The Beautiful Mind of a Composer

I went back through my history of posts on here to see whether or not I’d covered this thought before, and couldn’t find it leaping out at me; but even if I had, it’s worth another visit.

I don’t often get jealous. Or mad, really. There’s a whole range of emotions, and while, like, duh, I’ve experienced both, they just come up very rarely. Don’t get me wrong, I consider it a good thing, but it means that when it happens, it’s usually a bit more serious.

The jealousy I’m about to speak on runs kind of deep, and I only found out I had it a few months ago. If I may, I’d like to start at the beginning, about a year ago (and no, don’t let that frighten you, I’ll keep it brief).

I was helping a friend move, and while her boyfriend at the time and I took a truck load of furniture to the new house, he asked me what I do. I mentioned at the time that I’d just left my job and was trying to find my way as a freelance writer and fiction author. He gave a polite gasp of awe, said how cool that was, and how tough it can be to be a writer (preach, my brother); and remarked how he could never write stories.

What I’m about to tell you – you, right there – I know to be truth. It’s an undeniable part of the fabric of being that I feel in my bones that anyone and everyone has the capacity to be a storyteller, without exception. We are ourselves, each a living, breathing tale in the making; so how could it be anything but natural when the art form is a part of our being?
Do I appreciate his reverence for the craft? Absolutely. Does it take patience, perseverance, will, and a vulnerable, heartbreaking openness and respect to do properly? I believe so, yeah. And is it a practice that’s ever finished? No, I don’t think so.
But no matter the case, his reaction – while flattering – stuck with me beyond the compliment.

Skip ahead a number of months to my friend Micah’s graduation party. He’s graduated with a degree in (sorry Micah, I’m about to butcher the facts by guessing here) music theory with the intent to teach (which is confidently true, because he teaches now). The point being, he was a music student. Consider it as owing to my own conical viewpoint, but I asked him if he’d had any interest in composing his own music, and his answer surprised the crap out of me: he said “no.”

Let’s put a pin in that really quick.

If you’re nice to yourself and enjoy the good things in life, you’ve probably seen Ratatouille, the movie about a talking rat that wants to be a chef; if not, well…that’s…that’s what it’s about. It’s great. And in it, there’s a scene where the main character Remy is trying to teach his brother, another rat that scarfs garbage, an appreciation for flavors and the art of cooking.
He has him try a bit of strawberry, and a bit of cheese, then a bit of each together, all with his eyes closed and coaching him on how to savor it and ruminate on the experience. It’s visually represented with a black background and ribbons of color drawing themselves in the air as the different flavors are experienced. It’s well done.
(It’s also a good time to note here that, since seeing the movie, any time in the past twelve years I’ve eaten an exceptionally good meal, I do the same thing.)

By every fiber of the word, I’m an amateur writer. I’ve been blessed with a few paid successes here and there that I appreciate deeply, but it’s rooted in a love for story crafting. There are few pleasures above being brought a fantasy from the ether, honing the ability to capture that experience in words, and give it to someone else. A confession: that’s not really what gets done on here. This is fun, a routine-keeping tool (that I sometimes fail miserably at), and a place to vent, speculate, experiment with thoughts, and do exercises.
Most of the time, the root of a story comes from a thought, a real-world parallel, an ideal, a what-if, or…
…a piece of music.

A musical number will start, and like those ribbons of light in Remy’s brother’s head, a scene can start. It’s murky, like it’s being seen and heard, absent of context, through a window thick with frost. Then as you think on it, let it grow, allow the theater of mind to work, the ice thaws and it gets clearer and clearer, more and more refined, until you have a tale to share.

<removes earlier pin>

I have no idea at all, but I have tried so hard so many times to imagine the mind of a composer when an idea takes root. To put myself in that black space, floating in the void as the sounds come into being, layering on top of one another, an orchestra working in harmony. Imagining how they grow and morph, becoming the pieces of clockwork that produce flavor and emotion and memory and resonance, then to have the sense of responsibility settle on you that charges you with capturing it so it can be shared is all a process so beautiful tears well up thinking on it.

But I can’t.

My imagination in that regard begins and ends with that silent, empty blackness. No sounds bleed into being, no ribbons draw themselves in the air to inspire and awe.

And that shit is…just…heartbreaking, I find.

When Micah answered “no,” my immediate reaction (besides bewilderment) took it almost as a slap in the face of an art that I didn’t even share in; which might be weird, I admit now. Later, I asked my buddy Peter (a bassist and songwriter) what he thought of Micah’s answer, and he was nonplussed. Paraphrasing:

“Yeah, no surprise. Just because he has a masters in music doesn’t mean he knows how to compose, or likes doing it. Like, having a degree in philosophy doesn’t make you a philosopher. Knowing old philosophy doesn’t mean you’ll produce new ones, or that you’d want to.”

I took his word for it, and over time it’s come to make sense. Just because we watch movies, doesn’t mean we all want to be filmmakers, or if we enjoy murals downtown, doesn’t mean we necessarily want to take up painting.

So, I don’t know why this feels so different to me, but damn it does. You know that old, “If you could pick one superpower, what would it be and why?” Like, obviously telekinesis or teleportation is high on the list, but being tuned into whatever frequency lets you hear and craft orchestral pieces is a contender.

For now, I content myself with a vicarious imagination. Letting the ribbons draw themselves and dance while listening to the music that came to someone else. And really, it’s not too different from other arts. There isn’t anything to separate it from the eye of a photographer that sees the beauty in a captured moment, or the bones of a dancer that know the feel of a performance.

We’re all antennae for the arts, and that’s pretty cool.

Your Relation to the Infinite

I had a thought the other day that I’d like to share with you.
Yes. You. And the person to your right.
There isn’t anybody to your right? You wanna bet?
What about the guy behind you- BOO!

Okay, that got stupid.

But for real, I woke up the other morning and my first conscious thought was thus: “Hmm…I wonder how far it is, like, what’s the distance in vertical miles to outer space?”

I asked Amanda to look it up, and the answer is “roughly sixty-two miles” (62). I did a little bit more googling, and it turns out there’s a measurement called the Karman Line, which is the boundary from Earth’s sea level directly up 100 kilometers, where the planet’s boundary ends and suborbital space begins.

Ah…fascinating.

Then I had another thought.

I live in California, right? So I looked up the distance from me to Sacramento, the state’s capital. You know how far I am from the state’s capital of Sacramento, a place I’ve driven to and driven through plenty of times? About sixty-six miles (66).

What about Fresno?

Two hundred thirty-four miles (234).

Oh…my…God. Sacramento is further away than…hell, I’m FOUR TIMES closer to the dark, cold, IMPOSSIBLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE, INFINITE expanse of OUTER SPACE than Fresno, California.

Anyway, that realization about fits with 2020 so far. And it is my gift to you. Enjoy.

In My Own Bed Tonight”

What’s crack-a-lackin’?

I just remembered something that I wanted to share, and it’s cool because the reason it came to mind is that I used it just a short while ago. What “it” is, is advice I gave myself when I was about eight. And I know that sounds self-aggrandizing and lame to say – because it is, no doubt – but believe me when I say it’s worthwhile (as verified by…well…me…hang in there!).

The advice itself is best served, like any superhero or do-gooder, with an origin story:

I’m an eight-year-old little boy going to K-Mart with his mom. We were probably there because I’d just gotten out of school and she needed to grab some things for the house before taking us home. I, obviously, was there to scout Yu-Gi-Oh cards and other toys, but that’s beside the point.

The point is that while we were there, I got lost.

No biggy, it’s just a department store, but I was a kid. I was a kid and we’d just moved to California, which meant I didn’t really have any friends or neighbors I could hope to bump into. One minute I’m looking at Transformers, the next I realize I don’t know where mom is.

The panic starts to settle on me, the anxiety tickles my scalp with its pins and its needles.

I’ll never know what brought it on, but right as my chin is beginning to tremble, a thought dawns on me: “It’s alright, because tonight, I’m going to be asleep in my own bed.”

The relief came almost instantly. I went from lost in a city of strangers to temporarily inconvenienced while I looked for someone.

It’s taken me eighteen-or-so years since then for the full weight of that to fully take root, and even still, I’m not sure I have all of it, but: “Whatever is the problem now, it’s alright, because later is going to be different.”

There are versions of that thought all over: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.” –everybody (but specifically found John Lennon being quoted this time)

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I fully realize that not every problem can be set aside so easily as with this little mental trick. If a family member is in critical condition after a heart attack or something, just saying, “It’s alright, because tomorrow’s a new day” won’t alleviate the worry on its own (and it won’t solve shit).

But I’ve used this perspective so many times for similar issues (to getting lost, not the heart attack, though we’ll get to that). Lost in San Francisco at night because I can’t find the car? I’ll make it home eventually and this will all be a story for later. In a fight with a friend? Life finds a way to sort itself out one way or another? Driving during a dangerous storm? Keep focused, and you’ll be feeling the sheets soon enough. Just having a shitty day at work? Ride it out, and that cotton will feel even better for getting through it.

In a rut just with life in general? That will require work, probably lots of it. But those restful nights will be critical, and after enough effort, life will change in a much more colorful, flavorful, storied way.

So the next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation, it’s worthwhile to look ahead knowing there’s something on the other side of it.

Anyway, that’s my two cents.

#twopennies

Insanity isn’t What I Thought it Was

Sup everybody.

(Hmmm…word of warning up top: this one is a little heavy. I was going through some of my random files and found the following. It was deep into a really tough life event (about a year ago), and is basically a diary entry from then. I’m mostly putting it on here as…well, going on whim, really; but also in case it resonates with anyone. I’m going to omit some names, given the nature of the thing, but otherwise, it’s just something I sat down and typed out as the feelings arose. Anyway, consider yourself informed [sounds less dramatic than “warned,” and we’re trying to have fun here- well, not today, exactly, but just in general and you get what I- oh God, okay, onto the thing]).

I think I might be going insane.

It’s been about seven months since mom went to the hospital, and about that long since we first heard the word “dementia” as it relates to her. Since then, it’s been neurology visit after neurology visit, insurance call after insurance call, email after email with hospital management – everybody either not knowing what to do or trying to get rid of us.

I just woke up from the same nightmare, three times in the same night, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried for an hour.

In it, mom died, the bank wanted to take her house, [landlady] said she couldn’t keep me as a tenant, and nobody was around – Mandy, [uncle], [aunt], [cousin], [in-law], [in-law], [aunt], [Pierre], even city workers from the damned coroner’s office – absolutely nobody.

There were people, but no one I knew and no one who was willing to help.

I was utterly alone.

And I woke up feeling that way, thinking that way.

Mandy came to bed when I called and lie there, consoling me. I told her the voice in my head kept telling me that the dream was right, that no one would miss me if I was gone. She told me that I was loved and listed people who felt that way.

In the nightmare, though, that was just the thing. Nobody was around, nobody cared. And all the people who would love me…the feeling just didn’t go that far. Nightmares have always been that way: I need to run, I’m slow; I need to punch, I hit light as a feather; I need love, the most someone can feel towards me is casually like me.

It was a world where love towards me just didn’t exist.

Every name she gave, the voice found a way to tell me why that wasn’t true. (Except when she said “Jeremy”. Weirdly, the voice said “Yeah, I guess him, actually”.)

She told me that I was family, and that her family was mine too, that I needed to let go of this feeling that I’d be so easily abandoned. She gave [a sibling] as an example of how persevering her family was with troubles.

Again, the voice piped up and told me that that was different. [A sibling] is family by blood, it said. Of course they won’t abandon him, it continued, he’s a son and brother by blood – you, though…?

“Even marriage,” it said, “is different.”

It seems true for everyone else, I tried telling it.

“For them, yeah. But for you…?”

I went from crying to laughing into her chest and shoulder. And I’m not sure why. I think it was because I could see how crazy this all looked and sounded, and the laughing didn’t help but kept going anyway.

When we had to put Ferdinand (our cat) down a couple of years ago, it was the reminder of how harsh but sure a teacher experience can be – or rather, just is.

I stood in the bathroom and she brought me a glass of water and a hug. After she left, I swirled the water around and drank it. And I think I know why people prefer the burn of whiskey or scotch in moments like that, like in the movies.

I’m starting to wonder when people describe voices in their head, whether they mean actually hearing someone speaking to them inside their head or if it’s impulses or thoughts that just don’t sound like what they’d usually think to themselves. Foreign ideas and concepts that feel like invaders.

Because this voice was fully the latter.

But boy it was convincing. And I think that’s because it sounds like I’m talking to myself, telling myself things. But it still sounds like a voice that’s not mine.

So I’m starting to think that’s what insanity is. It may not just be a sudden crack into mad raving, but soft touches like this, a voice that tells your low worth, how easily you’ll be forgotten, and that if you confide this in anyone, that gives them power over you and they might use it just for fun, because they know they have it now.

The more I woke up, though, the quieter the voice got – which isn’t really a super sign in and of itself. You shouldn’t be afraid of sleep, afraid of whatever-this-is waiting for you when you’re tired. But as I woke up, another voice spoke up that told the first to shut the fuck up.

It told me that I’m not the only who gets like this, and I believe that.

Which is both comforting and kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want the people around me to wake up crying and then cackle about it, and to have that be something normal.

But se la vie.

Which is what the voice said next. “That’s part of the human experience, baby. Learn to love it. Happiness, anger, thrill, depression – they’re all in the same basket.”

It didn’t say the parts past “baby”, but I know it’s what it meant.

While I was crying into Mandy’s shoulder, I told her something. Something very true that I don’t think I’ve told anyone – even myself.

I’m afraid of dying alone.

Not “dying while single” or “dying and not being in a relationship” or even “dying with nobody around at that particular moment” even though they’re all definitely true.

I’m scared (ironically to death) of dying and nobody caring.

Then my team of mental coaches – Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Kratos – ganged up and beat up the voice in a cartoon dust cloud.

And I’ve been pretty optimistic and comfortable in my skin since.

Also, because I think I learned something.

When I was a kid, I thought going crazy was scary, but maybe a little fun. I thought you’d get used to seeing people that weren’t there or hearing voices no one spoke and you could just make it a fun new world view.

But I think insanity’s a little softer than that and a LOT more intimate.

We’re all a little bit insane.

Or at least part of me hopes so.

Brute Force and Ignorance, a Formula for Life

I stumbled across an old picture of my uncle Barry the other day. He passed away about ten years ago, but he was so warm and larger than life, it’s amazing how just a glance at an old photograph brings back memories that were the same. He died of pancreatic cancer, but it doesn’t define his memory, if that makes sense.

We were in the hospital with him one day when he was having his chemotherapy done, and while you’d think the impressions that would last longest would be the intangibles – the sterile odor of the halls, the somber atmosphere, the sad attempts at making light – but they weren’t. The first thing I think of is a picture he had me take with my phone of him using one of those long, blue, plastic vomit bags propped up on his lap, inflated, to look like a big dick. (He dubbed them elephant condoms.) I left that day reeling from how fearless and strong he was. Tired, obviously, but undaunted amid a battle with cancer. And it only just occurred to me now, a decade later, that he might have been scared. That after we left and the door closed behind us, maybe he let out a sigh, or cried, or had to go back to wrestling with being scared, or whatever else.

He put on such a strong, happy, joking face, it’s been ten years without realizing there may have been more to it…

Hmm…pretty incredible.

He was this big Jewish guy. Salt-and-pepper beard, big glasses, bigger, round belly, and a deep, breathy laugh that filled whatever space he was in (even outdoors). He had such a powerful charisma that was just at home toasting a room crowded with friends and family as it was holding a conversation with you as though you and he were the only ones that existed in that moment.

I could ramble for hours on all of his beautiful qualities, but I won’t hold you here for the day and a half that would take. Rather, there was one nugget of wisdom he offered when I was ten, just after he’d helped my mom find the house that became my childhood home. My dad had passed away the previous year, and Barry was gifting me a little gray toolbox, saying something to the effect of: “You’re man-of-the-house now, kid. And this is a pretty good place, but you gotta help your mom take care of it, alright? Here, take this. Every man needs a good set of tools. Every man.”

“Now,” he continued, “there’s something else to go with it, and that’s some advice. With it, and with these tools, there ain’t no problem that comes up you can’t tackle, alright? Just remember: ‘Brute force and ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.'”

The hilarious thing? He was right.

We all have a tendency to overthink, from time to time. We get into a problem, get into a jam, then get too far inside our own heads. It’s kind of like earthbending, for my fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender nerds out there, in so much that sometimes there IS no special trick or angle to getting through something. Sometimes what you need is just a goal and some good old-fashioned hardheadedness. In that, we set both Brute Force and Ignorance to High.

Other times, we might need a different approach, say approaching a personal matter with a friend. In those times, you need to be direct, blunt, firm, but selective. That’s keeping Brute Force high, but utilizing Ignorance a bit less.

Overthinking an itinerary or what should be a simple day to the beach? No real call for Brute Force, there, but crank Ignorance up so you can just fucking go where the wind takes you, rather than getting so caught up in details that do. Not. Matter.

The ratios and applications are as endless as life’s problems, but whatever the case, the formula holds true: “Brute Force and Ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.”

It’s also an excellent tool for keeping your head up and staying the course. Stuck on something? Multiple attempts failing one after the other? You KNOW all you have to do is adjust the formula and keep cranking.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. I hope this is something you can and will take with you. I think I have a resting place to go visit.

Go in peace, go in love, y’all.

Later.

A Different Look at Optimists II

(It’s a re-post, on account of being busy. Sorry + Thanks for being you!)

To start off, I hate it when people behave like ultra pessimists and respond to accusations of being such by saying, “I’m not a pessimist (bro), I’m just a realist.”

Translated, that says, “I’m totally not being a whiny b-hole (bro), I just see things the way they really are because I’m hype and in-tune n’ shit.”

See how goofy it sounds when clarified?

It’s the same lazy route people take when they fancy themselves a sophisticated critic when all they do is harsh on whatever the subject matter is. It doesn’t make you all high-brow, insightful, or point to a delicate taste when nothing pleases you, it’s lazy. L-A-Z-Y, lazy. Criticism is a dissection, a surgical breakdown and analysis of what you were presented with followed by feedback on what elicited responses from you in positive and negative ways. It’s not just being hard-headed.

It
grapes my nuts
chives my spuds
grinds my gears
gets my goat so badly because it takes no effort whatsoever to not see the good in things. It’s so easy to look at a situation and see why it sucks or how it could suck. Armchair anthropologists/psychologists will tell you it’s a primal rooting in our brains to see, seek out, and guard against the negative. So of course it’s easy, it’s natural.

You know what isn’t easy?

Being an optimist.

And trust me, this isn’t a boo-hoo on behalf of optimists. We have it pretty good always seeing some kind of benefit or path to success in grimy situations. What I am saying about it, is that it’s exhausting.

And not in a day-to-day sense, necessarily. But it seems to be an undeniable fact of adult life that things get pretty shitty sometimes (also natural, as armchair sociologists would have it).

We fall into ruts. We run up against walls. We lose traction. Time to time we just zig when we ought to have zagged, and Boom! — life problem.

THAT is where being an optimist is goddamn exhausting. (And that’s a little different from having a spirit to persevere, but we’ll get to that in a second.) Because especially if one is an optimist by nature while thing after thing in our life explodes or crumbles around us, the part of our brain that makes us shitty gamblers takes over: “It’s okay,” says The Brain, “this next thing we try will be the one that works out,” or, “Nope, it’s fine. It’s this next thing that will be what works.” So on and so forth.

You lose your job and you set up three interviews at new places of work. The first two totally bomb and don’t call you back, and while you’re thinking, “it’s okay, this next one is the one that works,” your car breaks down. “It’s okay,” say Brain again, “we’ll just take the bus.” And so you take the bus to your third interview, but you get sick the night before and mugged as you step off the bus. “It’s okay,” Brian pipes up once more, “at least we’ll have a new job to help us with our car soon.” Meanwhile, you make it to your third interview, and it turns out the interviewer is racist or something – boom – rejected immediately. And your phone’s battery died, so you can’t Uber home and have to walk instead.

“It’s okay,” whispers Brain. “In a few years, you’ll be able to look back on this as one hell of a chapter in your life.”

Even those points where you’ve been knocked down, picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, only to see your efforts fail and get knocked down again, and repeated that process dozens of times with only minor, scattered successes…

…it can leave you feeling really trapped to know that come morning, after a night’s sleep, you’ll be back to telling yourself that it’s this next effort that will break through.

It’s dancing on the line of delusion, battling – almost secretly – with this inner question of whether or not you should cut your losses because this is a vain effort, but knowing your habit is going to keep the cycle going anyway.

This isn’t to speak on those who’ve fallen into a dark place and need help to climb back out. Having a spirit that perseveres is hard for everyone. And I guess that’s my point here, really. Times get difficult for everyone (and if they don’t for you, either congratu-fuckin’-lations, or re-examine what you get up to, because you’re a liar and/or it’s probably boring and unremarkable).

My point at the end of it all with how it regards optimism, I suppose, is that just because a happy face and strong spirit are at the front of it doesn’t somehow magically erase the struggle. It’s difficult emotionally loading up each new effort, sure that “this is the one,” then watching it fail, and trying to convince yourself you aren’t delusional when you do it again because giving up just feels icky.

Not trying to change anyone’s mind or “spread enlightenment,” really; but cool if it happens.

Anyhow, peace y’all.

A Different Look at Optimists

To start off, I hate it when people behave like ultra pessimists and respond to accusations of being such by saying, “I’m not a pessimist (bro), I’m just a realist.”

Translated, that says, “I’m totally not being a whiny b-hole (bro), I just see things the way they really are because I’m hype and in-tune n’ shit.”

See how goofy it sounds when clarified?

It’s the same lazy route people take when they fancy themselves a sophisticated critic when all they do is harsh on whatever the subject matter is. It doesn’t make you all high-brow, insightful, or point to a delicate taste when nothing pleases you, it’s lazy. L-A-Z-Y, lazy. Criticism is a dissection, a surgical breakdown and analysis of what you were presented with followed by feedback on what elicited responses from you in positive and negative ways. It’s not just being hard-headed.

It
grapes my nuts
chives my spuds
grinds my gears
gets my goat so badly because it takes no effort whatsoever to not see the good in things. It’s so easy to look at a situation and see why it sucks or how it could suck. Armchair anthropologists/psychologists will tell you it’s a primal rooting in our brains to see, seek out, and guard against the negative. So of course it’s easy, it’s natural.

You know what isn’t easy?

Being an optimist.

And trust me, this isn’t a boo-hoo on behalf of optimists. We have it pretty good always seeing some kind of benefit or path to success in grimy situations. What I am saying about it, is that it’s exhausting.

And not in a day-to-day sense, necessarily. But it seems to be an undeniable fact of adult life that things get pretty shitty sometimes (also natural, as armchair sociologists would have it).

We fall into ruts. We run up against walls. We lose traction. Time to time we just zig when we ought to have zagged, and Boom! — life problem.

THAT is where being an optimist is goddamn exhausting. (And that’s a little different from having a spirit to persevere, but we’ll get to that in a second.) Because especially if one is an optimist by nature while thing after thing in our life explodes or crumbles around us, the part of our brain that makes us shitty gamblers takes over: “It’s okay,” says The Brain, “this next thing we try will be the one that works out,” or, “Nope, it’s fine. It’s this next thing that will be what works.” So on and so forth.

You lose your job and you set up three interviews at new places of work. The first two totally bomb and don’t call you back, and while you’re thinking, “it’s okay, this next one is the one that works,” your car breaks down. “It’s okay,” say Brain again, “we’ll just take the bus.” And so you take the bus to your third interview, but you get sick the night before and mugged as you step off the bus. “It’s okay,” Brian pipes up once more, “at least we’ll have a new job to help us with our car soon.” Meanwhile, you make it to your third interview, and it turns out the interviewer is racist or something – boom – rejected immediately. And your phone’s battery died, so you can’t Uber home and have to walk instead.

“It’s okay,” whispers Brain. “In a few years, you’ll be able to look back on this as one hell of a chapter in your life.”

Even those points where you’ve been knocked down, picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, only to see your efforts fail and get knocked down again, and repeated that process dozens of times with only minor, scattered successes…

…it can leave you feeling really trapped to know that come morning, after a night’s sleep, you’ll be back to telling yourself that it’s this next effort that will break through.

It’s dancing on the line of delusion, battling – almost secretly – with this inner question of whether or not you should cut your losses because this is a vain effort, but knowing your habit is going to keep the cycle going anyway.

This isn’t to speak on those who’ve fallen into a dark place and need help to climb back out. Having a spirit that perseveres is hard for everyone. And I guess that’s my point here, really. Times get difficult for everyone (and if they don’t for you, either congratu-fuckin’-lations, or re-examine what you get up to, because you’re a liar and/or it’s probably boring and unremarkable).

My point at the end of it all with how it regards optimism, I suppose, is that just because a happy face and strong spirit are at the front of it doesn’t somehow magically erase the struggle. It’s difficult emotionally loading up each new effort, sure that “this is the one,” then watching it fail, and trying to convince yourself you aren’t delusional when you do it again because giving up just feels icky.

Not trying to change anyone’s mind or “spread enlightenment,” really; but cool if it happens.

Anyhow, peace y’all.

“Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

(Hey-o. Little re-post here, for those that missed the action.)

If the title reeled you in, there’s a 50% chance that we’re kin – in the same tribe of mindset, reverence for the world of the Continent, Northern Kingdoms, and Nilfgaardian Empire, and someone with the time to read a seven-book series (eight, if you also went through Season of Storms, but that’s more for funsies anyway) not affiliated with a magical boy named after a fuzzy plant-keeper.

That said, that means there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to stop reading after the next two sentences, because you’ve had enough “the books were better blah blah bibbity blah” talk in your life. And that’s okay.

But I’m finally finding myself on the other side of that line.

For all the ignorance this statement may thickly paint me with: I made it through Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings all on the movies or episodes alone. I, like many of you (probably) endured the same, “Ah, but the books were better!” talk, and like many of you (probably; I include you so I don’t die on this hill totally alone), gave it the same, “Ah, let it go! They did what they had to for an adaptation!”

But…this time, I can’t.

I played The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (twice, actually; 100% completion both times, and rp-walked the whole time like some sicko) when it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, heard it was a series of books, and voraciously tore through them twice. Two collections of short stories, a standalone novel, and a saga of five more. Their spines are lovingly bent, pages affectionately coffee-stained. And in the case of a house fire, they’re on my short list of “will suffer major burns to retrieve” possessions.

So when Netflix announced a Witcher television series, I was cautiously optimistic suuuuper guarded. And when it came out and everybody started raving about how it was the greatest thing since soy sauce on mashed potatoes (not a widely popular thing, but a friend of mine turned me onto it eight years ago, and I’ve NEVER looked back; gravy can suck it on a 8-hour shift – soy sauce is where it’s at), I was worried.

What if it’s nothing like the books, and so everyone’s falling in love with a false prophet?

What if, worse, it takes direct inspiration and then turns it, further lying to the people??

What??? Andrezej Sapkowski saw the first two episodes and LOVED it? But he a CD Projekt Red had such issues. What could that mean???

So I watched the first episode, and I’ve never been more distracted in my life. Remember way back when we went over the Art of Being an Audience? Well, I sure-as-shit did not practice what I preached. But, it’s not a live performance, so I give myself some leeway.

The entire time, I wasn’t in the story, but floating above it. Watching an adaptation of a story I know so intimately (as much as is humanly possible, given how complex and long it is), every scene I was just distracted by being able to see the scissor marks and tape-job that they’d done with the original story.

For the uninitiated, the world of the Witcher is shared through two collections of short stories that serve both to offer little one-off, character-building adventures as well as do some world-building and establish canonical history for the groundwork/foundation of the five novels, which tell the story.

And so, knowing that, I couldn’t help but fixate on every stitch I saw on what was essentially The Blood of Elves (the first book) interlaced with stories out of The Last Wish (the first the short story collections), plus the new characters the show fabricated all on its own.

That, and – without even getting to the disservice done to the dryads of Brokilon – the stories they did take from The Last Wish were super diluted compared to their literary counterparts. Stregobor’s reveal had more impact than just turning the townspeople on a mutant. The adventure in Dol Blathanna hinted at the elves’ history with humans in a much shallower way than original tale. And Pavetta and Duny’s wedding ceremony was super turned into a comedy of coincidences with a forced fight scene rather than a cunning orchestration devised by Calanthe. Don’t like Dara, don’t like what they did with Foltest, and don’t know what-the-fuck was up with that psycho-doppler “we like children best” ass-hat. Aaaaaaaaaugh-

Phew.

Now…that’s enough of The Bad. We’ll say that the Dryads of Brokilon stuff was The Ugly all unto themselves. But, The Good…?

Dude, even in this super distracted first viewing of the season, even I couldn’t help but love the music. That, they nailed without question. Plus, I loved coming in on the joke that was all the buzz surrounding “Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

For all the shit I could scrounge up for the Blavikin story, that fight scene made my nipples hard.

And for the wedding stuff with Pavetta, for the crap I could give that part of the adaptation, that fight also hardened these- okay, enough with nipples. It was good. Very good.

Some of the references were taken straight off the page. Like when Geralt’s fist-fighting with Torque in the field, that whole “I’m a sylvan! | You’re a dick!” conversation is basically verbatim, and I love it!

Also, the show captures the sense of humor found in the books and games with unreal accuracy. It’s that dark humor, sort of dry-and-sardonic flavor of giggles that serve to remind you that, while it’s telling a bit of a gritty/gory tale, we’re here to have fun. The humor is the wink to let you know that we’re enjoying this together and to not be too serious with it.

I wanted a more faithful recreation of Villentretenmerth, but every second he was on screen being a telepathic golden dragon was a goddamn treasure.

While they could have done better with the Foltest storyline, that striga was so phenomenally well-made and deliiiiciously creepy! Oh. My. God.

And, not least of all by any means, Henry Cavill is…he’s just…he’s such a darling. I heard from friends and saw in interviews that he played the games, devoured the books, and was a super-fan in his own right, and Jesus Christ does that ever show in his performance. He captures Geralt’s angsty curmudgeon attitude so well, especially since he himself is such a charismatic and seemingly-cheerful man. He plays the annoyance true to character, and has perfect comedic timing whenever he delivers his classic:

*sigh*
“…fuck.”

One of the best services my experience was done with regards to the show was actually a comment by my buddy Chris. He said that it has the feel of a passion-project. Sort of like one of those old Sci-Fi channel productions that didn’t have the biggest budget, but made up for it with heart and authenticity.

That…was absolutely true. And it’s what carried me through seeing it the first time. Because whenever I got distracted by a “What the-?”, “Who the fu-?”, or “Why the fu-?” question when the show deviated from or adapted the lore, that un-quantifiable feeling kept bringing me back to it. I kept feeling like I was watching a production made by and starring people who were as big of fans of the original works as I was – and THAT made me feel like we were all in it together.

So, I played my part as an appreciative viewer.

‘Kay. That’s not entirely true. It took about six total hours of raving conversations with friends and now an overly-long, ranty, raving blog post to get it out of my system.

Changes have to be made to suit the medium. Liberties have to be taken. Taken straight as it is from the page, the show either wouldn’t work, or would be 1,000,000,000 hours long and cost the GDP of Canada (1.653 trillion USD as of 2017, for those wondering). Eventually, I re-watched the first episode.

The verdict? How had the opinion changed with a less distracted and more forgiving, compromising Evan…?

Well, I cried twice in tender joy, so I guess we could call that a good thing.

All in all, if the show brings a wider audience to appreciate the world so many of us have already come to love, the better.

Also, word on the street is that Sapkowski and CD Projekt Red have kissed and made up, so we’ll call that our story book happy ending. And if the show was in any way a part of that, all the more reason to love it.

Live. Love. Accept change. All rather than being an obstinate butthole about it like I was.

Hasta, y’all.

Oh Valley o’ Plenty! OooOOOOooh!

If the title reeled you in, there’s a 50% chance that we’re kin – in the same tribe of mindset, reverence for the world of the Continent, Northern Kingdoms, and Nilfgaardian Empire, and someone with the time to read a seven-book series (eight, if you also went through Season of Storms, but that’s more for funsies anyway) not affiliated with a magical boy named after a fuzzy plant-keeper.

That said, that means there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to stop reading after the next two sentences, because you’ve had enough “the books were better blah blah bibbity blah” talk in your life. And that’s okay.

But I’m finally finding myself on the other side of that line.

For all the ignorance this statement may thickly paint me with: I made it through Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings all on the movies or episodes alone. I, like many of you (probably) endured the same, “Ah, but the books were better!” talk, and like many of you (probably; I include you so I don’t die on this hill totally alone), gave it the same, “Ah, let it go! They did what they had to for an adaptation!”

But…this time, I can’t.

I played The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (twice, actually; 100% completion both times, and rp-walked the whole time like some sicko) when it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, heard it was a series of books, and voraciously tore through them twice. Two collections of short stories, a standalone novel, and a saga of five more. Their spines are lovingly bent, pages affectionately coffee-stained. And in the case of a house fire, they’re on my short list of “will suffer major burns to retrieve” possessions.

So when Netflix announced a Witcher television series, I was cautiously optimistic suuuuper guarded. And when it came out and everybody started raving about how it was the greatest thing since soy sauce on mashed potatoes (not a widely popular thing, but a friend of mine turned me onto it eight years ago, and I’ve NEVER looked back; gravy can suck it on a 8-hour shift – soy sauce is where it’s at), I was worried.

What if it’s nothing like the books, and so everyone’s falling in love with a false prophet?

What if, worse, it takes direct inspiration and then turns it, further lying to the people??

What??? Andrezej Sapkowski saw the first two episodes and LOVED it? But he a CD Projekt Red had such issues. What could that mean???

So I watched the first episode, and I’ve never been more distracted in my life. Remember way back when we went over the Art of Being an Audience? Well, I sure-as-shit did not practice what I preached. But, it’s not a live performance, so I give myself some leeway.

The entire time, I wasn’t in the story, but floating above it. Watching an adaptation of a story I know so intimately (as much as is humanly possible, given how complex and long it is), every scene I was just distracted by being able to see the scissor marks and tape-job that they’d done with the original story.

For the uninitiated, the world of the Witcher is shared through two collections of short stories that serve both to offer little one-off, character-building adventures as well as do some world-building and establish canonical history for the groundwork/foundation of the five novels, which tell the story.

And so, knowing that, I couldn’t help but fixate on every stitch I saw on what was essentially The Blood of Elves (the first book) interlaced with stories out of The Last Wish (the first the short story collections), plus the new characters the show fabricated all on its own.

That, and – without even getting to the disservice done to the dryads of Brokilon – the stories they did take from The Last Wish were super diluted compared to their literary counterparts. Stregobor’s reveal had more impact than just turning the townspeople on a mutant. The adventure in Dol Blathanna hinted at the elves’ history with humans in a much shallower way than original tale. And Pavetta and Duny’s wedding ceremony was super turned into a comedy of coincidences with a forced fight scene rather than a cunning orchestration devised by Calanthe. Don’t like Dara, don’t like what they did with Foltest, and don’t know what-the-fuck was up with that psycho-doppler “we like children best” ass-hat. Aaaaaaaaaugh-

Phew.

Now…that’s enough of The Bad. We’ll say that the Dryads of Brokilon stuff was The Ugly all unto themselves. But, The Good…?

Dude, even in this super distracted first viewing of the season, even I couldn’t help but love the music. That, they nailed without question. Plus, I loved coming in on the joke that was all the buzz surrounding “Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

For all the shit I could scrounge up for the Blavikin story, that fight scene made my nipples hard.

And for the wedding stuff with Pavetta, for the crap I could give that part of the adaptation, that fight also hardened these- okay, enough with nipples. It was good. Very good.

Some of the references were taken straight off the page. Like when Geralt’s fist-fighting with Torque in the field, that whole “I’m a sylvan! | You’re a dick!” conversation is basically verbatim, and I love it!

Also, the show captures the sense of humor found in the books and games with unreal accuracy. It’s that dark humor, sort of dry-and-sardonic flavor of giggles that serve to remind you that, while it’s telling a bit of a gritty/gory tale, we’re here to have fun. The humor is the wink to let you know that we’re enjoying this together and to not be too serious with it.

I wanted a more faithful recreation of Villentretenmerth, but every second he was on screen being a telepathic golden dragon was a goddamn treasure.

While they could have done better with the Foltest storyline, that striga was so phenomenally well-made and deliiiiciously creepy! Oh. My. God.

And, not least of all by any means, Henry Cavill is…he’s just…he’s such a darling. I heard from friends and saw in interviews that he played the games, devoured the books, and was a super-fan in his own right, and Jesus Christ does that ever show in his performance. He captures Geralt’s angsty curmudgeon attitude so well, especially since he himself is such a charismatic and seemingly-cheerful man. He plays the annoyance true to character, and has perfect comedic timing whenever he delivers his classic:

*sigh*
“…fuck.”

One of the best services my experience was done with regards to the show was actually a comment by my buddy Chris. He said that it has the feel of a passion-project. Sort of like one of those old Sci-Fi channel productions that didn’t have the biggest budget, but made up for it with heart and authenticity.

That…was absolutely true. And it’s what carried me through seeing it the first time. Because whenever I got distracted by a “What the-?”, “Who the fu-?”, or “Why the fu-?” question when the show deviated from or adapted the lore, that un-quantifiable feeling kept bringing me back to it. I kept feeling like I was watching a production made by and starring people who were as big of fans of the original works as I was – and THAT made me feel like we were all in it together.

So, I played my part as an appreciative viewer.

‘Kay. That’s not entirely true. It took about six total hours of raving conversations with friends and now an overly-long, ranty, raving blog post to get it out of my system.

Changes have to be made to suit the medium. Liberties have to be taken. Taken straight as it is from the page, the show either wouldn’t work, or would be 1,000,000,000 hours long and cost the GDP of Canada (1.653 trillion USD as of 2017, for those wondering). Eventually, I re-watched the first episode.

The verdict? How had the opinion changed with a less distracted and more forgiving, compromising Evan…?

Well, I cried twice in tender joy, so I guess we could call that a good thing.

All in all, if the show brings a wider audience to appreciate the world so many of us have already come to love, the better.

Also, word on the street is that Sapkowski and CD Projekt Red have kissed and made up, so we’ll call that our story book happy ending. And if the show was in any way a part of that, all the more reason to love it.

Live. Love. Accept change. All rather than being an obstinate butthole about it like I was.

Hasta, y’all.

Walking in a Dreamscape

Think just how vast the ocean is.

If you have a fear of heights, you should have a fear of open water. Deep blue and dark, though it might be, bobbing there on the surface, you’re hundreds and thousands of feet above land of any kind. The amount of odds, ends, and creatures between you and the ground aside, all that open space is enough to lurch the stomach into the throat.

So when we’re bobbing there, out on open water, surrounded by nothing but the horizon on all sides how is that the primary thought: the emptiness that’s holding us aloft to the open air. The chilling cold of the water can constrict our chest and make us forget for a moment that we’re floating, suspended in an unending space, but the thought is always there.

And what’s below us? Do we dare a glance? Maybe see the leviathan’s maw in the moments before they snap closed over us?

But instead, are we just reminded of the empty vastness that stems below us, too?

We break the surface again, as a fin – at first like a shark’s – does the same. We watch it rise, except, when we expect it to crest and dive again, maybe it keeps rising.

And growing.

There’s no titanic splash. No seismic, rumbling growl from the earth as it continues to grow massive and crawl skyward. It just cleanly slices the water until it’s risen a mile over us, flaunting its size as a reminder of how small we are.

How far does it span? Does it stand as a monolith in the water? Does it span the horizon in its entirety? Or does it encircle us?

How about we see the edge, but its tail runs the curve of what we can see. We dip our head under water, to see its bottom purchase on the sea floor.

But what if we can’t?

Not because it’s too dark to see the bottom, but because the fin doesn’t have one, as though it doesn’t exist below the waves? And once that’s the case, what do we do? Do we swim away from it? Along it? Dare to get closer?

With little other options, let’s say we do: we make for the edge of the fin.

It’s as tall as the Himalayas, stretches about as far, but is no wider than the door of a house.

What’re we hoping for? Are we going to see if its sheer cliff face has handholds and footholds? To see if it’s as hard as stone, or soft like flesh? Does it have lichen and small things on its surface we can’t see from this distance, and how far away is it, anyway?

Does anything change as we get closer to the fin? Does it make noise, or change shape? Sink back into the ocean?

Maybe we do hear something, the growl we were so worried about earlier.

Does it come from the fin, behind us…? Or maybe behind it.

I’m seeing storm clouds. Storm clouds that form as we’ve almost rounded the edge of the fin. And now that we’re closer to the fin, what did we say it’s like?

Covered in creepy crawly things? Lovecraftian and great, but no; because that’s also gross.

I want to say it’s climbable, but I think I prefer the fin smooth – so no shards for handholds.

What about features we can’t see? And not those you can feel, but the ones you can feel?

What if, while we’re up next to this colossal…thing, in an endless sea, while we look at it, we suddenly have the sensation of recognition, of eye contact? Not the feeling you’re being watched, exactly, but observed and met?

And things happen fast from there.

We tread water at the edge of the fin, able to see along either sides of the ocean it’s bisected. We see lightning crackle from the storm clouds to our left and thunder rumbles in answer. Maybe, like a horn of summons, small dots – like little black beetles crawling over the edge of a table – appear on the horizon to our right.

Not beetles, ships. Galleons, and Man-o’-Wars, with three masted sails.

Maybe there’s another boom of thunder, and like a starting pistol, that starts them racing in our direction.

Do we wait for them to close in on us? Do we swim around the fin? To we brace against it, the eyeless monolith that’s seen us?

As the ships get closer, what if they change? Turn? Maybe they flip, so the hulls are on the surface of the water, and the oars sprout from the sides to look like legs, finally resembling the giants beetles we thought they were.

Fight-or-flight kicks in, and we think to dive below, to escape. But no avail, because the masts of this beetle line form a net, set to scoop us up anyway.

But now we aren’t alone anymore, under the water. A school of, what, fish? No, jellyfish! Like a living, writhing cloud of bubbled heads and ribbon’d tentacles below us, floating up faster and faster as the net of the beetles approaches. Soon, we’re enveloped, and expect to feel a thousand stings and paralytic burns, but instead, maybe it’s just a low, gentle hum – like we’re being sung to.

They grab our arms as they continue floating, rising upward. We breach the water’s surface and float out of reach of the beetle-ships just before we’re overtaken! Huzzah!

But the jellyfish carry us skyward, like a crowd of balloons.

Only they don’t let go, and the fear of heights returns. We rise higher and higher, up along the massive fin in the water, and feel it watching us as we’re lifted away.

Maybe we’re lifted above the fin, so we can see the storm clouds on the other side and the curtains of lightning beneath their layer of wool.

We’re lifted higher and higher, but what’s above us? A ceiling of glass, a mirror? Can we see it through the crowd of jellyfish that carry us? Maybe they part and we see…stars. Stars against black. Open space.

True vast emptiness.

We start kicking and thrashing against the arms that hold us. It isn’t fun anymore and we’re safe from the beetle-ships, but maybe it wasn’t worth this to have been rescued. And do we see anything in the luminous undersides of the jellyfish?

“Faces” came to mind first, and while excellently mystical and creepy, rule of thumb is to not go with the first idea.

Hands? No.

A song? Feel like we’ve said that already.

How about memories? Yeah, memories.

But are they yours? Our own? Someone else’s from another place, even another time? Are they happy ones, regretful ones, proud ones?

We break the hypnosis and see the fin is so small now, just a long, gray plank set on its side in an endless puddle. So far away.

Or is it?

Maybe as we kick our legs, our foot touches something?

Maybe in this place, even the rules of perspective bend, and we kick the fin we thought was so far away. Maybe now, instead of the massive thing we knew it was, it’s within reach, about a foot tall, no wider than an inch.

We kick it, and it falls to its side, laying atop the water like a…well, a long, gray plank.

After that happens, the ribbons and their memories let us go, and we softly land on this long, gray plank. Endless ocean all around us, the tiny dots of the beetle skittering harmlessly along the surface.

What’s left to do but walk?

END

(Hey all. Thanks for going on these weird mind trips with me. I’ve talked with friends before about story writing: resolving plots issues, narrating, finding a voice, and the dreaded what-happens-next question. The best answer I’ve thought up so far has just been to define storytelling as the art of asking questions, then picking through the answers. Trying to decide which answers you like best depends, ultimately on what kind of tale you want to weave. Fantasy? Maybe the most fantastic, imaginative answers are the ones you want. Mystery? Maybe the least expected, but ultimately most realistic are the flavor you need. So on, and so forth.)

(I dunno, or maybe I’m just thought-vomiting onto my keyboard. Either way, thanks for obliging me.)

(Later.)