Month: June 2009

Moving Day

boxes

I had a fairly lengthy couple of opening paragraphs going as a lead-in to this post when it occurred to me a mini novella explaining the virtue of streamlining and simplification might be at cross-purposes.

The short version is this: I have way, way too many bookmarks and folders of “cool shit to read when I get a chance” on my desktop and in my browsers. So, taking a cue from a friend at work, I’m looking to cut loose, clean out, and simplify my digital closets. What follows are a few summaries and links in case you see something you might find interesting…

Doris Egan
I’ve written about her before, but if you haven’t spent some time looking through Ms Egan’s Website you’re missing out. She’s an author and writer for the show House. She’s also a fairly busy woman, and as such doesn’t update very often, but there are some absolute gems if you have a few moments to read.

The first explains why she likes to write about flawed heroes.

“But how much more satisfying to bring your villain right up to the floodlights and have him do his damage; and then to drench him in ambiguity by showing as well that he possesses courage, self-knowledge, and the ability to withstand a bleak existence with grace. It’s that drop of blood in the pearl that gives it its luster.”

That drop of blood in the pearl – wow – what a fantastically lovely phrase. At any rate, the second piece focuses on what it means to be a woman who’s growing older, but I encourage anyone to check it out, no matter what your age. Side note: while the quote below isn’t as sexy as the one above, this was my first kiss with Ms Egan, and the writing that holds me captive :

“The beauty of growing older is that after one has made a fool of oneself enough times, the idea no longer holds quite the same terror.”

50 Banned Books That Everyone Should Read
Fairly straightforward list, but I’m always surprised by some of the titles. 

29 Amazing Long Exposure Pictures
In a word, amazing. Check ’em out.

Photo by Rick

Patriotism dies, part two

So, if you’ve seen spots for Will Ferrell’s new film, Land of the lost, you might have heard this line:

Danny: Do you ever get tired of being wrong?
Marshall (Ferrell): I do – I really do.

I can relate.

If you check out a few posts back you’ll see a nice long write-up about the Death of Captain America and how I was fairly certain they wouldn’t be bringing him back. More the fool me. But, for those of you that might find this good news (I certainly do, wrong or not) I offer the following:

CapTweet

You can get to the post you see in the Tweet here.

To click or not to click

Clearly, not a question.

I was looking at stats yesterday and realized that in the last couple of weeks only one person has clicked on a link from this blog. And while that’s absolutely fine – I’m in bliss that you’re here reading at all – I do have to say I think you guys are missing out on some hilarious stuff.

Take the last post, for example. If you click on the “Pirates of the Caribbean” link below and watch the two minute video I dare you, I double-dog dare you, not to laugh.

I’m just sayin’…

Stephen King, art, and discovery

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Stephen King. In truth, other than gobbling down the first two novels in the Master and Commander series while traveling last year, it’s been a while since I’ve had time to read anything, but that’s not the point. Opinions vary about the conclusion of Roland’s quest in his search for the Tower and the Rose, but for me the last couple of books of Stephen King’s Gunslinger series were awful – I’m talking Pirates of the Caribbean 2 awful – and I was so angry and disappointed, with so many things, I swore-off King for good.

Until a couple of months ago. An old friend (also a huge Gunslinger fan, and also well-aware of the bile that hit the back of my throat any time King’s name was mentioned) told me in no-uncertain terms I needed to take a pill and then pick up King’s newest novel, Duma Key.

He was right. I’m only about two-thirds of the way through, but so far it’s wonderful. Duma Key is the story of Edgar Freemantle; a contractor who comes face-to-face with the business end of a crane and loses his arm, his marriage, and ultimately that entire life, because of the accident. In an attempt to start over, Edgar moves to Florida and takes up an old hobby – art. That’s where things, in typical King style, go south.

pencilsAt any rate, it got me thinking about my own work. And while I’m no Rembrandt, I wasn’t completely awful with a set of pencils. The medium I had the most fun with, however, was charcoal. You cover the page using sticks and then slowly pull out highlights with an eraser. Darken up, erase. Smudge. Erase some more. Add charcoal. Repeat until the image you have in your mind starts peaking through. Sometimes it’s an entirely new image; something hiding under the blacks and grays and what starts out as two people dancing is actually a woman kneeling at a temple. I’d come away after a few hours with my hands looking like I’d dug my way through a mine looking for conflict diamonds. I loved it.

I’ve often thought about picking up my pencils and sketch pad again, only to get hung-up on things far less important, or things far more important, and it just doesn’t seem to happen. Call it a character flaw.

But that’s not what this post is about. What I’m really thinking about is the process of creation, specifically in the medium of charcoal, and wondering about parallels.

Sure, it’s a cliché, but life is a canvass. Or a sketchpad. Or a new Word doc, for that matter. We all have cursors floating in emptiness, just waiting for us to bring pressure to the keys. And we do. We fill the page with lines, or paragraphs, or even varying hues of dark and light, and the result is our lives.

But what images lie underneath all those letters and smudges? What can you strip away? What parts of your life you can you simply let go because they don’t belong, or you’re ready for a change, or there’s only so much canvass and you’d like to try something new?

And what are you going to find when you do?

Photo by Kabils

Kenna, month one

In just a few days Kenna will be one month old and, not surprisingly, the last four weeks have absolutely flown by. During that time there’s been a lot of playing, a lot of snuggling, and a lot of thinking about both of my lovely daughters and what’s to come. And thinking, too, about the past.

Things are different now – think Iraq or Afghanistan – but when I first joined the Marine Corps (many moons ago) there was really only one thing on my mind: What would Boot Camp be like?  

It was always there; huge, slightly out of focus, and in many ways something I had difficulty even defining what answers I was looking for, let alone the actual questions. But it was also something I’d chew on at some point, every day, for more than a year and a half.  

Like most guys who planned to join the Corps directly after HS graduation, I actually got the paperwork rolling my junior year. A combination of the recruiting office working like hell to hit their numbers and an angst-ridden teen looking for any clear path into a new reality; signing up early was a win-win for both. The down-side was it gave me plenty, and I mean p-lenty, of time to think about what was going to happen just days after I threw my cap into the air.

Were the Drill Instructors as vile as they seemed? Would I even make it through? Could my body handle the punishment that would come? Keep in mind, in those years a solid breakfast consisted of a package of Twinkis, a can of Jolt Cola, and Marlboro. Would I make it to the top of the legendary Mount Mother-Fucker? Finally, would I, could I, become a Marine?

I’d lie awake at night, taking bits and pieces of information from things I’d been told or read in the literature, random images from brochures, posters, or propaganda recruiting videos I’d seen, and weave them together in my mind in an attempt to understand what the experience would offer.

The reality of Boot Camp is something I’m happy to write about at a later date if anyone is interested (let me know in the comments), but the important thing is this: it just didn’t matter.

You see, I was focused on the wrong thing entirely. What I (and most other new recruits) couldn’t wrap my mind around was that Boot Camp was only three months long. Just three short months out of a four year commitment, and after those brief moments I’d have miles to go in a land just as unfamiliar and challenging as Boot Camp, with no roadmap or guideposts to help me along.

All that to say, it wasn’t entirely dissimilar from having children.

When Ellie was born Sarah and I (like most expectant parents, I imagine) had a thousand questions about the birth process. We had every kind of book imaginable. We toured the hospital. We had endless Q&As with our OBGYN. Sarah had list after list of things to do and even had all of our bags packed months before Ellie’s due date.

And then, a few days after her birth, we found ourselves at home with a new baby, looking like deer in headlights. Us, not the baby. I can’t speak for Sarah, but I can say with absolute certainty I didn’t give that little aspect of pregnancy due consideration.

Me: Um, babe?
Sarah: (sleepily) Yes?
Me: Is your mom taking her when she leaves?
Sarah: …
Me: Babe?
Sarah: shakes a finger at me and mouths, “go away…”

Like Boot Camp, birth and the hospital are only the beginning. And with this situation it’s quite a bit more than four years – it’s the rest of our lives. Clearly, there’s less freaking out wondering what the hell I’m supposed to do when the baby does this or that. But those situations are far less important than the many quiet moments I look into Kenna’s face as she sleeps in my arms and wonder what she’ll be like in 3 months, or three years, or even 30.  

More important still is that both Sarah and I are looking ahead to those moments, smiling, and I can not only see those questions, I’m ready to ask them.