Sunday, December 18, 2011

#10- The Good Ol' Days

I've been thinking about high school a lot this week which is something I haven't really done in a while.  Thought those memories were nice and repressed, but one little trigger and they come flooding back in all their cringe-inducing glory. Thinking about those days makes me feel just the same as when I was living them: a knuckle-headed spaz-a-tron.

High school was lame in so many ways and I hated it desperately.  It wasn't just the mini society built via hormones and vanity, no, no, it was much more than that.  Don't get me wrong, I fucking hated that part and was filled with murderous rage from the injustice of it all, but it's is practically inconsequential now-a-days, I've moved on and mellowed out as time has gone by.

The school itself was just some giant, hollowed out cement block that had tiny, itsy-bitsy windows on the very top of of the walls; no child under 12 feet tall could look outside and therefore be distracted from their studies.  It was very enclosed, confined and dank, like some kind of three-story basement from hell.  But, again, it doesn't seem to have an impact on my adult life except as a bad memory.  And most likely some kind of basement disease I'll get when I'm 80.  I'm thinking a long-dormant strain of Rickets or something.  But hey, I'm no Doctor.  I just made that shit up.

Now let's get to the long-lasting and ever-present internal damage which is what everyone really wants to know: 

I was exceedingly lonely during most of my tenure at Satan's cellar, but I don't think I quite realized it at the time. I had no close friends that graduated from middle school to my districts high school with me, and the few acquaintances that did soon found their places somewhere else.  I remember being so lonely that I couldn't bear to be in my own dark room at night, with nothing but my sad, sad thoughts, so I slept in my mom's bed with her.  I'd be over on my dad's empty side, and we'd watch the Random Old British Comedy of the night, then Are You Being Served, which was always on next, on the little TV in her room.  Most of the time I fell asleep before it was over.  When Dad got home from work at midnight or so (he worked the evening shift), he'd wake me up enough so I'd stumble into my own, cold bed until morning. 

I did make some friends eventually, and they introduced me to their friends and we had some kind of clique going on, I guess.  We weren't popular, not super smart either and I can't recall ever being bullied, so I don't know what label was put upon us.  A few friends smoked weed, one was ultra-religious, another pretended to be religious but was actually a slut, and one kid was constantly and half-heartedly trying to kill herself (she did not succeed, and is in fact my facebook friend now).  We constantly talked behind each other's backs, we plotted, we dramatized, we were teenagers.  I remember feeling pretty neutral about the whole lot; besides the aforementioned personality variants, they were all basically the same person, going along with whatever as to not stick out from the crowd.  But in high school you make alliances with anyone willing to take you in.  I was still lonely.  

By senior year, I didn't really talk to those kids anymore.  Maybe in passing we said a quick, 'Hey,' but it was nothing substantial.  There wasn't any big blow out fight involving throwing stars and recruiting evil scientists to invent nefarious contraptions intent on ensnaring and/or disintegrating each other.  It was even worse than that: I simply receded from the group and none of them came looking for me.   By the time I graduated, I was pretty much in the same boat, or friendship (get it?!), as I was when I had started high school.  That pattern has pretty much repeated itself every place where I meet people.  There'll be a swell of friendliness, some cursory calls, emails, IM's, whatevs', but I always inevitably cross the line into the borders of their crazy territory, don't like what I see, and retreat before I get caught all up their business (or bidnez, if you prefer the street vernacular).  There have been a couple of folks who slapped up a coat of paint and pushed the mess into a closet of their brainrooms and we became fast and furious bff's.  But eventually the door burst open in a fireball of insanity and after the smoke cleared, I was still standing, but the heart I often wear on my sleeve was forever singed.  I almost definately could have seen the poorly hidden crazy if I had looked hard enough, but we return to the overlying theme (loneliness) to explain my purposeful blindness.  There is currently one person  in my life (that I'm not related to by blood or marriage) that I consider to be a really close friend.  Which is much, much better than nothing, so even that teenage trauma wasn't completely insurmountable. 

The final, and most detrimental aspect of grades 9-12 was my actual education.  

My school had an 'open-campus', meaning students could leave the premises whenever they didn't have a class.  I think there were eight periods in a day and you had to arrange your schedule to have at least four classes in any given day, leaving, yes, that's right, up to four off-hours a day.  Not entirely interesting, I know.  But, having an open-campus made it ridiculously easy to ditch class, and when I had my driver's license junior year, my rate of ditching per week increased exponentially.  I missed school so much in my senior year I had to go to summer school to graduate.  The school's system to combat truancy, you ask? A recorded message that called your house that evening.  As a youth, I was, of course, on the phone all night anyway, so all I had to do was click the call waiting, listen for a few seconds, then click back to my most likely super-important phone call about... cheeseburgers...or whatever the kids were into those days.  So, no consequences for missing class. 

When I did go to class, I sat in the back row unless forced otherwise by the dreaded assigned-seating chart. I rarely contributed to class discussions, and often turned work in late.  I hardly ever studied for tests, and when I did, I struggled with my apathy and could rarely focus.  I got ok grades.  B's and C's for hardly trying wasn't too shabby.  That was during the early years when I went to class on a mostly regular basis, mind you.  I'm pretty sure I failed almost all of my classes the very last semester (hence the necessity for summer school).  Here's the point: I could have gotten A's.  If I had put in the slightest amount of effort, read the assigned chapters and completed my assignments, I would have been on the honor roll.  I'm a smart motherfucker.  But I didn't care, and no one else cared either.  I'd come home with C's on my report card and say, 'Hey, I'm just an average kid, so it's only natural I get average grades.'  My parents accepted that with little to no arguing.  They weren't really into the importance of education, or at least never conveyed it to me at any rate.  The teachers were all overworked and underpaid, and I'm sure if I went to any of them and asked for help they'd have been glad to, but no one came to me.  

I was not instilled with a love of learning or a desire to know about the world we live in and beyond until very recently and I've found that I don't know things I should, like algebra, which I took for two goddamn years! Or how the executive branch of the government works (congress v. senate? it's pretty foggy in my brainbag) even though I'm sure I took Government at school (didn't I?).  

So here I am with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge because my education well wasn't built up to code.  Some of the bricks are made of Styrofoam, while some are just plain missing (Doesn't hold water very well, is my point.  'Water' being a metaphor for 'being able to learn new things', in case my lame analogies make you groan with displeasure and skip over them completely).  I was an angst-filled teenager that didn't have any particular hopes or dreams for the future.  Now I'm in said future and I don't have what I need to fulfill my current hopes and dreams.  That's why, when I think back to those days, it makes me feel like a knuckle-headed spaz-a-tron.  Then I crack open Astrology for Dummies, and get to readin'.

(edited on 6/2/12- can you believe I used two different tenses in one sentence!? Disgusting.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

#9- Linky Links

A few things to mention before I start my post, don't worry, it won't take long, I know how impatient you all are to read the thrilling goo swirling around in my brain: I set up twitter, facebook, and bloggers accounts.  Hurray, I'm taking up more useless social media space in the cyberverse!  I'm sure there's a way to have the links show up on my blog, but I haven't looked into that yet.  I haven't done much with them yet, but I do have plans to do things with them, so that's something, right?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

#8- It takes an iPad

I'm trying to make a post on my sister's iPad through blogger's app. It's not going super well so far. I can't use it in landscape?! Bleh! I have to make so many sacrifices when I come over here to babysit! They buy me Chinese food AND make me play with their gadgets? Unbelievable!

The point is, I'm babysitting my nieces today and my daughter couldn't come because she puked her guts out last night. Technically it was in the early hours of this morning, if you want to be a stickler about it. My son tagged along though, so the four of us are just chillin' like villains, watching The Backyardigans. Please refer to post #4 to recall how I feel about this.

My sister has 2 kids just like I do. Our first set are six months apart from each other, as are our second set. We didn't plan it this way, but it's worked out pretty well in terms of the kids getting used to kids their own age and having playmates and stuff. Did I mention that we also live on the same street? It's pretty awesome. Mostly.

You know that old saying, 'it takes a village to raise a child'? Well, I don't think that's a requirement for child-rearing, but it sure does fucking help. I remember when we were growing up in Small Town, USA, Mom certainly didn't have a village to help her out. Being an immigrant meant that she had left everyone in her life behind so she could move to another country to be with the man she loved. I can't even imagine the isolation and loneliness of her experience. She didn't have a job, or a car, or a husband that was around a lot, and within a year she was stuck in an old house with a baby with no double-X comrades to commiserate (I'm talking chromosomes, not porn, by the way.  Get your mind out of the gutter, Jesus!). Back then, you couldn't pick up the phone to call Australia everyday unless you were a millionaire. There was no Internet; email, skype, IMing, webcams did not exist. Flying home for a visit was also quite an investment. By the time I came around eight years later, she seemed to have gotten things figured out, but it must have been a never-ending stress-ground, complete with a poop slide and barf train for a long time. Or maybe she was just tired by then.  But we all turned out OK in the end.  Right?  That's what my two therapists tell me at least.

On the other hand, a completely communal approach would also be a difficult environment to raise a kid. It bothers me when someone else disciplines or reprimands my kids when I'm present, but what's even worse is when I tell my kids no, and someone else gives them the extra cookie anyway. I feel disrespected and valueless; that person doesn't think I'm a good enough parent to know what's best for my kid? Or, do they just not care what I say because they want to do whatever they want? Living in a situation where I saw those type of people several hours everyday, let alone residing in the same house, would drive me just as nutso as raising kids sealed up all by myself.

I guess I'm envisioning some kind of Waco-esque compound, but I would assume that those ladies would have been properly and thoroughly conditioned to think that was the best way to live. On a more realistic note, many cultures around the world live in very close proximity with their extended families or other Mom's. A lot of people probably can't afford to leave home and/or live independently. Just like my mom, and many other people in similar circumstances, the community Mom's don't have a choice and/or don't know any other scenario to realize that a more ideal arrangement is out there.

Those of us, like me and my sister, are fortunate enough to live in the suburbs within close proximity to many relatives. We're both in situations that allow us to own our homes (not posh mansions in lush neighborhoods, or even multi-level cookie cutter abodes, each one more similar and taupe colored than the last. Our houses were built in the 50's and have.... character), feed our children, and buy iPads.

As I have concluded with most matters, moderation seems to be the best option for those that have one to make. I love being able to get help when I need it from people who are always willing to do so. No judgement, haggling or resentment included, just an occasional exaggerated, sarcastic sigh.  I also love going home and not dealing with those crazy fuckers when they're acting all crazy and stuff.  Damn!

So I guess spending my Sat. with my nieces typing on an iPad and eating free wontons ain't so bad after all. Just don't tell my sister.  She might think she and her husband can go to the opera more often.  That bitch be craaaazy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

#7- Avat-tactular!

I finally finished my avatar after many, many hours of tinkering.  It's still not exactly right, but it's close enough.  It  probably won't ever be exactly right and I don't want to get some kind of degree in Photoshop to be able to figure out how to make it that way, so... I posted it.

I have been working on another post for a while, but I'm a ridiculous procrastinator, and there's been some shit going on, like a snowstorm that broke a tree in our yard, a leaky kitchen sink that filled the bathroom below with mold, and whatever other excuses I've created to prevent me from doing the things I really enjoy, things that that make me feel some small spark of usefulness in an otherwise vast and boring brainscape of facebook games and network television.

I've recently realized that one of the reasons I do this, why I create all these obstacles for myself, is because I'm fucking terrified of failing.  What if I work really hard, I mean, really hard, at something that's so very important to me, what if I pour my life and love and expectations into this, my most sincere and honest best try... and I fail? What if it's still not good enough?  See, this is the kind of crap I've been thinking about lately, really deep stuff that takes up a lot of thinking time!  Self-analysis is completely necessary, I know, but it is time consuming and exhausting, to say the least.  So, I'm working on this whole 'you can't fail if you don't even try' thing that apparently I've been doing a lot in almost every aspect of my life.  I've been trying to think of stuff like, 'what does 'good enough' even mean?' and other figurative steamrollers for my mental roadblocks.  It takes time and effort, but once the little switch of awareness has been turned on, it won't go away.  In order to be able to get stuff like that out of one's head and thus preventing one from going fucking nutzoids, some processing and problem solving is required.

BUT, I haven't stopped thinking about posts and what said posts would entail.  So don't fret, readers that are either related to me (hi, Jen), or exist solely in my imagination, I'll get back to the ol' cyber grindstone soon.

I think I'm going to take a hiatus on the top 10 movies post that has turned into some kind encyclopedia of complication, and start fresh tomorrow.  Or Monday.  Let's just say soon.  That way I won't feel guilty if I miss a deadline and then put it off even more, creating a cycle of procrastination that somehow snowballs into the destruction of the Universe.  Yeah, it's that serious. See you soon.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#6- Short but sweet but probably not sweet at all

I haven't made a post in a while!  Longer than I thought at least.  But I've had some good excuses: I've been sick with a sinus infection, my kids had a four day weekend last week, and most of my free writes have been kinda depressing and convoluted.  But I HAVE been spending some time working on an avatar! At first I tried to find a public domain pic of an old-timey brain anatomy pic that was crazy, but nothing really fit what I wanted.  So I've been working on making one myself and it's taking a long long time to get it right.  I feel like I'm almost there, so I'll finally have an avatar soon!  woo woo!

Since I'm having troubles coming up with thought provoking and hilarious posts, I think the next one is going to be about my top 10 movie favorites.  So that's going to be something for y'all to look forward to...Right?  Sorry guys, I'll come up with something good real soon!

Going to take some Sudafed's and feel sorry for myself.  I've had a couple of rough days, dammit! I have every right to retreat to my comfy bed with the Halloween candy I bought for the trick-or-treaters! Don't judge me!

To quote my favorite fictional bully: Smell ya later!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#5- It was a dark and stormy night, the rain was falling fast, and the captain said, "Anton, Anton! Tell us a story!" And Anton began thus: It was a dark and stormy night, the rain was falling fast...

I'm sitting at the dining room table in the dim light of the overhead lamp, with a window at my back trying its best to let in the gray sunlight that's passing through the overcast sky.  It's the first cold, dreary and soggy day of Autumn so far, and it's completely fitting.  I'm thinking about what this day means to me and trying translate it into words so that I can make a cohesive post.  It's tough going.  The words are being typed out in halting chunks, one or two at a time.  It's like I'm writing the way William Shatner talked in 'Star Trek'. This is not the way things usually go for me; most of the time I'm typing as fast as I can to try to keep up with the ol' thought-bag.  Writing on paper is just as insane, I can't even reread most of my hasty scribbles.  But this post, this one is different.  This one is important.  It's important to me anyway, and I need to get it right.

Today, October 8th, 2011, is the first anniversary of my dad's death.

As a person who writes things down, I've been thinking of this day for several months, trying to come up with something appropriate for the occasion.  I've written down specific memories I have of Dad, the good ones, of course.  As I'm sure most people do when they lose a parent, I have deified him a little bit, remembering the times when I was so small and he was so big (both literally and figuratively), and then the times when I was an adult and he was my Yoda, the weird dude that said wonderful things in crazy ways to help me with life's mysteries.  The period of time in between, probably when I was ages 12-26, are less pleasant, with both of us not behaving our most admirably, and I'm not ready to come to terms with that yet.  Makes me upset thinking about what an asshole I was to him someti- all the time, and how I can never get those years back and.... No, I can't do this part right now.  Good things, happy times, Goddammit!  Maybe some other day I'll bring that guilty, angry part up, hash it out with myself and move on with my life, but that won't be today.  This is often the problem with my good-Dad memories; they're covered in guilt foam and it makes them blurry.

I've also thought about trying to write his biography, not too detailed, mind you, but I could get at least a good 10 pages (not written even, by a word processing machine!).  A broad spectrum of what made Dad Dad: a hard-working, family-loving, slow-moving creature.  He had a smart, absurd, dirty and kind of offensive sense of humor, which, I feel, was his greatest attribute.  But, Dad was a man of his generation and talking about the why-comes and how-fors is not something he did.  So a biography would be either filled with dry, un-amusing facts, or with a lot of subjective, grief-filled speculations and inaccuracies.  Neither of those scenarios will be acceptable.

Option three is to talk about the way his death has affected my life this past year.  That one is a bit of a doozy, since I have since become an Atheist.  It's also a really loooong story filled with my personal experiences, expectations, research and deep thoughts.  And, it's not about my dad.  So we'll save that one for another day as well.

So where does that leave me? I feel the need to write something poignant and beautiful that's equal parts hilarious and moving.  Something that perfectly encapsulates who my dad was and how he left a Dad-sized hole in my heart that will never be refilled.  Is it possible to create a fitting tribute contained in a mere blog post? No.  What if I had millions of dollars and could finance some kind of large structure, therefore ensuring  it was named after him? Nope. What if I was the undisputed overlord of the world and made everyone get tattoos of my dad's face on their foreheads so whenever anyone looked at anyone else they would see him smiling his I-have-a-secret-smile? Although awesome, I don't think that would be enough either.

I guess I'll just have to write some kind of mushed up, unsatisfactory combination of all of the above. So here we go:

I think I'll peel back a tiny layer of my blog-onymity and reveal his actual name.  I think that will make things a little less convoluted without really giving anything away.  I do have a life to live outside this blog, you know!  If my parole officer knew about this, it'd be right back to the slammer for me, for some reason! And just think what my priest would say about me being an Atheist! The monastery would be in an uproar (Do monasteries and priests even go together?  I have no idea what's going on).  So, without further ado, our paterfamilias' name: Fredrick VonBaronstein Sanchez Elenore MacGillicutty.  Jr.

Yeah, I know what ya'll are thinking.  You're thinking, "Wow!  What a super common, boring and dull name Brainy's dad had! Holy crap, just imagine how difficult it was for him going through school; whenever a teacher called his name, five other kids in his class would raise their hands!"

Well ya know what?  That just makes you stupid then because my dad didn't even go to school!  So there! Dumbasses.

Jim.  His name was Jim.

Jim was born in a small town in Illinois in the early 40's.  He had a mom and a dad and an older sister whose name also started with 'J'. As the story goes, one day when Jim was a baby, his dad came home and announced he had enlisted in the Navy to help with the war effort.  I'm not sure if he left that very day or not, but leave he did, with a young wife and two little kids at home no less, to fight Nazis on a ship for awhile.  Hey, it was just what guys did back then: whatever they wanted to.

Dad had eczema really bad as a baby, and he's had other allergy related ailments pretty much from then on; namely nasal polyps that needed to be surgically removed several times.  Medical science sure has made some serious advances in my dad's lifetime. I was too young and don't remember his first sinus surgery, but I was told that he had to spend several days in the hospital and it was really brutal, hammer and chisel kinda shit.  The last one was after he was already sick, just a few years ago.  It was outpatient, all done with cameras and tiny lasers or something.  They still had to pack his sinuses up with gauze to prevent scarring, and removing them at the doctor's office a week later was spectacularly disgusting.  Allergies and sinus problems are one of the things I inherited from my father.  It's probably my least favorite parental trait I have. But I digress.

Jim was an average to below-average student, not for lack of intelligence, but because school is boring and lame.  There have been many third party insinuations within our extended family umbrella that Jim's dad, a strong-willed and important man within the confines of their tiny community, would attempt to toughen up his only son with the occasional black-eye, bruised rib and even a busted arm that one time, but these claims were never substantiated by any reliable sources, least of all, Jim himself.  He wasn't in the business of speaking ill of others (much to my chagrin sometimes I might add).  Jim graduated high school with no particular honors or future aspirations.  We always heard tell of how he spent that first summer after high school on the couch, making calls to stock brokers and raking in the cash.  Jim joined the navy like his dad did soon after summer was over. He always said he did it to avoid getting drafted into the army and going to Vietnam, but we've long speculated it was at least in part to escape his Dad's wrath for making more money in a summer on the couch than he did in a year toiling at the service station.

Jim traveled the world in the service and fell in love with Australia.  After his service was complete, he saved up some money and moved there.  Ballsy, right?  He met and married his first wife there, and then met Mom while convalescing from said marriage's destruction. Mom and Dad moved back to Illinois, got hitched and started a family.  Jim, like most other mid-westerners, had a strong work ethic, and put in long hours to feed his family.  He and his motley crew transferred to Colorado 15 or so years later, and ten years after that he got an amazing early retirement package and was freed from his laborious shackles.  Then what did the man do, you ask? I'm getting to it, dammit! Jesus, you're so impatient!

After he spent almost three decades working to provide for his kids, he began providing for his grandson, as a baby-sitter. Then for a granddaughter too.  They moved away five years later to live with their mother and my dad's heart silently shattered into thousands of pieces.  Luckily, my sister and I had begun our families, and soon there were two more grand-kids (girls).  Then he got sick.  The diagnosis was Parkinson's at first, then after about a year, it was changed to a type of atypical Parkinson's Disease called Multi-Systems Atrophy.  It does just what the name implies and there's no cure (It's a fucking terrible thing to watch someone you love die very slowly over the course of three years).  But right around then, two more grandies (girl and boy) were born! So he had four granddaughters and two grandsons to entertain him for a couple of years.  That makes six, by the way.  He had six grand-kids. I'm laying it all out there in case any of you are math-tarded or stoned.  Or both.

Then he died.

There's the biography part.  My dad's life summed up in a few paragraphs.  I left a lot out, but I suppose those would be the main points he'd want me to address.  Dad always wanted a family, and once he had one, he worked hard to provide for us, not necessarily emotionally but definitely financially.  That was, like it or not, the way he was raised and the only way he knew how to be.  A lot of Dads of Jim's generation showed they cared by giving their offspring a roof to live under and a hot meal digesting in their bellies.  They said 'I love you,' by working a double-shift.  This has been proven to be an ineffective parental technique time and time again, but hey, I can't change the past.  We can talk about gender stereotypes and the lack emotional transference from adult males to children later (that's right, bitches, I took Women's Studies AND Psychology in college!).

Here are some amusing memories:
Dad loved Halloween and dressed up in costumes long after he had age-appropriate children that makes such a thing acceptable and not weird.  He introduced us to Monty Python.  I remember watching 'The Meaning of Life' when I was just a kid and how Dad would fast forward through the sexy parts, but not the violence.  Or the swears for some reason.  We made up a song about him entitled, 'Butt crack Jim,' to the tune of an old sea shanty, and he found it as amusing as we did.  This very blog title is a reference to one of Dad's weird quips that we'd make him say over and over and over (or did he make us listen over and over and over?  Hard to tell).  There's the little ditty about Salerno Butter cookies, which was weird as none of us have ever partaken such a thing, and the infamous 'buckle-up for safety,' song; those are forever going to clog up my brain space and prevent me from learning quantum physics.   And I can't leave out the best game of all: I eight the dead dog in the road!  Get it?  'Eight' sounds exactly the same as 'ate' (also known as a homonym.  See that? I just educated you some)  Here's how it goes:  'There was an old, dead dog in the road.  I one the dog!'  Then the next person says, 'I two-ed the dog!', and so on and so forth until your unwitting friend has to say, 'I eight the dead dog!' HA HA HA!  Sweet baby Jesus that one is funny.  I play it with my kids.  The trick is to always act surprised and disgusted if you get eight.  Makes me laugh every time.  Classic Dad.

His favorite dinnertime toast was, 'To the Queen, wherever he may be!'  His favorite joke was... pretty racist towards polish people, so I'll skip it.  HE wasn't racist, mind you (at least, I'm pretty sure he wasn't), and you could substitute any ethnic group with the fine folks from Poland, and it was just a joke, right?  It certainly didn't make me hate polish people at any rate.  He was like an insult comic in that way: make jokes about the stereotypes you think are outrageous and lame, but if you believe it, even a tiny bit, then you're being a dick.  Pointing out ludicrousness by acting ludicrous, especially when no one's expecting it, is funny.  You either got Dad's sense of humor or you just didn't.  There was no middle ground.  Dad was either the most fucking hilarious, weird dude you'd ever met, or you thought he was annoying, and kinda creepy.

He's been many things to me: hero, embarrassment, enemy, teacher, confidant, cheerleader (when I wrote that, I totally pictured him with some pom poms and a tiny red and white pleated skirt with his hairy belly spilling over the top and I think my imagination went blind), the first dead guy I poked with a stick, the list goes on and on.

There's so many wonderful, insane, hilarious stories to share that I could go on and on forever, but I shouldn't because this post seems to be losing its structure and flopping all over the place, and also I need to post before midnight so it'll still be the right day.  But don't worry, my friends, there'll be more.  Peppered throughout this blog, and my life (and hopefully my children's lives), will be many recollections, anecdotes and plain old bat-shit crazy stuff that comes out of my mouth that is a direct result of the influence of my weird, dead dad.  That thought makes me happy.  Happy, and a little gassy.

See?  I'm doing it already.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#4- Cartoon-tastic!

As the parent of two young children, I watch a lot of cartoons against my will. Not awesome, grownup cartoons like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken (not technically a cartoon, I know, shut up!), Futurama, Bob's Burgers, and American Dad, I love those ones.  What about cancelled classics like The Critic, Home Movies, Dr. Katz, The Oblongs, Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill?  Those were great too.  And to a lesser extent of awesomeness, but still admirable, you've got your Aqua Team Hunger Forces, Cleveland Shows, Space Ghosts, Metalocalypses, the list is endless.  Don't forget the 'kid' shows that are really for (immature) adults; some of my favorites from back in the day were gems like Dexter's Laboratory (la-BOR-atory), Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo. Following in those fabulous footsteps are current fun times like Spongebob Squarepants and Phineas & Ferb.  Almost all animated Disney features (the ones that are released to theaters, not the straight-to-DVD horror shows) and Pixar products are purely sublime eye-gasms.

Of course, we mustn't forget Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes!  Roadrunner & Coyote, Bugs & Daffy, or Bugs & Elmer Fudd, and the Bugs Bunny in space episodes, with Marvin the Martian and the crazy space-yeti monster (I will love him and squeeze him and call him George)!  Was it a space yeti or an earth yeti? Either way, it was marvelous.  Oh, oh, remember those Foghorn Leghorn ones with the tiny but determined chicken hawk?!  Or the sweet, insane rapist, Pepi Le Pew!  Tom & Jerry!  But that's Hanna Barbara, not Warner Brothers.  Hey, remember Jerry's uncle that had the huge-tiny mouse cowboy hat and played his tiny mouse guitar and sang all mumbly until he yelled, 'CRAMBO!!'? Holy crap, they were so classic, so wonderfully violent and included little to no dialogue so they could transcend age and language barriers. Everyone can find something entertaining about those oldies.

That was quite the cartoon-tangent I just went on.  I'd say I'm sorry, but... I'm not.  It was totally necessary.

Needless to say from that long list of proof that I've wasted my life in front of the T.V., I love cartoons.  I prefer the animated medium to live action, in fact.  Cartoons are just, prettier.  Better color palettes, more vibrant.  There's also so much more room for story telling.  Any genre, any time, any place, anywhere.  The writers and animators aren't confined by the rules of physics, there are no CGI budgets, and the actors don't have to age or get into horrible, eyeball-poking-out accidents or develop drug/alcohol/sex addictions.  The creators have much more control over every aspect of their characters' world.  I think I lot more creativity can be squished out of a situation like that, and that can make for much more entertainment opportunities.

Now, back to my opening statement.  Since I have said children, and I'm much too lazy to do something as ridiculous as not letting them watch TV, they watch a lot of 'preschool programming'. After so many years of watching these 'educational' shows, either while half-asleep, half-listening, or three-quarters-drunk, I no longer can stand the banality of this vast animated empire of sweet, cherub-faced, audience addressing demons.  I'm not speaking in generalities here, many cartoons aimed towards toddlers and preschoolers are wonderfully charming and actually educational to boot.  Some of them, however, SOME of them are just fucking awful.

I've seen crazy continuity issues, grammatical errors, random anthropomorphicalities and general technical inaccuracies have gotten to a point that it has melted my brain.  I have for many years excused these things as imagination allowances.  Kid cartoon characters playing make-believe don't have to accurately depict how long it would actually take to get to the moon., or that Saturn isn't actually small enough for a 'person' to sit upon it like it was a giant hippity-hop.  Or that its rings aren't really solid enough to bounce and flip around the planet like a... I don't even know, some kind of twirly-twirl-do-dah.  But when my six-year-old watching says, 'aren't planets supposed to spin around (i.e. orbit)?', I have to admit that they're just fucking awful, stupid and terrible cartoons.

But what am I do to?  Wage war against the children's entertainment industry?  That probably won't turn out well (anybody remember 'Death to Smoochy'?  No?).  It's a gigantic, indestructible industry that has some powerful players, from a bald, Canadian 4 year-old, to a personality-impaired Latina girl with a simian companion, all the way up to a shirtless, giant-eared rodent that is most likely in control of the Universe.  Shit, I can't even buy diapers without some brand name cartoon on it.

Why don't you just buy cloth diapers, you say? Or perhaps organic ones that don't lower themselves to commercial endorsements? Why don't you  just not let your children watch such television, and just not purchase the toys they want and instead buy them well-crafted, unique and brain stimulating toys from individual retailers and not soulless mega stores?  Because I'm not a fucking millionaire, that's why.  I live in the real world and have to worry about paying my mortgage and squeezing the very last drop out of the laundry detergent bottle.

I would love to have the time, money and energy to escape from the gelatinous children-centric media blob and its slimy ooze that coats everything it touches with smiling, vapid creatures from what surely must be the seventh-level of Hell.  But I don't.  So I remind the ol' offspring that fairy tales and happily-ever-afters are, unfortunately, just stories that aren't real.  I do stuff like talk to them about the human digestive system during dinner, complete with pictures from my old anatomy book.  I always answer their questions honestly, and walk the fine line between abetting their belief in magic and feeling guilty about tricking them with Easter eggs.  In short, I do the best I can with what I got.  And I watch a lot of fucking (good) cartoons to ease the pain.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#3- I've gotta think of a different topic. Someday.

One of the main obstacles in my life is my own procrastination.  I've always waited until the last minute to do my homework, chores, bills, balance my checkbook... update my blog.... pretty much everything has been delayed by my lack of motivation.  I'm well studied in that old, familiar cycle of feeling guilty about not meeting my responsibilities (self-imposed or otherwise) and so to avoid feeling said guilt, I continue to avoid the thing I'm avoiding, therefore making myself feel more guilt, which I try to not feel, etc., etc.  It's been a big problem in my adult life with my subsequent adult-sized responsibilities, like parenthood, home-ownership, automobile maintenance, staying gainfully employed, and other small stuff like that. No big whoop.

I've been doing a lot thinking about things, and stuff, lately.  You know, the super fun attempt at self-actualization phase of life that pops up into ones consciousness whenever there happens to be a lull in the all-consuming burden of living, or as I like to call it: just-trying-to-make-it-through-one-more-fucking-day-without-going-completely-nuts-and-taking-all-you-fuckers-down-with-me-itis.  When I was younger, self-psychology was one of my top priorities, but I haven't had the space in my brain to be able to really do any reflecting or analyzing in a long time.  Don't judge me just yet, Judgey McJudgeington, because I've got some awesome excuses:  

I married young and we starting makin' babies almost immediately (and by "makin' babies", I don't mean 'makin' babies! Woooo!', I mean a sperm + an egg = a tiny human nine months later).  We bought a house when we probably shouldn't have, seeming as we didn't have any money to put down and the mortgage payment was/is almost half our monthly take home pay.  We've been juggling these kinds of metaphorical shit bags for years,  watching the bottoms getting soggier and soggier, our eyes growing larger with terror after each sloppy, juicy (but for some reason sweet-smelling) toss is catapulted between the two of us.  Oh, and did I mention that my dad was sick for three years and died recently?  Yeah, there has been little time for spiritual treks through the ego-tundra with my inner child.  

But things have settled down a bit in recent months, or maybe I've reached my limit of hard times and don't give a shit anymore.  Either way, it seems like I've had more solitary thinking times lately, and I'm glad.  I feel like I've been separated from myself for so long that I don't know who this stressed out, out-of-shape, old person even is.  We've been getting reacquainted more lately, and I kind of hate this fat, slovenly, grumpy, slightly sweaty person.  But curiously enough, this discovery has made me want to do the opposite of what I usually do, which is to go to McDonald's, consume enough calories to give a small elephant a heart attack and then take a long and gurgly nap.  Instead, it's made me feel some sort of determined feeling.  Almost like a desire to figure out what the fuck my problem is.  It's weird, I know.  I'm not entirely sure why this is happening, but I'm just gonna roll with it for now.  Which brings me to my original topic, procrastination.  I've been trying to figure out why I do it to the point of my own detriment, and how I can stop (or start, I guess).  

Maybe I procrastinate because I'm depressed.  I've had depression 'issues' for almost half my life.  I've been on meds on and off for a long time, this latest on-stretch, six years, being the longest.  But maybe I'm depressed because I procrastinate.  Depression is truly a mind fuck; it's impossible to tell what is an actual chemical imbalance and what is you just talking yourself out of shit.  What part of my depression is an actual, real illness that requires medication, and what part is me using my depression as a crutch to keep myself down in this deep, rat-infested sad-pit?  Humans are remarkable in their ability to adapt, and I, being such a human, am no different, so after a while the rats became my friends, the pit didn't seem quite as dank and dreary, sunshine made my eyes burn, and my muscles atrophied, so why would I ever want to leave?  Maybe the meds have been doing their job all along, but my sad-pit just got a satelitte hookup.  

I had a therapist scold me once when I confessed to missing doses sometimes.  "You wouldn't have issues with taking cancer medicine if you had cancer," he said.  "Having depression and taking your anti-depressants is no different." 

But it IS different.  Mainly, unlike cancer, there is no clear resolution with most mental illnesses.  If you have cancer, you go through terrible, painful treatments, and it either cures you and you don't have cancer anymore, or they don't and you die.  I'm certainly not intending to trivialize this horrible disease, or the many people who suffer with so much pain and literal life-or-death situations, I'm just trying to show that depression is not like cancer (And yes, I'm aware that sometimes cancer can go into remission and/or reoccur, but I didn't mention that because it would have muddled the point I was trying to make, so just shut your smarty-pants mouth!).

Depression is messy, tricky and cruel.  Some people do use it as an excuse to live a life of unaccountability. Some people, like me, worry that they may be using it as such an excuse and agonize over the real reason for their lack of energy and motivational-impairment.  We worry that it may be 'all in our heads'.  But technically, it IS all in my head, isn't it? Chicken or the egg? Nature or Nurture? Chemical imbalances or laziness? These are the things I wonder about while I'm not cleaning my house or not paying my bills or, every once in a while, questioning the perpetuation of my very existence.  

See, this is why I try so very hard to be casual and pithy.  It helps prevent this sad-sack in me from taking over.  So for the lack of hilarity that I'm sure you've experienced with the other posts so far, I apologize.  On the other hand, if this blog is going to be about whatever my brain tells my fingers to crank out, then I suppose sometimes it's going to get a little dark.

P.S. I've already started my next post and it's about cartoons, so that'll much more un-sadish.  Stay tooned! Get it?! Tooned?! hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!  I'm back, baby! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm a Dreamy Dreamer, OR #2- The most hilarious blog number...

...Because #2 is a euphemism for shit! Ha!  I am amused by so many stupid, stupid things.  One of the many things rattlin' around this ol' noggin is a 12 or 13 year-old telling poo jokes.  It's both a blessing and a curse.

So, over the previous weekend, my enthusiasm for my fledgling blogging career waned substantially and I'm a little disappointed with myself.  Actually, I'm more than a little disappointed and it has caused me to procrastinate and avoid free writing for several days.  Oh, and I've been working on this post for about three hours now and this is as far as I've gotten.  Ah, procrastination, where would I be without you?  I don't know, but I'll totally look into it later.

I have recently discovered, or at least brought up into my consciousness, the fact that I am a dreamer.  A romantic.  A person who does not always live in reality.  A completely fucking insane human being. I'll elaborate: a few weeks ago when I was renewing my vows to this medium, it was so full of possibilities.  I was going to create this blog, post all this cool stuff on it, and it would be some kind of overnight sensation! There would be publishers contacting me, bursting with excitement about my fantastic, ground-breaking take on the world we all live in!  Of course, book deals would not only be a possibility, but pretty much inevitable; I mean, who could resist such profound prose, right?  Fame and fortune would be right around the corner, oh yeah, with awards too!  Celebrities and other members of the cultural elite would flock to me, just to be seen (it'd up their street cred' SO MUCH) and to share in my general state of awesomeness.  I'd, naturally, be totally cool with them and we would regard each other as equals and go chill at Starbucks or something.  But not the regular Starbucks, the celebrity Starbucks.  You know, the ones with the string quartets and the crystal goblets and the pumpkin spice lattes year round, and the- wait, I guess you wouldn't know! Pfha. aha. ha. (dry, crusty, rich-person laugh).  Oh, and I'd also be totally hot and in perfect shape and, just in general, the best author ever.  In my brain, all those things will happen just because of my raw, uncompromising talent.  Um, yeah, I'm definitely a dreamer....

The problem with dreams, with wild, outlandish, ridiculously detailed and well thought out dreams, is that they never happen.  Or if some kind of version of them does materialize, it's not what I had envisioned.  In short, I always let myself down.  I am always disappointed with the outcome because it's not exactly how I had thought about it for hundreds of hours.  Here's how it works in here: I think about something I want to have happen (i.e. jobs, money, revenge, scandalous affairs, world domination, etc.), then I contemplate how said event would occur. A lot.  I do this by running various scenarios, practicing my reactions, and actually  real emotions, contained entirely in my neurons, synapses, re-uptakes, etc. (yeah, that's right, I took Psych 101 in college.  Suck on that!), or maybe I mime a little when no one is watching, whatever, don't judge me!  Here's an example: my dream-induced perfect match (usually some kind of famous person that I've never met) and I meet by some coincidental means (i.e. at that award ceremony honoring me, or the photo-shoot for the cover of that popular magazine),  we share furtive glances, shy dispositions and an undeniable sexual chemistry.  We arrange to meet; hot, steamy rendezvous follow, and then we fall in love and live happily ever after.  Or there's some kind of terrible blimp accident and one or both of us die.  It depends on the day.

 Nothing wrong with a little harmless fantasy, you say?  But what happens when my beloved thought-mate does or says something in real life that I hadn't expected, or just turns out to be an asshole?  I experience real, actual heartbreak.  It has effected my real life and my real relationships.  Jesus, that sounds so lame and stupid on paper.  Well, I guess I'm typing this on my laptop and therefore it's technically not on paper, but why would you bring something like that up at a time like this, when I'm pouring my heart out?! Seems unnecessary to me and even a little bit cruel.  Anyway, I live inside too much, and imagine so vividly and so often that it gets too real and goes on for far too long.

After the endorphin rush of my impending international popularity faded and I simultaneously spent the weekend with family and friends out in Actual-Burg instead of Brainsylvainnia, I slipped back down into my usual self: second guessing my comedic instincts, marinating in self-hatred, hopelessness, and adding just a dash of resentment towards... everyone, I guess.  Hey, if you add some Jack Daniels, BAM; ya got the perfect Unhappiness Cocktail.  Gets you just drunk enough to be an asshole, but not so drunk that you can forget what you did the next morning.  Also, the hangovers are just awful and occur not only after cocktail hour, but during! And before too, somehow; it's weird and I wouldn't recommend it.

So, long story short, that's why it took me 7 days to write my second post instead of 3 (which is what I assumed my rate of updates would be for no in-particular reason ).  Maybe if I continue to scoop out this brain-shaped carton of concoctions, schemes and subsequent expectations, and release them into cyberspace, they won't take up as much time, effort and space in my life.  Maybe then I'll be able to figure out the difference between making goals and fantas-ta-sizing and actually DO something with my life.  Probably not, but hey, a blogger can dream, right?

Friday, September 2, 2011

#1- What it's All About

Does running out of space on the 'about me' section make me self-absorbed?  Probably.  But what is a public, online journal but self-absorption at it's most geekiest anyway?  Why is my blog worthy of reading by someone who doesn't even know who I am?  It probably isn't.  Maybe I'll let my mom read it one day.  I'll probably have to take out all the swears then, and, of course, all the times I mention her and blame her for all my problems.  That's going to be a lot of redacting....

Here's the gist of things:
I'm just getting back into this whole writing thing after a several-year break.  I was about 3/4 of the way to a bachelors degree in English with an emphasis in writing when I dropped out.  It was partly because I had a family and needed money and partly because I didn't really like it.  While my lit profs were super-dorks that I adored, my writing ones were pretentious and lame.  I think a lot of creative art professionals... and amateurs too, I guess... and maybe even enthusiasts, or connoisseurs, if you will, are inflated with self-importance and disdain for everyone else and they still get a ton of respect and admiration and I hate them!  Um, hey, guess what, dude, I know lots of stuff too! You being good at something, or THINKING you're good at it, or even claiming to know all about it but not actually doing it, doesn't make you better than me.  It's the lack of crippling emotional problems that does! Burn!

Anyway (FYI, those kind of random tangents are going to happen.  Often)...
I dropped out of school and went to work in 2007 and haven't written much since then.  Even when I was taking classes though, I didn't feel like I was really writing what I wanted to.  It was like it wasn't my voice, but my voice squashed through some kind of desperate, please-like-me filter.  Maybe that's not true, maybe I didn't know what my voice was or how to get it from my brain to the paper back then.  Maybe that WAS my voice because I WAS desperate for good grades and for my teacher to like me.  Who really knows? The long and rambley point is: I have recently started easing my way back into writing using a simple exercise called 'free writing'.  You just write for a predetermined amount of time, just write and write and don't stop even if all you're saying is, 'this is stupid' over and over again.  It's supposed to get the creative juices flowing.  I started these free writes, and a river of creative, sticky juice (that was just a little bit bitter for some reason) exploded out all over the place... you know, like ejaculate from a penis (it's what's called a 'double entendre' in the biz).  All these ideas and observations and feelings poured out and my 20 minutes of writing turned into 60 minutes almost every day.  There were several concepts I came up with that, I think, are interesting and possibly well-written enough to share, so I thought I'd slap it up on the ol' interwebs and see what happens.  And here we are.

My tentative plan is to write short posts like this every few days to help me develop the tone of my writing; really hone in on what I want to write about and how I can make it hilariouser (yes, I am going to be making up words like that sometimes).  It'll sort of be like more polished free writes, less quantity, more quality (I hope, maybe they'll be crap). I'll also post highly polished works, or final drafts, that will most likely be personal essays every few weeks.  I'm open to and hoping for some constructive criticisms.  But don't make me cry, guys, for serious.  My ultimate goal is to have these essays published somewhere that isn't of my own making, you know, like a magazine or something.  Remember magazines? Those were the days...

So there it is. My deepest, most fragile. ridiculous, gigantic dream out there for everyone in the entire world (and maybe some extra-terrestrials with amazing wi-fi) to see.  Holy shit.  Good thing nobody's gonna read this.