Filtering by Category: Morning Matter

So Long Morning Matter, Hello Brain Warmer

I’ve been doing this “Morning Matter” blogging more or less every day (I mean that in the 51% sense of more or less) for the better part of a year now.

There are times when I definitely just write something for the sake of saying that I’ve done it and then move on to whatever non-writing tasks I have to do for the day. The more often this is the case, the more that feels like I’m missing the point.

Look: I’m not just a writer. Which is not me trying to diminish the profession, it’s just that writing isn’t the only duty I have. There are times when I wish it was that simple. So I feel like sitting down first thing to hack out some words and get the writer-sap flowing, only to walk away, just really defeats the purpose of doing this at all.

It’s like sitting down to try and meditate for a set period of time only to have the quality of the sit be shit. The point is to be present not to say you did something, the value of regularity and discipline notwithstanding.

Recently I refocused my meditation on the feelings involved. To push myself past the verbal parts of my brain and just get into simple, gentle awareness. Sometimes it even works.

The writing practice is the exact opposite of that practice: the sword to meditation’s shield. I don’t see a point in sitting down to write this if I’m not going to then chain forward and work on the bigger writing problems right then and there.

But I know I need a practice, and thus the Brain Warmer is born. The same kind of rambling, only it will take place when I’m finally sitting down and tuning out the rest of the world.

I wonder why I didn’t think of this sooner.

Anyway: carry on.

Calendar Magick

A part of me feels silly for what I just did: I bought a pass to the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim in the middle of April.

I feel silly because even though I've always wanted to go to one of these things--they've usually been in far off places like Florida--I also don't really like conventions. I almost loathe them.

But the thing is, I have to have things on my calendar that I'm looking forward to. All the time. Or at least every month. Not just project stuff: that's needed to keep my very active brain focused... no, I need to know when there's at least even odds on some joy out there in the future.

Without that, I just become a Funkosaurus Rex... and not the good kind of funk.

I Do This Thing...

When I'm out in the world and talking with people--and it can be good friends or total strangers--I'll often do this thing where I'll pause on a word, and then find myself looking up and to the right as I try and draw down the language that I think they'll understand.

It drives me a little nuts to not have just a ceaseless verbal flow, and this is a tick that I've developed in the past decade. I used to just spit verbiage at maximum speed. If you get me drunk enough I still will.

Yet the world has hammered that habit out of me because I've become very aware that while I'm ultra-mega-comfortable slipping from context to context and code-switching my way through cultural shibboleths and technical jargon alike regular folk aren’t so down with that.

We don’t have a singular social dynamic anymore. It’s one of the reasons why people “don’t get the joke” on Twitter and firestorms emerge. Understanding-—whether it be of humor, wisdom or just technical details—requires some common ground.

I’m hoping to get rid of this tick somehow. Maybe through rigorous meditation so that I achieve something closer to non-dual awareness. Maybe by just running out of fucks to give and letting people play catch-up. That latter option is real appealing at this very moment.

The thing is, however, that there is a very real need to do all the code-switching. I just wish there was some way to instal a better transmission in my head, so that I didn’t feel like I was always getting stuck in neutral.

When The Whole World Is The Stage...

One of my favorite writers, Jon Ronson, has a new book coming out this year. It’s about the culture of shame that has arisen on the Internet. An excerpt was published this week at The New York Times and a couple of months back Ronson read a chapter at Pop Up Magazine’s first foray into Los Angeles.

I’ve been thinking about the book since that night, over and over. In the excerpt he read he talked to the people involved in the infamous “dongle” incident at a tech conference a few of years ago. You might remember it, if you don’t Google “dongle incident” and click on the first link. That should job the memory (or read the NYT excerpt, which skims over the details).

The take-away is that someone said something dumb and juvenile and someone else took offense because they saw it as indicative of a culture of oppression. Both interpretations are perfectly sound depending on where you are reasoning from, and the underlying problem is that there isn’t a fundamental reference point that everyone involved truly agrees on.

Which pretty much sounds like the goddamn Internet every damn day… which is itself a reflection of the billions of people who are connecting on this thing all the damn time.

Every time I turn around I see people getting into arguments because either an author is piss poor at code switching or a reader pops in without the requisite frame of reference and starts talking trash.

At one point I was going to write a version of this that put the onus on writers to “know your audience” and kowtow to the fact that anywhere on the Internet is an open air market. You can’t really control who is going to see what you make, and you certainly can’t control what paradigm they are bringing along for the ride.

But I don’t want to let readers, the audience, whoever, off the hook here. Because I know that I feel a responsibility whenever I read—or watch, or otherwise take in—a piece of work to try and understand what the creator of that work is trying to say. It’s actually one of the reasons I can’t expose myself to Ann Coulter or Fox News for too long, because that way of thinking starts camping out in my head and then my whole body wants to puke itself out…but I digress.

Understanding is a two way street.

Authors: know who your target audience is but also know that out here there is no controlling when people are going to drop in out of the sky and have no fucking clue what’s going on—and yet still feel entitled to raise up a mob to destroy you.

Readers: don’t be lazy. Try and honestly grok what’s being said to you. Try and figure out where someone is coming from. It might be ugly, and you might find out that the person you’ve just bothered to understand is some kind of monster/14-year-old boy with too much free time.

My mom always taught me when dealing with other people to “consider the source.” It was her way of reminding me that everyone has an opinion, but not everyone’s opinion is worth heeding, but there’s something even more subtle true underneath the statement. What’s true for that “source” might not be true for you, but it let’s you know how your truth is perceived in their world. And if you know how someone perceives you, you then have power over that perception.

Or something like that. I’ve only had one cup of coffee so far today and my right index finger is already giving me little shooting pains. Ta!

V.I.L.E.

There are times when it's just too much to engage with the news.

We've been getting that a lot this year already.

What happened near UNC Chapel Hill makes me sick.

There's also some "irrationality of rationalization" impatience that happend on Twitter last night about mainstream news coverage. What matters now is that this story stays in the news.

Also: it's entirely possible that the parking dispute and racist anti-theist beliefs contributed to the murders. Sick bastards who murder people because they are different use all kinds of petty excuses see: all of human history.

The worst part: these kids seemed like they were more than decent people, they appear to have been saints on earth.

We liberals sometimes pooh-pooh the idea of seeing the world in anything but shades of grey... but when you look at something like this it's not just easy to see in terms of good and evil, it's helpful. The kinds of people who set up humanitarian efforts half a world away while they are in college? Good. The kind of person that would kill someone because of a belief system/parking spot? Evil.

E.V.I.L.

Extremely Vile Individual Loser.

Exceptionally Vicious Indefensible Locust.

'Last Week Tonight': How Fake Is The Fake News?

I really dug last year's crop of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episodes. The idea of tweaking The Daily Show format into something that would tackle one big issue a week appealed to both my political sensibilities and my dramatically short Gen X attention span.

During the "off season," however, some serious doubt about the fake news crept in.

Every couple of weeks John Oliver would pop up on YouTube with a segment that responded to the news of the week: accompanied by the sounds of laughter from the studio audience.

But why would there be a studio audience for a two minute Youtube video…oh. It wasn’t a studio audience. It was a laugh track. It had to be a laugh track, and as I listened closely and watched those segments for a second time I would be shocked to learn that it wasn’t: because the cadence of the laughter sounds canned. That disappointed me. I understand why laugh tracks get used, but for this brand of comedy a laugh track just feels—well disingenuous is too generous: it feels like a fucking lie.

That’s right Mr. Oliver, it feels like you’re shitting on the hand that feeds you. Or some other hyperbolic statement I should shout at the image box in the upper left hand side of the screen. Repeatedly. #Donteatfromthathand.

So I watched last night’s episode with my ears dialed in to the laughter and my eyes peeled for a glimpse of the studio audience. I’ll admit that I can’t tell from the laughter if it was canned or not… but the distinct lack of a camera angle on a studio audience left me with a cold feeling. So too did the video footage dredged up from 2010 which was being used to make a case about the current state of the pharmaceutical industry.

Look: this wouldn’t matter if Oliver’s show wasn’t a hit and it wasn’t treated as the political marching orders for the blogging set. I think it’s great that satire is being used so surgically in a time when we clearly need to take a long, jaundiced look at how our society functions.

It’s just weird to think that Last Week Tonight is a total illusion, and now that I’ve gotten a glimpse behind the curtain I can’t settle into the arguments that Oliver makes each week.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is a studio audience. Maybe I missed something last night? I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to go back to enjoying the show.

Sometimes The Circuits Are Just Broken

This happens all the time: I'll get to the end of a week--or the middle--and my motavation will just go kaput. It doesn't even matter which things I'm workign on...well that's not entirely true. There are plenty of things that carry enthusiasm within them, but there are others that have enough of an emotional cost while in process that they aren't exactly renewable resources.

This process colors the whole damn world.

On The Care and Feeding of Trolls

Last night my friend Natasha talked about her recent experience of getting swarmed by Reddit. She did that one stage as part of the monthly Public School storytelling show that we put on, but it wasn’t a planned story as much as it was one of the little asides that the hosts do between the other storytellers.

She spoke honestly about how much it sent her into a spin… and then how she realized it was pretty much just 14-year old boys who were doing this.

The problem with things like Reddit mobs and the GamerGate horde is that they give cover and encouragement to deeply mentally ill people who are capable of hurting others. It feels lately like were are very close to an another incident where “internet hate” turns into a bloodbath.

Yet I can’t help but feel that our responses to this behavior, on the whole, are all wrong. It might be better if we were treating this like a mental health issue and attempting to deploy resources to pull the perpetrators of online harassment out of whatever dark spirals they’re in.

I know that it is necessary to publicize the dire threats that are being made when law enforcement doesn’t take them seriously. I also know that the attention that comes from that publicity only feeds the fire: it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Scorn hasn’t seemed to do much to diffuse these guys, as scorn just fuels righteousness. Pity, however, is never sexy, and is a tactic worth exploring. Because face it: this shit is just sad.

Unavoidable Conversations

It’s tempting to say that the current “debate” over vaccines is ridiculous, because one side is repping Science and the other side has a paradigm based on what can charitably be called “animal fear,” but there’s far more going on than “dumb people versus the rest of us.”

There’s a larger conversation about the social contract and individual liberties, and how clinging to absolutest sensibilities is throughly dehumanizing.

Attendant to that conversation are some about how we interact with people who hold wildly different worldview from our own. How to hold conversations that are respectful and—hopefully—persuasive as opposed to just playing for the choir and scoring brownie points with your own team.

Because that’s the shit that has gotten us into this mess.

I blame Bill Mahler: remember that he’s the one who cursed us with Ann Coulter as part of his effort to entertain with political debate.

American Democracy: Why Not A Block Party?

There was a piece from Zocalo Public Square last week that talked about LA's problem with voter turnout. The take-away: LA pretty much concedes control of state politics to the Bay Area thanks to anemic voter turnout.

The LA County registrar is always on the lookout for ways to goose the turnout, and has a reputation for thinking outside the box, as they say. Anything that moves the needle. One of the ideas has been to move poling places out of traditional locations and find voters where they already are: stores and the like.

The article’s author suggests that we turn all of LA into an experiment in voter turnout, trying different tactics in different communities. The title of the piece is “Let’s Put Voting Machines in In-N-Out Burger,” so you get where he is coming from and going to.

I can roll with the general logic, and maker knows that there is so much that can be done. But I think there is an intermediary step that Joe Mathews overlooks in his piece: use the now iconic LA Food Trucks to draw voters to the polls. Hell, get some specials or even free food going if you show off your ballot receipt.

That thought led to another: why don’t we start treating our democracy like a giant block party? We, as Americans, get so damn tense about politics, and then we make voting this nasty chore. I’ve always been one of those people that think it should be a national holiday…but we should go all out with it.

Poling places should be where we get to gather and talk it out. Eat some free food. Drink some free beer. All you have to do to get the goodies is VOTE. No need for a lotto, as some suggest. Hell, no need to mingle: just take those Kogi tacos to go, man. Why should it be the political parties that have all the fun? Why should it be the Koch Bros. and other Richie Riches who get to throw election night bashes?

If we’re going to tear out hair out every two years over the stupid crap our neighbors make us put up with we should at least have the chance to break bread with them so that we can get some sense as to why they are torturing us so. Even if the answer is “that guy’s a crazy anti-vaxxer inside job dude.”

If nothing else, at least we’d have free tacos on a Tuesday.

San Francisco: How Lame Can It Get?

So I just saw word that Borderlands, the science ficiton bookstore that has been a fixture in the Mission since 1997, is going to close.

The reason for the closure is that the store knows it can't keep pace with The City's new minimum wage law. A law that I support, by the way, but one that prices business with margins squeezed tight by the likes of Amazon right out of San Francisco.

The last time I went to The Mission is was ridiculous: just about every residential building across from Dolores Park was undergoing a major retrofit. I could easily imagine that they were all being turned into the private mansions of on-paper millionaires...or AirBnB palaces. Or, you know, both.

The thought of The Mission without the bookstore part of Borderlands--the cafe will stick around to the end of the year but the bookstore will call it quits by the end of March--is just too much to bear.

How long until Modern Times folds? Till Dog Eared crumbles to dust? And don't give me none of the "cities change" crap. A city without bookstores is just a suburb with an inflated ego.

Gone Fishin'

I spent most of yesterday fishing for ideas, both for the day job and for a prsonal bullet point for 2015: come up with a brand new feature length screenplay. This later is on top of the theatre thing I've been developing for the past couple of months with a degree of focus, and seemingly forever before that in the "hopelessly noodling" stage.

I haven't tried my hand at feature writing--which I've never felt particularly good at--in a couple of yers now. I think. I think it's been years. Honestly, the whole timeline blurs after I get to Los Angeles. I just know that there are vast tracks of time where I've not had the will to fight.

But there are people I care about who are getting older, like that kind of older. If I'm not going to get the big stuff done for my own sake I feel obligated to get it done for their sake.

Now that's going to strike some of you as the wrong reason to do something. I'd like to congratulate you on your self-suffciency while also asking you to check and see if you're really being honest with youself. It's okay. I'll wait.

Until I do find an idea--and late last night one started to suggest itself and it was naturally super complex in terms of structure, the little fucker--I'm gonna have to be cracking open some buried tombs in the old braincase. So, you know, fair warning.

Mr. Peanut Butter

Let me start by answering the question in your head: No, this is not a crossover episode.

In fact I wasn't even going to talk about this today. I was going to talk about The Flash or the latest Multiversal antics that Grant Morrison has dreamed up. In short I was going to indulge a little Thursday morning geek quarterbacking.

Instead I'm going to lament the diet situation.

One of the goals of the month was to get back into the swing of things after about six months of being slack. I'm frustrated that I don't fit into the 34-inch waist pants all that well anymore... and the best ones just don't fit. I'm six pounds up from where I leveled for most of the summer and tweleve from my lowest in June of last year.

And it stings when people tell me "you look great."

I know that sounds crazy. I even think it sounds crazy to feel like crap when someone tells me that I look good. But I know how I feel and I know how the clothes do or don't fit. I know that I can no longer say that I lost 40 pounds. That's the thing that stings the most.

This week the blame goes to peanut butter. Jesus Christ but its frustrating that a heaping teaspoonful or two (okay, or three) can undo a day of eating right. It wouldn't be so bad if the activity level was high enough: but try finding the will to move after being chained to the laptop all day thanks to a dozen work emergencies. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Here's where the good news is: I'm six pounds down from the highest point in Decemeber. If I can hold the line for three days I think I can get back down below 190 and make that stick. That's a huge psychological point right now.

So if you see me out in the wild do me a favor: don't fucking comment on how I look. Just don't.

The Irony of the Real

There's an irony in depression: it heightens "realism and empathy" if some "experts" are to be belived. Which means you feel other's pain more astutely, and you simultaneously have pretty much the worst outlook on life. Because realism sucks. Realism means sitting there with all the bad options on the table and picking out the one that does the least damage.

So how's your week going?

Because: Keeping the Habit

And then there are those mornings when you don’t have any particularly interesting to say. What’s worth talking about aren’t the things that the world is doing to you, but what you’re going to do to the world: and talking about them just diminishes whatever force they have.

In other words: the work is cut out, go stitch it together.

The Retirement Plan

Some people have 401ks.

Some gamers have "Piles of Shame."

I have a stack of games from multiple generations that I've always intended to play, but have never had the time to get around to.

That, along with my insane book collection and the magic of this thing called a "library card" are my retirement plan.

READING: Cuchulian of Muirthemne, Lady Gregory

PLAYING: Dragon Age: Inquisition

The Deliberately Slow Weekend

Without actually trying to I managed to pull off a minor feat yesterday: I didn't spend any money but what was already in my pocket as cash and I didn't drive anywhere.

I honestly can't remember the last time I managed to do both of those things.

It meant I didn't get to the gym, but at least I walked a whole lot. (It's not the same thing, I know, heartrate doesn't spike high enough to get the really great effects of cardio.)

There's something so very grounding of just staying in the neighborhood and not bleeding money everywhere. I managed to be a hell of a lot more productive than I thought I was going to be after I spent the morning in THEDAS, even if I wasn't as productive as I'd like to be on any given Saturday.

Still: I'm set up fairly well for today. I only wish that I had ignored my phone more.

It's Not The Stumble, But The Recovery That Counts

I broke diet earlier this week when everything go to be a but too much. The major drawback of the way I eat for weight loss is that the lack of sugar leaves me somewhat spacey, and there are times when I just need to feel warm, sharp and full of bread pudding.

But it's not the act of breaking diet that's in and of itself dangerous.

It's the next day. When the diet has been broken and Resistance rears his ugly head and says that there's no point to anyting.

This is like when toddler fall: they look to their mother in the moment after and check for her reaction. If she's upset, here comes the waterworks. The stumble is less imporatant than the recovery. I guess in the scenario we are our own mothers.

I did have a little gluten free macaroon yesterday, but I also turned down free beer. It wasn't good free beer--Bud Lite--so I'm not some kind of saint. I've got a geasa on me regarding Budwiser anyway. Let's just say: I'm glad there was water around.