The morality test (received via email forward)

This test only has one question, but it’s a very important one. By giving an honest answer, you will discover where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation in which you will have to make a decision. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, yet spontaneous.

You are in New Orleans to be specific. There is chaos all around you caused by a hurricane with severe flooding. This is a flood of biblical proportions. You are photo journalist working for a major newspaper, and you’re caught in the middle of this epic disaster. The situation is nearly hopeless. You’re trying to shoot career-making photos. There are houses and people swirling around you, some disappearing under the water. Nature is unleashing all of its destructive fury.

Suddenly you see a man in the water. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken down with the debris. You move closer. Somehow the man looks familiar. You suddenly realize who it is.

It’s the President, George W. Bush.

At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take him
under forever. You have two options — you can save the life of the President, or you can shoot a dramatic Pulitzer Prize winning photo, documenting the death of one of the world’s most famous men.

Here’s the question, and please give an honest answer…….
Would you use high contrast colour film, or would you go with the classic
simplicity of black and white?

For Love or the Void

There’s a story on this week by writer Steve Almond about a cyber-nemesis and his meeting with him in the real world. I won’t bother recounting the article, though it does make for an interesting read (and one that will be familiar to anyone that has been on the Internet enough to have eventually met an “online enemy” in person).

I bring the article up, though, because of some (admittedly out-of-context) points he makes in the article. To wit:

To be clear: Some bloggers, such as Wendy McClure, also happen to be terrific writers. They use their blogs to undertake the honest labor of self-reflection. The improvisational form activates their love of the language. More power to them.

But there are also bloggers who, like Sarvas, are simply too lazy and insecure to risk making art, to release their deepest emotions onto a blank page with no promise of recognition. So they launch a blog instead.

First, I just realized why I will never be a writer, no will I be allowed into the clubhouse: I’m not a language lover. I don’t find myself excited by new and amazing permutations of the English language (or any other, for that matter). If I am fascinated by language at all, it is as a vehicle for telling stories, for communicating; not much more than that.

Which is not to say that I don’t take a certain thrill in having a sizeable vocabulary, nor that I don’t wince visibly when other people — especially those that call themselves writers — misuse words, obviously unaware of what those words really mean. Spelling (not typing — pot won’t be caught calling kettle filthy today) errors drive me sideways. Grammatical nightmares — the kind you can find all over the blog-o-net — make me wish that I could revoke the computer rights of some people.

But I’m not a lover of language. I don’t thrill to poetry. I’m no fan whatsoever of the “masters,” of greater literature, of high art. Stephen King is more my speed — and you can guffaw all you want, but he’s one of the best storytellers I’ve ever read. Chuck Pahlaniuk, Warren Ellis, Bret Easton Ellis — there is certainly something literary about each of their collections of work, but at the core, it’s about ideas, about emotions, about entertaining and sparking the imagination.

My screenplays are not about amazing the world with clever cinematic innovation, creating characters so full of themselves that I can work twenty dollar words into their mouths. My novel is neither about nor a vehicle for celebration of words, of the sounds they make, of clever onomatapaeia or consonance. My short stories, my song lyrics — hell, this very journal — is not for me to show how little of the dictionary I have left to memorize, or even to get noticed.

And that handily brings me back to the main point of the quote that I wanted to note: How much of what we do as creators is driven by need to create, and how much by need to be noticed?

I wrote a few days ago about my need for validation, how I suspect that I’m fulfilling that with my dating life. And probably, large chunks of my art serve the same purpose, or aspire to do so. I’m in a band, and comfortable with the fact that I’m not on MTV or selling a trillion albums or getting my headshot on the cover of SPIN or BW&BK. The Exhibit(s) play local bars once or twice a week, and occasionally get the opportunity to play things like the Sidewalk Film Festival, and I’m grateful for that; I certainly would never turn down the chance to tour with a major group, or to make the late night talk show rounds, but I’m not holding out too much hope for it, either.

(One of the best moments from both Scrubs and Heather Graham’s career came in season four, when Graham’s character says, “Show me a guy who wants to get married, has a good job – and it’s like snoozeville for me. But if you know a 35-year-old who still lives at home with his mom and he still thinks his band can make it – tell me where to meet him so I can buy him dinner.”)

So I’m not playing music entirely for the attention, though it certainly doesn’t hurt. And I’m certainly not writing my short stories for attention, as the most reading they’ve ever gotten were from the people that inspired certain stories.

Screenplays — well, this is where we get into questionable territory. I say that I have no intention of ever filming a feature, and I mean it when I say it, but I’m very proud of the three features that I’ve completed writing, and I hope they get made one day (by me, I should add). The shorts — some of those are written just to get them out of my system, and some are written for contests (MUCKFUPPET, GOOD MORNING, APOCRYPHA and FIRST TIME AROUND AGAIN would never have been written except for the Sidewalk contests), and some are written specifically to be filmed (GOODNIGHT MOON). And of course — assuming that the films turn out okay — I want the movies to be shown.

But movies are expensive, and require a lot of work by a lot of people. So of course there’s some level of attention that you want to get out of something like that, if only to justify the expenditure when you don’t really have the money to spend.

But of course it’s about attention. There’s a competitive nature ot me, one that makes me want to hear my film spoken of in the same breath as those of the peers that I respect — locally, if not nationally or internationally.

And then, there’s this blog, which I don’t go out of my way to publicize (it’s linked from a Birmingham are group, but that’s about it). And I largely write this as a journal; the fact that it’s on my local computer as well as a server means that I have multiple copies of the thoughts and words, so I’m pretty well guaranteed never to lose this journal (unless I want to). And the fact that it’s on the Internet means that I can write from anywhere in the world, just by logging on. I don’t have to tote a physical journal around with me, no do I need a laptop.

But I could hide this, right? I don’t have to make it public. Never had to. I could drop it in a hidden directory, secured with a password, behind the eyes of the search engines of the world. Same end result: multiple copies, easy access. But no one else can read it.

And I can try to pass it off as altruism, hoping that my words and thoughts, my struggles and solutions, might help someone else. Or maybe someone gets turned onto a really good artist or author or film. And sure, there’s a little of that.

But I want page hits, and comments, and mentions in other blogs. And a book deal, based purely on what I’ve got online. And a trillion dollars, and a house with air conditioning and a car with brakes that work, and love and adoration from beautiful women around the world.

I’d settle for a Real Doll, mind you.

To begin with, not so many people read [blogs]. Instead, a very concentrated population of people read them over and over. Namely, other bloggers. They all read one another, in the hope something they mentioned on their blog will be cited on another blog. It’s a kind of Ponzi scheme in which the object is attention, and the shared illusion is one of relevance.

Burn, bridge, cross, smoldering ruins

I’ve mentioned in the past about having burned bridges. This is a fairly significant part of my life, if only because the some of the bridges that I’ve burned were fairly significant.

It stirkes me as funny that people always talk about burning bridges as though the act were conscious. Most of the time, the bahavior is conscious, certainly, but the concept of not being able to go back ever again is not. That’s the accidental part, the unforeseen result of the behavior or decision. You call your boss a cocksucker on the way out of the building — that’s burning a bridge, but probably not intentionally.

The bridges I’m speaking of, metaphorical though they are, were quite consciously set ablaze. I may have poured kerosene and pumped the surrounding area full of fresh oxygen without thinking about it, sure… but the match was struck with full knowledge of what I was doing, and more importantly, why.

But not all parts of your life should remain accessable. And I think that a determined perspective can allow you to make good even the most accidental crossings of points of no return.

It’s all about perspective, though, innit? Feelings aside, we are capable of finding a comfortable point of view for yourself. It just takes a realization that there are infinite ways of looking at things, and deciding that you don’t want to take the angle that leaves you sad or angry or negative, in some way.

A really bad example, bordering on New Ageism, is that getting fired from your job leaves you unemployed. That’s bad, sure, but it opens up your job for someone who needs it more. It allows your enemies to find shallow joy in your misfortune. It opens doors for you to move forward, or perhaps sideways — but new and unexplored avenues.

It’s all in how you choose to look at it.

And watching TV and movies, reading books — you can find new perspectives in the dialogue and situation. In fact, you can’t help but notice some of them, if you’re open to that sort of thing.

Last night’s LOST, for instance — and finally, a sign of hope on that show! Not that I think everything’s gonna turn out okay; in fact, I think the two hopeful endings in this week’s episode are only setting up the survivors for a lot of pain. But you can only take the audience so far down without a breather before they start to get numb. And…

Thank god for rereading to figure out what I was saying. Hurley had a chance to overcome his fear by taking a different route away from what he percieved as a problem, by taking a different perspective. And it was a shiny happy moment, and I remember thinking that hope lives. Not in a LOST sense, but sort of a universal sense.

New Age Kenn. Available everywhere in time for Christmas.

And on Tuesday’s NIP/TUCK, a show that has really gotten hard to watch this new season with a severe undercurrent of The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell, there was a discussion of having hurt someone close to you, and having to pay for it. And knowing that things can get better in time, but the waiting — that’s the hardest part. That’s the punishment, waiting for things to get better. Knowing that the world will get more bearable, but having to wait while it’s not, while people get past their anger at you, or their hurt, waiting for your guilt to subside.

These are things that I notice.

I find myself occasional sad that I burned a bridge or two — the intentional ones — because I wouldn’t have been on the other side if there wasn’t something there worth visiting. And I like to think that I remain abjective about the people and situations on the other side of the chasms — perhaps not perfectly objective, but as close as any person can be, and much more so that anyone that I know. There are good things still there, on so many of those islands, but there were bad things, too, the things that I had to leave behind.

But then I remember that there were those bad things — things that outweighed the good, that even cynically optimistic me saw and couldn’t look past — and those good things are still out there, in other people or situations. I haven’t lost the good things, anymore than I’ve guaranteed myself riddance of the bad ones. I have, though, been able to recognize and catalog things in the world that I like and don’t like, that I want in my world and don’t. I’ve identified the things that are important to me and the things are important for avoidance.

And next time I’m faced with that situation, I’ll hopefully be able to find a new perspective, a new point-of-view, a new path forward… One with a happier ending.

Even if that happier ending is just setting me up for more pain in the next episode.

And just ass for all

The Google ads (lower on the page, for those of you with non-really wide screen resolutions or less than two monitors) are not so much a play for money — I see my stats, and know full well that I don’t get enough hits to make money off of page views. In fact, I know full well that there are five or ten people who will ever notice the AdSense bar, and that’s if I point it out, like I’m doing now. And I can name all those people, and their birth signs, and their favorite diet salad dressings — but a strange experiment of my own design.

For those of you that followed the above sentence, grammatically strained as it was, give yourself a cookie. Or a handjob, if you’re lonely.

Most blogs — well, most blogs worth reading… Okay, popular blogs worth reading — are themed (moreso than “this shit was all written by me, except the stuff that wasn’t, and I just threw that in because it interests me and I need a central repository, and isn’t nearly as useful — fuck you, it’s themed ME and that’s theme enough for an abusement park, and yes, that’s intentional). Thus, the AdSense program should work really well for most of these people, in theory creating a hell of a potential revenue stream. After all, if I’m visiting your site looking for info about the latest tech toys or porn stars or Stephen Hawking memorabilia, and there are some ads to the side that point me to even more of the same, I might follow them.

Me? I get ads for conjunctivitis sites. Three of those, and one for information about cat and dog cataracts.

Happy surfing, y’all. Now get out there and earn me some money.

Moving forward looking backward

It’s pretty widely theorized that we spend a lot of our lives trying to fix our childhood. More to the point, we marry our parents — maybe our mothers, maybe our fathers, amybe some combination of the two.

I think the mother thing came about primarily because, for the longest time, home was a matriarchal area, and the mother was the dominant figure for both little boys and little girls. I’m not sure how valid I see the mother thing — or even the parent of the opposite sex. I think it’s really more of an issue of impact — which parent left more scar tissue on one’s psyche, to be dark about it.

I’ve seen enough evidence of this in my life to feel comfortable with the idea that this is, at least unconsciously, true. Probably partially due to a comfort issue (not necessarily comfort as much as familiar), and partially, at least, a method of resolution and making things right.

I think that maybe a lot of people have issues from the past they are determined to right. This might be mistakes that they made, words or behaviors that they regret and hope to make up for. This might be situations out of their control — neglectful or abusive parenting, for instance — that some deep part of them wishes to overcome. Or it might be something that they simply need ot play through to a natural conclusion.

(I can’t help but hold the idea that this — being psychology — is utter bullshit at the worst, patently oversimplified at best. But we trek on, in search of answers for the questions that haunt and pester us…)

If you have a history of failed relationships (prime example: me), it’s a good idea to look to your childhood to try and find correlations. I think, though, that it’s important (and nearly impossible) to find the right line between flexibility and knowledge — which is to say, assumptions about your past, about causitive factors or reasons for behavior, or even misremembered facts — can lead you way off the path you should be on.

As much as I know, I don’t know anything. Or maybe it’s better to say that I don’t understand anything. Neely likes to say that I’m one of the smartest people that she knows, but maybe that gets in the way of things like this.

I’ve been connecting my rearranging of furniture with breaking off relationships.

Ladies and gentlemen, my life is surreal.

Anyway… I’ve been drawing these connections for the past six months or so, based not on behavior but the emotional or gut motiviations for those behaviors. Which is to say that the need to rearrange my environment is the same gut, instinctive, reptile brain feeling that I get when I feel the need to break off whatever relationship I’m in (speaking of romantic realionships, by the by). Which all traces back to my brother being born, which translates (in my head) to a form of abandonment anxiety, etc.

Neely suggested that maybe I’m afraid of getting comfortable and then being replaced again, and so I end things before someone else can. And Melissa mentioned that I shouldn’t abandon the idea that the rearranging is just my coping mechanism way of asserting control over my life.

Both of which are valid points. And I’ll say that it’s likely, even, that I’m afraid of losing again, and so I make preemptive strikes. But I don’t think that’s it — there’s no sense of fear involved…

I think a large part of me is concerned with seeking out romantic attention for validation of self. That makes total sense to me, given my personality and inner workings, and completely explains diving into relationships and diving right back out. You don’t need a relationship to last to get validation of self out of it — in fact, at some point, you’re getting less validation because you’re not getting it from more and more people.

(Yes, this is horrible behavior, and I recognize that. But I’m approaching this clinically, and besides, who really wants to judge themselves so harshly?)

But I think that maybe in some ways I might be denying myself the comfort of a long-term relationship, related to that whole childhood abandonment thing. Why would I be doing that? There’s a question that I can’t even begin to answer — unless it has to do with feeling, on some level, like I don’t deserve that comfort.

You can’t really change your feelings, I think, at least on a base level. They’re like reflexes, totally out of your control, built-in. I think you can affect them, to some extent, but only over time and with a lot of work.

What you can affect, though, are your reactions to those feelings. Your behavior is totally under your control, if you’re willing to assert said control, to take responsibility for yourself.

And who else is going to do that for you?

There’s a lot of jumble that goes into thinking of this nature, and that’s fine. I think it’s easier to sort it out when you allow yourself to think out loud — and even moreso if you open yourself up to considering the viewpoints of others without flatly rejecting them because they don’t fit your theories or assumptions.

Great. Now my brain hurts. And I’m craving pork and beans, and hot dogs.


As I lay stying

Nothing beats waking up feeling like Quasimodo, except maybe looking like him.

I’ve had this eyelid infection (some call it conjunctivitis, some call it a stye, and I call it a serious pain in the ass) since Friday. It’s only minorly irritating in and of itself, but then there’s this fairly nagging headache that came along for the ride. You know those headaches that aren’t really headaches as much as they are precursors to the real pain?

Yeah, one of those.

So I guess I’m not really in pain as much as I am in constant anticipation of pain.

Eyedrops be damned (and I’m not entirely convinced, in spite of all the poison warnings on the box, that I didn’t pay a $4.40 co-payment for a bottle of saline solution) — I wonder at this moment if I could learn to sleep with one eye permanently opened?

Ladies, what’s more attractive: an eye swollen half-shut, or an eye missing the upper lid? I know it’s a tough call, but flip a coin if you must; my romantic future may depend on it.


There’s only so much time that can pass before things start to creep into your conscious mind.

Catastrophizing, I heard it called this weekend. And I was determined not to think the worst, to worry, until certain conditions fell into place; and even when they did, I decided to not think negatively, to not worry, to not dwell on all the horrible things that might have happened.

And the rational part of my brain still kicks in and says that everything’s okay, just strangely quiet.

But that rational part of my brain is getting quieter.

UPDATE: My friend called. She’s still alive, well, and terrible at keeping up with people. But at least I got to hear her voice again for a bit, and my own voices are back in the shadows, plotting their next evil headfuck.

I still like the post-secret, though. Very touching. Almost makes me wish that I had a secret so I could work on as poignant a way of revealing it to the world anonymously.