Tuesday, November 21, 2017

46/52 - Sitting Around Waiting for the World to Change

Dear Internauts,

This past local election, I sat in a meeting room near the library/police station and handed voters their ballots. It helps me feel like I'm involved and actually participating in the political process in a way that doesn't make me wanna throw up. Plus, it's a way I can force myself to spend eight-ish hours out in public around people without going into a complete panic attack. It's a small town and a small time election, so I spent most of the time reading, but it's also a decent way to experience one of the few happy aspects of politics—participation without fighting. Sure, you still have to walk past the two party booths standing the mandated legal distance from the front of the building, but they're a bit less boisterous than they were last time I worked the polls (November of 2016). If you'd like to be involved in your local election, it's not a bad way to spend a morning, afternoon, or both if, like me, you've yet to be called back from the endless number of menial labor jobs to which you've applied.

After all, if I'm gonna continue to cheer the idea that the only politics that really matter are local, then I might as well back it up with some sort of involvement, right?

Remember how I mentioned going to that TEDx event a few weeks back, well one of the best things that the first speaker did in her talk on composting was to demonstrate ways in which her organization made it as easy as possible for local restaurants to participate. Too often, "causes" do everything they can to make you feel guilty instead of inspired. Please remember those are NOT the same thing. As someone caught in the ever-shifting tumult of emotional tempests, any speaker who does more than make me feel flattered or insulted has my attention far more often than the usual quick-sell.

Don't just tell me I should do something. Make me aware of a way I actually can.

For an example, I'd like to introduce you to Resistbot, an easy to use tool to help you send a message to your government representatives.

All you have to do is text 'RESIST' to 50409.

From there, Resistbot will walk you through the steps to send a message directly to your Senators, House Representative, President, and/or State Governor. It does all the work of getting the message to them, all you have to do is make the message.

If you're like me and don't enjoy talking on the phone but can spend a minute texting a simple message, this is an extremely helpful way to get involved.

Perhaps it's especially important to you that the FCC not kill Net Neutrality, so your ability to read weekly blogs by obscure songwriters isn't hampered in the name of selfish business interests. Just sayin.

Anyways, media roundup time!

I recently finished reading THRAWN by Timothy Zahn. If you're into Star Wars books, this is one of the very best of the new canon. Focusing on the career rise of a blue-skinned, red-eyed, tactical genius from the outer reaches of the galaxy far, far away within an Imperial Navy that is decidedly anti-alien, Zahn's brilliant writing expertly manages to weave the technical military apparatus of the Galactic Empire with fascinating strategy, compelling character development, intelligent yet relatable dialogue, and a smart display of blending previous mythos with an exploration of the new. Great read.

Yes, I did see both Thor: Ragnarok and Justice League. I enjoyed both of them, but don't really have much to say about either besides that. I think they're both worth seeing if you enjoy these kinds of films, Thor especially. I think Wonder Woman is the best of the DCEU so far, but that's not really a novel opinion at this point. If you want to see Justice League done really well, watch the animated series from 2001 or read the Grant Morrison run of comics. My favorite Justice League story is a very weird one called Identity Crisis, which first inspire my love for Elongated Man. Also, if you liked Ragnarok and want to know more about one of the stories which inspired part of it, I'd def recommend Planet Hulk, wherein you can get a lot more in-depth on the characters Korg and Meek.

As for amazing movies you should def make it a point to see ASAP, I have to recommend Lady Bird. Written and Directed by the astounding Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha!, Miss America) and starring probably my favorite actress right now, Saoirse Ronan (How I Live Now, Brooklyn, The Lovely Bones, Atonement, Hanna, The Grand Budapest Hotel), this is def going in my favorite films of 2017. It's seriously unlike anything I've seen before. Hilarious to the point that I actually couldn't hear some parts because the audience was laughing so loud, poignant to the point that I was legit stunned, with some of the best acting and writing you'll see this year.

Honestly, there's something about dramas with comedy that I tend to find their jokes hit so much better than straight up comedies. Both Lady Bird and The Big Sick were far funnier to me when they were being funny than so many movies trying to be funny throughout. Maybe I just have a terribly irrelevant sense of humor, or maybe there's something about getting me to really dig into the absurdity and meaning of these circumstances (or both). Make me laugh till I cry and cry till I can't help but laugh, I don't know. Anyone relate? This can be done terribly too, of course (as can anything, I suppose), because with all the action films I see that try to inject comedy throughout, there can be definite criticism made of taking away from the weight of the dramatic with too many jokes. Both Guardians of the Galaxy films and the recent Thor film missed a few points for me due to not letting some important moments be as emotionally resonant as they could be. It's okay if we're not always laughing. But then again, maybe it's a backlash against the super-grimdark tone of so many would-be blockbusters that folks seem to loathe. I think there's a great balance to find there, and honestly I'm fine with dark, gritty, and sad if that's what a film really needs. I think maybe my spectrum of allowance for darkness is a bit broader than maybe the common movie goer, because I learned a long time ago that my sense of humor is both so tiny as to be non-existent at times and weird enough to be clueless as to what most folks will enjoy. I try to fit some sort of humor into my writing, but the truth is I'm stunned by what most people find funny or don't. But then I've read that many writers struggle with truly knowing what in the world people will find funny. I think that's okay. Funny can be great, but I think meaningful is more important. So maybe that's why I prefer dramadies over straight comedies. Helping me feel joyful wins over trying hard to make me laugh.

This blog is brought to you by me being sick and sleeping/not sleeping through the past two days.

Also, one of you lovely readers asked for a drawing of the box analogy from last week.

Hope this works for ya ;)

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 13, 2017

45/52 - Boxes and Boxes

"We are all poets or babies in the middle of the night, struggling with being." - Martin Amis

Dear Internauts,

1) I read Kevin Smith's 2013 memoir, Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good, several months after leaving college. I don't remember too much of it, but what sticks in my mind is a lesson he picked up from director George Romero (“I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.”). I'd do the particular story a disservice to try and retell it, but basically Smith wanted to make his own film but felt hindered by his lack of resources, connections, and position. Thus he decided to make a film about working at a convenience store, and Clerks remains probably his most famous work. Shot relatively cheaply from a script he wrote and starring his friends. The lesson, he wrote, being that the more resources you think you need in order to accomplish your goal—the more roadblocks you're setting up before you—the more excuses you're giving yourself to stop pursuing it. Figure out the best way to make your goal using your limitations to your benefit instead of telling yourself you can't do anything until the situation is optimal.

2) Last Thursday, my folks and I went to a TEDx event featuring several great speakers who presented eighteen-ish minutes each on a variety of topics. They were all interesting, but what stuck with me the most was actually this video they played from artist Phil Hansen. If you haven't already seen it (or even if you have), I def recommend taking the time to watch it.

[tl;dw - Basically, in art school, Hansen developed a nasty hand tremor which prevented him from continuing on his current stylistic path. Lost, he allowed this setback to drive him from his goals, dreams, and best self until he purposefully set forth to reclaim those ideas in new ways despite the troubles he perceived as blocking his path forward. Through this determination, he discovered a refreshed sense of creativity by embracing his limitations as a part of himself, rather than fighting against them. From there, he began to explore other mediums, styles, and concepts for his art, setting up purposeful parameters as a way to inspire creativity instead of letting those borders hinder him.]

3) I've loved wolves pretty much my entire life. They're pretty much my favorite animal. A common idea about wolf pack social structure is that of the Alpha. This is the one at the top who keeps everybody else in check, gets to eat first, and gets first dibs on a mate. Well, this has been the thinking for a long time, and I believed it from the stuff I'd read and seen. However, over the past year I've been reading a lot about how the whole Alpha male, etc stuff is not really true to nature. Sure it exists, but the major research done to confirm it was/is based for the most part on wolves held in captivity. Specifically those who were strangers before being put in the same enclosure would form these hierarchies out of the immediate necessity for order. That's not to say that their aren't leaders of packs in the wild, but rather that the conditions of captivity necessitated in the wolves a power structure built on violence, control, and subordination. In the wild, a more organic, familial support system can develop depending on circumstance.

(This is not to say that I don't believe there are certain rescue sanctuaries which truly do help wolves, though even then those places only need to exist due to human destruction of natural ecosystems and wide-spread wolf slaughter in the past century by the uninformed, uneducated, and greedy.)

So if the nature of wolves can't be best determined by their survival within captivity, what is there to say about the nature of humans within the captivity of, say, capitalism?

 In the words of Emma Goldman—

“Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?”

Think about the world of Hunger Games as brought to us by Suzanne Collins:
While the various districts are made to focus on and root for their hero/celebrities in fights against one another, the actual antagonistic force was the oppressive Capital, facilitating, encouraging, and enforcing this struggle as a way to maintain a status quo of control. The very idea of challenging them was so far out of thought, because people were too busy fighting eachother, starving, and simply trying to make their way from one day to the next.

Or in Star Wars' own Clone Wars:
The Republic and the Separatists were so busy destroying one another that they let themselves be ripped apart from within, betraying any ideals they had once held dear and fought for in order to unwittingly bolster their mutually assured destruction and introduce a singular figure of oppression once it was too late to reconcile.

Or whenever we as people are so caught up in fighting over borders, parties, sects, or resources that we ignore the root causes of this scarcity, which is used by those in power to maintain the illusion of their own usefulness and necessity.

So to recap:

1) Don't let the list of things you think you need to be successful stop you from even beginning to try.

2) Instead of seeing your limitations as weaknesses, accept them as part of your unique self and thus unlock the chance to sow creative expression from the uniqueness of your particular challenges.

3) And remember that the outward enforcement of limitations by those in power need not be the sole means of structuring reality for yourself, your interactions, your community, and your world.

As long as there are boxes for people, there are people climbing out, climbing in, and running around inside and out. All those people are unique and all those people are capable of more than simply being defined by their relationship to their box.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, November 6, 2017

44/52 - Moment by Moments

“Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and its ultimate expression … We all have the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears on the paper.” 
- Isaac Bashevis Singer

Dear Internauts, 

Thus we see the beginning of National Novel Writing Month 2017, or NaNoWriMo—a congested cataclysm of creativity, community, and complexes in which a gazillion would-be novelists set forth to write 50,000 words of a first draft in the limited space colloquially known as November. I've participated several times in the past, only ever completing the challenge, or "winning", once. Usually I'll get pretty deep into the month on good ground, than flail about a bit before falling irreparably behind in the last third and losing track of my sense and motivation before the end comes along to harmonize with my seasonal affective disorder. As if writers aren't neurotic enough, though I suppose for some the challenge can be more inspiring than haunting. 

This year, I'm simply continuing the work of writing out the whole plot for my graphic novel. I started with something of a chronological timeline of important events that take place in the main setting. From there it's a matter of setting up the chapters both as functions of the whole and as miniature plot-lines in themselves, with rising and falling action, climax of sorts, and a hook to leave off before the next chapter begins. 

I've been particularly focusing on a method of story-telling I think I may have heard from a clip of a speech Trey and Matt Parker gave once. It's meant to keep the action moving along by having the connecting fiber between each beat focused on either "but then" or "thus then", instead of "and then". The issue being that "and then" tends to place one action after another in a way far too episodic to maintain forward momentum. This happened "but then" this happened, however, allows for both an obvious continuation from one beat to the next as well as a challenge to continually subvert expectations and keep the protagonist(s) active participants and drivers of the story. "Thus then" works as a way to fit those points which expand upon the previous, the difference between "thus then" and "and then" being what flows naturally and what is simply trying to keep going from one plot point to the next simply out of necessity to hit those moments. 

Moments alone, however, don't make a cohesive or purposefully driven plot. 

Although we do often remember specific scenes, set-pieces, or lines from a work, it's the characters and their motivations from one beat to the next which allow us to feel as if we are not simply observers but emotional participants in their lives. Though in some of my favorite genres and plot structures, the focus may seem to be more on the cool or the wondrous or the awe-inspiring or the fascinating, the most affecting of any story-based works of art find a way to connect to our shared humanity. And what better way to do so than by getting us to care about the characters? They don't even have to be the "good guy". 

As I explore my own colorful cadre of maddening miscreants, I tend to find that the best use of moments is one in which even the most absurd can be connected to through a link with these people

Speaking of, as I mentioned last week, I finished reading John Green's Turtles All the Way Down recently, and wow. I wouldn't go so far to say that Aza Holmes is this generations Holden Caufield, but I will say that I haven't felt so connected to a protagonist's inner thought life since Catcher in the Rye. So that's my endorsement. 

Speaking of endorsements, here's a little thought: 

One of the many problems with the idea that commercialization should simply be accepted as a necessary function of media is that it completely denies an audience’s intellectual ability to judge the worth of supporting a work while simultaneously forcing an increasing amount of often unrelated garbage down our throats. Thus they can no longer support the work simply because they find it worth supporting, but rather the work is financially bolstered up by the same vile mechanism which distracts from, demeans, and infringes upon the independence of the work’s message. 

You’ve got a possible masterpiece, but who’s to know when it’s the size of a postal stamp and the frame is an arena-sized billboard of blindingly obnoxious industrial space waste? 

I get that everyone’s gotta make a living, but if the art which inherently expresses a part of humanity unable to be fully locked down by the demons of capitalism is enshrouded by its flags and propaganda, even the most sincere attempts at chain-breaking are made flimsy and pathetic. Maybe it’s simply the sad reality of trying to survive in a money-mad, material world. Still, I’d like to believe that there must be some way for the method to match the means. 

Let us NOT all be made hypocrites by our daily necessities. 

At the same time, I was watching 60 Minutes with my mom the other night and boy, are TV commercials weird or what? I'd nearly forgotten how cringey they are. And you can't even skip them after five seconds. Sure, I grew up with that, so maybe I'm jaded. Still, have they gotten more desperate now that so many get their media from non-cable sources. Even the ones on the radio don't seem as bad as the commercials on TV, but maybe it was just the hour I caught, being speckled as it was with political ads too. 

So anyway, (one of) my problem(s) with being a writer who's so often been inspired by current events and social justice issues is how it's all just so overwhelming. 

On one hand, I am on a semi-constant emotional roller coaster ride of madness by being even kinda woke to the contemporary absurdities. On the other, I'm not sure that raising awareness is good enough anymore. I don't want to blog or draw or sing about some bad thing in the same way that I'd just retweet it. 

I don't want to contribute to call-out culture as some simple, brainless conduit for sharing the  24 hour bad news cycle. 

It's too easy to say that other folks have said it better. And it's not enough to simply pass along the latest crisis, scandal, or disaster porn. It overwhelms me, and—despite my many issues—I'm technically an adult in the latter half of my twenties. I do worry about the affect that an atmosphere of negativity has on younger folks. Similarly, I know that there was plenty of stuff I was kept away from as a kid because it was part of the evil/sinful world and deemed inappropriate for me to even know about, much less learn how to process healthily. We can't shelter the future of humanity from everything, but we also can't just pretend that they're somehow automatically immune to the torrential downpour of EVERYTHING that is an integral part of the information age. 

Truly, though, I do believe that this group of kids and teens coming up is poised for some brilliance, so long as we can do our part to help and not hinder their growth into the harbingers of a better age. 

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 30, 2017

43/52 - Pain and Perspective

"Whoever declares that the capitalist mode of production, the “iron laws” of present-day bourgeois society, are inviolable, and yet at the same time would like to abolish their unpleasant but necessary consequences, has no other resource but to deliver moral sermons to the capitalists, moral sermons whose emotional effects immediately evaporate under the influence of private interests and, if necessary, of competition." - Friedich Engels

Dear Internauts, 

I've been reading John Green's new book, Turtles All the Way Down, recently, and, while I could quote some brilliance from almost every page, I'll need a few more reads till the best bits settle in. Combine that with the gorgeous film Loving Vincent, which I saw the other day, and my mind is swirling all the more with such a tremendous tide of these inspired thoughts. 

One from Green's book which stands out at the moment is something about how sickness is so often talked about only in the past tense, or rather as something to soon be in the past tense. Pain and illness is that which we're getting over or getting past or on our way out of. However it is, he says it better than I can, but I'm too exhausted at the moment to try and seek out the exact quote. 

And there's another one, of course—how we have so many words for everything but pain resists an accurate description. One of its many victims is language. 

And it's not like I don't know what it's like to try and help out a friend who's suffering. It's not like I don't understand how difficult it can be to try and help out someone you love when they're done and out. It's not like I can really blame the folks who've skipped out and ghosted on me for wanting out. My options for answering any "how are you" continue to be either lie or tell some depressing, barely accurate half-truth. 

Anyways, I've been having a lot of trouble focusing lately. 

Still, I've been thinking a lot about the quote at the top and how it applies to so much I find unsettling. I can dissect that which bugs me the most in society, preach reform and a moral drive within the confines of modern times. Ultimately, though, some things can't be fixed. 

My own inner struggle may hinder my ability to create, as—despite what we've been told—mental illness is more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to art, and yet I'm not blind or unaffected by the astounding injustice in the wider world outside my own mind. Well I strive to find some inner balance and write about a need for empathy and communal cooperation, I can't help but recognize that we can't simply talk the world into a better way. No blog or song will save us all. My personal critiques of politics, religion, or the media are merely the puppy scratches at the door of a bigger conversation. 

The truth is that as long as we live and converse as if systematic injustice is inevitable and unchangeable, all of our squabbles about trying to find a better way of coping within those systems will continue to bounce back against us in vain. While a shift in perspective is necessary, for real change to occur, it isn't enough to look at the world differently. The object itself must be disassembled. 

It's not enough that we try and be more commercially just within an unjust economic structure. It's not enough that we try and be more interpersonally just within an unjust social structure. It's not enough that we try and be more compromising within a corrupt political system. It's not enough that we agree that things are bad for any chance of good to occur. 

Tear the roots out. 

There need be no compromise of love and justice while seeking revolutionary change. In fact, a revolution without love and justice isn't very revolutionary after all, is it? 

If upon hearing of some scandal or abuse, I simply say, oh that's too bad, yet I refuse to look inside and question my presuppositions, then I only allow for the continued existence of an environment conducive to similar wrongdoing. If I complain and jeer at some monstrous act or words from a public figure but refuse to consider the larger context by which they were allowed to come into power, the soil in which they were grown, then I might as well have not spoken at all. 

If all I can say is that at least I'm not like those other folks in my demographic to make myself feel better, than I might as well be cheering on the worst of my kind. 

For now, I don't really know how to be better, only that it's not enough.

Thanks for reading, 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

42/52 - Root Canal for the Brain

Dear Internauts,

I kinda miss having a therapist.

I'll admit I've often used this weekly blogging thing as a platform for pseudo-therapy. While there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, it is too much of a one way conversation, a bit like prayer in that sense. Or at least what my prayer life was once like.

No offense.

Oh, I cherish our time together, sure, even if this is the closest current equivalent I have to homework in my quasi-adult existential squall. Thus today's late posting is more reflective of my last semester of school than it is like the homework of most of my academic life. Please take solace in that you are not anything at all like algebra 2 homework.

Also, please take note that my mood and manner are maybe a bit marred by my mouth's most recent malady (but more on that in a minute).

I've had many therapists in my life. All in and after my feint toward higher education. Some talked far too much, leaning more toward life lecturer than listener. One wouldn't talk at all, even after I'd made every attempt to elicit a reaction beyond the nodding and indiscernible expressions. But all for the better, I suppose. Some when they start talking get a tad too mystical for my liking.

What you need is someone who doesn't force you to talk about what they think the issue really is while still being able to help you deal with what the issue really is.

Also, unlike every single therapist I tried to get in touch with on my insurance plan during the first half of this year, it helps if they don't have a waiting list of three to six months for the first appointment. I wonder if, after that first appointment, my place on the waiting list for our next meeting is decided by how well it went. Would it be an audition?

Between every therapist, social worker, doctor, nurse, intern, old friend, family member, or whoever else I've wound up relaying my mental issues to, the tale has gotten a bit stale in the telling. Along some stories which can grow in splendor at every recounting, tales of illness tend to flatten out, broken down by necessity into their barest facets. There's an effort to appear the opposite of embellishing, to circumvent any attempt by the listener to diminish my pain through disbelief or comparison. Combine that with the need to share a list of symptoms in the same breath as prescriptions for the hundredth or so form, and one might start to think depression is just a cerebral tooth ache.

In a way, trauma is similar to a root canal, and not just in how one tends to exacerbate the other. Consider— a stranger in a position of authority put me in a vulnerable state and cut away at my nerves with a loud, metal tool.  It recalled both issues from my childhood as well as interrelated circumstances from adolescence and the insecurities of self-care as a young adult. If I'd been more prepared to deal with it, the situation would likely not have occurred at all, and yet there remains an inescapable feeling of helplessness and inevitability. (I do believe, if half-heartedly, that some inevitability is at least in part, escapable.)

Of the many differences, of course, one pertinent is that the dentist cut away the nerves from within the infected tooth, so now the intense nerve pain which had existed is eradicated. (Why do we even have nerves in our teeth, anyway?)

Maybe, this is then a better metaphor for how traumatic it is to deal with trauma after the fact? Every trauma builds upon itself. To construct, or at least to fix, we must first destroy.

You can't build on a busted foundation. And boy is the drilling like a jack-hammer!

I've currently got some temporary cement in there with the plan for something more permanent in early November. My jaw still gets sore, so I have to keep up with the pain meds. My teeth feel uneven, despite the sanding and shaping they did to try and find a balance. But then I tend to grind them anyway. Nervous habit.

Fitting, I suppose, that one of my first experiences as a 27 year old is to deal with something that's built up over so many of those years.

We can do everything right. Brush, floss, rinse with whatever brand they're hocking at the time. The tech's gotten better, as has the environment and the medicine, I guess. Still, something can get in there and infect and no matter how hard you try and deal with it on your own, a professional may be needed. Of course, that professional may be a jerk (like so many can be) or they may be kind as sunshine. Still, sometimes they've gotta go in there and dig at all the nerves and the pain and dirt and uncertainty. At the end of the day, it's your mouth.

Sometimes we can't live with the pain. Sometimes even the best fix can't make things even up quite right ever again.

But if I eat a lot of junk food and never brush, the trauma of a little chip in my tooth could turn into a root canal situation all too soon. As far as metaphors go, that's a pretty poor one to say that our brains need regular cleaning too. As with all metaphors, it falls apart upon close inspection.

Still, sorry for the preachiness. Just know I hope you can find a way scrub out some of the junk from your neural pathways. At very least, please know I'm not gonna judge you for taking whatever sort of ibuprofen you need for that sore jaw you can't help but grind.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 16, 2017

41/52 - Another Year and Some (Non)sense

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, 'Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?' Then a voice comes to me and says, 'We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand-word essay.'" - Charles Schulz

Dear Internauts,

Another year riding around the sun, and I feel much the same as I did last time.

I've decided to spend the rest of the month working on finishing a timeline for the events of my graphic novel, Ghosts of Domus. Instead of putting out one completed (written, drawn, colored, and lettered) chapter at a time, I aim to make sure the story is a more complete whole first. This way, I can spend NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. November) writing the script out for the entire story. If you're curious, I use the comic book script format of the free software Celtx for my scripts. I picked it up for a screenwriting class back in college and find that it's fairly simple to use and intuitive (even if my own typing can sometimes be a bit quick jumping from section to section).

Here's a picture of a wolf pup I drew after finding an old black marker in my backpack:

I recently saw Blade Runner 2049 and Marshall, both of which I'd highly recommend.

My mom's parents, in moving out of their house in NJ, gave me an old banjo. I don't know much about the instrument, so I picked up a book about it from the library. It's interesting at least, but the physical state of the instrument itself is something I want to get checked out by someone more knowledgeable before I go too hard with it. The tuning of the strings is very tight in the way that feels like if I mess with it too much something is gonna snap. Who knows when last it was played. Still, it's kinda fascinating as some aspects (the open G tuning for instance) seem so straightforward, while so many other aspects of a Banjo are so idiosyncratic (like the high g string at the top, tuned from about halfway along the neck). Maybe if I can figure some of this out you'll get to hear some super simple beginner banjo parts on future tracks.

Been having some tooth trouble. My experiences with dentists as a kid were abominable. Seemed like no matter what I did, it was always wrong. Between that and some rude dentists whose method of joking around was making fun of me, the already anxiety-producing idea of a strange, masked figure with sharp, spinning instruments of torture digging around my mouth is not something I look forward to. I've been trying to avoid it for a long time, and not just because without dental insurance it was cost prohibitive.

If something is tied to negative emotions early on in life, it only becomes more difficult to mentally force one self to deal with them later. Sometimes we think that's not the case because of fears or issues we've overcome, but overcoming them has tied them to a positive step in our mental development. Thus, I can ride escalators like anybody these days, because my negative feelings are counteracted by the positive experience of having done so without issue in the past. However, if there is a continual negative experience, it can be ridiculously hard to justify going back to the source of pain. And then of course, there's traumatic shifts in experience which can take once positive situations or locations and turn them grim and fearful.

Trauma, after all, reshapes brain physiology.

I've heard it said that birth must be one of the most traumatic experiences of life. Makes me wonder what my brain was like before I was born. Probably not too interesting, though. If nothing else, the troubled brain is far more fascinating. Not that I believe in tabula rasa or whatever.

Anyway, that's all I've got for tonight. (yes, there are a bazillion things I could say about current events and politics, but honestly I don't think I've anything of worth to add to the conversation. If you haven't yet, I would suggest checking out Amy Siskind's weekly list for a rundown of this mad, mad world's goings on...or at least the local politics version)

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

40/52 - What Writing May Come

Dear Internauts,

In preparation for a yard sale my folks were having, I'd been digging through old plastic crates for anything remotely sale-worthy when I ran into the stacks of notebooks from my younger days. Consisting mostly of writing I'd produced between sixth grade to my college years, these were often pages first accrued for the sake of schoolwork and homework, which instead of doing I'd more often set aside for the sake of scribbling whatever rambling thoughts my troubled adolescent mind might conjure. Often in the format of a song, or barring that the line-by-line rhythmic function of a Whitman-esque fraud, I would not simply fill these pages but, upon inking both sides of every sheet, go back and turn them ninety degrees before disgorging another layer of black or blue ink over-top the previous. What I could manage to read sans nausea I found to be the struggle of a young mind to come to terms with the social, religious, and academic pressures of twenty-first century western teenage life. Most of it tedious, repetitive, and beyond banal, I would collapse from cringing were it not for the pathetic and sympathetic sense of loss found in this hyper-emotional half-being floating chaotically in a nonsense world.

What struck me, besides the sheer absurdity of this young fool's quantity of expression—what may be called prolific if any of it were even somewhat nuanced, original, or of interesting quality—was how freely it all flowed. There was no waiting for inspiration to strike. Panic was all the inspiration needed as the weight of this kid's young world wrung out verse like a washcloth in the path of a collapsed dam. Compulsion to create served as such a strong opposing force to the necessity of any other aspect of life that I sometimes found little, boxed-off sections saved for class notes hidden within the larger deluge of literary excrement and the occasional short segment of comic doodling. The largely unintelligible mass of thought splatter existed so blatantly outside the realm of critique, self-edit, or second guessing. It had to exist. I would puff up and likely explode if not for regularly inky bleedings.

The point of this all is the contrast with my current self-doubt when it comes to creativity. While I still experience the occasional sudden deluge of written obsession, I have now built up so many gates and intellectual stop-gaps between the flicker of inspiration and the expression of thought that in contrast to my previous production, it wouldn't be too far off to say I don't create much of anything at all. Any thought of creation is bombarded by doubts, fears, and criticism before it has any time or space to breathe. No tiny bacterium or figment has much begun to spin into itself before it must come up against the enormous challenge of that which is "good enough" or "worthwhile" or "presentable". Any potential poetic endeavor is a potential song and therefore a potential contender for the greatest or more likely the worst song I or anyone has ever written. This could be the hit, the one they all stand and applaud for, the one that I'll hear on the radio one day, the one that'll make all my former friends and lovers stop and wish they'd treated me better as I raise an award over my head and thank my parents for believing in me. Or at very least it might be a nice step in "the right direction" for me as a songwriter.

Whether it be poetry or prose, I'd much rather be writing fiction than whatever something like this blog is. And the truth is that every final draft is more often than not preceded by multiple less-than-final drafts. We must allow ourselves to create horrible first drafts, says every other writing article online.

Anyway, didn't Harrison Ford not start acting till he was in his 30s? Didn't Vincent Van Gogh not start painting till he has 26 or so? How many times was JK Rowling or Oprah rejected before someone saw their real genius? How many horrible, never to be seen first drafts sit silent somewhere in the basement of the greats or even just the mediocre masses of professional creators?

For a similar reason to why I've spent the past few nights unable to sleep while also unable to open my eyes from exhaustion, tossing this way and that and screaming internally for dissatisfaction and the stress-induced ache in my jaw, squeezed shut unintentionally till my spit tastes like blood, I now write this week's blog on Tuesday afternoon. Unable to refrain from looking at views from previous weeks, I shiver from the weight of what if. I want to polish a mirror before it's been made, cut a diamond before it's been mined.

The fearful potential for even minor greatness does more to hinder its most basic possibility than the first steps of faulty creation ever could.

Fear, pain, dissatisfaction, uncertainty, and weakness are such universal traits that their expression creates some of the most relatable pieces in existence. However, their experience can also lead to the greatest hindrance of creation.

There is no promise that the boxes of notebooks will lead to a Pulitzer or a Grammy. There is no record deal secretly hidden in practicing your scales or signing up for an open mic. Nobody reaches the top of the mountain in one step, but then nobody reaches the top of the mountain without the first step.

It's messy and wild and gross and confusing and real and paranoid and shaking and struggling to breathe. It's writing a blog about not knowing how to write because at least that's writing something, right?

Oh well. It's something.

Thanks for reading,