Music or fashion or something

I swear there was a time when I could identify a punk rock girl from a 100 yards away. Before I’m accused of oversimplifying things, she might not be into punk. Maybe indie rock. Or hardcore. Or even ska. Doesn’t matter. And not all girls who were into these things looked the same. Some didn’t wear the punk rock uniform. Not even all the girls who did looked the same. But instead of qualifying my statement some more, I’ll get on with my point.

Dyed hair, tattoos, ripped clothing, studded jackets, iron on patches, etc. were all the hallmark of a weirdo punk rock girl that I would probably fall in love with if she said hi to me. She might have had a silly hair style. And may have worn sneakers that were half colored in or drawn on. And was usually made fun of by the more “normal” people.

That was sort of my scene back in my high school days. But walking around town the last few years (or casually glancing at a magazine) I run into more and more tattooed, dyed hair individuals. They look exactly like the girls I used to hang out with but the similarities are all superficial. And I don’t mean that in some sort of elitist way. They aren’t posers or whatever, they don’t pretend to be interested in what I like. The style just spread.

Now I see Rihanna with a mohawk or a half shaved head or wearing a municipal waste jacket covered in patches and have no idea what’s going on. I don’t really care. My life is hardly ruined, but it was nice seeing green hair and thinking I had an ally in the world.

Oddly, I haven’t noticed this happening with boys as much. Maybe the douchebag mohawks have increased in frat world, but the legit mohawks are restricted to punk rock shows. And guys with dyed hair are still uncommon. Heck, even long hair is still not super common and you’ll probably get some clever, and sexy ;), sexist comments (aahhh, memories). And a boy with painted nails is a weirdo, and will probably be called a faggot more than once in his lifetime (aahhh, memories). 

Is it good or bad? I don’t care. Wear what you like. Do what you like. Have fun. Just an observation and a little reminiscing. I may not have liked the same music as all those girls, and we may not have even gotten along, but I knew we could, at the very least, talk about what it was like to run in a circle while loud noise destroyed our stereocilia. Aahhh, memories.

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Music or fashion or something

It’s late. I’m tired and feel miserable. Life is worming away from me. Tomorrow is another. Which isn’t so comforting when days blend tougher and you can’t stand any of them. 

It’s not so bad really. I don’t pretend I’m happy, but I’m also not that down. Some place in the middle when you take the average, probably. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m buying that either, but shhhhh don’t let my brain know that we know it’s a lie. That silly thing resting in your skull can only work with what it’s given. Starve it to death. 

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I Went on a Trip

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Last week I went to a National Park and did a ~7 mile hike. Elevation at the start was 1260 ft (384 m) and the peak was 2720 ft (829 m). That uphill stuff is killer. It took around 4 hours including breaks for lunch and enjoying the views.

I love hiking and really need to do it more.

I’m also somewhat terrified of heights and this hike included some nice cliffs. The trail is well kept and has railing at a few spots, but it still is a lot for me.

I could write about how beautiful it was. How good it felt to fight against the heat and the weight of my backpack, the steep trail and the awkward rocks. How the struggle and aching muscles made every step seem like an accomplishment. How everything else seemed to disappear when I reached the peak and could see for miles in every direction. How the nothingness of the trees and rocks and mountains stretched out and made me forget how scared I am of everything. The feeling of being in nature. The fear and love of the bees and wasps (I’m allergic). Taking in the surroundings while considering the evolution of everything living there. The millions of years of gradual change that allows the trees and animals to survive in this environment today. The hundred million years that some of these rocks have been here. The events that took place over 20 million years ago to form the pinnacles. The vastness of time. How that somehow puts life in a new perspective. And the joy that fills me when I think about how wonderful it all is and will remain to be long after I’m gone. It makes me feel tiny, but it makes all the pettiness that seems to fill up my life feel tiny as well. Worry fades for a moment and I’m happy to be standing on a massive boulder outcrop looking hundreds of feet straight down.

I could talk about all that, but I won’t waste your time (HA!). Here are a few pictures from the hike with a little commentary if necessary.

 

 

 

 

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It wasn’t the most difficult hike I’ve ever done. Uphill was a lot of work and it was hot, but it was manageable even if you don’t exercise much at all. There was also a rattlesnake on the side of the trail but somehow I didn’t think to take a picture of it. Really boggles the mind that I forgot how pictures work.

I Went on a Trip

I haven’t been feeling well lately. I’m not sure what the issue is, but I think it’s partly stress related. Stress doesn’t bother me too much but it does seem to mess with my body. I’ve been sore for no real reason. I’m not exercising more or harder than usual. I’m lacking energy too. Again, nothing has really changed as far as sleeping patterns go. And it’s not a sleepy feeling anyway. It’s a drained feeling. Like spending three hours looking through a microscope, you just need a break. But the break doesn’t seem to replenish my energy. It’s a constant low level. 

I keep wondering about surviving. I assume most people concern themselves with their futures. But at some point we all seem to make the transition. We lose most of our ideals and fall into some sort of career. The truth is most people don’t like their career at all, but they keep living somehow. And this is tough for me to reconcile. Did they forget about the dreams they had? Sure, it’s not reasonable to hold on to ideas for too long, but how do you let them go? 

I rode my bike through a neighbor with million dollar houses. Possibly multimillion dollar houses as well. I have no idea what sort of lives these people live but I do know that the people outside blowing leaves around and mowing lawns aren’t living the same kind of lives. Maybe I can’t understand because I’m nowhere near rich but I don’t know how it’s possible to spend a few thousand dollars on a goddamn statue outside your million dollar house while someone living in poverty takes care of your children. Unless you pay those people a crazy amount of money and they just prefer to drive 1991 Toyota camrys. 

But what can you do? What do I know? I’m a poor asshole but not nearly as poor as those people. I’m privileged, too. Maybe not millions of dollars but more than others (although, not at the moment). Maybe if you give me a few million I spend it on nice cars and poor help.

Then some other kid can ride his bike by my mansion with an oddly broken down old car parked in front. He too can be confused for a half second before realizing it belongs to the guy trimming the hedges.

Aside

Love and other things that won’t get me a degree

Cheating is a topic that is often oversimplified. Let’s be clear, 99% (a number I pulled from nowhere) of cheaters are terrible, disgusting, assholes of human beings, male and female. When most of us think of cheaters we think of guys like the one who cheated on my friend last year. He was an asshole. He always was an asshole. And he cemented his assholiness by cheating on my friend. Why did he cheat? Because he simply liked to have sex. It was clear he was a jerk in the way he treated her well before he cheated. She could take each logical step in assessing his douchbaggery, until she reached the obvious conclusion, that she needed to get rid of him. We can all agree that he was more or less a worthless person, but it wasn’t because he cheated. Has he cheated before? Maybe. Will he cheat again? Possibly. But either way, he was a terrible person before that, and will, in all likelihood, continue to be a terrible person into the future. It’s his specific kind of personality that we tend to project on to the idea of cheating. It’s not a fun thought. It’s one of the worst positions someone can put you in. So, let’s hate the word and whoever we see it associated with.

It means when we think about cheaters, we think about the assholes wearing sunglasses backwards, who are overconfident and ready to tell us at the drop of their fitted hat how great they are. What doesn’t normally come to mind are the people who feel like fucking shit. And not just after they cheat, but all the time. The people who are confused by life, and, falling into that category, love. Those who simultaneously take on contradicting positions of cold reason and hopeless romanticism.

Let’s talk statistics for a brief second. Think about the number of people in the world. If you’re gay or straight cut that number in half (if your bisexual then you get a much larger field). Then eliminate those who speak other languages if you feel that’s a hurdle you wouldn’t be able to overcome. How many people are left? A fucking ton. A bigger number than us humans are able to comprehend (we didn’t evolve the concept of hundreds millions, why would we need to?). The actual numbers are irrelevant. What should be obvious is that statistically speaking the chances of having found the one person out of all those hundreds of millions that is best matched for you is impossibly small. Just a simple fact that when you pair up with someone, now matter how happy you are, it’s highly probable someone else would make you happier, would fit you better, and would suffer from neck down alopecia (any Tim Minchin fans?).

Now evolutionarily speaking, why does this matter? Because we want the highest quality mates and should be prepared to drop lesser mates when one rolls around. This isn’t good for anyone because that would mean at any moment the person (animal) you’ve invested time and energy into can leave you just like that. It’s not a stable way to live. So we can evolve different strategies to deal with this. One such strategy is burying logic when it comes to love. This is what we do. And there’s plenty of literature if you’re interested*. (Ask Steven Pinker. Or google Steven Pinker Love if you don’t know him personally.)

But details aside (what am I writing my thesis?), what we end up with is uncertainty. If you acknowledge the numbers. It’s all uncertainty. If you acknowledge the strategy of some monogamous birds. It’s uncertainty. But we have something that most other animals don’t share. Theory of mind and consciousness. We have the interpreter module in our brains. (Again, you can look this up, sorry I’m a shitty teacher. This time ask Gazzaniga.)

So you go out into the world, more or less happy with the person you’re coming home to, but somewhat aware that there are others out there that might improve things, if only by a tiny degree. But it’s the tiny bit of uncertainty that ruins you. It’s the thought that drifts through your consciousness just before falling asleep. The memory of that one girl, or boy, from high school that made you insane. Remember that feeling. Pure, naive, frantic, frenetic, fucking love? And now it’s trying to quietly brush your teeth so you don’t have to argue about why you’re coming to bed so late. (I just wanted to read one more chapter, what’s the big deal?) Maybe that’s what’s missing in your life, because let’s be honest, you’ll never be completely happy, and you shouldn’t be or your life after that point would be booooring. It’s natural to start plugging things in. See if anything can fill that high school sweetheart shaped void.

Then, one regular boring day, you meet a someone who sort of fills that hole. Why? Because that hole wasn’t a person. It’s a lot of things. It’s youth, it’s excitement, it’s passion, and it’s novelty. She’s all those things, but all those things are temporary (ignorethisignorethisignorethis, she’s special). The novelty, and uncertainty, feels like you imagined it should when you heard those love songs and read those books and saw those movies. High Fidelity. Annie Hall. The Graduate. Half the Beatles catalog. Love? What the fuck is it? How could I possibly know!? It has set you up to question everything going on in your head.

Now you’re facing the Rob-Flemming-conflict. Is she different? Is she what you always imagined? Or will this wear off? It’s impossible to know. All you can do is guess. Try to guess about how you’ll feel about this person in 5 years. How about 20 years? Looking back on your past, I’m sure you’ve been wrong around the same number of times as I have. The friendships that have come and gone. The partners that have come and gone.

Which one is the one?

Is it the new person? Or is it just because she’s new? Because you don’t have to see her clothes piled on the floor, yet. You don’t know she sleeps under a mass of blankets and makes it impossible for you fall asleep because it’s too hot in the bed, and you can’t wiggle out and sleep on top of the blankets because then it pulls the blankets too tight around her. You don’t know she likes to watch tv at full volume, making it impossible for you to concentrate on writing your ground breaking blogs. You get to see this person in flashes. The good moments. You’re watching a highlight reel. Not the bits that end up on the cutting room floor. But it’s easy to get caught up. It’s easy to forget a baseball game lasts over three hours when you watch sportscenter. And it’s easy to fall into sports metaphors even though you wanted to compare it to a documentary. (An autobiography would have worked, too. Sports? come on.)

We don’t get to know the answers. Some people try to do their best and mess it up completely and utterly. There are better ways to go about this situation. There’s no doubts about that. But how often to we do things the best way, especially when dealing with confusion. It doesn’t make cheating good. It doesn’t excuse it. But there is a difference between Hannah And Her Sisters and the guy my friend dated, in my view (I’m talking about Lee, not necessarily Elliot). Neither is condonable but trying to figure out life is something that interests me. I find it a worthwhile exercise to think about the doubts. To try to understand what you don’t understand. And so I, maybe wrongfully, distinguish between the two.

 

 

*This is how not to write about science.

Love and other things that won’t get me a degree

Have I Mentioned I Love The Beatles?

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I started buying my own copies of the CDs at around 8. Before that, I had to use my dad’s copies, but even then having my own copy to take care of and listen to was important to me. I love a physical aspect to art. Maybe it’s just a possession thing, but I like to think it’s about having a stronger connection to the art (especially because it’s never about cost. I don’t care about rarity or value. A used book or record works just as well as long as it’s in good condition). I still have every Beatles CD I bought. I would spend hours reading the lyrics in the booklets while listening to the albums over and over. My copies have little ‘M’ stickers to distinguish them from my dads. It makes me smile to see them every time I turn the CD case over.

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With the emergence of digital music, I was able to increase my catalog. The Live at the BBC and Anthology discs that I wouldn’t necessarily want to buy, I copied from my dad and have them on my computer and iPod now. Last time I checked I had over 400 songs. I’m sure it’s not every song because I don’t do bootlegs or anything. I also didn’t put the remastered versions on my iPod because with the compression it wouldn’t make a massive difference. I have all the remastered cds though and am saving to buy the vinyl reissues.

The picture above is an art print by Tim Doyle. Full of references. Blackbird. Newspaper Taxis. Helter Skelter slides. Hey Bulldog. Abbey Road. The show on top of apple corps. Lady Madonna.

The picture below is an art print by Tim Gough, clearly inspired by Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s beautiful and shimmers in the light (it has a translucent metallic gold over print). Each band member is wearing a pin representing one of their songs. John has a strawberry. Ringo has an octopus (come on Ringo). Paul has a blackbird. George has a sun (somehow George wrote some of the best Beatles songs. Here Comes the Sun is one of my favorites and probably easier to represent than Something). The other two pins are the same on each. A heart and a peace sign. Peace and love?

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I also have a cheap clock, because who doesn’t like clocks?

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And I framed the portrait inserts that come with the Self-Titled/Untitled (White) album but took them down when I got the second print.

Also, Led Zeppelin are pretty rad. Who doesn’t want hair like that?

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(of course the John’s are crooked)

These childhood bands sent my life in a certain direction. Everyone knows The Beatles and most will probably say they enjoy their music. The Beatles and Led Zeppelin (and to a lesser extent Cream and Jimi Hendrix) were obsessions. I heard them in the car on the radio, and when my dad was home and drinking and playing his stereo (that I was convinced he loved more than me at times), but I needed it for myself. At age 7 or 8, I started buying the albums that my dad had sitting in the next room. I needed them to be mine. I wanted to be responsible for my own copies. Take care of something of my own. And it continued on into my teens. I’m convinced buying Magical Mystery Tour and HELP! (my favorite two at the time) started my reckless journey in music. The connection I had with music at that age was interesting because The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are two of the biggest bands of all time, but they felt like mine. I wasn’t aware of the world. The Beatles selling millions upon millions of a greatest hits album didn’t mean anything to me. But as I got older I became more aware and probably started looking towards indie music to find that same feeling. Sure I still love Bleed American, but it was the small clubs and bars with a hundred people standing around (or running around) that was got me through those damn teen years. It was in those clubs that I again found the experience I had with The Beatles as a 10 year old sitting on the floor in my bedroom, wearing headphones, reading and singing along until I knew every word and every sound on every song. What lead me to find out that an anvil was used on Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is what drove me to listen to bands that released a 4 song ep 10 years ago and disappeared.

Coincidentally, I’m wearing a Beatles shirt today. I get new Beatles shirts every year (thanks mom).

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Have I Mentioned I Love The Beatles?

It could be worse. It’s strange that such an obvious fact fails to make a difference. All things considered it should be worse. But I can still barely open my eyes. Everybody wants simplicity. A causes B. It’s natural to find patterns, even when there aren’t any. It’s better to think you see a lion when the wind blows through the tall grass than ignore it and hope for the best. 

I’ve been asked a thousand times, and have asked myself even more, why? Each time I wade through the mushy spongey recesses of my brain, I keep coming up empty. And I’m left facing the worst answer. There is no reason. Nothing to sit and work out. I’ll spend hours trying to figure out where my brain went wrong. If there was just a cause I could fix it. If there was just an event I can stop it. Instead, I’m trying to solve nothing. There’s no equation, just numbers randomly called out. I’m almost convinced I can predict the next one. I needed to convince myself I could find a pattern. I needed there to be one. 

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