Monday, March 31, 2008

My Passive Aggressive Relationship with Research and my Bachelors Project

Starting a couple years ago, while walking around during a lunch break in Concord, MA, frustrated as all hell, I came to the conclusion that I'm in an abusive relationship with my bachelors project. Please don't be offended as I use the term because, honestly, even though I've never been in such a relationship, I feel like I've been whacked about quite a bit by mind and this research. I've reached the depths of hell and risen to the epiphanies of Nirvana, trying to figure out this albatross around my neck and trying to write it down on the page, all with incomplete knowledge, struggling with some foul beast to tame it, understand it and make it something usable to myself and the human race.

After today, after reading a lot of Roy Baumeister's Meanings of Life, I have a similar yet different concept of the situation. As I retain the abusive relationship imagery, I've started thinking of my research and writing as inhalation and exhalation, the rising and lowering of the chest, the growth of meaning then the thrashing about because it's not enough meaning and lose my whole sense of meaning because the meaning I've gathered together does make the coherent sense that I want it to make nor I can find an angle with which to approach the huge ugly, mangled mass of information and data that needs to be made into sense. It's these moments of frustration, of trying to make a shape to it all that I find myself withdrawing into myself and my books, compulsively looking for that answer and occasionally losing faith in the whole journey and quest. Only once I have given up all hope, my unconscious mind gets thinking, cutting things up and putting them back together, sewing a whole new quilt of sense then waking up my consciousness to fill it up once again with even more nonsense that seems to make some kind of coherence at the time.

Then at that point, like now after the research I have done recently and will detail a little bit more below, I feel elated and euphoric. I see a path to an end point, yet I have doubts whether I need to reach that end point. Nonetheless, I tell myself to ignore those doubts because I need to make progress. Maybe I won't reach the real final destination in a straight line, but as long as I keep struggling and making my way toward what I can see as a destination, I'll reach that point, even if I have to wend my way up the mountain in a windy and twisty type of fashion. Then I fall into the work, I read, I take notes, my mind ruminates and works on making connections while I do other things (all the while, thanks to my ADHD, I get to monitor the whole process as it goes while also questioning it and trying to direct in ways that look to be obvious), I outline (right now, I've written up a 22 single-space printed outline for the current paper that I need more information to tighten up and provide better support) then I move onto the writing stage. But, anywhere in that point, I can trip and land on my face, sending me into a state of frustrated meaningless and moodiness that, I think, Baumeister addresses as the state that people enter when life loses meaning because something pulls the rug out from under your feet. Unfortunate for me, the melodrama of my mind allows me to simulate this process quite often and a lot more frequently than your common everyday person.

I once had a friend who said that he respected me for my trait of searching for answers and truth. Friend, walk in my shoes for a year, walk in my shoes. . ..

Now to let you all know about the recent research:

Almost done with Roy Baumeister's Meanings of Life. Just the epilogue and two appendices. This book has proven so dense that I've had to check it out of the library twice to get as far as I've gotten so far. I will have to check it out many more times in the future to get quotes, information and pore over it some more. It will prove a major source for my bachelors project, and I've only just begun to glimpse the genius in it. . .along with the genius Baumeister's other works.

On Saturday, pretty much right after getting out of bed, getting some grub and doing the minimum to get out the door, I got on a bus to head down to the library. I checked out The Transcendentalist Ministers: Church Reform in the New Renaissance by William R. Hutchison. I read the first chapter at work and at home one day off of Google Books then read the rest of it that Saturday, after immediately getting on the bus home after checking it out. OK, I'll admit, I didn't read the last chapter.

The Transcendentalist Ministers doesn't have the same kind of density as Meanings of Life. Obviously. . .I pretty much read it over a weekend. Unfortunately, unless the last chapter has some really really useful information, only two or three chapters will prove of any use. The first chapter provided a good context for the "historical" situation that I'm writing about, confirmed that there's plenty of inconclusive issues at hand then and also provided a good interpretation for a major controversy that occurred before the "historical" situation that I'm writing about that could very well possibly influence the reasons for my focused "historical" situation. Interestingly enough, though, Meanings of Life provided a very interesting and possibly useful wider context on the situation by talking a bit about Victorianism, social reform and the increasing respect for women during that time.

And today, straight out of work, I got on the subway and headed down to the library once again. I checked out two books: American Transcendentalism: A History by Philip F. Gura and Walter Leatherbee Leighton's French Philosophers and New England Transcendentalism. I picked up the second one on a whim, since it was next to Gura's book and the title touched upon my need to know how exactly the French philosopher's did influence the ideas of at least a couple Transcendentalists. Hopefully it's good, but especially then, I'll need find something that addresses how German philosophers influenced the Transcendentalists. Dang Transcendentalists.

I've got a bit of hope for Gura's American Transcendentalism: A History, though. For one, it came out last year, which makes me think it might prove more colloquial than something written about 50 or so years ago. I also got to read the first chapter, which provided a good amount more context than I had before about the times and the type of stuff going on about interpreting the Bible. This topic has a lot to do with what the first generation Unitarians and Transcendentalists were arguing about. I can't even really get into that now, since it's in a state of thought that I'm just not used to thinking in. Nonetheless, theories about interpreting the Bible, whether miracles are supernatural interventions or natural phenomena that humans can't perform or fully understand, whether Jesus is part of the Trinity as a part of God or simply the epitome of the Divinity expressing itself through a human, whether humans are just tabula rasa that learn through sense experience and reflection or whether humans have a priori consciences and intuition and so on and so on to the point of me not understanding how all that leads to a compulsion for social reform outside of a church. . .but I need to know to get a better idea of why George Ripley and some others established Brook Farm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sci Fi Channel Buys Charlie Jade Episodes

Straight from the mouth of one the writers for Charlie Jade

Woohoo! Maybe this will lead to a second season.

At the very least, I'm interested in seeing the United States audience reaction to the show.

Life as an Average American Adult of Privelege

I like my wife in ways inappropriate to say in public. Unlike what you're probably used to with your HMO health insurance through your work, with an individual PPO, you have the responsibility to first pay a deductible of your choice; then the insurance company will pay 80% coinsurance for eligible prescriptions and medical services and you pay 20% of expenses of eligible benefits until you pay the out of pocket of maximum of $1,000; then then the insurance company will pay 100% eligible prescriptions and medical services. The New England Transcendentalists drew their influences from many sources, including William Ellery Channing, the Scottish School of Common Sense, Kant, German and French Idealists, Samuel Coleridge's translations of German Idealism, Thomas Carlyle and many others; all in very much in reaction to the older generation of Boston, Cambridge and Harvard University Unitarian elders basing their belief in Jesus and Christianity on empirical proofs of Jesus's in the Bible as supernatural interventions in natural reality, which, of course, was a school of thought inspired by John Locke. Empty litterboxes, make food for tomorrow, clean dishes, pay bills, write wedding thank you cards, call friends & family to keep in touch (especially mom, so she doesn't get too irritated, and Gramma because she's going blind and really doesn't have much of a life), make sure to stay up to snuff with TV shows. Write novel. . .shit, I'm never going to get this thing done, and even if I did, it'll be obsolete by that point! Go to a gallery showing of wedding photographer, friend has party, friends from out of town visiting, work sucks, need to get enough sleep, need to take hot baths so the stress doesn't kill me, need to eat something so I don't end up losing more weight. . .shit, I miss the days when I could exercise, meditate, take yoga classes (even though I really do have the option of weekly free classes on Saturdays, but I'm too busy doing other shit), run around and have fun. . .The tensions between Calvinism and Arminiasm really have something to say psychologically speaking similar to grandfather paradoxes, determinism, parallel universes and the ability to change history through time travel. . .modern life sucks because time escapes me, my body grows weaker everyday and dies and can't regenerate itself, and I'll grow sickly, hunched, slow and grumpy, possibly even destitute and alone like the old people I see on streets, getting in my way. . .especially making me believe this is the complaints I hear a lot from older people who're our Medicare customers that get utterly confused by the plans and end up completely frustrated because they don't really receive a product direct well for their needs. But yet. . .yet. . .I need to keep going, I need to keep going. . .

In short, I'm too overwhelmed with life, work, my essential projects, relationships with people all over, etc. etc. that I really can't spare the energy to break out of my self absorption to talk sincerely about politics, even to necessarily wonder how much I can agree with one or two other people. It's all coming from the gut, like Stephen Colbert advocates, but not so much from the choice of a mature adult, but from the choice of a mature adult who has to deal with the bad choices of an unwise kid that had a lot going for him except for some of the things that mattered. . .but complaining about those things won't accomplish anything and plenty of people wouldn't want to hear about it, so why waste the energy? Better yet to just keep going, keep going, as the average American does. . .just keep going, just keep going. . .and hope that some day, time will become less of a precious commodity, common enough again to actually spend the time to enjoy life and the things around me and the other people in the world rather than resent it for not meeting my demands as an adult who looks back to his past in nostalgia and resentment.

[The above took up the majority of an e-mail I wrote to someone nudging at my political of the past. . .that I probably still share but adulthood has generally made obsolete. An aspect of the above captures the passion of my past that I'd like to capture and express more. . .]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Resting into Inspiration

Today was about taking advantage of a day off and resting, even as I felt guilty about not going into work and wanting to work on things that matter to me. I've concluded, though, that I didn't really do the things that matter to me so much because I felt guilty about not going to work and addressing things that need to get done and addressing people that need or want attention. Sadly, I have this feeling that I'm the only who can give them the attention they want and/or need.

I'm sad. I could have very well just needed rest from something of an extended weekend, of which I had at least one alcoholic drink from Friday night to Monday night, strangely starting with a fair declining to one beer on Monday night. The Monday night one, though, felt obligatory. I was out at a club, and I was taking the next day off. I felt the need to commemorate a weekend the likes that I more than likely won't have again for an awhile, being an adult and all.

This weekend didn't provide anything to write songs about or anything to brag about. The wife's brother came into town from Friday night to Monday evening. The three of us mainly just chilled out in the apartment, played one strategy game, had brunch on Saturday, had some drinks, went out for French rustic food Sunday night with the brother's side of the family and hung out at the brother's brother-in-law's (it's a long story) local hang out. Lots of laughter, catching up and a fair amount of current events discussion and such, but nothing to make any type of exciting legend.

Last night had some bits of exciting events for me, though. I went out to the Double Door Nightclub to see Matthew Good play an acoustic set with Amanda Sena as the opener. Great show by them both, good music and good entertainment. If I didn't have to get to bed soon, I'd say more.

For now, though, I'll just go off about the inspiration that Matthew Good provides me. He did, and even if last night was the first time I ever saw him, gave me a metaphorical slap across the face with his passion. For the most part, it was just him and his acoustic guitar up there, and, on top of that, it was the first show he gave after dealing with a major bout of food poisoning and other types of dealing with terrible sickness (just read the tour entry dates on his blog. . .), but he showed an amazing amount of passion, even during the parts of his music that had sparse, slower instrumentation and bare amounts of singing. In those moments, even as I stood 5 or 6 rows back in the audience, I could sense his passion (or maybe it was his inclination to throw up) restrained yet expressed intensely at the same time, as he had his pick on an individual string, the guitar tucked close to him and his eyes closed, all ready to let out the intense energy being stored in his body and soul.

Then he let it out, and I'm getting too tired to come up with a good description of it. . .for some reason, the moments of restraint really felt like the moments I could feel the passion. It didn't feel typical of him. . .it felt a lot more quiet than I would have expected from Matthew Good. It felt angry, and, strange as it sounds, it felt mature and filled with more intensity, meaning and significance than if he just unleashed on his guitar, screamed into the mic and did all types of physical antics or made some kind of punk "fuck you" remarks or something rather than having silly, witty banter with the audience and cracking jokes that might have made sense to just people from Chicago or something. . .based on just his observances of the day while outside or something. I don't know.

Whatever I'm trying to describe, Matthew Good has reminded me of the passion that I feel I've forgotten. A month ago or so, a friend I haven't seen in awhile, not since a minor fall out a couple years, told me about the concert, so I gave Good's album, Beautiful Night some more spins on the CD player/iTunes than I have usually done in the last couple years. That album filled me with the passion that I haven't felt in years, especially not since I first got the album and not since I had read his crazy rantings on his old blog before the year 2000, after visiting Canada a few times and deciding to miss seeing Good's band play because it was a Sunday night, and I needed to get home for my temp gig the next day. Looking back now, I would have just taken that Monday off (like I took today off) to see the Matthew Good band. Unfortunately, I hadn't even heard the music before, so I had "practical" concerns on my mind. Then even worse, half a year later, after getting Beautiful Midnight, with tickets to see Matthew Good in Providence, RI, while living in the Boston area, a snow storm destroyed any chance of that happening. I guess a third try is the charm.

Listening to Beautiful Midnight over the last month or so gave me a good kickstart in the soul, reminding me of that passion I had in the past. I had been writing a chapter in my novel quite dispassionately, and Beautiful Midnight kicked my ass, filled me with passion and excited me like reading Good's old blog entries. It was really quite exciting. . ..

Last night, though, experiencing Good's sad and skeptical yet passionate guitar playing and song singing, I got in touch with that soul and spirit for artistic and creative expression, the one that just about originally got me into writing. . .not this centerless compulsion for writing without feeling that I've felt lately.

Tomorrow, my writing workshop will be critiquing a section that I wrote three or so years ago, and now, I feel a little self conscious about their response. Last time someone responded to something adult oriented (this section is), I got lashed out at angrily (but it's kind of understandable because it was somewhat rape-oriented and violent without any particular significance to the story, even if it had some significance to the setting. . .), which freaked me out of trying to write like that again until I read up a little on writing about sex and tried those tips with this section. As I wrote this section, though, even as I worked on making it more bearable for the audience, I still retained this passion and thinking of it now, I can still feel that passion.

I hadn't thought about the climactic scene in my novel or some scenes between now and then very much lately, but when I do, I generally have that feeling of passion and excitement that something significant and special occurs in those scenes. After seeing Matthew Good last night, sentiments of those scenes and images that I've always had for those scenes confronted me. I don't know how to say it otherwise. Now I'm back to feeling obligated to reach those scenes and reach them to experience that passion that I haven't felt while writing over the last couple months.

Thank you, Matthew Good, for reminding me of that passion and excitement that I haven't felt for awhile, thank you. Now it's up to me to remember it and write that passion and inspiration. It's intimidating, but I'll do it, I will do it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Couple Good Links

Finished up another night of hour-long outline writing. Added about four more pages in an hour. A lot of ideas coming together and coalescing, even though I have that feeling of spouting out nonsense.

That feeling would often come to me back in high school (OK, maybe I remember one particular time) when I thought I was bullshitting. I would just say screw it, thinking I didn't know the right answer and just write an essay (no matter long how it got) that worked. The writing would just come out, my hand would keep moving, my mind would just throw it out. . .and I'd often end up with A's. Whoever said that applying yourself couldn't be easy and kind of fun?

I will just have to do some major revising later on.

In the meantime, here's a couple writing links, both provided by members of the Chicago Science Fiction and Fantasy Community, specifically the people who have access to the writing workshop forum.

Outlines and pitches for some of Sean Williams's books: I've never heard of this guy before yesterday. I've only read the first outline (which sounded interesting yet a little like some old ground -- I'm sure the characters come out in the narrative -- at the same time, outlines probably are supposed to be somewhat generic!). Nonetheless, as my parenthetical comment shows, having access to these types of things are invaluable to the writer wet behind the ears.

Apparently, Williams jumped the gun and posted his contributions to a project before a bunch of other writers. They all came up with the idea to post pitches, outlines and possibly other useful samples. I know that I've found tons of useful tips over at Alex Epstein's blog for pitches and marketing narrative, but he writes for TV (in Canada). As useful as his tips are, ones tailored more toward selling the written word to be enjoyed as written word sound more useful to the person who wants to sell that type of thing.

The Chicago Writers Association: This one is probably more of interest for people living in or around Chicago or has some kind of connection to Chicago other than having some kind of connection to me. I'll admit, I haven't really taken the time to explore this one. I'm lame and feel that I should create a product before I spend too much time trying to network, selling the product or, in general, have a more lively writing life. Ah well. . .will have to post this one on the side bar to remember looking at it later.

That's all for me. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the above links, especially the Chicago Writers Association. Having other people do my dirty work is always quite efficient and enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Outlining

36 handwritten pages in a CVS Composition book and still writing. Have to make up the conclusion and eventually, after a little more research, provide some more information in the middle. Also plan on cutting out bits here and there that aren't relevant and become repetitious.

Yes, I'm a wee bit insane. . .but maybe it could be come genius. Hee hee.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eating Well

I just spent the night, pretty much from 7 PM to 11 PM making a quiche and a hybrid Greek coucous/Southern US potato salad without the potatoes. Feels quite rewarding to make good food & know that I'll have it for the rest of the week for lunch. Spent a little more on groceries this week, but it'll be well worth it.

And there'll be a little bit of showing off at work, too. For the last year or so, I've pretty much just been eating rice and chili for my main dish along with some side dishes like fruit, nuts and dark chocolate nougat almonds. Even when I'm slummin' it, I actually eat pretty good and healthy.

Lately, though, I've just been in the mood for a more Mediterranean and North African (which I guess could be considered Mediterranean) diet. I've had enough of that wholesome, filling hearty fare, and I'm in the mood for some lighter food that provides me with the nutrition I need.

I'm not totally sure how light quiche is, though, even if it is dairy free. . .there's still plenty of generally artificial and fatty stuff in there. The crust has coconut oil in it, though, which has lauric acid, a nutrient that I've been reading a lot about lately. Apparently, it helps with metabolism, the thyroid gland and all types of interesting stuff.

Part of me wishes that I went into nutrition or to become a chef. Come on, can't you see me on Top Chef or something? Actually, I'd probably crash and burn in the first couple challenges. Maybe not, I do pretty good under pressure and can get creative with food. Sometimes, a little too creative, though.

Anyway, cooking tonight was a good diversion from the laborious and semi-tedious outlining that I've been doing for the project. Not really in a good mood position for it or the novel. Once I get moving, though, I can get into the groove and flow of it and do some good stuff, kind of like yesterday when I outlined for something like 2 or 3 hours with a diversion here and there. By the end, I got a good amount done, even if some of it felt like crap.

Oh well. It's even before a first draft, so I can't be expecting perfection. I just look forward to getting it done, have fantasies of life afterward and get a little impatient here and there. Crap. Such is life. . ..

Time to clean up and head to bed, though. It will be a well earned sleep, yes, it will.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Check In

I haven't written in awhile.

A few things have been happening in the world at large that don't affect me directly (you know, politics, world events, crime, the economy). Got much praise and a raise at work. Otherwise, though, not much has changed too much for me these days.

Not much has happened with my novel or project over the last month, either. Little bits here and there but mostly a lot of productive procrastination (learning stuff that may or may not help the project) and more not-so-productive procrastination.

The wife made reservations for masseuses tonight, so that's where I'll be after dinner and before a movie. I also took a hot bath last night, something I haven't done in years and really should have been doing.

I reached the conclusion, yesterday, that I need to take more hot bathes and take part in more stress relief activities, at least, ones that I do intentionally. Over the last couple years, I have taken part in plenty of unintentional stress relief activities that have taken more time that I would have like to take and also stressed out my muscles more than relaxed them. I ended up partially stressed relieved on some level but stressed out on so many other levels, mainly because a lot of time had been taken away from doing important things, like giving the wife attention and working on my novel and bachelors project. And to think. . .I was trying not to do intentional stress relief activities because I thought my project and novel was helping me get away from life and that those activities took me away from the important things I had to do. . ..

Now, though, you should expect to see me, at the very least, taking more hot baths and lying down for more naps. I will not let stress kill me or stop me from doing what's important to me for engaging in life.