Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Let Life Be Like Music"



I am curious.


Imagine a patient suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease.
A person who has all but forgotten who he is.
What if this person had been a musician?
What would happen if he were to hear his own music?
Would it have an impact? What would it be?
What if he listened to it regularly throughout the course of his illness?
What effects would that produce?


One could argue that this would be an experiment, and perhaps one for which the patient couldn't give consent at least in some cases.

And that question should give us serious pause.

But I wonder if one might catch a slight momentary spark of recognition, or perhaps simply pleasure, in his waning eyes?

When the voice cries out in the wilderness can you tell that it is your own?




PS: Thanks to Langston Hughes for the catchy title.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SUMMER MOVIES FOR THE WIN!!!

Ah the spectacle of the summer film, with lots of delicious toppled buildings and alien warlords and fantastical abilities blended with tight costumes and gaping plotholes.

So much fun. Truly.

I am stoked to see Jurassic World and Ant Man and probably other ones. Shit. I haven't seen Mad Max yet. Gotta get on that.


But there are some other movies that I am excited to see this summer. They don't get as much internet attention, and I found most of these by specifically searching or just stumbling upon them.


Check out these trailers:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl







Testament of Youth





Batkid Begins





Jimmy's Hall





When Marnie Was There

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Drawing a Blank



I am totally drawing a blank. I have a vampire unicorn of a moment--it's quiet and I have no where to be for a couple hours. My people are slumbering, and I have the run of the place. A great time to blog, but I can't think of what to say.

But that's on the surface. Underneath I want to tell you everything. I want my soul to burst its cerements, blaze into the sky like a mushroom cloud and rain down upon the unsuspecting populace like a hot and spicy New World Order. The fact is that I have brain-bottleneck. Too much silence for too much time and now every thought is rushing towards expression as though my brain were burning building.

Moments of freewheeling solitude are rare for me. Perhaps for all of us, but I can only speak for myself. The rarity of this is evidenced by the fact that I am currently trying to do EVERYTHING. I have been alternating music selections between Berlioz, Dresden Dolls, Solstafir, and Amon Amarth. I have a pile of eight books beside me, three beverages, as well as a few magazines and comics. My internet browser has 12 windows open. I even actually looked at Instagram for a minute. I don't know how long the quiet will last, so I multitask. I instinctively try to do everything all at once. When a moment comes, I try to fill it with everything I could possibly want to do at once, because I don't know when the next opportunity is coming. It's probably a mistake, but there is no proof.

Focus.

I have coffee. It's strong and black, which is how I take it now after a lifetime of creaming and sugaring. I have come to love the bitterness, the essence and natural unadorned flavors and textures of the naked coffee itself. Fucking yum.

I have an orange. I have a romantic yearning to eat an orange with my coffee on mornings like this, when I am left to my own sinister devices. Wallace Stevens made poetry out of coffee and oranges, and I have long associated the mingled taste of coffee and orange with the gentler facets of hedonism. It makes me feel like I am kicking over tired idols that have grown fat and lazy with too many years of thoughtless reverence--but while reclining on cushions on a pharaoh's sailing barge. Except with metal playing.

I am drinking from a white mug emblazoned with the logo of Uncommon Ground--a Saugatuck, MI, coffee roaster. My wife and I honeymooned in Saugatuck, and being serious about our coffee, we visited this place at least twice a day while we where in town. At the end of the trip we picked up one of their souvenir mugs, and since then we've been collecting such mugs from our favorite coffee shops, or those at which we have made a good memory.

My routine on these best sort of mornings is to make the coffee first, and then read and stretch and communicate with at least some of my far-flung people. I love to jot down my silly notes, and I usually spend reading multiple books for at least a few minutes each. I am on my third cup of coffee. My notebook is in the room where The Girl is sleeping, so I thought I thought I would slap down my stream-of-consciousness ramblings here.

Lucky you.

So today I am thinking about how I want to learn to do everything. I took a step and asked my theatrical chums to teach me some movement and stage combat. I had a couple takers, which is so lovely. I think this will enhance my fire spinning skills--particularly my sword work. I have also been thinking lately about dance. It's never been a way in which I have expressed myself. I do it. I enjoy it, but I don't feel it the way I imagine others do. It doesn't come naturally, and I tend to feel a sort of heaviness in my body and soul most of the time--like I am weighed down by ballast, like my shoulders are bent beneath the weight of invisible planets that I would TOTALLY set down if I could find a safe place to put them. I am told that I am big dude. I honestly didn't quite realize that for much of my life. And maybe that heavy feeling is just my physicality itself, maybe it comes with the territory of being in a taller, stronger-that-some sort of body. But I don't think so. I think there is a way for me to let music inside, to find my own natural way of moving to it. I don't want to learn steps or styles or trends. I want to find what is within me already and discover how to bring it out in new ways. I also want to set sledgehammers on fire and twirl them around. So it goes.

I have changed how I eat lately. After years of getting nowhere with the treatment of various symptoms, I got tested for food allergies and found that I apparently have a bunch, including things that I eat all time--particularly yeast, wheat, and gluten. I know that the gluten-free diet is a fad right now, and that's what all the cool kids are doing. That makes me suspicious. I am mistrustful of popular opinion. Nevertheless, I do have symptoms and they are getting better now that I am not eating those foods. So I don't know. I will at least give this a try for a while. I have lost 20 pounds in five weeks doing this, which has brought down my blood pressure. Oddly enough, I have also become much more flexible. I still have pain and all the things, but not as severe, and for the first time is a very long time I feel hopeful that I can feel good again. I don't even remember what that was like. So big change. Food is a big deal for us organisms. Also, it moves me to ponder what else I can change, what else I can learn, experience, or try to do. I would like to be comfortable in my own skin for a little while and move more freely. To break the shackles of fatigue and pain. It can be done, I think.

Also lately, I have been pondering the downsides of strength. The hits that you end up taking just because you can. The way no one is careful with you. I haven't quite sussed out the implications of these thinkings--but I suspect that I am on to something.

Be well, lovelies.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Musings on Musing



I had a lovely intense writing session recently. I sat down at my desk at 7 am and started typing. At 2 p.m., I noticed that I hadn't gotten up, drank water, eaten anything, or otherwise stirred from my wordsmithing groove. It has been a long time since I have been able to work creatively with that kind of focus for that length of time, and it did my soul good.

I had been working on an essay for an upcoming book billed as a critical companion to the 1990's era comic book series Starman by James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Wade VonGrawbadge--owner of the best name in the history of the world. It was one the most fun things I have ever written professionally.

I have made my living as a writer and editor for about 17 years now, and I have covered all the things: From legislation and regulation, piracy, homeland security, emergency response to parenting, transportation engineering, billiards, and real estate. It's not what I set out to do with my life, but it's been interesting and an education. I also made some great friends and had some amazing experiences along the way. But my first love has always been literature. I had been enrolled in a PhD program at University of Chicago because it was my ambition to study and teach literature at the college level. Anyway, I ran out of money and it didn't happen. So it goes.

But that's part of what made writing the aforementioned essay so very delightful. I was for the first time in years writing literary analysis, and it felt great to see that I am still good at it. I may write more and post it here for those that are interested, but mostly just for my own pleasure. I love to sink my teeth into some juicy words and squish out all the luscious meaning.

I was also glad for the opportunity to work on something that was so close to my own personal interests, and to revisit a text that brought my great enjoyment in my youth. Starman has often been compared to Neil Gaiman's celebrated Sandman series. It's clearly written for adults and carries significant intellectual weight. The art in the book is gorgeously strange, as are many of the characters. My essay focused on the concept of family in the series. I am not going to post the essay anywhere, at least not until after the book is published. But here is the gist:

The origin story is essential to the superhero mythos. Millions of people, many of whom may have never held a comic book in their hands, know that Superman arrived on earth as an infant from the doomed planet Krypton, that Batman witnessed his parents’ murder, and that Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive arachnid. The stories were common knowledge long before these characters were featured in blockbuster films. While the non-comic book reader may have little familiarity with these characters’ adventures beyond these early moments, their origin stories are established fixtures in Western culture.

For most of us, family is our origin story. At the dawn of our lives, parents and family comprise our whole worlds and have tremendous influence over how we understand and interact with the larger community. James Robinson’s Starman is a family melodrama disguised as a superhero story. As readers, we are one cosmic rod away from Picnic or Look Back in Anger. The series explores the fundamental and sometimes regrettable ways in which “family” shapes—but does not determine—our identities and destinies.


The emphasis on family makes Jack Knight (Starman) nearly unique among the super hero pantheon. More often, these characters are distinguished by their status as loners. Consider Superman the alien, Batman the orphan, Marvel’s Captain America the proverbial “man out of time,” or Wolverine the savage amnesiac. Although these characters often piece together surrogate families from their supporting cast of friends, lovers, sidekicks, and teammates, it is rare for a superhero to have strong ties with their biological families due to tragedy, rejection, long absences, or the tension created by the need for a secret identity. For Jack Knight, his role as a superhero only brings him closer to his family. Becoming Starman puts Jack on a path to heal his relationship with his dad, which had been damaged by Jack’s rebelliousness and Ted’s resentment of Jack’s initial refusal to carry on his legacy.

It goes on to discuss Freudian psychoanalytic theory, the importance of conscious choice over blind adherence to tradition, and the reality that in order to be fully integrated into a family (blood family or chosen family, examples of both abound in the series) or community one must first become an authentic, self-actualized individual.

Now that I am not constantly using the books as reference material, I am free to lend out copies of Starman to my chums. So hit me up if you are interested. It's truly a fun and thought-provoking read. It's a super hero story, but one that is unlike any other as far as I know. It's a truly distinctive work of art with characters that feel incredibly authentic. Here's some general background about the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starman_(Jack_Knight).



I hope you have a lovely day, my beauties. Carpe noctem!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Fear and Loathing?

Las Vegas is astonishing. It's an entire city that has been transformed into a shrine to pure bullshit.

"Come see the fake Eiffel Tower!"

"Come see the fake Venice!"

"Come see the fake New York and the fake Eygpt and the fake fairy castle!"

And they do come. They come in droves. It's amazing to watch.

The view from my hotel room window is of what appears to be a 20-story Hooters location. And ... the lights are on ... meaning ... people actually GO there.

Ah humanity, you will ever be a mystery.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Writing on the Wall

I recently had an opportunity to visit the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, IL. It’s a nearly indescribable and beautiful structure.





Sitting inside the temple, I notice that words were inscribed along the walls of the alcoves, but that some of the text was obscured by structural elements of the building, columns and such. And I thought, “Isn’t that just the way?” We each see only a portion of what is, and what we see depends on where we are sitting.
Think about that a minute.
So I decided I would write down the words that I could see from where I was at that moment and see what came out of it. I started by looking at what was straight ahead, and then moving left to right around the room until I came full circle.
I wrote it down without altering a word, but I did add some punctuation to help it make sense in this format. This is what I said:

“For love of me,
The prophets proclaim the same faith.
Ye are the fruits of one tree,
And the leaves …
Is a radiant…
So power …
That consort with the son of being.
Thou art my lamp
And my light is in thee,
With me,
Of the sun,
For love of me.




Monday, January 7, 2013

Five Platitudes that I Despise



OK. If you happen to be in a delicate emotional state and are propping yourself up with a magical belief that--if you just close your eyes and wish hard enough--everything will change, you may way want to pass on this installment, in which I take words of wisdom gathered from sacred traditions, self-help gurus, and Facebook kitten/Willy Wonka memes and rip them apart.



1. Change is good.
Um ... SOMETIMES change is good. Sometimes it's bad. It really depends on what the change is. Example: Getting your head chopped off is definitely a change, but generally it's not good. I definitely agree that it's good to push ourselves, to go new places (literally and figuratively), try new things, and infuse your life with adventure, but this does not equate with a notion that all change is good just because it is change.

New Fortune Cookie Slogan: If you are upset about a change in your life, and telling someone about it, and they say, "Change is good." It means that person does not care about what you are saying and just wants you to shut up. It is also used as a tool for manipulation. I have seen this a lot in the workplace. Paint the person asking questions about a change as a stick in the mud who is resistant to improving anything, rather than address anyone's specific concerns about your particular stupid plan. So if someone says this to you, my advice is to walk away and go talk to someone else.

2. Live for today.

Why? Do we all turn into a pumpkins at midnight? Should we have no plan or long-term goals whatsoever? Should we completely ignore a lifetime of experience and the lessons and wisdom contained therein because it's just not contemporaneous enough for the gurus?

I get that sometimes people get so bogged down in fears, obligations, and preparations that they never get around to accomplishing that for which they are preparing. I believe in spontaneity and the need, sometimes, to throw caution to the wind. I know we needed to move on from baggage from the past that no longer serves you. And I get that any of us could drop dead at any moment and shouldn't continuously put off what matters to us. But "Live for today," like most of these platitudes, oversimplifies in the extreme. It reduces a very nuanced concept that requires balance and attention to a three words. It single-phrasedly transforms what could have been a profound reflection on life into insipid diarrhea of the mind.

New Fortune Cookie Slogan: Pay attention to what you are doing. Choose a direction you in which you wish your life to go and work towards it, but remember to take time along the way to enjoy the moment.

3. Make time.
Oh I truly hate this one. It may make the least sense among all of these. "UM ... I have decided that my day will now consist of 27 hours instead of 24." Or perhaps it means this alternative but still farcical approach, "I have informed my employer that I will only be working 7 hours a day from now on, and I have informed my children that I will no longer be feeding them. Thank you." And even if these things were possible and you get that 25th hour, there is no guarantee that by the time 25:00 rolls around you will have a shred of energy left to put towards whatever it was you wanted to do.


New Fortune Cookie Slogan: Manage your time effectively. Budget your time. Prioritize. And recognize that if there is something in your life that matters to you, something you wish to accomplish, then you will have to fight tooth and nail every day to make that happen. It will never be easy, and circumstances will never be ideal.


4. Focus on the positive.
It sounds fine and fancy, but the ugly flipside to this is "Ignore the negative." This is not always a useful and effective approach. Life is not sunshine and lollipops just because you decide to only pay attention to those things. There are battles that need to be fought. There are evils that need to be overcome. We can't always ignore what is wrong in our world. Sometimes you have to take the Negative, tear out its throat, slam it against the ground, and piss in its empty eye sockets. Just sayin'.

New Fortune Cookie Slogan: Don't give up. Don't fall into despair and surrender. If things are great, celebrate that with all your might. If things are not great, fight to your last breath to make them great again. And keep in mind: Eating shit is not a virtue.


5. Everything happens for a reason.

That's sweet, but No. It. Does. Not. Children are not raped and murdered by the thousands every day to serve a higher purpose. Malnourished mothers are not watching their breast milk dry up as their infants dehydrate because God or the Universe wants to teach them some important lesson. It is up to us to give our lives meaning. It's not just there automatically. And far too often this platitude is used as an excuse to make the intolerable seem somehow OK. Some things are not part of a master universal plan. Some things are empty, cruel, and wasteful. These are the things we need to change, fight, stop, resist. Do not go gentle into that good night because you imagine Jesus or Buddha or Carl Sagan will show up one day and explain to you why your child being kidnapped or your spouse getting cancer was such a great fucking idea--because it's not, and they won't.

New Fortune Cookie Slogan: Recognize that sometimes you win and that sometimes you lose, and that sometimes there is more to fight for than the mere possibility of winning. When you lose, suck it up as best you can and gird thyself for the next battle. Because it's always coming.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh, the irony





Seeing lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of pro-gun propaganda on or around the day of a school shooting, theater shooting, or what-have-you shooting--kind of makes me want to shoot people.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December. Be Thou Nippy.

I started typing this as a Facebook status and as it went on and on and on like a Freddie Mercury chorus I realized it was long as the day is long and should really be a blog post.


So.

Here we are.

It's been a long and busy week. Some health problems among family members that were scary, but seem to have turned out OK--in that treatment and occured and the person is feeling much better.

Friday I took a half day off work and my chumsketeer Markisan came out to the Wastes for a visit. We went to a new brewery called Solemn Oath, where we drank tasty ales with names like Butterfly Flashmob and Ravaged by Vikings. It was a much-needed change of pace. We took a growler of Ravaged by Vikings to go and got more hammered than Thor back at my sleeping hole.

Later, there were birthday festoons for another dear friend. We returned to the Wastes quite late.

I got up early and made a grocery list and did the shopping, cleaned a bit and then made some meals for the ill relation mentioned above. I made a macaroni and cheese with seven cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, orange bell peppers and spinach. And a pot of matzo ball soup, and a chicken dish with grilled onions and apples in an apple cider and apple-cider vinegar reduction, served over noodles with fresh green beans sauteed with tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Then we drove up north to deliver these foodstuffs and to visit a bit.

We then planned to go to Lincoln Park Zoo to see the Christmas lights and the beasts.
Never actually made it to the zoo. It was way too packed and by the time we fought through the crowds to get in, there wouldn't have been time to see much. So we made the best of it and went to see the Daley Plaza decorations and the Field's windows. We will try for the zoo a different day. Crowds abound because it's so freakishly warm out. I guess most people are happy about the mildness, and I suppose that this is a blessing for all the people who are on the street this winter.

But speaking for myself only, I find the spring-chicken weather a bit disappointing. The cycle of seasons has purpose. I like to see them change. My favorite seasons are the transitional ones, the times of visible transformation--Autumn and Spring.


Sure, it's lovely to have sultry days bulging with fat fruit, with the sun throbbing in the sky and blossoms unfolding amid the leaves of grass in summer. But is it not also lovely to make angels in ice and huddle together in the dark of winter with steaming cups and thick wool socks and crackling fires?

All things have their own flavor, and I want to lick every bit of life. After all, unbroken routine is my greatest fear.

Even the most temperate of days, lovely of lovelies gets old after a while. It's nice for a while but then one starts to get antsy--I mean--shouldn't it DO something? Can we have some thunder please? Or a deep fog, or a blanket of snow? Is there nothing to learn from winter? Is there nore just as much to savor in the hushed dark cold as there is in the bright, bright sunshiney day?

Honestly .... Isn't summer the annoying excessively perky cheerleader of seasons? Can't summer just shut up for a few minutes so we can think? Indeed. If I wanted it to be warm all the time--I'd live someplace where it's warm all the time. So, as the master said, "Blow wind! Crack your cheeks! Blow rage blow!"




Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Night Creativity

So somehow I got the house to myself tonight and I was all sleepy and coughing and hacking and snorking. Then I had a sandwich and some tea and took a bath and had MORE tea and watched cheesey fantasy shows while laying my heating pad.

Then, long story short: I drank a glass of water.

After which I felt creative urges. So I wrote this poem:


Meditation on a Glass of Water


We move from the Snow Moon to the Oak Moon
We are raging storm.
We are silent melting snow
We bring the water to the earth and the earth to the water.
Tears of the sky,
We deepen the sea.
We make the desert lush
We are children of the mother
We move from the archer to the ram
We are the rising smoke
We are the breathe of life
We strike the hammer that sparks the fire
Heart of the earth,
We warm the coldest night
We illuminate the night
We are children of the father



And then I did this sketch for an upcoming painting. Note, this sketch is ridiculous and preliminary and will look a lot better all sorted out on canvas with the correct proportions and symmetry and what not. For example, in the final, edited piece the sun will be larger than the moon, as is typical with suns and moons (That is a crescent moon at the base, not a banana). I really shouldn't be showing this to anyone, but I don't care.

Here is the birds' eye view:






Here are some close ups of details:






Sunday, November 11, 2012

Help a Friend

Many members of our burner community are no strangers to misfortune. Thanks to the friendship and compassion spirit we offer one another, many of us are also no strangers to generosity, compassion, and goodwill.

That goodwill is again needed.

During a recent community event, a car belonging to Benjamin Gonzales was vandalized and several of his belongings stolen, among them were a laptop computer, a hard drive, and several pieces of camera equipment. As many of you may know, Ben is a filmmaker and a photographer. The equipment that was taken were the essential tools of his trade. The theft of these items is not only a tremendous financial loss in terms of their own monetary value; they drastically impact Ben’s ability to make a living and support his family, including his young son.

Not only is he unable to accept new work without this equipment, the hard drive contained images from several jobs he had already completed. Because the material is now lost, he is unable to bill those clients for his time and labor.

This is a devastating incident for Ben and his family. Can we please come together as a community to help our friends recover from this loss?
A donation of any size would be one step towards helping to ensure this family remains on its feet. Ben works himself into the ground to care for his loved ones. He is often the first in line to offer help to others, and I hope that the members of our community will now line up to help him.
Please make donations at: http://gopho.chipin.com/ben-gonzales-gopho-collective

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oppression has been privatized.


Check this out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/papa-johns-obamacare-john-schnatter_n_2104202.html




Here we see how the conservative mind works. We also see the conniving, vicious, decietful attitudes that large businesses have towards the consumers and workers whose patronage and labor provide the wealth they enjoy. See this man, speaking publicly and without shame, about raising prices, reducing wages, and cutting workers hours, because he resents President Obama's policies. Note that this company had a net income of $55 million in 2011 and that this CEO was paid $2.75 million in addition to recieving 6.1 million shares of stock.

Basically, these terrorist corporations hold their employees and local communities as hostages for ransom: Do what we want, or we will hurt these innocent people. The free market at work.

It is important that we as a society stop accepting this type of behavior from business, whose sole mission is to take as much as they can from workers and consumers while giving back as little as possible. We must send the message, with our words, votes and dollars, that these kind of attitudes and actions are no longer acceptable. Companies aad executives that engage in these practices do not do so out of economic necessity or sound, ethical business rules. They do so out of greed, spite, and a sense of entitlement.


Note the quote from the CEO who fired every employee in his company whom he believed voted for Obama. This is freedom? "Small government" means all but nothing if employers have this must control, destroying livelihoods to avoid minimal cost increases and intimidating and punishing workers for exercising their right to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Friday, October 5, 2012

All Hallow's

All Hallow’s

All is hallowed.
Exult in life;
meditate on death,
Think of sunlight reflected by the moon.

All is hollowed.
Every fortress is also a prison.
Life begins with breathing in,
Life ends with breathing out.

All is hallowed.
Take nourishment.
Bite. Tear. Swallow.
Violence is inherent to sustenance.

All is hollowed.
Destroy leaf and flesh.
Leaf made leaf and flesh made flesh.
Energy made matter made energy.

All is hallowed.
Hail to the broken!
Hail to the unwelcome!
Hail to the cold!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good fences do not make good neighbors.



"If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
-William Blake



Here's the thing.

We are all mad here. We are all crazy. We are all broken. We HAVE to help pick up each other's pieces. We have to help each other hold together. Because if we don't there will be nothing left of any of us. We are in this together, and by "this," I mean "everything." This seems so obvious to me. I can't think of way that this could not be Truth. I will take care of you, and I trust you to take care of me, oh my people. Because if you are not all right, I am not either.

And we don't have to hurt. We can all be safe. All we are is what we have thought. And that is all it takes to change the world from a lonely, frightening, angry place to a welcoming, warm, and kind place... just new, different thoughts. That's truly all it takes.

What makes this wrong? What makes it right or necessary to withhold? To put up walls? What am I not seeing? What is it that makes this such a radical idea?

I was thinking this morning of that Robert Frost poem "Fences" about a man walking with his neighbor on opposite sides of a stone wall that separates their homes/lands from each other, patching up the holes, making sure the barriers and obstacles between them were secure. I understand the poem, but I don't understand the people inside of it. I have always wanted to break the walls down. Because maybe letting go is the only way to hold on. Letting go of fears and expectations and old ways of being. To destroy them, in order to create something better, this has been my mission. But that's the thing about togetherness ... no one can do it alone. That's the thing about community, real community, about family--family that transcends the mere happenstance of blood--an idea of family that changes, grows, includes more and more ... no one can make it happen on their own. So, please, help me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Letter to Columnist and what not

So. Been a while since I have written here. Been kind a busy. My apologies, you monkeys.


I do not often write to media types or what not, but recently I felt compelled to respond to Mark Morford's fabulous column. See it here:


http://blog.sfgate.com/morford/2012/07/24/a-deadly-rampage/



Here's what I said:


Good morning Mr. Morford:


It does happen.


I thought I would let you know.


People snap and commit radical acts of kindness.


For example:

1. My cousin left her home despite having the flu, in order to pick up my children from day care in the middle of thunderstorm with a tornado warning, when I had been detained by an emergency.


2. Last year at a regional burning man event, a group of campers gifted a hammock the size of a Viking ship to a friend of mine, asking for nothing in return.


3. I leave love notes to strangers in library books so the next person that opens the book sees a message that says, “You are beautiful,” “Don’t be afraid,” or “You are SO loved.”


4. The daughter of one of my coworkers helped women in a village in Africa obtain a computer and start selling the baskets they weave via the internet, greatly improving their quality of life.


5. One morning, when my family was out to breakfast, my father requested the check only to discover it had been paid. When he asked who paid it, a man approached him and said, “You may not remember me, but several years ago you noted my car standing idle with the door open and stopped to look. You saw that I was in the backseat, that I had just been robbed and shot. You wrapped my wound in your shirt and took me to the hospital. I am alive today because of you.” (My father is a retired Chicago Police Officer.)


6. A lovely lesbian couple lost everything in an apartment fire. Their friends, none of whom are particularly well off, held a benefit for them that raised more than $3,000, through burlesque performances, selling popsicles with naughty flavor-names, and auctioning erotic art.


7. My wife is a teacher. Her students at the end of last year made a scrapbook for her in which they wrote her messages about the tremendous positive impact she has had on their lives and telling her how much she has inspired them. Her thousands of radical acts of kindness yielded one in return, from a group of 11-year-olds.


8. At a restaurant a server expressed interest in a book I had with me. I left it with the tip and a note that indicated that it was for her, I hadn’t just forgotten it.


9. A friend and I rescued a dog that was running through traffic during rush hour on a busy Chicago street. We chased it for five blocks, fed it, gave it a flea bath and took it to four shelters in two days, until we found one that promised not to euthanize it.


10. Someone I know was taught the appalling religious belief that we are all born naturally “sinful,” that all human beings are “naturally depraved.” We would debate this often. One day as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approached we saw news footage of the rescue efforts. She wept for people she saw in that footage, the rescuers and the rescued. She was overcome with compassion for them. When I asked why she was crying, she said she was hurting for those people. When I asked how she forced herself to feel that way, she said she didn’t understand what I meant, she didn’t force herself to feel anything, these feelings welled up on their own. And I replied, “Then THAT is your nature. Loving. Compassionate, concerned for the well being of others. That is your nature, and so it is with all of us.” And so it is.


And these are just a few examples, and they are pulled only from my own little circle of family, chosen family, and acquaintances, many of whom are unmitigated freaks. But still, at least it all happened. Of course, none of this will make national news, and perhaps these are all little things. But they give me hope. Love still thrives in the human heart, and while it’s easy to believe that the earth could be crushed between the sweaty balls of Satan at any moment, we do have the power to hold darkness at bay. We can all be safe. We can all be loved. We can all love each other back. All we require is the will to make it so. This, more than anything, I believe.


Thank you again for another excellent column.

Jim

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Why me?

When things go wrong, when something hurts, it's typical for this question to come to mind,:

"why me?" "Why is this happening to me?"

It is useful and instructive to also ask that question when something good happens, when you what you want, in those sparkling moments of clarity when you realize you are breathing, that millions of cells and working together miraculously to keep you alive, feeling, thinking, tasting, hearing, seeing, touching, and learning. That you won the lottery, got the new job you wanted, had absolutely transcendent sex, touched someone's heart, remembered the lyrics to a favorite song, bit into a warm soft chocolate chip cookie, finished off an Orange Julius in your favorite Viking helmet while washed up entertainers of the 80s and 90s frolic with black magik snow globes in the distance ... (yes, this has happened, and yes, it was awesome).

Ask, "Why me?" when you look into the eyes of your truest love and remember that you can't answer that question anymore easily in moments of joy than you can in moments of pain. Whether you suspect it might be chance, or work, or luck, or grace, you can't know how the infinitesimal congregations of details, wrong turns, serendipitous delays, triumphs and mistakes led you to be in that moment, in that place, with this person.

Remember in those moments of joy, that it could just as easily be a moment of pain. That you could be one tick of the clock away from disaster you didn't cause and don't deserve, wondering "why me?" And then turn, realize that at that moment--there is someone begging that question in sorrow, in crisis, and reach out, do what you can, even if at that moment it's just a kind word or a facebook comment, or go to them. See yourself in them. That could be you, if it was you, what would you want them to do for you? Can you deny help to others that you would accept from them if you were in there place? Be grateful for what you have, remember that you don't "deserve" your joy anymore than you "deserve" your pain. Life doesn't come with promises, guarantees, or warranties. There's nowhere to go to get your money back, and the only help we have is each other--and that responsibility to be good to each other is the most sacred thing there is.


In your moments of joy ask, "Why me?' remember that you are alive and able to give love, remember how good it feels to connect, to give, to care for others, and be grateful for the opportunity to do it again and again. You couldn't help if you were crippled, if you were starving, if you were dying of thirst or in intensive care. You can help because you already have what you need. Thus, the opportunity to give is a gift itself.

Ah, why me?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Awesome Quote

I love this story, just came across it and thought I'd share. Please note, the "Jim" below is not me, which is kind of shocking:

“Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
― Maurice Sendak

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good Morning America! And Go Fuck Yourself!

Have you been following this case of the guy in Florida who shot an unarmed black teenager who was walking home with a bag of skittles? The police even told the dude to leave the kid alone, and he followed him and shot him—and HE HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED WITH ANY CRIME. Because under Florida law, it’s legal to murder someone if you feel threatened.


More here: http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/20/10780286-florida-stand-your-ground-law-could-complicate-trayvon-martin-teen-shooting-case



So called “justifiable homicides” have tripled in that state since this law has been passed. I am sick over this. America will not be worth the dirt it is built on until it lets go of it’s disgusting obsession with firearms. A person who is not a law enforcement officer who carries a weapon is nothing but a murderer to be looking for an excuse. I am so furious and disgusted with that something like this can happen in the United States. We should ALL be deeply ashamed. A person with a gun is not some “citizen hero” defending his community and family from evil—they are a threat to themselves, their families, and their communities. It’s no coincidence that gun owners are 8 times more likely to be victims of crimes than non-gun owners. These weapons, these hazards, create a FALSE sense of security, and nothing more. A person is more likely to be struck by lightning several times over than to actually defend themselves against an attacker with a firearm. Yet, 6 to 8 children are accidentally shot every day in this country—note that doesn’t include intentional murders or suicides. No one would put their money into an enterprise that lost so much while gaining so little, but then again, in a capitalism-obsessed society, money is valued far more than human life. We see that every day when environmental protection, health care, and safety regulations are shot down for the sake of making sure rich people don’t have to pay taxes on their yachts and other stupid shit. We are in a country that lets people die for the sake of letting an uninformed minority of “gun owners” keep their toys. We are a country that takes to the streets in rage over a few extra bucks in taxes to heal the sick, but yawns and changes the channel back to the Simpsons while children are murdered in cold blood for no reason.

Good morning America … And go fuck your fat ass with a flagpole.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tour Guide's Toast

The Tour Guide's Toast
At the end of the day's designs,
after the reading of the signs,
after the sights and sounds,
while laughter yet abounds,
the guide rose from his chair,
he said to the travellers there,
"As your grateful host,
"I would like to propose a toast" ...

"Past the clockwork pyramid,
through the wireless light,
beside the feline bride--
I drink to the light of the moon.

Before the lady of fangs,
under blues that fade to red,
when sinuous fox tails twitch
'round the golden apple, your stolen kiss--
I drink to riddles in the dark.

Stripping away the surface,
turning loose the naked growl,
beside the roughneck parliament,
savoring the texture of night,
I drink to the ponderous delictum.

In the wink of the shimmering eye,
among the huddled whisperers,
above the blustering bastards,
clutching the hand of the holy sinner,
I drink to riotous love.
Drink with me, to riotous love".

The travellers all looked puzzled,
a few uncomfortably shuffled,
then a lady tilted her glass,
a young man began to laugh,
and the guide returned to his seat,
his work at last complete.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Inquisitive Boomerang

So.

I like to ask people random and delicious questions. I think little details like, "What's your favorite smell?" reveal more than the person who answers realizes, or perhaps they know the totality of what they are sharing and it's all a plot and maybe that's even better, who knows?

Anyway. I fired this one off to a friend the other day and I think it is blogworthy. I asked her, "What is the best thing about being you?" I wanted to know--of all the things that go into being the person (you) are--what do (you) enjoy the most.

I will not share her answer, that would be rude. However, she fired the question back at me like an inquisitive boomerang (oh my God--that would be a fabulous band name) and I would like to share my own answer, which was this:

I think the best thing about being me is that I have a certain fearlessness when it comes to people. I have been hurt and backstabbed so many times that I know I can handle it, I can survive it. I don’t like it, but it won’t destroy me, so I am free to take a chance on people, and it’s led me to relationships of all kinds—friend, love, family—with some wonderful people who have opened up new worlds to me. There may be other things of course that I like and don’t like about being me, but right now anyway, this is what I am enjoying most about being me.

So now, my tasty chums and chummetts and chumasauruses... tell me, what's your favorite thing about being you? EXPOSE yourselves to me, my darling misfits.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jolly Good Apocalypse

Because I like lists,and don't have a lot of time to write today, but still want to post something--here is my list of songs about death and destruction that have really happy music.

Some of these are so upbeat that many people who don't even realize how dark the lyrics are:

1."It's the End of the World as We Know It" by REM
2. "Cities in Dust" by Souixsie and the Banshees
3. "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash
4. "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen
5. "99 Red Balloons" by Nena
6. "Four Winds" by Bright Eyes
7. "Excitable Boy" by Warren Zevon
8. "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins
9. "Pumped up Kicks" by Foster the People
10. "Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo
11. "People Who Died" by Jim Carroll Band
12. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by The Beatles
13. "1999" by Prince
14. "Marie Provost" by Nick Lowe
15. "I Think I Am Going to Kill Myself" by Elton John
16. "Son of Sam" by Elliot Smith
17. "The Rake's Song" by The Decemberists
18. "Last Stop This Town" by The Eels
19. "Deanna" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
20. "The Curse of Milhaven" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds


There's my list. Can you think of other songs that seem to laugh in the face of doom?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Beauty" ... but where's the truth?

So ... I googled "beauty" this morning and clicked "images" just to see what would come up.

I was disappointed to see every image I scrolled through was of virtually identical looking women applying make up. That was really disappointing. I mean .. I expected to see some of that sort of thing, but I was shocked that was all I got. With the untold trillions of images floating about on the intertubes, I would think that a search for a term as wild and numinous as "beauty" would generate more than one idea.

Nothing wrong with make up or women of any sort, but I just expected ... variety ... people--yes, but different types of people, and I thought maybe some landscapes or artwork or the moon or babies or tattoos, absract colorful blobs, a gravestone, a perfectly composed taco, Mother Theresa rocking a leper to sleep, naked vampires wrestling a giant squid on the rings of Saturn--all blood and tentacles and teeth--maybe even some of the identical looking women doing something BESIDES applying make up for crying out loud!

I thought I would get a glimpse into what the teeming millions in their secret hearts call "beautiful." But no, I got a bunch of fucking ads for Estee Lauder.

Come on mortals! You can do better than this. Give me more than lame commerce, uninspired assimilation, and outright falsehood. Stop lying to yourselves! I know what you seek in your heart of hearts because I seek it too! Grab that beauty, squeeze it, and drink it bitches! Sink your teeth in it, spread beauty on the ground and roll in it, pour beauty over your head and let it run down your skin like shed blood! Find it, my robots! Notice it, revel in it, steal peeks at it when no one's watching, poke it on Facebook, celebrate it, ACKOWLEDGE it, know it when you see it, take a picture--it'll last longer--and whatever do you don't lock it away to die and never ever forget it!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Pull List

In honor of the I Kick Your Face Comicast of which I had the honor to be a part, I am posting my list of comic titles I am currently reading:

Animal Man
Aquaman
Avengers X-Sanction (Mini series)
Batgirl
Batman
Batwoman
Birds of Prey
Catwoman
Incredible Hulk
Justice League
Justice League Dark
Moon Knight
Red Hood and the Outlaws
Supergirl
Swamp Thing
Uncanny X-Force
Uncanny X-Men
Wolverine and the X-Men
Wonder Woman



Also, I am reading the following series in trades:
Fables
Scalped
Y the Last Man


I was reading about 10 other series that I decided to drop because they sucked.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Resources for Freelancers, Arts Entrepreneurs, Small Business Owners, Start Ups

So last night I attended a seminar with my chum on creative/arts entrepreneurship and freelancing. They provided a lot of material that I see fit to share with my friends who work in the arts, do freelance work, or own or are working to own their own businesses.

Here's some important links to organizations that can help you, network, get information, get tax services, obtain loans and other funding, or provide education:

The Law Project
http://www.thelawproject.org/
The Law Project provides pro bono (free) legal assistance to nonprofit organizations working in low income communities in the greater Chicago area and to emerging entrepreneurs on a wide variety of transactional/business issues.


Indiemade
http://www.indiemade.com/
IndieMade offers the simplest, most affordable way for indie entrepreneurs to build an online presence. For a low monthly fee, IndieMade helps crafters, artists, photographers, DIYers, and artisans of all types easily produce creative websites. We live and breathe websites for artists.

ACCION
http://www.accionchicago.org/
ACCION Chicago is a small business lender, dedicated to providing financing and business education to small businesses. We offer loans of up to $20,000 for start-up businesses and $50,000 for established businesses. We also offer Credit Builder loans between $500 and $2,500.

Rock Star CPA
http://www.rockstarcpa.com/
Rockstar CPA exists for one reason: there are individuals and businesses working in creative and entertainment fields who need extra care and attention. They are underserved by traditional accounting firms that don't understand the complexities of your very unique business. They walk into the major national tax chains and walk out confused or frustrated after being told that what they do and what they spend money on is not a valid business.
They are not understood and they don't understand.
Rockstar CPA has spent years developing a careful approach and a complete practice. We have formed the business as a B-Corporation, which means it's in our blood to be sustainable and an active contributor to our community. We love our clients and want to help them succeed above all else.



Northside Freelance Network
http://northsidefreelancers.net/
the North Side Freelance Network is a collaborative resource and community-building tool for current and fledgling freelancers and solopreneurs.

NSFN aims to create a community on the far northeast side of Chicago and the near North suburbs that will:

Create both online and in-person spaces for people to meet
Help freelancers sustain or grow their businesses
Be a resource for those who are contemplating the leap to self-employment
Offer mutual support as well as opportunities for sharing ideas, collaborative projects, and referrals


Independent Writers of Chicago
http://www.iwoc.org/index.htm
IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers who work primarily throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. IWOC members serve large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations; together they represent a broad range of writing talents and specialties.


The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship
http://www.instituteforartsentrepreneurship.com/

Founded in 2008, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship™ (The IAE) is a Chicago-based educational institution, a recognized Illinois 501c(3) organization, committed to helping artists’ around-the-world to be able to answer one essential question:


How can I develop the knowledge and skills to create a successful, meaningful and sustainable life in today's world?


Our essential question is tied to the belief that artists, with proper training, have the capacity to:

1. Achieve sustainable self-sufficiency using their artistry

2. Stimulate local economies through their creation of “Main Street” creative enterprises

3. Contribute to bridging our society’s “ingenuity gap” (the space between problems that arise and our ability to solve them) which has grown at an alarming rate in business, scientific research, education, the environment and world affairs

4. Make dramatic contributions to our national security through international cultural understanding and exchange


coLAB Evanston
http://www.colabevanston.com/
coLab Evanston provides shared working space for companies, individuals, and organizations. We are a member-only community, driven by the need for collaboration and interpersonal interaction in a work-centered environment. coLab is ideal for individuals or teams who are tired of working from a home office or public, coffee-shop environment.

Our members are entrepreneurs, not-for-profit leaders, web designers, programmers, sales people, and employees of large companies and organizations. The common factor uniting these individuals in the coLab community is the need for "a space apart" to get things done

Illinois Department of Insurance
http://insurance.illinois.gov/
Provides information on health insurance for independent workers.

Northside Community Federal Credit Union
http://www.northsidecommunityfcu.org/index.html
Full service federal credit union that provides small business loans and other services, with a "long history of serving people who are not using traditional banking and financial institutions," and a committment to social and economic justice.


Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago
http://www.industrialcouncil.com/
ICNC advocates for interest of business on Chicago’s nearwest side. ICNC strengthens business by providing business development assistance as well information and links to public and private resources and services. ICNC, an employer-driven organization develops programs and services in response to the needs of the companies it represents.


Illinois Small Business Development Center
http://wpdi.clcillinois.edu/sbdc/
Offering one-on-one consulting targeted to small businesses and entrepreneurs, we are dedicated to providing you the best advice and resources. We are your trusted business partner offering expert advice on business plans and development, loan readiness, financial, marketing, and operations through a variety of business workshops to sharpen your skills.


Freelancer's Union
http://www.freelancersunion.org/chicago/legal.html
Support system to help a growing independent workforce, including assistance with health insurance, political action, community building, and other resources.


This might also be helpful:

Tax To-Do List for the Self-Employed
1. Choose your business entity.
2. Get a federal employer tax ID number.
3. Kepp track of your start up expenses.
4. Determine if you will be able to take a deduction for business use of your home.
5. Estimate your tax liability for 2012 and pay quarterly.
6. Understand the responsibilities of an employer.
7. Find a tax preparer that is familiar with your industry.
8. Keep very meticulous records.

Source: Center for Economic Progress, http://www.economicprogress.org/

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grrrr....

So, I've seen this flapping about on Facebook. I've been trying to avoid commenting on political matters on the internet because, what's the point. Even if I awaken some conservative on facebook to how silly their beliefs are, what difference will that make?

I continue to advocate for my own political beliefs through my vote, petitions, and letters to representatives rather than on facebook. That said this particular item caught my eye, and it pissed me off, so I am venting about it here instead.

This is the item in question:

"An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never fai...led a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan". All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A.... (substituting grades for dollars - something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little..
The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. It could not be any simpler than that.
Remember, there IS a test coming up. The 2012 elections.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you'll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.
2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation."



This is my take on it:
Someone who defines Obama's policies as Socialism should not be taking economics 101, not teaching it.

The experiment would have been a more accurate depiction of working life in America had he never given the students that worked the hardest any grade at all, while giving straight A's to those who never came to class, seeing as more than 90% of American millionaires are born millionaires--and currently, the education necessary to obtain a high paying job requires most people to take on decades worth of crippling debt.

The idea that one works hard and therefore achieves wealth is mythological. I've known personally people that struggled to put food on the table and pay the rent despite working an average 60 hours a week at three different jobs. We do not reward work in this country, we reward investment. In fact, a recent body of research found that upward economic mobility is far more difficult in the United States than in Europe or Canada.

Achieving wealth through work or innovation does happen,but that is extremely rare, such as with Steve Jobs, for instance. As for Mr. Jobs, if the rest of society was not able to afford IPods, Iphones and what have you--he would have died a pauper. He got a little bit of every Iphone sold, thanks to his employees who designed, built and sold them and the customers that bought them. Wealth trickles up, not down, and unless you are a subsistence farmer in the middle of nowhere,the well being of others in your community will affect your well being.

Human civilization and the human species itself has flourished and survived because of its willingness to cooperate, to form communities in which the stronger elements assist the weak, thereby strengthening the entire society. Without this ethic of mutual support, our society will fail.

The professor's concluding five sentences woud be better described as the most useless and misleading sentences I'll ever read, as they are a complete misrepresentation of how any redsitributive policy has ever functioned. The funny thing about all these debates is that we have tried all these things before, cutting taxes, raising taxes, laissez-faire, redistribution--we know what happens when we do these things, and that history does not support the claims of this professor or many of our political "leaders."

Friday, January 13, 2012

30 Things

I found this in a dank and dusty corner of my hard drive the other day. It's something I put together on facebook as one of those "tagging" games, you know ... the ones where someone tags you in an note and then you are supposed to answer the same questions.

Well this one caught on (I didn't start it.). Eventually, I (and others) were asked to read my 30 Things about Me as a sort of performance at Synphoria. I don't like I have ever posted it here, so behold ... blog fodder! Yay! Read on if you dare, and if you wanna, send me YOUR 30 things or post it in the comments. You beasts.





1. I care. (Does not apply to cars or sports.)
2. I carry an unholy number of black and purple pens on my person at all times.
3. I am intensely curious. I thrive on forming strong connections with other human beings. I want to know about everything, and I want to know you.
4. Yes! I want to know what that feels like. Yes! I want to know what that tastes like. Yes! I want to know what that looks like and sounds like and smells like and Yes! I want to do it again. Unbroken routine scares me to death.
5. I do not trust any sort of authority, tradition, or conventional wisdom or "common sense." Such terms are arbitrary and their meanings are fluid. I do not dismiss such things out of hand, but they must demonstrate their continued value. Merely being a tradition, or being identified as an "authority," means nothing.
6. The thing I hope people remember most about me is that I made them laugh.
7. I love story, words, language, poetry, music--any expression of passion and creativity, whether it’s Romeo and Juliet or a preschooler’s finger painting.
8. I am really stubborn. I go to ridiculous extremes before I admit anything remotely close to defeat. I think that in some situations that is a shortcoming, and in others, that is a virtue.
9. I have seen too much violence. I have seen too much murder and death, and it makes me tired. It also makes me want to be kind, to be open. There are forces that would push us towards fear, isolation, and cynicism, to close ourselves off for protection or for pride. If we obey, then we surrender the world. In this sense, love is rebellion and it requires courage.
10. That said ... if someone harms my daughters I will put him in a world of hurt from which he will never escape. Oh well, nobody's perfect. :-)
11. I pretty much raised my daughters on my own, until Carolyn and I got married two and a half years ago. Raising them is exhausting and awesome all at once. My children have given me as much as I have given them, if not more. They have molded me and molded my life as much as I have molded theirs, and they are joy.
12. I think that without random and radical acts of kindness and beauty, life would be such a chore.
13. I think there is sometimes something beautiful in mistakes, detours, and wrong turns--in making the journey longer or more difficult. Although it can seem ugly at first blush, the beauty of error can manifest itself in retrospect ... and, in the moment, I think we can sense the potential of that beauty hovering beside us like a ghost.
14. By nature I am a very affectionate person, but I worry that I get into people's space and make them feel threatened, so I often hold back. But underneath it all I’m shameless cuddle monkey.
15. One time when I was staying at my brother's house a burglar broke in. I saw the shadows of his feet moving under the bedroom door. I got out of bed and put on my glasses and shoes, then picked up the closest thing at hand that I could use to defend myself. Luckily it was a Scottish Claymore broadsword and opened the door. The dude screamed and hauled ass down the stairs. I pursued. He flew out the front door into the arms of the police officers who were already there. This surprised me because I hadn't called them. The next day I discovered that this poor guy actually broke into the neighbor's house first. They shot at him. He broke into my brother's house to escape, where he met me...
16. I have a special fondness for nighttime things: the moon, and thunderstorms, and owls, and bats, and cats.
17. I love to cook. Like writing, cooking is liberation. It is an opportunity for creativity, expression of love and nourishment, and independence. Prepackaged and fast foods make me feel like a hamster in a cage waiting for a pellet. In this day and age, cooking from scratch is a subversive act.
18. My beard’s name is Artemis. It has its own facebook profile.
19. Once when I was camping under the stars a skunk walked out of the woods, crawled up my leg and fell asleep in my lap. It stayed there about two hours before it left. It did not spray me.
20. I remember being taken to church when I was a very small child. It was an old fashioned marble and stained glass Romanesque cathedral. I couldn’t see over the pew and no one really explained what was going on except for saying that we were going to God’s house. So I sat there staring at the back of the pew and the ceiling not seeing anything else and when people started talking I thought I was literally hearing the voice of God. Eventually, I was able to pull myself up and see that up front there were people and they were the ones talking, and I remember feeling bitterly disappointed and a little cheated.
21. I've come to realize that life... is complex, contradictory, all at once unexpected and predictable, in and out of our control, a thing to nurtured and respected despite its difficulties, a gift to be appreciated and a trial to endure, should not be taken for granted or taken lightly, but should at all times be considered with a strong sense of both justice and humor.
22. It recently occurred to me that I have been living for a long time with too many self-imposed restrictions, and that I should just try to enjoy for a while.
23. Earlier this year, I did one of those Facebook status games where you say something about the person who posted and then you do it back and so forth. One of the questions was “What animal do I remind you of?” About 80% of the respondents said, “owl.”
24. In the last three and a half years, I have lost about 60 pounds. I came to feel like I was living in my head and had totally lost touch with my body. I tried to reconnect; that process is ongoing and proceeding apace. But all in all I am making an effort to care for myself in a real way, possibly for the first time. However, I still like pie.
25. I wrote my first poem on a CTA bus in 1995. I worked it out in my head then got off the bus and made for a library where I was able to write it down before I forgot it.
26. I love to ask questions and to be asked questions, sometimes the oddest most random details about a person can be quite revealing. I feel honored when someone asks me a question, or wants to know something about me. I consider it a compliment.
27. I want waaaaay more tattoos than I can afford. At present, I only have two little ones and one fat one on my back.
28. I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in the Marquette Park neighborhood. I lived in Chicago until I was 26, and I regret leaving and plan to go back. There is no way to quantify how much Chicago is ingrained in my identity. I know the city like the back of my hand; I know its streets and its history and I never tire of learning more. I hope my children remember what it was like before we came to the suburbs.
29. I am convinced that William Shakespeare understood more about human beings than anyone who has ever lived. He was a sorcerer with language and he has no peer. I mean, you or I might say, "Hey, go over there and get that thing for me please." Shakespeare says, "Be Mercury! Set wings to thy heels and fly hence and back to me again." That's the shit right there.
30. I am viscerally aware, when I am speaking with someone, that it may be the last time I see them or speak to them. We cannot take tomorrow for granted. There may not be one for you or me, so let's be good to each other now and say what we feel.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Narcissism Day!

I took this personality tests and I was tickled with the results, as I think they are rather spot on, even the the one that said I was the type most likely to become a "criminal."

As I always said, you know the one thing that truly makes people into criminals: LAWS.

Anyway, here's what the Internet had to say about me today:

Your Type is "Idealist Healer"
INFP
Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving

"Healers present a calm and serene face to the world, and can seem shy, even distant around others. But inside they're anything but serene, having a capacity for personal caring rarely found in the other types. Healers care deeply about the inner life of a few special persons, or about a favorite cause in the world at large. And their great passion is to heal the conflicts that trouble individuals, or that divide groups, and thus to bring wholeness, or health, to themselves, their loved ones, and their community.

Healers have a profound sense of idealism that comes from a strong personal sense of right and wrong. They conceive of the world as an ethical, honorable place, full of wondrous possibilities and potential goods. In fact, to understand Healers, we must understand that their deep commitment to the positive and the good is almost boundless and selfless, inspiring them to make extraordinary sacrifices for someone or something they believe in. Set off from the rest of humanity by their privacy and scarcity, Healers can often feel even more isolated in the purity of their idealism.

Also, Healers might well feel a sense of separation because of their often misunderstood childhood. Healers live a fantasy-filled childhood-they are the prince or princess of fairy tales-an attitude which, sadly, is frowned upon, or even punished, by many parents. With parents who want them to get their head out of the clouds, Healers begin to believe they are bad to be so fanciful, so dreamy, and can come to see themselves as ugly ducklings. In truth, they are quite OK just as they are, only different from most others-swans reared in a family of ducks.

At work, Healers are adaptable, welcome new ideas and new information, are patient with complicated situations, but impatient with routine details. Healers are keenly aware of people and their feelings, and relate well with most others. Because of their deep-seated reserve, however, they can work quite happily alone. When making decisions, Healers follow their heart not their head, which means they can make errors of fact, but seldom of feeling. They have a natural interest in scholarly activities and demonstrate, like the other Idealists, a remarkable facility with language. They have a gift for interpreting stories, as well as for creating them, and thus often write in lyric, poetic fashion. Frequently they hear a call to go forth into the world and help others, a call they seem ready to answer, even if they must sacrifice their own comfort."

"Idealist men find it relatively easy to express tender feelings, sympathize with others, and have female friends. Some even enjoy shopping. Many women find this intensely appealing while others view them as effeminate.

Idealist men are the most likely to provide romantic dates, an empathetic listening ear, and kindness. Women are likely to appreciate their ability to simply listen without trying to solve problems although they are likely to need to share the stage with the Idealist man who also wants to be heard. Along with sensitivity, Idealists are the most likely type of man to be moody, responding to the moods of those around them."

It included a "risk attitudes profiler" that called me an "Adventurer." LOL

"Risk Attitudes Profiler



Adventurer



PSYCHOLOGICAL PORTRAIT
People of this type are not made for quiet life. Due to their psychological characteristics, the society has always to reckon with their existence either defending itself from them or asking for their help or tolerating them and exploiting secondary results of their activity.

Throughout history, people of this type composed the criminal layers of the society. They were thieves, burglars and gangsters as well as gamblers, card-players, roulette players, etc., who occasionally staked all their property and even their life on luck. In ancient Rome, free citizens and even patricians, who felt a great need for risk, voluntarily became gladiators, and if they did not have enough opportunities to fight in the arena, they showed their discontent. This type also included medieval knights wandering in the Europe in search of tournaments, swashbucklers, condottieri and pirates. In more modern times this type can be found among revolutionaries, conspirators, terrorists, and drug smugglers.

These are examples of extremely anti-social manifestations of the needs for risk. But thirst for risk can appear in socially acceptable forms. Mountain-climbers, slalomists, race-drivers, sailors who cross the oceans alone, tightrope-walkers, who walk the rope over waterfalls and precipices, as well as small-time gamblers who play in lotteries and slot machines- all these engage in risky activities which do not harm society.

People with a pronounced thirst for danger and risk may be also useful to society which utilizes their characteristics in employing them in suitable occupations such as the police, the army where they serve as commandos or paratroopers, the fire department and even in the cinema as stuntmen.

People of this type are usually physically strong, courageous, and have excellent control of their bodies. When they are young they eagerly take up, football, baseball, basketball and different types of hand-to-hand combat. They easily master mechanical skills and are good at driving cars. They usually drive at high speed and like to overtake other cars, sometimes creating dangerous situations.

They are not especially bothered by moral problems, but those who are socialized keep to formal moral demands of society, especially to those of a group. These people can be subdivided into two groups according to their attitude to the group or to society. One kind gives priority to freedom from all social values and prefers to run risks alone. The other kind likes power and prefers to act in a group. They long for a leading position in the group and although they dislike it, will acknowledge the leadership of any stronger and more authoritative person.

In communicating they are somewhat rough and they can even be cruel to those who are weaker. However, there is an intrinsic sentimentality in them and they can be deeply moved by any soulful story or movie. They like to relax when they are not involved in their dangerous pursuits. Those who are asocial incline to alcohol and drugs. Socialized people of this type relax with peaceful activities such as fishing, gardening, caring for their pets, etc.

As they grow older and have established families, they feel less attracted to risk; memories of their past adventures return to them and they indulge in reminiscences. They begin to feel the future, connecting it with the future of their children. Their love affairs (until they are married) are mostly fleeting and superficial, although sometimes they experience long and stable relationship. They are not fastidious about their food though they prefer meat products.

A vivid example of a person with expressed thirst for risk is Alexander of Macedon who led a dangerous life for what he thought was the goal of spreading of Hellenic civilization throughout the known world. In modern times a similar type was Che Guevara who was fought for his idea of social justice. In literature there was Don Quixote. The international spy, Mata Hari, notorious during the First World War, can be considered to be a woman of this type."





What about you? Take the test here and let me know what it says about you:
http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes1.htm

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

26 Things I Really Liked about 2011

This is a short, quick and easy random list. I am sure I will think of more ... what made you happy in 2011?


1. Two of my favorite people in the world got married to each other.
2. I made some marvelous new friends. Older friendships got stronger.
3. I started doing a podcast. (www.ikickyourface.com)
4. I played a big role in publishing an independent magazine.
5. I took my daughters camping for the first time and had lots of fun. We discovered something new we like to do together.
6. My oldest daughter started driving. I can’t believe how fast these chimpies are growing up. It’s exhilarating … and scary, like roller coasters if roller coasters were scary.
7. I saw my youngest daughter become more outgoing, make new friends, go outside to play and be active. She has also become an avid reader. I don’t have to force her to turn off the TV and do something else anymore. She’s eager for other opportunities.
8. I organized a theme camp for Lakes of Fire.
9. I participated in two We-Ohm Eye Gazing Meditations facilitated by Preston Klik.
10. I got a lot better at spinning fire and did a couple of public performances at Give Peace a Dance, and at the Full Moon Fire Jams.
11. Carolyn had her first public art show.
12. I learned to worry a lot less and be more comfortable in my own skin.
13. I started talking to my parents more often, and the conversations have become pleasant.
14. I learned to be OK with letting certain people go, and letting go control of certain situations.
15. I feel like I have fallen even more in love with my wife with each passing day.
16. I planned a spectacular bachelor party for my best chum!
17. I got back into reading comics, and got Carolyn into reading them. It’s been fun to pick up the books, read them and talk them over.
18. I had some fascinating new experiences that I am going to keep to myself for now. 
19. I went to New York City for the first time. Sure, it was for work, and sure, I wasn’t there long, and sure, I only had a short time for exploring and didn’t get out of Manhattan, but hey, it’s been on my bucket list, and it confirmed that I would much rather live in Chicago—a far more beautiful and interesting city as far as I am concerned.
20. I became a little less eager to please, and that’s a good thing.
21. I did my first solo Synphoria “performance”: “30 Things about Me” in February.
22. I played paintball for the first time and had a blast, then proceeded to acquire Dark Lord with my Chum.
23. I had an excellent birthday celebration with Carolyn, Markisan, Glenda, and Conan the Barbarian.
24. We had really fun New Year’s Eve with glorious friends.
25. Someone actually gifted us a gym membership, so I now have a good place to work out regularly and attend yoga and other classes.
26. I went on an arduous trek to find an Orange Julius in Niles, IL with my ever-faithful side kick Chumwise Gamgee. On the road we made up and sang doom metal songs about the very beverage we so desperately needed to consume. The tune, "My Weeping Gullet" topped our charts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Word of Manly Advice

All right gentlemen, hearken unto me for a moment. It's been brought to my attention that some of you don't know how to behave. But fear not, your Captain is here to instruct you. Here's what it seems you need to know.

1. "Women are equals." does not mean, "It's OK to disrespect women in a somewhat different way than we used to." Somehow, these two statements became confused over the years, and quite frankly, dudes, I am a little disappointed. Here's the facts: Just because you HAVE a dick, doesn't mean you should BE a dick. Hold open the door, offer her your seat on the bus; say "please" and "thank you." It's common courtesy, and you are degrading yourselves more than anyone else by neglecting to practice it. I honestly can't believe that in 2011 we still have to talk about this. I thought we cleared this up during the disco era.

2. I am not going to go into too much detail on this, but I think my meaning will be clear nevertheless: Gentlemen, PUT THE CAMERAPHONE DOWN. And while you're at it--cancel the Twitter account, cut of your fingers, handcuff yourself to a radiator in a pitch-black dark room, but whatever you do--do not email, tweet or otherwise communicate that picture. If you do, Newsweek will do a cover story about what a shithead you are. Oh, and the recipient of your little artwork will show her friends and they will all laugh at you--a lot. Get your Snuffalufagus back on Sesame Street where it belongs.

3. You are not Houdini. Don't just disappear. If you decide the lady in question is not the one for you, just be a man and fucking tell her. And be honest with yourself too: You're not trying to spare her feelings, you're trying to spare yourself the "hassle" of taking responsbility for your decisions. Suddenly deciding to never answer the phone again is not letting anyone down easy. Be honest with yourself, be honest with others, and be upfront about your intentions. Or just stay home and play video games and leave everyone else alone.

4. Chill out with the jealousy. I think the lady readers could benefit from this one too. If you are so insecure, feaful, and weak that the idea that the lady or gentleman in your life might laugh at another person's joke or have a pleasant conversation with someone of the opposite sex that is not you and so forth, stop blaming them and go get some therapy. Your fears are your problem, and your responsibility to resolve. If you have reason to believe your partner is truly dishonest, then get out of that relationship and find someone you can trust. But if you feel threatened by your partner's every day interaction with random members of the oppositite sex, own your issues and go get help. You need it.

5. Stop acting as though your sole mission in life is to prove to everyone you have ever met that you are not gay. It's rude, disrespectful to a whole lot of good and decent gay people, and it totally makes people think you're gay.

6. Stop acting like war is cool and fun unless you've been in one and honestly still feel that way. Something tells me it's probably not going to go down that way, but good luck to you pal.

7. Read a fucking book. Not "Twilight."

8. Here's another one I can't believe people still need to be told: Pay attention to how your words and actions affect people. Think about this BEFORE you do or say something. I know you've been taught that as a man you have to be hard and angry and insenstive, that's the traditional way and it was good enough for our forefathers and it's good enough for you. Well guess what: Tradition is the result of little more than laziness and convenience, and everything you've ever been taught is probably wrong. So think for yourself, and think about others. Being a man isn't about being selfish, obnoxious, violent, or stupid, no matter what your grandpappy said. Also, find the balance between being considerate and being a pushover. The world does not need another Ike Turner, and the world does not need another sparkly emo vampire bitch either. There is a middle ground. Find it and stay there. And pull up your God damn pants.

9. Do not evaluate women soley based on their dress sizes. You don't even need to KNOW their dress sizes. Oh, and if weight and physical fitness are truly that important to you, then drop the french fries and start doing sit ups because chances are you need it more than she does. And remember my friends--WATCHING sports does NOT make YOU athletic.

10. Stop boasting. Stop bragging. Stop telling everyone how truly awesome, smart, and sexy you are. Show them with your actions. Live up to your words and you won't need to say them at all. And remember to laugh at yourself ... because you're funny, look at you: ignoring the phone call from the girl you were out with last night and sexting photos of your taint to the counter lady at Supercuts while eating a Big Mac on the train next to an elderly woman who's standing up like the man you think you are. You're a joke.


I hope you've enjoyed these handy tips. If you happen to engage in the above behaviors and think I came off a little angry, it's because I am, and you deserve it. You're embarrassing me along with yourselves. Now go forth and improve.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thank you, Clark W. Grizzwald

Last night my monk and my kids and I gathered around the television for the traditional viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I am sure almost everyone reading this blog has seen this glorious piece of true comic genius.

For some reason, the jokes never get old. Every year I laugh out loud at, "It wouldn't be the Christmas season if the stores were any hooter than they are," and other classic lines that so many of my friends and family can quote in almost any situation. Except by now, I often find myself cracking up BEFORE the punch line is delivered ... in anticipation.

Last night, however, I began to think of the movie a little differently. In particular, the central character: Clark Grizzwald. It occured to me: For all the fumbles, stumbles and outright disasters that take place every time this guy tries to do ANYTHING, Clark Grizzwald is a hero for our age. TThere is a lot to respect about the man in the hockey mask with the chainsaw who assaults his neighbors out of pure desperation to give his family a nice Christmas--even though they don't seem to appreciate it on the surface.

Here's my thoughts on why we should stop mocking and start congratulating Clark W. Grizzwald:

1. He fucking cares. This man is dedicated. He does nothing small, and no amount of complaining and snickering can deter him. If his 250,000 twinkle lights don't light up the night on the first try, he gets back up on the roof and checks every bulb. While his neighbors fret over their stereo and blandly criticize; while his in-laws make jokes at his expense,Clark Grizzwald presses on unbowed. He's motivated by love for his family; every knock on the head and fall down the stairs is for them, and he doesn't bedgrudge them for it one bit.

2. He's a Romantic. In an age sorely lacking in romance, Grizz keeps the passion alive. He's got the fire down below. He's passionate about just about everything he does, whether it's taking his kids to an amusement park, putting up a Christmas tree, or hell, doing his job. When he takes the kids sledding, he tries to find a way to do it faster, better. It ends in hilarious catastrophe, but you have to admit--the man didn't settle. In between bitch slapping plastic reindeer and stalking runaway squirrels, he remembers to pick up a little lingerie for his wife. A beast breathes beneath those geeky Christmas sweaters, my friends.

3. He's kind. Sure, he's pissed off that his cousin Eddie hasn't found a job in seven years and has nothing for kids for Christmas. The fact is he can't stand Eddie on any level--but he's still going to take of Eddie's kids. That's not his problem; that's not his business; that's not his responsibility; but he makes it his problem, even though no one would fault him if he didn't--because he can. To the Grizz, doing what is right is more important than doing what is "fair." And he understand the difference. He couldn't sit right with himself if he let those kids down, whether it should be his job or not. And sure, one could say what one wants about commercialism and the darker side of gift giving, but in the story at least the gifts are symbol. The point here is compassion. He's willing to help out someone he doesn't even like, someone who is clearly taking advantage of him, because there's some kids stuck in the middle who need a little love--who need to believe in something.

4. He's responsible. Clark's "good, old-fashioned family Christmas' is a disaster. His home is literally almost destroyed and almost everything he tries to do utterly fails. People are injured. Hostages are taken. The police are called. Very little of this is his fault. Shit just happens. Cats get electrocuted. So it goes. Still ... he never once says, "It's not my fault." When his moron cousin-in-law kidnaps his boss, Clark says he'll "take the rap." He owns his mistakes, but still isn't afraid to take risks.

5. He's a bad ass. He's a little recognized aspect of Clark's character. He stands up for himself. He puts his yuppie neighbors in their place more than once. He tells his whiny father-in-law not to piss him off. He rips is boss a new one for cutting out the Christmas bonus without telling anyone. In the first Vacation movie he forces a security guard onto a roller coaster at gun point. In the European Vacation movie, he runs down and punches out an Italian mobster.


And sure, the man isn't perfect. He loses his cool. He flips out, and he goes to extremes. He threatens to sodomize his neighbor with a huge Christmas tree and calls his boss a "bag of monkey shit." But hey, he reassures us, we've all done it. And it's OK in the end.

These aspects of the Grizz are underscored by the people around him. You can see how much he cares in how much they don't, or in how they react to him. His friend at work calls him, "The last true family man." And that may be true. The yuppie neighbors are perfect foils for the Grizz. Clark believes in magic and is ready to make his own. The yuppies roll their eyes and do nothing but snipe at each other and everyone else. They have zero passion. When yuppie husband moves in for a kiss, yuppie wife puts her hands up and tells him to shower. When things go wrong, they blame each other, and yuppie boy lacks the balls to say "boo" to Clark when the Grizz sends a pine tree through their dining room window. And in the end, they are sitting around miserable with ice packs on their heads sulking while the Grizz stands outside his ruined house with his asshole cousin's dog, brimming with pride while his family sings "Auld Lang Syne" with the SWAT team that came to arrest them.


The Grizz looks at the broken windows, hears the singing and voices a single thought: "I did it."




I salute you, Clark Grizzwald! Merry Christmas.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

So it goes

Four boys got lost in a dark wood. They were separated from their group and wandered for hours and miles until one of them, the oldest, found the way out. They were cousins. They were two sets of brothers. And from that night on they called themselves the "Lost Boys."

I found a photo of them the other day while going through some boxes. They were standing together, in those very woods. One of them, the oldest wore a chapfallen face. He sad looking, sticking out his big fat bottom lip, head bowed, with his eyes on the ground. The others wore the expressions of children being photographed--as though they were barely tolerating these few moments they had to stand still. I couldn't take my eyes off this picture or these children.

I was the oldest. I wore the sad face. I do not know why. The other kids in the snapshot were my brother Danny and my cousins Max and David. My brother Danny died 20 years ago today, September 25. He was 12 My cousin David, well, I attended his funeral yesterday morning, September 24. He was 29. My cousin Max is breathing, but I fear his soul is gone nevertheless. He is still lost, and I do not expect to see him again.

September 25, 2011. Exactly 20 years since my little brother was shot.

I am thinking this night about life and death and the ways they weave through each other like flour and water in same loaf of bread. And how that doesn't really matter when blood is on the ground. I am thinking about death as a part of life, and the many ways death actually gives life meaning, and how I don't give a shit about that right now. I am pondering the dark comedic truth that the wisdom of a thousand sages means dick when you're planting a spraypainted rose on top of a coffin.


I am thinking about my own death, and how I want to be remembered. I want my daughters and my wife to think of me and simply feel warm, like a blanket is over them in the safest place they've ever been. To be their shield,always, that would be my heaven.


I hope others remember that I made them laugh, because life can be as painful as it is precious. And to bring another person joy, even fleeting joy, is a privilege. It is a victory.


I am thinking that when new life comes into this world, pain is the only certainty. That newborn might have happiness. That new person might be loved, and cared for, and thrive. Or, he or she might not. I am thinking about what determines whether a person's life has love in it or joy in it, and I realize the answer is you and I. We decide, by how much we give of ourselves. We can provide that love. We can provide that joy. We can tip the scales and make the difference. The opportunities are everywhere. All we need is another person.


I am thinking about gratitude. And being grateful for the time I had with the ones I've lost, rather than bitter over the time that got taken away. I am remembering that we are entitled to nothing. That every moment and every smile is a gift and not something we simply deserve.


I am thinking about my brother. And I realize that I am talking about death and life and chubby philosophical perceptions partly to avoid what's really on my mind. I am thinking about a picture he drew about of turtle that I still have. I am thinking about how he loved really, really bad music. I am thinking about silly games we used to play for hours on end with nothing but our imaginations and--to our parents' eternal frustration--any piece of furniture, clothing, or household item it was in our power to move. I think about sitting on the porch during thunderstorms under what my mom called "the snuggle blanket." I think about the trouble he got into, and the things I did to protect him. I think about the knock down-drag out fights we had. I think about how he loved to play with his G.I. Joes, to take them apart and make new characters out of the pieces. I think about sensitive he was, and how easy it was to hurt his feelings. I think about the skateboard he rolled around on and the little ramps he would make out of random boards and bricks. And I wish I could at least get back every faded memory of our toddlerhood and beyond.