Sunday, December 31, 2017

52/52 - We Made It!!!

"How lucky I am to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard." 
- A.A. Milne

Dear Internauts,

It's over!

2017 is officially complete.

I do appreciate that you have a metric bajillion tons of content to pour through on your daily scrolling, so please know that I am wicked grateful for everyone who's chanced a glance at this weird blog thing I've been doing. We've averaged about 180 views a post, and that means this weekly experiment thing has been the most highly consumed bit of creative output I've ever creatively put out.

Still, the goal was never about how many of you lovely folks I can trick into looking my way. The original idea was simply to make something on the regular. Consistency, after all, is key. And though quality and the exact time/day of the release for each post have wavered, this has been the most consistent I've been on anything in a long time. The key there is that it's completely self-motivated. Sure, it's nice when someone would mention how they'd read this thing, but in large part the only thing that kept me going week to next was the building blocks of having done it before. Despite every way in which I know this could have been more polished, precise, punctual, or popular, the achievement of even putting up a blog post every week for a whole year was somehow it's own cycle of motivation.

We've been through a lot together. Sure, it's pretty one sided, but I still want you to know it means a lot that anyone is out there letting me slide a few slices of my madness your way. This time last year, I had just moved in with my aunt, uncle, and cousins and was back in Massachusetts for the first time since college. The following months were there own special kind of struggle as I realized that just leaving PA was not enough to suddenly fix my life or mind. Even as I was able to find some temp work and pay my own rent at their house, living with family in that area turned out not to be the right fit for me finding a way to transition into full independence. Obviously, life in that neighborhood and that house wasn't what either me or my family there had expected. When they told me it was time to go, I didn't have any other option but to return to my folks' in PA, which, honestly felt like such a huge failure.

I know I'm blessed to have parents who support me to the extent and with such love as mine do. Their acceptance, encouragement, and accommodation has kept me not just alive but somewhat stable for these past several years as everything else has just utterly shattered. Despite my understanding of and personal experience with depression, it's still so easy to think of my lack of success in certain endeavors or inability to reach certain goals as a failure of self, indicative of a lack in character. When family or friends would hint or straight up tell me that I just think too much or just need to try harder or get over it, it was difficult not to use that as ammunition in order to sabotage myself. Sure, I know that they come from a place of caring and misunderstanding the truths of living with mental illness, but with everything else going on in my head, being able to organize what outside messages were useful and which could be discarded was often too much to handle.

Thus, for the large majority of 2017, my inner drive was simply to stay out of everyone's way. Struggling to work up the energy to leave my bed, much less leave the house, was hard enough, but the instant I began to consider what possible impact my existence might have on others, all motivation quickly vanished. This made its way into my songwriting and even onto this blog, where the topics of what I expressed funneled into a self-centered spiral. After all, who gives a damn about my opinion on politics, social issues, or even human interaction much beyond that which I could directly explain from personal experience? The question of it anyone even cared about that could only be ignored because I had a blog to write, so in that way, the pressure of a self-imposed schedule allowed for me at very least to feel bad for myself in writing once a week.

I don't think I believe that my songwriting was vastly better when it was almost entirely focused on social justice matters, but at least then I wrote songs about something. Musically, I've been almost entirely on a dry spell this past year, and I can trace that directly to my lack of confidence conspiring with my lack of attempts made to create something new. As this is technically supposed to be a music blog, I've gotta be real with you folks, I have not picked up the guitar in a while. While I'm starting to believe again that I have something unique to give both musically and lyrically, I've too long let fear of disappointment, lack of motivation, and worry over how it might be received keep me from creating any new music.

I've met far too many songwriters who are way more talented than I am yet fail to produce new content due to getting caught up in the day to day mundanity and stresses of adult worker/consumer existence. I'm not saying that providing for yourself and your family is a bad excuse, but it's still an excuse. And if my excuse is my thoughts and feelings based in mental illness, well, I've seen over the past several years how that will only continue to be my excuse indefinitely.

For a long time, I knew exactly what I wanted to be. Whenever a big part of that would break down, I always had something else deeper inside to hold up as the core of something new. I'm a writer, a creator, an artist of some kind. Even without faith and a religious culture, I am still someone who passionately holds tight to and expresses what I believe to be right and wrong. Even when I feel alone and lost and like a failure when it comes to relationships, I'm still someone who loves and empathizes. Even when I can't stand/am terrified of other people in general, I still recognize something of our shared humanity. All this adds up to something, and most of the time being okay with who I am means being okay with the unknown. Most of the time being okay with the unknown means not being okay in the least.

Not being okay is okay.

I'm not anywhere near sure about where I go from here. Well, I can hope for certain things like independence, confidence, friendship, and security, I've also seen how fragile those things can be.

  • Independence: I've learned how important cooperation and accepting help from others is.
  • Confidence: I've learned that acting in the midst of self-doubt is all too often the only way any action gets done. 
  • Friendship: I've learned that since friendships come and go, it's alright to feel sad, confused, and heartbroken, but the way other people treat us is ultimately far more an indicator of who they are than who we are. Thus, learning to love and be confident in myself is necessary, because the past isn't gonna change, but my reaction to it can.
  • Security: I've learned over and over again that any level of safety is never enough to feel ready to take a risk and is always just as fragile as the next trauma. I'll face reality and make a choice under the weight of stress and pain, on good days and bad, because moving forward, the only certainty in life is change.  

Y'know I'd love to read down in the comments or on twitter or facebook or wherever, what your goals are for this coming year. I know new years resolutions tend to be more a source of eventually guilt/grief than continued inspiration, but if nothing else, please be encouraged by the fact that I wrote 52 blog posts since last January. I said I was gonna do something and I did it. Wanna know my secret? I just did it. Even when I felt like I wasn't "up to it", I did it anyway.

Most of the time the desire necessary in order to accomplish a task and the desire we think we need are nowhere close. I can honestly say that most days this past year, I didn't want to even open my eyes. I feel like I've simultaneously somehow slept through the past 52 weeks and not slept for the past 52 weeks. I didn't even want to get up and hang out with my parents today, but I did because I'd promised them I'd make buffalo cauliflower bites and play card games. When I was so tired I kept hitting snooze and falling back into the weird nightmare I was having about growing up on a dust farm, I was not incredibly enthusiastic about figuring out the breading and sauce and how to use the toaster oven like a real oven.

But I didn't need to be incredibly enthusiastic. I just needed to do it. I only needed the absolute minimum of wanting to. Like when I got a root canal a few months back. I didn't have to really, really want to go to the dentist. I just had to want to enough to get up, get dressed, and go. How many times in my life have I gotten up, gotten dressed, and gone somewhere? The process is practically habitual once started, and yet before getting started why do I feel like it's either gotta be I'm 100% ecstatic about it or it's impossible? That's not necessary.

For many of you I imagine this is the process for going to your job. Hopefully, you all enjoy your job. I've never had a job I particularly liked, and I don't really understand people who do like their jobs. It's kinda like all the worst things about school plus the stress of being treated as less than a person by everyone around you, not just the bullies at recess. However, when I have had a regular job or even a temp job, the going and the doing was never the worst part (it was the people mostly). The trick was always just before that, like working out. Once I'm in my workout clothes and on the machine or headed somewhere it's not too bad, but just tricking my feet into socks and sneakers semi-regularly is worse than any amount of reps. It's all a mind game.

All that to say, I'm not gonna just make a list of promises to you or myself about what I want to do this year in vague terms I'll soon fail to fulfill.

Instead, here are some things I don't promise, big and small, but am just gonna do because I'm just gonna do 'em.

Everyday, I will:
- Take my medication
- Play guitar
- Write a page
- Eat a vegetable
- Take a walk
- Draw for an hour

Every week, I will:
- Apply for a job (until I get one)
- Look for a therapist (until I get one)
- Work on the Painkiller music video (until it's finally done)
- Write a song
- Go to an open mic

Every month, I will
- Read a book
- Post an acoustic song up on Youtube
- Post an update on this blog*

*I'll post more often than this, but my goal is to create more content of many different kinds, not just blogposts, about which I'll keep you lovely folks updated via this site and other social media.

Also...
- No more buying sweets and/or deserts for myself
- No more self harm
- No more looking at pictures and/or following social media of former friends who no longer give a damn about me

Here it is, folks, after the wondrous monstrosity that was 2017 for myself and so so so so many others and situations around the world, I don't exactly expect 2018 to be the absolute opposite. 365 days is a whole lot of time. 52 weeks is way more than we can really take into account all at once.

The joy and pain of hoping is that it either has nothing to do with what I can control and therefore is like a ball of positivity floating just out of reach OR it is completely within my control and therefore is just something I gotta do or it won't get done.

For most of this year, I couldn't visualize who or what I wanted to be because I didn't believe that I could be anyone or anything at all. Believing isn't enough to get anything done, but it's usually a necessary first step. The rest might just be all about doing it anyway, no matter how you feel.

Sometimes I won't have the right energy or mood to do what I think I should. That is a reality of life that I've had to come to accept. Still, the kind of positive attitude I need to help me survive those times is strengthened by what I make out of the times when I do have just enough energy to do something. It needn't be perfect by my or anyone's standards, but as it's all I have to work with, then I can do something with it or not.

And therein again lies the hope, that someday I can live with a little more empathy, confidence, and passion, and a whole lot less fear, despair, and hate.

Here's to 2018.

Here's to you!!!

Thanks for being there this past year, every week, and as always...

Thanks for reading,
Odist




Monday, December 25, 2017

51/52 - Happy Hollandaise

"Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving."
- Terry Pratchett

Dear Internauts, 



Thanks for reading, 
Odist



Monday, December 18, 2017

50/52 - I Don't, Because... (What Holds Ya Back?)

“Know your literary tradition, savor it, steal from it, but when you sit down to write, forget about worshiping greatness and fetishizing masterpieces.” - Allegra Goodman

Dear Internauts, 

Hey! We've reached the 50th entry in this year of weekly blogs. It's hard to believe that we've come so far and are almost at the end of 2017. I want to thank you for sticking with me this far. Feel free to reward yourself. Go see a star wars. 

Anyways...

Negative self-characterization forces a disproportionate emphasis on inability, or, in less obnoxious terms, I suppooooooooooose I don’t do things because I think I can’t do those things. Rather, I don’t believe in my ability to be successful in the attempt. 

Success—that ever-nebulous fluidic frustrater—readily adapts to my insecurity. 

I don’t because it won’t be my best.

I don’t write a song, because it won’t be the best song I’ve ever written. 

I don’t write a novel, because it won’t be the best story I’ve ever told with the best words in the best order and structure. 

I don’t draw a comic because I can’t draw well enough to convey the images in my mind. 

Most inconveniently, this crushing doubt often waits to fall until I’ve walked partway into the booby-trapped house of trying and, like a bulbous amateur, stepped unknowingly through the trip-wire of comparison. 

I don’t because it won’t be the best.

I don’t write a song, because it won’t be a hit. 

I don’t write a novel, because it won’t be an instant classic/bestseller. 

I don’t draw a comic because it won’t be a staggering work of genius which both reflects the best of and elevates the medium, blending words and pictures with perfect clarity and style to a degree reminiscent of while also transcending all my favorite graphic novels from Fun Home to Maus to Sandman to Cable and Deadpool

This is certainly not helped by the nagging conflict arising from consuming some mediocre piece of media and simultaneously reflecting on how much better I could do and how I could not even come close to the very basics of how it got made. Sure, for movies, plays, comics, and even songs, there’s usually anywhere from a handful to a couple thousand people behind the project. That doesn’t stop me from fantasizing about popping into one aspect of the production and managing to destruct the whole circus from the inside out. With novels or my songwriting, though, there’s just me facing down the glare of greatness. No matter how many writing blogs, interviews, quotes, or lectures remind me that the first draft is always (and is supposed to be) awful, the fear of ultimate failure prevents me from even taking that little leap. 

I don’t because it won’t be the best right away.

Truth is, I have boxes of notebooks full to the point of illegibility with songs, poems, and story fragments I wrote as a kid. Like some kind of creative stomach bug, I couldn’t help but puke up ideas. And just like literal vomit, they stink, make my insides hurt, make my eyes water, and are full of half-digested chunks of stuff made by other people that used to look appealing. Still, they exist, and maybe that’s worth something. After all, instead of even trying to keep creating, am I now just paging through some five-star cookbook without even setting the pot to boil? 

From an enormous accumulation of junk, there might be a line worth saving here or there. From the unadulterated outpouring of thought run-off, maybe some semblance honest expression. From the mad dash for my phone or a pen and scrap paper, maybe enough obscure notations to begin a shaping. 

It’s optimistic, sure, and we both know that’s not my style. However, this shift from writing and drawing and playing and imagining in excess to this dry sense of listless wandering didn’t happen in a bubble. Adulthood isn’t some concrete robotic function of assimilation wherein we shed the youthful, foolish flesh of wonder and delusion. 

I don’t because it won’t be “perfect”.

For a heaping chunk of my life, I could measure success in letter form and/or percentages marked in red pen. For years, at regular intervals I would not only be told whether or not I was succeeding in my role as a person but to what extent. Not only that, but I was surrounded by a very distinct range of my peers, starting with the year we started breathing on our own. Breaking it down further into the location where our parents moved us then into (sometimes grades or interest based but most often) completely random class groups of fifteen to thirty-five, we were lined up in rows and tested on the consumption and regurgitation of information, all of it preached at us as if were the most important thing we would hear that day forever. Pretty soon, biases formed and vertical mobility became something of an illusion. Do well enough early on and the expectation of future perfection is implicit and harshly monitored. Do poorly enough early on and the expecation of even having a future is moderately considered at best. Also, sometimes they made us run laps. 

But now I’m supposed to be some kind of adult. Like, I’m supposed to have been some kind of adult for a little over nine years now. Sure, there’s college or whatever, but even nearing the end of my junior year in high school, I was already realizing the standards for excellence among my peer group had started to dematerialize. After decades of having to know what they wanted I had to suddenly know what I wanted. In my case, I didn’t wanted to try this higher education thing, but my settings were all still stuck in what my default authority figures wanted for me. I’d trusted them so far without an inordinate piling-up of life-threatening situations, but then it turns out that adulthood may literally be trying to kill me. 

I don’t because adulthood is literally trying to kill me.  

The life of a child and teen is designed to make you into something, while everything after that seems to be about being that something. Or maybe it’s about rejecting that something? Coming to terms with it? Deconstructing it? 

I don’t know. Do you know? Is anybody out there? HELLOOOO!?!!

Besides the fact that my peer group is more obscure, diverse, and several billion times larger, there is no longer an obvious score card for success. Okay, so we can draw a nice parallel between how grades “aren’t everything” with how now money “isn’t everything”. Of course, grades can determine a lot of your future and that future can determine a lot of your finances and finances can be the difference between both where you live and, well, if you live. 

Y’know, money isn’t the key to happiness, but since Donny’s parents could afford to send him to summer camp where he made a nice lanyard, whether or not he ever finds the key to happiness, at least he’ll have a place to put it. 

But hey, being happy isn’t everything either. Everything isn’t everything, so what does that matter? 

If the only mirror I have to look at is a photo of someone else, I’m gonna miss a few things.

I don’t because I don’t. 

If I look at a cup of flour or a single egg and can’t see a birthday cake, that’s rational. 

If I look at that flour or that egg and get upset it’s not a birthday cake, that’s stupid. 

If I look at the four or the egg and can both picture the birthday cake and recognize that they’re not the same thing, that’s perspective.

When I make pancakes instead and decide not to compare them to the birthday cake that could have been, that’s growth. 

And  “when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

I do because I must. 

If nothing else, there’s always compulsion. If I leave a little blood at the scene, it may not be the perfect crime, but it will still be mine. 

Thanks for reading, 

Odist

Monday, December 11, 2017

49/52 - Leaving the Boat (an overextended metaphor)

"Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more." - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Dear Internauts,

Imagine spending your whole life on a boat. Every day is about the nautical. Everything is the sea and the parts of the boat and everything to do with sailing. You've seen land maybe but never landed. And then one day you just casually wonder out loud where the boat is headed. You've spent every day of your life in the mindset of one on a sailing journey, but when the idea of direction or destination is brought up, it's quickly hushed or dismissed. The boat is a vessel of transportation and yet transportation is kept vague and obscure.

Now, for the first time in your life, the boat is not the world but a part of the world. And you are not a boat-person but a person on a boat. The idea is confusing and incomplete, but could you be a person on an island? You've seen people go overboard before. Some drowned and some were saved, but what if there was another option? You'd seen people on other boats passing by. They did not drown just because they weren't on your boat. The people who waved from land did not die or beg frantically to come aboard your boat for fear of the land they stood on. So you begin to question those who were once on land but now sail with you. They all so prefer the boat that they now talk as if they too had been there all their life, the language and variety of life before fading into a flat, colorless void.

You sail on and on. You are good at it. You know all the ropes and knots and tides and jargon. You don't have the skill or the words to express this disquiet in you. You do your best to keep sailing, though the disquiet grows.

Then one day you wake up and feel so strange. You climb to the deck and it bows and bends before your eyes. You can't find your footing. You hold tight to the mast but lose your balance. Your fellow sailors try to help but they can't understand. You can't possibly describe it, but for the first time in your life, you're seasick. Dizzy and nauseous, you trip and fall off the bow.

The waves take you down. You can almost hear them yelling for you. They throw a line, but the water is too rough. You are pulled too far away. You pump your legs and arms and gasp for the surface.

When it seems like all is lost, you find yourself treading water. Cautiously, warily, you swim back to the rope and let them pull you back up. They celebrate your return by quickly getting you back to work on deck. You're happy for the familiar purpose and the safety, but you can't help but feel a bit used.

When next you see land, you can't help but wonder what it would be like to reach it. Your queasy stomach returns and you can't ever find your balance the same. Passing an island one night, you take a reckless chance and dive into the water. Using your newly learned skill, you swim to the beach. In the shallows, you stand up. You lie on the warm sand and you eat the citrus fruit from the trees and you look, for once, out at your boat from afar. For the first time in your life, you feel truly still.

You return to the boat, but this time they don't throw you a rope. You climb up and try to begin your work again, but when they see the sand left by your feet, your fellow sailors become afraid. Some are offended, others incensed. When asked, they say they aren't acting any differently, but soon they don't talk to you as much as talk at or about you. You do your best to clean up any sand, but they see it where there is none. Soon, you find your cabin has been filled by another. Even your job is taken eventually. You're always welcome on the ship, they say, because where else is there to be.

Years later, in some desert city, you'll find a picture of the ocean and on it some ship sailing, an awful lot like your old one. You'll write a letter perhaps, to put in a bottle someday, and visit the beach when you can. You'll wonder if the sailors ever think of you. You'll rub the old callouses on your hand and turn the page to a picture of a jungle or field, never quite feeling like any one place is the right place.

When you ask those around you where they're headed, sometimes they'll tell you. But even when they don't know the answer, they can understand the question.

Sometimes you wish you'd never come to land or fallen off the boat. Often you wish you'd drowned that day. You never quite forget the sea-shanties. You never quite get the taste of fish out your mouth. You never stop missing the smell. The scars and rope burns never heal all the way.

And even on land, you still sometimes feel seasick.

But some night, without you hardly noticing, you closed your eyes for the first time in a bed and, as you drifted off to sleep, you didn't feel the waves.

Thanks for reading,
Odist





Monday, December 4, 2017

48/52 - Digiventure

Dear Internauts,

I think I spent the past two weeks half asleep. It may have something to do with winter setting in, but if we're honest, this kind of deep descent has happened at all times of the year.

What got me moving again was the other day when I went to check my phone for the time (and date), and it just wouldn't turn on. No charge or pressing two buttons at once or whatever would do the trick. Sure, I'm not exactly anyone's emergency contact, but on the very off chance of something happening, I forced myself to roll across the floor in various directions till I looked slightly human.

The first place I took it said they had no idea, and the second place required me to go to somewhere I'd never been to without being spoken at me from the little box—currently deceased. As if in some kinda period piece, I sauntered over to some chaps on the sidewalk and queried for directions. They disagreed and gesticulated something about an overpass. I funneled the averages of their answers through my jittery skull, the effect of somehow both too much and too little sleep. Plus, I'd now talked to three strangers for the first time in as many weeks. My morning brain pills strained out across the sweating ruffles of gray matter.

Half an hour or so and the signs gave up on my destination, but I hadn't. The sudden appearance of a fitting road bent my neck to cracking. A city of consumption. Between my bed in mushroom county and the touch screen maps of the mall, I'd travel two decades and yet people still leave their trash beside stone fountains. I sketched this one as I waited for my appointment, omitting the brown paper bag for artistic license, counting the seconds by not counting them. Screw perspective, I thought, and kept the eraser in my pocket.

The phone was dead. There was no denying that. Blame is corporate lubricant, but in this case I got off cheap as free. Their fault. New phone. Same phone. New same. Still no calls, so I could've slept in.

The process of passwords and codes and next and next and do you agree kept me back and forth enough times that they set me up with one of the ones they give extra training. Still, the reasoning for technological distress is the same as it's ever been. 'It shouldn't be doing that' works well enough so long as the outcome is that it does eventually do what it should. (Is that what parenting is like?) He, the genius and seventh stranger I'd talked to that day, managed to be disarming enough from the revelation/admission that he too is into art and music. More than into, he's a composer, engineer, studio pianist, and commercial artist who's worked on albums, commercials, tv pilots, and years of other varied gigs. Talk of what tech is available/affordable to the most cutting-edge apps and gadgets to finding a balance between work and art as work. Eventually, my phone fixed itself, and I realized I'd had an actual conversation with another human being. At least I think that's what those used to be called.

I slept through the next two days, I think. The plot-lines and characters of my own dreams become more complex and harder to escape in times like these. It's not simply a matter of the physical energy to do activities so much as the mental capacity to imagine a motivated self into existence.

Today I tuned every string on my guitar down a half step, and it was like a whole new instrument.

In case you were wondering, as someone who lives most of my life in the past, there really isn't much of a future here.

Thanks for reading,
Odist

Monday, November 27, 2017

47/52 - Great-ish Expectations

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”
― Charles Dickens

Dear Internauts,

In general, I find happy people to be the most disappointing.

They can be disagreeable, even absurd to the point of disgust. However, the root of this perceived vulgarity is not the inherent wrongness of their mood but the gap in perspective between that of the happy person and those of us upon whom they inflict themselves. This irreconcilable dysfunction is, sadly, not their fault. Nor is it necessarily ours either.

At fault for this whole mess is the performative nature of existence.

This nature leads to one of the most compelling aspects of artistry—the utter meaningless of intention in the face of an audience. Perhaps there’s enough of a schism between creation and interpretation that it is impossible for anyone to experience the original truth of a work. Or rather the original truth of any work is how far removed it is in every instance and every step from the design of its creator.

If a story exists at all outside the telling (or the hearing/viewing, for that matter), it exists incompletely. The incomplete does not always necessitate completion, except of course when it comes to social pressure. And who better to provide that pressure than the audience, the very mechanism of its completion. But who knows what they might think or feel or yawn about this put-together puzzle in their putting together of it?

We think our experience of art is to receive it and then, as separate beings, construct some outside response as if to form an uniquely divisible creation. Of course that makes plenty of sense on the surface, but one scarce look at our responses shows that we are in the tumultuous throws of our own unbroken sequence of influences. Every symptom is a side-effect.






So I disagree with my previous absurd accusation that intention is meaningless. It's not that it's meaningless but rather that it's meaning is not found in its independence. Intentions declare meaning through what they reveal of influence, which continues the cycle through the effect the intended work has on those across the divide from the intention, who are under their own weight of influences. In sharing their response to the created work, the audience does not become the creator but rather reveals the public face of a creation already in the work from the moment of their exposure to the original work (which itself is of course not the original). Everything is a response to everything else.


Like the brilliant post I saw on tumblr earlier this week about how everyone in my generation had a Twilight phase. You either had a pro-Twilight or an anti-Twilight phase, but in either case you most certainly had a Twilight phase.

I think this can be true of any movement, genre, form, or expression that gathers any substantial following. Then again, you don't even need two people to have a disagreement; one will usually suffice.



I mean all this twisting illogic to say this: a big issue with any pretense of purity in critique that I rarely see brought up in online discourse is how big a role our expectations play in our experience of a work. I'm not talking about how closely a film stuck to the supposed "promises" of its trailer, because if we're honest, the trailer is simply a far more expensive (though oft a bit more informative) cover by which we should not judge the proverbial book. This runs far deeper. In the veins of any audience member or reader or listener or passerby runs the blood of an ecosystem in action. The memories, emotions, and all the drippy bits of homeostasis with which one enters into a relationship with a created work not only serve as goggles through which we view it but an entire suit of moist and jiggly armor in between it and our sense of self-awareness.


I love going to the movies by myself and being the only person in the cinema. Despite my severe introverted nature, I also find myself enjoying—on occasion—the wondrous wave of serendipity which occurs when a crowded cinema and I can join in the experience of a movie together. It can be funnier when everyone else is laughing and more breathtaking when my breath isn't the only one being taken. I don't like it because it feels icky and social, but there truly is a transformative aspect to the communal experience of art.

Of course, don't you dare talk in the theater or you ruin everything and should be made to pay for everyone else's ticket if you do.




In the parking lot, on the drive home, the next day, or later online, there is, however, the discourse. Not only is my own mind racing with a billion thoughts a second about what I've just experienced, but now it contends with the weight of everyone else's opinion. How often is it that said opinion isn't even their own anyway but just the sort of common jelly mold ball of meh that forms from the collective dilutions of so many brains only wanting to think as hard about something as they need to so that it stays enjoyable? Easy. Fun. Or fun to destroy.


Deep in that mire, we find the chameleonic shell of expectations—

When I hear Doctor Who, I picture David Tennant.

When I see the words The Joker, I hear Mark Hamill's uproarious laughter.

When someone mentions the president, I have to check myself for a moment before I break down in tears because Jed Bartlett is a fictional character, and I very much doubt the conversations in the hallways of the west wing of the white house these days sound much anything at all like something written by Aaron Sorkin.

When I think of the beach, my feet brace for running on knife-sharp rock piles and the hair on my arms stands out straight from the chilled-to-the-bone cold water.

To some, the crowded calamity of a city is a nightmare most dreadful. To me it will always be a dream of home.

And there is not a single work of art, film, book, or song that has brushed by my self-symptomatic shell of existence which has not been absurdly thrown into a strange perspective by it.

AND THIS IS ART!?!!!

Yup, this is the stuff we make and share which we think of as the most poignant, the most transformative, the most persuasive, the most piercing, the most affecting.

So...

How much more are our experiences with the mysterious, complex, fuzzy, weird-o wonders known colloquially as "other people" affected by our shell of experience-based expectations, moods, and manners?

I'm not even sure what I want, so why am I so continuously disappointed when I don't get it?

Thanks for reading,
Odist






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,
Odist