Sunday, January 31, 2010

Crooning, unto our layers

Shrek said ogres are like onions. The other day, at lunch, I was given pause to wonder at if maybe that applies to people, thinking creatures (thereby capable of dreaming and lying), in general. A former co-worker and scholar, called me, called both of us, "theoriticians." I didn't so much ask him what it meant as try to decipher its meaning from context. And just in case he was waiting to publish that word in his thesis on educational theological philosophy, my bad Rufus.

Something else he said is how I got to thinking about onions, making references to Disney movies, then switching to doctoral theses. He said to me: "When poor people say they want money, what they mean is infrastructure," and went on to describe why. I believed him, because money in and of itself will do nothing for you. It's a place holder for what we want to buy with the money. We want enough to buy everything we want and need, and enough beyond that to purchase anything we might want or need in the future. And that's the dollar amount for how much money people generally want. Ironically, a lot of people cannot accept that it's a means to an end (lying to themselves).

Recently, I bought a car, and that car has no CD player, which is the typical way people my age, in this era, listen to music (dating myself, I'm just old enough for CDs to be king, and not quite young enough that plugging an MP3 player into my refridgerator for music is normal). It's been some months since I totaled my last one, so I've been really working on being appreciative. Thus, I've been listening to a lot of radio. I miss that experience, even the yammering and traffic reports concerning parts of town I'm nowhere near. The other day, a song came on that I'd heard before (another reason I like the radio: the potential for new music). Briefly, I will admit that I watched "that" episode of the Sing-Off, where the song was sung.

And I smiled; I thought: that's cool, those guys had their A Capella group, believed in their dream, and somebody finally made a television show that they could perform on and touch masses of people (read: the new American dream). Then, a sad chord trebled up at me from the speakers. There was something about the song, something about the singer, singular. I thought about fame splitting people apart, or even them selling their music for money, or worse, their music just being taken. Later, I discovered that it had been the middle case. There was even a video for the song; Lil Wayne was in it. I wondered if the originators were poor, or rich, happy or sad.

I wondered why they had done it in the first place. I myself am trying to do something similar, I imagine. I write, and I wish to be able to make a living off of that passion of mind, rather, I wish to be able to just do what I love and not have to worry about the pedestrian details of living. That's it. So, because our sakes were intertwined (read: narcissism), I wondered after their happiness. Is their song being sung, their words without their voices, enough to make them happy (because I'm reasonably certain it provided a comfortable windfall). The lyrics of their song imply the ideal; but like I said, sometimes people lie, even to themselves.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Holes in this roof

"You're a man of the mind" said of me by my mentor. A co-worker, looking over my shoulder the other day, seemed shocked, too, that I enjoy watching football. She wondered aloud at why, because I've showed her my poetry, and revealed to her some of the crazy inner workings of my mind. She called me a good writer.

Last night, in what might have been his last NFL game, executing what might have been his last throw as a professional athlete, Brett Favre did the first thing coaches tell young quarterbacks not to do. I found that fitting, the story of his beginnings and his possible ends (and if you know anything about what he's done in the past year, you'd know why I say possible). The man has been playing the game for longer than I've been alive, 20 years in the pros. He made a crucial mistake at a crucial time, and it's true that the sport is a team game, "but the storyline of this game was Brett Favre," said one of the commentators.

Which I don't necessarily agree with. The other team in the NFC championship game was New Orleans. And people will hear a lot about how many years they've been losers, the Aints, the laundry list of quarterbacks. The holes in the roof. The building still remembers, remembers Katrina and all the other times people crowded into its walls in sweaty desperation. I live near Atlanta, so I remember the first game the Super Dome opened for, because it was against the Falcons. And I don't think anyone in that building thought the Saints could have lost that game. After blocking a punt to score a touchdown "the announcers sat quiet for 37 seconds as the crowd cheered." They finally had something to cheer for again.

So yeah, I like story, being a story teller. On the one side, there was destiny, a different kind of tide was rising in the Big Easy and there was nothing, not even perhaps the greatest legend the game has ever heard of, that could be done to stop it.  And in that effort, the gray beard, the wily veteran, the man "of a certain age" was crushed, shoved, sacked, struck, folded, and bent as he was felled again and again. He had no defense. Time and time again he was exposed as a mortal. And time and time again, he pushed against the turf and rose, however slowly, however painfully, back to his feet and went at it again. "I don't think there's another way that I'd prefer to remember him," an announcer said. He spoke about the knife edge of brilliance and disaster, and how unafraid he was.

But this was just one Sunday in a long list of other memorable Sundays. I shake my head and smile at the amazing nature of it all, how it will never happen the same way again, yet will be great again. I look forward to seeing how others will record the greatness of the events, what they will point out, what words they will use, the angles their camera-like minds will shoot from (well that was an awful metaphor). Why wouldn't I like football, is always my rebuttal.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Temptations of misquoting

So I was in the kitchen the other day thinking about my political leanings: you know the ones on your facebook page which you can choose to either hide or display, and if you display it you can write almost anything in the blank from "democrat" to "I don't believe in politics." A long while ago I actually looked up the definitions of the words democrat and republican, what the bases for the political philosophies mean. And the decision I ended up with made me a little sad.

The other day I read Frederic Brown's cold war short story "The Weapon" in which he writes, in punctuation of his introspective doom-saying "only a madman would give a loaded revolver to an idiot." I'd advise reading the story, it's short, uncomplicated, and prophetic, and if you already have, then you would know that I feel just as badly about calling somewhat an idiot as the main character of Brown's story would about saying the same about his son.

Because I agree with the republican philosophy. I can admit that it's not liberal, that is does have the potential to go against the American ideal of everybody having a say. But it comes from the same place that those stereotypes about irresponsible parents and bad drivers does. "That woman shouldn't be allowed to have children," people say to their grocery cart quietly as they look out of the corner of their eyes at whatever reprehensible action. "Some people shouldn't be given driver's licenses," people say, gripping the steering wheel as they try to calm their heart rates following a near collision.

But I can agree that some things we have are rights, others are privileges. And I honestly believe that everyone deserves them, but that's different from everyone being handed something. Something they didn't earn, I guess I could've added in parenthesis. And admittedly, that's pretty terrible, because we don't have some impartial, perfect mind to decide these things. We just have another bunch of people, with their hangups and baggage and perspectives (and degrees, whatever that implies), deciding if others should be allowed the freedoms they enjoy. After all, spare the rod and spoil the child, and who among us has an absolutely perfect driving record (this includes signalling and speeding, whether we've been caught or not)? Plato claimed that Socrates said "All I know is that I don't know." So I guess I'll be changing my status to that.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Diotima my mother

Today I spent some time with my mother. If you knew me, that might be more of a profound statement. In any event, she talked, and I listened. She talked about her life, her regrets, and how everything had sort of come full circle. Full circle. How so, I thought but did not say.

At my job we have this book, the title is something like "Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot." I read the first few pages, but the title didn't stick with me nearly so well as the message inside about genius, intelligence, and practice. The book talked about the brain making connections, forming literal pathways of association that helped speed up recognition and response. So, in short, I guess the more one practices, the more prolific one becomes at a given action.

So how does rationalization work? Hindsight, they say, is 20/20, because after we've made the mistake, we can much better understand what we should have done. And even further removed from hindsight? After we've made several mistakes, and reached for their bright sides, recovered from the aftermath, and lived to tell someone listening about? Does it feed the impulse in us to believe deeply in the invisible?

Don't get my wrong, my mother is happy. Not happy like the child with the sucker with all the colors that's too big, but happy like an adult is happy: they smile just a little bit more than they sigh, and getting up most days isn't so hard. She's happy, but I wonder at how things "worked out" versus her randomly making the best of a pile of inexplicable situations, one after the other.

Maybe it's easier, to internalize some ameliorated version of ourselves that took those blows on the chin with some class and grace. Or is it for ourselves at all; maybe when we vocalize those things we've already acknowledged a bit of fiction-craft in regards to our own lives, a little tailoring and embellishment, but we also recognize a responsibility of us to add to the spirit of living, for those younger of us that still have living left to do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Horizons (still) not yet new

"Back to work today officially (short meeting on last Thursday) and we kick it off with a light bit of purgation. Yesterday, I wrote the email I was dreading, and I even sent it. Pause for noting how odd it is that email has officially usurped 'snail mail' (I am aware that I'm late to that party). I told my mentor, my literary father as he said it, that I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy. I guess it's a small thing, now and later, but I feel like there is a chasm between serious writers, those who are respected and win prizes and get their books made into movies staring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and those others, who most notably have scantily clad women and dragons and hardly any minorities at all on the cover (okay they have that in common). And honestly, for admitting that I wanted to sign up for membership in the second group I was a bit shamed. 

I might have talked about, or dreamed that I talked about, a similar issue with Frank Miller and his opinion about movies making people stupid and lazy. His scowl was damning of those art forms (sure, let's go with that) just like the descendants of Thoreau and his writers stare in sad awe of the comic book and graphic novel. Truth be told, at my most ambitious I wish to be a bridge between the two if I can, maybe even one of those writers that invests in the mythologies and mysteries man seems unable to tear his mind away from, but in any event I am concentrating on looking forward. And that, evidently, involves moving my blog. 

I might have mentioned looking into allowing commenting on this thing. A friend brought it up and after looking into it (and asking others to look into it), apparently the mechanism I have used to deliver my freshest words to the world doesn't have that function enabled. Thus amid all those projects which bleed for my time, I will also be conducting a mass exodus of these characters elsewhere, realistically not to a promised land but hopefully a better one. I admit a morbid curiosity over what words might be posted in reflection, retaliation of my own. Because of those which occur beneath oh so many YouTube videos, I am afraid. But knowing at least some of the people that read this ramble of mine, I am encouraged. I believe I've decided on Blogger. Now I just have to figure out what to call it...

But I digress. Today I go back to work. I pray to whoever is listening that I am a buoying influence to the young minds I come across, that I will not fear them, or forsake them, that they will not fear or forsake me. I pray that I can, in whatever small way, enrich the experience of their lives and encourage the wishes in their hearts to bloom into something like belief. That we will together be able to, if not meet eye to eye, at least look in the same direction and see a brighter future in doing so, for ourselves, those we love, and even those we do not.  "

Posted from my old blog to my new blog. If you're so inclined you can go and look. Initially, I thought I'd copy all of those old posts and paste them here. Then I decided to let the old be old and the new be new. 

Short update, my mentor got back to me, and it wasn't so painful to hear his reply. As usual, he put on his wizard hat and did his Merlin impression, which is to say he talked a bunch and I went away a little insulted and a lot confused about what to do. But then, I guess it isn't a mentor's job to tell, but to show. Or maybe not even that. And the students are pretty good so far. They make me think I'm talking too fast, or using the wrong words, but since everyone does that, the problem more than likely lies with me. 

And just this evening I have finally finished drafting a story of mine. Too long for a short story and too short for a novella.   Pretty fitting that it doesn't fit. How else would it be mine, I guess.