Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pax Domi

I have developed socially quite a bit, and as a result am often either out and about with people or doing about the same at home. Each person has their public image and persona. My guess is that I project an image of a loud, animated joker always up for some good boisterous fun. That's substantially true, I suppose, but does not paint the entire picture. As is the case for many, there is the person I am while with people and under observation, and then there is the person I am when alone and left entirely to my own devices.

I would put it like this: I enjoy the thrill that comes from pitching and rolling on the open seas, but have no desire to live on a boat. No matter how much I break out of anti-social isolation in life, I will always crave the security and regularity of a quiet and still home which itself yields no excitement or surprises of any kind. I'm partly something like Roderick Usher, and so am perhaps unusually sensitive. This is surely shocking to people who have repeatedly found it necessary to chasten me for my own voluminous histrionics away from my home.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In The Writers Room

There has been evidence over time to suggest that there's some amount of interest in what writers do and how they do it. Out of admiration for the writer and a desire to be one, I was as interested as anyone in these things. One of the first things that came to mind, in addition to more recent films and television shows depicting writers of various types, was the classic 'Dick Van Dyke Show'. It was a show that depicted a collaborative writing staff, not the lone genius writer whose exploits had held sway. Finally, I have had a experience that I would feel justified in placing somewhere in the ballpark of that experience.

It began with a session to generate ideas. With that, it felt akin to a day of work on a sketch writing staff. There were all the earmarks of it there. We had a head writer, an isolated place to work, and both a board and laptop to record the notes written upon the board. Most important, though, was the quality of people we had there in the room. Maybe we were neither the legends from shows like 'Get Smart' or 'Your Show Of Shows' nor the contemporaries from programs like 'The Office' or 'Saturday Night Live', but we had committed people with the intellect and imagination to call themselves writers. It feels special to be among such people and feel that you belong.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Hike

On Saturday, I hiked Runyon Canyon, which has a particular reputation in Los Angeles as a fashionable place to see the good-looking and famous, as well as to be seen. I've been here a little while, but had not yet done any hiking. I had done a whole lot of that back home both in and out of Boy Scouts, and I find the comparison interesting.

The two things that makes Runyon Canyon the least bit challenging are the steep grade and the intimidation brought on by close proximity with some of the most fit people in one of America's most body image-conscious cities. The latter thing isn't such a big deal for me, as I don't see myself in competition with such people. I'm content to have a body that won't drive me into an early grave. Beyond that, I prefer to spend my time in other ways. I went on this hike as a hiker, not an exerciser.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Laureate City

I have long been of the opinion that any place worth anything has to its name no less than one hero who tells its story via some artistic medium. To fail at that speaks loudly of an utter lack of any love or passion for the place, and then you are left with just a place and not a community- at least not one worth association or affiliation with. It hardly needs to be a community on top of the world to have this- some pretty hard-up places can boast of a laureate preaching the word in some fashion.

I'm reminded of John Waters and Barry Levinson, both filmmakers of Baltimore. There's John Sayles of Texas, Bruce Springsteen and Kevin Smith of New Jersey, Woody Allen and Spike Lee of New York, Elmore Leonard and Eminem, both of Detroit. There's Drew Carey of Cleveland, Tina Turner and Mark Twain of Missouri, and so many more I don't know, can't recall or don't dedicate space to here. The point is that when a place has qualities which move an artist to practice his craft in devotion to it, you know it's a place worth investing in, body and soul.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

In Search Of Appreciative Life

The recent and prodigious commenting of reader Lemonade714 has gotten me thinking again about the other side of the gateway which I try daily to break through with my writing in an effort to reach some kind of audience. Self publishing makes it all too easy to get to the point where you can make that attempt, but it is all the harder for not having gone through the process of winning over a publisher. I happen to know that I have a least a few readers, making it easier to expend myself in service of this blog.  Many in my shoes are wracked with worry that there's just no one out there seeing their output.

For them (and still for me to some extent), it's something like when NASA sends out a deep space probe. They know its sensors will receive and transmit data, but they hope it will be intercepted by intelligent life. We know this because each probe invariably is laden with a recording or engraved metal plate meant for such life to absorb and therefrom learn about humanity. It's a lingering sign of the scientist as the wide-eyed, hopeful dreamer, not the humorless walking lab coat with whom one cannot relate and who delights in evidence of trace amounts of water on vacant, empty, distant worlds. Perhaps the effort to communicate with alien life will be scrapped in future owing to budget cuts, which would be sad. It would seem to be one of NASA's most supported missions.

Friday, March 26, 2010


I have been thinking about the uniquely human variety of affection lately. A single-minded focus on the matter comes to me on occasion. The salient observation which makes for a good starting point may be drawn, unbelievably, from Mr. John Cougar Mellencamp, who noted that love 'hurts so good'. In his way, he astutely observes the bittersweet duality of the emotion. Why there should be any upside to suffering is hard to say. Perhaps it has something to do with the valor and glory of combat on the battlefield which Pat Benatar has told us love is.

The big problem is of finding true love. There is a strong articulation of this proffered by singer and songwriter Warren Zevon's 'Searching For A Heart'. Regrettably, it did not gain the notoriety it deserved, perhaps because it failed to include lycanthropes rampaging through the English capitol. In any event, the song's narrator speaks of the long, restless wait for the unknown person he knows he is destined for. There's no sure thing on the horizon- no promise except that of patience on the part of the searcher.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Film Lover's Diet

I have for a long time consumed media to a prodigious degree. It began with books, and that continues, but my intake matured with the addition of movies. For years, I made due with a movie or two once in a while when the family made a trip to the video store. I still have memories of visiting the one at the mall near our house of the time. I would bound in with bare feet, taking in the confines with wonderment. At that time, the stores carried VHS and Betamax. Once a houseguest mixed them up, and we were left wanting for an evening. A video store in the neighborhood we moved to later became something of a second home, only to close in advance of those which fell victim to one of the current sources of my fix. Netflix I believe I have spoke of either in passing or at length. Either way, it needs no further discussion.

What I'm so fond of these days is something which I've had tastes of all too fleetingly in the past: the beloved and precious public library. In my youth, it carried only books, periodicals and cassette tapes. CDs came in after a fashion. Somewhere around that time, VHS tapes also entered into common circulation. I did partake of them when the opportunity would arise from time to time, but was regretful that it should do so most seldom. That changed in concert with my transition from a fairly nascent charter school to one which was so early in gestation that it had no home. In between meeting in a conference room at one parent's office park and acquiring a permanent home in a humble strip mall, we met in a series of library meeting rooms.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Useless Debate

As I've gotten into my late 20s, I've begun to place just a bit more importance on my time, energy and attention. That's not to say that I don't fritter it away, but I avoid it to the extent that my discipline allows. One of the areas where I make this effort is in debates and arguments. They had better really matter, and not only matter but be something other than futile, if I'm going to expend myself in their service. Rarely is this the case.

An easy category to dispense with is that which has seemingly been ginned up by a corporation to sell more units. There are any number of them out there, and those so engaged are seemingly under the impression that they are striving to enhance their knowledge and not the bottom line of a multinational conglomerate which sees them as ants with income if it sees them at all. I, for one, intend on going to my grave having consciously attempted to work for the betterment of myself and those I care about, not business enterprises I had no real stake in.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Secret, secret- I got a secret!

I think that it was once feasible to keep a secret, as long as its possessor was discrete. The dissemination of information was such that secrets spread very slowly, if at all. If the existence of a secret even became known, someone wishing to learn it faced both a long march and long odds, no matter the vigor with which they pursued it. If they actually did find it out, it was not easily passed on. It's been the media which has done it. Beginning with print, it has progressed to radio, television, and now on to the modern internet.

Maybe I'm wrong about how it used to be, given Ben Franklin's saying, "Three can keep a secret if two are dead". The point is how it is now. In all realms of human achievement, there are pieces of information being withheld at any given time. If no one wants to know, then there's no issue. Once there's any interest in finding out the truth, a worldwide human machine springs into action. It seems to me that once upon a time, there were only professional journalists of some minimum level of reputability who had to prioritize  what they devoted their time to. I guess they also consented to look the other way on some things. Not so today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Summer Camp, Part Two: Camp Geronimo

Some time ago, I wrote about my first summer camp experience, with the intent of writing more. I think it's fair to say that the subsequent chapters, encompassing events now years in the past, have not grown any more stale for having waited since April of last year.

After that summer, it would be a while before I had such an experience again. Upon becoming old enough,  I got into Cub Scouts, and then Webelos. Eventually, I was in Boy Scouts, but was in a troop which was at its nadir. There were perhaps three or four of us. Finally, I wound up in a bigger, more active troop. It seems to me that it was immediately after that that I began going to Camp Geronimo with them. With my state of development being what it was at that age, summer camp could be tough at times.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Only 'Lost' I Care About

The pain of losing personal effects is something that I have experienced many times going far back into childhood. It began with a long string of jackets which each in turn went missing mainly at school. As time passed, the items lost began to be of greater and greater value as I got older and starting having nicer things. Of course, that levels off, so I haven't gotten to the point of losing mink stoles and sports cars as the initial pace would have projected. Even so, the modest things I lose today are no more pleasant for being of humble value.

What happens during the tempest of losing something? It begins when it's not where I expect it to be. I very reasonably check the couple of slightly less likely places it might be. If it's not there, I continue checking down the imagined list with greater concern. Upon reaching the end of that, I start re-tracing your steps and praying to St. Anthony. Should that fail to resolve the matter, I break down and start checking with other people. If this doesn't turn it up, the next steps depend on the item.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Taco Truck

I got something to eat from a taco truck a bit ago, giving me grounds to write about it now. It was a new experience when I moved here, but I had no fear about partaking, and still don't. Be it a real taco truck, other kind of 'mobile restaurant', or even an unlicensed hot dog cart, I will order up and eat the proprietor's wares with gusto should the mood strike me. Today, it was a tasty burrito from the truck regularly found parked on the street outside my bank.

It's remarkable the previously unknown options one has in such an setting, particularly for those whose sole previous Latin American eating experiences are Taco Bell and the sit-down restaurant equivalent thereof. Gazing at the sign, one might well wonder what lengua, cabeza and carnitas are. Frankly, with many of them it's best to enjoy in ignorance, but you will occasionally realize immediately and not be able to forget as is possible with some iffy cuts of meat. Today I got lengua, which is tongue. You look at the meat, and you know.

I had a nice little chat with the guy, instructing him to load up the burrito with all the fixin's. Upon receiving my Mexican Coke and paying, I was headed back to the apartment, just as happy as a clam. That's what the taco truck does for you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Too Terribly Tired

I've never before identified as much with Madeline Kahn's character in Blazing Saddles than I do now. Like her, I'm tired. Somewhat like her, I came by the tiredness in a social fashion. When you read this, I will have gotten the rest I badly need, but know that when I wrote it, I could barely muster the energy to sit up straight and type. I lack the energy to flesh out any idea I have on the shelf, and so resort now to relating the only thing I can: the visceral fatigue. 

I have been advised that when one hits that wall, it is best to power through in rather than succumb to a nap. Ordinarily, I would do the latter, but presently have not got the time. We shall see, by necessity, how efficacious my friend's counsel is. If I should make it, you will know when my next post goes out.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

SAT Story

A few days ago, I found myself reminiscing about the bad old days of formal public education. They were hard times in a sense, although this bird now fondly recalls the security and sense of direction provided by the cage in which he sang. As high school drew to a close, a world in which one had to earn the next level of education finally had to be faced. Due to my adventures in unlicensed charter schools, I had found myself quite far behind in credits, and so in my senior year was frantically and assiduously struggling to catch up with a full load plus correspondence courses and a class at the community college. This was just for my diploma.

So that I might have some hope of attending college, it seemed wise to tune up on the old Scholastic Aptitude Test. It was, I gather, different then than it is today, for they have now apparently decided to make it a real and effective means of determining suitability for university admission. At the time, there were the two sections, Verbal and Mathematics. Each was worth 800 points, making 1600 a perfect score. I knew full well how weak I was in the latter section, as did my mother. It was decided that a prep course would be  a good way of bringing me up to snuff in that area. It seems as much now as it did then that such courses are more a way of gaming the system than actually gaining knowledge.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When Men Cry

Men are understood to be built and wired in a certain way. As the hunter of humanity's prehistoric salad days, he is a strong, toughened creature who stands by his decisions and can be happy or angry, but never sad. That last area- the emotional makeup- is what moves me to write today. Over time, however, this sketch of the man's mental state and the safety of emoting in any way has been come less certain and more complicated.

I think that perhaps the first chinks in the armor might have come gradually on the valorous field of battle. Shakespeare wrote of men who suffered such wrenching turmoil in arms that they formed among themselves bonds more intimate than they shared with their closest and most loved blood relatives. I'm as sure as can be that no man in that number who shed tears was thought any less of by his comrades for his display of emotion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Commute Worth Speaking Of

I now make an effort to keep to myself the mundane details of my own exploits, and instead write about matters of greater interest to a broader range of people. Sometimes, however, those exploits are too interesting to not tell. Such was the case with my commute out to the east side of town last Thursday. Typically, this trip bears mentioning only in passing as a trivial status update, but once in a while, trips made via public transportation are truly remarkable.

It began as I struggled to end a pleasant conversation with a friend so that I might get going and not be late for the plans I had made. I have no small amount of difficulty ending such calls before the party on the other end is through speaking their piece. I rushed from my building to get to the stop, and found there was no hurry after all. In fact, I had another very nice conversation with a neighbor, with this one being regrettably terminated when I got off at the subway station and he continued on.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What Makes A Professional

I have often repeated an assertion made by a friend of my father: Once you are paid to do something- no matter how little the payment- you become a professional in that discipline. I say that to people in jest, true though it is in a very narrow and limited way. In truth, it takes a lot more to make one a professional than receiving a check for one's labor. This very blog makes me think about that every day, and makes plain how unrelated professionalism can be to the earning of any money. It's partly about showing respect for what you're doing and who you're doing it with. That means fully committing, and doing it right. It means making the most of what others contribute and not wasting it or undermining it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

King Midas Is A Consumer

Before I buy something, I anticipate the acquisition and imagine having it and using it. In my imagination, it is perfect and pristine, and stays that way. In reality, it becomes tainted in my mind the moment it becomes mine. This even precedes the possibility of harm coming to the thing, or even the eventuality of my use bringing about ordinary wear and tear that marks the things as no longer absolutely brand new. It doesn't matter whether the thing is a car or a candy bar: they all precipitate in me the stages of grief. The only distinction is the length of time it takes to pass through them all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tidying Up

As you may have noticed if you've ever laid eyes on this blog's homepage before, there have been some changes. Those who know me and regularly gain entrance to my room are already aware that this is just one aspect of an entire wave of frenetic cleaning and organizing which overtook me at that time. This is a fairly regular, if infrequent, event for me. I just put up with clutter and general disorder until I can't put up with it. It's kind of like what they say about momentum in sports: It's something you have until you don't have it anymore.

From the moment I established the look of my blog as what it was until a few days ago, I realized that a three column layout was not really what I wanted. I made the best of it for a whole year only because I didn't want to go to the trouble of finding one which better served my needs. Many elements of content consequently resulted and grew stagnant. Finally, "I couldn't stands no more!" Just like that, it was all gone, and the dust cleared to reveal a two column layout containing the mere essence of what lay there before.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Psychology Of The Delayed Payment

I spoke of the wonder that is being asked to pay for your restaurant service only after you enjoy its every benefit. That had to do with a larger concept: that of the payment made for services rendered. As I believe I indicated then, there's nothing interesting or surprising about paying for something either at the time it is received or before. For the seller to do it any other way would be to practically dare the customer to default on their debt, and yet it happens, as I observed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dine and Dash

At a sit-down restaurant, the act of receiving the services rendered and absconding without reciprocating is so easy, I am awed each and every time such trust is placed in me. A bar insists on payment or possession of my credit card before pouring me a beer, but any restaurant other than the fast-food variety will serve me food whose value far exceeds that of a single alcoholic beverage with nothing more than the unwarranted (so far as they know) belief that I'm a man who will pay his debt when there is no incentive to do so except retaining my honor in the eyes of strangers who work for a business which I have no personal stake in whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

With Which I Am Fed Up

One of the most detestable qualities in humankind is a propensity for whining and complaining. It's an accepted part of life that we are constantly exposed to things that rub us the wrong way, and one might have guessed that we would have learned to deal with it more gracefully in the thousands of years since the first two people were cast from paradise. If a day goes by during which you weren't upset by even the most inconsequential thing, then it must have been spent in uninterrupted slumber.

I have been thinking  a great deal about the complaints which loom largest both online and in real life. This isn't meant to be a heavy, ponderous treatise with some grand solution from on high or one big complaint in itself. It's only a series of observations I have made and some conclusions I drew, all in the spirit of curiosity and thoughtfulness.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Lay Of The Land

I have a fairly healthy interest in maps. I wouldn't call it purely an academic one, you understand. It's the real implications of them that draws my attention. Those which represent fictional places are of use only to the extent that they illuminate the fiction, and I wish nonetheless that the author had managed to craft his prose in such a way that no supplementary material were necessary. Maps which depict reality elicit from me no such caveats. I pored over maps of Chicago for months before I went there for school. The same is true for any place that interests me in any such way.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Belated Anniversary

I noticed yesterday that it has been about a year and a month since I established this blog. I would remark about how far it has come, but I respect and appreciate the small number of readers I have too much to lie like that. The blog itself has undergone some changes during that time, but none of them have been more notable than the ebb and flow of the energy with which I've written. In the big picture, there has been no change, and in terms of accruing any kind of substantial readership, this blog has gone no further than winning over a few people and a handful of automated bots.

These past thirteen months have been a process of finding the things I'm enthusiastic enough about that I can make a commitment to doing them. The wholesale removal of the features pertaining to my heroes and ranking of the most beautiful women are testament to that (and make me suppose that being 'Maxim' isn't in the cards). Indeed, I established Vessel Of Knowledge in such haste that it went online without any reason for being, so naming it was a struggle. I might very well have dubbed it 'Tabula Rasa'. Only once it was up did I set myself to the task of imbuing it with some intent or purpose. It came to function as a conduit for me to relate my thoughts and deeds. I have been conscious from the first that no blog of that kind realizes any aspirations it may be nurturing beyond those I have already fulfilled.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An Idea

Something clever came to me while eating Cobb salad among friends yesterday evening. I think that this is perhaps the ideal situation in which to nurture and realize ideas. A more complete picture of the comings and goings of our founding fathers would likely reveal many evening meals at Philadelphia diners. It may well be the case that forensic tests would reveal trace amounts of bleu cheese dressing on the original documents which contributed to our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and early amendments.

In any case, as I said, I was gifted a similarly epiphanous moment yesterday. To preface this moment, I must say that the great power and impact of words cannot be denied. To say something is to set incredible forces of the universe, of the mind and of the heart into motion. History is peppered with the unthinkably severe consequences of words casually spoken offhand. I'm reminded of an incident of the ancient battlefield in which a misunderstanding based on the written word led to unintended bloodshed on a large scale.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Eyes!

I first tried contacts in junior college. At that time, I found them to be unsatisfactory. They had a peculiar effect on my vision of bright lights in the dark, and I couldn't bear it. After college, I tried again, and found this time that they actually were effective enough to be worth putting aside the glasses I had largely worn since the 6th grade (if I recall correctly). Since then, I have stuck with contacts in spite of the troubles which they sometimes present.

Sometimes, the contacts just don't cooperate. I can get superstitious about it, undergoing rituals and abiding by dogmatic self-made rules which I assure myself will prevent discomfort and other problems. This system fails me on occasion, seemingly infallible though it may be. Today was one of those days. Luckily, the bad times happened only at home, but did undermine my viewing of both 'Precious' and 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'. In this allegedly enlightened and modern world, should anyone have to endure that?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 1st

The end of February really snuck up on me. I sometimes think about the way our calendar works. Months of 30, 31, and 28 days. I guess that it more or less evens out in the end, what with leap days and all that. There are all sorts of corrective patches slapped on here and there to keep our feeble system of time measurement going, aren't there? It's not just the calendar, but hours and minutes and seconds. Who's going to fix this? We need a really good system. I blame my problems on the one we're laboring under.

There's no way that it's going to come up with any really cool predictions like the Mayan calendar. It's really enough to make one sink into despair.