Cigarettes will kill you

Been compiling soundtrack music to my iPod for my flight to North Carolina tomorrow.  There’s some truly excellent music that comes from scores out there, much of it transcending the film from which it came.  Hans Zimmer’s work on THE ROCK and TEARS OF THE SUN, James Horner’s A BEAUTIFUL MIND, and even the soundtrack to DIABLO II (yep, the videogame that ate a large chunk of my life a few years back).

One of the reasons that autumn is my favorite seasons, in spite of being ultimately so miserable for me, is that the weather is so open to allowing music to be transportive (totally made that word up, I think).  Summer and spring just don’t inspire me to make mix CDs of music — while I have plenty of music that fits the warmer air, the reemergence of the green, none of it ever really takes me anywhere.  It’s not as cinematic, I guess — or at least, not the kind of movie that I enjoy watching.

On top of the soundtracks, I pulled out Type O Negative’s OCTOBER RUST, one of the most aptly titled CDs ever.  It’s got a fair shar of memories attached to it’s songs — it came out in ’96, back when I was dating Maria, and while wistful, it brings back a lot of happy times for me.  But it also perfectly captures October: cold, getting colder, no green but a lot of color in the trees and in the sky, nostalgic and looking forward at the same time.

I’m not sure if it’s the mood swings, me piling on top of those with my music choices, or the cold weather (likely a combo of the three and then some), but my drinking goes up this time of year.  And the worst thing about that is that I don’t drink beer (never quite developed a taste for the aftertaste of it), and I’m trying to spend less money on it, which puts vodka out of the picture (damn you, Red Bull!).  The only alternative, however, are the malt liquor drinks like Barcardi O and such — yup, the girlie ones.  And while I’m secure enough in my sexuality to drink whatever I want (after a six-pack, I’m inured to the comments of the other bar rats, at any rate), it’s not conducive to meeting girls to be seen drinking things that are too effeminate for them.  Fortunately and unfortunately, I discovered that I have a taste for Woodchuck, a cider that comes delivered both in kegs and a sufficiently manly green bottle.

The unfortunate part is that something in it really sets off a reflux-like condition that I suffer through daily.  After my second, I’m usually not feeling too well; after my sixth, it’s time to vomit. And that’s not an issue of being drunk; I’ve built up way too much of a tolerance for that over the years, sadly for my wallet. The drunk vomit, in my experience, is not unpleasant, if only because you’re relaxed and fully aware of the fact that you’ll feel much better once you’ve purged the poison from your system. No, this is more violent, the body’s way of saying that this shit needs to be gone, and now. It usually hits me after I’ve been asleep for an hour or three, and its a sudden, no-holds-barred, and very unfun way to be awakened.

This started about two years ago, incidentally, and only seems to happen during the fall and spring months.  And I’m only aware of it because it seemed, when it first happened, related to the onset of my CIPD symptoms.  Happily, I’ve not experienced those in nearly two years — but everytime I have another Woodchuck nightmare, I become very over-conscious of the amount of feeling in my fingertips and toes.  All day long, I’ve been tapping my fingers against things unconsciously, just to make sure they’re not going numb.

If nothing else, the coughing jags from twenty years of smoking remind me that I’m still alive — and frankly, they’re not so bad after a fifteen minute early morning purge. so violent that I pull a muscle in my back.

It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden and abrupt cessation thereof.

I wonder if people hear themselves

Hurricanes’ Aftermath – “Police watched over the few gas stations that were open as a precaution in case motorists� tempers flared while they waited for up to five hours to buy fuel.

�This is like the Third World,� said Claudia Shaw, who spent several hours in a gas line. �We live in a state where we suffer from these storms every year. Where is the planning?�”

Um, yeah, Claudia. Where’s the planning?

And why is it that we expect everyone else to do all the planning for us?

Or better yet, move to an area that doesn’t suffer from hurricanes every year. At least if the storm is a surprise, you don’t look like a moron or a lazy ass when you say things like this.

Life plays funny tricks

Like that bastard Loki, life is…

This is my favorite time of year, at least from the standpoint of what I look forward to. Cooler weather, wind, and the feeling in the air, something that I can’t quite put my finger on but that I know is there. I spent nine months out of the year anticipating this change, from summer to autumn…

… and then I spend those three months wishing that I could hibernate, fighting myself for the energy to do anything other than sleeping or wishing that I was asleep.

SAD is funny.

Seasonal affective disorder, or course, is just one of the two things that I deal with on a daily basis (the other being a fairly mild case of bipolar disorder).

(I say mild because, aside from rapid and unpredictable mood swings — and don’t get me wrong, those can be pretty severe — I function as well as anyone that I know, and have for nearly thirty four years without medication or therapy)

It’s not a lot of fun, and it’s worse being aware of it in some ways. On the one hand, I’m never wondering why I’m feeling the way I do; I don’t have to try and figure any of this out. I know what it is and where it’s coming from (even that is a nowhere point that doesn’t exist outside of a chemical imbalance). On the other hand, I know wxactly where it’s going, what’s coming. It’s not unlike a yearly prison sentence (sans the shank-phobic showering and gang rape potential), three months in lockdown without the possibility of parole.

And I don’t shut down completely every year. There are moments of light, some of them quite long. But for the most part, until shortly after December 21 (when the days start to get longer again), those moments are exceptions.

But we struggle on, don’t we? Because we don’t have a choice, if nothing else.

My brother is planning on moving away shortly, and while I’m not sure that he’s being entirely honest with me (or himself) about how badly he wants to leave, to move away from all of this and on to something better, I think he’s doing the right thing. There’s a lot of baggage that you can accumulate in one place over time, and while leaving the situation won’t solve your problems (there’s nowhere to hide / with a sickness inside), a lot of those problems aren’t anything other than emotional memory.

But he mentioned tonight that he’s ready to move forward. That his recent trip to Denver gave him a lot of closure. That he realized that when he was out there before, he was lost and sort of wandering around, that he found his calling (his words) over the past few years back in Birmingham.

And it hit me that I’ve never really found my calling. Or at least, I’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice if it’s been trying to get in touch with me.

I look around and see everyone around me moving forward, whether the drive is internal or external. And I wonder what happens to those of us who don’t really have an external reason to push forward, and have grown tired of fighting for the sake of an internal drive.

These are the thoughts that make me wish for hibernation, in case you wonder.

Autumn is here, finally

After a high today in the 80s — is it really October 21? Does Alabama just not get the climate memos? — it appears that summer is finally over. The weather forecasts all point to a high in the 60s for the next week or so, lows in the 40s and below, and no return to dog days for a while. Once again, we skip over a full decade of degrees.

Driving home for lunch today, it felt like fall, too. Not in the temperature, not yet — but in the air, that gentle push that comes with cold fronts rolling through. That grayish tint that the world takes on throughout November. Leaves finally changing colors (bypassing the pretty colors that people travel through New England to see and heading straight for a lifeless brown) and starting to cover the streets and yards. That smell in the air that comes with fall…

The Farmer’s Alamanac (as inexplicably accurate as the Mayan calendar) predicts a cold winter this year, and we’re certainly due. I remember ice storms two or three years in a row when I first moved to Birmingham in 1980; then there were the blizzards (relative to Birmingham norms, of course) of ’93 and ’95. I vaguely recall some minor dusting a few times over the past few years, but no real significant snow. Not even any really significant cold temperatures, for that matter.

Hopefully this year will bring some change. But who knows?

The future is uncertain. Who would have predicted the worst hurricane season on record this year? Or even a summer that extended a full month into fall? Tsunamis and earthquakes and presidential scandals, oh my…

Somehow (somewhy), I found myself reading over apocalypse sites today. All sorts of predictions and signals that the world is ending. Everything from the Biblical Revelations to the Mayan calendar ending to Katrina hitting New Orleans to Nostradamus and Cayce and every nutcase that follows suit. Somehow it’s fascinating to me; behind all the insanity and miscommunicated ideas and flawed connections, I almost think there might be a glimmer of truth.

Not that I think we’re seeing the end of times. I think a lot of the evidence is valid, though. I think there are connections there that either aren’t being seen or are beyond our ability to comprehend.


No, not the end of times. A major change, though. And not brought on by gods or universal cycles or even major cosmic oopsies like a gigantic asteroid turing us into the next dinosaurs (though when you see the evidence and similarities of profoundly separated and different cultures, you should probably stop and ponder).

I think the major change coming is a day of reckoning for us humans, for our reckless and selfish living. We’ve been draining the world of natural and necessary resources for too long now, never giving thought to the consequences or alternatives until it was well past time to do so. We’ve poisoned our seas, introduced species into foreign ecosystems way too suddenly, clouded our air, blown holes in our atmosphere.

I don’t want to come off as an environmentalist, because I’m not. I smoke, I use plastic, I peed in the swimming pool when I was a kid. And if we’re heading for a major shift in the way we live, then that’s fine by me. I’ll adapt, as I’m sure the human race as a whole will, just as we’ve done before. But I swear I’m going to be punching people in the throat left and right when the whining starts.

We did this to ourselves, folks, and now we have to take responsibility for it. And on the off chance that it’s not our fault — that it’s some greater universal path that we have no choice but to follow — do you really think your complaining is accomplishing anything?

Other than giving me one more reason to punch you in the thoat, that is.

I’m going to go prepare to wallow in the cold air. Who knows how many more cool seasons we have coming to us?

I see us in you Nauticus
Came so late but I pray
At the last light of day
There might still be a chance
To save this beast of clay

I see us in you Nauticus
As you’re drifting along
Built to last
Young and strong
Will you find us the answers
Before we are gone?

It’s getting late in the day…


I was really hoping that would look a bit more like a physics term.

There’s something about me: I’m a nerd without the energy or drive required to become a real nerd. I have a great aptitude for science and math, but for some reason, I never did well enough in the sciences to feel like a real nerd.

I’m ambidextrous — evidenced by being equal parts right- and left-brained. Also evidenced by the fact that I write and play guitar right handed, and do almost everything sports-related with my left-hand. Anything else feels clumsy.

This is me, frozen in time. At this exact moment, my hair is darker (and more evenly colored), and about an inch longer. No more facial hair (that light bit of shadow on my chin). Other than that, pretty much identical. But in six months, who knows?

The internet is a great place to become someone different, to be more than you are, to be what you always wanted to be. It’s filled with the trolls and bullies who feel safe behind a screenname and distance. How many blogs actually use real names? Not many, because then Diane would know that you’re in love with her, or James might know how you talk about him when he’s not listening.

But I believe in honesty. This website is linked from any email that I send out from home, and I send a lot of email out — including a lot of business related email. I know full well that, as little as this blog is trafficked, it’s been read by co-workers and potential bosses, girlfriends and exes and people that I barely know. And I’m okay with that.

It encourages me to stay honest. And I mean that on a lot of levels.

Man, I really hate onions — I tell people that I’m allergic, though that’s not *technically* true. If I eat too much onion, I get fairly painful stomach cramps, so I might as well be allergic, but to the best of my knowledge, I’m “allergic” only to some unspecified pollen that rolls out every spring in Birmingham.

I also hate celery, and am not fond of Mayonnaise, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, sour cream, and most of the things that make for really good recipes.

I believe that there are no rules, only expectations. This is much easier than trying to resolve the inherent paradox in the statement, “There are exceptions to every rule.”

If you don’t spot that paradox, let me know, and I’ll expound a bit. But it’s like an omnipotent being creating a rock so big it can’t be lifted.

I am one of the most easy-going people I know. But I have moments of extreme over-reaction to balance that out. And I never know when those will come.

Look — it’s me again. On the left, with the bass. The talented guys in the picture are Eric and Chance, respectively the guitarist and the drummer for The Exhibit(s). We’re not the best band on earth, or even in Birmingham, but we are the only band I’ve ever truly enjoyed playing with. It’s never work with these guys, even playing on a Tuesday when none of us is really feeling up to it. Eric’s a brilliant fount of creativity (songwriting, cover arrangements, guitar techniques). Chance is, like me, a jack of way too many trades, and the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet. Carlos — not pictured, possibly because he was making money that night — is one of the three or four best guitarists I’ve ever met (and I’ve met Steve Vai and Steve Morse more than once, keep in mind).

Somehow I seem to have this predestined hunger for knowledge
A talent for seeing patterns and finding correlations
But I lack context

I didn’t write those words. I quote them, from a band called Pain of Salvation. I find words in movies and books and music that connect with me quite often. I don’t feel like I’m being spoken to, unless it’s on a much higher level than I care to think about right now.

Whether I wrote them or not, though, I feel them.

My phone is ringing, right now, and I’m not answering it. I do this fairly often. Just because I have a cell phone doesn’t mean that I’m available or even interested in talking all the time, and that’s something to remember. It’s rarely personal if I don’t answer the phone — it’s not you I don’t want to talk to, it’s anyone.

If you don’t leave a message, I’ll probably not call you back. I’m not sure why I do that, but generally speaking, that’s the way I work.

I’m too lazy to create a list of 101 things about me. But that meme is all played out, anyway.

And I will spend the rest of forever
Trying to figure out who I am


Which, of course, is shorthand for Your Hand? Whose Hand?

It’s an old college drinking game. Best left unmentioned, probably.

In my random travels today, I stumbled across some interesting reading in Why Do We Believe In God? (the first half, at least; the second half deals a lot with genetic components of spirituality and twins research, the latter of the two being my loss of interest in psychology). And per usual, a few tasty samples:

The study was blinded, so that most of the research team involved with questionnaires did not have access to the final data. When they were asked which group they thought would show the most disturbed psychopathology, the whole team identified the snake-handlers. But when the data were revealed, the reverse was true: there was more mental illness among the conventional Protestant churchgoers – the “extrinsically” religious – than among the fervently committed.

And more…

A Harvard psychologist named Gordon Allport did some key research in the 1950s on various kinds of human prejudice and came up with a definition of religiosity that is still in use today. He suggested that there were two types of religious commitment – extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic religiosity he defined as religious self-centredness. Such a person goes to church or synagogue as a means to an end – for what they can get out of it. They might go to church to be seen, because it is the social norm in their society, conferring respectability or social advancement. Going to church (or synagogue) becomes a social convention.

Allport thought that intrinsic religiosity was different. He identified a group of people who were intrinsically religious, seeing their religion as an end in itself. They tended to be more deeply committed; religion became the organising principle of their lives, a central and personal experience. In support of his research, Allport found that prejudice was more common in those individuals who scored highly for extrinsic religion.

The evidence generally is that intrinsic religiosity seems to be associated with lower levels of anxiety and stress, freedom from guilt, better adjustment in society and less depression. On the other hand, extrinsic religious feelings – where religion is used as a way to belong to and prosper within a group – seem to be associated with increased tendencies to guilt, worry and anxiety.

And I think this is my problem with religion — well, one of my problems. There’s a world of difference to me between sprituality and what the majority of the people of the world carry around. There’s a spirituality that seeks knowledge and truth, that helps one define oneself in better and stronger terms (call it morality, if you will), one that helps guide a person through the tough times and the unknown and gives hope. Perhaps you find this in prayer, or belief that there is a higher guiding power, or in karma, or simply in a convential belief that tomrrow’s gonna be a better day.

Then there’s what you mostly see, particularly in the public presentation, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells and Popes. It is a spirituality that has nothing to do with the spirit. It seeks knowledge as a form of power over others. It rules through fear instead of hope. It provides a base and a foundation for self-centeredness and judgment of others who are different from one’s own group and a sense of elite belonging. That’s the sort of thing that sickens me. It’s insidious, too, in that believers are taught that they must preach and convert, that they are responsible for the sins of the world, and that not converting those around you to your beliefs is as bad as believing like they do.

Which is particularly amusing in this context, noted by Richard Dawkins:

Thousands, perhaps millions, of people have died, often accepting torture first, for loyalty to one religion against a scarcely distinguishable alternative. Devout people have died for their gods, killed for them, fasted for them, endured whipping, undertaken a lifetime of celibacy, and sworn themselves to asocial silence for the sake of religion.

And don’t forget that bit about “a scarcely distinguishable alternative.” It may strike you as idiocy, if you’re one of those who follow closely to the Judeo-Christian or Islamic (et al) paths, but stop and think about it for a moment: strip away the rules and the rituals and the holidays, and what are you left with?

A scarcely distinguishable alternative. And yet, distinguishable enough that most of this country is ready to kill or die for it. Most of the world, for that matter.

I get the reasons that people seek out religion. I understand wanting an explanation for the unknown — where do we come from? why are we here? what is Ozzy Osbourne trying to say? — and seeking a better way to live. I get the need for hope, the fear of a void after death, the need for Heaven and unconditional love.

What I don’t get is the hypocrisy, the judgmentalism, the holy wars and the terrorism in the name of a greater being. I can’t fathom for the life of me why people need to belittle others to feel better about themselves. I don’t get importance of having prayer in the classroom or the Ten Commandments in the courtroom foyer — if your god is really all that and a bag of Wafers, your kids and co-workers are gonna be okay at the end of the day, right?

All this need to surround everyone, every minute of every day, everywhere, smacks of insecurity to me. Of fear that we’re not doing enough to impress god, or maybe that someone else is doing more and doing it better.

Isn’t faith enough?

I’m all for separation of church and state, if only because you Roy Moore followers better think about one thing next time you push to keep a giant rock in the Courthouse: what if the dominant religion in your area wasn’t Protestant Christianity? Can you really look me in the eye and tell me that you’d be okay with a giant and not-too-aesthetically-pleasing symbol of someone else’s religion in your government halls?


I don’t believe you for a second.

You can’t fight for a principle just because your favorite stands to gain, without at least considering whether you’re going to be okay when one day you’ll be in the minority, and the pendulum swings both ways.

Oh, wait; there’s that hypocrisy again.

And before anyone says anything, I think that the atheists out there who are intent on destroying the faiths of the world are just as bad as the missionaries. If you don’t believe in anything you can’t scientifically observe, fine (but be a man and finish the thought — ditch dreams, hopes, and fears, since those aren’t any more rational, either). If you want to believe in God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, more power to you. In fact, I might even be a little jealous, since faith is a nice thing to have. And if you want to inform the world of your faith, of your belief, of the wonder that you feel in your heart and soul, that’s fine — after all, no one can know the wonder of Jesus or Tao if they’re not educated. But after sharing the knowledge, how about letting everyone else around you make up their own mind about what they believe?

If that seems like too much, throw on your most impressive suit and head back to your billion-dollar church with the massive, state-of-the-art sound system and newly renovated steeple, and talk about helping people that you never will with the Joneses. Your status is all good with someone, at least.

Oh, and I have a fair amount of belief myself, just FYI. Not that that’s any of your business, but I figured I’d make a response to potential comments in advance.