Vacation at the Beach

Last weekend I went on a short trip down the California coast. The weather was drab and ugly, which made it extra nice since I prefer drab and ugly as a perfectly reflection of myself. Going places is tough for me, I’m highly particular, and novel experiences terrify me as does simply going down the street to get a cup of coffee.

So on nice trips like this, I am often equal parts dreading and excited for everything that will happen.

In the end, the experiences are always enjoyable even if not every part was what it could have been. Most of my posts are about music or meaning in life, I thought this would serve as a palate cleanser.

Here are a couple pictures from my trip.

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Look at that sky, just waiting to slaughter us all.

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As a former geology student, I wouldn’t shut up about these formations.
“Hey, how do you bore people to death?”
“Be a true nerd.”

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Right before the earth opened up to swallow us.

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The end is coming for me.

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Oh wait, lazy harbor seals. All is right in the world.

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Vacation at the Beach

What does it mean to be happy?

Am I getting better?

These are massive questions, aren’t they? How do you go about answering them? I personally have little belief in myself to adequately think of a meaningful answer to either question. But why not have fun with it? I think in a vague way, I am getting better. It has more to do with acceptance than improvement. I’m not sure my mental state has changed all that much, but I think my understanding of it has improved and I’ve come to accept what are generally thought of as “negative” emotions will always be in my head. It’s not that I like them all the time, there are times when it’s almost unbearable, and I haven’t redefined what the emotions are. I’ve just separated them from inherent judgments. Sadness isn’t inherently bad. Anger isn’t inherently bad. Depression isn’t inherently bad. Feeling any specific way isn’t inherently bad, or good. Happiness isn’t always good, either. We tend to forget that fact until someone mentions that hedonistic pleasures makes one feel good. Then we usually reframe happiness to mean deep, lasting, fulfilling happiness. So it’s clear not all pleasurable states are good. So why should all “negative” states be bad, besides the fact that other people tell us they are?

But because I’ve accepted the feelings does that mean I’m getting better? Well, taking the question to mean am I getting better mentally (closer to happiness, the subject of the first question), no. My feelings have not improved. They haven’t changed much at all over the last handful of years (or more). I am no closer to happiness than I was when I was in the darkest timeline. But I’ve grown to appreciate the darkest timeline. Instead of deciding it’s bad, I’ve decided that I can use it for myself. To learn. The best I can say about darkness is it’s a good setting for adventures. Sometimes it’s too easy to see in the light.

 

 

 

By the way the first two lines (including the title as a line) are taken from a song by Sorority Noise called Mononokay. It goes something like this:

What does it mean to be happy?
And am I getting better?
I used to make excuses for myself but it’s not the weather.
I need to rid myself, of my anxious tendencies,
But I have to accept my head for what it is to me.
I’m not super human,
Well I’m barely alive,
But I would kill to leave my house and not be afraid of the outside.
So I started thinking,
It’d be so nice,
To not have trouble sleeping,
I haven’t slept in nights.

 

 

 

 

* This was meant to be a little more lighthearted, discussion post after the vague personal entries of this week. Not sure I succeeded.

What does it mean to be happy?

Music Monday

You rock, while I roll.

KICK IT!

Might do this every week, might not. But, speaking of memories, I enjoy reliving some fun times and many, many are related to music. This will be a chance for me to basically pick bands at random and think of experiences related to said band.

Today we have The Velvet Teen. They are a relatively local band, coming from Santa Rosa, CA. The bassist actually worked at a record store I visited on a record hunting trip. They’ve been around for around 15 years. Anyway, that’s where I’ll end the history and start in on some memories.

This band was a favorite in my group of friends but I never really checked them out. I had heard a song here and there and enjoyed them well enough but they didn’t really click with me and I was never motivated to listen to any of their albums. That all changed when I joined a few people on a short road trip down to Santa Cruz to see them play a free live show in 2005. It was a rad show and I was immediately struck by how good the drummer was. He was one of the best and most interesting I had ever seen. I had 5 dollars in my pocket and bought Plus, Minus, Equals from them after the show. We listened to it on the way home and I was surprised the drummer wasn’t as intense or complicated as it was at the live show. The music was still lovely though, so it didn’t bother me that much. Songs like Naked Girl and, everyone’s favorite, Counting Backwards, were really well written songs.

When I was talking to some friends the next day, I was told they had a new drummer because their original drummer had a brain tumor.

I was a huge fan of that band from that day on and saw them play a number of times since then. They played Noise Pop in San Francisco the next year and I went with 4 friends. We had gone to a show at noon that day, and hung out in the city all day leading up to The Velvet Teen. The show was insane. They played almost no old songs, instead playing tons from their yet to be released album. The sound was completely different but it blew my mind.

They haven’t released a full album since 2006, but they are apparently finished recording one recently. It seems they signed to Top Shelf and, if the No Star EP is any indication of the quality (even if it isn’t an indication of the sound), it’s gonna be awesome.

Music Monday

That Kid

That kid is nothing but reflexes and clever tricks
She’s the latest model following a long history of innovations
She’s a blank canvas on which we paint all our dreams
Project into the unknown
Endless possibilities, infinity in a compact package, wrapped up
And made cute so that life slides to the periphery
Until death peeks out to remind us of the future
A world that ends, sometimes brutally and loud
A disease or simple resistance to the inevitable reduction of freedom
Our horizons retreat as we grow, then collapse back on us
Caging who we are and squeezing
Until life no longer resembles our visions of it
We are drawing the past

I held you as your great grandma faced her future
Her husband, her house, her car, her freedom
Those things that made her who she feels she is
They are being stripped away and she’s afraid
She cried
Your mother cried
You grandma cried
Your aunt cried

I held you

That Kid

Fan Friday 8: Late Night Edition

It’s still Friday to me!

Ai Weiwei is a well known artist from China. He’s featured in a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which is on Netflix streaming. It’s a great little documentary and I recommend it to everyone interested in politics or art. Right now, he has an exhibit on Alcatraz (that I should be going to see next month) about political prisoners from around the world and questions what freedom really is. Amnesty International went over to Alcatraz last week to look at the exhibit.

I have a little book of short quotes called Ai Weiwei-isms. It’s a collection of quotes taken from interviews, articles, blogs and tweets by Weiwei.

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What I frequently see from people, probably even myself, is a devaluing of our freedoms. Things like twitter, instagram, facebook, and even blogs (gasp!), are ripped apart all the time. Who doesn’t get tired of reading silly, bordering on idiotic, posts on facebook? I think we forget that being allowed to do such a simple thing as write a tweet is actually not a guarantee. This freedom does result in countless terrible arguments in comment sections all over the internet, but on the other hand Ai Weiwei was jailed for a blog post. That’s a reality a lot of us aren’t faced with and as a result we denigrate what these things are rather than acknowledge what they could be. Whether you have something to say about the government or only want to write about your day to day activities, it’s pretty neat that we can do it.

“These are nonviolent people who have lost their freedom simply because they expressed their ideas… In truth, they are heroes of our time.”

People like Ai Weiwei (and I wish I was more aware of the countless others) remind me that tweeting can be an act of rebellion. And that every word holds meaning.

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Many times I’ve read “what does a hashtag do?” What is does is start a conversation, if anyone else wants to have one. It also allows you to express your thoughts. Whether you get one retweet or a hundred thousand, it’s freedom. Freedom in a meaningful sense as well. Individual freedom to your thoughts without fear. What that doesn’t mean is that you can say stupid things without someone telling you you’re stupid. You see this sort of thing when a favorite TV personality or radio host says something over the top. They yell “freedom of speech” when all anyone wants to do is point out the stupidity of what he or she said. But in all those cases, people seem to overlook the fact that no one is being hauled off to jail. That’s what the freedom means. That’s what plenty of people do not have.

It seems like the world is full of cynics. People who sit on the sideline and shit on everything while never taking the risk necessary to care about something themselves. It’s not hard to be that cynical person. I was that person in my late teens. But it just meant I was static while other people were taking risks. Sometimes they failed, sometimes they said something stupid. But I wasn’t saying anything at all.

“Blogs and the Internet are great inventions for our time, because they give regular people an opportunity to change public opinion.”

Sometimes we use it to say nothing at all. But it’s pretty nice that it’s there when we need it.

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Fan Friday 8: Late Night Edition

Fan Friday 6: A Simple Experience

I recommend and talk about music all the time both online here and in my daily life. It’s hard not to when music was the primary thing I cared about for so many years. I was a fan in every way possible, and I wanted to live it. I bought CDs and records every week. The only thing I really had in my room that was mine (besides dressers and a bed and such) was a stereo I saved for years to buy. My parents would sometimes give me money to go out with some friends, and I wouldn’t eat or spend it on anything so I could buy another album. I went to shows constantly for 7 or 8 years. Every one I knew was in a band. We all played together. It was a real incestuous musical situation.

What I find with most people is music is generally relegated to the background. Played while driving or while studying. It’s playing in the background at parties or when reading. Very few people, in my experience, sit down and do nothing but listen to a record from beginning to end.

So there’s my Fan Friday. Sitting down – no computer, no smart phone, no tablet, no book, no distractions at all – and playing your favorite album from start to finish as loud as possible. I forget how much I love it sometimes.

Enjoy.

Fan Friday 6: A Simple Experience

WINTER MUSIC

Oh man, another post I will spend way too much time putting together, while fully aware how rare it is for someone to listen to random songs on a random persons blog. LET’S GO!

In this hemisphere at this time of year, it means winter. And winter means cold. Granted, someone in Colorado might not agree with me on what qualifies as cold, but we can agree it’s colder than usual for all of us. Winter brings a lot of Christmas music, but that’s too cheery for this weather. It’s damp and cold. It looks depressing and, SAD tells us, it makes us depressed. That doesn’t mean the music has to be down, but maybe something that fits the mood better than A Holly Jolly Christmas. (yeah, Blue Christmas, Please Come Home, and Fairytale of New York are better, but still.)

These songs fit really well with the winter days. I like to go on walks with these playing in the headphones. Or play them on my fancy stereo to accompany the rain hitting the roof.

Nada Surf – See These Bones
Almost every Nada Surf song is great for winter (and rain), but See These Bones is perfect. See These Bones is a near perfect song. Day, night, hot, cold, whatever. The three melodies at the end of the song are beautiful. Everything is layered and still really clean sounding without being overproduced. Their album Let Go is a must have for every living person.

The Good Life – So Let Go
Wonderfully sparse song. It sounds pretty even though it’s a bit of a downer, lyrically. Turned up loud, you can hear every sound. Layered songs like the Nada Surf song above are great, but this sort of thing will always have a place in my heart.

Murder by Death – I Came Around
Very hard to pick a song by these guys. I loved their 2003 album Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them? and saw them in November of that year (with The New Amsterdams and Straylight Run). A lot of their songs are wonderful for slow, dark days. This stripped down live version is great, maybe better than the album.Oh, and a quick note about the name… it’s terrible. BUT it’s taken from a movie of the same name, so don’t hold it against them.

 

WINTER MUSIC