Thursday, June 28, 2012

Enter Schopey

"And yet, just as our body would burst asunder if the pressure of the atmosphere were removed from it, so would the arrogance of men expand, if not to the point of bursting then to that of the most unbridled folly, indeed madness, if the pressure of want, toil, calamity and frustration were removed from their life. One can even say that we require at all times a certain quantity of care or sorrow or want, as a ship requires a ballast, in order to keep on a straight course." ~ Artie Schopenhauer
I've ignored Arthur Schopenhauer for a long time, and only within the past few weeks have realized what a mistake that was. His aphorisms provide me with great catharsis. He's one of two important writers (the other is H.P. Lovecraft) that I have to thank Michel Houellebecq for; I think the best artists turn you onto other artists, and Houellebecq is good at that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

June Status Updates

6/25/12: My life thus far has been composed of a series of violent growth spurts punctuated by moments of sleepy over-confidence.

6/23/12: I was going to write 'my body is trying to sabotage me', but then I realized I--as a materialist--can't say that. I would have to say 'I am trying to sabotage me', which sounds much more alarming.

6/21/12: My favorite parts of a project are the beginning and end. It's fun to create something, and it's fun to receive the payoff at the end. There's an anxiety in the middle though: What if this fails? Do you really know what you're doing? If someone dies because of this, will your insurance cover it? I'm really starting to think that's an important part of it though. It would be hard to enjoy the beginning and ending part if it weren't for the anxious middle.

6/20/12: I just saw my first anti-Romney ad. The most striking thing about it was that none of the photos they showed of Romney were bad. Usually the opposition tries to find the most unflattering images of their opponent that they can find, but Romney looks like a soap opera leading man in every one.

6/20/12: Oh, the humanity: I found a 'Big Texas Cookie' in my office desk. It is wrapped, but it doesn't have an expiration date on it. I vaguely remember picking it up at a staff meeting around 5 or 6 months ago. I'm thinking about eating will this end?

6/19/12: Pearl Jam's 'Vitalogy' is the greatest mainstream rock album to come out in the 90's.

6/19/12: "In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt

6/18/12: I wish Ryan Kennebeck wasn't dead. I loved him. I think he would have been great in his 30's.

6/16/12: I wonder what it would be like to be normal.

6/15/12: Just had the uncomfortable and somewhat surreal experience of explaining to my oldest two sons why one of them is circumcized while his two younger brothers aren't. To hear the words 'because in the bible, god asked Abraham to cut part of his son's penis off to prove his dedication to him' come out of your mouth--and to see the look of stupified horror on the faces of your children--when explaining why you decided to subject one of them to a non-essential surgical procedure, is unnerving.

6/15/12: Spencer, Jack, and I watched 'The Grey' last night. Wonderful, inspirational movie. I'm adding Liam Neeson's character to my growing roster of atheist movie heroes.

6/14/12: someone wrote 'RAP MUSIC' on the tube slide at the playground with a big black permanent marker.

6/13/12: yesterday I took little Spencer to work with me, and he sat through the staff meeting I presided over. Just now, he walked into his bedroom--where Jack and I were playing table hockey--and read a draft of his next 'team meeting' to us from a green composition book he was carrying. He acknowledged that they hadn't been making as many comic books as they had planned, but reassured his team that he had a plan to order more supplies.

6/11/12: There's a man screaming into a bullhorn about Jesus across the street. He seems to be enjoying himself.

6/9/12: "No interesting project can be embarked on without fear. I shall be scared to death half the time." ~ frank chichester

6/9/12: I took Jack to the mall today to spend his birthday money (he bought a cool hat, a dr. Who shirt, and an Adventure Time sword), and there was a man in his late fifties wearing khaki shorts and a green polo shirt sitting on a bench. A teenage girl (maybe 18 or 19) wearing a loose, bohemian style blouse and a very short skirt walked past him. He looked at her with a very sad, hungry, longing expression. Clearly, he felt like he had missed some opportunities in his youth.

6/8/12: I think the movie versions of The Watchmen and V for Vendetta are both better than the comic book versions.

6/7/12: "So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life...and, just as a bonus, for some reason your zipper will always be down, especially when you are speaking to large groups, even if you're pretty sure you zipped the damned thing back up the last time you used it." - Genesis 3:14

6/4/12: Sometimes I think I'm in the mood to listen to intense metal music, but after about two or three songs I'm like, 'jeez, what's this guy so upset about?', and then I switch back to my regular snotty art rock.

6/4/12: Langston just sat absolutely still while I pulled a tremendous splinter from the heel of his foot with a pair of tweezers ('tremendous' may not be the right word here: lots of things look tremendous compared to a 1 year old's heel). I expected some pushback; at least a little crying. Instead, he was pretty interested in the whole procedure, and he gave me a hug when I handed him the splinter (which was basically the size of a table leg). I have some cool little people in my life.

6/3/12: Just because I am a nerd, I present my top 5 albums of all time:

1) Crash Test Dummies: A Worm's Life

2) Frank Black & The Catholics: Dog In Sand

3) Pulp: This Is Hardcore

4) The Bad Plus: These Are The Vistas

5) Hawksley Workman: For Him & The Girls

Please buy all of these albums immediately if you do not already own them.

6/2/12: I just got myself trapped in a stereotypical sitcom-husband situation: I was telling my wife about a girl someone tried to hook me up with in high school in spite of the fact that 'she was way too beautiful for me'. My attempts to try to walk back that statement (and the implication that someone who would date me wouldn't necessarily be less than beautiful) only dug the hole deeper. The only thing lacking was the laugh track.

6/1/12: cool, drizzly weather like this nourishes my dark little soul. This is a good day to listen to Morrissey at a high volume while cleaning the house with all the windows open.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blogging Update

I think it's going to be a little dry around here post-wise for the next couple of weeks. Many projects at work, many projects at home, no time to sit down and write anything...I've got a couple of ideas, but it may be a second before I get around to laying them down.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope to be back up to regular speed in a few weeks.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A song I frequently find myself singing:

Maybe it's my mountain ancestry coming out, but this tune gets into all the nooks and crannies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Today I learned that in medieval churches in Ireland and England, there were often these carvings called “sheela-na-gigs” or “sheela-na-nigs” that were literally just grimacing figures holding open their own vulvas. Nobody can agree on their function or what exactly they represented.
So yep. That’s my dose of history for today.

For more, go here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Male Feminists

I consider myself a feminist, which means I think women should have the same rights and responsibilities as men. It also means that I believe we live in a patriarchal society, and that the system has been rigged against women for years and years, and that there's a lot of--mainly sociological--work to be done to right these wrongs.

I encourage my fellow men to adopt this position, and to publicly advocate for it, and am glad when I see men standing up for feminist ideas.

On the other hand, I have to admit, I am always a little cynical about the motives of men when they advocate loudly for equality, or talk too much about 'the patriarchy' and stuff like that. There is a part of me that always thinks, 'well, haven't you found a clever way to get laid?'

I ask that question about myself too. Even though I'm happily married, I love women. I have always clicked better with women than with men. I like to have plenty of beautiful, intelligent, funny women in any environment I inhabit. The idea of the 'boy's night' has always seemed kind of absurd to me: what's the point?  I like to connect with women. So although I do believe in equality and feminism, and social justice, there is always some voice in the back of my mind asking 'how much of what you are talking about is conviction, and how much is game?'

There was a meme on tumblr recently that featured some doe-eyed jack ass with stars in the background holding a sign that read something like 'girls, you don't have to wear make-up and pretty clothes. You're all beautiful as you are', or some bullshit like that. One woman responded with a photo of herself holding a sign that said 'dear boy in space: don't tell me what to do.'

And then several men got in on the action, chastising their fellow men for patronizing women with various levels of cleverness. My first thought when I saw this was 'I bet when they thought of this idea, they were like, 'the ladies are gonna love this!'.

I could be wrong. I could just be more of a tree-dweller than many of my fellow enlightened males; I'm sure they'd be the first to tell me so, and probably in the most public forum possible.

'The Kiss Of Death'

"The kiss of death.
This astonishing sculpture forms part of Barcelona’s Poblenou Cemetery.  The Kiss of Death (El Petó de la Mort in Catalan and El beso de la muerte in Spanish) dates back to 1930. A winged skeleton bestows a kiss on the lips of a handsome young man: is it ecstasy on his face or resignation? Little wonder the sculpture elicits strong and varying responses from whoever gazes upon it." -from The Third Hobbit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

1 Day, 1 Year, 1 Life at a Time: I'm Staying Sober

"henry's mind grew blacker the more he thought."  ~ John Berryman, Dream Song 147

It is easy for people like me to fall into addiction. As of May 30, I have been sober for 1 year. The result is that I don't wake up daily wanting to kill myself for being unable to control my demons, but there is still a creeping dread that waits around every corner.

For 5 years, I medicated myself. Medicated to ward off psychic pain caused by the suicide of a dear friend, to cope with the internal emptiness that was the result of accepting the fact that I no longer believed in God, and medicated to provide myself with some kind of commercial break for my mad full time pursuit of a college degree while I was also working a full time bank job. Medicated as well, to ward off that ever looming question: 'What if you fail?'.

Now I'm clean, but goddammit, I still have the same mind. No escaping it. I'm less impulsive the farther away I get from alcohol, and the mood swings are less intense and fewer, but they're still there. I cannot stop thinking. At some moments, life seems too short. There's so much beauty, so much potential, so many wonderful moments. Other moments, life seems horribly long. An expanse of drudgery, humiliation, and all kinds of potential pitfalls and failures stretched out forever and ever. There are so many things wrong with me--and the things that I can have an impact on...the obstacles can seem insurmountable. And then there are the things that are way bigger than me; things that I can only quietly seethe and rage about. Write a blog about. Bite my fingernails. There's a lot of that stuff too.

My 1 year anniversary of sobriety didn't come with a lot of mental confetti and balloons dropping from the ceiling. I'm  a landmark kind of guy, so making it to a year feels good. But it's just one year. There are many, many more years ahead (hopefully), and nowhere to hide. I've given up the only place I could hide from my own mind in.

And what a mind! What a vicious, horrible, calculating thing. Always examining the angles, second guessing the decisions, reading into every motivation of myself and everyone else, always trying--like a good chess player--to plan 8 or 9 moves ahead. What do you do with a machine like my mind? I am grim company. 

Another quotation I found in John Berryman's 'Dream Songs':

"No interesting project can be embarked on without fear. I shall be scared to death half the time." ~ Frank Chichester 
 Life is interesting, and I am sufficiently scared.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Most Heroic Act In The Bible

If you ask me, the most heroic in all of the bible was performed by the serpent, when he shared the fruit of knowledge with Eve. Surely he understood God well enough to know that his plot to gift mankind with understanding would be uncovered--and that he would be punished--but he still delivered the goods. He gave mankind the ability to know right from wrong, the ability to understand ourselves and the world around us in the same way the gods do, and the ability to dream and create. In short, he saved us from being mere automatons. In addition to this, what a brilliant revolutionary move. When your opponent is omnipotent, to score a victory like this--however Pyrrhic--is noteworthy.

The second most heroic act in The Bible, I think, is still Jesus's sacrifice on the cross. I know the concept of vicarious redemption is evil--and evilly flawed--but when you are playing one of Jigsaw's death-games, you play by his rules if you care about the outcome, even if the rules are insane. Jesus was a helpless captive of a mad god's evil plan, and he must have truly loved mankind in order to suffer such an absurd fate for such absurd creatures as us.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Road To Melville

I've decided to dedicate the next six months to reading Moby Dick. It took me 6 months to read Don Quixote, so I think 6 months should be plenty of time to read Moby Dick.

I am a slow reader. Russell Blackford announced on his facebook page not too long ago that he was going to re-read Moby Dick, and I think he was done with it somewhere in the neighborhood of a week. I am a much simpler man than Russell Blackford.

So far this year, this is what I've read: Hitch-22, Tropic of Cancer, The Map & The Territory, The Elementary Particles, Thomas Jefferson: Author of America, The 48 Laws of Power, Good to Great, American Library's HP Lovecraft compendium, Fear and Loathing On the Campaign Trail: '72, Paul Reiser's 'Familyhood', Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac, and about 2 dozen articles, essays, and studies on the mental health system in the United States. My big project at work currently is to reform that system.

It's appropriate, I think, for someone interested in overhauling America's mental health system to dive into the story of Captain Ahab's mad pursuit of the great white whale. So that is what I'm doing. The title of this post, I hope you noticed, is also an ode to T.C. Boyle's 'The Road To Wellville', which is a book about a quack who created a weird commune for his own particularly quacky approach to general well being. I hope you appreciated the double entendre.

I started to read Moby Dick a little while back, but got distracted. Moby Dick is a book that I've started reading several times, and always get distracted from it. It's so big. So engrained in our culture. It was assigned reading in school. All of these things lessen my enthusiasm.

And there are always shorter books to read. New things, that I've just discovered. For instance, I'm really keen on Michel Houellebecq right now. I've only just begun reading his stuff, and it's really great. It's tempting to dedicate the next couple of months to reading all of his stuff. And if I'm looking for classical wisdom, or something that smells pleasantly musty, there are always my favorite old-timers: Epictetus, Epicurus, Marcus Aurelius, Montaigne...These are guys I can dip back into over and over again.

But there's something unsatisfying about constantly dipping back into a familiar work. I want to read something new, from cover to cover. I've been told in the past that the best time to give up on a book is when you find yourself skipping ahead to see how many pages are left: this doesn't work for me. I hate the feeling of unfinished business. Which is why I am going to finally finish Moby Dick. I'm coming for you too--by the way--Magic Mountain. Don't get too comfortable on that bookshelf.

So that's that. I was feeling that pressure building up in the center of my being that is the result of me not writing for a few days, but that's all cleared up now. I've blown my load, and am feeling a little sleepy. But before I turn in, maybe it's time to do a little fishing?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Life, Friends, Is Poetry.

I've been reading this guy a lot lately. There are a lot of writers--poets especially--who you wonder sometimes, 'what would they be like without all the booze?'. Berryman's one of them. Maybe he could have avoided suicide? It's impossible to say, really, but you ache for a person who made something as beautiful as The Dream Songs out of the stuff of their pain.

I don't agree that life is boring, but it can definitely be challenging, and it can definitely make a person hard. I respect people who are able to remain soft in the face of life. The people who refuse to get tough, in the end, are my heroes.

The poem begins at 4:24, but what takes place before it is still interesting, if you're interested in boring stuff.