Addicted to the new

Attention wavers, interest peaks and abates with the speed of a burning fuse.

The follow-up question: is that a terrible thing? Sometimes — that’s an answer, not inaccurate. The inertia of mentioned a few days ago never builds positively. Sometimes not, though — the roller coaster seems to always come back to the really important stuff.

Perhaps I’m willing to give in to this addiction because it — like most other addictions — feels good, but unlike most others, isn’t inherently unhealthy. At least, not that four out of five dentists surveyed have pointed out…

Or maybe I’m just trading in, one addiction for another, one vice to fill the gap another left behind.

I think I’m okay with that. Or at least okay enough for now.

Inertia Creep

I have determination enough to realize that there’s a ton of things that I really want to do: re-record the album’s worth of tunes that I wrote and recorded in my early- to mid-twenties (good songs that I remain proud of, but badly in need of better arrangements and production); finishing the novel that I’ve started twice now; working on a new movie, for which various friends have pitched great ideas on top of my own.

That’s about where my determination stops. Or maybe where my distractability takes over, because look! Squirrel! (More accurately, in my case, it’s look! Vodka! or Music! or … well, okay. Squirrel!!!)

I suppose at some point, discipline will be learned, or another lifetime of potential will have been wasted. Seems to be a recurring theme in my life, that either/or thing (guess which one usually wins, at least historically…).

There is no cure for willful stupidity, nor for willful laziness.

Appropos of no one in particular, but everyone, too

 

 

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It’s amazing to me, the number of otherwise seemingly intelligent friends that I have in my life that not only believe things that are proven to be untrue (as well as the more-than-occasional not-proven-but-c’monfuckingseriouslyyoustillthinkthat concept), but encourage others to do the same.

Here’s one important link, since waaay too many of you seem to be to lazy or incapable of doing some simple basic research instead of simply believing whatever you’re told: Snopes.

I’m not saying that whatever source you’re getting your information from is always wrong – but only because I don’t know what your source is, and a broken clock is still right twice a day. I am, however, saying that you clearly never learned to think critically, or possibly at all.

And while we’re on the subject, did you know that people that give me half of their income every week live an average of five years longer, and are demonstrably happier? It’s true. Saw it on Fox News.

If you can’t tell, I’m on the road to being smoke-free.

The Internet is no place to be if you want to remain a happy and calm person.

If this is your only friend, it's okay to be a little angry.

If this is your only friend, it’s okay to be a little angry.

Or maybe it’s perfect place to be. Once you realize that the anonymity and physical distance of being on the interwebs allows people to cut loose with their Id, to be someone that they want to be rather than who they feel forced to be in their everyday lives… it allows you some frame of perspective. You can read and process their comments and thoughts, and then take a breath, read it again, breathe more deeply, and then move on.

It’s 90% stupidity and vanity out here in the wildwildwest.com, all opinion and hoping for your fifteen seconds of fame and viral exposure (the fact that I keep a blog is your first clue that I’m no better than that which I decry). The loudest voices are those of the lowest common denominator and the furthest fringes. Intelligent, considered moderation gets lost in the ocean of noise – but then, this is a reflection of the world, of the culture that we choose to live by surrounding ourselves with the people and places and thought processes that we do.

I heard once – more than once, but who’s counting? – that the Internet (see also: FinalCut, ProTools, etc.) would be the death of society. Hey, now anyone and everyone can write, or post their music or movies or art, in a forum that literally anyone with access to a computer with a modem can view. It’s even better than American Idol! Except… when the floodgates open, the signal to noise ratio goes through the floor. There are more needles out there to find, but the size of the haystack just grew exponentially, impossible nearly infinite – so said the naysayers, who (in my experience) tended to be people that had financial loss  in their chosen industry motivating their words.

For me, though, it’s been a wondrous experience, the last fifteen years. Sure, it’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me personally — with my writing, my short foray into filmmaking, my music all getting wider exposure than I could have ever hoped for as a guy from Birmingham, Alabama. But it’s a font of knowledge and learning, like being handed the gathered teachings and perspectives of the world in a compact but infinitely full (and still expanding) encyclopedia. Yes, there is a lot of noise, but some of that noise helps shape and contextualize the signal.

An old high school acquaintance (warning – amazing photographs of, among other things, creepy crawlies, especially spiders) posted on Facebook recently:

The fact that you’ve had your feelings hurt by someone doesn’t mean that you’ve been attacked or wronged in any way.

It may happen that one or both of those are true, but it’s not automatic!

I’m not certain that that sentiment is any more or less necessary for people to hear and consider than it was twenty years ago, before email and MySpace and Facebook and comments on news sites, but it is, in my opinion, necessary. And it’s true, too, with reactions of anger.

Just because you post something on your blog, or social media, or in a comment or a reply to email, that I read as stupid or narrow-minded, doesn’t make you stupid or narrow-minded. I’m learning that more and more every day, forcing myself to consider context and viewpoint, and then to ignore the stuff that I decide fits into my instinctive reaction. Because, really, life’s too short to spend all pissed off about things that you can never change, at least not as easily as you can avoid in the first place.

There really are no winners if there is no race

I’ve spent my entire life in a race that doesn’t exist outside of my own head. Well, perhaps a billion other heads, but in reality? No.

Competition is good – it pushes you, drives you, inspires you to move to the next level. But if you’re too hard on yourself, measuring yourself against others constantly, it can lead to perceptions of losing, failure, inadequacy.

And maybe that’s a good thing, to some extent; some level of available self-awareness. Granted, one most people – myself potentially included – don’t possess.

But it’s time to (further) remove myself from the rat race, and stop obsessing subconsciously about doing as well or better than others. That shit doesn’t matter, except to me and unimportant cuntbags.

I appreciate the pace rabbit, but I’m running for my own satisfaction from here.

Rinse, wash, repeat.

Yeah, I have issues….

Sometimes I marvel at why goes on in my head. I suppose, now that I’m considering it, that. These thoughts actually occur to everyone, and maybe no one is okay with admitting it. Maybe the Warren Ellises and Chuck Palahniuks of the world are not so rarified as I like to think, except I. That they’ll talk and write about things that other people find too unpleasant…

Anyway, as I imagine occurs to just about anyone who steps foot on an airplane, I’m in my seat pondering the idea of the plane going down, imaginable over the East coast of Florida (on this trip, at least). And (weirdly to everyone that I’ve ever told this to) I’m not really bothered by that thought. Not that I relish it, but when it’s time, it’s time, so why stress about it? In fact, if its inevitable and out of my control – and in that moment, happening – I’d personally prefer and therefore choose to enjoy the last few minutes that I’ve got. Right?

Well, agree or don’t. That’s my answer, and I’m sticking with it.

What is odd, to me, is where that thought took itself. I figure, at cruising altitude, you’ll probably realize that the end is near with a few minutes to spare – enough time to not only realize what’s happening but to do a thing or two. Most people would panic, of course. Some (like me) would fire off a text or try to make a phone call to a loved one – significant other, family, best friend. So that’s first on my list, followed (while I’ve got my wireless connection running) by a smart-ass but hopefully quippy and memorable tweet, cross-posted to Facebook. Everyone wants to have quotable famous last words, so I gotta give that a shot if I’ve got notice.

This flight, for instance, inspires a thought or two about the irony (or lack thereof) of dying so close to the toilet closet. Seriously, there’s not a better design for airplane bathroom placement?

But then I spent twenty minutes winding what song I wanted to go down to. And this became an overriding obsession for the next twenty minutes, and now that I can turn on electronics without causing panic in the sky, I’ve spent thirty more minutes flipping through my iPod trying to figure it out. Foo Fighters A320? Too literal. Devin Townsend seems appropriate on many levels, but I don’t think I can pick one song that sums everything up appropriately. Steve Vai, Queen, VAST, Porcupine Tree all get their turn, flipping through song after album after song, building yet another morbid playlist for eventual upload (with vague and pretentious title, no less) to 8tracks…

This, by the way, is why you should put me in a window seat, not in the back of the plane. Distract me with pretty clouds.

I eventually settled on Steven Wilson’s Drive Home, by the way. Probably trying to time it so the solo peaking would be the last thing to go through my head, aside from the talkative Air Force dude in front of me.

BTS: (The Show With No Name)

A few years back, some friends of mine got the moxie and the money together and started an Internet-based radio station, Birmingham Mountain Radio. I helped Harper with the web site (the design — this is before I was working with him, prior to having learned anything about C# and .NET web development), and eventually pestered Jeff into letting me have my own show.

The pestering started with the idea of a weekly show focused on hard rock and metal — not in line with the station format of AAA, but hey, this is Internet radio, right? No rules and such. At least, so went my argument. An argument that went over, it should be noted, about as well as a swallow dipped in chrome. Persistence is friend to the marginally talented, though, and I eventually got my compromise: a weekly couple of hours focused on music that is heavier and darker than the rest of our format, but still related. The opposite of Reg’s Coffee House — a flip side of the coin, as it were. After all, if there are people that dig finding out about singer-songwriter releases that you wouldn’t normally hear, there are people that want to hear the more rocking stuff, too, right?

And so, (The Show With No Name) was born.

It’s gone through a lot of evolution in a year-and-a-half (and continues to morph and shift into it’s own creature). Currently (and for the foreseeable future), it’s hosted by myself and Jeremy Harper. I pick most of the music each week, with a little help from Harper and Melisa (both of home are much more comfortable in the format confines than I am).

Doing a weekly radio show is more work than most people would imagine, I imagine. (echo?) There’s the two hours of the actual show, but the preparation is the tricky part — hours of sifting through ten or forty new albums every week, finding stuff that fits the show, stuff that I like (or at least, that I think the listeners would like). And it sounds like it’s easy, creating a 120 minute playlist every week, and it is, in some light. Especially if, like me, you love music, and love discovering new music. But then, remember that it shouldn’t ever become predictable, else people stop tuning in. Some weeks, there’s just not enough new music to fill out the time, so you have to dig through the archives, trying to remember what you’ve played recently, and what you maybe haven’t turned people on to yet…

The hardest part for me is drawing the line between my tastes and what will work on the radio. It’s nice to think that I can drop in my favorite Devin Townsend track, or the new Storm Corrosion disc, or anything from the Coheed & Cambria catalog… but it doesn’t necessarily work that way, or that well. As much as I dig them — and hopefully, at least a few people listening might, too — the truth is that a lot of what I listen to (especially in the context of everything I listen to) is an acquired taste. The new Steven Wilson leans heavily on its 70′s prog influences; Devin Townsend is Phil Spector meets Andrew Lloyd Webber in a knife fight with Meshuggah. These aren’t necessarily things that anyone other than me wants to hear, as Harper points out to me reasonably often.

If you dream of being a DJ… just stop, now. Really. Even if you buck the system and manage to get your own show, playing what you want (instead of what your program director’s computer tells you people want to hear), you’re in for a lot more work than you imagine, and for far less money. None, if you’re working on the bleeding edge of the radio-internet idea, for instance.

But, you know, First World Problems and all that. Overall, it’s something I enjoy, placing it safely in the “postiives” column (I guess that’s obvious, given that I’m still doing it after twenty months). I do get to share a lot of good music that most people wouldn’t hear otherwise — hopefully turning folks on to unfamiliar tunes (and expanding the fanbase of some deserving artists). And, you know, occasionally slipping the random prog tune into the playlist, when no one’s looking.

Ghosts in the wires

There’s a negative connotation that goes with the word “ghosts”. It conjures images of frightful things, trapped or angry spirits who can’t move on.

There are all kinds of ghosts, though. Some are happy, some are sad, some are angry. Most are not ready to let go, or if they are, they just don’t know how.

My head — all of our heads — are full of ghosts.  They span the emotional spectrum, from those we happily visit from time to time, to those that come at us out of the blue, bringing a sudden and unexpected shower of tears.  Ghosts of yesterday, of long ago, and even of tomorrows that are no more. They’re wispy and ethereal, impossible to grab when you want.  They’re there and gone, and you’re left with a shadow of a ghost, nothing more until it comes back to visit again.

Every one of my ghosts has a soundtrack.  Sometimes, when I am visited, the appropriate song pops into my head; more often, the song triggers a visit from the spirits in my memory.

I try to remind myself that it’s all about perspective: if you can change the way you look at something, the definition shifts. Good becomes ugly becomes inspiring becomes wrong becomes the way forward. But sometimes, these damn songs force a point of view on me, the emotional memory that goes with each one.

And some ghosts, fresh as they are, have a lifetime of music to play for me.

And for a rare moment,I find myself praying, wishing, begging, for just a little silence. At least until I can find the perspective that makes this look not so painful.