News of the Weird (per Stone and Sea)

James Clavell's ShogunFirst: I’m not sure why it’s stuck with me for as long as it has, but there’s a quote from James Clavell’s, ‘Shogun‘, that has surfaced in my mind on more than one occasion: “…like a butterfly on the summer’s breath.”

I hear it in the background when I realize that I just can’t seem to focus on a project, or while listening to my kiddos during any of their countless rapid-fire summaries of that day’s events, or sometimes (ahem) when trying to keep up with my wife when we’re [debating]. I’ve also heard it, from time to time, while drumming up ideas for posts here at Stone and Sea.

You see, one of the great things about kicking-off this blog again is how much it’s changed the way I’m consuming information.

Second: Perhaps not unlike yours, feeds in my social networks have, for the last few years, been so insanely negative and frustrating that I typically log-in, scan for a handful of minutes, then close up and go drink. You know, heavily.

Since I’ve started writing again, though, I find that I tend to avoid the nasty threads and instead jump down random, thought-provoking/intriguing rabbit holes to see where they lead. The only caveat I’d note with that note is that I avoid, like the plague, the comments section on anything. There are far too many mean, vapid, and seemingly psychotic individuals that live in those threads. Go there at your own peril.

Those rabbit holes, however, often lead me to surprisingly interesting posts, articles, tweets, images, etc. So, taking a queue from The Austin Chronicle, I’m going to keep a file of those random moments under the heading of “News of the Weird” and post them here from time to time. Who knows where they might lead you, but if you discover a cool bit of this or that in the journey, let me know.

For now, here are a couple I thought you might like:

TED Talk: Elizabeth Gilbert – Your Elusive Creative Genius

I’ve had this Elizabeth Gilbert talk bookmarked for years because it’s just about one of the most awesome things in the history of ever. Ms. Gilbert is the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ and spends her time in this talk addressing creativity, what it means to be a genius, and provides a word or two on poetry. If you’ve not seen this before you’re in for a treat.


The lost years of William Shakespeare

The Iron DruidFor the last few years I’ve read a series of books under the heading of ‘The Iron Druid Chronicles’, by Kevin Hearne. If you’re into SF/Fantasy, they’re a great and fairly light read and are absolutely worth a look. To be clear, I’m not saying they’re fluff, but they’re certainly not the mental commitment of ‘Lord of the Rings’ or the ridiculous time-sink that is Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series.

They are, however, a lovely and well-written series of tales that manage to incorporate Irish, Norse, Asian, and Native American religion and folklore, viewed through the lens of a modern-day Druid working to preserve the planet. There’s also a wolfhound named Oberon who is (not surprisingly) obsessed with meat, gravy, and more meat. Check it out – you’ll like it.

In one of the novels, the lead character (Atticus) tells a story of the time he prevented Mr. Shakespeare from becoming a late-night snack for a coven of witches. Yes, I get that it sounds goofy out of context. Read the series and you’ll totally get it.

That story, however, prompted me to do a little research on the real-life bio of our favorite bard, and I discovered an interesting fact: he was MIA for seven years. My mind immediately started building Robert Johnson/Deal with the Devil scenarios, but that’s me.

Where was he? What was he doing? It’s a mystery, but one that’s fun to chew on. If you’re interested, you can find more information here.



Why U2 is the shizzle


Eight years ago today the unthinkable happened.

I remember most of that day very clearly – the phone call from the lovely woman who would one day become my wife, standing in front of the television and watching one horror after another, or later trying to interact with guests when I pulled a double behind the bar.

That was a long, long twelve hours, I might add. Right up until I wiped off the last tap and handed in my drawer, each of my guests had sat quietly, watching one of the televisions that hung suspended from the ceiling, nursed their drinks, and spoke almost not at all. And for me, things seemed to stay like that for almost a month and a half.

And then U2 came to town.

The concert was , in a word, awesome. They did their new stuff, which was great, but about an hour in to the show the red Joshua Tree backdrop lit up across the back of the stage and Bono and the rest of the crew  started pouring through the music most of us there had fallen in love with in the first place; from albums going all the way back to Boy. We were dancing, singing, laughing, and really letting go.  

The weight that had settled onto my chest and into my spirit, the one that I hadn’t even realized was there until the moment it lessened, seemed to slowly shrink and fade, and without warning I found I could suddenly breath again. All of us could.

But they weren’t done.  

Near the end of the concert the band went silent and two large screens slowly descended from above.  Most of us were still smiling and swaying a bit from the previous tune and we looked at the screens and then at each other? What’s this? No idea, but it’s going to be cool. And to be certain, we were right, but not in any way we imagined. 

As we stood, growing more still and silent, names began streaming down each screen, one after another after another, and Bono finally stepped up to the mic, paused a moment, and said, “For all of those lost in September.”  And as the first quiet notes from Edge’s guitar reached us we realized that we were seeing a list of everyone who had died on 9/11.  And it seemed to go on forever.

But during those moments a wonderful thing happened. We stood there, quietly watching and listening, lighters or cell phones winking in and out, and people began to truly let go. There were sighs and coughs. Then there were sniffles. And finally sobs. People held one another tightly, and all around me there were tears and grief and strangers again connected by what had happened. But when the lists finally came to an end there were actually smiles and hugs, and as the last notes faded away we realized that a first essential and powerful step to healing had just happened, and man, we went absolutely fucking crazy. Cheers, claps, shouts, even roars. Joyous, lovely roars as Larry started pounding away at his drum kit.

Thank you, U2.

Readers – what’s your story?

Image by Sister72

Another weekend introduction

Or, more music you might not know but should…

I started out with the intention of writing this post about the Interactive segment of South by Southwest but little monkey that I am, became distracted by something bright and shiny (in this case, a tune that surfaced while listening to my iPod). I’ll get back to writing that one soon, but for now I’ve another weekend introduction, albeit one I’m offering a tad early.

The band is callled Silversun Pickups and they have a sound that will absolutely blow you away. Reminiscent of the Smashing Pumpkins, these guys are one of the coolest bands I’ve heard in a long, long time. FYI, if you like the song below I recommend picking up the album – digital or otherwise – the whole thing is just as good.

(One caveat – Not sure how I’m feeling about the video but don’t hold that against them – just put on some headphones, turn ’em up to 11, and close your eyes…)

Just one of the reasons I love Austin


You can read the story here.

Seven things…part two

Assuming part one didn’t bore you to tears, here’s part two…

My first duty assignment in the Marines was with the 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, Camp Hansen, Okinawa. It was at that unit I learned, thanks to a large block of the substance thrown into my chest, that C4 is one of the more stable explosives. For anyone whose familiarity with Okinawa ends with Karate Kid, it’s an island, a prefecture (state) of Japan, and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I’ve often considered going back as a civilian and spending a couple of weeks getting reacquainted. If for no other reason, in a little hole-in-the-wall kitchen called “Mama’s Cooking,” you’ll find absolute bliss in a bowl: Taco Fried Rice with Cheese.

After the Marines I worked my way through college bartending and, in addition to my coursework,  learned the difference between ale and a pilsner, the proper use of a Muddler, and the art of the thirty second conversation. Far too many stories, too many interactions, too many moments, to try and choose one that stands out here. Maybe a series of posts another day if anyone’s interested. Instead, I have a question. This occured easily twice a week and in all the years behind the bar I never came up with a good explanation. Just what the hell prompts people to have sex in the bathroom?

After graduation I had some truly great clients as a freelance writer, but without doubt the darkest, most grueling experience during those years was developing a campaign of print ads for a local funeral home. No kidding. I’m an immersion kind of writer when it comes to advertising. Meaning, I try to learn as much as I can about the company, product, service, and so on that I’m writing about. And having that kind of information rolling around in my head for months was just plain rough. Add to that the almost weekly on-site client meetings and I don’t think I’ve ever been as grateful to see a job finished.

As a writer, I have the good fortune to have  job that’s challenging, pays a decent wage, and I love to do. But the reality is that in many ways, it’s still a job. That’s part of the reason for this blog, by the bye – it gives me the opportunity to stretch and have fun with writing in ways I just can’t do at work.

But when I really want to get creative and shake off the cobwebs I actually shut the computer down. Instead, I stand up, change clothes, then go out to the garage. And build things. Taking a few pieces of oak and shaping and molding and coming away with a piece of furniture friggin’ rules. The picture below (an Amish style step stool) is the current project. A little more sanding and  some finish work and she’ll be good to go.


Right. So that’s seven things you may or may not have known about me. Now, according to the MEME, I’m supposed to give you the opportunity to learn seven things about seven other folks. The problem there is I just don’t know 7 bloggers who haven’t already participated. So, four will have to suffice. What the list lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality.

Sarah – What’s on my mind
Designer extraordinaire, Sarah is one of those people who does a great job of mixing professional insights with personal stories, and does so with a sweetness that’s decidedly hers.

Dan – Post Thirty Post
Fairly new to blogging, Dan still knows how to turn a phrase and bring a smile to my face. He’s an old friend, a fellow UT grad, and one of the infamous Thursday Night Boys. I look forward to seeing how his blog evolves.

Rob – Rob Lifford
A former Hooverite, Rob is sharp as a tack and always provides great fodder for thinking. From what’s going on in the industry to what’s happening in the economy, Rob likes to keep us on our toes.

Jennifer – Jenamonkey
Jennifer is one of those ladies you just can’t help but admire. Passionate, driven, and always looking for an adventure, Jennifer’s blog is a glimpse into the life of a wicked-smart woman who squeezes the tasty goodness from life. And devours it.

A difference in expectations, addendum

So, there seems to be a bit of confusion with the last couple of posts. Because a good friend of mine took me to task for my lack of clarity I thought I’d make a quick post rather than continuing the comment thread.

While it quickly became political, the real point of the two posts was simply an observation about how the goals of these two groups seem to differ and how clear that difference was when I had the chance to attend both functions. 

The secondary thought was more of question – how do these goals impact a parent’s politics? In this election, as Ron quite correctly pointed out, the difference isn’t as clear as it normally is. Senator McCain has voted for additional funding for research and has sent a written request to President Bush to lift restrictions on funding for embryonic stem cell reserach. And, he’s done both counter to his party’s platform.


I think we all remember the about-face former President Clinton did when it came to his campaign promise of lifting the ban on gays in the military. Perhaps not quite a bait and switch; President Clinton certainly didn’t deliver on his promise. Don’t ask, don’t tell, indeed.

If Senator McCain is elected, what will he do? Keep his promise or fold under the weight of his party and his base? If the Senator is the kind of man I think he is, my bet is on the former. Governor Palin, on the other hand, is a different story entirely.  

A weekend introduction

Next weekend, my wife, daughter, and I are heading out of town to visit family. No question, it’s always a great time hanging with the fam, but I am a bit bummed about taking off that particular weekend.

First, UT is playing Arkansas. And while it’s a game that’s certainly not going to be a nail-biter, it should amount to some solid entertainment. Second, and far more important, next weekend is the ACL Music Festival. For anyone outside the Austin area, ACL stands for Austin City Limits. It’s a very cool weekend-long jam with a ton of acts playing across multiple stages.

Now then, ACL normally seems to fall on a weekend where the temparture tops out somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 degrees and everyone wades through muck from hoses and other things far too nasty to get into here. The heat and the stink are absolutely awful, but the music makes it worth it. This year Austin has cooled down a bit thanks to the same cold front that redirected Ike, so this year we’ve got great bands and great weather. And I’m out of town.

So, for anyone staying in town that weekend, I’d like to turn you on to a band my brother-in-law introduced to me. Iron and Wine. They’ll be playing on Saturday and if you can make the show I promise you won’t regret it. I’ve added two of their videos below; the first is “Naked as we came” and the second is “Boy with a coin.” Enjoy.