what twitter really even is" or whatever time and time again. I'm not asking everyone to be current with everything in pop culture (I'm certainly not), but at least be interested in ..something.

This would seem to be the natural place where the internet would come in. Communities full of people who specifically, if not fanatically want to talk about things I'm into -- all at the touch of a button. And while I do spend what is probably an inordinate amount of time there, I miss actual human contact. The kind of nonverbal feedback you get from someone you're actually talking to.

I think what it really is is that I'm lonely. This place seems to shine a spotlight on how out of place I am, how isolated and singular my day to day existence has become - - and I think I'm running out of gas on that feeling.

It's probably a big part of why I made such a big deal about my little spontaneous trip to Tampa last week to see Periphery in concert. Sure I dig the band, and got a certain charge out of flexing my ability as an independent human adult to do things I like to do when I get the chance, but now that I'm back and waist deep in this silent building with nothing but my office mate's cat calendars on the wall to keep me company -- it's becoming more and more clear one of the real bonuses of that quick vacay was the chance to be in the same room with a bunch of other people who had not only heard of the band, but liked them as much as I did.

Of course even that came with it's obstacles, as I was easily the oldest guy in the room (nothing quite like repeately being called sir at a prog metal show) -- but once you start trading shots in the moshpit and headbanging along with the breakdowns it's not like any of that really matters.

It's just that after the show when everyone went back to their respective corners and regular hangouts to gush about how much fun they just had, I didn't really have anywhere to go.

There was this point during the show where I was at the bar getting a fresh drink when a young lady standing next to me asked me what my cologne was and complimented me on it. We struck up small talk while we waited for the bartender's attention. She was in town with friends, travelling from Long Island -- didn't even really know the bands but was liking what she heard so far.

Was there a vibe? Who knows -- she was super young, and when her order came it was actually two PBRs, which suggested she wasn't alone (but could have meant anything I suppose). I didn't make much of a deal of it, there were plenty of friendly strangers at the bar -- always seem to be when you go to the Orpheum -- and when after she walked away with a friendly goodbye I never saw her again.

Whether she faded into the crowd back to her friends or was just some wishful figment of my imagination I guess I'll never really know. I walked around the main drag in Ybor for a good while before settling down in a little dive bar for a nightcap, and I saw all kinds of people I'd noticed at the concert (including a few members of the band who wandered in for some post-show food), but not her.

Like I said, she was super young anyways -- so all this talk is basically just that. But how cool would it have been to be at that show and look across the room to find someone else who was just there looking for people their age with common (if eccentric) interests and be all like:

Even now, as I've come back to my regular routine, the fact that I don't really have anyone to gush over the concert experience (or the pending release of the band's new double album) in the kind of detail that two only people who actually are into the same sort of stuff can have is driving me a little crazy.

I mean, seriously -- how amazing is this?

..Well, I like it anyways.

My longtime friends have put up with my tendency to go on jags about certain bands for years (ask Gristina about the Zappa years, or my recent overload on Snarky Puppy). They can't always get on board with the specific bands -- but at least they understand how much fun a mosh pit can be.

Somebody at work asked how my trip was, and when I told them I was at a death metal show all they could do was put the work they needed done on my desk and then back away slowly.

[Now Playing:  The Dillinger Escape Plan "Prancer" ]

Friday, January 9

It Ain't Vendell Villkie

The other night after finishing up homework with the kid, we settled into different activities. He jumped into one of the video games he got for Christmas and I opened up my laptop to listen to music and catch up on all the different streams of whatever that are out there.

Eventually I clicked over to YouTube, and among the listed suggestions for me to watch was an old Bugs Bunny cartoon (one of my favorite things in the world). So of course I clicked on it -- and the next thing you know I was off into a veritable wabbit hole of golden era clips.

The weird thing though -- whether it's due to copyright infringement or whatever, there's not actually a ton of Looney Tunes stuff on there. Enough to keep you busy for longer than you should be (which is probably true of most anything on YouTube) -- but if you're looking for something specific, like Rabbit of Seville or one of the Roadrunner shorts, you're likely not to find it, or even worse -- only have the option to watch a version of it that someone used their phone to record it playing on their TV, so that they could turn around and post it to the web.

And if I can take a moment to address those people? -- HOLY SHIT DO YOU SUCK.

There is literally nothing worse in the information age than trying to find video proof of a song or an old show or a movie quote or whatever and having to see someone's wobbly-armed flip-phone footage of their living room that may or may not also include a barely audible flickering capture of them pressing play on their DVR.

Anywho -- I'm watching all these old cartoon clips, when I come across a particular one from 1943 called Fifth Column Mouse.

If you don't watch a lot of these sort of WWII-era cartoons, you might be surprised by how direct the satire is. For those of you who might not be up on the historical angle here -- the gray mouse/rat is essentially playing out the story of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister who essentially gave part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler as part of a treaty that supposedly would protect Western Europe from Axis invasion (and we all know how that turned out).

But as I was watching the clip, it was almost impossible not be reminded of the terrifying situation playing out right now in Paris with the terrorist attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which left 12 people dead and a world shocked with horror.

For all my affection for these classic cartoons, there's really no way to ignore the fact that the clip above (and scores of others just like it) were pretty much played as propaganda to the audiences that saw them, complete with patriotic calls to duty and stereotypical if not racist depictions of the villains  in the story.

Fifth Column Mouse wasn't a banned cartoon.

This isn't some secret treasure I dug up. It's public domain. It was the kind of thing that played on Saturday morning reruns when I was a kid.

In a lot of ways for an older generation, this might have been their Charlie Hebdo, or even just their Daily Show. It's the sort of thing that set the table for the political and cultural satire we see around us all day in newspapers, TV, the movies, and the Internet.

As Americans, this is kind of who we are. We project a lot through our commentary and our comedy. This is part of how we communicate our opinions about things.

So to see that same kind of spirit gunned down, to see jokes and satire -- no matter how sharply edged -- lead to violence and bloodshed is a difficult and frankly terrifying thing to process.

And look -- I'm certainly no expert on French secularism or the particular strain of Muslim extremism involved in the reaction. I can't speak to all the details and I don't know enough about the particulars to understand how offensive the images in those magazines might have been.
But c'mon people -- learn to take a joke already. 
It's strange to frame it all, considering that another recent incident -- the marketing of a Seth Rogan movie (of all things) centered around a fictionalized assassination attempt of real-life North Korean leader Kim Jong Un -- seemed to raise similar fears over how those who were offended by it might use violence to express their anger, an incident that ended with more or less a whimper, with the threats appearing to be all but empty, and the movie itself apparently being a stinker.

And yet here, on a different side of the world the outcome was far too real.

I don't want to live in a world like that. Even if history tells us that there's always been a shadow of risk for those who would use their creativity and voice to speak out against governments, religions, or even specific groups or people -- you'd think we'd be past it. That somehow a cartoon, regardless of its message, could just be a cartoon.

Which is why there has to be a response. There has to be songs. There have to be paintings, sculptures, blog posts, poems, comic books, editorials, and cartoons. There has to be a cat and a mouse warning us of the dangers of inaction in the face of aggression.

There has to be this duck.

[Now Playing:  Derrick Hodge - "Dances with Ancestors" ]

Wednesday, January 7

Sweater Dad

I'm generally laid back when it comes to parenting. I try not to be too overbearing or hover, mostly because I hated that kind of thing when when I was growing up. Sure I needed to be told to eat my vegetables, but in general the more my parents repeated that sort of command the more I was inclined to hide the asparagus in my napkin.

My experience is that I tend to get better results through laughter than I do through instilling fear.

Everyone's different, and I'm not here to tell anyone how to raise their kids -- this is just what works for me. But more than anything, the one thing I've had to learn, learn, learn about being a parent is that the best teacher is consistency. Regardless of your approach, if you set and maintain a standard -- your kid is going to know it.

So really the only time rough spots come is when you hit new territory.

Maybe that's why people see the teenage years as so troublesome, because it comes with a whole new set of questions and challenges you haven't encountered before, and you have to model whole new sets of behaviors, create all new standards and rules -- all while changes are happening. Which would be hard work enough, but then there's all these raging hormones tossed in for good measure, and they make things plain weird.

Some days my kid is just.. angry.

Not like watch the world burn furious, but just super frustrated about ..seemingly nothing. You can tell something's bothering him, but even he doesn't know what it is and when you try to ask him about it he gets all snippy and loud, and it's easy to hear that as backtalk -- which can spin you off into a whole other thing if you're not careful.

The reason I bring all this up is that the kid and I have been bumping heads lately over something. Not to a disastrous level, but enough that it's a recurring theme.

See, all the buzz is that in the next few days Florida is going to get hit with a big winter storm, to the point where there are freeze warnings everywhere you look.

"Cold in Florida" is sort of a bullshit statement to begin with -- because even when the winter actually gets to us we rarely get it as bad as the rest of the world.

But it still gets chilly here, and as a parent that kicks in some weird reflex where you feel like you have to do ..something to try and prepare your beloved offspring so that he doesn't end up a kidsicle.

The last thing you want to do is send your kid out into the one day of the year everyone knows is going to be cold without something to wear, except that we live in a place where no one really knows what to wear when it gets cold because ..well, it never really gets cold here.

So for like a week now I've been like, "Where are your sweaters?" Which is a terrible parent question to ask because it's automatically answered with the kind of "I don't know" response that could mean anything from he doesn't know or he doesn't really want to think about it at the moment to he wasn't really listening and he's just making noises with his mouth that resemble a conversation in the hopes that you'll soon go away and let him go back to his phone.

So, no help there.

So you look in his room, which is a disaster. If you're lucky you find a sweater there -- looks kinda small, but is it too small? When's the last time he wore this? He has a hoodie he wears all the time, and I bought him a heavier jacket last year, but will he even need that?

Me: Hey, when are you gonna clean this room?
Him: ..I don't know
The forecast says it's gonna be like 30 degrees out on Thursday, colder than it's been at any point so far this year -- but they said that it was going to be really cold this morning too -- and been it's like 65 and sunny all day. It was almost frikkin' 80 earlier in the week.

If I sent him out there in a winter coat and a sweater and that hoodie he never parts with in preparation for this supposed arctic vortex rolling in and then for whatever reason it doesn't happen -- he'd either melt, or worse he'll take some of it off at school, forget where he put it, and then I'll have to buy him all that crap all over again just in case another one of these potential one day long cold snaps happens next year.

It's like some sort of prank Kobayashi Maru where as a parent you need to be prepared to protect your child from something that may or may not happen for like a couple of hours in the morning one day a year, or possibly when he's walking home from the bus. Or not at all.

But it's no problem, because I'm the laid back parent, right?

So eventually I figure the answer is to get him a new sweater. One that fits, one he likes -- kind of trick him into being prepared by getting him something warm enough to wear that he'd want to show off (and therefore not want to lose). Smart, right?

Well, you might think so -- but then you're not the kid who doesn't want to try on sweaters at all.

Suddenly your grand plan to be casually ready is met with a barrage of "these are itchy" and "whatever you want is fine, can we just GO?" (which is the fucking worst) comments right in the middle of the store and the whole thing becomes a huge pain in the ass that YOU DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO GO THROUGH WITH IN THE FIRST PLACE.

So yeah, my kid might show up at school tomorrow wrapped up in so many layers of cloth and knitted yarn that he might just not be able to move his arms or legs in any given direction, but so help me, he's not going to be cold.

Right, son?

[Now Playing:  Leaders of the New School - "Transformers" ]

Tuesday, January 6


In about a week I'm taking a day or so off of work to head down to Tampa to catch one of my favorite bands. They're always fun live, the Orpheum is a fantastic place to catch a concert and a mosh pit at, and I love partying in Ybor City.

To be honest. this trip is sort of an xmas present to myself.  Periphery is just on the verge of dropping a new album, so they're sure to toss a few of the new tunes into their set. Plus I have the vacation hours to burn, so why the hell not?

Maybe this isn't everybody -- I know my life looks weird when you put it down on paper, but every now and then when you look at all the trappings of being all grown up and adult with jobs and kids and bills to be paid and money you probably shouldn't spend where doing something monumentally reckless and incongruent to everything else in your well balanced patterns feels like a moral imperative.

Yeah, I'm not as young as I used to be. I have responsibilities and obligations and all that crap. And it's not like going to a concert on a Tuesday is some sort of revolution, even if it's in another city. Twenty year old me would surely scoff at the whole concept and immediately get to work on some overlong blog post about it complete with movie-reference pictures and video links.

But not going would sorta feel like a surrender.

What's the point of being an adult if you can't do what you want? If you can't make the choice to do something you want to do?

The worst kick in the gut about growing up is realizing that the most responsible thing you can do with all your maturity sometimes is to decide not to have fun. To defer the raw excitement of reckless and irresponsible abandon in favor of staying the course. To pay the bills, stay in on the weekends, and let the young bucks do all the dumb shit.

Besides, been there, done that, right?


I wonder sometimes why I don't feel that more. Because I still want to get out. I want to get in the middle of it. I want my ears to ring. I want my muscles to ache. I want the miles on my odometer to have stories attached to them that don't begin and end with grocery store and parking lot at work.

I don't know, I feel like I could spend a lot of words here thinking about how it all got here -- but haven't I done that enough on this blog? Haven't I spent enough lonely nights lamenting the reasons instead of getting out there and doing something about it?

I'll be honest -- there are times when going to all these open mics, scanning the musicians ads on Craigslist, restarting this friggin' blog every year or so -- it all starts to feel.. futile. Like there's only so much window available and despite all the effort I might not have enough of an opening to get through anymore. Like there was a time when all these things were possible, and that time is all but past.

It's a shadow that hangs over, a chill in the air -- like there's a constant battle going on between the frustration I feel over not being able to be the version of myself that I want versus the idea that settling in to the things I have around me and being really good at my job or saving money or whatever is where my focus should turn to, since that's actually who I actually ended up being.

Like I already lost and I just don't want to admit it yet.

I'm a parent with a corporate job. Health insurance and homework -- that's what it's supposed to be all about anymore. Anything beyond that should be able to be handled by of Netflix, Spotify, or Pornhub, right?

But I don't feel that way. I never feel that way.

This is a big part of the reason I dedicated myself to my music over the past year of so in a way I hadn't before. I saw a lot of people who believed in me and wanted me to do well start to lose that faith. It's like a mirror was placed in front of me, and the reflection was starting to turn away.

There's nothing worse than feeling like a part of yourself is being locked away. Like you're not being allowed to shine. Even worse if you're the one holding the key to your own deadbolt.

I did that for enough years. I don't want to do that anymore.

So I'm going to a jam Friday night. Then I'll wake up the next morning and hit a Saturday morning session.

But I'm gonna miss the one next Tuesday.
Because I'll be at the show.

[Now Playing:  D'Angelo - "Betray My Heart" ]

Monday, January 5

Blame It On My A.D.D.

Late to the party or not, I'll probably never, ever tire of watching this.

[Now Playing:  Periphery - "Graveless" ]

Sunday, January 4

Get On Up

Dear Chain Bookstores.

I know. You put comfy chairs in your aisles and bums come in and sleep on them. Teenagers make out on them. There's never enough chairs and so the guy who wants to sit in them when there isn't one available fires off an angry twitter post that reaches the CEO on the golf course, he gets all fired up to blame somebody and then you look like the bad guy.

Put one comfy chair in your bookstore and you're basically fucked.

But this is not the solution.

Maybe it's because the holidays just rolled through and I spent extra time trying to find things, but I feel like this "little quirk" is starting to become a problem. And I get it, a book isn't exactly something you can just grab and go. You want to open it up, browse through a little. Believe me, I like bookstores. The smell of books, thumbing through titles that seem interesting, seeing new covers on titles I enjoy. It's a nerdy habit, but I don't think it's a bad one.

But these kids on the floor. In the manga aisle. In the collectibles sections. Piles of them, reading their Japanese comic books backwards without paying for them. I'm happy you're into stuff, but could you do this somewhere else? 

Look, I love pancakes -- but you don't see me sitting in the grocery store by the boxes. 

Besides, it's not like you're going to be teenager forever. So like, where does this stop?
Bring back the chairs. 

[Now Playing:  Run the Jewels - "All My Life" ]

Friday, January 2

The Festrunk Brothers

Today while attempting to endure a nothing day at work I spent some time paying bills. Nothing too crazy there, I seem to be in a constant process of paying people or promising to pay them later -- but because we're again at the beginning of a new month, rent is due.
Rent is the only bill I pay with a check.
Rent is the only bill I send via regular mail.
When you get right down to it -- rent is pretty much the only reason I even have a checkbook. It's absolutely the only use I have for postage stamps anymore. 

I have a good landlord, I have a nice place. This is the way he likes to do things, so whatever -- shut up and mail the check; but it occurred to me as I watched my brain attempt to recall the idea of handwriting with appallingly shoddy results -- I had that moment where the generational lines sort of appear in my mind like a first down marker on a TV broadcast football field.

"Oh man, I need to void this check and do it again -- the letters are all uneven and sloppy."

Like I was literally going to rip up a check and redo it over the concern that my landlord would furrow his brows over the undisciplined curves of my script and think less of me as a functioning member of society. Or worse, some amalgamation of all my elementary school teachers would rise from the ether and smack my hand with a ruler until I exhibited the proper form and style.

Moments later I still ended up jamming the thing into an envelope marked with equally awful scratching intended to represent sending and return addresses, but it's hard not to wonder if anyone under a certain age would even hesitate at this sort of issue.

Sometimes you come to these little fault lines in our world. Places where the efficiency of technology crashes into the edifices of the age you were raised in. 

My handwriting was never stellar, but I used to have to use it for everything. People had to understand it in order for me to communicate with them, so I had to keep it at a certain level of respectability. Believe me, I was happy to step through the looking glass to a world where typing was king. Life got easier in many respects because of that advance. 

But this idea that awful handwriting is the sign of a crappy education sort of sticks with me. 

I think it's part of the reason the rise of social networking brought forth all the Grammar Nazis. All the comic sans haters. All the disdain for the increasingly abbreviated and codified way people communicate with each other online. 

Once upon a time you saw junky handwriting combined with terrible grammar and you couldn't help but connect the dots. 

Nowadays you just get this:

Like, seriously -- who the fuck is Chuck Manchioni?

This whole idea of your ad, this supposed "classing up" of the music scene in this town was all but invalidated the moment that you revealed to all of us that you somehow don't know how to spell "Steely Dan."

And yet if I give it maybe two more seconds of thought -- is this that big a deal? I'm on twitter, I have a teenage son -- I've seen what passes for communication anymore. The guy who wrote this might be some hipster who embraces their ironic tastes without actually knowing what the hell they're talking about. Who knows, maybe he's just European or something.

Whatever the case, shouldn't I try to get past my old school hangup about how the quality of your communication reflecting on the kind of person you might be? Especially since I kinda wouldn't mind being in a band like this?


[Now Playing:  Thelonious Monk - "Straight, No Chaser" ]

Tuesday, July 22

Blowfish or Shark

I've spent the better part of the day talking myself out of just getting up, going home, and applying for other jobs. I like literally don't know what I'm supposed to be doing -- but I know tomorrow someone's going to ask me where it is, followed up quickly by why isn't it done.

And yet, my fastest path out of here is going back to contract work. Perhaps equal or better money, but no benefits (which I need to make sure the kid can see the doctor when he needs to).

It's been like this for a month or so.

Ask for more work, consider quitting. Ask for help, check monster on the weekends.

Then when it does come, it's literally a text document of raw code, with the instructions "translate."

I know there are people who have the ability to do that -- but I'm not really one of them. I never claimed to be in the interview process. But that's sort of the life of a tech writer -- you're thrown into unfamiliar waters, and with time and training you eventually learn to swim enough to get by.

It's like moving to a foreign country to learn a language. You'll never know everything, but eventually you'll get to a point where you can make conversation.

But if the training never arrives, if there's never an opportunity to immerse myself in the colloquial..

The people here are nice (mostly). It's a really small company -- so I can't imagine no one's noticed just how much I don't do around here -- but it's not like I'm leaving work on the table.

You'd think that would be awesome: Ask for work, don't get any, surf web, collect salary.

And I suppose in some senses that is a perk. But honestly, I could do that on my own (minus the money part) at home.

My former longstanding job was a mess of personal politics and managerial footdragging. But at least I felt like someone needed my skills and counted on my ability to solve problems. At least I knew I could get help if I needed it.

I don't want to change jobs again. It's a pain in the ass and it messes with my finances, my schedules, and my time with my son.
But I don't know how much longer this is going to work.

[Now Playing:  Mastadon - "High Road" ]

Thursday, July 17

Pain & Gain Wasn't That Bad

Pattern recognition. It's what we do. We see trends. We find common threads. We identify outliers. How fast we're able to do it as a species -- how clearly we're able to translate it into something applicable to everyday convenience or advancement, these are the things that basically drive science, technology, and culture.

But we don't all do it the same way. Or at the same rate.

Wanna make someone really mad? Clean their room and reorganize their stuff. Randomly adjust the position of the driver's seat in their car. Give them a pattern that should make sense, but is inherently broken.

I would like to believe that we all possess the potential to recognize and understand the patterns that others identify -- but there's far too much history that suggests otherwise.

Worse yet, two people can look at the exact same thing and derive their own individual conclusions from it. And since they came to those results themselves, ownership of those recognized patterns tends to lead to a pretty fierce sense of propriety.

Find a way to convince people around you that your recognized pattern is the best/most correct/only choice and that sense of propriety can easily becomes tribalism. Zealotry. Nationalism.

It's what sets us apart. Enables us to push forward and rise above. But it's also what holds us back.

Think about contradictions. About the ridiculous divides in your own thinking.
For example, I really don't like the taste or texture of a tomato. To my way of thinking, they're too juicy. Too meaty for a vegetable and yet not sweet enough for a fruit. Put tomato slices in a salad or on a burger and I'll likely pick it off and set it to the side. It's just sort of how I am.
But oh man, do I love tomato sauce. On pizza, in Italian cooking, even ketchup on fries.. I'm all about that. 
All of which seems perfectly logical to me.

I love Star Wars. I hate the prequels. I like the shitty Transformers cartoons far more than I like the shitty live action movies Michael Bay has been making. And yet I've seen them all.  I know they're a mess. I know his "vision" for those paychecks movies has little or nothing to do with silly backstories created to support a toyline that was available when I was a kid.

But I still get really mad about it.

And here's the crazy part -- I went into that movie theater knowing I was probably paying for a tomato, largely because the last three times I'd hoped to get ketchup I was given tomatoes instead. The tomato guy is sort of famous for his tomatoes, and even if people complain about the quality and ripeness, he still sells a ton of them every year.

Pattern recognition: No matter what they say, people like tomatoes.


Propriety. Zealotry. Territorialism.

I live in a society where the various privileges I possess affect my day to day existence far more than any sort of fight for survival or identity. So this is the crap I get all bent out of shape about, even though I know it's kinda stupid, especially when set in the bigger picture of things.

None of which would matter at all if I had someone to vent it all to who might banter it all around with me for a while, but then eventually close the book or tell me to let it go or fast forward the conversation to other things. But when you're short of someone like that (or think you are - despite the abundance of social networking platforms available for you to spew this sort of thing all over), and your new job is turning out to be a lot like the old one where you spend a lot of time trying to kill time with an Internet full of know-it-alls who are perfectly willing to discuss these things to death it can easily become nicotine in your bloodstream.

If you're a certain kind of smart, you turn it into something. A conversation starter. A basis for a subset of friends. A discussion group, blog post, or podcast. Maybe it strikes an iron and gets you trying to make your own films or write stories so you can "do it better."

Propriety focused. Personal Zealotry. A drive for singular territorialism.
Which, when you think about it -- is kinda how we ended up with Michael Bay movies in the first place.
There's plenty of reasons to hate the guy, plenty of problems with the tropes and trademarks he tends to favor. But recognize that half the reason we're mad at him is that we know (or want to believe) that he's capable of better.

The reason I bring all of this up is that..  I think somewhere along the line I fell out of love with my writing. Or perhaps I just started to recognize my own patterns a little too clearly. Simply put, I caught myself repeating the same kind of patterns over and over. Playing the hits. Mailing it in. Age of Extinction-ing.

I recognize that I have talent for this, but for whatever reasons -- I found that I couldn't feel the fire in it anymore. The zealotry that had driven me, the need to establish my own propriety and voice had fallen into predictable patterns.

I'd love to say that once I started realizing this problem I took a step back and decided not to keep making the same movie over and over again, because artistic integrity is more important to me than box office receipts -- but the honest truth is something a little more problematic.

If you take some time to read this blog, or you've been with it a while -- it's not hard to pick out techniques I like to use. Put them together enough and you might even be tempted to call it a style, but what I always hoped along the way was that I had something important to say.

Somewhere along the way I started to get the feeling that I wasn't really saying anything at all. I was just shaking the camera around and blowing shit up on the screen. Not because it fit the message I wanted to send, but because I was convinced that was what worked.
Coming to that realization was ..really disheartening. 
I know I need to get it back. Not the habit, or the voice -- but the fire. The need to get it on the page. To shout the patterns I've identified to the world around me in the hopes that they can recognize and understand. To thirst for the debate of those who don't agree -- and to disregard the weight of knowing I'm not the only putz with a blog who thought the Dinobots should have been in the movie a lot more than they were.

[Now Playing:  Volumes - "Erased" ]

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