Trying to get a new version of the Exhibit(s) website up by month’s end — the site is badly out of date, and poorly designed, to boot. I’m hoping to have it done before I start my new job, so I’ve basically got about two weeks left to make everything smooth and clean and ready for launch. I spent yesterday recoding every single page of HTML and poking at the CSS until I felt okay with everything. Still considering the underlying architecture of the directory structure, and I’ve got some work left to do on the merchandising section and a few other little things to add or clean up, but mostly, done (just received an email from Chance about it, in fact: “Wow, Kenn. That looks really great so far. Fun, informative… heck, it’s infotainment!”).

It makes me wish I had more time (and drive) — I’m inordinately proud of the code under the site now, and tempted to changed the entire look just because (in theory) it’s now a simple task, down to tweaking the stylesheet for a complete new look. I’d like to go back and fix all the sites that I designed to be the same (not to mention cleaning up all the sloppy code that I’ve left behind all these years as I learned).

Sadly, I’m too busylazy to do so.

Speaking of, take a few minutes out of your day to read this letter from a Marine in Iraq. Insightful and moving — and if you know me, that should tell you something.

If you don’t know me, it could tell you something, but probably misformation at best.

The death of creativity

It wasn’t video that killed the radio star. It was shitty taste on the part of the average listener.

There was an interview that I read some years ago. I think it was Billy Corgan, but it might have been Marilyn Manson or some other alt-rock media darling.  There was a big discussion of how his music and lyrics were all wrapped up an a heavy sauce of angst and depression — maybe it was fried in a batter of gloom and despair.  I can’t remember for certain.

Regardless, the question was posed as to whether he had considered therapy, or medication, or somesuch, and his answer was an unequivocal “no.”  As he saw it, without the inner mounting turmoil, there was no creative drive for his music, and so his career would be over, and he’d have to go in search of whatever work once-famous rockstars can find, not to mention giving up hope on that once-and-future relationship with Courtney Love.

Of course, it was shortly after this that Smashing Pumpkins broke up, Zwan was met with a resounding clap (yep, just one), and he hooked up with Love at last.  So maybe therapy was something he should have considered, after all.

I used to give strong support to this theory, that creativity is somehow directly tied to a sense of misery of some sort. Just about every rockstar worth a damn has done their best work when high — and everyone knows that drug use is just a way to escape negative feelings.  All the best authors are disturbed and sad.  The best movies come from starving and struggling writers and directors, and once the money starts rushing in, the work starts to suck — helloooooooooo, Mr. Lucas.

And now I’m playing the unscientist, refusing to believe my own theory in spite of new and indisputable evidence.  See, I used to push this theory because I’m bipolar — and hey, if I’m that full of potential misery, then I should at least get fame, fortune, and a shot at an incurable STD out of it.

Point of fact, though, is that some (all) of my best creative work came in times of the heaviest depressions.  Music, screenplays… they were all inspired by being down.  And the stuff that comes out when I’m up and happy and really enjoying life — what little of it that isn’t drowning in a tar-like pool of cheese is just flat, uninspired at best and unintelligble at worst.

Of course, when you’re happy, there are better things to do than work to put your feelings down in some time-trapped format.  Like enjoying life, for instance.  And when you’re down, and really revelling in the feeling of hopelessness, convinced that the sun will never rise again except to shine a spotlight on the misery that is you, what better to do than try and exorcise those demons onto paper or canvas or film?

If you’re faced with the choice of being happy or being creative, which path would you take? Not to say that I’ve found a cure for bipolar disorder, or that everything in my life is peachy keen, or that I even have a real decision to make here. But let’s say — for the sake of wrapping this little piece up neatly — that I had to choose between writing and creating good stories and music for the rest of my life, or being really happy wasting time with CL.  One or the other, no middle ground.

Hell, I’m told old for the music business anyway, and all the writers and filmmakers that I like started losing it the minute they became successful, anyway.

Putting the ‘a’ in ‘apolitical babble’

I don’t understand politics.  Which is to say, I don’t get the people that aren’t politicians and the way they blindly back one political party or the other.

We’ve all got our stance on issues. Economic, social, whatever… You’ve got a stance, one way or the other, and you gather the majority of your opinions and pick a party.  Democratic for the more liberal among us — which is to say, apparently, the hippies — and Republican for the conservatives — or religious zealots and rich people.

If you don’t have a stance on issues, you’re either hopelessly out of touch, or dead, or French.  If you’re not one of those things, you believe that abortion is right or wrong, that taxes should be raised or lowered (and where those taxes should and should not go), that we should be at war with other countries or at peace.  It’s part of being a thinking, feeling human being.

I guess I’m a liberal. I’m not really sure.  I’m pro-choice, anti-censorship, and all for equal taxation.  I don’t really understand the deeper mechanics of economics, so I won’t argue too strenuously on the taxation issue (hey, maybe there’s a good reason that rich people get to keep a higher percentage of their money than the family that can barely keep a roof over their head — what do I know, outside of 1s and 0s and phrygian modal progressions?).  The rest of it, though, is mostly opinion, and we’ve all got assholes.

But then you get things like Rep. Mark Foley emailing and IMing underage boys with naughty (to say the least) intent, and you know what? Contrary to what the press and politicians would have you believe, it’s not about party lines.  What I hear on TV and radio — to wit, that it’s a nefarious plot by the democrats to leak this to the media just in time for elections — and it makes me sick.  Who cares who told who?  What matters is that we’ve got further evidence that the people writing our laws are evidently convinced that they are above those same laws.  We’ve got allegations — that should be looked into without any question — that other lawmakers are covering for them (for political reasons).

I don’t care what party you belong to: if you break the laws that we elected you to write, you should be punished.  This country was founded on a concept of rule by the common man, which means that statistically, we’re going to get more than our fair share of greedy, opportunistic, power-hungry people in our positions of power, versus people that want the best for our country and the people in it.  I can accept that.  What I can’t accept is that your guilt or level thereof seems more and more to be relative to your party affiliation, and the amount of power that party has at the time.

I’m not a fan of Bush and his administration; no secret.  But it’s not that I don’t think they’ve done nothing right (although I can’t think of an example offhand), nor will I zealously decree that they are the worst thing to happen to the US in my memory.  Nor will I say that Clinton was the greatest, having done no wrong. It’s not just that I have opinions on issues that land on both sides of the fence, either.

Maybe what bugs me is hearing the laughable (un)logic spouted by the Rush Limbaughs and the Bill O’Reilly’s, and the almost knee-jerk reactionary comments by Al Frankens and … er… surely there’s another Liberal commentator that isn’t a gigantic wimp?  No?

Although, admittedly, at least Franken backs his arguments up with real, tangible evidence.  And makes me laugh.  Which O’Reilly does too, but I’m laughing with Franken.

When reviews write themselves

Tonight’s the season three kickoff of LOST, and I’m of two minds about watching it.  I was with the show from the beginning — I don’t watch a lot of television, but the premise was intriguing and different enough from what had come before that I gave it a shot, and loved it from minute one.  As the first season progressed, there was just enough of everything to keep me interested, a fine balance of mysteries and character chemistry and backstory.

Season two was just as good, though it felt in places like it was already tempting the slippery slope paved previously by The X-Files. I understand viewer psychology enough to know that it’s the mysteries that keep people coming back for more; if you reveal too much, you risk losing the audience.  On a parallel note, if you give an answer to a long-running question — any answer — someoneis going to be unhappy with it and feel let down.

But season two felt like it was laboring under the wait of all the new mysteries and twists, while getting little relief from answers to the old.  We found out what was in the hatch, and — well enough — the answer to that question simply opened up a new basket of questions. That’s fair enough, and good writing, to boot.

Still, as we head into tonight, I feel like I’m about to stick my hand back into what has become an ever-growing Gordian Knot of venomous snakes that have wound themselves perhaps painfully close into something that can never be unraveled to anyone’s satisfaction.

I remember reading early on that the writers had a master plan, an ending to the whole story, and I love that idea — a self-contained, finite story.  I’m reminded of comics like Sandman, Transmetropolitan, and Y: The Last Man.

Leave ’em wanting more instead of wearing out your welcome.

Not that there’s anything wrong with shows running forever.  But those shows — CSI, Scrubs, M*A*S*H, to list a few that fit this bill — are situational narratives.  The plotline of the show, the pitch, is a framework that is used to set up standalone stories.  Within these stories, you might have long-term arcs develop — a serial killer that crosse seasons, for instance, or the marriage between Turk and Carla — but the framework is unlimited (in theory).  The pitch for LOST, though, is a singular story, that without a decided finity simply opens the door to being painted into a corner.

X-Files, coincidentally, could have never become the distasteful memory that it is in my head, had Carter avoided the overarching mystery of the aliens (and the miasmic collapse that came with the Man Behind The Curtain).  The self-contained episodes were, by and large, wonderful, sort of a fictionalized Ripley’s Believe it or Not, driven by the chemistry between Scully/Anderson and Mulder/Duchovny.

Here’s hoping that the minds behind LOST stick to their original plans to have the show aimed at a final destination, and that they don’t let network executives steer them away from that ending. And that maybe, just maybe, these first episodes of the new season will offer some resoution to past wonderings before introducing a passel of new ones.  There’s only so many plot threads that I can juggle before I decide to see what’s on at 8 PM on Wednesdays on NBC.  Or just go back to whatever book I’m buried in at the moment…

Tailgating in the parking lot of my skull

You ever get one of those headaches that isn’t so much a headache as a portent of things to come? A pre-migraine is what I always call them, because they tend to foreshadow the clustering pains that take me out of the real world for a day or more.  It’s that lead-up to what feels like might be balls of nuclear waste just behind the wall of my skull, above my left eye — it’s a pain that defies accurate description, as it’s neither sharp nor dull but both and then some.

And now I’m in day two of the pre-game festivities.  I should be thankful that I haven’t gotten a full-blown migraine yet, and that maybe I still won’t, but walking around like this is not a lot of fun.  You’re not quite down enough to rest and/or bury your head under a pillow, but not up enough to care much about anything that you’re doing.

And so, when writing is a chore, you think that, hey — at least no one’s reading this drivel anyway.

There is no wrong way to eat a Rhesus.