Sunday, December 31, 2006

If This Is Goodbye...

The world is bigger than any one person, but at the same time, it isn't. Our perceptions and perspectives define how this crazy planet and its events unfold before our lives. Everything that happens, and I do mean everything, is completely and unequivocally subjective. From our wars, to our World Championships, to even our weather. It's all subjective.

To him, Iraq and Afghanistan represent the ultimate in America's attempt at "saving the world." To her, Iraq and Afghanistan represent an exercise in futility. To me, it's all just a fucking waste of money and people.

To him, the Saint Louis Cardinals winning the World Series represents a return to form for a long and storied franchise. To her, well, she doesn't care. To me, it just means that San Diego Padres weren't the best team in the league this year.

To him, snow is a great change of pace, a chance to test out the four-wheel drive and his underdeveloped survival skills he learned in the Boy Scouts. To her, the snow is a distraction, a sign that tanning on the beach is months away. To me, it's just a reminder that I'm not where I want to be.

2006 was a year of polarization. A lot of great events occurred, as every year, but the theme this year just seemed to be one of dividing. From the illegal immigrant issue to a political party falling apart because of a cabinet member. Wars, taxes, and the omnipresent stalwarts of religion and politics. We're further from being one nation, one world, than we've ever been. Traditional alliances, from countries to corporations, all seemed to break apart this year. And, in an appropriate twist, large pieces of the polar ice caps decided to break off. All in 2006.

On a smaller scale (well, to everyone but me, that is), my life also polarized. I've written about what happened to me enough, and I'd really like to move beyond it, so I'll spare you the details here. But, the point remains... my life was split, irrevocably. My family, even though I am physically closer to them than I have been since 1995, is further from me than ever before. There are one or two that I have actually become closer to, but my family, as a whole, is less and less a family, and more and more a group of strangers that I share a blood type with.

There was, admittedly, one bright spot for me in 2006. And it's as subjective a bright spot as something can get. No one in my life, including the bright spot itself, sees itself as a bright spot for me. But I do, and right now, that's all that matters. I'm terrified that it's going to disappear from me in 2007, and that's going to break my heart, but I don't really see a storybook ending to anything that involves me anymore. Life is essentially a wind, and we go where it takes us. Even if it's a dark place.

This past year was also the year I realized that mortality is a fact, and that it's waiting for all of us. Several friends were killed this year. Several heroes, too. People I'll never see again, or ever have a chance to meet. Gone. The ones whom nature took were the lucky ones. The others, well, they were braver men than I.

I was angry this year, of that there is no doubt. Angry, and full of hate. Along with realization of mortality, however, I also realized that hate is a very heavy emotion, one that I can not sustain for long. Neither can sustain, nor want to. I've been trying to bury hatchets, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so, but I've been trying. I needed 2007 to be the year I could cut my ties to my past. Unfortunately, thanks to some long-term issues, I know already that I will not be able to.

Ultimately, I don't know what 2007 holds for me, for us. Such is the irony of our existence... the ability to change the world, but the lack of foresight to do it. I don't know if I'll be around at the end of 2007, I will never again assume that I'll live through anything, and I don't know if you'll be around, either. I hope so, but hope only gets us so far.

So, if this is goodbye... goodbye, and thank you for everything I owe you thanks for. Maybe in a year I'll say goodbye to you again.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Don't Look Back in Anger

I'm kicking a dead horse here, but 2006 was a very difficult year for me. The most difficult, actually. Dreams turned into nightmares, plans fell apart, and life became almost completely reactive. It seemed like every path I tried to take on my own wound up blocked, and the ones that weren't led nowhere.

2006's bane, as my friend likes to say, was for me something as simple as misplaced trust. I'm a very loyal person, and I expect the same kind of loyalty from the people I consider my friends. Unfortunately for me, the one person I placed a great deal of trust in this year decided to, quite completely, screw me. Long story short, I had paid this person's bills for the two years she attended graduate school. I'm talking rent, utilities, phone, cable, internet, and even her dog's and cat's vet bills. All in all, it wound up almost $9500. Attach the interest and the late fees she promised to reimburse, she was looking at $14000. Anyway, the plan was to move to Los Angeles, where I had helped her land a rather lucrative job at CAA (Creative Artists Agency, the most powerful agency in Hollywood). There, we would work steadily, with her taking the reigns on the bills until we were square as far as the money was concerned. Of course, and I should've known this years ago, she had other ideas and, in a manner that would make Steve Miller proud, took the money and ran.

Okay, fine. I'm pissed. I started a little revenge plan. I almost went through with it, too. But, I had begun talking to someone who, in that cliché way, made me want to be a better person. Seriously. I'm not making this up. I wouldn't make something up that makes me look like a hopeless sap. I, for better or worse, wanted no new skeletons in the closet to hide from this person. Slip inside the eye of your mind, don't you know you might find a better place to play. And that I did. A wonderful place to play.

So, it's October, and things are looking up. I'm burying hatchets, rebuilding bridges, working my way out of this mess that is, ultimately, my own fault. Nobody told me to trust this girl... in fact, many people told me not to. But I did anyway. So, chalk one up to Jeff's lack of objectivity. But, things are looking up. Until I ran into another, for lack of better term, traitor.

Another long story short, my privacy was invaded in that worst of ways. Like, George Bush granting the NSA carte blanche bad. I confronted the invader, and was basically told to leave. That was fine, I could handle that. I walked away, repeatedly. For some odd reason, this jerk kept coming, and it culminated in a fight. Those of you who know, know that I am fairly well trained in combat, and the fight was hardly fair. I never threw a punch or a kick, but injured my opponent and won in the matter of seconds. And then I was arrested. I used the last of my money I still had from getting screwed the first time to bail myself out of jail (which was a rather long process... to get to that money was an adventure in itself).

Revenge here wasn't really an option. I won't say why, but rest assured that as soon as I can get out this hole that I'm stuck in, I won't be coming back for a very, very long time. Of course, this situation is also, ultimately, my own fault. My anger in the matter is as much aimed at myself as it is the opposing party. You said that you've never been, but all the things that you've seen, they slowly fade away.

Now it's December, and I'm finally getting over it. Not on my own, no, I'm far too weak for that, but the help I'm getting is astounding in its effectiveness. And it's help from someone who doesn't know she's giving it.

Last night, December 26th, I tried to get to bed early to get back to a work-oriented sleep schedule. It wasn't happening. Thoughts of getting even were once again running rampant in my mind. As I lie there, I just kept getting more angry. And then, like it always does, a random image of a smile penetrated my anger. I woke up, listened to some music that reminded me of that smile, wrote a song lyric, and went back to sleep. Calmly, I might add.

I'm trying to put 2006 behind me, literally and figuratively. I can't do it on my own, I lost that ability sometime while I was in the Army. Anger was too effective at keeping me alive and ahead of the game in the military, and I can't forget that. But I can see that smile, saying to me to not look back in anger, to look forward with that sense of optimism that I had at the end of 2005, when 2006 was looking like it would unfold as the best of year of my life. Don't look back in anger, I heard you say.

And I won't. Well, I'll try not to. It's a good philosophy. Don't look back in anger.

At least not today.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pointless Holiday Musings

It's the day after Christmas, and I'm even more bored now than I was yesterday. Of course, I could take my dogs out, but my foot hurts and it looks as cold as hell outside. I'm a wimp, what can I say?

Pointless Musings

Since Friday the 13th is the supposed day that Jesus died, does that make Jason more of a Christian than, say, Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger?

I got nothing I really wanted on Christmas except for a phone call. And that phone call was all I really wanted.

Why do some Eastern Orthodox celebrate Christmas on January 7th? I was thinking that this might have something to do with "The Twelve Days of...," but that actually makes 13. Uh oh, we're back to Jason Voorhees again...

Speaking of 13, the Chargers are 13 and 2. Nyah. Anybody have a line on playoff tickets? Anybody? Please?

The Godfather of Soul is dead. Long live James Brown.

Saddam Hussein has been ordered executed within 30 days. Seriously, are we trying to make things worse?

Tiger Woods was voted the Male Athlete of the Year. Because, you know, he's so... athletic... I mean, you see that fist pump he does after putting a birdie? That burns calories, man.

Japanese scientists became the first to capture a giant squid on videotape. And then they summarily killed it. I'm all for research, but that just seems wrong somehow.

The best CDs of 2006 are as follows (in no particular order): Alexi Murdoch's Time Without Consequence, Peter Bradley Adams' Gather Up, and Ray LaMontagne's Till the Sun Turns Black.

Best album title goes to David Sylvian for Dead Bees on a Cake.

New Christmas music tends to suck. Old Christmas music tends to rock. Must verify this thesis with XM radio.

While most things I can think of are the result of good intent, bad execution, I'm chalking up Kwanzaa to the opposite. Bad intent, good execution.

Although I won't admit this in public, I finally heard a Shawn Colvin song that didn't make me puke. And then I heard another, and another. Do not rub this in, Miss You-Know-Who-You-Are.

Anyone else think that Heroes is a rip-off of the comic series Rising Stars? Then again, it's no accident that Jeph Loeb is a producer on Heroes, is it?

I just heard a kick ass cover of Sting's "Fields of Gold." It's by Eva Cassidy, check it out.

Why on Earth is there a law that makes selling whale puke illegal? Is there like a vicious, violent black market trade for whale puke? I mean, seriously... Whale puke? Heroin, I get, but whale puke? Whale puke?

I'm returning to North Carolina briefly next month... and I can't believe that I'm actually looking forward to it. How things change in a year, eh?

Five more days to this horrible year. C'mon, 2007. To be honest, that one only looks marginally better. C'mon, 2008.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas, Really

Well, it's another late night forced upon me by my foot injury. And, as usual, I have nothing better to do than to write something. Strangely, I feel good right now. A simmering calm in a storm where everything else has gone wrong. Maybe it's because it's Christmas, or maybe it's the empty glasses and bottles cluttering my desk in front of me. Either way, the end is worth the means.

No rant from me tonight, I promise. I just want to say, plainly and sincerely, Merry Christmas to all of you. Some of you got my blanket email I sent out a while ago, and I apologize for the cheesiness of that, but I'm too lazy to send out cards. Even if I weren't, I probably wouldn't send out cards anyway, but that's beside the point.

Merry Christmas. To all of my Army buddies, to all of my military friends, come home safely next year. To all of my film industry friends and acquaintances, Happy Hanukkah (I know you're all Jewish, or pretend to be... bet you wish you had my last name, don't you?). To my family, I know I'm not the closest of sons, brothers, uncles, or relatives in general, but know that a part of me misses all of you. To my friends who don't fit into one of the above categories, sucks to be you. Just kidding...

Seriously, Merry Christmas, and may you all enjoy this soon-to-be fleeting euphoria that I'm feeling right now.

Oh, and if some of you are worried that I'm turning into an inexorable sap, don't be... I'll be back to normal in 2007.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

All I Want for Christmas...

Well, it's Christmas Eve. One day to go. And, given the nature of the high-tech world we live in today, I figured I can get one more request to Santa in, via the oh-so-wonderful world of MySpace. Yes, Santa has a MySpace page. Don't let it fool you, at first glance his profile makes him look like a simple fat guy with a reindeer fetish, but the elves are a dead giveaway. He's a complicated fat guy with a reindeer fetish AND an elf fetish.

Anyway, my list is a modest one, so let's begin...

1. World peace. No, scratch that. It'll never happen anyway.
2. Bigger yard for my dogs. I'm getting real tired of the beagle moving his poop around so I can't help but step in it. And don't think I don't know you're doing it on purpose, asshole.
3. Higher alcohol tolerance. Holy shit, I'm a lightweight again. Well, scratch this one, too... it's keeping my bar tabs low.
4. New car. An Aston Martin is preferred, but I'll take anything that costs over $60k and doesn't look like a rapper drives it.
5. New job. That last one I had was essentially a rip-off. You want me to take over marketing? At what salary? My response: "I quit, have a nice Christmas."
6. My unemployment check. You gotta love those. Freeloading jerk-offs. Wait a sec...
7. Less snow. Much, much less snow. And more heat. Much, much more heat.
8. Oakley to be a little more clear on their replacement policy. I'm going to be confused about that for a while, I'm sure.
9. Four years without mention of a Bush or a Clinton.
10. The Chargers to win the Super Bowl. Win, not just get there.
11. An HDTV that costs more than my new car. And is bigger. With accompanying DTS+ sound system. I'm a glutton, what can I say?
12. Eli Manning to break his leg. Does Santa tackle at the knees?
13. My cats to quit pissing on my stuff because they think the snow is my fault.
14. I'm going to break down and ask for an iPod. If there was ever anyone in need of an uplifting soundtrack for life, it's me at this very moment. Although I hate iPods... and cell phones... and indoor plumbing... the stone age was much simpler, man.
15. Adjustable sample rates on MySpace profile songs, in case I'm ever stuck with dial-up again... I can't hear my own damn profile songs.
16. A trip to Europe, a trip to Africa, a trip to Asia, a trip to South America, and a trip to Australia. I'd ask for a trip to Antarctica, but ever since I saw March of the Penguins, I'm afraid that one of those baby-stealers will try to take my unborn children.
17. Dinner in Hawaii.
18. The USA to figure out what the fuck it's doing in the Middle East. No, scratch that one, too... doesn't look like that's ever going to happen, either.
19. Baseball and hockey to shorten the length of their seasons. And for baseball to expand its playoffs. It is, after all, America's favorite pastime. Or was, until that last strike... funny how Canada's favorite pastime becomes more popular after a strike, isn't it? Damn northern liberals. It's all a conspiracy. Go Ducks!
20. To have that fantastic indie music that's exploding just below the radar to replace that crap pop music that's imploding everywhere else.
21. To have the weddings I'm invited to outnumber the funerals. I'm really tired...
22. To rebuild all of the bridges I've purposefully or inadvertently burned over the last 28 years.
23. Ah, fuck it... Peace on Earth.
24. Her.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I Should Be There

I was looking at some photographs just a little while ago. They were pictures representing a life I had what seems a long time ago. Pictures of friends, of colleagues. Pictures of that enormous family called the Army.

Some of men I saw in those pictures are dead, some are maimed, still others are psychologically different than when I knew them. Most of them are alive, thankfully, but even they're changed. Maybe more aloof on the outside, but harder on the inside. Some, though they won't admit it, and neither will their friends, are burned forever with fear. Or worse, hate.

These are, for the most part, men that I lived with, trained with, drank with, and shared with experiences that only those who serve could ever even conceive of. Some were even men that I trained, a youthful arrogant expertise bestowed upon even more youthful arrogance. As a teacher in the military, you always know that what you teach can and will save your student's lives. You always know it, but you don't always realize it. I never did, not while I wore a uniform. It wasn't until earlier this year that the realization finally hit me, when I learned that a close friend of mine lost a foot and the use of an arm. He was my replacement when I left Fort Bragg. He was where I should've been. He was where I should be.

In the last couple of years, I've learned that four men that I served directly with have been killed in one of the theaters that we're currently fighting in. Another two have lost parts of their bodies. I'm terrified of calling my friends who are still in, for fear of learning of more dead soldiers, dead paratroopers. As bad as that is, I'm even more terrified of the possibility of one of them asking me, blaming me, "Why weren't you with us?"

When I got out of the Army, I had mixed feelings. The war was intensifying, and I knew that most, if not all, of my former units were going over there. But, I had a plan in life, one that did not involve the military, and I was eager to get that plan started. That plan, as most of you who read this blog know, self-destructed this year, leaving me wondering what exactly it is I should be doing.

Being a soldier is, to this day, probably the single thing I'm best at. I'm certainly no writer, I can't seem to land in a city with enough filmmaking to really see if I'm good at that, and everything else I do is pretty much half-assed or over my head. But being a soldier? A paratrooper? A combat engineer? Damn, I was good. And I never even wanted to be.

2006 has officially left me a wreck, but luckily for me, 2007 is on the horizon, and I'm going to have a lot of choices to make. Choices that will, out of necessity, determine exactly what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, however long that may be. Will I rejoin the Army and once again put on a uniform? Maybe, and the possibility is strong. I almost signed back up this year.

It's notable that Christmas of 2006 will be the first Christmas since 1995 that I've spent "home" with family. In between those years, I usually spent Christmas day working, taking another young soldier's duty so that he could go home and be with his family. It never bothered me, I always felt that I was helping someone out. But here, now, I'm not helping anybody, not even myself. I shouldn't be "home" this Christmas. I don't deserve it, nor do I want it. As far as I'm concerned, I don't even have a real fucking home. I should be over there, with the rest of the 20th Engineer Brigade.

Do I think I can make a difference? No, not really. No one soldier ever really does. But a part of me wants to be with my friends, my old soldiers, most of whom outrank me now. I don't care about this stupid war. I certainly don't give a shit about the politics behind it. But soldiers, as cliché as Hollywood has made it, don't fight for anyone but themselves and their friends. I'm not sure soldiers have ever fought for anything else.

I should be there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

XM Radio: Saving Music One Genre at a Time

I love XM radio. Seriously. And not just for the commercial free playback, but because of the extreme, unmatched variety of music.

Not too long ago, old man Bob Dylan claimed that the last 20 years of music just plain sucked. At the time, I was inclined to agree (although I felt that there was more good music than he did). However, ever since being introduced to the full glut of XM radio channels, I think I have to change my opinion.

It's true that regular FM stations tend to not play the best of tunes anymore. Top 40 all seems like crap, alt rock is becoming way too emo, and even emo is becoming way too emo. Heavy metal is in a sad state of affairs, with most of the new bands just trying to pretend that they're devil worshippers so the freaks come to their local Wal-Mart shows. Even hip-hop is starting to sound decidedly just, well, hip-hop. Most of you know my theory behind why this is, and, combine that with my theory that mass pop culture is mostly contrived programming, and there you are... music sucks.

Well, maybe not.

Along came XM radio, which provides a venue for all of those "not-on-regular-rotation" talents (and I do mean talents) that truly are progressive, truly do know what they're doing, and are truly artists. I can honestly say that I scan almost every XM music station to see what new sound some obscure small-label artist has come up with. Just a few months ago, I was worried that I was doomed to be that cynical, long-haired fruitcake at the end of the block who only listed to classic rock stations. But, thanks mainly to XM channel 50 (the Loft), I have an enormous new music collection that I wouldn't otherwise have.

Once again, I'm rambling... but it all boils down to this. The masses are easily fooled. Everyone bitches about wanting something different, but in the end, the public just wants the same old hits rehashed and repackaged over and over again. Pop has always been somewhat of a bad word in the art and music community, and now I definitively know why. Of course, pop has always been a good word in the producing community, and that's a little sad. Although I do believe that the public is easily fooled and programmed into what they'll end up liking, I don't believe that the public is inherently stupid (well... no comment). They can be "retrained" into recognizing talent, instead of bump and grinding to that inevitable one-hit wonder.

Or maybe I'm too optimistic.

Eh, none of this my concern. I'll let pop culture solve the pop culture problem. In the meantime, I'll be listening to XM.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Thought I Had It

I wrote something the other day. It was rather profound, in terms of me, anyway. Brutally honest, a tad poetic, and maybe a little more internal than I had intended, but I wrote it. It just sort of came out that way.

After I finished it, I quite literally sat back, let out a deep breath, and smiled. I was happy that I wrote it, if not more than a little confused. Not confused because I didn't understand it, but because I didn't really know where it came from. It was just kind of there.

Fear set in, as I looked at the printed pages resting on my desk. I didn't want to read it. I didn't want to risk the realization of the words I had written being false. At that point, I believed wholeheartedly what I produced, but I was still afraid that I had lied. I'm not sure why I would lie to myself. I guess in this case, the subject matter was a topic that I enjoyed daydreaming about, and we all know that more than the occasional lie peppers our daydreams. People are sort of built that way.

Me being the editor-oriented idiot that I am decided, almost out of reflex, to flip through it quickly. I assure you, my intent was quickly. But, I saw one of those damn typos and it hit me, I absolutely had to read it, because I can't stand errors. Especially those that might disrupt the comprehension of the piece. This was too important to me. What can I say? I'm just kind of nutty like that.

So, I edited it, briefly. Didn't find any more typos, but found a couple of things that needed to be changed. Nothing was wrong, or inaccurate, but I have nit-picky aesthetic, and I don't like my writing to look like crap, much like this blog currently looks. But, hey, I sort of can't sleep, and I've got nothing else to do.

Now the piece is, for the most part, finished and ready for its intended audience. Only, I'm not entirely sure who that intended audience is anymore. I knew when I wrote it. Hell, I could've sent it off for publication, so to speak, as soon as I had finished printing it. But now, I just don't know. Of course, given this tumultuous year, I shouldn't have expected anything else. I haven't known a damn thing about a damn thing since I left North Carolina. I thought being older and more experienced was supposed to help people figure things out, but I guess I was kind of wrong about that, too.

So here I am, up at 2:30 in the morning, typing randomly about something you probably have absolutely no idea about. And there it is, sitting on my desk, with no one to read it. It's often said that the pen is mightier than the sword, that words have power. But I think mine are waning, listless in a world where physical contact is becoming more rare, and more valuable. A year ago I could talk my way out of anything, write my way out of even more, but now? Now I'm just another yutz with a self-important blog that nobody reads, sitting up at night, alone, freezing my ass off, with little to look forward to. And my work? It's turning into an embarrassment. Things just sort of happen that way, I guess.

I was so happy when I wrote it, and now I'm nearly the opposite of happy. Perhaps I'm just tired, but I can't help but thinking that I almost had it. This piece could, theoretically and in actuality, change my life. When I wrote it, I thought that it could only change for the better, but now I'm thinking it will only make things worse. It probably wouldn't, but now I'm almost too scared to take the chance. Kind of the way things go, isn't it? Especially as of late.

I thought I had it. I almost had it. Almost.

A Violent Quiet

When I was 10 years younger, I jumped out of an airplane for the first time. The experience, to say the least, was surreal. It wasn't a skydive, mind you, but a practice jump for the US Army Airborne. I wasn't spending money for the luxury of experiencing an adrenaline rush to tell my friends about, I was being paid to learn how to fall from the sky, gun in hand, and kill people that someone I'd never seen told me to kill. But as I was falling that day, not a thought crossed my mind. Just a pure and violent quiet.

I remember seeing the parachute finishing its blossom, angel wings of silk opening to make sure I lived when I hit the ground. A weapon of cloth ensuring that when I landed, I could get up and shoot my enemies. I remember watching the C-141 flying away from me, dropping fellow would-be paratroopers with the same, deceptive care. But I don't remember the experiencing the pain that I do remember feeling the next day, soreness from a military harness and knees buckling at 20 feet per second. And I don't remember a sound. It was just a pure and violent quiet.

At 18, I knew that would be an experience I would never forget, but I never realized that it would be an experience that would eventually alter my view of the world. I can't remember exactly when, my life is full of anachronistic memories, but the phrase "violent quiet" worked its way into my mind, and attributed itself to almost everything I had experienced.

As a soldier I was often exposed to pictures of the dead. Sometimes the dead lay there peacefully, almost smiling. Other times they lay in pieces. I'll never forget the image of an Iraqi man whose body was in the front seat of his car, his head in the back. In either case, the stillness of the moment betrayed the violence with which the dead met the end of their lives. Even when a man or woman clearly died in their sleep, I knew that at the smallest level, their heart, their mind, their billions upon billions of cells, fought a war that they could not hope to win. A violence, external or internal, followed by quiet.

The tragedy of September 11th hit me in much the same way. I remember watching hours and hours of the footage of the aircraft striking the twin towers, as I'm sure everybody does. But I do not remember the sounds that accompanied the images. For me, America's greatest tragedy of the young 21st Century was, both inexplicably and completely expectedly, a violent quiet.

A couple of years later, I was involved in a car crash that spun my truck around backwards, flipped me over, and slid me into someone's yard. Again, I can't remember a sound. Well, that's not true, I remember my radio playing after I had stopped moving. But during the violence, I didn't hear a thing.

Certain people like to say that we, as a race, are becoming desensitized to the violence around us. They blame it on television, movies, and even music and books. But I don't see it. I can remember the explosions and the dialogue in the most violent of movies. Songs that sing of crime sometimes stick with me, and my imagination paints the most violent pictures of all when I read a book. In real life, however, part of my mind shuts off. I think it has to. I think if it didn't, I would go crazy. I don't remember the screams of people that have died, but I remember the screams of those that lived. Why? I'm not sure, but I think life has a way of being loud when it knows it's going to win. Maybe that's why babies cry so much when they're born. The sound itself reassures those present that life has taken hold, or is taking hold. Death, in noise, is a far off place.

But the quiet... that wonderful sense of solace... merely hides the violence behind it.

We're not desensitized. We're evolving. Our survival lies in our ability to move forward and not live in the past, and overpowering memories of death, true death, hinders that. Think of the veterans from all of humanity's wars. Certain sounds trigger painful memories, some elicit violent reactions. Clearly, these men and women haven't found the peace within themselves. They're still fighting the sounds that shouldn't be there. The sounds that are lying to them, telling them that violence is what life is ultimately about.

Perhaps that's why we need violence to be, in the end, quiet.

Monday, December 18, 2006

MySpace Recommendations

Given a recent incident on MySpace (actually, given A LOT of recent incidents on MySpace), I'm going to pretend I'm holier-than-thou and write down some recommendations for a successful MySpace experience.

1. Don't use Internet Explorer as your browser. It's horrifically easy for hackers and hijackers to cut into your private information and use it against you, or use it for their own purposes. Use Mozilla Firefox instead. It's much, much more secure.

2. Change your password often. And I mean often. Like, weekly. Or at least monthly. Okay, maybe semi-annually. Just change it once in a while, okay?

3. Don't click on bulletins that tell you to click on something. A lot of those are hijacker/trojan horse type applications that insert a code into your MySpace page. These codes usually do something stupid or mean (or both) to your page and your friends' pages. Unfortunately, since most MySpace users are nearly computer illiterate (or, at the very least, html illiterate), they have no way to recognize the malicious coding in their profiles.

4. If you are, in fact, web illiterate, change your layouts fairly frequently. Make sure you delete EVERYTHING from your page and rebuild it with the new coding. This will ensure that the old malicious coding is deleted.

5. Run your anti-virus software regularly. And if you don't have one, get a spyware program and run that just as regularly. SpyBot is great and can catch some MySpace baddies.

6. Be careful when downloading or cut-and-pasting MySpace layouts and codings from third-party sites. And for fuck's sake, don't get those stupid "MySpace trackers." They don't work unless somebody else has that same tracker, and then a whole lot of people can look at your personal stuff that you don't want looking at your personal stuff.

7. Limit the types of html coding you use in your profile. Some of them (like the recent Quicktime FUBAR) allow assholes to more easily hack into your page.

Got it? Good.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everybody. And I mean that sincerely. I'm even wishing Merry Christmas to all you jerks that don't subscribe to Christmas. That's right, for everyone that celebrates the older Hanukkah and the completely arbitrary Kwanzaa, I'm wishing you a Merry Christmas, too.

I am, as most of you know, as agnostic as a person can get. I don't know which religion is right, I don't know what happens when one dies, and I don't know if there is a God, gods, or just a big bang followed by an assload of evolution. Christmas, to me, is simply a time for family, a time for loving your fellow man in that cliché way, and a time for giving and receiving. That's what it means to me, and you know what? That's a great meaning, if I do say so myself.

I understand the Christian connotation of the holiday, but I also understand the historical pagan significance of it, as well. The nativity scenes don't bother me, Christmas carols don't bother me, and I absolutely fucking love Christmas trees covered in snow. That being said, I respect Hanukkah and what it stands for. In fact, I respect every other religious and pseudo-religious holiday that happens around this time of year. And even though it's a completely arbitrary, faceted, 20th Century anti-establishment invention, I even hold some respect for Kwanzaa. I mean, shit, anything that celebrates Peace on Earth in one form or another is worthy of respect, right?

But what's really starting to irritate me are all the idiotic, ignorant, and self-important assholes that are trying to pigeon-hole Christmas as a holiday that the "white Christian" is trying to "hold down the man" with. Seriously, shut the fuck up.

You hear about the rabbi who complained about the Christmas trees in the Seattle airport? Well, his complaint got the trees removed. Way to go (although, he does have a legitimate point... one I have no problem with, but his dumb ass threated to sue), dickhead. You hear about the person that was so worried about being politically correct that a Christmas choir was ordered to stop caroling because Sasha Cohen, a half Jew who happens to appreciate Christmas, was in the area? Holy fucking cow. ENOUGH ALREADY.

Screw "Happy Holidays." It's "Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah."

Yes, it's true that America was founded on what were basically Christian ideals for a "promised land," but they were ideals that recognized the need for what is essentially an agnostic form of government. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and all the others ultimately knew that peace in the new land would never be accomplished without peace between the religions. That's kind of why the United States doesn't have a state-sponsored religion. It just so happened that most of the inhabitants here (American Indians notwithstanding) were Christian. So, obviously, Christmas took the lead as the primary winter holiday.

But guess what? Over the years, Christmas in America was altered by capitalism and the ever-growing "melting pot" that was the American populace and has become, more than any devout Christian is probably willing to admit, a non-denominational holiday. It is, in this country, celebrated less as the supposed birthday of Jesus Christ, and celebrated more as a time for the (loose definition here) "spirit of Christmas." You know, that fat guy in the red suit with the reindeer on drugs? Last I checked, Santa wasn't in the Bible, and just ask the boys of South Park who would win in a duel, Santa or Jesus.

It's time we looked beyond the religion and alleged ethno-centricity of Christmas, and let the American spirit of Christmas take hold. We're one country, one people, and we deserve to celebrate the end of the year without a bunch of assholes trying to destroy the one thing that lets us love each other without feeling embarrassed about it.

Jerks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Los Angeles Chargers

I'm not a conspiracy theorist or anything, and I truly love my Chargers, but it does seem a little odd that the best season in San Diego history since A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY... is happening right when the Chargers are trying to force their way into a new stadium deal.

Yes, the team, led by the Spanos family and their wicked-evil yes-man, Mark Fabiani, are currently in negotiations with National City and Chula Vista to try to work out a stadium deal. Yes, the Chargers have committed (verbally, anyway) to staying in San Diego County. Yes, LaDainian Tomlinson and company are bringing out all of the fair weather Charger fans that have been hiding the last couple of decades (I guess that's not fair; San Diego always has fair weather).

But... Anaheim, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Antonio have all made overtures to the team. And, as it stands right now, the team will be able to negotiate with any or all of those cities come January 1st, 2007... perhaps the time when the Chargers are making a convincing Super Bowl run. Can anybody say, "Increasing the market value?"

Let me back up and set something straight before I continue... I truly, and wholeheartedly, believe that the San Diego Chargers are the best team in the NFL right now. Not because of conspiracy, but because of talent. I mean, shit... look at who we have on the team.

Continuing: (and I'm rambling now... what can I say? I'm at work) if the Chargers leave San Diego, I'm no longer a Chargers fan. That's not to say I won't be a Tomlinson fan, a Rivers fan, or a Merriman fan (I do root for New Orleans, a la Drew Brees, after all). But, I won't be a Chargers fan.

The scary thing is that out of the four cities that have expressed interest, the Chargers would be a good fit for at least three of them. Think about it... the San Antonio Chargers? Well, little known outside of San Diego is that a stallion used to be the Chargers logo. I guarantee you that a move to Texas will prompt the stallion's return. The Las Vegas Chargers? Electricity? Lightning bolt? All in the Sin City of Lights? Come on... And, last (and the most frightening), the Los Angeles Chargers. Another little known fact is that the San Diego Chargers started off as the Los Angeles Chargers. This would just be a case of a team moving back to its original home.

Ugh.

We all know that San Diego's city government is recovering from a shitload of corruption right now, and is in no position to support a team trying to upgrade a seriously outdated stadium. We all know that the Spanos family has ties to the Los Angeles and Las Vegas areas. We all know that San Diego, other than the Padres, can't seem to hang on to a sports team to save its life (the NBA's Rockets and Clippers, anyone?).

In all likelihood, I'm moving to Los Angeles next year. One would think I'd be happy that the Chargers might move there. But San Diego is, and always be, the county I call home. And I don't want to see my beloved team leave my home.

Fuck the LA Chargers.

Poetry

This blog does not contain a poem, so get that out of your head. It does, however, pertain to that old cliche that "life is poetry." Yes, life is poetry, and all lives are poems. To take it further, as the film Dead Man tried to convey, even death is poetry.

Life is full of the highest highs, the lowest lows. Basically, unless you're Pablo Neruda, poems are the roller coasters we think we ride in life (Neruda had a gift for what life really is, so don't take that comment the wrong way). Mountains are made from molehills, fish become twice as big, and those damn "ones" always get away. Recite a funny story at work and we become Mother Goose. Put our lives on paper and we're an Epic along the lines of Milton.

As this year comes to a close, it's clear to me that no year of my life has been closer to a poem than 2006 has. More than that, this year has become a movie script (quite literally), complete with plot points, pinches, and a climax. Poetry in image, so to speak.

It began with the fruition of a plan nine years in the making. A career on the horizon, a journey to the other side of America, a world revolving into fingertips. That planned stalled, mainly due to the attempt to make another person more comfortable. A diversion to a home never called home, and a forgotten life that should not have been remembered. That "another person" decided to ultimately fuck me, and left me in a great deal of debt. I was effectively further from my goal than I had ever been before. A dream shattered, with a grasp on life that began to slip. So, I went out, joined the "real" workforce, and started getting back on my feet. I even got some film work along the way. Things were looking up, then another person decided to fuck me based on a disagreement of principles. Principles that, I assure you, exist nowhere else in the world (for the record, I'm still reeling from that one... the result is pending).

And yet, despite all of that, the end of 2006 is looking quite good. It's fitting in a way, poetic, that the worst year of my life is turning out to be the year that could have the brightest ending. Nothing's in stone, of course, poetry never is, but she's playing a larger role in my life right now than I could have ever dreamed. Work is steady, paying well, and I can almost count the days until debt becomes an afterthought. And my writing? Well, I'm writing... that's all I can say, and that's something. But she's in my life, helping to guide it, helping to inspire it... helping me write my own poetry.

I won't say why (yet), but December 12th, 2006, will probably go down in my history as the best day of my life. Poetic, isn't it? The best day of my life occuring in the worst year of it?

And with a screaming heart, a spirit rebuilds on a foundation of softly spoken words in December.

Sappy, aren't I?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Aliens and UFOs

Last night I happened to wander outside and see a bright, blazing light over a ridgeline. Now, my first thought was that it was one of the three planets aligning, until I realized that it was twinkling. Soon after that, I realized that it was moving. And, very quickly after that, I realized that it was a jet airliner whose navigation light just happened to catch me at the right angle.

So... no UFO for me.

Which brings me to my point. I truly and whole-heartedly believe in life on other planets. I have to apologize to all you religious universal-centrists that think we're it, but this medium we Earthlings occupy is just too fucking big for us to be the only life in it.

That being said, I don't really believe that we've been visited by life from other planets just yet. I can't explain away all of the abduction stories (unless they're drug related), but I'm pretty certain I can explain away the "alien ship sightings."

Think about this... aliens flying UFOs would obviously be from cultures FAR more advanced than ours. I mean, shit, these little gray-skinned fuckers would be flying half-way across the galaxy just to mutilate cows and kidnap neurotic alcoholics after hours, right? So anyway... these intelligent aliens could probably figure out (rather quickly, I might add) that all "Earthling" aircraft have red lights on their right, green lights on their left, and navigation lights somewhere on the fuselage, right? Please tell me you agree with me so far, even if you don't agree with my conclusion... because if you don't, you scare me.

Okay... back to the point. So, these aliens are flying around like drunk idiots, getting seen by drunk idiots on the ground, and getting reported to drunk idiots who watch The X-Files and take the show a little too seriously. What follows is a bunch of crazy conspiracy theories, even more bad television documentaries, and the occasional good movie (albeit amid a plethora of crappy ones).

To avoid all of this, why wouldn't the aliens, these intelligent aliens, just mount lights on their spacecraft similar to the navigation lights on our aircraft? I mean, anybody from the ground who saw blinking red, blinking green, and a nav light would immediately chalk the fucking thing up as a regular aircraft... even if they hadn't seen that particular type of bird before, right? Oh, sure, there'd still be the occassional "Oh, fuck, E.T!" guy, but for the most part, sensible people would be like "Oh, look, flying plane."

I'm rambling... but you get my drift. If the aliens can't figure out how to fool us which such a simplistic technique, then I highly doubt those little bastards can figure out how to fly into New York City undetected, rip some poor lady out of her highrise apartment building, and fly off into the night sky without anyone asking serious questions.

I mean, right?

Saturday, December 9, 2006

D & Diamond: Two Reviews

Two reviews here, one bad, one good. I'll bet you can guess which is which before you even read this...

First up is Jack Black's highly anticipated (I think) Tenacious D: the Pick of Destiny. I'm not really going to go into much detail, as I'm pretty sure people got what they expected from the film... but I thought it was lame. Yeah, it was kinda cool how Black and Gass served themselves up and rehashed much of their CD into a movie of sorts, but it was ultimately weak and lame. Yeah, it was kinda cool how Black and Gass poked some fun at Hollywood and made what almost qualified as a musical, but it was ultimately boring and lame. Yeah, it was kinda cool how the stupid high school kids in the theater thought they were cool just because they were watching the movie, but... wait, no, that wasn't cool.

But hey, a friend of mine was one of the assistant directors, so I can't bag the film too much. And the scenes with Tim Robbins were, admittedly, very funny.

On to better things, that being Blood Diamond, Edward Zwick's latest entry in action-packed tear-jerkers (following Last Samurai, Courage Under Fire, and the uber-great Glory). Fantastic, fantastic movie. Relevant (in a just-maybe-a-little-too-liberal sort of way), well-directed, extremely well-acted (although Jennifer Connelly, despite looking gorgeous, was somewhat of a weak spot... but that's still saying a lot for the film), and beautifully shot, the film just rocked. There were times when it almost seemed it would delve into cliché territory, but it expertly skirted it instead.

And, say what you will about Leonardo DiCaprio, but the fucker can act. If he doesn't win an award for either this or The Departed, then the Academy will have exposed itself as a fraud.

Bottom line... skip Jack Black (unless you're in its very narrow target audience) and get a load of Leo.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

One

It's a very important number, one. Never mind the fact that all other numbers are multiples of it, one, itself, is a very important number. The most important number, in fact.

One day can ruin your life. One day can save it. When you're born, despite the fact that you (hopefully) are born to two parents, you are a single entity, alone in the world. Just you. Can you remember your parents the day you were born? Of course not. That's because the first few days, months, maybe years of your life, it was just you. One person. Maybe that's why we don't remember that part of our existence... it's not because we can't, it's because we don't want to. It was just you, one, after all.

One event changes your life. Perhaps it was a move, a career shift, some other choice of some kind. That one event leads to another single event, maybe it's compounded by another single event. But we're all living in a series of things happening once.

This year is a great example of this phenomenon of "one" in my life. One person almost destroyed me with one action. Later, another single person made things much worse for me... again, with one action. And the chain of one labored on. Life, this year, seemed destined for nowhere.

But, your one life tends to be a little, I don't know, funny. As quickly as one thing can make things worse, one thing can make things better.

In my case, that one thing happened about 2800 miles away. One event. An event not even remotely related to my situation. But it happened, and it opened the door to one chance.

Eventually, that one chance turned into one e-mail. From there, to use an old cliche, one thing led to another. One poem. One song. One phone call. And, as quickly as the year turned sour, it turned into something to smile about.

One person. One woman. And one day... well, you know.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Lying Awake in the Dark

You're there, less than an hour before your alarm goes off, lying awake in the dark. Your mind is calm and your body is well-rested, but still you're far too hesitant to climb out of bed. After all, it's warm under the blankets, you're comfortable, and the world seems like it's going to wait for you for another hour, anyway. Why ruin the solace?

Maybe your blinds or curtains are just a little open and you can see night slowly turning into day. Maybe all you can see is the passing by of the occasional early riser trying to get a jump on the work day. Or maybe the window's frosted over, or you don't care to look outside. Here, now, in your little corner of the room, everything is all right. And all you're doing is lying awake in the dark.

You look at your clock, or your cell phone. Time seems like it's standing still. Acts like it, too. You could swear that it's been 15 minutes since the last time you checked the time, but it's barely been four. You don't mind, though. Your thoughts are racing; life is somehow understandable as you stare at the ceiling.

Somewhere in the distance you can hear your dogs stirring. They're getting ready to greet you when you bring them breakfast. Or maybe you don't have dogs, don't even like dogs, but can hear your neighbor's. Everything is routine, everything runs like clockwork, everything is safe.

Then it hits you. You're in bed... alone. Sure, life is fine, the night is calm, the morning light even better. But she's not there.

You wonder what she's doing. She's in a different time zone, three hours ahead, so maybe she's met someone and is starting the next chapter of her life... without you. So you glance at your phone again, only this time you don't care how many minutes you have left until the alarm goes off. This time you're wondering whether or not you should call. Wondering whether or not she even wants to hear from you.

Or maybe she's simply on vacation, and you're missing her warm body beside you. Then again, maybe you've never had her warm body, and you're lost in a daydream wondering what it would be like. Would it be like a movie? The two of you made love until the sunset, then you woke early to watch her sleep while the blue light from the night sky reflected from her body.

Perhaps she is there, and as you stare at the ceiling, you take cadence to her soft breathing. Maybe you move her hair from her still closed eyes, watch her forehead wrinkle because of a bad dream she's having. Maybe catch a smile.

A quick panic as you realize you haven't checked the time in a while. The beautiful night is almost gone. You're still dreaming, but you're not.

And, as always, life's little quiet moment passes you by just before the electronic beeping of an imported device tells you that it's time to start your day. And, as always, you wish you could continue to lie awake in the dark... your thoughts alone, one way or the other, with her...

Tomorrow, I think I'll call. And maybe, just maybe... the next time she lies awake in the dark, her thoughts will be alone, one way or the other, with me.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Traffic Musings

None of this will be anything new for anyone who isn't a moron, but I just feel like writing some things down pertaining to driving...

If you're in the left lane, and someone behind you is going faster than you, get the fuck out of the left lane. Passing on the right is dangerous, makes both drivers look like assholes, and is just downright inconvenient.

There are these cool little blinking lights on the sides of every vehicle. They're called turn signals... use them... even if you're just changing lanes. Hell, ESPECIALLY if you're changing lanes.

Speaking of which, if someone is nice enough to use their turn signal to try a lane change, have some courtesy and let them in.

Oh, how about this... try turning on your turn signal when attempting a lane change BEFORE you check to see if anyone is coming. Seriously, have you ever seen a driver check, turn on a signal, realize they're probably not going to get let in, turn off the signal, then cut someone else off anyway in a fit of impatience? IF YOU LET PEOPLE KNOW YOU WANT OVER, they're more likely to let you over... but this requires giving them enough time to actually notice your stupid signal.

Turn your damn brights off before you enter a curve or cross the crest of the hill. Unless you're really observant, you're not going to know if someone is coming... someone that you'll blind coming around the bend. And if you are really observant, you'd turn your damn brights off anyway, so don't try to justify my previous statement.

Don't tailgate. That just tempts people like me to slam on the brakes.

When you're at a stoplight, it would be appreciated if you spent at least 90% of your time concentrating on the lights, and only 10% looking for your favorite CD, not vice versa.

And finally (for now), get off the damn phone.