Saturday, July 21, 2012

Down The Rabbit Hole

Being online (constantly) does three things. First, it gives you superpowers. Second, and in a most ironic fashion, it cuts you off from the rest of humanity. Third, and the thrust of this post, it destroys all sense of normalcy. Once upon a time, if you wanted to see something new you had to go out into the world and look for it. This did two things. It forced interaction with the world and the people who inhabit it, and it ultimately gave you what you were looking for... something new. But you had to go looking for something relatively specific, drawn from your own desires and urges. With the Internet, we have access to so many things which are new to us, that it becomes less about what we WANT to find and more about the finding. Time and time again I've fallen down what I like to call "Rabbit Holes." Vortexes of YouTube videos about: pole dancing, soccer chants, comedians, funny animations, action movie fight scenes, collections of quotes both funny and inspirational, Comic Con panels, driving, and the antics of cute animals. But more insidious than all of this is the vortex of porn!

Story Time

So, I thought I'd try something a bit different! While the ideas for two series' of novels have been rattling around in my head for years, I recently fell into a train of thought that branched off a little. It's not a particularly short story... but I thought I'd just share it here. At least I could get something out of my head for a change! And, maybe it will prompt me to make some progress with the "big" stories. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to go about this... I may experiment some... so please bear with me!

But don't worry! I still intend to write the randomly inspired blog posts you've come to expect from me. And, with any luck, you'll even get them more regularly! For now, all I'm going to say about it is that I'm call ing this little project "The Dome"... I imagine it's going to be pretty heavy on dialogue (since that's what I really need practice with)... and if I ever get around to publishing the aforementioned novels, the crossroads of ideas will be evident to those of you who do me the honor of indulging me in this little exercise. 

Expect the first installment... (is this going to be in "installments"?... is "installments" really pretentious?) next week!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

New vs. Important

I have long been of the belief that I had nothing important to say. Anything I might wish to express has already been said... and been said better, by someone else. If I took the time to memorize some of the famous quote websites that I like to peruse from time to time, I think I could go the rest of my life without uttering an original thought. I've mentioned before that I'm also trying to write a novel, and I am plagued by the thought that I may have no original ideas for a work of fiction that someone might want to read.  But I realized something the other day. As I considered what to write next for this blog, it occurred to me that even though nothing I've written is a particularly unique opinion, the things I write here are still my opinions. So I thought I might explore the operative difference between what's New vs. what's Important. [hence title]

There is a brilliant video series called Everything Is A Remix that eases my concerns. I encourage you to watch it for yourselves. But, to summarize, the videos essentially make the case that almost nothing is original. It's all derivative and enhanced and modified from some earlier concept. If you need proof, just look at the roster of Hollywood movies coming out this year: re-envisionings of Spider-Man, Total Recall, Judge Dredd (two of which began as comic books), Django Unchained. Sequels like Taken 2, The Expendables 2 and new installments of the Resident Evil movie series (which began as a video game), Ice Age, Christopher Nolan's Batman, Paranormal Activity, a new James Bond movie, a new Jason Bourne movie (sans Matt Damon), The Hobbit... well, you get the idea! What about technology!? All credit to Star Trek in this one! Communicators inspired flip phones, the iPad!? Yeah, just watch an episode of The Next Generation...there's tons of em, just laying around.  Even The Holy Bible is a bit derivative. Noah and his flood sounds a lot like a story found on some Sumerian clay tablets (predating the advent of Christianity by, oh I don't know, A LOT). Elements of the story of Jesus bear a striking resemblance to stories about Hercules. I don't know how many stories about kids born to "virgin" mothers and being the sons of God/gods there are... but I'm pretty sure the Greeks and Romans used to write about that quite frequently. Nephilim, the offspring of angels and human women, also appear in The Bible... not all that disimilar from demi-gods... I'm just sayin!  Now that's not to say there aren't some "new" things out there. But even they probably trace back to something.

So, if every idea has already been had... how do you create something new? Well, that's just it! You don't! It's all a giant game of Telephone (or Chinese Whispers for you Brits... and less politically correct). You just retell the same story... it changes, sometimes imperceptably, sometimes radically, but it does change! It may seem a lot like another story...but there's an element that's unique to the creator. The same holds true for opinions. I love The University of South Carolina. I'm not alone in that but, my opinion is built on my experiences... and while those experiences may be similar to those of many others, they are still mine and mine alone! Only the limitations of language account for me loving my alma mater for the exact same reasons as someone else!

Which only leaves the matter of importance. Let's just go back through my earlier examples. The movies: they might not be new, but that doesn't mean they aren't enjoyable. And in the grand scheme of things, that's all they NEED to be. Beyond that, they might expose someone to the "original" or the source material, and thereby give that person further enjoyment or enrich their lives in some way. Perhaps even inspire some new idea or prompt serious thought on an issue. The tech: well, Star Trek in general gives us something to shoot for/ aspire to. And, I fully expect to be in a holodeck simulation before I die! The Bible: ... just because the story isn't unique, doesn't make the lessons any less important.  

A conclusion!? I suppose in the case of New vs. Important... Important wins... and important is decided by the individual. This blog is definitely important to me! While it is... generally "directionless" (by design), it's definitely not pointless! As social creatures, humans are driven to communicate with one another. This is how I've chosen to communicate with you... at least about some things. Thanks, by the way, for taking the time to "listen". Feel free to communicate back by leaving a comment. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Harnessing Creativity

When I was a young man, about eight years old, I got a report card with good grades (A's and B's) but, in the comment section my teacher noted that I had "difficulty with problem solving". And damn near twenty years later, I still do! A simple (and fictional) example of what I mean:

As a child, if you had asked me to put the Legos away I would have arrived at the conclusion that I couldn't do it. Follow the reasoning if you will. I would look at the little plastic blocks and get it in my head, that I could just dump them all in the bucket and put the bucket on the shelf... OR I could separate them by color and then stack them according to size on one of those flat green pieces you'd use for grass and put the slanted ones at the top and then place each stack on the shelf...but there's not enough space on the shelf...but if I moved the books somewhere... where can I move the books... there's no place to move the books, so there's no place to put my Lego stacks which means I can't do it... besides, it would take forever to make my color separated Lego stacks and it's story time and I don't want to miss the story, it's Clifford the Big Red Dog! So, I can't put the Legos away! All of that, when the course of action that was desired was to just dump all the damn Legos in the bucket and put the damn bucket on the damn shelf! 

Now, I'm sure it was just a bit more complicated when I got that report card, but the point is, I've always looked at even the simplest task and instead of taking the most straightforward path to accomplishing it, my mind went off on tangents of other ways to achieve my proposed goal. Sometimes I would rationalize this odd little idiosyncrasy by insisting that the proposed (unnecessarily difficult) method was more thorough, or neater, or would yield some unforeseen future benefit. Since then, I've gotten a little better. I still sometimes consider Rube Goldberg-ian solutions, but I have learned to redirect my mind to the simpler path for most tasks! The one place where I still haven't managed to apply that skill is in my writing. You see how long it's taken to get to this point! I've written before about my difficulty in choosing "first words"! But even more difficult, is figuring out WHEN to write.

Let us consider when I tweet most! Aside from live tweeting University of South Carolina athletics, it's usually in the middle of the night! On one hand, I'm having ideas that I deem worthy of being shared. In all fairness, I'm surprised those late night tweets don't consist primarily of gibberish, so their worth is a bit dubious. But setting that aside, I do tweet late at night. Even this is being written right around midnight! On the other hand, few if any of those tweets are ever read by human eyes. It's fair to assume that most of my twitter followers are living in America...although this blog has gotten some reads from Aussies and other interesting places around the world (for which I'm grateful) so it's possible somebody reads those tweets. (BTW! I always encourage you to look back through my twitter feed... you might be surprised by what you find there). The point is, I can't seem to tweet during the day! Writing anything at all in the light of day is difficult for me and I don't know why! So how do I go about replicating the psychological circumstances that lead to these little sprees of thought and thus allow myself to compose my thoughts in written form whenever I wish? 

Truth be told, I keep a list sitting on my desk of possible blog post topics. Now, they're not all gems, but there are about thirteen topics on the list right now! Some of those ideas are, "A Case For Eugenics", "The Politics of Nostalgia" and "Porn Star Moves". I usually have these ideas at work, or while I'm out somewhere and I think them out only to the point that I decide that I could write something of sufficient length and adequate content. Then I add the idea to the list and I don't actually get around to writing them out. Sometimes it's just as simple as sitting down at the keyboard and starting (such as this post). But, in general, I don't actually feel like writing. Well, that's not true! When I don't write, I feel like... well, I suppose I'd compare it to (mentally) wanting to masturbate...but due to laziness or some degree of exhaustion, not sitting down to find stroke worthy porn, and thus not masturbating. (I wonder, though I don't actually want you to tell me, if you can relate to that feeling). 

I have no clue about how to harness my creativity (and I realize I may be applying the term a bit loosely) but I am open to suggestions! Mostly I just wanted to write this to tell the Lego story illustrating what I perceive to be my most significant deficiency, and to compare my writing to masturbation...which it is! It's literary masturbation. It serves no productive function but, it makes me feel good and, I'm kinda kinky so I let you all watch!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

To My Future Wife

In the interest of saving us both some time and making sure that you don't one day become my future EX-wife, I wanted to write this for you, the woman who I will one day love. What follows is a quick guide to our as yet hypothetical relationship. A few insights into myself that may help you decipher my moods and motivations for the purposes of learning how to deal with me, some examples of what to expect in the long run, and maybe a few charming quirks or possibly even a couple of hints about what I may be know...sexually!

Now, I realize that you're possibly busy at the moment. Maybe you're a long-haired half Asian half Latina prodigy who got her PhD in linguistics from Oxford (or Cambridge...I'm not picky) at the age of 16. You're well respected in your field. You're fluent in eight (8) languages and conversant in an additional three (3). And, you've been published in scholarly journals on multiple occasions. It's also possible that you're a stripper, or a porn star (Hey Jynx Maze! How you doin' girl!? Lemme Holla at ya! HollaHollaHollaHollaHollaHollaHolla). Maybe you're that girl I had a crush on in High School! Whatever you do, whoever you are, it doesn't matter! What matters is that I will love you for exactly who you are! No judgments, no preconceived notions! All I ask, is that you remain open to the idea of love until we meet!

As for me! You'll find that when we meet, I will have, quite recently as a matter of fact, discovered my purpose. I imagine I'll be some sort of genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.... yeah, just like Teddy Rist. (or Tony Stark, if you're not a fan of deep cut obscure references which are actually quite a bit more accurate). Or maybe I'll be a childlike but ruggedly handsome author like Richard Castle. Although I will be considerably less fictional. At any rate, I will be busy. Combined with you're being busy writing scholarly articles about fascinatingly obscure dialects... or bangin' dudes on camera... or whatever it is you do, I trust that you'll understand that the time I make to be with you, or the sacrifices I make to be supportive of you and your career are a big deal. All that I ask in return is that I be allowed to go (or come back) and attend some home football games of my beloved Alma Mater, The University of South Carolina. Ideally, I imagine that you would join me, but like I said, I don't want to interfere with your goals.

One thing that should be made absolutely clear is that I will be completely and unwaveringly faithful to you. It's not in me to cheat on you. ... If your job happens to be bangin' dudes though, please understand that we're never gonna get married until you retire. I mean, I suppose you could "work" exclusively with me... but I'm not that thrilled about being on camera, and quite honestly, I don't really measure up to your likely co-workers and I'd hate to be that guy who everybody sitting at home on their computers is mad at for keeping you from putting on a good show for them. The point is, I won't stray. Don't get me wrong, I'll watch porn (with or without you), and I may from time look at a nice ass or a great rack while we walk down the street. But you'll be the only one to whom I'll be "givin' the business". But if you cheat on me... well, I've been known to hold a grudge. And having moved around as much as I did when I was a kid, I find it pretty easy to just kind of... cut people out of my life. To that end, there will be a prenup! Not because I think our relationship will fail, but because it'll take a load of my mind to know that IF something goes wrong, you won't financially rape me for the rest of my life! And if I don't have to be paranoid about that, I can promise you that I'll be so much nicer.

 But I don't think either of us will have much reason to "step out on" the other. I mean, as long as we both continue to put forth a little effort, I figure we'll have a very satisfying sex life. By the way, you shouldn't be afraid to initiate whenever you feel like... which really is just as simple as letting me know you're not wearing any underwear. Might I also suggest, cooking in nothing but an apron...or simply walking around the house in the buff... or just getting my attention and biting your bottom lip and smiling while looking at me seductively. Flash me on the beach and we're headed straight for the water and it's on you if you lose your bikini in the surf! On the flip side, I trust that when I begin to grope and fondle you in the middle of the night or while you wash dishes, you won't complain of a headache or argue that the pots and pans really need to be scrubbed right at that moment. Spontaneity is the name of the game! Oh! And lest I forget... kinky is fine by me... just let me know, I'll play!  "What about simple PDA!?" you ask? Well, you know what they say, "Discretion is the better part of valor!" I admit, I'm not all together sure that applies, but you get the point. It plays into my next point. I don't want our friends to be put off by how kissy and cutesy and grab-assy we are. Don't get it twisted, I have every intention of being kissy and cutesy and grab-assy... but there is a time and place for that. For every other time and place...I think I can manage to be a bit more subtle!

Now that we've covered physical intimacy, a few things you should know about me. I'm not going to say "I love you" over and over again. If I've said it once...well, I'll let you know if I change my mind! I say that half jokingly. But really, don't read into it too much if I'm a bit taciturn. I'm naturally quiet and reserved. Also, if you ask me what I'm thinking about and I say "nothing"... I'm really not thinking of anything in particular. I mean, you can't honestly want to know every time I'm thinking about switching to a straight razor instead of the disposables, or when to go get the beer and brats for tailgating or if I've got any clean underwear left or whether I'm going to mow the lawn this weekend or trying to remember when the last time I had jelly beans was. If you really do want to know, that's fine too. Just don't hold it against me if I'm not immediately forthcoming with the trivial minutia. More importantly, don't hold it against me if I'm not enthralled by your trivial minutia. You don't have to tell me what you think of the new Venus razor you bought! Just know that I appreciate that your legs are silky smooth and tantalizingly touchable.  Also, "That's/It's fine." is an acceptable answer to any question that includes the words, "do you like". I was raised to believe that there is no need for twenty-five words when two will do just fine. If you absolutely insist on more, let me know and I'll make an effort, I swear I will. But if you don't tell me, I won't know! I think we'd benefit a great deal from a frank conversation early on in our relationship regarding hints and passive aggressive requests e.g. "I wish somebody would..."! Also, I want one son! He will be named after my grandfather, just as I was! Beyond that, everything else is negotiable!

I consider myself to be pretty open-minded and cultured. If you want to go to a concert or a museum or dancing, I'm totally willing to go with you! Likewise, If you've never seen Firefly or Farscape or The West Wing... well, I expect you to sit down and watch one or all of them with me! Call it balancing the scales for...well, any reality show you might want me to watch with you. Relationships are, as they say, a two way street. I think it's good to share some interests from the beginning! But, it's just as good, if not better, to develop some shared interests as we go along. So, being willing to try new things is kind of a big deal! In the same vein of sharing... I am willing to share the radio station presets in my car with you! Also, you may adorn my couch with a few (by which I mean, "no more than three") throw pillows. Of course, that doesn't come until after you've got space in the medicine cabinet and at least one drawer in my dresser. Ultimately though, when WE have OUR'll naturally get free reign. All I ask for at that point is for a man-cave and possibly a "super classy" study/office/library, with dark wood, and high backed arm chairs, and floor to ceiling bookshelves filled with leather bound volumes and one of those Old World globes that hides a decanter of scotch and a couple glasses.... maybe a cigar humidor...Yeah....!

Anyway! I think that just about covers it! Like I said, I doubt you'll come across this before we meet! But now, it's here for whenever we do! I look forward to the day when this will no longer be a huge waste of time!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's In A Name

What are you? I am a Gamecock, a South Carolinian, a citizen of The United States of America, and a member of the human race! That last one, unless you're one of those super smart monkeys from Planet of the Apes (... how many of you think I don't recognize the juxtaposition of monkey and ape! come on people! you know I'm not dumb) is a description we can all claim. We are humans! And one of the defining traits of humanity is that we have, as a species if not individually, a desire to explore. A need to know what is beyond the horizon, on the other side of the wall, past the mountains and across the sea. From the day we are born (and even before if we take into account some evidence) we see, and touch, and smell, and taste, and listen to things in a never ending attempt to understand the world around us. It's only when we grow older that we decide, or it is decided for us, that we have learned "enough". A select few, and really it is too few in my opinion, opt to continue their exploration. They study science, in its cornucopic variety of fields. They travel the world seeking first hand information. They explore the bounds of the physical world by going faster, deeper, higher and farther. They go places where nobody has ever gone, at speeds and in ways that have never before been attempted. And all of these people, when they share their knowledge with those of us not gifted enough to do so ourselves but still interested, expand what we as a species know and understand. 

Once upon a time, it was a commonly held belief among citizens of The United States, that our country should stretch from sea to shining sea! It was our "Manifest Destiny". It wasn't really a novel idea. Every country and great civilization throughout history has sought to expand its influence as far as possible. As time and technology eliminated the barriers of geography and language, humanity settled into a different sort of system. Political influence, monetary power, and sometimes cooperation. Establishing shared ideals i.e. "Injustice anywhere, is injustice everywhere" the quote goes! It dawned on us at some point that no matter our individual dogmas or geographic origins, we are all a part of the same whole...Humanity! Now, whatever hurdles and stumbling blocks lay before us in the future, I think we can all agree that our next frontier is, in the words of Star Trek, Space! 

I want to thank you at this point for coming along for the ride! Now, it's time to reveal the meaning of the title of this blog post. I don't want to talk about the technology we're going to need just to get to space. I don't want to talk about how we're going to set aside our petty differences (or enumerate what those petty differences are) to even start working on the previous problem. Nor do I want to talk about what we're going to find out there... if we ever get there. At least not right now. No. This is a much simpler question, and one on which I hope to get your input. The question is, with some assumptions made; When we get out there, and we find other intelligent life, what will we call ourselves. It's even a fair question if that life comes to us one day. Will we say that we are from a planet called Earth? A word which easily translates to "soil" or "the medium in which plants grow". Will we, on a galactic/universal stage, be called "Earthlings"? On this front, I much prefer the Latin name "Terra". Sure, it basically means the same thing but, if I've learned anything from science fiction it is this, Terrans kick ass... Earthlings are puny creatures to be enslaved or destroyed. Sure, Human or Homo Sapiens Sapiens (yeah...TWO "sapiens"! It's not a typo. We are a sub-species, boys and girls...look it up) is perfectly fine as a taxonomic reference, but as a group, to be addressed as a whole or governed as a whole, I think "Terran" is a damn cool sounding name. Just as South Carolinians and Texans and Oregonians etc./ are addressed in unison as Americans, I think "Terrans" is a good word to address Americans, and Germans, and Australians and Russians and Japanese (Japanians?) etc./ as a whole! Of course, that may just be because I speak (American-) English. 

Which raises the question I would put to you! If you speak another language does "Earthling" sound as bad in that language? (I am very much interested in what the word is in said language) ... and would you prefer "Terran" or some other word?