This is Part II of II (I hope) of the adventures of Neckboy. If you missed Part I, congratulations, you are already halfway to having not read any of this. Stay the course!
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( First, allow me to rectify an inexcusable omission from Part ICollapse )
Now that it is mostly behind me, I guess I'm ready to describe how the past few months have been. Although it will be long, I will keep this as matter-of-fact and to the point as I can, so that I have a written record of this experience before I forget and begin taking the absence of chronic pain for granted once again. I recommend skipping this message. I have plenty of more interesting/shocking/entertaining stories of pain and suffering, should anyone desire such. This is for posterity, by which of course I mean me.
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( About a year-and-a-half ago, I woke up with a pinched nerve in my neckCollapse )
There was a little boy... well actually he wasn't that little, maybe 15 or 16 years old but he was... autistic, or... mentally challenged, in some way, and there were these squares on the ground, these big squares maybe ten feet to a side, painted on the ground, and he wanted to walk on them, he just wanted to walk in squares, on the lines. It made him... giddy. But there were too many people, it was a busy time of day; there was this crush of people and they all were in such a hurry and they all seemed so... angry, but not angry exactly, more like harried or something. And they kept bumping into him, and their immediate reaction would always be anger, because he was moving just oblivious to them, oblivious to the flow, then they would see... what he was, and the anger would go away and they would just kind of quickly excuse themselves and move around him. And at first I thought: that's... something, isn't it? That's humanity, or compassion or something, that they aren't mad anymore when they see that he... isn't all there. But later I realized: no, it's nothing like that at all. They bump into him and they are angry until they see that he can't... notice it, that he can't feel their anger. And then it goes away because that's all it was there for.
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It's pretty unusual for me to take these tests, but I was bored, and the results were interesting:
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Bogosity, you are one of those rare individuals who are perfectly "balanced" in both your hemispheric tendencies and your sensory learning preferences. However, there is both good news and bad news.
A problem with hemispheric balance is that you will tend to feel more conflict than someone who has a clearly established dominance. At times the conflict will be between what you feel and what you think but will also involve how you attack problems and how you perceive information. Details which will seem important to the right hemisphere will be discounted by the left and vice versa, which can present a hindrance to learning efficiently.
In the same vein, you may have a problem with organization. You might organize your time and/or space only to feel the need to reorganize five to ten weeks later.
On the positive side, you bring resources to problem-solving that others may not have. You can perceive the "big picture" and the essential details simultaneously and maintain the cognitive perspective required. You possess sufficient verbal skills to translate your intuition into a form which can be understood by others while still being able to access ideas and concepts which do not lend themselves to language.
Your balanced nature might lead you to second-guess yourself in artistic endeavors, losing some of the fluidity, spontaneity and creativity that otherwise would be yours.
With your balanced sensory styles, you process data alternately, at times visually and other times auditorially. This usage of separate memories may cause you to require more time to integrate information or re-access it. When presented with situations which force purely visual or purely auditory learning, increased anxiety is likely and your learning efficiency will decrease.
Your greatest benefit is that you can succeed in multiple fields due to the great plasticity and flexibility you possess.
|Subject:||Peace Breaks Out|
|Mood:||Happy that it's Friday|
Okay, it's time to admit to myself that "I have nothing new to write about in my journal" is bullshit, and the reality is that I haven't wanted to write about what's actually going on in my life right now, because what's actually going on in my life right now is depressing.
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But, I am not going to write another post about how I'm searching somewhat aimlessly for direction, happiness, equanimity, and money -- even though it would all be true. Because, if I write that post, the act of formalizing and prioritizing for external consumption all of the things that are chipping away at my sense of self-worth will focus my negative energies to the point that I am right back in the depths of the funk from which I seek to emerge.
So instead I will be focusing on the things that are positive about Right Now, because there really are some.
In about two weeks I will reach 18 months of commitment to fitness. Never in my life have I maintained an exercise regime for this long. True, in the military I was always forced to exercise to some degree, and there were a couple of months-long stretches when I was totally committed to fitness while in the military, but this is different. The motivation and dedication is coming entirely from within, and I am very pleased to have made it through a difficult winter stretch during which my enthusiasm for exercise really flagged. Now the nice weather is back, and I don't have to spend weeks and weeks shaking off four months of flab and inactivity before I can enjoy physical activity again. I feel strong, and I have respectable endurance. I have not been able to maintain my target weight of 175, but I've stayed in the 180 to 185 range for about three months now, and I have continued to add muscle. And now that my ankle injury is behind me and I can run in earnest again, I'm optimistic that I will soon cast off that last ring of flab around my midsection.
The adventure of having braces has lost some of its novelty after ten months, but that's okay because the progress has been amazing. When I look at the pictures of how my teeth looked a year ago versus how they look now, I am just stunned at the amount of movement that has been achieved. A few of my teeth have been moved at least half an inch. I don't have any out-of-line teeth anymore, and all that remains is to move all of my lower teeth about a half-tooth's width to the right, which is in progress. I don't know how long this will take, but it's probably reasonable to estimate that I am at least halfway to being done with the braces. Woohoo!
I haven't managed to build a habit of practicing the guitar, which kind of bums me out because I really want to be able to play a nicely portable instrument. But, the good news is that I continue to play around on the piano most every day, and I'm starting to be able to play some fairly difficult stuff. I started (several months ago) by re-learning two songs that I knew many years ago -- except that this time I learned them right, meaning I didn't take any shortcuts or simplify any of the harder-sounding parts. It can be tough when you are trying to learn a thickly-layered piano piece without sheet music to ever know for sure that you have it exactly right, but I'm at least confident that with these two songs I am as close as I am likely to be able to get without seeing the artists' hands as they play.
Will I ever work on my novel again, or get back to writing music? The good news is I have increasingly been feeling the itch on both fronts. I've even done a little bit (a very little bit) of both over recent weeks. We'll see.
I am chuckling to myself right now imagining a scene from a post-apocalyptic, children's-children's-children-time-frame movie in which some characters have come across a well-preserved section of modern-day city, and they are moving through a fitness center with saunas, locker rooms, rows and rows of impressive looking equipment, etc. One of them spits vehemently that he has "heard tales of places such as this--though I hadn't believe them until this moment--where the depraved would gather to have massive orgies with whips and chains and bizarre devices for fetishistic, machine-assisted sexual gratification." They then begin speculating about what the various pieces of equipment were for, trying different positions on the machines and trying to "make them go" to comical effect. During all of this there is a running dialog between background characters about the utter depravity of a society where people could engage in ultra-kinky sex in formation, essentially, packed in and lined up shoulder to shoulder, members only please, pardon our dust as we expand. Ultimately, though, they puzzle out the posters demonstrating correct usage of each piece of equipment, and realize the far more stunning and inexplicable (to them) truth:
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First Dude: "These devices are to make their bodies do work!"
Second Dude: "Do work? To what end?"
First Dude: "To no end, other than that of needlessly expending energy!"
Third Dude: "You must be mistaken. Look, these machines have wires that go into the walls. Perhaps they were harnessing the energy of the labor of their slaves...."
First Dude: "No, look at how many of the machines have no wires at all. And the rows and rows of heavy plates along the walls... the point was to work as hard as possible in as short an amount of time as possible, to do an entire day's worth of work in an hour or less."
Second Dude: "I don't understand. Why not simply... do things that actually needed doing?"
First Dude: "They were running out of such things. And their bodies were breaking down due to lack of use."
Third Dude: "If they didn't have enough to do, then why did they work their bodies in such a hurry?"
First Dude: "Because they wanted more time for doing nothing."
Second Dude: "You are telling us that on a daily basis they would leave their homes and travel for miles to gather en masse and jockey for position amidst a vast array of special devices that make it very strenuously difficult to accomplish nothing whatsoever, as quickly as possible?"
First Dude: "Correct."
Third Dude: "So difficult to imagine how such a wise people could have fallen..."
I find myself seriously considering attending a war protest demonstration in San Francisco this weekend. (Story) I hate our current administration, and I hate this ridiculous war on terror. I don't hate what it was supposed to be about, so don't bother spamming me with your patriotic fervor. No one on the planet is buying into our need to invade and occupy a very poor country on the other side of the planet in self-defense. Everything that dubya says is a lie. Everything. Sigh. Al Gore, we hardly knew ye....
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When I am driving to work I contemplate life. This is not a goal of mine, it simply happens. How not? There it is, flying by outside the window... cars and drivers and pedestrians and streets and businesses and high tension wires and homeless people and airplanes and flocks of birds.... As my senses are flooded I respond by abstracting myself, by marveling at it all as if from some great height, some far remove from which I can see it but it can't see me. It all seems very real, but I somehow am not real; I am moving through all of the realness without actually affecting it or being affected by it, slicing through it like a hot knife through butter, butter that quickly re-solidifies in my wake and leaves no evidence of my passing.
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When I was very young, my mother would take me and my sisters to visit Auntie and Uncle -- my great aunt and great uncle -- at least once or twice a week. Uncle would walk his great big black labs, Frodo and Sambo, in the forest behind his house every day, and we would always go along. Uncle would never really talk to us on these walks, at least not such that I recall, but nevertheless I treasured these excursions and never tired of them. As the years passed, the woods behind his house were whittled away by suburbia until they were essentially non-existent, replaced by a succession of strip malls and housing complexes. So Uncle would load us all into his ancient blue station wagon and drive to some unspoiled green hills a few miles away. I liked this even better, because on the way back I would lie down in the back of the station wagon between Frodo and Sambo and just watch the trees stream by the window. If it was dark by the time we were returning, which it sometimes was, I would be mesmerized by the succession of street lights, by the slanting beams of light traversing the back of the car once every four or five seconds, starting at my feet and crawling up my body and then disappearing over my head and away. Some of my earliest memories of awe at life, the universe, and everything are from these drives back home after walking Sam and Frodo, nestled between them and wrestling with my stupefaction at the wondrousness of dogs, station wagons, street lights, and Uncles.
Years later I would be a soldier stationed in Frankfurt, with a girlfriend stationed in Wurzburg, some three hours away by train. Every three or four weeks for about six months I would take the train to Wurzburg to visit my girlfriend, and for the entire three hour train ride in each direction I would stare out the window at the blur of trees and hills and houses, simultaneously enthralled at the majesty of life and stung by its evanescence. This trip will end much too soon, I would always reflect on my way to Wurzburg. And on the way back home, sitting in the train staring out the window, I would know that just as the visit had scurried by too quickly for me to properly appreciate all of its many wonderful nuances, the same tragedy was simultaneously unfolding on the grander scale of my life.
And to this day that conviction strengthens with each walk, drive, ride, trip of any kind. It all goes by too fast, doesn't it?
You know, I still need to be a nicer person. Without ever wanting to be anything other than nice, I realized at some point years ago that I had a reputation for being aloof and arrogant and just generally kind of like unto an asshole. Being a nice person is something I've worked on a lot in the ensuing years, but I'm still not very consistent about it. Or at least, I'm too easily shaken out of my groove. As Randi--the leader of our team-building seminar at work--would say, I "go below the line" with too little provocation, and stay down there for too long.
Example: my manager is really on a roll with me. We are just tickling each other pink, I think. Last week my project, which seemed to be going fairly well for several weeks, just fell apart. It was not a happy time. After my weekly project status meeting, I carefully itemized the reasons why the project deadline was in jeopardy, and emailed them to her. Minutes later, in her weekly project status meeting, a co-worker asked (out of genuine curiosity) why my project status was yellow. I went to open my notebook and pull out my list of reasons, and my boss (who was sitting next to me) puts her hand on top of my notebook and says, "No, I want to see if you can do it from memory. I can." And I'm just looking at her, and all of the reasons just drain out of my head, and all I can think about is what is wrong with this woman? Here I am having a terrible day, and she knows it, and she wants to subject me to a public short-term memory test without warning? Why?
To which the cynical part of me immediately responds: Because she doubts that you really care about your work, that you really take your project's success personally. And what better proof of this could there be than you not being able to regurgitate the reasons why the project -- *your* project -- is slipping, just minutes after you compiled them? Surely this is proof that you don't care!
This is what Randi refers to as "building a story around a behavior." And I, my friends, am the king of this. Everything that occurs within earshot of me is quickly and efficiently written into the never-ending Broadway production running inside my head. I will fill in the details of your childhood from my own imagination to make sense of your mutterings if you leave me no alternative. My imaginary stage show doesn't mind. It won't miss a beat. A quickly conjured up "flashback", perhaps set to an ominous subsonic warbling, and now I am ready to move past that messed up thing you do with your eyebrows when you're becoming impatient. Like the "Many Worlds" ontology, wherein every decision point spawns new universes to enable each possibility, inside of my head is a phenomenon that I call "Many Wild Guesses." Just picture an infinite number of monkeys hammering furiously on an infinite number of typewriters, 'cept don't hold your breath waiting for the complete works of William Shakespeare to pop out. What the monkeys would like to know is:
- Why does Frank keep staring at me today? Is he on vicodin, or do I have something stuck in my braces?
- Everyone keeps looking away as soon as I look at them. Is that normal? I can't remember. I seem to be looking at people an awful lot. What do people normally look at during meetings? Hey, everyone is looking at the table. I am the only one looking around! Is this normal? Or have I precipitated it through looking at them too much?
- Except for Frank. Why does Frank keep looking at me? Is he gay? Does he think I'm gay? He thinks I'm gay! No, he thinks I think he's gay! I don't think you're gay Frank, I swear! Not that there's anything wrong with that!
- Dammit, okay, I admit it: the electric guitar version of the Barney Miller theme used in later seasons is better the original trumpet version. Not just different. Better.
- Is it just me, or does my left hand look really, really awkward today? Limp. Pasty. Confused. But Righty, on the other... hand... Righty be twirlin' the pen, tappin' the leg... Righty got it goin' on! Lefty: I don't even know you anymore. Righty: Word!
- You know, Frank, Lefty still good for slappin' you, you don't find something else to look at!
If I didn't let my imagined reasons for people's behavior toward me control such a substantial portion of my consciousness, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as stressed as I've been lately. But as you back away from those ruminations, as you detach yourself, do you not sacrifice empathy? Hmm... I started this post by saying that I want to be a nicer person, not a more insular person. So... I hereby remind myself again that even though my manager may well have felt exactly what I speculated that she felt, it is not a nice thing to assume the worst like that. And after that I was feeling attacked, and was therefore effectively incapable of empathy anyway, and being nice was officially a lost cause.
Thank the gods for music. Normally I don't particularly want to rock through the halls of my high school, but John Mayer has been forcing me to reconsider this reticence. And yes, there are times when all the world's asleep... the questions run too deep... for anyone but Supertramp and I to ponder aloud. Very aloud. And then we feel better.
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I'm sitting in the airport in Austin as I write this, getting ready to fly home after attending "Vignette Village," a three-day content management conference. Generally speaking I dislike conferences and I dislike traveling, so I'm pleased to report that I actually had a reasonably good time here this week. For starters, I slyly scheduled myself to arrive late and leave early, so I'm really only here for 2.5 days. Also, Vignette seems to have conducted enough of these things to understand the importance of keeping the attendees thoroughly liquored up for the duration of the engagement. I got as drunk as I've been in months on the first night of the conference, and actually had a surprising amount of fun just hanging out with other employees and contractors who I know but hadn't seen drunk before.
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The next day, Tuesday, I snoozed through the keynotes and a few breakout sessions, then zipped back to my hotel and changed into exercise clothes and went out for an invigorating four mile run along a very cool running/walking path that abuts the river running through the heart of Austin. This was very cool and enjoyable because there really aren't any other nice places to run/walk here in Austin proper, so it was a virtual mob scene of walkers, runners, sight-seers, dog-walkers, etc. I don't think I've gone running in the presence of so many other runners since my Army days. The path was winding and somewhat hilly, and it was an entirely different and more enjoyable experience than running on the dirt track at the high school near my house.
Before leaving for my run, I had placed a call to the house of Amanda, an old high-school chum who lives here in Austin, and whom I hadn't seen in many years. When I got back to the hotel she had not returned my call, so I ventured across the street to Austin's finest eating establishment, Hooters. That was fun. I think I had food and beer while I was there, but I don't really remember. When I returned to the hotel, Amanda had returned my call, so we got together for dinner at a Mexican restaurant for a tasty dinner and delightful conversation. I had a good time catching up with her, but upon returning to my hotel realized that I was feeling somewhat sad. I think this always happens when people or places take me back to my youth, and I'm not entirely sure that I understand why.
I overslept a bit this morning, so I missed most of Scott McNealy's keynote presentation, which disappointed me somewhat. After a few more presentations I headed back to my hotel to check out. My hotel was about a mile from the convention center, and I enjoyed the additional exercise I got each day by walking to and fro. My cab ride to the airport, like my other cab rides while I was here, was surprising enjoyable. I enjoyed hearing the differing perspectives on life in Austin, and I especially enjoyed this morning's near-head-on-collision with a police car. (This made my cabbie giggle uncontrollably and exclaim "Oh my, that is being a very bad driver!" by way of self-reproach.)
Epilogue: When I arrived home last night, I discovered that my landlord had completely denuded my yard, front and back. He told me before I left that he would "cut back the runaway growth." I didn't realize that by "cut back the runaway growth" he actually meant "entirely remove everything green". My yard is a brown, barren, dirt wasteland. What the hell was he thinking? My cats are afraid to go outside, and I find it very unpleasant. I'll have to post before and after pictures. One of my favorite things about my house was the lush greenery in the front and back yards. :\ Also, the landscapers for some reason found it necessary to shut off all my circuit breakers and leave them off for the past couple of days, so everything perishable in my refrigerator... perished. Not a huge big deal, but not exactly what I was hoping to come home to....
What a curious slice of life this past year has been. Being unattached is in many ways very much like I thought it would be: restful, restless, introspective, scary, discouraging, inspiring, depressing, enlightening.... the usual turmoil of life, I suppose, except with everything in slightly sharper relief. I feel like a castle inside a moat with the drawbridge pulled up tight. I can and I do lower the drawbridge, for set and defined intervals and purposes, but while it is down I know that it is down, and I'm thinking about when I will raise it back up again, and I don't quite fully relax again until I have done so.
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Have you ever played Risk? The challenge in Risk is to manage to find a way to be left alone long enough to build up enough reserves that you can basically kick the crap out of anyone who dares mess with you. You can accomplish being left alone either by forming an alliance with another player, or by hiding out in Australia. Right now I'm hiding out in Australia. I miss the alliances, but my isolationist regime is refreshingly free of politics.
Lately, I spend perhaps an hour or more every day contemplating what is truly important. I guess we all do this, but right now it seems like my primary intellectual pursuit. What do I want? What do I care about? What do I wish to take away from this week, this month, this year? I go around and around and around... then look up and try to tell if I'm anywhere different from where I started. Usually I can't tell.
I had a chilling thought this morning: what if I backslide and stop excercising and regain the weight I've lost? The upside of having made fitness the only serious goal of the past year has been that I've stuck with it and made real progress. The downside is that if I lose my resolve, what will I have to show for my time and effort?
Okay, I don't actually think that having paid attention to my fitness for a year only has worth if I stay the course. But still I wonder: ten or twenty years from now, how will I describe this past year of my life? The beginning of something good? The end of something good? Or the down time between actual items of note? I really do wonder.
Wow, I'm feeling really good today. There are a lot of reasons, but the main one has got to be how I physically feel. I knew when I started exercising a year ago, given the shape that I was in, that it would take a good year of exercise for me to even begin approaching the level of conditioning to which I aspire. The goal that I set last Thanksgiving, when I was 221 pounds, was to lose 50 pounds by the next Thanksgiving. As of today, with seven weeks and two days remaining before the year is up, I'm right on schedule, with only 8 pounds to go to reach my goal.
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I have more strength and endurance now versus a year ago, and I feel it all the time, not just when I'm working out. Even now, just sitting here typing, I feel (to quote Van Wilder from the movie of the same name) "like a party animal crouched in attack position." Now, every day I can hardly wait for the workday to end so that I can go home and work out. And each workout feels better than the one before. Woohoo, I'm liking this! :)
Also helping my mood is that my braces have now visibly improved my teeth. We still have a good long way to go in that department, but the difference is already noticeable. Of course, getting my braces tightened every three weeks has been putting the occasional damper on my high spirits, but then again it's also why I added Adversity to my list of LiveJournal interests. Every time I'm really feeling the pain, I just remind myself that this is what fixing my teeth feels like, and that makes me feel better.
Things are improving on the work front as well, although that is more of a mixed bag. But, even though it is a stressful time, I am fairly on top of the project I am managing right now, and my boss is giving me a lot less hell. However, she is also making it clear that a couple of good weeks is not going to get me off her shit list.
Probably the biggest drag on my overall mood right now is my financial situation. I hate continuing to fall short on meeting my expenses, with no end in sight. I have cut all the expenditures that I could easily cut, so now what? I don't want to give up my house or my truck. I could always try looking for some contract work for some extra income, but the market is so nasty right now.
Anyway, things are improving, and life is good.
The political leadership of this country can be so shamelessly self-indulgent that it is just hysterically, knee-slappingly embarassing.
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Every few weeks, I read a story about our latest efforts to "diplomatically" topple Arafat from Palestinian leadership. The problem, of course, is that Arafat was basically freely elected by a majority democratic vote, and he is very popular and would certainly win again if a new vote was held today.
Pop quiz, hot-shot: what the christ do you do when the regime change that you rammed down a small country's throat leads directly to them freely and democratically aligning behind their leader's agenda of bombing the snot out of random civilians on a weekly basis in the neighboring small country that you are busily propping up?
I'll tell you. Attempting to maintain a neutral expression, you request that their parliament appoint a Prime Minister to "balance the power" that their leader has. Much like in America, where our Prime Minister, Lance Bass from 'N Sync, deftly balances the power held by President Bush. (And will soon do so from orbit, for security reasons.)
"We told them (the United States) that this is not your business. We were shocked during the discussions that the American side is speaking about changing the law of elections." (Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat)
You were shocked?
It's like some people think that just because we have been doing a lot of carpet-bombing of third-world countries recently that we are running out of bombs or something.
Did you ever, when you were young, read any of those books where "You choose the path!" that the protagonist takes by--upon reaching the bottom of each page--flipping to the appropriate new page as directed by your very own reaction to common, every-day quandaries, as in:
You awaken at the sensation of something brushing against your leg. Looking down in dismay, you see a rattlesnake slithering out of the sleeping bag and across your midsection. You respond by...
- Lying perfectly still and hoping he will leave peacefully: page 54
- Diverting his attention with one hand while grabbing for the base of his head from behind like a complete dumb-ass with the other: page 66
- Hyperventilating, gibbering senselessly, and soiling yourself: page 82
It was like being in the Director's chair! Got nerves of steel? Just lie there! Like to mix it up? Go for the clean-and-choke! Can't decide? Soil yourself!
So many choices! So deeply and richly interactive... so much more fulfilling than a simple linear book! ( N-N-N-NOT!Collapse )
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I just spent some time trying to decide how I would describe "femininity" to a unisexual alien. (Hey, I don't give you grief about how you spend your free time.) It's making me question some of the things that I had previously considered to be part of the definition. I think that the majority of my descriptors for "feminine" and "masculine" are so rooted within the system as to essentially be either tautologies or inconsequentialities. I.e., I could say something quintessentially male and you might agree because you are male and you know how I feel, or disagree because you are female and have difficulty imagining how I feel... but in both cases I am simply tickling certain malenesses or femalenesses that presumably are pre-existing within our brains, as opposed to saying something intrinsicly informative about gender.
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I think it might be a thing that is hard to actually communicate about with someone "outside of the system" (and whatever you are, hetero, homo, hermaphro... if you are human you are within the system). In fact, the truest definition might consist of just those things that are impossible to convey meaningfully to a being that hasn't felt their pull. How would you describe the taste of an orange to a silicon-based life form that "ate" sunlight? To define this, must we abstract away its very essence?
After several minutes of mind-numbingly methodical consideration, the Stanford Blood Center has rejected me as a donor.
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But I can honestly say that I was quite favorably impressed with the entire affair. The degree of efficiency with which my blood was determined to be suspect was awesome to behold. And the woman who cross-examined me was a treasure. She had this sad face with dark eyes and only one expression. The expression was, "I have to be here, I have no choice about it, and I'm basically okay with that, but it wouldn't really matter if I wasn't, now would it?"
This is as close as I can come to an actual transcript of the latter portion of the time I spent talking with this woman. If you are wondering how to pace this, it reads like Larry King in a hurry on a bad day. She has asked these questions many, many times and she just wants to get through the list and go to commercial break thank you very much. I star as the obligatory single white silicon valley male suffering from early-onset midlife crisis but suffused with a palpable glow of self-approval at what I am there to do.
( We join the interview already in progress...Collapse )
|Subject:||It's All Good|
Do you ever feel that there is no such thing as evil?
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Do you ever look around and see with utter, umistakable clarity that everybody, every last wretched one of us, is trying to find a way to do good?
Mean Old Man Hodges who lived down the street from you when you were growing up did not actually care that you were "stealing" his crabapples. Shit, they were crabapples. You gave him a socially permissible excuse to come out onto his porch and scream back at the universe for everything it had or had not done to him, and see the universe flinch and flee in the face of his wrath. For that real and immediate gratification he would readily trade any slim opportunity for random affection--or even simple respect--from the likes of you. And that is very sad, but it is not evil.
That emotionally and perhaps even physically abusive person in your past did not in fact wish you ill. That jerk who could easily wait his turn like everyone else but jumps in front of you in traffic purely because you can't prevent it... does not get pleasure from it. And, we know that we should feel bad for him; that he does not believe in justice anymore, and that this is slowly undoing him.
We all know these things. And yet we forget them. We have to forget them, to live with ourselves. The things that we say and do when we are feeling angry, jealous, betrayed--much like anger, jealousy, and betrayal themselves--are very nearly out of our control. No, this is not fatalism; it's realism. Yes, we have access to some of the controls, but that doesn't really mean that we understand them, or that they will work as intended. Like a battleship captain, we remain painfully aware of how each of the vast number of entities upon which we depend seems to have a mind of its own. Yeah, you can make the decision to throw that puppy into reverse whenever you like, but don't expect to be knocked over by any sudden changes of direction.
The big lies, the small fibs, the lies of omission, the digs and jabs and monotones and dirty looks and passive aggression and silent treatments and curt tones and too-abrupt good-bye's... they are wrong. They are hurtful. And we allow ourselves to do them, and are able to live with ourselves the next day, because our intellects are undermanned teams of strung-out, frenzied cattle rustlers in the midst of a never-ending emotion stampede. All of your fancy-schmancy logic and reasoning and abstract problem solving gray matter is, anthropologically speaking, an afterthought. The differences between our brains and those of the apes and, for that matter, the dogs and the cats, are largely differences in degree rather than in kind. We are still 95% wild animal, brains included.
And yet, properly trained and nurtured and encouraged and tolerated and protected and admonished for twenty years or so, the human animal can come to expect quite a lot of itself. And the failure of any particular human animal to successfully manage or contain or channel or prevent or explain away her atavistic tendencies--that lapse in containment, that breakdown of control--somehow mutates in our minds from the absence of something desirable to the presence of something undesirable. And it takes on a name. It becomes Evil. And the animal in question becomes a Bad Person.
Well I don't really buy it. Not about myself, or you, or anyone else. And while this doesn't mean that I suddenly have infinite patience or understanding or tolerance, it does make me a little bit more inclined than I might otherwise be to look for the pain behind the hurtfulness, to imagine what lead up to it--or at least stipulate that things did lead up to it--and attempt to defuse the escalation of animosity when I find myself being being drawn into it, instead of just letting my emotions do what they were evolved to do (and let's be honest here): protect my interests at the expense of the interests of the other animals.
I had to write this today. I really don't know why. That is all. :)
It's official, I definitely look like Anthony Edwards. I'm pretty sure that once three total strangers go out of their way to say you look like Anthony Edwards, you probably look like Anthony Edwards. Granted it took about ten years for the Anthony Edwards Observation Count to reach three, but I doubt that that invalidates the logic.
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I tried to convince today's Star Finder (the guy behind the register at Starbucks) that it was Maverick he was thinking of, not Goose. But he stuck to his Gun. If you will. :)
I always smile when I think of the those words, and I could think of no better title for this post. When I was in the Army, stationed in Frankfurt, our unit would travel an awful lot. We spent so much time on the road that we all had our established games and routines for entertaining ourselves. For a little while, myself and a friend named Cal Cain used to take turns coming up with short titles and then trying to work up supporting art and prose. Working from the same title, he would draw a picture and I would write a story. I believe we would usually set a time-limit of 30 minutes or so. Then we would compare themes and ideas, trade constructive criticisms and encouraging pats on the back, etc. One day I was struggling to think of the next title that I would contribute, so I asked my good friend Dirk to help me come up with one. Dirk is a brilliant and extremely creative guy. But, like me, he could tend to be a little over-exuberant at times, and I wanted to keep him in check. So I emphasized that I wanted something subtle. Nothing hokey, no melodrama. It should be terse and distinct, but muted, understated, and only lightly suggestive of something deeper and more profound. Dirk shut his eyes for over a minute, then smiled, raised a finger and opened his eyes. "I've got it. I've definitely got it."
Bogo: "Okay, go."
Dirk: "Some...Call It Thunder."
Bogo: "That's not..." (smile) "Are you..." (snicker) "Did you even listen to what I said?" (starting to laugh) "Some Call It Thunder? Some Call It Thunder?"
Dirk: (already laughing too hard to defend himself)
Bogo: (in a booming voice) "Some... call it thunder. SOME... call it: Thunder!!"
Both: (laugh until they cry)
So, it now being established that I am in kind of a goofy mood, and having deftly foreshadowed the shadowy masses gliding beneath the surface of this post with my quirky title and charming back-story, I now provide a random sampling of some of the things that are consuming my thoughts today, this week, this month, and this year:
- Should I get back to writing music?
- Should I become a better piano player?
- Should I get back to working on my novel?
- Should I attempt to get a job working for a gaming company?
- Should I learn the guitar?
- Should I attempt to date somebody?
- Should I get back to learning the drums?
- Should I take some night classes?
- Should I throw caution to the wind and attempt to do what I've always secretly dreamed of doing: script and direct an independent film?
- Should I move closer to my parents (in Massachusetts), who have recently had health issues and who have none of their kids living locally?
I don't know about you, but I'm sensing a pattern here. A pattern of floundering like a beached... well, flounder. And I know it isn't that I do nothing but sit around pondering what I should do... I do
pick up the guitar for a few minutes most days, and I do
play the piano almost every day, and sometimes the drums, and now and then I write a snippet of fiction or play with a song idea... but there's no real traction. I am thrashing, in thoughts and actions alike. At the end of each day, an imposing-as-a-group slew of each-trivial-by-itself challenges are vanquished, but I am not measurably closer to realizing my dreams.
To be sure, there are things that I am happy about, changes for the better. I haven't had a cigarette in over a year. I have lost 30 pounds (plus however much a beard weighs...). I exercise almost every day. I have the ruthless and remorseless T-1000 ceramic braces laying unremitting hellfire on my crooked teeth. I have great friends, two cats that I love, a house that I am very comfortable in, a truck that I make up reasons to drive, and enough free time to take advantage of all of the above.
I have become complacent. Me. The guy who has been jolted awake by nightmares about being old and dying since he was seven years old.
Or more accurately: after years of being complacent, a solid year of starting
to become a little bit less complacent may be having an effect. Is
having an effect, but an uncertain one. I am experiencing a curious accretion of will, a burgeoning knot in the back of my mind, a determination searching for its outlet. I am pretty sure that I am about to pour a great deal of energy into something, I just don't know what.
Crossroads are cool.
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I just returned from the interesting experience of getting braces put on my teeth. I have spent pretty much my entire life dreading or looking forward to getting braces, and now I finally have them. I've needed them since I was very young, but I was terrified by the prospect of getting them. Mouth/teeth pain is something that I have always had a lot of anxiety about. After watching my sister, whose teeth were very much like mine, go through a miserable experience with braces, I managed to convince my parents that having braces would interfere with my budding career as a saxophone player (I was gigging for money at 16). Having just spent thousands of dollars on braces for my sister, my parents weren't terribly hard to convince. I then let out a huge sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that I would not have to spend my adolescent years--clearly the most important years of anyone's life--fretting that the other kids would put refrigerator magnets on my face if I fell asleep in class.
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Fast-forward ten years. I am 26, and seeing my sister for the first time in years. I am amazed by what a gorgeous smile she has. It has been five years since I sold my saxophone so I could afford to freeze heads for a living in California, and seven years since I actually aspired to be a professional sax player. My teeth are in horrible disrepair. It's hard to find motivation to take good care of them because they are going to look bad whether I take good care of them or not. So, I let them go to hell, completely overwhelmed by what a long road then stood between me and good dental health.
Fast-forward five years. I am 31, and the various mouth ailments are getting out of control. I finally decide to get my ass in gear. It starts with my wisdom teeth. They are in rough, rough shape. They are stuck partially underneath the other molars, and they are breaking apart, and they are also breaking apart the molars under which they are partially jammed. I go in for surgery, and to my great surprise he is able to get them all out in one marathon teeth-demolishing bloodbath. Did you read Cryptonomicon? If so, you know the scene I'm talking about. It was just exactly like that. When I came to, I could see the dental surgeon sitting in the next room looking like he had just pulled an all-nighter with the 4077th. When he looked up at me, I swear that I saw hatred in his eyes. It was an expression that one can only witness by single-handedly making someone regret their chosen profession and related life choices.
The next week was the most miserable week of my life, and that specifically includes the time when I was mauled by a dog and needed plastic surgery to my face. However, thanks to much love and support from memgineer, howdylectable, fjarlq, and capitalkay, I survived it and was able to move forward with the business of fixing my remaining teeth. Over the next two years, I made seventeen visits to my new dentist, Dr. Gallagher. It was precisely eight visits before he made the very first non-essential overture of communication in my direction. After seven visits of dirty looks, on my eight visit he looked up at his new dental assistant as he was finishing up with me and said, "You should of seen this guy when he first came in. Boy, what a mess." And then he laughed, the only time I've seen him laugh or smile in any of those seventeen visits. But, I was finally a person to him, so I took some satisfaction from that.
Fast-forward to last week. My seventeenth visit to Dr. Gallagher. I ask him about the possibility of a referral to an orthodontist for a consultation, which is something that I previously asked about after my eight and (roughly) twelfth visits, and for the first time he doesn't say "We're not there yet." He actually gets out a piece of paper and writes a name on it and hands it to me. I take the paper from him and read it, and it does not say "We're not there yet, dammit... keep this for future reference" as I feared it might. It says "Dr. Christian" and has a phone number.
And so. The day has finally come. I said at the top of this message that I actually spent part of my life looking forward to getting braces. That part has been the past couple of years, since I made the decision to do whatever it would take to have a smile that I am proud of. At that time I loosely categorized what lay ahead of me as "the stuff I need to do to get my teeth strong enough to wear braces," and "wearing braces". From that moment on I was eagerly awaiting this day. Now, I am eagerly awaiting a new date, 18 months in my future.
For the record, they are ceramic (transparent) braces, so the only metal in my mouth is the wire running between them and a small metal rut in each "bracket" (the part that mounts to the tooth). Overall, it is much less eye-grabbing than any braces I've ever seen on anyone else. Still, you can't really miss that I suddenly have braces. But, I'm alright with that. For the first time in my life, I look like a guy in the process of doing something about his bad teeth.
Also worth noting: getting my braces off won't be the end of this road. I will still need some cosmetic work to rebuild a couple of teeth, as well as (in all likelihood) some caps. I can hardly wait to be at that stage....