Monday, December 22, 2008

The Power of Music and Meditation #1

Lately I've been on something of a Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel. I think it started when the TV show "http://abc.go.com/primetime/lifeonmars/index?pn=index" TARGET="meditation">Life on Mars, based on the British Life on Mars, of course, turned me onto the David Bowie song, "Life on Mars."

Going on over to Youtube, I would play "Life on Mars." From there, I moved onto playing a whole bunch of other stuff that I used to really like listening to, from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Robert Fripp's frippertronic masterpieces, team ups like Robert Fripp's and David Sylvian to the combo of Robert Fripp's "Water Music I" and "Water Music II" with one of Peter Gabriel's minimalistic yet passionate renditions of "Here Comes the Flood." I remember listening to a lot of the above during the summer of 2000 when I live in Cambridge, MA.

I even went so far as to purchase Peter Gabriel's album, Passion, and Robert Fripp's album, Exposure, which had "Water Music"(s) and Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood."

The other day after listening to all this stuff for weeks on end, fairly mellow, ambient, passionate stuff, someone at work asked if I had made some kind of turning point. She had been having some hard times at work, so I e-mailed her two prayers: The Serenity Prayer and The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. After receiving the latter prayer, she asked me what had changed about me. I basically told her that I had found myself missing a part of me that had been left at the wayside, and I was working to acquaint myself with that old self of mine again.

Along with listening to more ambient music and Fripp-centered music, I've been yearning to engage once again in yoga and meditation. I have yet to take a yoga class since making this commitment to follow this more soulful, spiritual search for contentment and one day engaging in service, but meditation hasn't proved so hard to try doing again. After all, it's something that you can do sitting in a chair or lying down in bed.

I meditated a lot back as an adolescent, in the hopes of gaining strange super powers like lucid dreaming or astral projection. After trying many techniques of meditation (from counting my breaths, counting from 1 to 10, clenching and relaxing my muscles, visual meditations, trying to feel every nerve in my body, trying to focus my attention on individual nerves in my body, guided meditations. . .you name it, I probably tried it), I had minimal accomplishment in getting super powers.

The most I can verify is gaining momentary lucidity in a dream. Apparently, a couple friends and I apparently shared a dream, but I also don't know if they were yanking my chain. I had some weird friends then and remain friends with some of them still.

During my college years, I did some independent research into Buddhism and the arts of meditation. One of the books I read went on about people meditating and following Buddhist practices because they wanted to get those super powers, but that was the wrong reason for meditating and following Buddhist practices. I forget the exact wording of the right goal, but I think it had to do with finding contentment, reducing suffering in the world and following the Right Path, the "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_path" TARGET="meditation">Middle Way. This idea really stuck with me.

So, anyway. . .

I decided to meditate a little last night. I focused on my breathing, not counting it or anything, just focused on the act of breathing and trying to deep breathing as a yoga teacher once taught me. Breath through the nose, with the air going down the back of my throat, deep down into my lungs, so that it fills up the bottom of my abdomen to the top of my chest, just under my rib cage.

In the meanwhile, I observed my thoughts and acknowledged them. The same yoga teacher who taught me the breathing technique also instructed a different class on on observing the thoughts and letting them go. Before that class, I thought the goal was to try focusing on nothing. That is unfortunately one of the most frustrating things in the world to do, because in focusing on nothing, you end up focusing on the idea of nothing and start trying to examining the idea of nothing. . .then the mind goes on some other tangent or another thought pops into the brain. The money mind doesn't shut up.

A good way around the frustrations of the mind, though, is to just go with the natural flow. Think of something, observe it, settle on it for a little bit, acknowledge it then somehow it just goes away. A new thought will replace it, either through a natural tangent or just something random. Just acknowledge these thoughts and let them naturally fall away. After following this practice, the thoughts will peel away like an onion.

Maybe you'll even find yourself having nothing going on in your mind after a bit of this acknowledging and letting go. Really, nothing, and that can be a good and contented thing. Sure, of course, you'll have to deal with the small sensations around the body, from itches on your nose or your cheek or the desire to move your arm or leg, whether to stretch a muscle or just because its an urge. You can also work at acknowledging and letting go of these sensations without following through on the urges.

This type of meditation can also do a great job of working on self control. You can acknowledge your desire but you don't necessarily have to cave into it. Didn't really think of that point until just now.

Last night, though, I made some good progress meditating this way. I stripped away a lot of layers of money mind and had reached a good level of contentment. I even turned off my need to associate with the outside world, even though I would acknowledge the things around me.

My limbs however felt the need to move, so just letting go of that urge proved difficult. I probably could have handled that well enough if I had continued at the meditating.

Something weird happened, though. The money mind had all become silent when I suddenly felt this great anxiety and fright. It didn't fixate on anything. I just triggered my sympathetic system, my breathing quickened, my heart probably could've started beating faster, the muscles in my head and on my face clenched, my fight or flight system had turned on. It just felt extremely uncomfortable.

I stopped meditating at that point, turned to my side and just let my mind fall into sleep.

I don't know what that anxiety and fright was about. It came from some irrational part of me. I could probably examine my life and find plenty of things to get frightened and anxious about, but nothing articulate came to mind at that point. It certainly made for an interesting experience, and I'm still unsure what to think about it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fragments of Pensees

Someone criticized some e-mails I sent them. They essentially said that I wrote to them with too many run on sentences. I have yet to tell them, but those run on sentences come from incomplete thoughts. Maybe not just plain incomplete ones, though. Incomplete with hanging chads that associate and glom onto other ideas that ooze out and come onto the page. I, unfortunately, am one of those people that sometimes needs to follow these incomplete thoughts around different blocks in the city of my mind to reach my goal.

In the summer of 2007, I went to the beach with a bunch of friends. We used to spend a lot of time with each other that summer, but I don't stay in good contact with them much these days.

I didn't wear sunscreen that day and ended up with a horrible sun burn. The aloe that someone put on my back later that night felt so cool and refreshing. Thank you to whoever put that on my back.

That very same person made a mountain out of sand at the beach. Maybe I made the mountain, or it could've been totally someone else in the group. The person who put aloe on my back later that night, though, wanted to illustrate my way of reaching the goal, the top of the mountain, compared to other peoples' tactics.

Other people would drive straight up the mountain to the tip top.

Me, I would wend and weave all around the mountain to reach the goal at the top.

Last night, I dreamt that I had Dr. House as my mentor, but he was nice and spoke in a British accent much like Hugh Laurie, who plays Dr. House. Does anyone know what conflating the actor and the character they play into one imaginary person signifies? Have a mentor like the nice Dr. House helped to generate in me a feeling of psychological integration, or a feeling of utopia.

Dreams can sometimes provide me with a feeling of ecstasy.

My days only allow so much to occur in them. I have my eyes on the castles in the sky and the flying chimera. Today, I read four pages of a workshopper's chapter for the first time that I need to say things about in a week, read a couple chapters in a book on Google Books about Romanticism and the German School and as much as I can of Daniel J. Siegel's The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience. I wrote with my hand a page in my novel. On the side, at some point, I need to get back to reading Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society. It all helps to paint a coherent picture of my thoughts on utopia and dystopia.

I also spent nearly 8 hours in front of a computer at work, flipping between doing actual work and trying to find some sort of engaging socialization on the 'nets. Rarely do I have such an opportunity but unfortunately, I really didn't find much to occupy my mind.

When I've wrapped my fragments into some coherent and whole, I will hope to write a novel and/or a book. Until then, though, most of the people around me will see fragments and frustration with some joy mixed in.

A part of me fears to see the neural network formed in my brain. Dare to look?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Specializing

Specializing in a topic sucks. It gets in the way of having interesting conversations with people, since they yawn after the first couple minutes of me describing my topic. Coming up with varied topics to write about on the blog without giving away material that I hope to sell later becomes difficult. Overall, specialization gets in the way of enjoying socialization except for people in your field or in some adjacent field.

I miss having time to read newspapers for the news, entertainment and to learn what there is to do around town. To accomplish the things that I want to do in good time, I've had to give up reading the newspaper and knowing what's up. I get most of my news through friends, acquaintances, AOL and MSN while at work and from NPR. Yeah, I can pretty much stay up to date on the major political topics, the weather and sometimes even sports. I don't really have much to breach the topics of the day or my specialization, which really doesn't interest people for too long.

Balance is needed in my life but right now proves difficult to find that balance.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Moral Upbringing

Along with my parents, friends, my church and my primary and secondary school systems, I'd like to thank the following for my moral development:

Sally Struthers

Early Transformers cartoons

Early GI Joe cartoons

M.A.S.K.

Early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons

and other cartoons that had morals at the end and daytime infomercials that informed us children of the evils and misfortunes in the world. Does the TV of today provide the moral backbone to our children the way that '80s did?

I'd also like to thank the Boston (and worldwide) hardcore and straightedge scenes for some conservative yet libertarian and socialist tinges. Boston 'zines, like The Pit Report and Lollipop, also deserve some credit, too.

Thanks to the techno and rave scenes for PLUR, which includes hyperreal.org, Usenet newsgroups and the Northeast and Boston rave e-mailing lists.

I also have George Orwell, Henry David Thoreau, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Terence McKenna. Unfortunately, Robert Heinlein doesn't enter the picture until later in my high school years.

Douglas Adams probably helped a little, too, but I think he's more responsible for teaching me not to take things too seriously.

And how could I forget Doctor Who?

This post doesn't come out of nowhere. It just has an obscure connection to my bachelors project and a lot of discussions that I've had lately about "this generation. . .," people talking about their self-made immigrant ancestors, reading Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society and trying to get a better understanding of the between the Transcendentalists with their Unitarian predecessors, German Romanticism and pietism.

This is part of the reason that I've become something of a hermit. . ..

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I am a Hermit

2:30 AM, Saturday morning. It still feels like Friday night for me. Haven't gone to sleep yet.

Just finished washing up, laptop, sitting atop the basket bench behind me, playing Hank Mobley and Sonny Rollins off of Live365.com.

The wife slumbers away in bed, waiting for me while unconscious. The cats nibble on their kibble and patrol the apartment.

I've been something of a hermit lately. I've gone to work and spent time with the wife (lots of time). I went to the library a couple times this week; went to Dave & Buster's after the library one night for the Chicago Speculative Fiction Group social.

My mind has been something of a hermit, though, trying to understand social understanding and solidarity. Something of a paradox, I think.

I need to riff on this whole hermit thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dream #12

I'm sitting down in a comfy chair in front of my laptop. Someone I haven't had acquaintance with for years until they friended me on Facebook slumps down right next to me then slips a disc into the laptop. A video comes on, and a video shows her rapping on the laptop. I have no idea what to say, but she's super excited and ebullient about it.


Seriously, I have no idea what to say about it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dream #11

Another dream where I go back to my parent's office. Not sure if this one involves me starting to work for them again. I go into a cubicle, however, and start working with the computer and possibly answer a phone call looking for service. Unfortunately, I can't get into the database to provide a customer with service because my parents have either invalidated my sign in or I've forgotten the sign in.

I have no idea what this one is about, and I'm a little too busy to think much more about it.

Sigh. . ..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dream #10

I don't remember details on this one, just the feeling.

I have the feeling that I'm hanging out with some "cool" kids in high school, at least by my impression. At some point, though, I learn that they're using me for some reason. Or maybe I finally realize that they don't treat me with respect, but rather look for any opportunity to not hang out with me and when they do, they look for any opportunity to trash me and put me down. I try to maintain and become better friends with these people, but by some point, I realize the hopelessness of the situation and that these people are just using me, so I break down in tears in my car outside of one of their houses.

There was a lot more to the dream than what I've mentioned. I just don't remember the details.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dream #9

No play-by-play of a dream today. I don't remember most of it, and what I do remember, I don't recall in detail.

I remember talking to my mother, I don't know where, why or when. While chatting, though, she brings up something that happened in one of the other dreams that night. It might have been one of the other dreams, for all I know, but when she mentioned whatever she mentioned, something clicked in my consciousness that she was talking about a dream I had.

Reaching that realization shocked me but nothing extraordinary happened after that. I think I may have dwelled on that realization so deeply that I entered a dream state without visuals or any sensation other than all encompassing yet indescribable feeling. It was a rush yet a feeling of relaxation. It felt like a fuzzy embrace. It felt out of control yet comforting. Maybe it even felt sedating, taking away motivation and just making me wanting to stay there.

I may have had something of a clue into lucid dreaming when I realized that my dream mom mentioned information from a previous dream that night. As always, though, I either fall into that overwhelming, enveloping comfortable sedative or shrug it off.

Actually, I remember once a dream rewound itself and the cop in that dream tried to force me into doing something in the dream, which felt like a distraction from my realization that I was dreaming. In the end, though, I don't think I entered a lucid state in that dream. I got so involved in fighting the cop and running away from him that I think I forgot about the realization that I was dreaming. My subconscious mind may have successfully distracted me there. . ..

I should head to bed now, though. Not only is it late, but I'm tired, too. Dreaming makes for a great opportunity for fun.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dream #8

I am on an el train heading west from Chicago. A friend is applying to some Ph.D. or graduate program out in the suburbs. I'm hoping to meet up with him and maybe he'll give me a ride home. Strange, some of the scenery looks like the Greater Boston area. The ride feels like it takes a long time and becomes tedious. I consider getting off and taking a train back to Chicago.

I decide to get off and head back to Chicago. Getting on a train heading back, finding a place to stand and grabbing a hold of one of those straps hanging from the ceiling, I see my friend through the crowd here in the train car. I squeeze my way through the crowd until I reach him, noticing that he doesn't look too happy.

He tells me that after the rigorous interview and application process, they didn't hire him. I tell him that they don't know what they're talking about, and they've made a huge mistake all the way back to Chicago.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reading List for Amateur & Prospective Writers, Editors and Other Publishing Professionals

Kids, reading the appropriate manual listed below is essential and a pre-requisite for getting a job in writing or publishing. Fail to read the right one and lose. I know that I have missed out so far and hopefully reading the first entry on the list will help me get into my desired field.



The Chicago Manual of Style by Chicago Editorial, University of Chicago, University of Chicago Press. From Google Books: ". . .the essential reference for authors, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers in any field. . .."




The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual by Norm Goldstein, Associated Press. "That bible of the newspaper industry" -- American Bookseller, June 1997."




MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Writing by Joseph Gibaldi, Modern Language Association of America. Also from Google Books: "Since its publication in 1985, the "MLA Style Manual" has been the standard guide for graduate students, teachers, and scholars in the humanities and for professional writers in many fields."



AMA Manual and Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors by Cheryl Iverson, Stacey Christiansen, American Medical Association, Annette Flanagin. From the indispensible Google Books: "For decades indispensable, the AMA Manual of Style continues to provide editorial support to the medical and scientific publishing community."



So, people in the know, did I miss any other essential guides?

Dream #7a

Driving into Chicago from a long trip with friend, Zach, in the back seat. We're driving into the city on a bridge over Lake Michigan [which doesn't exist in real life, as far I know], which takes us into a very industrial area of town. Zach expresses much excitement, and I feel very excited about getting home.

Dream #7

I'm staying at my parent's house when I decide to take a walk or a bike ride, not sure which, at something like 3 or 4 in the morning. I end up walking somewhere between 7 and 11 miles up to Nashua, NH, with a lot of emphasis on the nature, fields and trees, between Dunstable and Nashua.

Up in Nashua, I run into my friend, Jenn, who's heading back in my direction, so I catch a ride home with her, once again with emphasis on the nature, fields and trees. It's still pretty early, around 5 or 6. I have this feeling of oppression by the light and the sense of things.

And something about a oil change, either I need to drive my car up to Nashua to get an oil change or Jenn was picking up her car in Nashua because she had dropped it off for an oil change. Either way, there's sense of urgency that if I don't do something now, I'll forget to do it, so I had better do it now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dream #6

My friend, Tim. Road trip. Hotel. Tim's new car in the parking lot. Heading off to the event or to continue the trip.

COMMENTARY
The guides on dream journaling advise you to write whatever you remember from dreams, whether the memory has details or if it's just an impression. The last entry, I got to record just intimations and impressions but no details. This dream memory has no big details, just scattered images and impressions that either got spun into a narrative or, in my waking life, I have strung them together into a loose narrative because it's natural to do so.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Dream #5

I had this experience yesterday morning. I don't remember the dream very well, if at all. Mostly, I just remember the feeling of urgency and the need to get back to sleep, so I could finish what I had started. I felt a sense of duty to go back to sleep and address the needs of more people than I could possibly handle. Even if I couldn't provide for all of them, I had to help and do something.

Then I realized I had awoken from a dream. More accurately, I had drifted between dream and reality, the dream creating a stressful world with many obligations to people. I had to tell myself that I made up the people, I made up the situation, I made up the stress. I didn't have an obligation or duty to go back to sleep and address the responsibilities in my dreams.

The material world, after all, had real obligations, duties and responsibilities for me. I needed to address those for survival. The dream duties had no need for my attention because I had created them, or maybe I should say that I copied them from the real world, from work.

Ack. . .how lame is that? Not only do I unwillingly get to handle stuff from my job during the day, I have to face them at night, while I sleep and am supposed to be resting. Ugh.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dream #4

The mayor of the city dies. Up in a mid-rise shaped like a round tower in the middle of the city is a bookstore that has something for me. I go up there and run into a slim, balding Irishman with curly hair. He says that my parents on the East coast know the mayor, and we need to bring the body to them.

I step out of big black sedan into the night in a parking lot outside of an office that my parents used to use. My parents await us in the parking lot. The Irishman walks up to them and shakes their hands. He walks back toward me, and I know it's time that we take out the coffin with the mayor of the city in it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Water Crisis vs. the Financial Bailout

My minister at church made an interesting quote that I will possibly mangle, but the spirit of it goes:

It will take $700 billion to bailout the financial industry, but it would cost $20 billion to provide water to everyone in the world.

I didn't find anywhere on the 'net to substantiate this claim, but I found a claim equally as shocking that we ignore compared to all the emphasis that we put on the $700 bailout to bailing out our country form the financial crisis. From American Public Media:

About a billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water, but solving the crisis could cost up to $4 billion a year. Sam Eaton reports on a competition that's using entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions.

So, according to my minister and this article, it's less expensive to deliver water to everyone in the world than to bail ourselves out of the hole we've dug from the complicity of greed for the people in power and the value we hold that we have the right to own a home.

Honestly, I'd personally vote for my minister to take the office of US President over any of the candidates out there now, just by the citation of that statistic and pulling the curtain away from our eyes that we put there ourselves. Many of the problems in this world, we created, not because we are inherently sinful or anything like that. We all hold some degree of collective blame, so we all also hold a collective responsibility to make the world a better place, whether through donations of money or our time.

And even if we didn't directly contribute to the bad things that happen in this world, we have a responsibility to make the world a better place. This responsibility holds true whether we just want to make it better for ourselves or whether we feel an obligation to other people. A world collectively better will help provide us individual with better senses of meaning: a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, a sense of power and a sense of self esteem.

Don't want to feel better about yourself, feel safer while in the world and feel that you contributed to making the world a better place? Even for the misanthrope or hermit, wouldn't you like a world that would do a lot better at just leaving you alone? A better, safer and world fuller of meaning can have benefit you, misanthrope and hermit.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Choking Relaxation

The wife and I have had an active yet relaxing weekend so far. Last night after work, we went to a bar to watch the debates, the event being an Obama fundraiser. I have yet to decide who to vote for on Election Day (I'm not keeping my options to the major two parties, either), and I don't intend on announcing it to the public.

Interesting, though, to watch a debate amongst a partisan crowd. Had a hard time hearing McCain near the end with the crowd hissing and sneering at McCain while talking.

This morning, we woke up early to jump on the bus to get downtown and meet an out-of-town friend at The Original Pancake House. I didn't go too adventurous with my food choices, but they didn't have too many choices for a vegetarian that doesn't do dairy. Nothing too exciting for me, but their featuring apples on pancakes in the menu looked interesting.

Parting ways with our friend, we decided to check out a matinee of Choke. We, rather, decided to check out a matinee and figured Choke made for an interesting option and gave us enough time to settle into the theater before the 20 minutes of previews started.

I have a limited exposure to Chuck Palahniuck, the writer of the novel. I've seen Fight Club but haven't read the novel. I went with the wife to a Palahniuck reading at The Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA from a compilation of non-fiction he had published.

Choke doesn't reach the level of grandness, political/financial commentary or even of plot as Fight Club. Neither does Choke have the gross out factor of Stranger than Fiction: True Stories. The movie sticks to a small, personal scale. It shows some boobs, characters make some off-color sexualized comments, they have some neutered sex scenes and the movie centers around a sex addict attending a support group for sex addicts.

Choke doesn't have a conventional and linear plot. It centers more around the theme of loneliness and the habits that people follow to protect their vulnerable inner selves. Victor, the sexually-addicted main character, pretty much attends the sex addicts support group, works at a colonial era living museum, visits his mother suffering from alzheimers in a rest home and hangs out with his fellow sex addict friend. Then, one day, he meets Paige, a friend of Victor's mom. Victor's journey of "redemption," growth and revealing flashbacks starts from there but doesn't end when the movie does, whence Victor possibly even regressed back to where he started.

I haven't read any reviews, but by the progress of the plot and the movie's ending, I can understand what I've heard about bad reviews. The movie provides more of a character study than a plot, per se. The movies follows Victor's discovery of his loneliness and his habits to protect his vulnerable self. His best friend also makes his own discoveries and follows his own path of growth. Memories that Victor has about his mom and comments made by his mom provide some interesting revelations about Victor and also some quirky situations.

In the long run, Choke doesn't deliver the expected, conventional payoff. I have no problem with the undesired end, unlike, I'm expecting most of the other people who see this movie. Solving this dissatisfaction requires the audience to adhere to the belief in value of the journey is in the journey, not in reaching the goal. I can't be 100% sure, but the movie has enough coherent facts to make the ending true on the level of probability to Victor's character.

Choke works for me because of the themes it explores and the sincerity in which it explores them. Some of the characters have outlandish qualities that make them interesting and sometimes amusing oddities rather than realistic, but Victor's vulnerabilities make him very human and relatable. Most of us don't reach the pathological levels of protecting ourselves from emotional pain and embarrassment, but we all feel vulnerable to other people hurting us.

A normal person in a normal situation wouldn't provide the insight into our vulnerable sides. We all have normal habits that we all accept as regular behavior. Indoctrination into our society through family, school and other institutions teach us the etiquette we need not only to protect ourselves, but sometimes also to protect the other people around us, for their benefit and our benefit. Of course, protecting ourselves and others in these ways can be maladaptive emotionally and psychologically. Following someone pathologically protecting themselves with these types of habits shows us that we all protect ourselves. . .especially when they're protecting the same thing that we are.

Most reviewers and movie goers won't like Choke. They ostensibly won't like it because of unlikeable characters or even an unconventional plot. Maybe, though, people could have a problem with the movie because it shows them just how vulnerable they are. I bet no one will admit it, though.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dream #3

I step onto the road from my friend Chris's driveway. [He lives in a suburbian neighborhood (not a suburban one, mind you) in New England where the houses are big and they have good sized yards, the kind of yards you could have a picnic in and actually a good game of touch football or even tackle, if you had the inclination, with a good size field. It would probably take you between 3-5 minutes to walk from one house to another.]

People from the neighborhood are outside, enjoying the sunny day, wandering about and chatting with each other. I walk to the other side of the street, turn around and look all about. This scene brings me a certain amount of peace.

I step back into the street, but a car comes whipping out of nowhere, so I jump back. Inside the car, a blond 10-year old boy drives and another boy, just as young, with black hair sits in the passenger seat. They pass me by, drive down the street then turn the corner to the left. No one else seems to mind.

Running to the person closest to me, I ask them if they saw what happened.

I run down the street after the car and the two kids, turning the same corner.

The road looks different than Chris's neighborhood looked. The trees are closer to the street and loom over it, even though behind the trees are fields and at some point along the road, there are no trees.

Walking down that road, the need to find those children overtakes me. 10-year olds shouldn't be driving a car, I tell myself. It's dangerous. Where are the parents? They must have gone on vacation or something.

Reaching the bottom of a small decline in the road, I take out my cell phone and call the police. I tell them about the two 10-year olds in the car, driving all around. The person on the other side of the phone line says that they'll send someone out, and it will probably take them 24 hours arrive.

I want to yell "Don't you think two 10-year olds driving a car around the neighborhood requires a more immediate response?! They could kill someone!" but I don't think I have the opportunity to do so.

I had a lot of trouble waking up this morning. Part of it had to do with still having the compulsion of stopping those 10-year old kids from driving around before they hurt someone and getting the police and everyone else to care.

But while between sleep and awakeness, I don't think I remembered the dream. I think I only remembered that I had to get back there and had to do something, and it was extremely important that I do it.

In my desperation to address the compulsion that didn't let me know what I was supposed to do, I remembered that my free three-month cell phone Web access started today. Maybe if I checked my e-mail, I would get a clue what I wanted to do so much. After what seemed like forever of waking up, falling asleep, waking up, falling asleep and waiting for the phone/Internet cell connection to process information, I didn't find anything useful there.

The clock really didn't make much sense, even though it was buzzing. The same with my phone. . .but eventually I figured out that I should probably get up and get going to work. After all, it was the 22nd, a Monday. . .

What's even more interesting, I neglected to remember most of my bike ride to work. I can't even really remember much of the absent minded thinking that I did while riding. Kind of disconcerted me as I got closer to work.

Well, at least the dreams are getting a little bit more out there and interesting.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dream Set #2

One:

I go to work. All my co-workers stand in a line, shoulders crossed, side to side. I know something's wrong. The big boss asks me, "How could you do it? You're fired." I feel an oppressive sense of guilt about something I don't know about.

The woman who has the cubicle next to me says, "You didn't finish a sentence in a letter to customer." [I think I stopped writing the letter where I would have written a dependent clause.] Not finishing that sentence meant that a consumer got the wrong impression about their insurance coverage, the product that I sold them. Something occurred that caused the customer to have a loss and their insurance policy didn't cover it.

The guilt is overpowering.

Two:
My current co-workers, my wife and I have arrived at my parent's insurance agency office in Massachusetts. Something has occurred at one agency or the other that has caused either a merger or a temporary lending of office resources from my parent's office. After some talking, we all sit down and went to work.

Three:
The wife and I have gone out to the parking lot of my parent's office. Our boy cat is out there with us. [From Chicago to Massachusetts.] The cat charges then pounces on the back of a opossum. He bites the neck of the opossum, crouches on its back then glances all around. The cat jumps off the opossum then runs away. The opossum flips on its back, twitches a few times, rolls around then skitters off

COMMENTARY

I like that I've been able to remember dreams a second night in a row. This time, I even remembered three and not just one. Interesting that they all revolve around career, at least in some loose theme.

They have also become more interesting. The plots have become less mundane, but moreso, the emotional depth and intensity has become stronger.

Thematically, however, I think these dreams definitely touch upon or dwell on the detritus of the tension between my day job and the ambitions that, to me, run contrary to my current present fate.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dream #1

Group of friends and I will go to a movie, but they want to stop into the mall first. They want to grab a bite to eat and also some candy to sneak into the theater.

I decide that I don't need anything, so I wait at the appointed spot to meet up with everyone before we head to the theater.

At the last minute, when friends start showing up, I realize that I do need something. I tell whoever there that I need something, I'll be right back.

I run off to get whatever it is that I need to get. I take the back hallways, but the dream ends when I push through the doors.

COMMENTARY

If my imagination comes up with the above as a dream, I'm sad, both because my mind doesn't come up with something more exciting or something more interesting. Remembering the dream, in the first place, somewhat intentionally and after reading the introduction to a book about dreams, impresses me, however.

I've recently had a difficult time coming up with original things to write about that doesn't compromise my future income. If you want to make money as a writer in the future, you really just can't write about your ideas, knowledge or expertise online because it's out there, it's available, the supply becomes infinite while the demand will continue to be finite (thus keeping the market value nil).

And I don't really want to bore people with links to places they would probably find on their own.

Dreams make some good original material, even if it could come off as pretentious if someone came up with it consciously. The first story I published in my high school literary magazine actually came from a dream. I think I may even post here on The Lextopia because I don't expect to ever sell and publish it, even though I guess it could make money after I become famous and someone publishes and sells an anthology of my work or something.

So until I feel moved to write about a piece of news, something I find on the 'net or whatever comes to mind, get ready for something or the other.

But maybe I just used the facade of a dream to write something everyday and mundane in a pretentious way. . ..

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Turn of Phrase Inspired by the Harvard Unitarians

"I'm not depressed or sad. I just have a high tolerance to happiness."

Just something silly I came up with today while walking away from my desk at work. I guess it could even apply to my state of mind lately.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Some Beautiful Scenery up in Wisconsin

The wife and I got back from a long weekend trip up to Rhinelander, WI, where my parents grew up and my grandmothers live. We met up with my parents and celebrated one of my grandmother's birthdays.

On the lead up to the trip, people kept on telling me how pretty it is up there. I didn't believe them, though, because after all the years I've gone there, I didn't see much prettiness. Rather, I saw only tall tree trunks and branches, snow, ice, gray skies and swampy marshlands. No leaves or any color. Just dreariness.

I, after all, only really visited Rhinelander, WI during the late fall and winter. I can only remember visiting that very small city during the spring, summer or early fall once, maybe twice. Even worse, those memories are circumstantial and not for certain.

Summer and Rhinelander, WI actually stick in my mind with sentiments of disappointment. One summer, my family had plans to visit relatives in Rhinelander. I got pretty damn excited about going there to have a lot of fun. My brother, unfortunately, came down with appendecitis, sending the whole trip right down the tubes.

That was then, and this is now, though. Holding onto resentment from the past, especially arbitrary reasons for that resentment, doesn't accomplish anything. I realized that fact and the benefit of that realization while in the elevatr of Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA years and years ago, on the way home from visiting my brother there when he suffered from the infection of his appendix.

But screw all that. Rhinelander during the summer looks quite enchanting during the summertime.



The wife and I arrived in Rhinelander at about 5:30 Friday evening. Soon as we get there, my mom and dad mention some kind of surprise. They had been alluding to some kind of surprise in the e-mails leading up to the whole weekend event. My mom had been mentioning something about a river tour. And lo and behold, my dad drives me, the wife and my two grandmothers to a dock where we board something akin to a ferry boat. We then disembark to take a little river tour on the Wisconsin River.



They didn't so much take us on a tour. Other than the captain saying hello and letting us know about the drinks and pizza below decks, the crew didn't have so much to say about the scenery. I learned more about the river, the dams, the backwash and speculations about the trees hiding peoples' homes from my dad and grandmothers. It was more like a mini cruise on a river with pizza and drinks. . .just a good chance for people to sit, check out the nature and just chill with some friends and family.

I guess Rhinelander, WI
really is quite pretty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

For fans of Charlie Jade and Other Shows I Like

Check some good recaps, interviews and conversation from Charlie Jade, Burn Notice and other shows that I don't watch but hear good things about at R.A. Porter's Pop Critic's page.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bot-dar

My bot-dar has gotten overly sensitive over the last couple years. About a year ago, I accused a nice young lady of being a bot writing a log. Yesterday, I accused Jose (who commented on the last entry) of being a bot.

I don't know what to make of becoming so sensitive to having bots invade my personal space. It certainly happens, but it unnerves me that I accuse live, flesh and blood people of being SPAM bots. Is it me?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

New Computer!

Woohoo! I got a new laptop the other day. It has something like 10 times faster processor and/or something like 10 times more RAM. The new one rocks and is far bigger and stronger than the old desktop that I had used.

I can now communicate, do work on the computer and even procrastinate more efficiently. Now, instead of waiting for some free time to go through my e-mails and clicking on links that friends send me, I can now just take a breather from doing some studying/writing and have near instant access to anything I want on the laptop.

Before, I would have to wait around for at 5 minutes for any program to load then something like 5 more minutes to do the types of things I wanted to do. The old desktop would probably also take around 10 to 15 minutes to boot up. Now I can do practically anything I want in a couple minutes.

I can even have a load of applications open and not slow down the computer.

Only disadvantage came during transition time. Had to transfer files and applications with a CD-RW rather than just copying files over the apartment wireless network. It would have just taken too long since nothing's really wired, the old desktop is too slow and the old desktop could never stay on the network reliably. But now I've got most everything I use on a regular basis on the new laptop.

Unfortunately, I only have 25 uses of the resident Microsoft Office on the laptop, so I'll probably just have to load 2003 that we have on a CD. No worries. I just won't have to spend so much time having to learn a new version.

I love that I can now use my own computer anywhere in our apartment and on top of that, take it out to a cafe or something if I need a break from my surroundings.

The best part of this mobility: I can now compute in air conditioning. We have the old desktop setup in the part of the apartment that doesn't have air conditioning and sits next to the kitchen. Sure, great for when making food and such, but it got sooooo hot in there!

On an amusing note, this mobility around the apartment also means turf wars with the wife, even if it also includes more availability to the wife. She likes watching TV while working. I don't. Simple solution, though: I can wear headphones and listen to music.

Things look up from here. Better control over my surroundings while working on the computer and faster processing time. I look forward to getting a lot more done.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sense and Memory

Back in the spring semester of 1999 at college, I remember experiencing my visual memories in a unique way. At the time, I liked to say that I saw my memory in technicolor, which I guess could still apply.

But now, after having my attention directed toward Super 8mm film from our wedding videographer, I think a better description would be that during that semester at college, I saw my visual memories in Super 8mm film with the color heavily saturated. I think the stronger the memory, the more saturated the color became.

And the strange thing: remembering that semester of college presently, I think the visuals have a lot of shadows and it's very dark. I haven't had visual memories in color saturated Super 8mm film in a long while, though. At least, not of anything else other than my wedding on my TV at home.

I wonder what influenced me to see my memories in that way back then. A lot of those Super 8mm film memories were some length of time previous of the time I re-experienced the memory. So long before, in fact, that the events in the memories felt like they came from a whole other life or the life of someone else.

And kind of sadly, I haven't really experienced such vivid memory recall for a long time now. Well, maybe I did today, but it involved smell, more specifically, the possible smell of cats and dogs. Since the wife and I adopted Max and Miriya, the brother and sister cat, I've been surprised that our apartments hasn't acquired an overwhelming stench of animal.

Today, I remembered an old friend who had cats and a dog, and his family had that animal stench smell in their house, all the time. That smell just wouldn't leave my olfactory sense. Plenty of memories about that friend flooded me after the sense of cat and dog, but those are kind of private.

Smell and memory reminds me of a time that a girl "broke up" with me (long story. . .that will not be broadcast on the Internet). After she broke up with me, I couldn't get the smell of her perfume out of my nose for weeks, and while I had that smell in my nose, I couldn't get rid of the desire to be around her. This whole thing would occur more when I was alone and trying to focus on something else. The strangest thing, though, the smell of her perfume annoyed me!

Funny enough, accidentally capturing this girl's perfume in my nose happened during the same semester that I saw my visual memories in Super 8mm film. Suffice to say, it was something of an intense semester.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Many Tracked Brain

The other week, I got hyperfocused researching some aspects of the DC comics universe on Wikipedia. I need to research geeky things sometimes because I didn't really get into them back in the day like the wife and some of my friends have.

My automatic, subconscious mind, however, kept on flashing intimations of the area behind the register of Wendy's in Ayer, MA. That was where I had my first real, official job. I kept on picturing a young, zitty kid (not necessarily me, mind you. . .since this kid had red hair and freckles) with an apron and a paper hat on, holding a big wire thing used to drop the fries into the deep fryer. The things drip, drip, dripped grease. I could feel the massive heat and oil all over my face.

While hyperfocusing on researching the universes of some TV shows, flashes intimations of a late night at my college, right in front the library, at the top of a small hill. It's usually night.

Interesting how my brain makes these intimations while I'm getting all hyperfocused on the 'net. I have the feeling that the same thing happens to other people.

I have this theory that this kind of hyperfocused research and focusing on certain things triggers these kinds of intimations. It could happen because that kind of research activates a certain part of the brain or maybe it triggers some kind of process that brings up these intimations. The themes of these little "research projects" have somehow become associated with memories. I don't know if the connect is direct, indirect or even possibly practically random. These associations just kind of happen.

It kind of works like when I forget something or lose something. Trying to remember the something, I sometimes just have to blank my mind and let the memory bubble to the top. At other times, I have to backtrack through my brain, association by association, forwards, backwards, side by side, up, down. . .whatever way seems like a good way to go.

And back in my youth, I could sometimes just pour myself a cup of milk and drink it to remember something that I blanked on. I wonder if soy milk could do the same thing for me.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Revisionist Viewing of the "New" Doctor Who Season 4 Finale

[Along with voicing my opinion, this entry definitely acts as a cheap ratings stunt]

The season 4 finale of the "New" Doctor Who that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in the US last Friday night disappointed me quite a bit and really made me feel frustrated about Russell T Davies.

BEFORE MOVING ON, THOUGH, SPOILER WARNING. DON'T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE EPISODE AND DON'T WANT ANYTHING SPOILED.

Essentially, the season finale felt like it ended with too much of a deus ex machina that made me feel cheated. The resolution of defeating the Daleks felt too easy.

I'm cool with the whole three Doctors thing, the original Doctor, Meta-Crisis Doctor and DoctorDonna. I'm even cool with the solution to the problem coming from the existence of three Doctors.

The following excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a friend voices my opinion about the element that caught my craw:

But yeah, this last finale was just too much deus ex machina for me. . .especially with the "master control panel" for the Daleks and Davros being at the doors of the TARDIS. What was up with that? And what is up with having that kind of thing? Sure, I can understand if Davros had one (once bitten, twice shy with his Daleks in the past rebelling), but to allow it to control Davros? What? What?! What?!?! But I think the main issue was that there was absolutely no reference or emphasis on the thing before they took control of the master control panel.

In other words, the lack of allusion to the control panel before DoctorDonna started fiddling with it. I think just having a character use or manipulate something in a scene, unless the sudden appearances of things is appropriate for the type of story told, especially when it becomes a vital object, breaks a rule of storytelling in some way. At least, it breaks a rule of engaging storytelling.

After some unconscious thinking on the matter, though, I came up with the following revisionist explanation that I e-mailed my friend:
Maybe Donna got a glimpse of the master control panel while in the TARDIS. It didn't really strike her as anything important while she was just normal, banal Donna, but once she became Doctor-Donna, she made sense of that memory of the master control. Also, did the Meta-Crisis Doctor also receive memories from Donna. . .so they could both actually remember the control panel.

So at least the Meta-Crisis Doctor programs the coordinates for the TARDIS's landing on the Dalek ship to be right at the MASTER CONTROL. Maybe he doesn't have everything planned, but that gun thing they had put together was really just a diversion. Being born in war and willing to commit genocide is kind of a sign that he was willing to sacrifice Donna on a hunch that if she gets zapped by Davros, she would become Doctor-Donna and figure out bunches of stuff out on her own.

And so after getting zapped by Davros and becoming Doctor-Donna, she remembers the MASTER CONTROL, which isn't necessarily a MASTER CONTROL but could be something else, but she's Doctor-Donna and can quickly move wires around & stuff at Time Lord cognitive speed to create a MASTER CONTROL. And then we know the rest after that.

Which, then, certainly brings up a whole bunch of other interesting narrative points. How does a genius, an intuitive one at that, get portrayed successfully as a protagonist? How does someone who has just become a genius after going through a "meta-crisis" and starting at the audience's level or lower of intelligence get portrayed successfully? And, less interesting, did Russell T Davies even think of the above scenario or did he just let an unsatisfying deus ex machina occur because he likes doing that kind of thing? And, just to throw it out there, am I being a spoiled anti-fan or does my criticism come from my "writing sense."

Either which way, I'm not sad to see
Russell T Davies leaving Doctor Who as head writer. I give him credit for really being one of the main forces for bringing Doctor Who back to world. He has probably written some great episodes that I really liked. This finale, though, along with the resolution to the deus ex machina in Season 3 finale, "Last of the Time Lords", really just makes me think that I've had enough of Russell T Davies.

I look forward to and welcome Steven Moffatt as the head writer come season 5 in 2010. The writer of the episodes "Blink", "The Empty Child", "The Doctor Dances", "Silence in the Libary", "Forest of the Dead", of course, "The Curse of the Fatal Death", among others that he has written, I look forward to see what Mr. Moffatt has in store for us for at least a season.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Update on my Tedium

I still live, even though I'm in a strange and tedious rut that has potential for growth and inspiration.

The day job occupies me with tons of cognitive heavy tedium. I wish I knew how to explain it. Assisting someone with the sales of health insurance, selling health insurance, bothering people about paying their health insurance premiums every once in awhile and also helping people with their health insurance claims and administration has a lot of activity. It taxes the cognitive facilities and stretches the problem solving skills and expertise. The need to do things speedily and perfect probably doesn't help.

But trying to come up with a description of that tedium would take time and energy that I would rather dedicate to more important things, like. . .working on my bachelors project.

Unfortunately, the project has become somewhat tedious, too. I've written a 22+ type-written outline, but it still needs a lot of work. I need to organize it so people will find it more readable, interesting and even gripping. It probably requires more concrete details, but I don't want to overburden it with the details.

My work style doesn't necessarily help, either. I can't just cut and paste things in Word and add something here or there. Pen and paper, referencing older copies, writing up a whole new draft of an outline (I'm probably on v. 10 or so, including earlier ones that I started then scrapped because they eventually didn't work. . .even though that's better than trying to write a paper from nothing then scratching that!). The process requires a big amount of thought in one spot, lots of copying text, big thought again to make a transition, bunches of copying text, thought, copy, though, copy, etc. etc.

OK, OK, I can see the tedium there. This editing process requires adaptive imagination rather than innovative imagination. My mind just doesn't care for adaptive imagination when it comes to intellectual and social situations. Kinesthetic and sports situations becomes a whole other matter, probably the same thing with strategy and tactical games. OK, maybe my intellect doesn't mind adaptive creativity so much. . .ack, a whole new situation that would require exploration into my psyche and vocabulary to figure out how I feel about something and how to articulate that feeling.

Anyway, I think I need to once again explore a new direction with The Lextopia. I originally thought about using it to talk log stuff for my projects and even write about writing topics, but that becomes something of an issue when I want to become a writer, but I have yet to decide on my "specialization" as a writer.

For the uninformed out there, posting something for public viewing on the World Wide Web pretty much destroys its ability to make money. Economically, it literally becomes infinite supply for a limited demand (that's essentially the issue with making music, movies and other intellectual property available on the Internet), so who would want to buy something that, theoretically, everyone could buy for free for who knows how long?

I don't want to bleed my ideas and have them lose their ability to generate capital. The socialist and anarchist tendencies in me call this thinking in me a "sell out," but crap, man, we all need to make money somehow in today's world, and I'd like to make that money doing something I enjoy. I don't get to do it now, but I very much like the idea combining the whole "work to live and live to work" into one holistic approach to life.

So, yeah, you'll probably see a bit of experimentation again on the Lextopia until I find something, again, that works for me and works for the audience.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Please, Do It for the Historians

I've had the idea for this entry in my head for quite awhile now. Only now, inspired to procrastinate away from starting the studying for my insurance continuing education, do I have the will to approach the subject. Yay!

(OK, OK. . .I just had to play with the kitties for a couple minutes first).

The current paper I'm working on for the last couple years has stretched on for quite some time. I ended up using a lot of time about a year ago having to sift through a lot of sources to figure out the central concept that the members of Brook Farm used as their theoretical goal. George Ripley and his fellow community members would talk around the topic by saying that Brook Farm was the best way to reconcile the individual with the community/society, but he never got that much deeper into how Brook Farm would accomplish that fact.

I ended up having to go to some old newspaper articles that really come off more as press releases than news articles that would sometimes talk around the topic, make assumptions, paint images of Brook Farm in ways that appealed to people's desires and wishes or just relate the history, the architectural design, the personalities, the financial situation and all types of pragmatic, everyday things. Only after digging deeper, deeper and ever so into the depths of the topic did I find a good basis for an explanation of how their method would work, how some theory of theirs would explain their method beyond appealing to the cause of utopian socialism. And no, I won't present the theory, as that could spoil a book that I might publish in the future.

Besides, getting into the theory goes beyond the scope of this entry. The search for this theory through historical documents just led to all types of frustration that could have easily been avoided if someone had written the "theory" in a letter, a journal or even a press release by George Ripley or some other Brook Farmer. Or about if it had become the topic of a debate in the papers or journals between George Ripley or Ralph Waldo Emerson. . .except for maybe the fact that they were either too polite to really get into it with each other or that Ripley thought Emerson was into utopian socialism, which kind of came out every time Ripley tried hitting up Emerson for investment capital for Brook Farm.

But no. . .they had to make my life difficult by not addressing the underlying theory but instead, painting pretty pictures with words, relating the practices of the community to religion and political causes and so on and so forth. They had to make me work months to figure out what was going on when a couple straight ahead paragraphs, an article, a chapter, what have you addressing the situation directly with a straight forward structured theory could have helped me A LOT.

Now I'll step away from this heated rant for a moment and tell a story from my own life.

I experienced defining moment a long time ago, 15 or more years ago but not more than 20 years. My parents, some friends of theirs and I had taken a weekend day to climb Mount Monadnock (which was apparently a favorite place of Emerson and Henry David Thoreau). Once past the tree line, I had either struck out on my own or had just moved a little ahead of my parents and their friends. Walking alone somewhere pretty like Mount Monadnock makes for great thinking time, whether conscious or automatic unconscious mulling over something.

There's this point near the top of the mountain, right before the rock becomes completely bare, where the trail dips down under some pine trees and the rocks form a wall that makes it impossible to take any other route. The ground there gets damp and muddy, and sometimes a big puddle waits in the middle of the trail, causing the hiker to slink around one side of the puddle, trying hard to balance and not get wet. It's a very short dip, but its isolation amongst mostly barren rock allows it to stand out as a unique feature. I don't know if it is so unique that everyone would remember it, though.

Walking through that dip, all those years ago, I came to a realization and came to a decision, which kind of depend on each other. I decided to start journaling and realized that I am a historical being. By journaling, I can create a historical and cultural artifact. No matter what I wrote, from the everyday to the lofty abstract world, I could communicate with the future and give them a glimpse into the past. And not only a simple glimpse, but an intimate one provided by someone who lived in the past and experienced it fully, immersed in it, having a certain perspective and not with the benefit of hindsight (which my journaling could help someone in the future develop).

I had a lot of thoughts of having my influence become immortal because I could affect people in the future by writing now, but I also got off on the imagining the wonder people in the future might have of reading a first hand account of the past, whether of experiences or of ideas. Communicating the power I felt at the moment has become difficult.

It feels powerful to me on a spiritual level. I think my first exposure to this type of thing came from first reading Thoreau's Walden. Honestly, I don't think I have the patience to read Walden nowadays. Back then, though, the book had somehow engaged me, even though I could barely understand what I was reading. Now, I feel like I'm not understanding what I'm reading, but I also realize Thoreau could have written a little clearer. At the same time, I think that abstruse unclear writing had a lot to do with enchanting me.

I had a lot more patience for reading things a long time ago that I couldn't immediately comprehend. Maybe something about being young, not having the constraints of time boxing you in, having a more malleable brain, not having anything else to compare the unclear writing to, not having a library of hang ups, concepts and facts in the brain to crowd in the interpretation of what you're reading. The brain at that time, if not stunted in the way, could be acting like a sponge for facts, knowledge, patterns and structure but not in an anxious, scary way, but in an exciting and passionate manner that just encouraged me to open book after book after book, absorbing what little I could understand and getting happily teased by the parts that I couldn't understand that had potential for vast amounts of understanding and wisdom if I just absorbed more and more.

But back to my defining moment and how Walden influenced me to have it. Walden showed me the thoughts of a man from around 140 or so years before the time I spent reading the book. It really just boggled my mind and inspired me that I could absorb the thoughts of this man who no longer lived. It touched me so much that I realized that I could do it, too. I could come up with my own thoughts, put them down on paper and someone 140 years later, probably around 70 to 100 years after my life and have the same experience. This experience could exist as a tradition, the passing on the experience and knowledge that you could affect people that come after you by writing your thoughts on paper, get it to still exist for that long and have it distributed enough that someone will more likely have a cause to read it than just a random incidence of finding a historical artifact in an archaeological dig or something.

So that's all good and everything. We can all exist, yes, even everyday Bob, Joe, Mary and Sara, as historical beings. We don't have to become just numbers counted in medical statistics, opinion polls, market research, incomes, bills, votes for politicians and your imagination can think up of plenty of other examples. We can all write down out thoughts in our blogs, in private journals and diaries, in articles, in articles of incorporation, in contracts, in wills and so on and so forth. I encourage all to do that. Grab a hold of your historical existence, write down your experience and thoughts and help the future get a more colorful idea of their past and our present. We all have that kind of power, as long as we have pen, paper, a computer, an Internet connection, whatever. . ..

But please, please, please, in all these ventures to becoming a historical being, please write clearly, please explore your thoughts, emotions, theories and impulses, please delve deeply into your inner conscious, into the trappings of society, into theories of why you did this, why your friend did that, why your enemy didn't do what they should have done, why you, your friend and enemy had the confrontation where all that doing and not doing just made a whole big mess. But above all, please explain your motivations, your actions, your reasons, your justifications, your theories, your causes, the things that get you to move, what you think makes other people tick and why the ticking in those people get you to do what you're doing. Explain your understanding of the patterns around you in ways that has a structure for you.

A lot of people probably don't think in this fashion regularly. It probably would take people some effort to start thinking this way then to continue thinking and acting on it. It's probably difficult and hard work. Frankly, I've got the misfortune of having developed a physiology that I believe depends on thinking this way and interacting with the world in this way.

Nonetheless, recording your existence in this way will definitely make the work of future historians that much easier. Please, for their sake, write about your interactions with the world and your acting on the world in this way. . .if you are to write about such things.

Thank you in advance for your charity. You will have done the future a great service.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Writing What You Know

I don't know what to think about it, but I can probably consider the last 5 or so years working in the insurance industry as research. The ideas of risk, losses, risk management, peace of mind and hazard, especially morale hazard, have become vital to at least one paper. . .and could easily become important to the other papers, too.

All the above have become central concepts in insurance, and I read about them years ago, near the beginning of my career in insurance. Unfortunately, I didn't perceive the helpfulness of these concepts to my project until recently. I think this failing on my part came from

+ Something of an unconscious thought process that insurance and my project couldn't have much of anything in common

+ Not having the right frame of mind when being introduced to these insurance concepts to incorporate them into my project. Didn't help that I really had no idea of how to define utopia and dystopia in ways that could apply in a universal manor to utopias and dystopia

After reading some social psychology, including the importance of having the needs for meaning fulfilling for people, and reconciling social psychology and needs for meaning with arguments for human rights and people's psychological motivations for being social rather than anti-social, the need for insurance terms, especially morale hazard, came to the fore.

I won't need the insurance terms so much, though. Using those terms in the context of my project became somewhat problematic. They get used in a professional context and could end up sounding judgmental of the people I'm writing about and non-professionals in the world. And the recent studying I did for continuing ed credits reminded me that people in the insurance industry are professionals, so they have more knowledge than someone else who doesn't really think much about insurance and have the responsibility to help other people understand their insurance policies, situations and concepts.

Even the reasonable, prudent person test can have its problems for the context of my project. This reasonable, prudent person, I believe, fits into the same archetype of the economic man, who is rational and self-interested. We all know people like this, but we also know plenty of people who differ from this archetype.

From somewhere, I've even read that someone who has the knowledge of economic concepts probably fits this archetype more than most, but, in addition, they probably have less pro-social tendencies. In other words, someone with the knowledge of an economist will probably be so rational and self-interested that they have less compassion for their fellow humans.

We all have reached different parts of our lives where we have reached different stages of career, knowledge, instinct, spirituality, etc. etc. Our backgrounds can dictate a fair amount of our destiny. Our social environment and genetic, biological makeup can determine our fate. Sure, we have free will to an extent and all the factors involved combine to create an individual.

Throw all the above factors together, however, along with the large amount of people in poverty, having had bad educations, having stronger motivations for crime that sends them to jail, having grown up in the mob, having grown up in an environment that got you ownership of a corporation but no conscience, having lived with a biker gang, having lived in a cult and the range of experience of people that form their identities can almost reach infinity. Nonetheless, do these life experiences that don't encourage people to develop their sense to avoid loss mean that they're any less human?

I prefer not to believe so. At the level of their humanity, they deserve as much respect as anyone else. Trying to teach them the importance of avoiding loss would certainly benefit them and the world, but the fact that they don't know now does not make them dumb or any less of a person. Hell, they may have some advanced knowledge that we don't know and could help make things more interesting and better for the person who knows better ways to avoid loss.

So I decided to approach the problem from social psychology, specifically by addressing the issue with the concept of diffusion of responsibility, a phenomenon that can actually provide for a motivation to allow for morale hazards in your own life. In many ways, not addressing an issue can make life easier, but dealing with it can also help improve the quality of life.

At least, it can help the quality of life as long as you direct all your energy trying to avoid loss. Doing that can lead you to no longer live life. Enjoyment of life requires that we take risks, which, in itself, could be seen as a form of morale hazards and diffusion of responsibility. Being too cautious leads to staying bed all day, not driving on the roads, staring at the walls and ceiling, trying not to think and all types of neurotic behavior.

Sure, I guess a monk that meditates all day could fall into this category, but, in some ways, even a meditating monk takes risks when meditating. . .not being able to focus and concentrate is failure to some degree. Someone could take that as an indication that they're a failure, and that they're worthless. There you go, someone trying to do nothing and think nothing has just gone had a loss to their self esteem.

Yes, all this thinking came from "research" into the insurance industry and insurance concepts combined into studying into social psychology. Who would have thought so much could come out of these two fields that most people probably don't think about at the same time? Go figure. . ..

Then again, this is me we're talking about. . ..

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sci-Fi Channel Schedule Change for Charlie Jade Shouldn't Surprise Me

Turns out that Sci-Fi Channel moved Charlie Jade to Mondays at 3 AM/2 AM CST.

Just goes to show you the kind of support Sci-Fi was giving CJ.

Makes me frustrated, nonetheless. Probably means no second season forthcoming.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Networking and Learning with Other Writers

The last couple couple weeks had become pretty hectic. Along with the usual seven to eight work day and working on my project, I also had do major studying on Medicare to get insurance continuing ed credits.

I need 30 of them by October to make sure my license renews without hassle in January. So far I've done the work for 16 of them and put into motion the process for the Illinois Division of Insurance to register them.

For now, I plan on taking a break from that studying until after Independence Day, when a couple out of town guests leave. Then onto some more major studying and another test to get 15 more credits, then I should be all set.

But I don't want to think too much more about that until after Independence Day. . ..

STACEY BIERLEIN ON ON SUBMITTING AND EDITING ANTHOLOGIES

Last week, the wife and I attended an author coffee at The Writer's Workspace (where I got that nifty information about the open mic at the Borders last week). The following is the intro from the e-mail that marketed the coffee to us:

Stacy Bierlein's personal trajectory from short fiction writer to international editor promises an interesting conversation at our final Author Coffee until the fall.

Currently in Chicago while on tour for A Stranger Among Us, Bierlein attended Columbia College-Chicago in the 90s (where I [the person who runs The Writer's Workspace] met her), was a founding editor for Fish Stories, and has gone on to serve as an executive editor for the highly regarded Other Voices magazine and OV Books.

Most recently, she's received rave reviews as editor of the international collection of short fiction, A Stranger Among Us (OV Books, 2008). However, she's also published her own short fiction in numerous journals and collections and has extensive experience as a panelist at literary conferences. It's hard to imagine a topic she can't cover when it comes to literary shop talk.

Depending on interest, Bierlein and participants may discuss:

+ how to compile and market a successful anthology,
+ how to market your own work to anthology editors,
+ and how/when to make the career leap from writer to editor.

Sharon did a great job of providing useful information, entertainment, perspective and reassurance to me, as a writer. Unless the other people around the table had much more experience than me (which I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of them did), I bet they had just as much a good time as me. She discussed a breadth of subjects from the topic of soliciting works from known and unknown authors for the anthology, the theme of her anthology, putting her life and soul into the anthology, the process of the anthology from start to finish, enlisting editors to help plow through submissions, the topic of judging pieces, pitching publishers to put together an anthology (but being happy that the publishing company she runs put out the anthology), deciding on what works to put in the anthology, figuring out the order of the anthology, how people read anthologies, marketing the anthology, targeting the academic audience does wonders for anthologies, going on tour from publishing conferences to bookstores to coffee setups like this one to promote the anthology, the reading audience, the publishing industry's view of the reading audience, the difference of the publishing industry in the United States compared to the rest of the world and a whole bunch of other topics between and outside the realm of what I've mentioned.

Some difficulty arises when trying to "review" a discussion amongst something like ten or twelve people. Sharon's discussion of putting together her anthology certainly caught my attention, but being a struggling writer working on a novel, I had a hard time trying to put myself in the place of someone submitting to an anthology.

Frankly, I never really thought much about anthologies and how I relate to them before the coffee. I ended up thinking more about the artistic point of putting together an anthology and the difficulty yet the joy of putting together one. I can imagine it being an organizational monstrosity that sometimes feels overwhelming and like it may never end, but I can also imagine how much fun reading all those pieces from unknown people might be.

The discussion about anthologies felt as if it grabbed the most of my attention when I asked something like, "With all the submissions coming in and not necessarily having the most fleshed out idea of what you wanted, how did you reach the point where you knew what form it would take?" The event having happened a week ago, I can't remember her exact answer, but it took something of an artistic answer about how things slowly formed until things just clicked in her head. At some point, after reading over the breadth of pieces that came in, her vision on the project almost unconsciously took shape until she reached that "ah ha!" moment, and the vision for the anthology just coalesced into the solid idea that grew into the present anthology.

I found the discussion about the reading audience, building writer's careers, the publishing companies and marketing/promoting books and reading as one of the most fascinating parts. Last year, I focused a lot on the technology in my stories possibly become obsolete even as I wrote about them. The society that came from those technologies probably didn't lose their edge, but the technologies just became old news and possibly part of our own past while I tried to write science fiction.

But back then, I also wondered about novel writing and story writing, in general, becoming something of an obsolete career. At the very least, novel reading has felt like it has followed something of a decline. Cynical as I am and following the common meme out there that peoples' attention span grows shorter, I believe that people have had their short attention spans growing shorter and shorter, if not because of their own preferences or because of anything biological, than because of the requirements of our society. To stay on top of things, we need to keep up on everything, and we can best do that by reading one or two sentence headlines on the topics out there without reading much deeper in to the substance of things.

Songs and music videos lasting 3 minutes, less being more preferable. News articles running only a paragraph or two. Editors only reading the first paragraph or two before taking a piece seriously, and if they suck, the manuscript gets throwing into the waste basket. TV shows have to grab the audience's attention within the first couple seconds, not only of the show itself, but also with every act in from the commercials. Commercials, themselves, have to grab people's attention within a second then transfer a minimum of information to the audience. Our doctors don't even have the time to have a relationship with their patients. The list goes on and on, having led me to the thought that the world's audience didn't have the patience to read because they could get as much adventure and story with less effort in a movie, on the TV screen or even on YouTube (C).

Then add the fact that with digital distribution, people could easily get a novel or short story for free easily, if just one person bought it then distributed it to their friends and family. Infinite supply, limited demand with no production problems. Only people without computers and the Internet would find getting literature a problem. Add to that the expectation of people that media should be free or cost nearly nothing to buy. What incentive does a writer to put tons of work into their work other than to express their love for stories through their labor?

This side of the industry really didn't really get addressed, nor should it have been, really, at this discussion. As much as it affects writers, this issue becomes more of a technology and plain distribution problem, thus a technical problem. How does one put restrictions on people once the floodgates have been opened other than to have the good will of the people on the producer's side, and also possibly such a huge demand that people have the willingness to donate a large amount to non-profits, not for profits or whatever form an innovative distribution party or channel takes?

Which brings us back to the audience's interest in novels, short stories and other literature. Sharon surprised my cynical side. After going on book tours, going to publishing conferences, working with fledgling authors and however other numerous ways that she has interacted with The People, she could say that the audience doesn't have a short attention span when it comes to books and stories. The People want books and stories.

There's a fair amount of literate people, and they're ready to do plenty of reading of good stories, if made available to them. On top of that, many people who may not read on a regular basis would read if exposed enough to stories, novels and literature, and not necessarily through the enticement of family or even school, but by the publishers. . .if they only promoted their authors, novels, stories and literature in savvy ways. Give them a sip, a taste and the people will want, is the impression that I got from Sharon when it came to the audience and potential audience for stories, novels and literature.

On the flipside, the publishers, in this day and age, have become short sighted. In the past, the publishers had focused on making careers for good writers. Nowadays, they grab onto the latest genre, famous figures or the latest famous figure writing the latest genre piece of work. Publishers don't want to build and develop the career of a writer that would lead to steadily increasing profits by impressing the audience then keeping them around to read more from that author.

Instead, the publishers want to grab onto a famous figure or topic that has a built in audience that will sell millions and millions of copies to the supposed fickle audience. They want the formula that will make money now, then they will move onto the next formula for lots of money then which will be now and so on and so on. They will keep rushing around for the next big thing, rather than making the next big thing.

I don't want to say that The People need guidance and for big industry to direct people onto what they should be reading, but the market kind of works like that. Unfortunately, we do live in a fast paced world. A lot of things demand all of our attention. Maybe The People don't need to be told what they will like, but they need to know what exists out there that they may like. How will the people know that they will like a story, a novel, a magazine with stories in them, a song, a CD, a movie, a magazine, a car, a TV show, a computer game and so on and so on if people don't get exposed to it first?

Right now, I'm frustrated that The Sci-Fi Channel doesn't promote Charlie Jade as much as their weekend sub par movies that have become their money makers for some reason. To have success, even good TV shows need the support of advertising to get awareness of the show out there. The same thing goes for music, even food, widgets, sprockets, cars, etc. etc.

As much as people like to think that a piece of art, literature or what have you can speak for itself, no one will listen to it, read it, look at it unless someone gets the awareness of that thing out there. The same thing goes for reading, books and stories. If someone doesn't know that reading and stories can be fun, why would someone start doing it on their own? Especially when reading and thinking is portrayed of and thought of as "nerdy" and "lame" compared to sports stars, TV stars, movie stars and other types of celebrities that take action and look glamorous. The biggest reasons people get excited about those things is because the media machine churns out those things as merchandise because they think that's what the people really want.

But really, what do The People want?

Went off on a little rant there. . .losing my writing edge there. . .Also met some other writers and at least one person that had made some great resources for writers to get their work out there and present it in a way that editors can dig. I haven't checked those resources that much in a depth, but if I do, you'll certainly hear from me about them.

So, all in all, the coffee with Sharon Bierlein provided me with a very good use for a couple hours, enlightening me about the writing industry, the story market and also got me to socialize with people. . .for once in a great while. Go figure!