Friday, December 10, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
"On Sunday the 13th at noon I plan on printing up all the caring comments from facebook, taking them to the Golden Gate Bridge and taping them up all along the walkway."
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Jim was a great friend. If you made it onto his mental list of friends & family, you could count on seeing him a couple times a month, just because we would stop over to give you a little something or just to say hi. His actions never spoke louder than his words, and his actions were usually pretty loud. Our freezer downstairs is still full of venison.
Jim respected women greatly, but didn't treat them like porcelain. I would always warn any girl i introduced to him that he would ask if he could keep her and possibly propose marriage. This was just his ever-joking way, and his way won him a lot of smiles and friendship. But god help you if he saw you mistreat a woman. More than one man has been put in the hospital because Jim was close enough to reach him.
Jim was an outdoorsman and an artist. There wasn't a material on this earth that he couldn't evoke a beautiful image out of with his carving tools. He was a crack shot and a masterful hunter, more in tune with the world around him than most of us have even seen in movies. His garage was chock full of antlers, the smell of fresh wood and cigarette smoke, ivory he'd somehow found at a yardsale.
While never married, Jim was engaged twice. I never met his first fiancee - or was too young to remember - and she died of a terminal disease before i could. I was there the night he found out his second fiancee died, drinking with him, reminiscing, gravely taking the pistols he had lying around and listening dispassionately as he called God a cocksucker.
The next morning he apologized for his behavior. To God and to me. We kept the pistols for a few months anyway.
I never knew Jim when he could walk. He was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal column never fully closes around the spinal cord. He had difficulty walking without crutches by 10. By the time i knew him, he was wheelchair-bound. Complications took his life this past year - his 50th - more than 30 years later than his doctors guessed.
He was a bear of a man (which, along with his love of the outdoors, led to his nickname of... Bear), weighing well over 300lbs for most of the time i knew him. Almost all of this weight was confined to his upper body, giving him arms of terrifying strength. To shake his hand was to know that, at any moment, he could crush every bone in your's. His forearm was so big that, wrapping both hands around it, i couldn't touch my fingertips together. It was this tremendous strength combined with the muscle control of a life-long hunter that allowed him the precision and delicacy of a master engraver. It was his bulk which allowed him to be such a softy. He was a scary man to meet, until you realized he was a teddy bear.
Jim taught me a lot in the few years i really put in the effort to know him. I regret not finding more time. I suspect i'll end up typing up more than a few of his stories in this 'blog, and i hope you enjoy them as much as i always did.
I miss you, Jim.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
I am a geek (duh). I spend a fair amount of time fraternizing with real-live-actual-no-they-don't-live-in-Canada-like-that-one-kid's-girlfriend people solely through the medium of the internet. In doing so, i have my ear to the ground on a lot of trends, fads, colloquialisms, styles, interests, dislikes, etc that ONLY EXIST online. As such, this sphere of knowledge both separates me from the masses and cleaves me irrevocably to a community that the aforementioned masses probably have no idea exists.
This is what qualifies me as a member of what i like to call "the fringe". I admit, its a term that makes more sense in the high school society in which i coined it, but i like it, so it stays. This post will now attempt to categorize them.
1. The NERD
The nerd is possibly more common than one might think, easily masquerading as a normal person throughout their day-to-day lives. Nerds are recognized for their love of a particular field or interest that generally is not found very interesting by the world at large. Whether its math, linguistics, entomology, or what have you, the nerd's passion lies outside what you or i may think of as interesting. Nerds are the scientists of the outcasts; they love to learn, love to study, simply for the sake of the scholastic thrill. This differentiates them from the other outcasts in that they visit the spheres that make up their passion, but try not to live there. Nerds can sometimes become so engrossed in whatever it is that they love that they may forget about such social conventions as Style and Hygiene, but its rare. Nerds tend to be too smart for that.
2. The GEEK
I am a geek. Geeks are a little more easily recognized than nerds, and are becoming more and more prevalent every day. This is simply because the field or interest that geeks are passionate about are generally more accepted - or at least more common - than the nerds'. "Computer Geek" is so common a term at this point that it is almost universally recognized. And this is the important point that sets the geek apart from the rest:
There's a million different kinds of geeks.
"Wait!" i can hear you saying, "if there're so many different kinds, what is their common denominator? What makes a geek a geek?" Ok, maybe you aren't saying that, but i'm writing this, so deal. The key factor in a geek is that, while a nerd studies their sphere of interest, visits it to learn more about its intricacies, a geek lives there. The difference is a subtle one, i admit, but important. Geeks usually like to be called nerds (although they might be anyway; you can be both).
The hallmark of a geek vs. a nerd is that geeks tend to be much more socially advanced than nerds. There's a reason the term "geek chic" exists (besides the rhyme). Unfortunately, this leads to a lot more closet geeks than i would like, but it also lets them be accepted members of society, so i gotta let it slide.
3. The DORK
Nobody likes dorks. Not even the nerds or the geeks. The shortcoming of the dork is that, while they may share an interest with a nerd or a geek, they become so absorbed in it that they forsake all else for its sake. They are the ones who gladly sacrifice human interaction for computer. They are the ones who are so engrossed in their trading card collection that they forget to shower. They are what geeks and nerds become when they slide too far away from the anchoring hold of Friends and Family. Also, they're known to bite.
Nerds are usually very smart, but can be kind of airheady. They love their chosen interest to the point where they can sometimes let minor things slide. This interest is usually very particular and not often very popular.
Geeks are also often smart, but generally more gregarious. They love their interest, but then, so do a lot of other people. This larger community of like-minded people promotes healthy social skills, sometimes to the point of developing the now almost-common Cool Geek.
No one likes dorks. Sorry, dorks. Go take a shower and call up that friend you yelled at for messing up their klingon conjugations. Come back to the Light Side.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
"Self, what the hell were you expecting?" i sometimes ask myself. When i was in high school, if i had tried to imagine what my life would look like right now, i probably would have said that i'd hope to be living on my own, working in some field in psychology or at least in school for it, engaged or married, content. Currently, i am none of those things, and at this point, don't even know what i want to be doing When I Grow Up.
Do i want to write? (yes). Do i want to act? Do i want to design, counsel, program? Then, after picking one (or two), i have to decide on the particulars inherent to each profession. You can't just go to a company and say, "i want to program for you". You have to have a specific area picked out and then you have to go to some kind of school to get a piece of paper that says you know how to do it. Then, maybe the company will decide to hire you. And only after a few years of working in that chosen field will you realize whether or not you want to be doing that in the first place.
Hoo boy. That amount of time just sounds to me like a lot of dollar signs i don't have. Unfortunately for me, i only spent two years in school, dropping out for reasons i won't get into here. I saved myself the misfortune of going into debt for a major it turned out i didn't care much for, but here i am, two years later, with no degree. This severely limits my job opportunities, and so, my ability to spend money to figure out what i want to be doing.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers details three specific factors in jobs that people describe as "satisfying." These are Autonomy, Complexity, and Connection between effort & reward. These are the things i want in a vocation. Any less, and i am sure i will eventually go mad.
My question is, will i be sane by the time i attain this mythical job?
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I have noticed just over the past few months that we, the modern day movie-goer, have become incredibly jaded and cynical. This thought originally occurred to me when i was telling my brother and father what i thought about Shutter Island, which i saw last night (however, due to its recent debut, i'll use a different movie for my examples so as to avoid any unintentional spoilers). During the conversation, i couldn't help but admit that, while a fantastically well made and well acted film, the story was rather unoriginal.
I really liked Shutter Island. Now let's talk about Avatar.
Avatar is Pocahontas in space. I'll be the first to describe it that way and i stick by that succinct and catchy soundbite. The basic story elements are profoundly simple and have been used in a myriad of other movies to greater or lesser effect. Go google the term "Noble Savage" and you'll find more reading material than you'd ever want to actually sit down and peruse in your life time. Yes, there were a few tweaks to make it an edgy sci-fi action film, but let's face it: Avatar is about humanity finding the primal beauty of the life of the noble savage.
Oh no! The story is unoriginal! How could James Cameron ever subject us to such drivel!? Boo hoo, cynic. In the words of King F**king Solomon, "there is nothing new under the sun". If you look deep enough and far enough back, a vast majority of current storytelling is just a retelling of something older than your grandpappy's grandpappy. Especially if you're watching anything that has the word "Epic" on the cover.
Why on earth, then, would this lessen our enjoyment of a good piece of Hollywood storytelling? Was there anything WRONG with Avatar? Apart from a few kitschy plot devices, the entire film was glorious in scope and its ability to evoke an emotional response. Did "Pocahontas" do that for ya? Than congratulations to James Cameron. He's a better storyteller than Disney. And that's really what it comes down to, folks. Think of someone you know who just tells a really good story. Have you ever been involved in one of their stories and insisted that they tell it just because they do a better job?
Story-telling is a tradition older than history and used to be incredibly important. In fact, before the invention of the written word, it WAS the only means civilizations had of preserving their history. Today, it is not a necessary position anymore, but has instead transcended into various mediums of art: books, movies, comics, songs. Don't get so caught up in the lyrics that you can't appreciate the melody.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I am made up of equal parts Hopeless Romantic and Misanthropic Cynic. This causes me to often wonder on the nature of love and why it sucks so hard. I feel like the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who stays up all night wondering if there's a dog.
See, here's the problem i see with modern dating: romance is easy. Well, for me at least. Part of this is due to my inherent compassion and empathy and partly from my mother's rigorous training in consideration and listening skills. Women maybe illogically co mplex, but they generally have the decency to be consistently so. Tasteful displays of affection, little gifts, true emotive declarations; no girl doesn't like this stuff.
In high school, i was in a select Men's Ensemble. We would put on several concerts a year, participate in a couple different competitions, and generally spend a couple hours a week being really geeky. For fun, we once transposed and taught ourselves a moderately sappy love song to sing as a surprise for our friends and family at one of the year-end concerts. At the time, i was falling head over heels for a certain girl.
When the time for my part came, the rest of the guys softened to a background and i belted out the following lines:
"I don't care what consequence it brings
I have been a fool for lesser things
I want you so bad, I think you ought to know that
I intend to hold you for the longest time"
To this day, i have never sung anything more genuinely than those lines (although i admit, such a perfect opportunity rarely comes up). In true, corny romanticism, i didn't care about anyone else in the room; i sung only for her.
Such displays are beautiful, grandiose, and make great stories, but they mean approximately diddly-squat when it comes to maintaining a functional and healthy relationship.
My longest-lasting relationship spanned two and a half years. It took me exactly that long to realize that it wasn't going to work. The romance had died, and what was left were two people who thought they understood each other, trying desperately to hold onto a love for a person who no longer existed.
The butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling is delightful, but it never lasts. Disney movies are, sad to say, not real life. Years later, the grind of daily life and endless repetitions of once meaningful words render romance dead for all but a few sacred days of the year. It is the rest of the days that make up the actual relationship and it is the hours of those days that become Sisyphean in scope.
I believe in love. But i must acknowledge the horrible facts of life that so often make love seem like its not even worth the bother. I have determined, then, that the problem my Hopelessly Misanthropic personality has been forcing me to try to solve is a mystery, rather than a puzzle. You see, dear reader, all it takes to solve a puzzle is to find one piece to complete the picture. A mystery, on the other hand, requires a perfect understanding of all the factors, the influences, the intricacies, AND the missing pieces.
I hope to figure it all out before i die. Or get married. My wife deserves it.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Sing when the mood takes you, without regard for nearby critics.
Draw what you see, not what's there.
Listen to the rain, but don't ignore the sunshine.
Find the rhythm of the situation. Don't force yours' upon it.
Dance like you mean it.
Language is the tool: don't let it use you.
Friday, January 22, 2010
The trading card game, or TCG, is a long-standing and time honored past-time among the geek community. I played the oldest and most respected of these, Magic: the Gathering, for about five years and would often spend hours perusing websites devoted entirely to theorycrafting and strategies.
As with most TCGs, M:tG is played using a deck of cards which you create out of your personal collection and pit against an opponent using his own personal deck. As of February, 2009, there were over eleven thousand unique cards to choose from, with 600 - 1,000 being added each year. This tremendous card pool creates an almost infinite number of possibilities for making a deck tailored exactly to your play-style or fanciful whim.
The challenge, then, is to make a deck that eliminates, to the best of your abilities, the randomness factor inherent to the game's rules. Each game is started with a seven card hand and a new card is drawn on each of your turns, so the likelihood of drawing exactly the card you need from your shuffled deck is dependent entirely on the construction of your deck.
This project is what makes a good player; a finely-tuned, 60-card deck will handily beat the 100+ card monstrosity that the kid down the street is always toting about with him. What makes a great player is the playing, or "piloting" of said finely-tuned deck.
The final effort in minimalizing the random factors of the game comes in playing your hand in such a way as to set yourself up for good luck. A short-sighted player will, when he finds himself in a bind, go all in, hoping that a final onslaught will be enough to secure victory. A more patient player knows that there exists in his deck a card that will save him; he only needs to survive long enough to draw it. This is what makes those "lucky draws", when they appear, seem so miraculous. They don't always show up, but when they do, the pro is fully prepared to take full advantage of the situation.
"Jeff, wtf are you talking about?"
It is impossible - short of holding a gun to the head of a person with a strong sense of self-preservation - to make anyone do anything. People, and situations, are outside of our control. The only variables we have any say in is our own actions. It is best, then, to live our lives so as to maximize our gains should favorable situations arise. We cannot count on Luck to come along and give us everything we've ever desired, but we can put ourselves into situations that increase the likelihood of us seeing it.
(Trev is tagged because he introduced me to Magic.
Tim is tagged because he taught me to play.
Nate is tagged because he was my punching bag in learning how to properly construct a deck. His usual strategy of throwing monsters the size of skyscrapers at my face left little room for error and made me quickly discover the holes in my stratagems.)
Monday, January 18, 2010
Recently, during the in-between minutes of the night, right on the edge of my vision, i've been recognizing Depression rearing its dusty, smirking head. This is nothing new, but its been wonderfully absent in my life for several months now and i was just beginning to get used to a new status quo, emotionally.
Depression is nothing to get excited about 'round these parts; its just part of the family dark. A recently learned that i had a great aunt who stepped in front of a bus one day without explanation. Most of my extended family (on that side) has had at least a brief episode with depression and we generally come out of the experience all the better for it. But still, i suppose its never something to be taken lightly.
The important thing to remember about depression, for those who don't suffer from it, is that it is not just being very, very sad. Sadness is normal. Sadness is a sharp, localized pain that is easily targeted and dealt with. Depression, on the other hand, effects all areas of one's life and is, more than anything, exhausting. It drains your energy, your passion, and, if not overcome, your will to live. It is ennui to the Nth degree.
I have always been what i refer to as a "Depressive" personality. It is common for me to wake up one day and simply feel quiet, delicate, contemplative. Rainy days often provoke such moods and i do not shy away from them. Once, when i was younger, i questioned why "depression" got such a bad rap and decided to embrace and utilize the effects of such moods for artistic purposes. Several years, a short stint on Lexapro and a lot of experience later, i realize that my occasional dark moods and actual depression are two entirely different beasts.
This time 'round, i resolve to cut the beast off at the pass. I know his tricks, and i know his effects. I've seen him coming and i'm taking measures to make sure his arrival is a most unpleasant one.
You can't scare me any more, Mister What's-the-Point-Getting-Out-of-Bed. I broke your wrists last time we fought, and you'll not get hold of me or mine again.