Friday, December 30, 2005

Surgery and Resolve

First things first, just to get the truly important stuff out of the way: 'Stine's surgery seems to have gone smoothly. News after the surgery was that she'd been breathing on her own, which was a good indication that the nerve to the vocal cord was still active. It turned out things were even better than that, for when I entered her room on Friday evening, she actually greeted me with her own voice! Oh, what a relief it is.

Her temperature's been bobbing around a bit, and there seem to have been some side effects that I'll leave for her to elucidate once she's feeling better; but on balance, things are going well.

Other than that, I've just been preparing for a new year.

New Year's day was always sort of a throwaway holiday as a kid. I mean, there were no presents, there was no religious significance (as an awestruck Catholic youth, religious significance at least lent Christmas and the far less tantalizing Easter a certain grandeur), and, worst of all, the day itself seemed to be built around an endless string of televised football games (or "gridiron" as they call it in the rest of the civilized world, saving the moniker "football" for the far superior sport of soccer), the true scourge of our culture.

I can't quite remember when New Year's Eve first became important. I remember at least one New Year's Eve spent in the care of a hot babysitter (sorry, Wendy, but you were). I remember at least one on which I was the babysitter, looking for movies we weren't supposed to be watching on the satellite dish. And I remember our later family tradition of going out to dinner at a decent restaurant, seeing a movie and then coming home and waiting for the countdown. Well and good, but no magic, please, this isn't one of those holidays.

Later on, of course, it became about profligate indulgences, drunkenness, debauchery . . . all good things, sure, but how do I distinguish that from any other Saturday?

Then there were the resolutions, as often as not suggested to me by my parents, and subsequently including things like resolving to be more obedient, get better grades, stop cowering in the face of bullies and stand up for myself, complain less while doing chores, be more consistent about brushing my teeth, eating everything I was fed whether I liked it or not, working harder at being confirmed and so on. Basically, resolutions used to have a feeling of chastisement about them, as though they existed primarily as functions of my past failures and promises not to be such a fucking weakling/crybaby/general twit in the future. Attempts to change them in my adolescence and in college failed because what I really wanted to resolve to do involved either the participation of other people (resolving to get laid more offered zero boost to my collegiate sex life) or grandiose schemes simply outside my youthful reach (that Pulitzer Prize I was supposed to win in 1993 is still in the mail, I'm sure).

So this year, to my pleasant surprise, New Year's Eve was a pleasant affair, spent imbibing in a gorgeous cottage on a lake. We had fireworks, music, a fireplace, a couple of invigorating power outages . . . All in all, it was a nice reminder that I actually DO appreciate the pleasures of life outside the city. New Year's Day was spent seeing Walk the Line (flawed, but well-acted and quite entertaining), and doing very little else.

As for resolutions . . . I have to say that I've come to appreciate the concept, although it's nigh to impossible to gather all of my resolutions together by New Year's Eve, and I'm likely to keep coming up with more over the course fo the year. One needn't wait for a holiday, I suppose, to bolster resolve, to court the better part of ourselves and recognize what in our natures or behaviours stands in the way of success, accomplishment or--to make room for a goal less intrinsically objectivist--a more profound and peaceful state of being.

I'd apologize for the intrinsic self-indulgence of posting one's resolutions, but that seems pointless in a forum where the subject is, by definition, the contents of one's internal monologue or the narrative of one's personal obsession (both of which, in my case, happen to be the same thing).

So here are a few thoughts on the upcoming year, and what I'd like to do with it:

--Bitch less (but embrace my bitchiness more, leading to the next one . . . )

--Be kinder to myself, more forgiving of my own foibles.
This one's always tough to reconcile with an ethic more influenced than I'd like to believe by '80s "tough love" rhetoric; if there's one thing that I share with social conservatives, it's a pointed skepticism regarding the undue philosophical and educational emphasis on "self-esteem". But I think it's safe to say that my enlightened self-criticism becomes vindictive self-loathing more often than not, and my perceived failures are less a product of sloth or moral failing than of unrealistic expectation and a failure to except either the world or myself as it exists.

--Be more sexually inventive, and make more room for sexual play in my life.
Not that anyone's complaining, but "play" is really the key word here. The fun in my life has ceased being fun. Some of the things that have lost their fun--booze, weed, partying, theatre--may best be addressed by distance and reflection, sex would, I think, best be reo-booted by patient exploration and new approaches.

--Drink and smoke less, to save money, be healthier and keep myself better suited for that last resolution.
Fairly self-explanatory.

--Get back on my "neurotic" oral hygeine regimen, which has actually served my dental health well and will also support resolution #3.
I can't even think of how many times I've refused a kiss because my mouth felt foul. It's my own thing--it's always me, and not 'Stine, who finds my mouth unattractively dirty. But I'd like to keep my clean dental record running; and I figure that if you find something dirty, you'd best clean it.

--Learn to cook meat and vegetables in more--and more creative--ways.
Not that there's anything wrong with my cooking or our diet (except with my planning--if I cook more than 2 things at once, one of my pieces will inevitably burn, a problem I imagine my mother would have had if she hadn't cajoled her children into being kitchen assistants at a very young age). We could just use more variety, and, perhaps most importantly, some simple-but-tasty combos that don't take a long time, are healthy, filling-but-light (so I don't have to rely on knee-and-hip punishing exercise to keep my waistline from becoming too . . . American). Part of it is a matter of moving beyond the Asian cooking framework, which is delicious and has done great things for my cooking habits, but routinely leads me to ingredient-heavy dishes that require a LOT of prep time.

--Dress better.
This is not because there's anything wrong with how I dress, but I still "save" my favorite outfits for special occasions; and I've come to realize that I don't find any occasions special anymore. Which is too bad, because all of my occasions should be a little more special.

--Rediscover humor.
Laugh at myself, my anger, my foibles, the foibles of others.

--Accept, KNOW, that I may never be famous, and that's OK; but also recognize that it's OK that being known by everyone on earth has been my only goal in life, OK that I have to start from scratch because I never wanted anything but to be liked by everyone.
Accept, KNOW that, just maybe, I never have to "accomplish" anything the way I've understood that term. Accept that ALL of my artistic endeavors, even martial arts, may have more to do with my character than they ever will with my career, that they may be hobbies rather than professions, that there's nothing shameful about having my "work" simply be that which pays my bills. Accept that I may be a decent man, even an exceptional one, without any "career" at all.

--Read more (which goes with watching TV less).
I've got a good start on that one, having begun the project of reading the totality of the ancient gnostic gospels in the Nag Hammadi Library.

--Play my saxophone and flute now and again.
I forget, sometimes, that before I acted, before I sang, before I wrote plays, critiqued film, had sex, cooked Thai food . . . before I was anything else, I was a musician, a good one; and while I may never capture any past glory, I may find myself less creatively dry if I started playing the instruments I know how to play and have at my disposal. No, I don't remember everything I learned; and no, there's no protocol for flute or saxophone in art-metal, post-punk or industrial music. But I can be better than I am on those instruments, having been so much better before; and if anyone's gonna find a protocol for those instruments in music that I actually find compelling, it's gonna be me. Plus I may actually discover a creative pleasure in my life that I haven't either temporarily or permanently exhausted, which can only be to the good.

--Re-cultivate some love of nature.
It's tough without a car, but it's a worthy endeavor. One of my obstacles with nature--which I seem to recall I once appreciated--is that as my philosophical outlook has evolved, the methods by which humanity (or Americans, at any rate) "appreciates" nature strike me as unpalatable: the naive Rousseauism of the average hippie backpacker, the bourgeois playground-ism of the urban and suburban tourist. But like it or not, we have some primitive tie to nature, and our cultural aspirations will always look to the reptilian brain for a place to begin understanding the world. If all I understand is the world we've created, and not the world that spawned it, part of the equation for understanding the primordial, chaotic Tao is missing.

--Re-cultivate an appreciation of--and create some time for--solitude.
If I'm dissatisfied with my social engagements, bored with the paltry pleasures of drugs and alcohol, annoyed by the prosaic aesthetic pulses of my acquaintances and colleagues and hungry for greater peace and understanding of self, it seems like a no-brainer that what I need is some time for genuine reflection, time to appreciate those things that the people around me don't enjoy (and maybe get out and find out who IS enjoying these things, so I can say that I know someone who does). And, contrary to some (partially correct) assertions that I should get "out of my head", some real time to get into my head, instead of trying to squeeze my meditations into a frenzy of activities in which I've long since ceased to believe. Maybe the reason my periods away from my activities never seem to refresh is that I replace my activities with more activities, more TV, more booze, more parties, more desperate bids for company and attention. Maybe I don't actually know what I think anymore. Maybe I should find out.

--Exercise to feel better, not to look better with my shirt off.
My trick knee, sore back and throbbing hips will thank me for it. Besides, I'm not a movie star and am unlikely to become one anytime soon. And even if I did get some big break, decided I wanted onstage or found a way on camera, let's face it: I'm in my 30s, I'm bald, and I have hair on my shoulders. No matter what kind of shape I'm in, no matter how cool the tattoos I KNOW I'm gonna get, NO ONE is gonna ask me to take my shirt off. No one.

--Notice when I'm eating for comfort, boredom, sadness.
I might not have to jump rope 'til my ankles feel like they've been sledgehammered if I didn't go through a half pound of medium cheddar and three bags of microwave popcorn every time I watched an episode of Lost.

OK, I think that's good for now.

In any case, Happy New Year (belated), and keep throwing positive thoughts in 'Stine's direction.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hit & Run

Some quick observations: The holidays are o'erladen with dairy products.

For some reason, I can't get to my blog through any path but the beige one's link. What's up with that? Computers are confounding. I thought maybe I'd gotten myself banned or something, just for being a cantankerous motherfucker; but I'm still able to post, so that seems unlikely. Maybe I'm being reserved for the most dedicated seekers.

I just bought 'Stine and I a book on Celtic design that shows how to compose and construct Celtic knots, specifically those that morph into animal designs. There's a whole chapter on Celtic hound symbology. Someday, when time and money work out, there's a veritable treasure trove of tattoos in there.

I need to cut down on coffee consumption. Maybe I'll make that one of my New Year's resolutions (I'll even bump it into the top 100-or-so).

I'm so behind on movie reviews that I might just have to do a holiday roundup this weekend. Music, too, although little of what little music I purchased this last year was actually recorded or released during that time. I'll actually have two full days off, Sunday and Monday, so I'll have to make a project of that. Maybe an "Arts Year in Review", something like that. A quick summation, though, would yield that the best blockbuster I saw all year was King Kong, the most well-directed feature was The Constant Gardener, and the most satisfying overall feature was Murderball. While there were many albums released in 2005 I would love to have owned, I bought few if any of them; my purchases tended to involve catching up with bands I saw live late in 2004, early in 2005 and/or outfits I'd read about over the previous year. The most deeply satisfying purchase of the year has to be Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Of Natural History, even if I almost always listen to it alone.

The best reason I can think of to become a professional music critic is that the newest releases would just show up at my desk whether I wanted them or not. Of course, if I didn't hand pick the publication in question, I'd get stuck listening to a lot of crap. Oh, who am I kidding? Even independent post-punk, industrial and art-metal rags probably receive their share of CDs by no-talent posers, perhaps even more than other magazines might (better These Arms Are Snakes than Beyonce, but post-punk-industrial and art-metal are as vulnerable to fashion victims and studio creations as any other genre).

I got a charcoal grey peacoat for Christmas, and that's more than fine by me. If there's anything that doesn't go with, I don't wanna know about it.

Okay, gotta fly. If time and chemical imbalance allow, I will post something more interesting than a rushed overview or a self-depracating rant sometime soon.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Still Around

This is going to have to be brief, 'cause I have a lot of work to do at work, and I'm never not at work.

Brief update: I'm still working my ass off, but, paradoxically, I /we still have no money. Since I often find mere breathing to be something of an off-putting chore, current workload had me a little overwhelmed last Friday at the futility of it all. I'm marginally better now; that is to say, there's still no light at the end of the tunnel (assuming the desired result is material comfort), but I feel less weighed down with hatred, resentment and fury (the anomie, futility and ennui are still, for better or worse, fully intact). I am, however, left perplexed that I still can't make enough to cover basic expenses even when working at a rate that I can't possibly maintain.

This is nothing new, of course. I've been broke since pretty much the moment I graduated high school, to one degree or another. What I've lost in the interim is that sense of confidence that I was answering to a higher calling, that there was something beyond material comfort for which I was working. Having lost faith in pretty much all higher callings--art, enlightenment, social change--I essentially abandoned all other pursuits, at least temporarily, to bombard my debts with the fruits of perpetual labor. Now I see that perpetual labor provides no fruit (unless you count a four-cup-a-day coffee habit as a "fruit"). So I'm kinda back to square one.

Other than that, I guess I'm fine. My health has been better, but it's been worse. I've shaved the goatee. I could afford to lose a few pounds--this schedule has been hell on my exercise regimen--but I've been in worse shape (and the size 34 jeans I bought this fall still fit, so I can't be expanding all that much). We celebrated 'Stine's birthday last weekend, which was a roaring success; but she already told you that story. My only disappointment was that I expected some sort of spiritual uplift from it, a sense that, as ineffectual and impotent as I may be in financial and artistic forums, as empty and disconnected as I may be in matters of spirit, that I could still prove capable of a generous and giving act. Yet somehow I still felt like I'd failed, like the real effort and investment had come from other people. That said, her tattoo looks good (although we'll probably need some color touch up on some of the details), the movie was solid and the party was a true surprise. Success!

I'm pretty excited to have two mornings of sleeping-in in a row next week (I get an administrative holiday the day after Christmas, what with the holiday falling on a Sunday), and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that after we cover our hundreds of dollars in overdrafts & overdraft charges this week, there'll be some money for me to do some last minute Christmas shopping (the funding needed to do it before now has simply never materialized); I'm not overly worried, since I went all out on the birthday, but I'd still like to find some nice knick-knacks to make the next year a little more fun.

I've had some possible CD reviews brewing, but those take the sort of time my schedule just doesn't allow for now--maybe after the 1st of the year (I've already got a new 2nd job lined up, but it'll be both fewer hours and lower pressure than the current supplemental income machine). Until then, a happy holiday to all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Just a Meme . . .

You scored 56 masculinity and 60 femininity!
You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 35% on masculinity
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You scored higher than 51% on femininity
Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test