Monday, March 30, 2015

SXCK 2015

SXSW Preface:

I woke up this morning to sounds of tapping against my window from last night's rain. The occasional car slicing through the slick but otherwise calm city streets. People begrudgingly trudge these empty sidewalks, hugging their coats closer complaining about the early chill and bemoaning our governmental pilfering of an hour of rest not realizing that what's to come is far worse. But I do. I know all too well what is to become of this fine city as the creatures known as the “badged ones” make their annual foray into our midst. Enjoy your innocence newcomers, ignorance truly is bliss.

SXSW Day 1:

There's a disconcerting stillness in the air before these dulcet sounds of night break into a cacophony of traffic and frustration. The first of the badged ones are the researchers, the enlightened of their species by comparison. Easily the smarter of the two waves of invaders that envelope our city. They gather in various rooms scattered throughout, some in the dark watching recordings of themselves pretending to be others, while some walk for miles just to cram themselves into confined quarters merely to listen to each other speak. They still seem to have gained no grasp of our relatively elementary concept of roads as they still wander into the streets as if oblivious to the vehicles just narrowly missing them as they trudge forward. Their attention buried into their handheld communication devices musing the merits of one named after a mundane fruit verses the one more obviously named after a robot. This first group is more of an annoyance than anything, relatively benign and docile compared to the coming hordes. I remove my jacket, thankful for the end of unseasonably cold weather and the glorious return of our native warmth. The morning fog lets in wisps of light, and a cool breeze kisses my face. Maybe this year it might be different. I laugh at the thought and dismiss it just as quickly... It'll get worse. It always gets worse.

SXSW Day 2:

I revel in these moments of calm before the inevitable storm. Watching from a safe distance I see the city begin waking up to streets covered in discarded shwag. Items brandished with the emblems of their tribes lay scattered along the streets as proof of each of the visiting clans’ efforts to prove their dominance with demonstrations of excess and buffoonery. Each year I watch as the first timers foolishly learn the harsh lessons about pacing themselves, donning their darkened spectacles as an invigorated Apollo stabs mercilessly at their eyes with ever increasing fervor. Their winces of pain as they step out of the shadows give them away almost immediately. Fools. They’ll soon learn. Murmurs amongst the locals have already begun about sightings of the visitor’s Champions. Beings of extraordinary beauty and laughably varying levels of talent that are brought in by the tribes to further entertain the badged ones. Oftentimes champions of years past are brought in with almost mocking irony, while the more elite bring in near deified proportions stir the crowds into frothy convulsing masses as they watch. The gorgeous day almost makes me forget that the beast has scarcely reared its ugly head and that the true barrage has yet to even arrive. Almost.

SXSW Day 3:
*Artist's Rendition
It has only been two days and my aching feet already tell the tale of a million steps. I’ve decided to call this first wave of invaders “The Entitled.” It never occurred to me quite how many of these creatures LITERALLY have titles that force rank upon their underlings. The translucent badges waving in the welcome breeze flash three letter acronyms from all corners of the world demanding recognition of their rank in a proverbial pissing contest with the local soldiers who block entrance into these dens of exorbitance. There has also been disconcerting early resurgence of Falculative Obstructive Mental Occlusion syndrome, otherwise known as FOMO* that has been making its way through our natives. Typically this affliction reaches full potency towards the end of the barrage but it seems that the efficacy of our holistic treatments have proven ineffective over time. Take care of yourselves friends, there will be a brief moment of reprieve in a few days, let that bring you hope.
*FOMO was originally thought to have been named after an individual named Fontelroy Mortenson, attributed with being patient zero, who in the great invasion of 2001 made plans with friends and accidentally misplaced his battery operated communications device and thus missed a message that would have gotten him into one of the debaucherous galas of a visiting champion known for being decorated in glorious stripes of white. From that moment on he refused to commit to any plans and became increasingly distant and flaky towards his community for fear of missing out on such opportunities.

SXSW Day 4:

Early morning clouds whisper premonitions of oncoming storms. Soon our ever zealous sun burns through and fills the air with a sauna-like haze of humidity. The badged ones are staying longer than in the past; further indication that our defenses are weakening. The colorful bands decorating their wrists and necks are becoming more and more intricate with each year’s incursion. Each tribe incrementally moving towards more visible ways to show their dominance over rival sects. The necklaces from which the badges hang have gotten preposterously embellished with emblems of powerful divisions. Proudly boasting the riches they have spent on ridiculous bravado to ensure the fallen natives know under which heel they should kneel. I shall not bow. A decade of invasions have come and gone and a badge has yet to drape across my collar. Stand proud friends. The burden of compliance is great and the penalties dire.

SXSW Day 5:

There is no more beautiful sound than that of engines fading off into the distance. The Entitled ones slowly make their exit just as the first drops of the foretold rain splash against the sun baked pavement. On this day, the locals pay the retreating tribes no heed as a more imperative tradition occurs. Men, women, and children from all walks of life don garments of green and pay homage to the death of an ancient saint named Patrick. Myth states that he drove away snakes from his homeland while using an unusual triple leafed plant to explain the concept of a holy triumvirate deity. In honor of this saint our natives down pints of strong distilled and fermented liquids to drive away bothersome short term memories and inhibiting morals much like St. Patrick did with the serpents. Careful getting too close if you come across a pack of revelers. Though their slurred speech and drifting eyes may imply simplistic brain function, if they don't spot you wearing their treasured color, according to their traditions they are obligated to assault you with a barrage of irritating pinching. Tomorrow the streets will flow with emerald streams of excess. I envision the final wave of invaders readying themselves while so many of our own foolishly and voluntarily impair themselves. I for one am saving my strength, for not only is the next blitz larger, they are not burdened with intellect.

SXSW Day 6:

Apparently my immune system has not built up antibodies to the foreign illnesses The Badged One’s bring with them each year. As I lay huddled in a painful mass on couch I only hope that this goes away as quickly as it came. In my stupor I can’t help but reflect on a few interesting mutations on this year’s trespassers. The most peculiar of which is how a few of the males seem to have started to mimic the appearance of our 16th century Amish settlers. It was shocking at first to see what seemed like a tear in the time fabric watching wide brimmed hats adorn over faces concealed by cumbersome beards walk up and down our modern streets, but it was quickly revealed by their dangling badges that they were nonnative. It seems their access to clothing material is limited as all of their pants were preposterously tight, seemingly painted on and constrictive of any normal movement. Perhaps their initial research was mistaken and simply assumed this was the most prevalent look to assimilate into the crowd. The females of the species have gone a different direction. Their clothing climbing higher and higher above their waist and their legs covered in some strange mesh type material while midriffs remaining bare. Fascinating. I hope my attempt to combat this ailment through medically induced sleep proves successful, the worst is yet to come and I will need my strength.

SXSW Day 7:

The earth rumbles and the trees shake in anticipation of the coming foray. An entire year’s worth of preparation culminates to this weekend. Batten down the hatches, they’re here. Distressingly, the symptoms have already started to show even amongst the seasoned veterans. Arms sheathed in ribbons of colorful plastic and paper, climbing higher towards their torso until I imagine it will ultimately constrict around their neck to fatal end. The telltale layer of filth from the inability to properly wash their forearms is a more subtle indication of the presence of the contagion if the chromatic manifestation wasn't enough. In the meanwhile, the Badged Ones brandish them proudly. The champion sightings continue as one deplorable side effect of each year’s infestation is the inability to not drop names. From the north, Markus the Cuban has been making his presence known brandishing a tank of sharks and the knight, Mix-A-Lot arrived to much fanfare as he hasn't been seen in nearly a decade. Our local women inexplicably swooned over a young goose named Ryan, while others huddled around a genetically mutated cat with anger issues. Images of zombie hunters have been popping up everywhere which makes me fear for the conditions on the outskirts whilst even I spent the evening in the company of musical demons. The taunting rain clouds capriciously fade in and out of existence releasing nary a single drop but the cool misty breeze tells a different story. The rain is coming. I can smell it.

SXSW Day 8:

Today brings biting wind and frigid rain from a winter that I thought had long since passed. I should've known, that damn prophetic rodent is never wrong. Oddly, the weather did little to deter the propensity for the Badged Ones to gather in those outlandishly long lines that I've grown so accustomed to seeing each year. Drenched to their core they huddle together foolishly using their electronic equipment. I can only assume that perhaps the precipitation where they're from doesn't damage their technology like it does ours. What a rude awakening they'll receive when they return home and find that they're unable to communicate with the rest of the horde. The first day of the final wave and the streets are already desecrated with the scattered remains of the discarded bands of those of us who attempt to hide the symptoms of infection. Tearing away one after another only to wake up and find more have seemingly manifested overnight. This evening as I was walking home, desperately hiding myself beneath my hood while the rain stingingly kisses my face with painful frozen splashes, my thoughts turn to last year's tragedy. Year after year the invaders come but by and large they cause no lasting damage, save last year. Watching them attempt to operate their conveyances after a day of chemical bombardment concerns me more than any of the other mannerisms that they have displayed. This is when they have the most common with our natives. The blatant disregard for each other's safety. The short sighted sanctimonious thinking that the actions of a few cannot so greatly affect the lives of many. The arrogance of believing that tragedy cannot strike close to home. The roads are precarious even for those unimpaired. Be aware. Be safe. Be smart. These are not mere contrived platitudes. These are survival truths. We are rapidly approaching the zenith. The pinnacle of the aggression and it is now when we must remain the most vigilant. We shall not concede to another catastrophe. We cannot afford another disaster. Your lives are far too valuable.

SXSW Day 9:
Once more back unto the breach my friends. Each year I'm reminded of Shakespeare, and his powerful rallying cry. One more brutal surge before the Badged Ones make their retreat. Constant confrontation breeds contempt. Over furrowed brow I watched as the inescapable swarm poured itself over our saturated streets. How much destructive distraction can we endure? Several of our own aim to test their limitations. I for one have learned isolation seems to be a much more effective strategy. This year the apparent leaders brought with them long metal rods that they attached their communication and documentation equipment onto. Proudly brandishing them like royal scepters capturing their conquests. They seem happy enough, chronicling themselves amidst our consternation. It almost seems that they savor our trepidation. Sadists. Like leeches I watch endless legions tether themselves to our power sources and while I am thankful for the brief moment of reprieve from their terrifying marches, the depletion of our resources is concerning. It will take time for us to built up our reserves. Quietly I wait, until the rumble of amplified chaos calms down and we can all rebuild and recover. Such is the way for our world. I would like to say we put up a good fight. That we went out with vitality and honor, but the truth is, while some fought back with vigor, many respond with a whimper. Hold, our day of reclamation approaches.

SXSW Epilogue:

Birds. They're the first to return. I remember what used to be vexatious cackle have now become music to my ears. How quickly we condemn minor inconveniences promptly forgetting how unpleasant the alternatives. One of these days I'll learn that lesson. It's been a couple weeks since the last of the invaders have left our borders. Leaving behind absolute devastation in their wake. Like every year the locals hover in restorative stupor from the exhaustive battle we all endured, somehow managing to return to some semblance of a normal life. Our streets, once littered with multicolored rubbish dancing in the Spring breeze, are all but revived as our beloved vagrants slowly come out of hiding. In the distance I can smell "black and milds" and already feel the rumble of extraordinary bass. The relays will be here soon. I suppose I should enjoy the peace while I can. There truly is no rest for the wicked.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Bucket of Ice and a Camera: A Good Start.

In response to the sayers of nay about the frivolous, slightly narcissistic, but ultimately altruistic #icebucketchallenge here's a couple things to think about:

The ALS Association was founded in 1985. In the past 30 years, how many of those who say "just donate instead" have actually done so?

Yes, we absolutely are in a drought, but how many have protested our multiple golf courses or water parks or even the thousands of pounds of ice that get dumped each weekend out of coolers at the lake and at barbecues.

Yes, the premise is absurd.

Yes, we as a species should most certainly act philanthropically completely selflessly and unprovoked.

...and yes, the very thought of that happening is even more asinine than this, the most recent in a long line of "do-something-stupid-for-charity" themed contests.

We're a jaded, distracted, cynical, and egotistical generation and it takes idiocy and spectacle to garner our oh so precious attention. Hours upon hours of imbecilic content is uploaded to social media every day. I for one don't mind piggybacking a charitable intent to whatever purposeless nonsense as a proverbial Trojan horse. A hilarious and easily socially viral "spoonful of sugar" to help this medicinal "charity" go down easier if you prefer that analogy. Imagine if we could tie a charitable dollar amount to everyone's #selfies or dumb ass cat videos? We could fund cancer research for decades.

A couple key statistics:

People have shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between June 1 and Aug. 13 and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter since July 29, according to those sites. Donations to the ALS Association have spiked. As of Sunday, the association said it had received $13.3 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.7 million during the same period last year. It said there were about 260,000 new donors.
"The story right now goes: You’ve got ALS, have it for a little while, a long while, but either way, the end is always the same. ALS always wins. So in order to rewrite the end of it, we need to raise awareness, money."

- Pete Frates (credited with starting the trend.)
(More Info: NY Times: ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Has Raised Millions for ALS Association)

A brief description of ALS:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. Fatality rate is 100%

Ask yourself this, what did you know about ALS before this viral campaign?

So by all means, if you don't want to make a silly video or waste water... don't... click below and donate. Otherwise, spread the word, and spread the positivity and let me know what's the next ridiculous thing I can do that can make the world a slightly better place.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


     I've noticed an interesting development recently. I've become decidedly surgical with how expeditiously and efficiently I remove people from my life.  I'm not certain if it's a side effect of age or a general increase in "fuckit-ness" but I've never experienced such quick transitions when it came to friendships as far back as I can remember.  But lately my historically vast fields of patience have experienced an unanticipated pendulumatic swing towards the diminutive.  Perhaps my time has just become more precious, or my understanding of it has merely become more lucid.  Either way, I find that times that used to be spent in quiet contemplation has now been replaced with rapid deliberation and now more often than ever before, my mind leans towards dismissal.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.
There's something to be said about self-preservation. A degree of self-centeredness that we often vilify because of an unnecessary correlation between being focused and being maliciously selfish. Ultimately self-preservation is inherently universal among all living organism. This is most often expressed in the clichéd "fight or flight" argument but often we forget how thorough this behavior is emotionally and mentally as well. In the end, the person who is the most concerned about you, is yourself. On the other hand, I believe that notions like empathy, sympathy, compassion, and charity seem to be cornerstones of intelligence and maturity. Without these abstractions society could never reach such heights like the one we're blessed enough to be experiencing. Yet, these concepts laugh in the face of logic and repeatedly expose our vulnerability with the hopes that "this time it will be different" when it stands to reason that in all likelihood, things are more inclined to stay the same. Character I've found tends to settle less like sand, building and growing over time in sedimentary layers; but more like water, finding it's lowest point and leveling out based on what vessel you decide to put it in. Without adapting oneself, we tend to resort to what's comfortable. I've found myself starting to question the conceivably of someone in my age demographic that has the wherewithal to make changes to one's personality that has taken so many years to develop.

     I've also started to believe that perhaps we've become such a guarded generation and with progressively detached forms of communication and such significant lack of quality human interaction that our ability to truly understand relational reciprocity has reached an all time low.  Maybe this is just something from my generation that I can't relate to and in an ironic and almost laughably hypocritical defense mechanism, I've coldly resorted to excision.  I suppose now I just fear for collateral damage. I'm distressed that like any other learned skill, it will eventually reach such proficiency that it will become automated, merciless, and machine-like...ruthless.

A tree needs to be pruned to grow at times I suppose... then again, maybe I'm just tired.

Perhaps we should all revisit our priorities...

...time is of the essence. How you spend it speaks to what you value. If you're reading this and are feeling frustration, ask yourself why? Are there people in your life that are mistreating you and you wonder why you still give them that right?  Have you taken someone for granted and wonder how in the world you are still in their lives? Have you let someone know that you appreciate the patience they've shown you, or perhaps how grateful you are for their friendship because you didn't always deserve it.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.” ~ Stephen Covey
     We need to stop the glorification of busy. It's no longer a valid justification. We're all busy. We all have a million things going on in our lives and each day, and we all ultimately, albeit it arrogantly, attempt to control and choose which moments we experience and which we don't. Embrace that power and wield it wisely, don't allow busy to be your crutch.  You're busy because you choose to be. The caveat is that you must not take it personally if someone else's decisions don't come to pass the way you would have liked them to. You're not too busy. It's just not that important.  There's nothing wrong with that! Just know this...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"The Egg" a short story by Andy Weir

I remember reading this years ago but it has been a while since I've had the opportunity.  I'm posting it now in hopes that some of my friends will read it so the next time we get together, perhaps we can talk about it.

Until then... enjoy.

The Egg
by Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty. “Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.” You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.” “So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.” “Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back. “I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“I’m Jesus?”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
And I sent you on your way.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

You ain't special.

The downfall of western civilization began with the invention of the 9th place trophy

Show me someone who proudly displays their 9th place trophy,
and I'll show you someone who has no drive to achieve a 1st place one.

1.better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual

Not everyone is special. 

The fact of the matter is, if everyone was special, no one would be. 
*Syndrome taught me that from the Incredibles.

Unfortunately the up and coming generation (including mine) is full of people who have been told that they're inherently special their entire lives but with no distinguishing skills or attributes that qualify them as such.

Statistically speaking, about 68% of us are pretty damn similar, add in moderately more and moderately less, and you encompass 96% of the population leaving only 2% of people who reasonably qualify as special and 2% of them are special in a negative sense.  This doesn't even take into consideration that we're not even beginning to discuss which metric we're basing this on.  Just in the overall sense.  But it's not hard to see this mentality's lasting effects. When I was student teaching, I encountered more than my share of parents who refused to believe that their child might need some additional help and who's kids were struggling yet decided to confronted me rather than help their child.  This isn't the child's shortcoming, this is the parent's. They are the ones that cannot believe for one second that their wonderful child might need some additional help and this ignorance will set their child back for years to come.

Turn on any reality TV show or audition based program and you'll see droves of people who never had anyone be truly honest with them.  No one who taught them that while one should never accept failure as finality, that it is absolutely an inevitable and unavoidable part of life that teaches the value of being humbled. That if one truly wants to achieve greatness, one has to be willing to work for it and if you weren't blessed with the natural ability, one has to work even harder than those who were.  Malcom Gladwell touches upon this in his "10,000-Hour Rule," based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims that expertise requires enormous time, and posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill.  While this seemingly arbitrary number might be highly contested for accuracy, the focal point in my opinion is that not everyone is just born with it. Matter of fact, most of us aren't. We have to be willing to put in the time if we want to truly be special.  Lincoln once said: "You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was."

In short, we've become entitled assholes and we're raising a whole new batch of them. Feeling that we shouldn't have to work for anything and that we're special so therefore we're afforded certain inalienable rights.  We aren't and we shouldn't. The sooner we realize that the better off we'll be.

I think the word we should probably learn to acquiesce towards rather than special is:

1. being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

I can vibe with that a little better. We're each a distinct arrangement of atoms that miraculously come together to form life, and its true that our whole is greater than the sum of our parts, but you know what? So is everyone. So is pretty much everything in the universe.

... am I kind of an asshole for looking at things this way? probably. Am I a little jaded from listening to people complain about everything when things on this planet are ostensibly the best they've ever been? Definitely. The distinction between entitlement and merit is gratitude.


While I might feel that we overuse the word special to think about ourselves. There is no shortage of special things on the planet, but they became special their own way and they earned it.  Mostly, I believe our relationships are what elevates us beyond the commonplace.  Our interaction with each other and the world around us is how we seize the significant. The way in which we respond to the constant push and pull of the universe and whether we meet that with grace or with contempt is was determines whether we're ordinary or extraordinary.  Realizing your role in the greater picture and embracing it. The balance in life that is required to be truly happy and the humility to deserve it.

O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself,

(for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean,

Of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest,

with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—

What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Not only that you may... you MUST.

Make it a good one.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Desolation of Maybe

I suppose I should say the ramification of maybe but desolation sounds more dramatic. 

We have become a society that worships maybe.

Don't get me wrong, the word maybe is not to be confused with the fundamentally beautiful concept of "hope" or the infinite potential of "possibility."  The maybephilic nature of man has come from an influx of choices and an overload of options.  What has happened is that we've all inadvertently become "bigger better deal"-ers.  Historically, the limiting factor of our choices has always been quite literally what we had in front of us. Food choices were dictated by what we could reach out and grab.  Our mate was selected for us and typically as simply as the closest age appropriate non-relative in the village.  Our occupation was defined largely via familial apprenticeship or matter-of-factly what one physically or mentally was best suited to handle based on what the village needed.

Now, with the globalization of the economy, the industrial revolution moving into the information revolution, the limiting factor is no longer our physical world, it has reached a metaphysical point to now becoming more intrinsic. Whatever our imagination can possibly come up with we now feel obligated to pursue and at our worse, feel entitled to deserve.  I digress.  Now with communication ostensibly being instantaneous, we've come to feel that our commitment based decisions no longer have to be.  We no longer need to commit to any one particular thing because the mere possibility of something better happening at the very last minute is worth keeping all other options at bay until the final bastion of consideration requires us to cancel or make a choice.  This has become increasingly prevalent in the younger generation having grown up with this "access" they have no reference point about making plans and not having the ability to change them last minute.  They don't recall the panic of being dropped off at the mall at noon by your parents to watch a movie and if your friends weren't there within a few minutes your mind racing to determine whether or not you made a mistake as to what exactly the plans were or if they were involved in a horrific traffic collision en route.  I've seen that this abstraction has been so deeply ingrained in my psyche that even now my initial reaction towards non-communication tends to lean towards the exaggeratedly and unnecessarily tragic.  It has become completely acceptable to send:

This is even more common in the friendly application of the word in efforts to not seem insensitive. I feel that we need to embrace the magnificent finality that is the word "No." A commitment to release another's commitment to an obligation is equally as ignored.

This is more venting that I originally intended when I started writing but I believe this is a fundamental flaw in our culture and our society that we need to make efforts to change. I believe that most wonderful things in life come from when we commit ourselves. Commitment to each other in the form of friendships and relationships.  Commitment to our beliefs and the constant internal struggle that form them and make us who we are.  A commitment to our goals and being unapologetically honest about what makes us happy and our completely acceptable commitment towards the attainment of such.

This will certainly be a topic for further discussion but for now, I will certainly commit to using the word "maybe" less and the words "yes" and "no" more. I will accept that this might result in me paying my due share of opportunity costs.  I will accept that this may mean that some people will quickly realize where they fall within my social hierarchy and sometimes brutal force ranking of priorities, but I also will accept that in turn I will fall victim to the same.  People are constantly telling you where you fall within their priority list. Allow them to and listen to what they're saying.  Your placement on this list has no inherent positive or negative connotation.  Distress and turmoil only comes when you're unhappy with where you fall on this list, but you should never take this feeling and turn it into blame, we are all doing the same thing to our world as well.  The sooner you realize this, the more grateful you will be when finding people who have more similar priorities to yours.

Monday, March 17, 2014

SXCK 2014

SXSW Preface: I can feel the earth tremble and the air vibrating in preparation for the first wave... although year after year these creatures descend upon us I still feel as unprepared as the very first time I bore witness to this phenomena. Each time presenting new challenges. Each time revealing new perils... I watch in horror as my flickering and dwindling cell phone reception acts as omen for my trepidation of what's to come... Tomorrow morning, it begins.

SXSW Day 1: The sun rises over the horizon, much like any other day. Burning through the morning haze and forcing it's way through the unfinished buildings casting ribbons of light onto the streets of Austin, TX. However today, they don't bring light and the promise of warmth and spring... they bring with them the first of invaders. The badged ones have arrived. The first are the scouts from what I've gathered. Snapping photographs and acquiring "followers" as they roam emblazoned with logos and emblems. Relatively harmless compared to the second wave but every bit as inconvenient. More concerned with their handheld devices that seemed to be permanently glued to their hands as they meander aimlessly through our streets in packs. Seemingly oblivious to their surroundings they somehow navigate with complete disregard to our vehicles on our roads. They must not have them where they come from. The most interesting is the phenomenon that happens after dark, when these ostensibly meek creatures congregate in huge masses indulging in the jollification provided by their superiors who sent them. Bacchus would be proud...

SXSW Day 2: The morning brings rain. Glistening prisms cling to my windshield as I sit stationary in the parking lot that was once known as Lamar Boulevard. To my dismay, the precipitation does little to slow down the badged ones. They've all arrived by now. Proudly displaying their credentials around their necks they rendezvous as they poorly disguise their discomposure from last night's debauchery. The uninitiated are the easiest to pick out; eyes hidden behind darkened spectacles despite our typically boastful sun demurely hiding behind veils of storm clouds. They greedily consume cups of dark bitter drink that deceitfully promise reprieve from their overindulgence. They'll eventually learn. Occasionally they will converge, comparing satchels of corporate salvage they must have looted and plundered from yesterday's initial reconnaissance. It's a symbiotic relationship. Like leeches, they feed like gluttons on the fattened corporate sow while their superficially benevolent hosts send them back into our world adorned with their insignia. Viruses... I feel safe within the metal walls of my car, though I would feel better if I were able to move...

SXSW Day 3: It's hard to imagine that the mindless rabble scouring our streets represent the more intelligent of the species. The late night storms finally subsided to make room for a winter resuscitation, my morning spent clenching my coat closely around me as I navigated through the throngs of the swarm. One interesting observation is that with the herd, there come the parasites. Multitudes of masses all looking to benefit from this exuberance. Pedal driven conveyances, vendors of all shapes and sizes line our once clear streets in efforts to unload their wares. I don't blame them, the first wave come with promise of wealth and lines of credit, and a some strange foreign term called "per diem" that allows them to indulge with no threat of consequence. This elaborate dance all in preparation for the incoming hordes that are soon to follow. Enjoy them while you can, you can almost hear their rumble from the distance. Those damn locusts...

SXSW Day 4: The calm this morning is disconcerting. The first wave has begun their exodus. These temporarily empty streets deceitfully provide a moment of consolation that I know will be all too short lived. As if I were in some colossal celestial caprice, the eye of this hurricane fell in line with our local tradition of time manipulation. Each year, governing powers decide to move us forward in time by an apparently insipid single hour, ousting us of precious sleep and effectively providing more daylight for the invaders. These short sighted halfwits not realizing that this simultaneously brings night, closer...sooner. Darkness is where the next faction truly thrives. Fools. Already massive machines are arriving to blockade our streets unloading amplifying contraptions and contrivances that will soon deafen us in phonic barrage. I try and enjoy these few moments of reprieve but can't help but settle into my foreboding prognosis from painful memories past. I slow my breathing and attempt to focus on peace. Music is coming, and with it... chaos.

SXSW Day 5: A certain semblance of normalcy has washed over me. The sun finally shining through a cloudless spring sky and crisp cool air does well for a weary mind and achy body. I never expected quiet to be such catharsis. I find it interesting how quickly the locals become assimilated with this foreign culture that has infected us. I watch as we intrusively attempt to photograph ourselves with these visitors. We give these humans worship at levels typically reserved for deities, so many of whom are are ironically known not for who they are but for their portrayal of people other than themselves. The very sight of them giving us a sense of purpose, a glimpse at greatness, if only I could stomach the stench of pretension that surround so many. The waters have calmed temporarily, only a few remaining ripples remain from the initial waves. I have to remind myself to stay vigilant as this brief intermission will dissipate before we truly can enjoy it. Enjoy it while it lasts my friends...

SXSW Day 6: It's peculiar. I've come to the conclusion that the favored pastime of the badged ones seems to be standing in long serpentine lines. Throughout our city, surrounding apparently meaningless buildings they congregate. I avert my eyes and do my best to maintain my distance as I fear the symptoms of their infection are starting to show. My blood ran cold this morning as I noticed a credential lanyard tossed haphazardly onto my nightstand and a colorful band clinging to my wrist. I tore it off in a panic, hoping it's contact with me has no lasting effects. It's worse than I thought. It seems under the cover of night the first of these intruders infiltrated our borders. Distressingly this is considerably earlier than years past. Looking back on my observations I anticipated their influx to start tomorrow. But make no mistake, though already troublesome, this is but a fraction of the onslaught over the approaching hours. "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more..." lest we close up our walls with our fallen locals...

SXSW Day 7: I write this entry through eyes reddened by tears and a heart encumbered by tribulation. Last night, an individual took it upon himself to absolutely make the worst decision anyone can make and it resulted two casualties, a number in critical condition and even more injured. This is unacceptable. My conscience was burdened all day as I couldn't help but feel that this should not be treated as an isolated incident and that for too long so many of us have stood on the sidelines as bystanders of the most avoidable of tragedies that happens all to often in our city. Last night's circumstances seem exaggerated by the collateral damage to the innocent but in truth, this is mere media fodder. This is not any more or less tragic than what occurs to our own citizens each weekend. Our city is growing. An increasing amount of these outsiders are taking root and we continue to invite them within or borders more and more frequently so we must adjust our infrastructure or the consequences will be indelible. Tonight marks the start of what effectively is the most stupendous of the surges and our city is already bursting at the seams. I only hope that this calamity was anomalous. I pray that we as a city grow weary of mourning and are instead galvanized by these fires of misfortune to make lasting changes in our culture and our society... Be careful out there my friends.

SXSW Day 8: The invasion has reached it's terminal velocity. Most streets are barricaded impeding any semblance of normal pedestrian movement forcing us through a guided labyrinth of blockades. Our buildings and even our abandoned lots have been commandeered by the badged ones. Everywhere you go a cacophony of aural assault bombards from all angles. The symptoms of the infections are pronounced and unmistakable at this point. Colorful strips of paper and plastic swathe their wrists obviously representing some crude form of hierarchy. The hoarding of these adornments go far in the primitive culture of these walkers. Like feral animals I suspect that the vibrant gaudy adornments serve some sort of purpose in their courtship and mating rituals. The females of the species preen and gather around the alpha males who have extraneous bands and accoutrements that grant access to these fortresses. Even the beta-males reach out in efforts to obtain the necessary credentials for entry that will hopefully raise their personal status. Choruses of "I am on the list!" and "Please go ask him!" can be heard echoing on every corner... in their world, the "list" is sacred. In their world you're nobody... unless you're somebody.

SXSW Day 9: We've reached the pinnacle of this year's invasion. The unseasonably wet weather continues to do nothing to stop the encroachment, but I am grateful for the cool breeze as it dances across fatigued brow. The morning fog acts as convoy as it seamlessly blends with a haze produced by these creatures, saturating the air with its poignant oily and herbaceous scent. It reminds me of a slightly less beloved creature native to us, the skunk. I speculate that they use this musk in similar fashion as the air is dense with it's acrid aroma. I digress, tonight will be fundamentally the most vigorous of the surges and consequently when we need to remain the strongest. The badged ones, at this point largely functioning off chemical enhancements, with their minds blurred by exhaustion and excess; it is during this final wave that they exhibit their most lemming-like qualities as they figuratively dive off the cliff of coherency and fully embrace delirium. Some have worked themselves into a frenzied froth and flirt with absurdity and preposterousness, while others barely maintain their poise and instead trade their dignity for debilitation and relative immobilization. Regardless, I watch them all from a safe distance and endure isolation with foolish optimism that the majority of these visitors will return from whence they came and leave us be to nurse our wounds.

SXSW Day 10: I found myself sitting this morning at dawn, watching the sun rise over the now abandoned buildings. My ears gratefully savoring this cherished silence. The badged ones have all but vanished from our borders, leaving our lands ravaged and desolate. The last of their monstrous trucks are but a rumble in the distance. Such little care was shown as these sycophants bled us dry. Sapping every last drop of vitality from each they came in contact with as they left our city anemic and despondent, a mere shadow of it's former glory. Now the healing begins. The northern winds bring an unexpected chill but the cold cannot depress my spirit today. I smiled as I clutched my jacket closer and thought the most exquisite thought I've had in days... it is over. We've survived. Drops of crimson ran down my arm as I hastily cut the last of the growing assortment of colorful bands from my wrist that I was ineffectual in keeping from accumulating. These symptoms grow worse each year. I assumed I would've developed an immunity by now, but alas nothing could be further from the truth. Needless to say, this is a discouraging development. This was only the first of the many invasions to crash against our borders so I must remain steadfast and enduring as the next will be upon us before long. But for now, in silent acquiescence I allow myself a brief reprieve to enjoy this moment of serenity. The street lights blink a peaceful rhythm as the wind whistles a lullaby through our abused streets. "Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk to you again..." Such beauty in these sounds of silence.


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