30 November 2009
Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have -
a. hot and cold running water?
b. a flush toilet?
c. a bathtub or shower?
d. a sink with a faucet?
e. a stove or range?
f. a refrigerator?
g. telephone service from which you can both make and receive calls? Include cell phones.
Wow. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this question is on here. There must be some primitive American homes on the postal grid. But still, it's the 21st century. Why shouldn't everyone be able to answer yes to all of them like I did?
Not only am I lucky to have been born in America, I'm lucky to have been born into the lucky America that takes running water and food storage for granted.
This doesn't make me love America more. It makes me more ashamed of economic inequality. Spoiled brats get their Sweet Sixteens boasted on MTV, but the "have-nots" only get to watch, that is if they're lucky enough to experience the luxury of cable television... or "a sink with a faucet" for that matter.
19 November 2009
29 October 2009
I can't believe I've never blogged about my cooking before. I'm terrible at cooking, as you can imagine. I'm such a left-overs cooker too. Those who have seen the sorts of things I eat can probably imagine the sorts of things I cook. I mean:
- I once made dessert burgers, which might've been salvageable up until the point where I dumped half a jar of molasses in with the half-frozen ground beef;
- if I had a restaurant, my signature sandwich would be The Pregnant Lady: grilled sourdough with cheese, pickles, french fries, tomatoes, onions, and a variety of sauces that make the ending plate representative of the afterbirth;
- in college, I would race others through plastic cafeteria cups full of table-made slop. And I rarely lost.
So you can imagine how much Tom Chode-Lickio from Top Chef would enjoy having me ram my fucking cooking down his toad throat.
Music helps when I cook, so I threw on some Mason Jennings (discovering the beauty of “How Deep Is That River,” a song from his last album). The cardboard box holding the plastic pouch of ready-made guacamole was cast aside next to the Mason Jennings paper CD case. Dun't wurry, Mason. I wun't thro' yur c-d-buklet uh'way thunkin' it's a gwack-uh-molay bux.
Here's an accoutrement I developed tonight:
The Wacky Wizard's Scientifically Speedy Garlic Butter
- one used Trader Joe's frozen crème brulee dish
- one reasonable-sized pat of refrigerated butter
- one chopped, pressed garlic clove
Use microwave to melt butter in crème brulee dish. Melt butter only halfway. Add crushed garlic. Melt butter the rest of the way.
I spooned this Scientifically Speedy Garlic Butter onto oat bran toast. Now that's some wacky garlic bread to go with an even more wacky meal.
But first things first.
The appetizer (or “First Course” as the professionals call it) was an apple & cheese plate. I decided to serve the apple en apple slicer alongside a variety of cheeses: walnut gouda, hand-broken triangles of provolone, and Cambazola (a very-bleu cheese with mushrooms). Thanks also to my sponsor, Babybel, for the featured cheese of the plate for their Babybel Light semi-soft cheese. Babybel Light. The lite Babybel.
Em seemed to be enjoying “First Course” so I away'd myself back to the kitchen to finish the Main Course. I don't have a name for it per se, except maybe...
The Wacky Wizard's Turkey Burger Stir-fry with Pesto-Cream Soy Sauce Reduction
- four Trader Joe's pesto-parmesan turkey burgers
- the remainder of a bag of frozen stir-fry carrots
- the remainder of a bag of frozen peas
- the remainder of a bag of frozen green beans
- a handful of raw broccoli
- one ramakin of soy sauce paste (made by leaving soy sauce uncovered in the fridge for several days)
- one package of stay-fresh guacamole (or fresh if you have it)
- a couple tablespoons of plain nonfat yogurt
- some pesto paste (not too much)
- a short pour of heavy whipping cream
- some butter
- a small handful of salted pumpkin seeds
Grill really frozen burgers & wax paper dividers on medium heat. Scrape already-processed turkey meat away from the wrappers as they defrost enough to do so. Remove wrappers from the skillet as they become available. Mash turkey meat up too as it becomes freed. When all turkey meat has cooked away from the wrappers, and all wrappers have been removed from the skillet, wash hands thoroughly.
Hopefully the turkey meat isn't char by now. (If it is, turn the skillet down. It's still good.) Add some butter to the skillet. Begin adding vegetables in an order than makes sense to you. Cover the skillet to facilitate steaming of said vegetables. If cooking in Cleveland, try not to laugh while steaming your meat and vegetables.
Well, you've made it this far. You might as well finish the dish, right? After a few good minutes of steaming, remove cover. Stir guacamole & yogurt together. Add to meat and vegetables. Stir soy sauce, pesto paste, and heavy cream together. Add to the rest of it (cuz at this point it can't hurt).
Turn heat down to low. Re-cover skillet, and let simmer while you prepare The Wacky Wizard's Scientifically Speedy Oat Bran Garlic Bread.When the garlic bread is done, plate everything like this...
... because other arrangements are not officially endorsed by the Wacky Wizard.
But wait! I forgot the finishing touch. Supply all brave eaters with a small cup of salted pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top for added crunch.
28 October 2009
Did you get that? And by "you," I'm addressing the 0.33-repeating people who still read the chew toy. It's time for a lighter side of the zimdog.
I had quite a Thoreau-esque Saturday. Em, G-Riff, and I saw a pumpkin patch.
On the way home, we stopped at Terry's Berries, where we picked a bucket of apples which we then washed and pressed into cider. It was fun, except for the mean-spirited jackass ordering us around on the cider press. And the cider is the best I've ever tasted.
After we got home with our jug o' cider, I decided to cut some wood in the green-belt running behind our apartment. (As Thoreau probably would, here I note that we've even come up with industrialized names for Nature; oh, we are a sad society.) I came across a felled tree while walking Murphy down there a few days earlier. My goal was to go chop a few large logs off and bring them up to chop for firewood. So down the hill I slid with a bag over my shoulder. The bag was to collect wood chips for kindling, and also for transporting my hatchet, ax, and water bottle.
Here's the tree (after I chopped off a 2.5-foot section):
In the far distance, you may be able to see the train tracks that run along the far edge of the green-belt. When a train would come by, I'd take a break to watch it, wondering if at some point during Thoreau's stay at Walden, he too was chopping wood as a train clunked by. It was a fine moment for me.
I didn't have much area to work with, so chopping even that one section off took quite some time.
The wood was also pretty spongy, not the easiest to chop or burn, so as I chopped, I knew my work wasn't going to amount to a whole lot. I didn't care though. I kept working, just to see if I could finish.
When that piece finally broke over, I was satisfied with the work I had done. I took all these pictures the next day, so I don't have any pictures to document the section I cut off, but you can see the end left behind. I beaver'd it pretty good, eh?
Cutting a section off was one thing. Dragging it up the hill was what followed. So I whacked at it long-ways a dozen or so times until it split down the center. That way if I lost hold of the wood dragging it up the hill, instead of rolling on and on, it would hit the flat side and eventually stop sliding.
No matter. It was still difficult enough getting that wood up the hill. As you can see, it's a steep hill...
... that just keeps going up...
... and up...
I got both halves up in a trip each. Well, for the first piece, it was more like one-and-a-half trips, because I slipped and bashed my knee pretty good on a rock, and had to go halfway back down the hill to get the slide-a-way wood. But otherwise, I only ran myself out of breath and shook my muscles weak from the exertion of it all.
After lugging the bag of wood chips, cutting tools, and water bottle back up, my final rest was a moment of great satisfaction, spent listening to one more train go by--after which I pulled the ax from the bag once more, much nearer the top, to cut this smaller diameter log (left foreground).
It turned out to be a much harder wood that chipped into pieces much faster; later in the day, it also proved itself a better burn than the monster for which I worked much harder. Lesson learned.
And what further evidence do I have documenting this Thoreau-esque endeavor of self-reliance?
Here's my ax...
... and proof that I was fool enough to cut through a tree using only an ax... and no gloves...
The blisters are healing nicely.
23 October 2009
interfere with my education."
-- Mark Twain
I say ironic because I found this quote on the bottom of a box of Hemp Seed Granola. That's not very ironic by itself. What's ironic is that on the back side of the box was a reminder for wary customers that "Hemp is Not Marijuana," something human beings knew quite well for the tens of thousands of years that we cultivated and used both hemp and marijuana.
This was, of course, prior to the 20th century when American policy-making sheep, doing the bidding of corporate ticks, tried to stir up global hatred for a plant. As far as I can see, they have succeeded in removing from sanctioned education all traces of cannabis's ancient relationship with humans. Even regarding the more recent history of America alone, how many U.S. citizens are aware that their nation once relied on hemp as its most valuable and diverse industrial resource? And on marijuana as its only painkiller?
Given my previous post, I promise I'm not turning the chew toy into a pro-cannabis rant fest or anything. This is just the education I'm uncovering lately... proof that I too have not let my schooling interfere with my education. I also think it's further ironic that fear of marijuana (the drug form of cannabis) was created for no other reason than to outlaw hemp (the resource form of cannabis). Rich white men never had a problem with people smoking marijuana. They only wanted a way to remove one of the cheapest, most renewable, and most environmentally-sustainable competitors of paper and petroleum from the marketplace. The "war" against cannabis has more recently been taken up by pharmaceutical companies, some of which own the rights to all medical research on marijuana. You can imagine how diligently they're working on that research.
Personally, I'm a little stung that my nation doesn't trust me with its honest history. Or does it hurt more that my nation values the greedy of a few more than it values the common prosperity of the masses? I'm not entirely done in by either thought though. There's still the comfort of knowing that neither the government nor its ruling corporations can ever know the honest meaning of liberty, because true liberty only comes alongside an honest education.
07 October 2009
"Stoners in the Mist"
... all I can say is, oh boy. If abovetheinfluence.com has time and money to waste on a hollow statement like "Stoners in the Mist," then there must still be Americans stupid enough to buy into that zombie crap. And here I thought parenting was about being honest with children.
I can't speak for other drugs, but marijuana I'm deeply honest about, because I understand many of the truths that don't get media play. This is why the existence of "Stoners in the Mist" makes me angry. I can only imagine how deeply offensive it is to the millions of Americans incarcerated, their lives unnecessarily wronged by unconstitutional marijuana laws.
I suppose the widespread stupidity of the American people probably has something to do with how little science goes into our decisions on a regular basis. And of course I recognize how difficult it is to form an unbiased opinion (or better yet, a true understanding) of something that has been outlawed since 1937. So, when will come the time for anti-marijuana propagandists to consider scientific facts? Real lives are being ruined by a marijuana prohibition that is NOT working:
In 2002, 94.9 million Americans admitted having used marijuana at some point in their lives. In 2008, that figure had grown to 102.4 million. In percentage terms, that’s an increase from 40.4 percent in 2002 to 40.6 percent in 2008 – unchanged, statistically speaking. For current (past 30 days) use, the pattern is similar: 14.6 million or 6.2 percent in 2002, 15.2 million or 6.1 percent in 2008. The slight declines of a couple years ago have now been entirely erased and were likely no more than statistical noise..
From the above linked site:
The drug war industrial complex will never admit it, but the most intensive anti-marijuana campaign since the days of “Reefer Madness” produced exactly nothing.
How sad is it that we live in a place where these statistics will mean almost nothing? It doesn't matter that anti-marijuana propaganda hit a brick wall several decades ago when the lingering stereotype of the stoner was invented. Instead, stoner propaganda has simply become a moving wall that continues alongside any form of honest public policy on the matter. That way, it's impossible for marijuana research to change minds that have already been made up.
Still, I have little doubt that someday Americans will repeal marijuana prohibition, even if that day is decades into the future, once America becomes a place of proper science. That future society will recognize and come to understand the physiological and mind-altering benefits of marijuana, and recognize the raw power of its non-drug cousin, hemp. Then, Americans will look back on marijuana prohibition for what it is: an unfortunate, decades-long McCarthy Era of people jailed, lives ruined, and money & effort squandered so the unflinching righteousness of a moral belief could maintain all the political control.
29 September 2009
Well, in my dark moods of late, I e-mailed a past professor for advice, because she always felt like more of a personal mentor than the rigid, proper professor. She suggested an essay for me to read: "The Woman I Love is a Planet; The Planet I Love is a Tree" by Paula Gunn Allen.
I wrote last night's blog post without reading the essay, and when I did get to read the essay today, I couldn't believe its relevance. In fact, I'm glad I wrote the blog post on my own. Otherwise, I might've let the essay's words jumble up what I wanted to say.
Anyway, I just had to post the first paragraph of this essay, because she handles some of the ideas I was dealing with in a more succinct manner:
"Our physicality--which always and everywhere includes our spirituality, mentality, emotionality, social institutions and processes--is a microform of all physicality. Each of us reflect, in our attitudes toward our body and the bodies of other planetary creatures and plants, our inner attitude toward the planet. And, as we believe, so we act. A society that believes that the body is somehow diseased, painful, sinful, or wrong, a people that spends its time trying to deny the body's needs, aims, goals, and processes--whether these be called health or disease--is going to misunderstand the nature of its existence and of the planet's and is going to create social institutions out of those body-denying attitudes that wreak destruction not only on human, plant, and other creaturely bodies but on the body of the Earth herself."
I challenge anyone to consider their deepest considerations on this passage, and still come out finding flaw with it.
My life took a serious change a few years ago when I discovered my religious beliefs. Most people seem to decide on theirs sooner, hence their egos find back-up that much sooner. Not me. I've been living the egos of others since I was a young boy. Even at the age of three or four, I learned to let my superego overcome my ego. The memory is hazy, but I remember standing among the clothing racks of a store, being taught to look behind me so I wouldn't be in the way of others. Contrary to what would be ideal, having a dominant superego didn't make me a super human. It made me a self-conscious head case with a handicapped ego. But now that I've been developing my religious beliefs for a while, I feel my ego developing with them.
This is a theory I'm borrowing from Joseph Campbell, but it's one that makes sense to me. Why else would people be so goddamn certain that their gods exist when there's absolutely no proof? Why else would people argue so vehemently that their supreme being is the only one if that god weren't a construct of their egos? The most likely reason is that each person is the only one in full contact with his or her own mind & soul (or in the case of extreme organized religions, a bunch of people have decided they can successfully share a mind & soul).
Because I came into religion and ego so late, I feel as if I'm just being born for real. It's frustrating, knowing all the things I believe now, yet not having the power to go back and live. It's even more frustrating knowing the people of the world could live lives full of individual power & freedom. This means never feeling any need to pad your answers, conceal an improper desire, or otherwise discount a personal decision that in no way directly imposes on the freedom and safety of another human. Instead we spend our lives finding new ways to control each other. Think about it and try to name one area of your life in which you have total control. Laws protect us from each other, but laws can't protect you from the social majority deciding your morals for you. This is where your thoughts are being controlled, and your soul simply follows suit.
One great example is sex because it's one of the basic human desires. Even ancient cultures understood that the genitals are sources of great power. Anyone who's ever had an orgasm knows this. So why do we think there's something wrong with sex? Why is it dirty? And why are we so ashamed of sexual desire that sometimes we're even willing to talk about it like it's not there? I'm not sure.
I do know though that it takes me a considerable amount of courage to admit that I just don't see monogamy as the most effective lifestyle for mature adults. I'm not even Christian, yet here I am bound by Holy Matrimony--the marital rules of a religion I don't even believe in. I got married because it made me civic partners with my soul mate. But if I were to let my body ignore the body rules of this bond, the members of our society (especially Emily) would regard me as the lowest of the low. Ask any public figure who has been shamed in this way.
I'm not promoting widespread infidelity, nor am I suggesting that divorce is a quality answer--especially in my case. I truly believe I found my soul mate. I just happened to do it on the first try. Beginner's luck, I guess. But still I wonder how we got here as a culture. Why have we decided to not be powerful? And why do we feel compelled to limit each other? Forcing a man and woman to regard each other as each others' only sexual option is about as limiting as it gets in a world of more than six billion potential experiences. (And sure, married people can still masturbate, but I don't see the majority of monogamy promoters promoting marital masturbation.) So why don't we just cut to the chase already and start spaying & neutering each other at the wedding? (Of course that would make it blatantly obvious that we're controlling each other's bodies with monogamous relationships... because the last thing we would ever want to do is acknowledge that we're failing each other by keeping up appearances.)
So what does any of this have to do with me? Well, for starters, I'm a man that thinks about sex a lot. I think most guys genuinely do. It's not just a joke we like to make. So I'm affected by it in that way. But the way I got here is that I'm really becoming fed up with fighting the powers that be. I'm one person shouting at a wall. I'm not going to change a damn thing, so it seems my ego is failing soon after coming into being. I'm tired of thinking someone else's thoughts , but I simply don't have much power left to fight any more. I am the neutered modern male, bound toward eternity with my spayed female friend.
I know I'm not supposed to admit such things publicly, but I don't much care any more. That's what being controlled does. It leads to despair, and that's where I've been lately. This discussion of modern thoughts on sex is just one of the ways I feel the utter despair of having my life decided for me by the majority rule. The rest are similar arguments that conclude with me not being trusted with individual power and freedom.
Well, it occurs to me now (at the very moment I finish a revision of this blog post) that this is the only individual power and freedom I still have. I have the truth about what I think and feel. So rather than going through the time and money of seeing a therapist to process the blames and shames in my head, why not just let them out where the public can know them? My reasoning is, most people hold onto private matters. Well, that may work for them, but I'm of the opinion that keeping secrets is more about keeping something from myself. Since there's not much of an ego in this head to process privacy, I gotta let my secrets out every once in a while, if I really want to process them.
This is the beginning of another line of posts here on the chew toy. I call it the “Sometimes it's helpful to be a robot, but...” series.
24 September 2009
23 September 2009
The first life-changing event of my adult life took place early in 2004. I was out walking Murphy early one evening when I saw a group of kids playing in a parking lot off the main drive. Some of them I didn't recognize, and a few I did. In particular, there were two boys I'd talked to before.
But on this particular day, I didn't talk to them. Murph and I were walking along the sidewalk, on the far side of the main drive, and we stopped to watch for a few seconds. All I remember was having a silent chuckle at their youthful innocence when I hear a woman yelling at me from my right.
"Hey. I'd better never see you do that again," she said.
"Excuse me?" My reply was not aggressive. For the first few seconds, I really didn't know what she was talking about, or even if she was talking to me. But when I saw the insinuation in her eyes, I got angry in a hurry. "What did you say?"
"I know what you were thinking,' she added.
Well, then she must've looked right through my own innocence in that moment, and focused on my dark, troll-like features, because there could be no explanation in between for her.
I began a heated march toward her car. I forgot almost entirely that there were kids nearby as I let the swear words loose at her. To be quite honest, I don't know how I restrained myself from putting a massive dent in the hood of her car. And there I stood at the front of her car, demanding to know what she meant. She was a true coward, willing to make the worst of accusations, but unwilling to stand behind it to my face.
Poor Murph. He was just out for a walk with me, and all of a sudden I'm dragging him all over the apartment complex. As that toxic bitch drove away at low speed, I chased her everywhere. I never really figured out why she drove all over the complex like she did. Maybe she felt compelled to engage in some personal crusade to save the neighborhood from the evil-looking man and his bait-dog. What she probably didn't count on was me following her the whole way, yelling as loud as I deemed necessary. I wanted to hear her say what she had only insinuateed so far. Fucking coward.
When she did finally accuse me of being a pedophile, I told her I lived in the apartment complex with my girlfriend, and asked if she wanted to come up and meet her. Her reply was, of course, that all child molesters have girlfriends. I don't remember her reply when I told her I used to do volunteer work as a tutor and mentor for elementary school children while I was an undergrad. But I'm sure it didn't matter anyway. You can't argue with ignorant Americans, because for them, the alternative is admitting they might be wrong.
Eventually she drove off and out of the complex, and I was left more furious that nothing had been resolved. Immediately, I went to the apartment where the boys I knew lived, and I asked to talk to their mom. I explained what had happened, and that the whole thing was bullshit. I was just standing, watching them play. The boys' mom seemed surprised at the whole thing, especially the behavior of the old woman, because apparently she knew the crotchety old sack that lived across the parking lot. Still, the mother seemed to believe me at the time, or she put on a good act.
But pedophilia isn't something a parent is willing to give the benefit of the doubt on. This is why I got so angry at the accusation. The boys' mom never looked at me the same. If her boys were out playing when I walked Murphy down that side of the complex, she'd call them in. Never mind that I lived in their fucking building.
Even the police did nothing. I called an officer out the next morning to file a report. He said maybe the woman had thought I looked like someone on a sex offender bulletin, as if that would somehow make everything okay for me. (Of course, this was the Davie Police--that outfit ready to protect and serve--from which I actually had an officer say as I was reporting my bicycle stolen: "What do you want me to do about it?")
This accusation was was the eye opener for me in life in America. What does that say about our society when a grown man can't look at children playing without being seen as a pervert? Are we really that ready to see sex in everything? I know I'm more likely to question myself now, and how others see me. That wretched woman's reaction to me was so totally unexpected and off-base that I now know any accusation is possible. I have since had two people who were once friends bring this event up as an accusation (the first, less than a year after it happened, and the second, more than five years later). It's an open wound in my life, and one that will remain open for some time yet.
But that's the power of accusation (especially on someone like me who takes personal attacks very personally). I know I can't ever mentor children again, because I won't let myself take the chance of having my life overturned by rumor, even for the sake of a troubled kid. See, that's the thing about accusing someone of child molestation. It's the most vicious rumor that can stick to a person. Guilt or innocence isn't even up for discussion.
When it comes to any behavior that society despises, there is no stalemate. Uncertainty is a guilty verdict. And that wretched bitch, with one loss of restraint between her brain and her mouth, made guilt out of an innocent man. For that I may never forgive her.
I did make eye contact with her once more. Murph and I ran past her apartment one morning. I was still a somewhat forgiving person at the time, so I tossed her a quick hi. I can still picture her up there, surrounded in cigarette smoke, glaring down at me with nothing but the unbridled contempt of her hollow soul. She never even considered that she'd made a mistake. For that, I will not forgive her.
20 September 2009
Two stars in the Summer Triangle belong to birds: Deneb of Cygnus the Swan, and Altair of Aquila the Eagle. Near the line between Deneb and Altair sits Delphinus the Dolphin.
As science well knows, dolphins are larger than eagles and swans. But in the night sky, the leaping dolphin is dwarfed by the outstretched wings and neck of a giant swan. I take comfort in this.
What science has taught us is that our species most likely gained its unique spiritual sense from a bond with the sky. Ancient cultures regarded celestial objects as gods for their dominant positions, powerful light & heat, and their repeating patterns that brought ordered change to the earth with each new day, night, or season. I wonder if we would have ever rationalized this human-sky relationship without science, but it's too late for that speculation. We've already dug the excavation sites and done the other detailed anthropological guess-work that brought us this far.
Nonetheless, it does not take much personal awakening to see that most of us have (or still do) share a spiritual connection with the sky in one form or another. And so in an effort to better my own spirituality, I humbly wish to share a revised poem that I sent out a couple places earlier this year. It's called "Someday at the Zoo" and it's ready to read on my creative writing blog, zimdog pnaws. I've been searching for reasons to post more work there. Now it seems the spirituality of the night sky has given me as good a reason as any.
16 September 2009
06 September 2009
1. If you've considered that money is the new god, may I recommend What Would Jesus Buy. If you've never considered that money could be the new god, then never mind. It probably won't make much sense to you. (Of course, I kid.)
2. If you have yet to see a vampire movie that takes life seriously, may I recommend Let the Right One In. N.B. It's one of those films that's not made in the U.S.A., so bring your reading eyes.
3. If you haven't seen Revolutionary Road because (like me) you thought the previews made it out to be a so-so tale of provocative sex amidst the rise of uber-conservative America, then don't listen to yourself, damn it. There's a lot more truth there than I thought there'd be. And it's not just cuz I'm a feminist and all.
29 August 2009
It all crashed down last Sunday as Em and I got into a movie: The Chaos Experiment. In and of itself, it was an okay film, sort of a formulaic horror/thriller, the premise being six people are locked in a huge steam room. Like any horror/thriller, the sexy stuff comes early on, but soon shifts into "Oh, shit. Let's forget how aroused we are, because we are all doomed."
The best part of the film is the lead role, played by Val Kilmer. He's the anti-hero, the guy who locked people in a steam room. But he did it for the good of all humankind, you see. He did it to get newspaper headlines so he can warn everyone about the human plunge into global warming, for which 2012 will mark catastrophe.
So it's Val Kilmer I can thank for realizing that the hero isn't dead. Our heroes have just been complicated. Because we construct heroics based on our egos, our growing understanding of each other's egos only complicates matters. It could be that as our society becomes more complex in its operations, our egos have also become more complex to keep up. Regardless the reason, knowing that we're all similar (despite what our egos suggest about each other), the "good vs. evil" motif is no doubt becoming a relic of the past, of a time when light was good and darkness was evil. Therefore, any story clearly portraying "good vs. evil" is an exaggeration of the human condition. Either this is done for the sake of art, or the storyteller is trying to serve his own ego up as the truth.
25 August 2009
Or is it? I've always liked (and been much better at) watching movies over reading books. So why did I enter a writing program? I'm not sure. Getting my MFA is just one more thing I did because it seemed like the thing to do at the time. And I am glad I did it. My only regret is not being able to predict what it would do to my desire for reading. After being told what to read, and having it suggested (unofficially of course) HOW to read, I'm just a little tired of books.
Luckily this feeling is wearing off (albeit slowly). Yes folks, I read a book, a thin one... and it only took me two weeks! The difference this time is, I read a book I actually wanted to read. About a month ago, I drafted the first few pages of what will be my second novel. It will have just a touch of wolf theme to it, so I knew Never Cry Wolf would be one of the books I should read before getting any deeper into the new project. I'd been thinking about it in recent months, so what do you think I happened upon a few weeks ago among the remainders of an estate giveaway? Never Cry Wolf by Farlet Mowat. (I read a much older copy with a different cover, but I couldn't find an image of it online. Anyway, this newer one's got a stunning picture of wolves on it, so enjoy....)
My first surprise was that it's a work of nonfiction. I always thought it was fiction. (Hey, I was like six or something when I saw the movie.) Not that that matters. But because I have an MFA now, I can't just read a book without critiquing it, which is how I noticed Mowat's packed writing style. Mostly, I noticed because I've had constipated sentences on the brain lately from reading the words in my own thesis. Mowat's writing and my own seem evidence of what happens when the science-minded turn to creative writing. Each sentence is a crowd of words and ideas, making paragraph progress like a bushwhack through the briars.
Of course, as one who enjoys advancing through wild, tangled brush, Mowat's prose didn't really bother me. I don't need a clearly worn path, in woods or ideas. Advancing through the thorny patches is just more fun for me. Maybe it hurts a little, and the going is slow, but that is the satisfaction that comes from the kind of genuine problem solving that scientists seem to enjoy most. What's more, I have plain respect for the time Mowat probably spent crafting each sentence, even if the eventual combination produced an overworked whole.
But why am I even going into all this? Only within the confines of the academy does the Department of Arts and Letters get the final say on matters of creative writing. In the real world, science matters too. Yet the institution must have attached itself somewhere inside me, because here I type, supposedly a free man, and all I can do is try to rationalize what needs no reason. The arrangement of the words hardly matters when the emotion's there. That's what writing is mostly about, isn't it? Bringing your own emotions, and hoping the readers bring theirs?
Well, Mowat does this for sure. His work illuminates the very honest lives of wolves for those willing to change their minds about the well-rumored darkness of a species. The result was my eventual last step at the end of a one-paragraph epilogue that's nothing but a flat-out downer. For 175 pages, I discovered a beautiful family of wolves through Mowat's human eyes. Then on page 176, he hits me right in the eyes with two separate, but equally startling beams of harsh light: uncertainty and senselessness. Not even he knows what ever happened to the wolf family he (and I) came to love, but he does make one thing very clear in that epilogue. Humans are quite capable of letting their fears consume them, so much so that groundless human fears alone have the power to destroy all those things more innocent than humans themselves.
If you haven't read it before, you will most definitely find surprises in this book. Highly recommended.
11 August 2009
I thought, don't let them know you're an outsider. For fuck's sake, man. Pull it together. Learn to function around others. Yes, that's it. Calmly sidestep the estrogen-fueled bumper cars and make for the baby food section. But where is it? Goddamn, they knew you were coming. They hid the baby food. Oh, no. There it is. Mmmm. Yes. Study the flavors. Consider their potency and quantity. You're a man on a mission.
Alright, so I can exaggerate with the best of them. I'm not actually uncomfortable around women, nor did I think like Hunter S. Thompson while I was there, but I do admit I was uncomfortable. And not just in Target. Maybe you, my humble reader, too can attest to the reason. Everyone seems to be playing a game called "Let's all pretend no one else exists." This has been going on for some time now. I thought all these people were bred in Florida because that's where I caught wind of this trend. but I've since encountered them as the majority everywhere I've been lately (and that's a lot of places). Now I just expect this tension whenever I leave home.
I expect it because I know there are other human specimens living and moving beyond the boundaries of my home. As I proceed on foot from my personal form of motorized transport, I notice these human specimens all around me, driving their own personal forms of motorized transport or proceeding on their own feet. I study the demeanor of each one, only to find each one is a lot like me in many ways. Thus, I wonder if, like me, they are longing for specimen interaction. I wonder if this one or that one will reciprocate a greeting. Every once in a while, there's a return of smile, and more often than not the non-committal head nod to acknowledge that eye contact has been made.
But mostly it's: customers busying themselves with looking where to swipe their card so they don't have to make eye contact with their customer service representative; shoppers watching the movement of each others' carts for cues on how to plan their next move; people standing silently in wait for others to divine the feeling of being in someone else's way. All the while, I'm watching, thinking, Just say excuse me, for fuck's sake! How is someone supposed to know someone else is behind them without the communication of this information?
The main reason I'm all whiny and complainy on this subject is that I'm very much an outgoing person with strangers. I suspect I'm much more annoying to those people who have known me for some time. I'm an honest a sort of fellow, meaning I tend to say what I'm thinking (something I chalk up to using the potential of the intuitive brain). But in time, I expect that my honest words accumulate in the intuitive brains of others, making them grow tired of me.
This suspicion, however, is not enough to make me give up my honesty because I know that communication is what has gotten humans this far. If we stop telling each other the truths we see, then we are effectively done evolving. So why not just tell each other the truth all the time? Oh yeah. Shedding the animal past means we're supposed to be considerate of others. In public, I'm supposed to be polite by considering the needs of other people, so if other human beings don't want to be acknowledged, then I should just leave them alone. Right?
Then why do recluses willingly expose themselves to public spaces? Moreover, how are there so goddamn many of these people? Oh yeah. There are so many of these people wanting to be left alone in public spaces because that's how they were trained to act in public. Think about how often you see children being honest creatures in public to the chagrin of their parents who then begin training that openness away. No, no, little Sally. We don't stare at others, or Billy, stop speaking to that poor person. He doesn't want you bothering him, (as if it's somehow a bother being noticed). I've observed dog owners doing this too. When I'm out walking Murphy and some other dog on a leash gets all loud about us, the dog-walkers don't acknowledge me or Murphy. They speak solely to the dogs, scolding them for acknowledging others (which, it seems to me, only reinforces a dog's need to bark at that thing over there that its walker obviously doesn't notice).
This is my guess. Our solitude in public is the evil twin of politeness. When you think so much about what other people want or need and how you should act for the sake of others, it becomes much easier to get fed up with all the shit you're doing for other people. Your ego demands, what about me? This is politeness gone awry. This is how the majority of human specimens has come to walk around in as many private little worlds. Every encounter with another person strains your own abilities to be you, so when we set out each morning with the mindset that we are to have absolutely no effect on anyone else during the day, we are expecting ourselves to go out into the world where we will not slow anyone down, nor get in anyone's way, nor take the last item that anyone else might've wanted. To be quite honest, I can't remember the last time I lived a perfect day in this manner. There are just too many people to please.
Obviously it's much more complicated an issue than this, but I feel I've uncovered one of the many reasons we can be so damn prickly to each others' presences. For instance, another reason could be that we just don't want to (or don't have the time to) get to know one more person. We can be selfish like that, I suppose.
Or maybe it's because our brains still operate with a heavy share of intuitive thinking. For example, when I look at someone's face, waiting to see if they'll acknowledge me, sometimes their eyes meet mine. Even if their gaze is averted very quickly, I already know what I've seen. There's something spectacular about vision this way, how we're able to differentiate even the slightest difference in the direction of someone else's gaze--especially when what they're looking at is our own eyes. This enhanced definition was probably given to us by Nature for survival, and also for recognizing the threatening or challenging gaze of another. When people acknowledge me and look away, maybe they're intimidated by me. I am a rather tall specimen, and I do have the unfortunate look of a troll or something. If this is the case, then the tendency for people to ignore me in public is just a thread of evolutionary ability that hasn't been bred out of them, so I shouldn't get upset with them.
But this doesn't mean I feel like a troll. Maybe others should recognize that there might be more to me than some eager troll taking an interest in the life of another, waiting for the opportunity to thieve a piece of it. By the flip side of the same coin, maybe they should recognize that I'm just another person like them, looking around at others to see who's gonna be friendly. In this case, I'm being too kind by defending a majority of people who are well aware of the dishonesty they're perpetuating by ignore others. Instead, I'll take comfort in knowing that some people simply do not evolve as fast as others, and that I am one of the fortunate front-runners of the species. Personally, I like this option better, because right now I'm typing this from the safety of home, where my ego can still make whatever choices it damn well pleases.
10 August 2009
One thing that bothered me severely about my creative writing program (and, I'm guessing, creative writing programs in general) is the unfortunate lack of in-depth meditation on writing. In workshop for a week, you're reading and commenting on three writers' submissions, or reading and discussing an entire book, not to mention the work you have for two other classes, and the life you're living off campus. Personally, I can read and absorb maybe one book in a week, and then I might need a week off before the next one.
One day this summer, I was bullshitting with an old college friend who's been a computer programmer since he graduated in 2002. In discussing syntax, something common to our respective trades, we found ourselves in agreement about something not commonly respected when it comes to language. Like him, I enjoy reading prose so dense that I frequently stop to re-read and re-read portions... not because it's poorly worded prose, but because the ideas therein are complicated enough to be worth reconsidering. This is when the act of reading becomes the process of understanding. Understanding does not often come at breakneck pace.
In my very humble opinion, writing is far too often overworked until tender. And for what purpose? Frankly, I think it's to cater to readers who aren't willing to do any work on their own. Attempts to know one's audience sometimes lead to writing for readers who want their ideas as pre-processed and neatly packaged as everything else in a life of convenience. More and more, writing seems geared toward readers who want to speed-read a dozen books in the time it takes me to understand one. I just don't understand the big damn hurry. It's not like any one of us can read everything ever written. Then why not take our time with the books we've got?
I'm not saying I'm the best damn writer or anything. In fact, I'd confess I think I'm no better than average. And part of the reason is that I'm not so much a writer as I am an idea man, but I don't see a problem with this.Who knows? Maybe I just sat in too many discouraging workshops where decent ideas were passed over or misunderstood by readers too hurried to drop in and make an attempt at understanding. (And to those whose ideas I passed over for lack of time, I do apologize. It's not exactly a writer's world out there.) I'm not saying I want to sacrifice the feel of the story by only writing fictional worlds in which the characters flap about as hollow ideas in a concept. I do know, however, that my stories come from ideas (something often discouraged in workshops). I do this because I want my stories to have a weighty epicenter, and if the story can still ring true as a believable world for those readers not interested in ideas, fine. Anyway, conjuring believable worlds is probably the hardest aspect of writing, and the one coming the slowest to me.
Still I feel like I encountered little or no attention to ideas in fiction writing workshops. Instead, I saw hints that America needs more copies of John Irving and Alice Munro. These prose-heavy styles of writing are fine, and I do enjoy reading them from time to time, but what about the rest of the genre? What about all those classic idea writers like Nietzsche, and Kafka, and Camus, and Orwell? And Hesse, and so on and so on and so on? I remember reading books by them and learning something about existence. The Great Gatsby is an awesome book and all, but it's mostly about rich people living in New York. Does the Universe revolve around money and Americans? Well, let me rephrase. Should it?
All I'm trying my darndest to say is, I feel like an odd ball reassuring myself that somehow my writing does matter when around me I see an America and its fiction that both seem interested in how something is worded rather than what its words contribute to understanding. I don't know. Maybe you should just call me crazy or lazy.
08 August 2009
Out of the blue one day, I got an e-mail from some acquisitions editor with a publishing company called VDM Verlag that mostly publishes scientific theses and dissertations. She said she came across a reference to my thesis in the FAU library database, and she thought it might be suitable for publication through VDM. I though, What the heck. My thesis would most likely just sit in the FAU library anyway. This way, VDM pays the publishing costs, my thesis gets published in paperback form, and I still retain the rights to my work. If I want to take the overall work or any part of it to another publisher, all I have to do is alter 20% of the word count (which I would want to do anyway, because I have since re-read some of it and wondered what I was thinking).
Anyway, like I said, it's a first step. It's definitely no superstar publishing deal, but at least I got to see my book listed online... for a list price of ten times what it's worth. Yeah, real encouraging for a budding writer.
Oh, and if you're actually interested in reading my thesis, but you don't have $96 to spare, just ask me and I'll e-mail you the pdf.
Ehh. Impressions always work better in person. I've just had Ali G on the brain since seeing Bruno in Indiana. That was uncomfortable. At many times, I was the only one to be heard laughing in the theater. Others may have been, but homosexuality isn't really one of those things the average person in the Heartland feels like discussing or recognizing. My only hope was that I didn't get any sodas dumped on me. Oh, and my favorite part was the elderly couple sitting a few rows behind. As soon as the full-screen penis shot came up, I heard him say, "That's interesting," and then he and his wife didn't stick around for the rest. Quite honestly, I'm surprised they made it through the hyper-exaggerated parody of gay sex in the beginning.
So, no blog posts in a good while. It just hasn't been that sort of summer. In some way though, I think it has been advantageous for me and Emily to learn the parenting life while on the road for three months straight. And l'il G-Riff's got a story to tell people when he gets older. In the first seven months of his life, he has been in six time zones and 21 states.
Let's see. What else happened this summer? In bulleted form:
- I realized Frank Zappa is the weirdest person to have ever lived. It doesn't matter how many times I listen to his music. I still marvel at the amount of raw creativity that moved through the man in his life. I also admire his ability to not give a fuck about all the unimportant crap that forms the epicenter of man-made existence.
- In one of those rare and exciting lucky moments, I tuned in for the last five minutes (hockey minutes) of the Stanley Cup's Game 7. As the TV picture warmed up, it looked like the Penguins had the season all sealed up. But just as I started scheming insults for B. Doozan (a planetarium colleague and fan of all-teams-Detroit), a Red Wings' defensiveman killed a one-timer to bring Detroit within one goal of tying it up. From there on out, Detroit applied massive pressure, blasting shots on net, with a few near goals, and just generally controlling the puck for those final minutes. The tense ending went right down to the last fraction of a second when Pittsburgh's goalie literally threw his chest in front of a flying puck that would've send Game 7 to overtime. I don't care who your hockey team is, or if you even like hockey. The Penguins earned the right to hold the Cup this year. It was pretty much the best Stanley Cup Game 7 ever.
- To make the long trek west with Griffin, Murphy, and our stuff, Em and I decided to sell the Corolla so we could start payments on a more family-sized roller. Once upon a time, I wondered about SUV drivers. Now I am one. Oh, the things parents do for their children. But don't think us too noble. It's a 2006 Honda Pilot EX-L, which I'm pretty sure stands for EXtra-Luxury. It's got heated leather seats et plurissimae amenitae. Mostly, I'm digging the moon roof and 6-disc changer.
- Life as a parent has made me much more protective. I used to consider myself a pacifist. Now I am coming to consider myself prepared. I now think about what I really need to keep Griffin safe at all times. Thus my collection of tools and weapons has begun. I found the Gerber Gator Axe and Knife combo. The knife slides up into the handle of the hatchet, where it is held in place by a magnet. It's a great camping/survival tool, but mostly I bought it for the size and style of the knife, for which I have yet to rig up a homemade sheath so I can carry it for protection. I am also considering getting a concealed weapons permit and a small revolver. I know the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are slim, but I simply refuse to die (or let Griffin die) a senseless death because some pathetic psycho decides to shoot up a building full of strangers. It seems a strange paradox, especially given the trite anti-gun propaganda that spotlights guns instead of irresponsible gun owners, but I've never felt more responsible and more capable of owning a gun than now that I'm a parent. Griffin's safety is my number one priority, and there's nothing in the world that can make me act so stupid as to treat a gun with anything but respect. That's the reason I want to carry one... because there are too many irresponsible people who already do. And after living in Florida (where five years of bad luck rained down on me like shit from the sky), I now wonder if maybe I'm just destined to be in the wrong places at the wrong times, encountering the wrong people. One can hope to control one's destiny, but to be certain of destiny is to be a cocksure fool. I'm choosing instead to be prepared.
- And probably the most amazing thing to happen all summer is getting to Tacoma. We're in one place... for at least a year! We're not unpacked yet, but we're in an apartment and all our stuff is out of the storage unit. I'll say more once it's all fixed up like it's going to be for everyday life, but we were lucky to have found this place. It's simple and comfortable, with everything we need nearby. Topping the list of awesome finds is a grocery store called Trader Joe's. They have delicious foods at affordable prices (like Whole Foods), and there's one right around the frickin' corner. I think we'll be satisfied here, Murphy included. There are plenty of cats and other animals out back for him to chase and bark at, etc.
02 July 2009
03 June 2009
But let's get back to those crap arguments being made. The bastardization of information in the media is a problem of obese proportions, and some Americans are ready to believe whatever they hear from the idiot with the loudest microphone, which is why I was surprised when my dad told me some of the New Republicans are really getting pissed about the sorts of propaganda being spouted at high volume by loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich. This is refreshing news for freedom of speech. Intelligence might just get its voice yet.
Now the funny part. Our discussion reminded my dad of a euphemism his father often used for describing unintelligent, crap arguments. He described the irresponsible speaker as “talking like a man with a paper ass.” I admit I can't quite figure out what this phrase means, but I like it, and somehow it makes sense inside my head. I hope to keep this phrase handy for regular use. But still I'm curious. Any ideas why it works?
01 June 2009
But then the underlying humor hit me. That driver was right then and there going to see Jesus. I had a fair chuckle, and realized how much more I like Christians when they're making jokes instead of playing missionary. This in turn found loose connections with recurring thoughts of late, one of which is the mild sadness I feel from knowing that juvenile humor generally meets disdain. It's like some people have forgotten how to have an innocent laugh. I know my own world is a much happier place when I spend more of it enjoying humor at any level.
Recently, Griffin learned to blow raspberries with his lips... semi-funny in and of itself. Then one night, he made that sound almost immediately after releasing a real fart. I was so proud of my son's very first fart joke. Of course cynic that I am, soon came the thoughts regarding the lack of respect that fart jokes get any more. It's like you're an outcast for enjoying bodily humor (just one of the many arguments supporting ecofeminism's claim that the master consciousness has trained humans to consider the natural world inferior).
Well, I don't give a flying fish. The snobs of the world can kiss my ass, which is that funny-shaped set of lumps halfway down the backside of my body. My body, by the way, is my physical connection to the natural world; nowadays, some consider it "inferior" to the human mind and soul. In my religion, the body, mind, & soul deserve equal attention.
Having said everything I have written thus far, I declare that from this day forth, no human shall rightfully trespass upon my natural right to laugh about turds and their hilarious variety of shapes and exit sounds. I shall not find embarrassment in shifting my rational thought process into simpleton gear for an episode of South Park. (I recently saw the queef episode and just about choked on my own laughter.) Nor shall my soul suffer the narrow moralizing eye of the prideful elites who can't stand being anchored to reality by a crude vehicle that expels waste. Heaven forbid humans learn the powerful energy of recycling!
26 May 2009
I dunk-a you
Dunk-a-you, dunk-a-you, dunk-a-rooooo
I dunk-a-you, dunk-a-roo
(repeat as desired)
Coda (sung as random, festive silliness):
Dunk-a-doodle! Dunk-a-doodle! Dunk-a-doodle-doodle-doo!
The song came about as a more popular spin-off of Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy on the bed.
11 May 2009
We tasted cheeses n' jellies, ate a damn delicious lunch, saw the fish being thrown, etc.
from left: zimdog (wearing his new favorite hat), Em the Mom, li'l Grif, Mimi, Gramps
The trip out west took nine days. The overall movements were complicated, but to cut to the chase, I met up with Griffin, Emily, and her parents in St. Louis on May 2nd. (For those musical fans out there, of course I made the "Meet me in St. Louie, Louie" joke at least once before my flight). From there, we made Tacoma in six days of driving. Not bad, considering we did it all with a 4-month old. (Griffin was a real champ, by the way.)
We're now holed up in a Tacoma hotel room, our stuff in storage and the U-Haul trailer safely returned. Already, this place promises more sanity for the zimdog. If nothing else, I'll be living under cooler weather, a fact that leaves me physically and mentally pretty cool.
If you've never been out West, I recommend driving it... if you have the time. Those Florida skies may look big, but they ain't shit compared to big mountains topped by big skies. Here's a visual sample of what one encounters when forging new frontiers. Pioneers, Ho!
Father & Son Reunited in MISSOURI
Somewhere in IOWA
Tacoma at last! (>3800 miles traveled)
This one says it all...
It feels good to be still, for a few.