Friday, December 30, 2011

Everything In the Medicine Cabinet Is Available

in book form. If you're interested in buying a copy, click the link below:


I think I've put all of my best pieces in this collection. If you buy it, I hope you like it. Let me know what you think either way.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

'I Celebrate Myself, and Sing Myself'

“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their own song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their songs instead.”

- Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Newt Gingrich Sums Up Ron Paul Concisely.

"Gingrich said Paul's "total record of systemic avoidance of reality" makes him unthinkable as a president."

Right on. I know Paul is a fetish candidate for certain segments of our population to whom 'passionate' is the default p.c. way to refer to their and their dear leader's nuttiness, but Ron Paul is a terrible candidate for president. If you have any interest in protecting America & Democracy on a global scale, or would like to prevent America from falling into a serfdom, you shouldn't vote for Ron Paul. He is that crazy customer at the coffee shop who comes in daily to talk deeply to you about the very narrow slice of history and philosophy he has internalized, reconnecting all thoughts to his very specific belief system, all the while spraying your sweater with bits of moist scone and flecks of cappuccino foam.

Ron Paul should be annoying and entertaining Starbucks baristas somewhere. He shouldn't be in charge of the nuclear weapons (not that he'd ever have the nerve to use them).

Monday, December 26, 2011

On Evil

Today, I heard someone refer to a film as 'evil'. After recovering from the jealousy I feel whenever someone sees something that I have not created as sufficiently harmful to the social and spiritual fabric of mankind to call evil, I became a little perplexed. And then I was offended, because the film in question wasn't evil by any stretch of the imagination. It was slightly irreverent, a little bawdy, and contained a few favorable references to Satan. All in all, a good family film. Not high brow, but definitely not evil.

It's been so long since I've heard someone refer to some pop-culture trinket as evil that I am shocked and amused to remember that this is the mindset of some folks. In a world where people starve to death not long after birth, where dictators crush democratic movements, where children are taught not to question authority, where people mutilate the genitals of infants at the behest of ancient crime anthologies, there are individuals out there who lose sleep over Harold & Kumar's latest hijinx.

They say that the smartest thing Satan ever did was to convince people that he doesn't exist. As a person who looks favorably upon Satan in general, I think this move was probably just good self defense. If the plebians who believe Lady Gaga has been sent to corrupt the souls of our young ever got wind of such a sophisticated and moral being, they would undoubtedly tear him limb from limb, or crucify him, just like they have done to all of our truly original thinkers. But there's something to this idea though: if you ask me, the greatest evils in this world are the evils Charles Dickens warned us about in A Christmas Carol: Ignorance & Want. Ignorance of the true extent of our human freedom--from gods, leaders, parents, authorities, traditions--ignorance of each other that leads to tribal thinking and insular protectionism. And then there's the want. Want of education, housing, healthcare, a steady food supply, access to the arts and other culturally enriching treasures. Want of justice. Want of equality. These are the real evils.

As long as there are people out there who think their ears are too precious to be defiled with 'swear words' and ideas that challenge their personally preferred paradigms--and think that the naked human body is the most vile type of blasphemy--the real evils of the world will continue on unchecked.

If the devil is the same kind of vulgarian as many of the people who believe in him seem to be, then his best idea wasn't to convince the world that he didn't exist, but to distract it with something shiny.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Everything In The Medicine Cabinet Will Be Published

I am going to self-publish a collection of my favorite stories, poems, and essays from this blog some time in 2012. Below is the introduction for the book version of Everything In The Medicine Cabinet Has Expired:

This book is a snapshot of my mind and things that happened to me between 2007 and 2012. I think the reason I have resisted self-publication for so long is vanity; If I was ever to be published, I wanted it to be 'legit', i.e., paid for.

But I don't care about that anymore. Life has a way of beating vanity out of you if you don't abandon it willingly.

I'm publishing this book mainly for my wife and children, and the people who have cared for me as a record, so they can visit me--in a way--after I am dead. The specter of being murdered, dying in a terrible car crash, or having my heart suddenly explode in my chest is ever looming, so I thought I should get down to business putting this thing together.

Mainly I'm publishing it for my sons, Spencer, Jack, and Langston. Fathers have a strange effect on their sons, and I thought that if my kids had a record of where I was at emotionally and mentally during their formative years it might help them to understand themselves better at some future moment. I hardly trust myself to give an objective account of my mindset and motives at some future date--the tendency to rationalize and justify is strong--so better to capture it all now.

If I can preserve a few copies for Abby & the kids, and maybe sell enough copies to friends and family to make up the cost of publishing, I will consider this book a success.

-Spencer Troxell, December 20th, 2011.

That's it. I'll let you know when I've got it all together. I assume I'll use a venue like lulu or something.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Moving Into a World Without Hitchens

"We barely got our trousers off" ~ Christopher Hitchens.

I'm not inclined to turn public figures into heroes, because I think it dehumanizes them and also removes the impetus from us to try to do great and good things ourselves. We don't have the whole picture of what public figures are like. Even they probably don't have that. What we have is our perceptions, and the recorded perceptions of others.

Many people share many of my perceptions of Christopher Hitchens. I'm sure there are loads of pre-written obituaries being tinkered with and published today. I don't know how many of them I'm going to read, but I'm sure most of the positive ones will notice (and try to subtly equal or outdo) his eloquence and rhetorical skills. Many people will hail him as an important journalist, and a champion of reason and democracy. Some will also relish capturing every idiosyncracy he possessed, and will celebrate his death.

Before he began writing and talking about his atheism, he amused me. After he began writing and talking about his atheism, he inspired me. I began to look into some of his other thoughts a little closer, and found some I liked and some I didn't. I usually had a good time reading anything he wrote about. His most superficial public persona was entertaining, but the more you watched him and read him, the more you saw his essential honesty and humanity. In public he was a passionate defender and believer in human freedom, an epicurean spirit who threw himself into the wonderful carnal aspects of life, and ultimately a deeply moral man. I got a shiver when in a debate he said that if a god asked him to kill his children to please the divine will he would respond with a heartfelt 'fuck you'. I appreciated the moment in another debate where he said to a person in the religion profession who stated he didn't think he'd be a very good person if there wasn't a god, 'don't give up on yourself so easily'. I loved how frankly he talked about dying. I took great comfort in seeing the issue approached without any sugar coating, and with great humanity and reflection. Death is something that I think about a lot, and in Christopher Hitchens I can refer to a person who took it seriously, and didn't move towards it with any blinders on.

Hitchens didn't believe in an afterlife. Neither do I. He is gone, and he'll never make an original statement again. We have his writings and various recorded appearances, but it's not the same. He's dead.

But if it turns out that Hitchens and I are wrong and there is an afterlife, then let me say this: Mr. Hitchens, I'll see you in hell. If it exists it's full of all of the people I have ever loved and admired while on this Earth, so it can't be such a bad place after all.

this was posted in the comment section over at Why Evolution Is True:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not Dead.

Just busy.

Unfortunately, no one pays me to write these blog posts, so it's something I have to do in my leisure time. Right now there's not a lot of leisure time.

I hope to be back at it soon.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Horrible Possibility

“In the midst of great tragedy, there is always the horrible possibility that something terribly funny will happen.” ~ Phillip K. Dick

via Neil Gaiman via things Greater Than Lapsed likes.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wa Habibi

Kronos Quartet has been scratching an itch for me this winter:

To me, music is intimately tied to seasons. In the Autumn, it's folk music and smokey sounding jazz. As winter approaches, give me strings. Maybe a little piano. I want sincerity and intensity when there's snow on the ground, maybe punctuated by a little awe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Guilt

"But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing." ~John Berryman, from Dream Song 29

Originally I was going to call this piece 'On Christian Guilt', but then I realized that would be somewhat disingenuous. Even if you can put an interesting spin on the kind of guilt Christians experience (they are guilty for the wrongful execution of their deliverer, thousands of years before they were born), we all experience guilt. There is some kind of crucifixion--real or imagined--hanging over everyone's head.

And I harp on the Christians too much. I harp on them like a person in recovery harps on people who are still 'stuck in the lifestyle'. The harping is incessant, and probably misplaced, but it's done--at least 25% of it--in love and concern.

There is a pressure to live right. Or if not right, then at least authentically. To live right & authentically would take a true feat of skill and attention, so maybe the only thing we can really aim for is to live attentively. But even that is hard, because we tend to want to fall into a rhythm. In this regard, maybe music is our worst and most beautiful enemy.

Isn't that what the Buddhists want us to do? To disappear into the process, to become one with the ebb & flow of life? Don't they want us to be just one small motion in a great dance, each of us amounting to the twitch of a muscle or the falling of an eyelash? Can we have it both ways?

Surely there are some of us who feel guilty but aren't guilty, and some who are guilty and do not feel guilty, and some who feel guilty and are guilty, and some who don't feel guilty and are not guilty. Regardless of whether we actually have free will, we feel like we have it, so it bothers us when things don't line up the way we want them to. It makes us feel guilty when we look back on our past and see how badly we've behaved. Anybody with any kind of aspirations to an ideal state is going to be constantly disappointed in themselves. Anybody who's ever known anyone who has committed suicide is going to have plenty of 'what if' questions to ask themselves, and none of us will ever get any rest over it. I don't know if we should want to, really, although maybe it would be nice to take a break every now and then.

Grief is the dirt under the fingernails life. Grief is the understanding that something has gone wrong, and--for me at least--guilt is the result of feeling that more could have been done.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sin Boldly...Or At Least Be Able To

"Provided that we can keep a young man's will and appetites under control,let us boldly make him used to all nations and all countries, to irregularity and excess, if need be. In his practice he should follow custom. He should be able to do everything, but only like doing what is good. Even philosophers do not find it praiseworthy in Callisthenes that he forfeited the favor of his master, Alexander the Great, by refusing to keep with him in drinking. He should laugh and sport and debauch himself with his prince. Even in his debauches I would have him surpass his companions in vigor and persistency, and refrain from evil-doing not from lack of strength or skill, but only from lack of inclination. 'There is a great difference between a man who does not want to sin and one who does not know how to'." ~ Montaigne, from his essay On the Education Of Children

Saturday, December 3, 2011

There Are Other Fish In The Sandbox (Romantic Advice For a 6 Year Old Boy)

My son Jack is an amorous young man. He is very interested in the ladies. Once during pre-school recess, he made a bouquet of flowers for a little girl in his class, got down on a knee and proposed to her. He shows a lot of interest in all of his little girlfriends; holding their hands, practicing active listening, etc. I am half impressed and half terrified by this disposition.

When I picked Jack up from school the other day, he seemed a little down. 'What's up, buddy?' I said. 'My girlfriend broke up with me today', he said.

'Oh!' I said. 'That's too bad. What happened?'

'She said we're broke up'.

'Well', I said, 'There are other fish in the sea'.

'I'm confused by your fishing metaphors'. Piped in Spencer, my 10 year old.

'What that means,' I said, 'is that there are other girls in the sea. And the best way to to turn one of them into your girlfriend is to dangle a worm in front of their face'.

Spencer laughed. 'For some reason I don't think that will work'.

'It has always worked for me'. I said. I patted Jack on the shoulder. 'Don't be too upset about this. She's the one who's losing out, really. You're a cool dude. You don't need a girlfriend to be happy. Besides, you've got to be happy to be by yourself before you can be happy being with someone else'.

I'm not sure that last sentence made much sense to either me or Jack. I have a bad habit of trying to fill empty space with wise words, especially when I don't know what to say. Cliches pour from my mouth when my kids are struggling with something that I don't have the answer to.

Kid: Dad, I miss our pet bunny. I wish it hadn't died.
Me: a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

Kid: What happens when we die?
Me: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Kid: What is a eukaryote?
Me: A just man is like a tree planted by a stream.

I'm glad to have my little Don Juan, I just hope he doesn't turn me into a grandfather by the time he's in 6th grade.