1. Feeling Write

    It dawned on me the other night that I actually don’t know how to write. I only feel. This is a strange realization for someone who thinks himself a writer and hopes to earn a living writing someday. But the reality is, I don’t really write; I feel.

    A few weeks ago, I watched “Page One: Inside the New York Times” and walked away thoroughly impressed and grateful for all the true journalists in the world. Journalists full of integrity and talent and complete badass grit. Journalists who wrestle with deadlines and grind at a merciless pace that would certainly kill any mortal man. Above all, it was their unrelenting need to get the truth that struck me most. They want to get it right. They have to. They put their feelings and prejudice aside [as best they can] and they dig and dig until they get it right. They write on command about anything, really, and they’re able to translate mountains of data from head to print with such ease and balance. That is real writing. That’s not what I do.

    I watch or read or experience and something inside needs to come out. I just feel it. Usually I don’t know what it is and so I force myself in front of a white screen and a blinking cursor and just let shit out. I have no recorded interviews or notebooks filled with research, I only have my feelings. And even if I did have all that other stuff, it would still take me weeks to put it together in a cogent way unless I had some strong feelings about it. This lack of skill and logos makes me feel incredibly inadequate at times, but feelings are all I’ve got. It’s who I am. So, maybe I’ve been wrong to consider myself a writer all this time. I only feel. I consume and consume and consume and then write down what I feel. What do you call someone like that?

    Well, “amateur” comes to mind. Or how about “raw” or “unpolished”? That would be a fair assessment of my character. It’s pretty spot on, as a matter of fact. It explains a lot; my taste in music, for one. I like things that sound honest, whether it’s a warbling poet or a drunken, hot mess diva, certain songs and singers and tunes just sound more honest than others. I’m all about shit that comes from the gut (where else would shit come from?). I value honesty in art and everything else. I think I’m ok with that. I’d never want to write something I didn’t believe or just to appear contrarian. The people I love most are also this way. They may be utterly sweet or harmless pricks, but they are who they are. Honest to themselves and loyal to others. Keepin it real.

    I’ll keep writing; probably forever. Because that’s how I stay honest. Whatever it is I can’t say for fear of hurt feelings or appall or ridicule, I can write. This is probably why I write so much about religion and parenthood and career and angst and other things that tend to get bottled up. It’s my way of staying honest - setting the record straight. However far that takes me, it’ll be enough to keep me satisfied - knowing that I did the best with what I had and held onto some integrity of self along the way. It may not get me onto Page One of the NY Times, but it’s all I’ve got. And I think I feel pretty good about that.*

    *is it me or is all of this starting to get a little too “Sex and the City?”

     


  2. From the Critic

    I used to be a snotty little bastard.*

    A song would come on the radio and I’d immediately identify everything wrong with it: “The mix is terrible.” “The bass sounds like my nephew farting.” “The compression feels like a baby drill sergeant is having karaoke night in my left ear.” “Really? Another song about making it rain up in da club?” “This is retarded.”

    Then it was on to the artist: “Nippleback really need to stop making music.” “Remember when Katy Perry was good? Neither do I. She needs to stop making music forever.” 

    It always ends with some variation of, “[so and so] needs to stop making music.” This is what a critic does, because the critic is a coward.

    The critic is a coward because he does not create. He does not participate. In the arena of creative sport, he is a bystander: feckless and incapable or too afraid to enter the playing field himself. The critic is a coward. He is the impotent bastard child of self-doubt and arrogance, frustrated by his own failings and driven mad with envy by the unworthy success of another. I am the critic. We need less of me.

    Tumblr is full of critics. Well, critics and curators. Curators are people who compile a buncha shit they didn’t create and put it together as if the compilation itself was a creation. Curators love to quote famous people. Curators reblog pictures of Karl Lagerfeld and Tyler the Creator and Ninja Turtle Noses as discoveries that represent their true selves. Collecting items for show-and-tell is not creation, it is curation. If not for HTML, curators would be pasting magazine cutouts on poster board to hang on bedroom walls - desiring piggish squeals and seal claps for their exquisite taste and classiness. High brows and raised pinkies to white poster board and paste. We need less of these.

    What we lack are creators; Pros unfazed by critics and oblivious to reblogs and Like buttons and retweets. Creators with integrity and work ethic and talent. People who create because they have to; not for youtube views or passive income, but just because. People who find an empty space and fill it: something out of nothing. Writers who pen originals and musicians who do the same. Artists unafraid to share because their inner critic is stronger than the ones outside. These are the brave ones. Because when the dust settles, the creator leaves behind something of substance. The critic’s opinions die with him.

    Creation is forever. I wrote it. I sang it. I drew it. Nothing can ever change that, and no goliath of snarky criticism can ever wipe it off the face of forever. It won’t always be great, but at the very least, it’s original. 

    I guess what I’m trying to say is: create something. Be brave. Have no fear of judgment, because once you’ve created it, you’ve won. You’ve conquered the fear your critics could not. The fear will always be there, but the creators fight with courage, daily.  So, write your stories, sing your songs, snap your pictures. Be You. If they hate it, challenge them. Challenge them to participate and watch them wither like daisies.

    Be You, and don’t let the critical misanthropes like me keep you down.    

    *By “used to” I mean “am” and by “little” I mean “fat.”

     


  3. Honor the Fallen

    22 Navy SEALs among 30 U.S. Troops killed in Afghanistan as NATO helicopter is shot down

    This is absolutely tragic. There aren’t enough words or accolades to describe the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of our armed forces, especially when we lose 30 of our finest in one horrific incident. The War on Terror has gone on for nearly 10 years now, and it’s still surreal and sobering any time I hear of soldiers dying; it damn well better stay that way. The death of a soldier should never feel casual or be confused with one’s personal beliefs on war or violence or politics. They deserve better.

    A soldier’s life lends itself all too easily to cliche because he is a real life hero. Unfortunately, our limited bank of hero vocabulary has been reduced to over-the-top cliches for the caped euphemisms in our comic books. The words feel empty in real life.

    Since the news of OBL’s death, I’ve become mildly obsessed with Navy SEALs; reading accounts of the raid from every major publication and finishing a few great military memoirs along the way (Seal Team SixLone Survivor, The Things They Carried). If there’s a common theme to be drawn here, it’s that SEALs are not like you and me. There is an innate determination and resolve that can’t be faked and a sense of duty that is hammered into them through the most brutal training program on earth. These guys live on the edge so someone like me can enjoy a cushy life in the middle. 

    It’s been a little over two and half weeks since the chopper was downed in Afghanistan and the world’s moved at a blistering pace since then: Somalia is starving, London riots, rebels liberate Libya, an earthquake shakes the eastern seaboard, Steve Jobs retires, Amy Winehouse did too, in her own way and Bert and Ernie’s sexual orientation remains ambiguous. Albert Haynesworth is a Patriot for god’s sake. August 6 seems like ages ago. It’s too easy to forget nowadays. 

    And then I saw this

    (photo credit)

    That is Hawkeye. He belonged to Petty Officer Jon Tumlinson who was one of the 22 SEALs killed on August 6th. In the middle of Officer Tumlinson’s funeral, Hawkeye walked up to his master’s casket and laid down with a mournful sigh. 

    There really isn’t much to say. It’s heart wrenching. It hurts to think about our best coming home in flag-draped caskets and a shame we allow ourselves to move on so quickly. We’ve created an age of perpetual news and narcissism to numb the pain and discomfort of raw emotion. But still, there’s Hawkeye with such purity in his display of grief; there is no politicking, no cry for attention, no agenda.

    What must a dog think when he encounters death? It must be such a hopeless sadness. While we two-leggers lean on our collective myths about heaven and hell, a dog is cruelly trapped in a state of consciousness that lives in the moment, but with deeply seeded memories of the past. The dog cannot cope or dwell or even deny; he mourns in bewilderment, lies down with a heavy sigh and eventually follows his new master home. But he never forgets. Nor should we. 

    Central Command confirms 6,194 U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. 2,292 soldiers under the age of 22. 4,439 under the age of 28. The world is a terrible place sometimes. Take time to remember. Don’t buy into the asinine notion that “the best thing we can do is move on with our lives and do the things we enjoy.” Fuck you if you believe that. Soldiers don’t die so you can play golf and jerk off. They deserve our time and remembrance. Learn about them, thank them, remember them. Sing, write, dedicate. Do something. Read this. By all means take a minute of self-reflection to be thankful and mindful of how amazing we have it.

    And if you pray, then pray for their families and their friends and their souls. Pray for their dogs and that we may be more like them.

     


  4. A Few Words on Music

    Sometimes I listen to music and I feel my heart punching out of my chest, like it’s been prematurely stuffed in a coffin and needs to pound its way out. I’ve been wanting to write about music for a long time and I still can’t summon the right words. It’s just so fucking visceral. Music rips you up and shreds you. I can’t write about music because it’s more than emotion. It’s this indescribable experience where each song is like a life: all the growth and change and harmony and discord of a lifetime condensed into four minutes. This is what makes music relatable and diverse and indescribable - how does one articulate life? Every song is a life. Some are bland and mediocre and others are sung by Donny Hathaway. Some lives are shy and others are Freddie Mercury. Some songs are trite, or boring or unoriginal and some lives are too. I’d argue that our taste in music should expand as we mature and gain a deeper appreciation for life - seeing beauty and value in places we hadn’t before. If you make strong, sweeping judgments about entire ‘categories’ of music, you probably feel the same way about certain categories of people and lifestyles too. Every song is a unique life, don’t be a bigot.

    I don’t mean to sound bombastic with some overwrought metaphor about life and music, but music is fucking awesome. It’s 4 AM and I’m psychotic on caffeine and amped from all the fist pumps I threw watching fireworks. I killed the lights to calm down, slid on my headphones and lost myself for a few hours. Actually, that’s not true, I found myself for a few hours. Nothing sustains focus like music. My greatest joy is when a song is allowed to be foreground noise: every high hat, every note, every hand clap, the lightly throbbing wurlitzer somewhere, all of it. The perfectly timed first syllable of a lyric and the breath that comes before it. It’s so undeniably real. It’s life. 

    The first musical memory I have is of my dad playing rhiannon on his new hi-fi. That modest-but-unstoppable guitar lick, the light cymbal roll right before the bass lumbers in, the keys tinkling in and out between the snares on every two, lindsey’s syncopated right thumb - and that’s just the first 14 seconds. It builds and brews like the witch it is and a perfectly suited voice sings a perfectly suited melody. Perfect. If you don’t like rhiannon, fuck you. It’s still real to me dammit, not because I understand anything stevie nicks is [ever] singing about, but because it tells me I have a past. The song was a time and place and it’s followed me to wherever I am each time I hear it. It’s a reminder that life has a past and a present. Put life in the foreground and focus, listen for things you’ve never heard, remember the things you’ve already learned. 

    I can’t think of anything else on earth that can release endorphins like a good song. Like shots of life racing through your veins. Ever hear a brand new song that you instantly love? Nothing in life is as pure and raw as that. When I hear a new song I love, I know I love it immediately. There is no deliberation. It’s no surprise that the most common subject of music is love; I know what love is because of music. A good song rips your heart out, punches you in the gut and induces a serene, knowing smile. A good woman will do the same. 

    Music is truth. Even when it’s sampled and sliced and mashed up and scratched and beat boxed and autotuned and thumped over a tired old house beat, it’s truth. Perhaps a relative truth, but truth nonetheless. We can’t hide from it: we love what we love and hate what we hate. The brain engages in no mental gymnastics to love or hate a song. Go ahead, try to give yourself every opportunity to love a song you hate because a friend wrote it or a respected musician recommended it. It doesn’t work, the ear wants what it wants. The ear remains objective and unbiased because it can only enjoy what is true to itself. What a beautiful gift that is: to know who we are because we can’t help but love what we love. Music hones that gift like nothing else and I have a duty to maintain it for as long as I live.

    Sounds good to me.

     


  5. Fine, I’ll Read Harry Potter

    I never read fiction. I read to learn and I’ve always felt the ROI on nonfiction was so much greater. Also, I find it hard (and a bit foolish) to immerse myself in imagined worlds intended to entertain children. Maybe I’m too distraught when good things come to end and so I don’t let myself warm up to fiction, but from what I gather, the HP series are remarkable works of imagination and narrative. There’s so much to learn there. How does that much creativity and coherence come out of one person? It’s staggering.

    Much has been written about Rowling, but my favorite part of her real life story is her date of birth (1965). She started writing the HP manuscript at age 30 and was published two years later. Creativity and genius are always associated with precocity, but the story doesn’t have to end there (Gladwell 2008). Brilliance can come at any age. This, more than anything, gives me hope.

    I dread aging. It feels so unfair. So far, life has been a series of improvements - in mind, body, tact, class, esteem, acumen, generosity, love, patience, wisdom… and while I could cultivate intangibles forever, the body eventually breaks down; taking passion and energy with it. Fires slowly dying, remember? This is where adversity comes in, something to light a fire under your ass. Rowling got it when she realized she was the biggest failure she knew - divorced and penniless, unable to support her child. Rock bottom seems a cruel ‘foundation for success,’ but so it goes.

    From what I saw in the final HP movie, there doesn’t appear to be a heavy handed theme of fate or destiny in the story. I love that. We have our guides, but the journey is up to us. There is no ‘meant to be,’ only what is. That feels like the type of story that would come from a woman unsure of coming success, ignorant to the mammoth role she’s about to play in history and culture. Harry Potter is many things, but the idea of Potential is most relevant to me. The HP story is about what might be and how one can get there despite both mundane and significant obstacles. One reads through 7 books because there seems to be no predetermined outcome, but Harry’s potential greatness looks like it might be just around the corner. The reader only knows as much as Harry knows and therefore can’t judge his decisions based on knowledge of future events. And it’s not just Harry either, the entire series; every character, every setting, every gimmick, is built on potential. What might happen if? And when “it” happens, “it” simply is. There are no judgments to be made. It happened and that’s the way it is now. Turn the page.

    Life imitates art imitating life. There is no causality dilemma (chicken or the egg?), life comes first. Art is born from life. Real life: pain, joy, failure, success, mediocrity, loss, fear, loneliness, love - art lives there. I’ve just gotta find it. No more judgments; simply live. Make decisions and run with it, if it looks like you may have fucked up, try running a different way. Just keep moving, that’s the key. Maybe we’re only in Year One at Hogwarts - there’s always next year. Just keep moving. Turn the page.

    All this without having read a single HP book. I’ve got a lot to learn, apparently.

     

  6.  


  7. 2:39 AM

    A career is not the dream, it’s a means to an end. What I do is not as important as who I do it with and how much money I make is secondary to why I’m making it this way. That’s where I am now and I’m learning to embrace the struggle. The first step is to understand that passion and income are not always correlated. That’s why they call it a day job - cuz the passion typically comes at night. I used to think this was immensely sad and I still do, but I’m starting to accept it. Greatness comes from limitations, not freedom. It’s the conflict and challenge of restrictions that spurs innovation and originality. The key is to live without fear. Fear of failure, fear of change and fear of judgment - the hulking barriers to living life. Don’t be so damned scared.

     


  8. Death and Praxis

    I think about death a lot. Not really about the fear of dying or what happens after we die, but my own death and what it would mean. I never think about how I might die and rarely do I think about when, but I do agonize over my funeral. Who shows up, what words are spoken, what music is played. God I hope they laugh a lot. I wish I could orchestrate it all - not so much because I love a good funeral, but because on some not-so-deep a level I think I’m obsessed with how I’ll be remembered. I’m deathly afraid of being reduced to a boring label or one lame aspect of my life. I don’t want to be caricatured. What a self-absorbed twat I am for thinking of these things. It probably explains why I’ll never actually achieve anything great in life - too busy wanting, not enough doing. 

    But anyway… 

    Prior to my eventual death, I’d like to be crystal clear about a few things that may not be so obvious:

    1. For all the hate I pretend to harbor, I really do love people. Especially the honest ones. I love people who stay true to themselves and loyal to their friends. I would die for any one of these people and moreover, I would kill for them. Nothing is more important or valuable than a true friend and I consider myself immensely wealthy here.
    2. Beef jerky is awesome and no matter how much of it I eat before I die, I wish I’d had more. 
    3. Of all the things I’ve wanted to do in life, the only non-diminishing dream I’ve ever had was to be a musician. It’s also my greatest source of fear and insecurity. This is both sad and disappointing, but perfectly normal for all of us living our lives at half-speed. Shame on us.
    4. Seriously, beef jerky in all flavors: peppered, sweet and spicy, teriyaki, some magical new brew that I haven’t even experienced yet, they’re all so awesome. Wherever I’m going next, I hope they have beef jerky. 
    5. I’m not lazy; I’m just uninspired most of the time. Life is easy, living is hard.
    6. Trust me on the whole beef jerky thing, I’ve had other jerkys: deer, salmon, turkey, they’re not the same. There’s something about the texture and consistency of beef jerky that makes it far better than other jerkys. It’s an unparalleled chewing experience. My favorite part is how shards get stuck between your molars sometimes and the flavors kinda implant themselves into your mouth, kind of like an exclusive after-party just for the taste buds on the tip of your tongue.

    Glad we’ve cleared that up.     

     


  9. My Beef with Beef

    I’ve had a nagging prick of conscience lately about eating meat. The more time I spend with my dog the harder it is for me to justify killing any sentient animal just so I can eat it with french fries. My dog has thoughts. Like, real thoughts, beyond the instincts of eating and shitting and sleeping. He calculates and plans. He has empathy. He carries a spectrum of ‘feelings’ from joy to depression. He knows he’s alive. In principle, there is no difference between my bulldog, a cow, a chicken or a pig. I simply view one as my flesh and blood child and the others simply as flesh and blood - this definitely doesn’t sit right in my mind.

    The culture of meat in this country is overwhelming (and delicious). There are too many disgusting accounts of the meat and poultry industries and it makes me gag to think about it. But I think I have a deeper problem than ‘how’ the animals are raised and slaughtered, it’s the ‘why’ that keeps nagging at me. I believe in the food chain, the harvest, hunting and gathering and pigs on spits at luaus. I understand the evolutionary importance of our ability to kill for sustenance, but it still feels wrong to raise an animal just so I can eat it later. It just doesn’t seem right. But then again, this whole concept of “right and wrong” doesn’t exist in nature. If we’re all just animals we can go and hunt and slaughter whatever the hell we want. Nature truly doesn’t give a fuck. The great irony here is that my dog only eats food made from organic, farm-raised Canadian salmon. So make of that what you will.

    When it comes down to it, meat is an addiction. I know in my mind that I disagree with it, but I do it anyway. I’m addicted. I mean, really, what am I gonna do? Eat a tofu burger on Independence Day? Never. Well, maybe. One day. Don’t hold me to it. Probably not. Forget I said anything. And don’t tell my wife. But really, I don’t know what to do. Try the weekday vegetarian thing? Only eat organic, humanely raised, grass-fed animals? Only eat non-sentient animals like fish and shrimp? Just never eat anything good and die? God I could go for some fried chicken right now. 

    I try to stay away from ranting vegans and zealot eco-freaks on issues like this, so I started reading Melanie Joy’s book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. Seriously, social psychology can explain everything in 3 minutes (sociology majors unite!). 

    Also, read a great interview with the author in Good Magazine:

    "When you’re born into this dominant, carnistic culture, you inevitably absorb the system’s logic as your own. In other words, we learn to see the world through the lens of carnism. Carnism conditions us to disconnect psychologically and emotionally from the truth of our experience when we eat meat (and other animal products). It allows us to disconnect the meat on our plate from the living being it once was. When people sit down to a plate of beef stew, they’re not thinking about the cow that it came from. They’re not saying, "I’m eating a dead animal." They’re saying, "I’m eating food," and therefore they’re feeling no disgust. However, if that same person were fed a guinea pig or swan, they would likely not be able to help but envision a living being, and feel repulsed eating that animal."

    And yes, I recognize the flip-flop I’m doing here considering things I’ve written in the past. That was fun to write and I love flip-flops.

     

  10. There are no words to express my anger when I see stuff like this. It’s just so… how can you… what the hell is he… what kind of evil, moronic, douchebag says… he’s speaking to young people… it’s just so… awful. 

     
     


  11. Urban Outfitters is Bullshit

    I won’t lie - I’m a big fan of Urban Outfitters, but that all ended today. Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People are all owned by a guy named Richard Hayne. The once liberal, almost-hippy, Hayne is now a conservative republican billionaire who has donated more than $13K to the likes of Senator, Rick Santorum (R) - the biggest dick of them all. The problem is not that Richard Hayne is a billionaire or a republican - I’d love to be the former someday, and I have plenty of love for the latter. But considering the progressive, anti-establishment image that Urban Outfitters projects, it’s fucked up that the brand belongs to a guy who couldn’t be more Establishment. He refuses to sell pro-same-sex marriage paraphernalia in his stores. What a prick.  

    I know things aren’t always black and white. I understand there are a thousand ethical dilemmas in a consumerist culture, but I hate manipulative marketing bullshit like this. If one were presented with a slew of UO print/tv ads, flipped through their summer catalog and browsed their retail stores, the words to describe UO would probably be something like: hip, cool, upbeat, progressive, unique, democratic, different, playful, urban (duh). This is a triumph of advertising. Those words were carefully chosen by a group of marketers and Richard Hayne. An entrepreneur saw a gap in the marketplace for kitsch and urban hippie wear and started a business. And when that same entrepreneur changed his personal political/social values, it was advertising that enabled him and his business to exist in conflict of one another. I think that’s wrong. 

    I think it’s wrong for a brand to project an image of itself that is not true to its core. UO most likely have some very young, very hip, very liberal buyers; the problem is, that ethos doesn’t flow down from the top. In fact, the opposite occurs: the progressive ethos is commandeered and exploited to turn a profit for a guy who actually lives and breathes the complete opposite lifestyle. It’s particularly lame for a company like UO which projects a very specific image of anti-establishment progressivism (albeit inside huge shopping malls). This isn’t like Victoria’s Secret being owned by a man or athletes shucking for junk fast food brands. UO intentionally markets itself as a series of adjectives that are implicitly social/political. In other words, UO looks like it has an opinion, but those advertised opinions are a far cry from the owner’s true values.  

    Everyone needs advertising, I know. Advertising is not inherently evil or misleading. But UO is a great example of cash trumping integrity. UO markets itself as being a part of the young, urban, hipster generation - a cadre of sundress girls and skinny jean boys who are nearly unanimous in their liberal social/political values. Richard Hayne is not one of them, and moreover, he does not support their values. This is wrong and advertising enables it. 

    At the end of the day, I’m being naive. Richard Hayne is entitled to own his business and to fill the voids he sees in the market. He’s opportunistic and I’m envious. And really, what else could he do? Dump his empire because his political views changed? Furthermore, UO makes a lot of people happy and fashionable and there are probably hundreds of other businesses whose advertising is in conflict with their ownership’s values. I get it, brands ≠ owners of the brand.

    I’m being naive, but I’m not wrong. Brands should reflect their owners’ values, or at the very least, not be in conflict with them. Why? Because people tend to believe what they see. People take advertising at its word*. Most of us don’t google business owners or check out manufacturing practices before purchasing. When we see a storefront that seems to reflect our ideals and values we trust that the money we spend there will go towards the same. It’s not enough that consumers have the freedom to choose what and where we buy: we can’t choose wisely when we’re being bombarded with only one side of the story. Sometimes it feels like we’re forced to hire muckrakers and whistleblowers to hear the rest of it. There’s money to be made in selling shit truthfully; it’s just a shame that the liars usually end up with more. 

    *this is why I love and hate advertising

     


  12. Quiet Thoughts on a Fiery Night

    Getting old is sad. There’s no other way to say it. We grow wiser, sure. We achieve some semblance of stability and security and love, but eventually, we pass that threshold where things are more likely to break down than look up. It’s not an emotion, this sadness. It’s more like I’m driving my shoulder into a mountain or a stone wall of truth and it’s slowly dawning on me that this is the new reality. Shit, I’m 28 I’m not even old yet. I’m not supposed to feel this way.

    It’s not just about the past either. Some have problems letting go, whether it’s a dream or a place or a person. Some haven’t grown or changed their state of mind enough to let the window to those glory days get foggy. For me, it’s the prospect of the future and the sense of wasted time. We all want a future that we build to, a landmark. But out of nowhere the future decides to settle right here, right where you are, and that’s when a man needs to take stock of what he’s built and decide if that’s enough. It almost never is - hence, the quarter- and mid-life crises. We suddenly feel the urge to build, to start piling shit onto our pathetic present. Maybe toss a porsche in there or a horse or a plastic brunette in a hotel room (or a lame ranting blog post). Whatever it is, it is impulsive and exhilarating. And like the the rush and rashness of youth, it is fleeting.

    Fleeting like hairlines and waistlines. Memory runs away too and so does learning. And maybe saddest of all, the fire. We are all just fires slowly dying. Cooled by comfort and smothered by fear. The more comfortable we are, the more we’re afraid of losing. The house, the job, the spouse, the kid, the dog: there’s always so much more to lose and even that’s sad in a way. Our bodies deterioriate and we can no longer build, there is no more future.

    My dad always tells me that each decade of his life was better than the last; that each passing year has offered a fun and fulfilling and meaningful life no matter how grim the outlook. I’m still terrified because I’m convinced that the time ahead could never be as a great as the time I’ve wasted. The mind and body can only be worse from here. The downward slope is debilitating.

    Suffice it to say: I am not satisfied. Life is fun. Life is easy. And the future arrived ahead of schedule because this was the path I built. I left out fulfillment and now there’s an overwhelming sense that it’s too late. This is stupid, I know. But this is why getting old is sad: it’s harder and harder to remind oneself that it’s not too late.

    I’m 28. I want to write. I want to create. I want to build. It’s not too late. The music is still going. Fuck you, future, you’re not here yet.

    I’ve still got time to build.

     

  13. This is Steve Jobs yesterday presenting at a City Council meeting in Cupertino, CA. You know in Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says, “Here’s the deal: I’m the best there is. Plain and simple. I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence”? Steve Jobs actually lives this way. He bends and twists the universe to fit his will and his only adversary is a world brimming with mediocrity. 

    There is integrity of Steve Jobs in everything Steve Jobs does here: the clothes, the unassuming entrance, the ease with which he speaks. But the real secret to his presence is in the pauses. Those perfectly timed moments of silence where it seems as though he has a thought which is so deep and profound and beautiful that he needs to figure out a way to dumb it down for the city council members of Cupertino and me. Steve-Synthesis. And in these pauses we wait with bated breath at what Steve will reveal, what anecdote will serve as the metaphor for his earth-shattering proposal. Sometimes it’s an MP3 player, sometimes it’s a goddamn building shaped like a spaceship that can hold 12,000 people.

    Nothing is ever pedestrian with Steve. Even the glass in his office building will be special - “there’s not a straight piece of glass in this building. It’s all curved.” And even the expertise to build such a geometrically sound spaceship office could only come from Steve and his exceptional group of Apple retail store architects. For Steve, everything that currently exists is “boring and we’d like to do it better.” And by ‘we’ he means Steve.

    There is, apparently, a way to rule with an iron fist as long as the fist gives the appearance of being casually humble. Everything is “pretty cool” with Steve. “We think [this amazing feat of modern architecture and engineering which will also be eco-friendly and beautiful to behold] is pretty cool.” He lets the idea sell itself and does the classic undersell at the end - that’s the real power move. If that were anyone else, it comes across as crass and manipulative, but with Steve, well, that’s just Steve pissing excellence.

    And for all his excellence and unbending will, Steve calls himself a simpleton. And in his back and forth with the council members, the phrase “best in the world” is always preceded by the casually humble disclaimer, “we have a shot at…” As if being the best in the world is by chance or some random opportunity. The new building ‘has a shot’ at being the best office building in the world because Steve will make it so. He will have the ground broken by the end of the year and his people will march inside by 2015. He’s a simpleton alright.

    With Steve, the plan is always simple: make it the best in the world. Why aren’t more people like this? Why aren’t we all like this? This is probably why Steve has a legions of fanboys and the rest of us don’t. We cling to those with a singular pursuit. Those who endeavor to the top. In Steve, we see what we’re supposed to be but fail to achieve because we’re too scared or too dumb or too unsimple. Maybe more than anything we lack the moxie. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to try to do/be/make the best in the world. And it takes even more to not let up when you get close. It’s not enough to just drink excellence, you’ve gotta piss it out too. Excellence has to be the only thing running through your veins. Excellence oozing out of pores and tear glands. 

    The video ends with Steve, simple Steve, being honest in his simple way. The sweaty palmed council member, in a classic bullshit politician move, clumsily gropes his iPad and asks Steve to remember to ‘give back to the community’ by way of building an Apple retail store in Cupertino, CA. It says a lot about a community when ‘giving back’ has nothing to do with serving soup to the homeless or donating shoes to orphans. Build an Apple Store in Cupertino? You have the attention of the world’s most influential figure in technology, the CEO of the Century, and you ask him to build you a goddamn store because the other two stores are 7 miles away? Why not ask him to help you unlock your iPad screen while you’re at it? In that moment is revealed the difference between Steve Jobs and rest of us: one is thinking in terms of ‘best in the world,’ while the other can’t leave an 8 mile radius of his house, even in his imagination. And still, Steve, in his cool, simple way answers honestly: “The problem with putting an Apple store in Cupertino is that there just isn’t the traffic. So I’m afraid it might not be successful. If we thought it’d be successful, we’d love to.”

    You’re right, Steve, there just isn’t the traffic.

    [now, if you’d like to read something that was actually well-written, see: Tom Junod on Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible

     
     


  14. My Beef with Vegetarians

    Originally published in The Compass Magazine, May 2008:

    My Beef with Vegetarians

    It’s a tough life being engaged to a Vegetarian. I never thought I’d be in such a situation – waiting for my fiancée to finish ordering her “Texas Roadhouse BBQ burger with extra Cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and ‘can you take out the meat and just put extra lettuce in, please?’” Potential 5-star meals drop to a measly 2-star affair when the main course protein is removed. It’s also a great feeling when the incredulous server at L.A.’s finest steakhouse looks at me in disbelief asking why I’d bring a nice vegetarian girl to a chophouse. To me, vegetarianism is a land of mashed potatoes, French fries, bread, soups and salads. Some call it Naturalist dining, others say it’s the true-Organic way; call it what you will, but there is nothing natural about soybean curd processed to look like a chicken nugget. It’s laughable the extent to which Veggie-meat manufacturers will go to produce artificial food that attempts to look, smell and taste like the real thing – at least it looks real. I suppose, “to each, his own” very readily applies to this topic, but this is not an essay on taste or preference.

    In this fascinating issue about vegetarianism I’d like to raise two simple questions and let the discussions rage:

    1) Why can’t vegetarians follow the rule of moderation with meat?

    “Well, because they are vegetarians.” Brilliant! It is my assertion that the “Vegetarian” title leads to a nonnegotiable state of living that unfairly rejects all things un-veggie. I may be a voracious carnivore, but even still, I am vegetarian for about 22-hours-a-day; I just happen to regularly break my vegetarianism (v-ism) around 12:00 and 6:00 PM everyday. Is that so wrong? The notion of all-or-nothing v-ism is a source of great curiosity to me. In life, what role do I truly embody all-day everyday? Other than being a faithful [future] spouse, I can’t think of much else. Job titles are a 9-5 affair, church roles are relegated to weekends, and sports team affiliations are a more of a mindset than a lifestyle. It seems some are bound to the title more than the principle of healthy living and I call them out: Shallow Vegetarians come forth. Many of the “Vegetarians” I know crave meat; I know this because they tell me. Does a rabbit crave buffalo wings? Do cows dream of eating brontosaurus? I guess we’ll never know the true heart and intention behind a creature’s eating habits. I used to wonder why my Vegetarian friends frequently crave Buffalo wings. Some have gone their entire lives without the taste of animal flesh on their tongues and yet, Wings and Kalbi are probably the most common breaking points for Vegetarian “backsliders.” Curious as to why? Because they are amazingly delicious - don’t feel guilty, feel good. Indulge once in a while and resume your v-ism after dinner, I’ll still tell everyone you’re vegetarian.

    2) Why do Vegetarians always feel the need to convert others to vegetarianism and why are they so excited when this happens?

    I followed the doctrine of all-or-nothing vegetarianism for about 6 months when I was in middle school after being convinced by several vegetarian role models (Vege-Roles) that meat was unhealthy and evil (they are no longer my role models for several reasons, the sum of which is their beliefs about meat). The elation that poured out of their hearts upon my decision to give my life to Vegetarianism is unparalleled to this day. Nobody has ever been happier or more excited for me than my Vege-Roles the day I ate my last cheeseburger. Ironically, I backslid on a cheeseburger six months later, and have been backsliding ever since – my heels are numb at this point. But the start of my vegetarianism was like entry into an exclusive club of like-minded people, each with fascinating stories. Some had been vegetarian since birth and raised in the life, others had given up a meat-lovers diet and sacrificed many a barbecue in the name of v-ism. Oddly enough, I found myself touting the benefits of vegetarianism to my friends too. I thought I felt lighter and cleaner, more alert even ( although I soon realized I was on edge due to my frequent cravings). Nonetheless, I did my best to convert others, only to give-in to the other side just a few months later. My breaking point came after meeting a vegan, she put my shallow vegetarianism a shame: “Eggs? You eat eggs?!”. A vegetarian can never win.

    It is ultimately a question of principle or preference? I lack the authority to cite our church’s well-publicized history with dietary laws and “the health message,” and so, once again, I find myself only able and willing to speak for myself. In my opinion, if I may speak on my behalf, meat is awesome.

    I can say with a degree of certainty that I will probably never be a 24/7/365 vegetarian. It’s a needlessly difficult lifestyle for me, and meat is much too awesome. Veggie-meat is gag-inducing for me at times when I think of the poor soybeans getting plucked from the ground and emulsified with wheat gluten to make “Sam’s Chik’N.” As long as I am a responsible consumer and eat based on healthy, balanced principles, isn’t that good enough?

    In any case, if I am what I eat, I’d rather be the real thing than a fake anyway.