Universe, unfold, blahblahblah…

There are times in life when I read Desiderata for comfort, to remind me of all things that I’m trying to be. It’s a great poem, if I haven’t mentioned it before… hovering halfway between new age and honest spirituality, and maybe leaning more toward one than I’m willing to admit. But regardless, it’s helpful. It’s serves to help me stay focused, to avoid the bullshit that my own mind creates.

But sometimes, I’m reminded of the truth beneath the surfaces that we choose to see. That the universe unfolds as it will.

Events converge and twist and wind their ways into a bigger stream. And we can choose to view those events as signs pointing us to something ahead, or misinterpret them, or ignore them altogether.

Being a skeptic is not easy, questioning everything all the time. It’s awfully hard to arrive at any answers this way, for those who think it might be a good path to follow…

At any rate:

These aren’t signs that are big and neon and flashing with catchy slogans. I mean, they good be, I suppose. But that would both take the fun out of it, as well as making the ignoring and misinterpreting pretty moronic.

On the one hand, my mind is trapped between the stuff of epic stories, universes created specifically to come together at the climax in a “howthefuckdidinotseethiscoming?” head-slap, and reality, cold hard facts, Chaostown, population: the human race. On the other, this is where I choose to live, holding hope in one hand carefully while I walk through the madness and horror that writhes between me and the end.

Creations. All of it. Nothing but what we put there, take away, and choose to acknowledge.

Challenges and obstacles. Tests. If you want something so badly, something that you’ve dreamed of since you were a child, something that fills your most vivid memories, how much will you sacrifice to obtain it? What will you gamble? How much risk will you take? How badly do you want it?

Badly enough to hope?

There is no obstacle strong enough to hold us back from what we want, if we want it badly enough to never give up.

Perhaps part of the universe unfolding as it should is eyes opening when they are supposed to?

I need a vacation. Chicago: snow, big city, blues, and, best of all, intrigue and hope for a better future.

And this summer, beach. I need to hear some waves again.

Break Glass in Case of Boredom

It occurs to me today that, to vastly oversimplify an idea, there are three options:

1) Die before accomplishing everything that you hope to do.
2) Accomplish everything you hope before dying.
3) At the precise moment of accomplishing the very last thing on your list (give or take a few hours to enjoy the silence), you die.

Ideally, for me, it would be number three. The absolute worst thing, said the lightbulb over my head, would be number two.

This is what happens when I leave my iPod at home and am stuck listening to the last Dark Suns disc for the millionth time.

I spend my days in a blur, by and large: besides the nine or so hours that I spend at the office, working for Tha Man, there’s filmmaking, music, writing, reading, and the daily crossword. Lots of plotting and planning ahead, trying to set new plates aspin while I keep the old ones balanced. And that can get overwhelming, but I’ve learned over the years that that on-the-edge, pre-panic feeling is what keeps me going. It’s what drives me to work a little harder, a little faster, a little smarter than the people that I’m surrounded by every day.

I want to succeed, and I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my hand and a chain of hotels in my name in someone’s will. Success — whatever that may be — takes a little more. You can bitch and moan about how unfair it is that Paris Hilton doesn’t deserve it like you do, or you can press forward and do everything in your power to get there. Me, I choose the latter (with a blog so I can still participate in the former).

I was at my favorite bar / second home the other night, helping out with a few drinks and stocking. One of my fellow regulars asked how I managed to get behind the bar, with the implication that he wanted to do the same. And I told him what I tell everyone: Bartending is great fun, as long as it’s an option. Yeah, you’ll likely find me back there once a week or so, and quite happy to be there; put me back there on a regular schedule, four nights a week, and I’ll not be so cheerful about it.

The whole thing started over Thanksgiving, when the guys were shorthanded, and needed an extra hand. I’ve got the experience, so I helped out. Since then, there’s been more and more of it, and I’m happy to help — both because it’s helping out friends of mine (and the staff here is not a bunch of bartenders, but genuine friends of mine), and because it’s a nice walk down memory lane. I loved aspects of bartending while I was doing it for a living: the extreme pace of a busy Friday night, the people, making new drinks on the spot with whatever’s in reach, and, yeah, even the occasional bounce. But that life takes its toll, just like all others — and besides, the challenge was gone after a while, and it became boring (like all the jobs I’ll ever work).

It’s nice, though, every now and then, to dip my feet back in certain pools. And I’m realizing that what most people do with exes (if they still get along, or run into them at reunions and such), I do with interests and hobbies.

And so, yeah, I work a lot. But I play a lot, too — every night, as much as I can stand it physically and financially. Part of this, I;m sure, has to do with the fact that I am a night owl. Always have been, in spite of having to be at work like every other 9-to-5er. So that’s when I get lax, and watch way too many movies, way too much TV (f’rex, I’ve watched all of season 1, half of season 4, and 1/4 of season 5 of 24 in the past week. Plus Family Guy, Lost, Numbers, Scrubs, Bones, CSI, and a few random IFC short collections) (my god I’m geek/outting myself again), read, surf, and… oh, yeah, drink.

And occasionally, like I said, it gets overwhelming. I don’t think it’s necessarily that I have too much to do — I’ve yet to miss deadlines or have to drop projects, even after 34 years — as much as it is the number of balls I’ve got in the air simultaneously. It’s a lot to think about (and probably the one reason I’m such a list-maker).

But it’s nice to know that I’ll never get bored. Even on days when there’s nothing on the TV, and nothing to talk about and no one to talk to, on days when there’s not even an Evil Elmo story in the news, I’ll have my plate full. At least for the foreseeable future, in a world with only 24 hours in the day.

List maker, Listmaker, Make Me a List

So I’ve got one of those stupid 100 Things About Me memes constructed and ready to go. But it occurs to me that those aren’t fun for the people that know me well, and I think you three are the only ones that ever read this pap anyway. So to anyone reading, let’s help me make this interesting: leave questions in the comment section that you don’t know but are generally interested in knowing (even if only for a laugh). I’ll scatter them throughout the 100 list, no matter how embarrassing (since, as we all know, I’m actually immune to embarrassment), and then all the world can point and laugh along with you.

Triumph (or at least the road that leads to it)

“YES, you ARE a fucking idiot… but that’s OK, you’re human, and that’s where the beuaty of humans lies, in their duality. Know that you are fallible,and continue with that knowledge and make it work…”
-Devin Townsend

Synchestra is released officially today. I’ve had it for a few weeks now, thanks to the joys of review copies and press credentials. As much as it’s not music for everyone — Devin’s music, across the board, is very much a unique experience, not narrowly confined within genre boundaries, and often requires a lot of chewing before swallowing is safe — I cannot recommend this disc highly enough to the general public. Of all of his albums to date (including his “alter ego” Strapping Young Lad and the sidework he’s done with Steve Vai, James Murphy, and so many others), this one falls second only to Terria, which I’m not certain can be topped.

Of course, one of the reasons that I’ve always been enamored of Devin’s work is the lyrical content. The music is brilliant; I think Devin and I both pull from many of the same inspirational wells in that sense, although Devin is far more willing to experiment and wander than I’ve been when writing and recording (to good effect, I should add). And though the music keeps me coming back, year after year after year (was it really nine years ago that I got Ocean Machine?), it’s the lyrics that provide so many anchors initially.

Devin has struggled with bipolar disorder over the years, and his lyrics really reflect the progress of his journey. And while it’s not surprising to me that I can find common ground with him in his lyrics, bearing that bipolar joy as I do, it does surprise me to see, time after time, a roughly parallel track in our outlook (at least, my outlook and his lyrical presentation).

The most striking track on the new disc is Triumph — musically and lyrically. Pixellate is a close second, though the lyrics (on which Devin is commenting, above) don’t jump out at me as clearly. But Triumph feels to me like the culmination of the first three tracks, about which Devin says

“The story is about finding certain answers to life questions as a result of going too far – ‘be careful what you wish for’ and the way that reacts with a sensitive mind. Humility… ‘I blew it… but there’s nothing I can do about it now, so let it roll.'”

And just as I’ve been finding a better peace with life, moving forward, I put the disc in my new car and hear the lyrics to the song, against a grinding palm-muted guitar that explodes into rhythm and cinema, “Knowing I’ve known more than half my share…” There’s still bits and pieces of lyric that I can’t quite make out, but even so, I feel a connection to the song, a safe haven in the meaning and the feeling.

“A subtle realization. ‘One word – collective.’ There is a sense of relief in letting it roll, an apprehensive joy, things from the past culminating in a genuine present… peace is made with the past. Brave enough to make a step.”

Not since Daniel and I stopped talking have I always felt like people understood what was inside my head (which probably has a lot to do with the fact that, outside of Daniel, I’ve never communicated a lot of it very effectively; in all honesty, I’ve probably not given nearly enough credit to a lot of people in my life who deserve more on this topic). Not that Daniel necessarily did, either; in fact, I think a lot of the time, when it didn’t jibe with what he believed or expected, what was in my head was summarily dismissed.

I’ve realized for a while that I have a tendency to only really want out of life the things that I feel like I can’t have. I think that Melissa was, at least to some extent, a product (victim) of that subconscious trait; I’m 95% convinced that Neely is as well. Any bets on Jessica? That’s a sucker bet, by the way.

But it was only recently that I started to understand that maybe that’s true of other aspects of my life: career, hobbies, friends, family. The things in life that I’ve beaten, or won, or proven (at least, to myself), I can leave behind. No more challenge there. It will be much easier to never make another film after Muckfuppet, because it’s turning out to be everything I expected it to be. If the Exhibit(s) ever split up, I may never play again, because this is what I wanted from music. I’ll probably always be a writer, since my expectations and hopes from my writing will probably never be met. I’ll probably always have a soft spot for Neely, since that’s never going to happen.

And maybe that explains why I put Daniel — or more specifically, the relationship and connection between me and Daniel — on a pedestal. Because it wasn’t really there, nearly as much as I wanted it to be.

And I owe apologies ot many people, after all this time. Wade and Richard and Andrew and Kevin, for not (rightly or wrongly) giving them enough credit; for Melissa, and Maria, and far too many others, who were prizes to be put on a shelf of memory and forgotten in the light of the next challenge. And to Daniel, even; the connection had to be severed, for my sake, for me to grow and accept myself (and, if pushed, I can even say in hopes that you would learn and grow yourself), but perhaps not in the way it was. I wouldn’t change any of it; I think everything that went down needed to (and I certainly won’t deny that there was a lot of it that I really enjoyed). But I do regret it, in some fashion.

Maybe there was a point at which Daniel did get what I was going through. And maybe Devin and I are leading parallel lives in a lot of ways. More likely, I’m finding anchor points, creating connections, in order to feel connected — just like I did for fifteen years. And that’s okay, either way — the important part is where I am, where I’m going, and how I take all that has come before and apply it to all that comes ahead.

This is me, letting it roll. Brave enough to make a step into a genuine future.

We Have Picture

I hold in my hands the uncut video from the film. Thanks to Chance’s handheld work and Chris’ lighting — not to mention really great and understated performances by Melissa, Donna, and Scott — this story looks absolutely incredible. In all seriousness, if this is the last film I ever make (following up on the threat I throw out every single time I shoot a movie), it’s the perfect swan song. And like the Brits say, get out while they still like you.

Thanks to all the cast, crew, extras, and everyone who provided us with steps on the journey so far. There’s still a long way to go, but the most critical bits are done, and everyone involved deserves applause, liquor, and illegal favors on my behalf.

Man, if you didn’t know better, watching my excitement right now, you’d think I had just finished a three hour epic or something…


Man sues chatroom pals: I was humiliated beyond what ‘no man could endure’:

“‘He just came in slamming on me, saying all kinds of derogatory crap: that I was a fat, bald, broke old man who sits around in a rusted wheelchair,’ said Charpentier, who has a chronic back injury. ‘I don’t even own a wheelchair.'”

Seems to me that admitting that you hung out in AOL chat rooms for five years is humiliation enough, right?

Anyone that can tell me what the title of this post references, and why it is appropriate, wins.