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" ]


polkatronixx said…
Well, Dan, it's nice to have you back. Even if this post was a tease that will be followed by another year or so absence.

I wouldn't sweat the small stuff. You do have a style. And a definitely identifiable way of writing. But that's your "voice" or whatever and it gives your writing a unifying "personality" that sticks with the reader. It helps that I met you when we were kids - and maybe that's why I hear your voice in my head in some ways when I read your blog - but I also think that your writing has created a new Dan, a guy whose identity is shaped in my mind as something more than my childhood friend.

You're a good writer and you seem to have found a way to express yourself that is enjoyable to read and is clearly your own.

Don't hate that, embrace it. Because so many others lack that. And many would kill for it!