Door May Voo.

"Have you heard of the artist Sister Louisa?" Rawksta'hr asked me.

"Is she like Grandma Moses?" I replied "Or Mother Teresa? Or perhaps like Brother John, who might be sleeping; we shall inquire?"

My humor would be lost on most people but she laughed.

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So Everyone Knows

You will not make your space colder, faster, if you set the air conditioning below the desired temperature. AC units are not sentient and will not work harder upon seeing how much further they have to go.

All you're going to do is end up wasting energy when you forget to adjust the thermostat come your desired temperature. The air conditioning will then continue to needlessly crank out cold air.

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Collectors' Editions

Needlessly expensive and offering little added value, these soulless artifacts of claptrap salesmanship clutter store shelves, complicate retail inventories and foul the shopping experience.

Whist swindling legitimate enthusiasts, producers of these products cheat casual consumers by omitting otherwise standard features from the original package in order to falsely ascribe value to the pricier counterpart.

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Yule Blessings

I sat at the Junction last night, as I often do on idle weekend evenings. Weatherman was in rare form, testing new material and keeping his audience cheering in a way that only really happens at Irish pubs.

Most of the way through "Rare ol' Mountain Dew" he stopped short.

"Throw away your pills
It'll cure all ills
Be you Pagan, a Christian, a Jew -- "

He took his hands off the guitar and rubbed his brow, "Y'know, I don't know how many times I've done this song but this is the first time that I've sung that line and looked out," he gestured to my table, full up with friends and regulars and indicated me, Old Scot and New York Friend, each in succession "and seen a Pagan, a Christian and a Jew."

Everyone smiled and the song went on.

May your fire burn bright through the longest night of the year;
May you weather all the storms of winter;
and May fortune smile upon you with the lengthening of days.
Brightest Blessings

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Great Faith in Fools

Trust, as we like to think of it, is a fundamentally flawed notion. Much like love, we take a family of similar but still different emotions and tendencies and label them as a single thing.

"I trust you with my life," is a nearly meaningless statement. The fact is that most people, rightly so, have faith in the basic goodness of individuals.

Let's say that I was to suspend myself from a block and tackle above a forest of razor sharp spikes. Let's also say that I did this in the middle or Times' Square on a busy Saturday. Let's also say that you are the one holding the other end of the rope and that it is only your grip that keeps me from falling to my impalement. I'm confident that you could grab virtually any passer-by in the metropolis of New York City and then, after showing them my predicament, force the rope into their hand and they would not drop me. Insomuch as this, I am willing to trust any stranger on the street with my life.

This example is melodramatic in the extreme but the fact remains, virtually any sane person, when put into a clear cut situation of 'do X right now or Y person will die before your eyes' will act, at huge inconvenience and even danger to themself, to preserve the life of stranger Y.

Put more succinctly, there are many more people that I will trust with my life than I will trust with my wallet.

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Silence and Winter

As a child I could hear my own heartbeat and the rush of blood in my ears if the room was quiet enough. I didn't realize what it was until I was quite a bit older. At the time it sounded like someone walking in deep snow.


On Film Making - The "C" Stand

I've heard it said by a number of super-indie shooters that the only thing that you need to shoot a movie is a camera. This is true but the idea of shooting without a truck full of C-Stands seems really daunting.

Arguably the most versatile piece of film support equipment, the Century Grip Stand goes back to some of the earliest days of film making. It's been in use for over one hundred years and some even go so far as to say that Edison, himself invented them, though I doubt that's true.

Expressly, they're for one of two purposes, holding very small lights and for holding the things that then manipulate that light. In my experience, light heads small enough to be safely mounted on a C-stand like Inkys and Jokers aren't used that often so the Electrics only have a handful of these. The Grip department, however, will likely have dozens, if not hundreds, of these devices.

Generally, C-stands hold flags, nets, frames, kookalorises, mole trees and all the other grip equipment used in painting with light. More prosaically, I've seen them used to build courtesy tents, hold up portable sound studios, prop up false walls, hold monitors, create cyc screens, mock up false windows, grip boom poles and place hold for actors' eyelines.

No other device rivals the C-stand for versatility. In fact, I've heard it said that it came to be called the "Century" stand because it can be configured in over 100 distinct ways.*

In terms of construction, it's a simple set of telescoping cylinders on top of a tripod. The legs of the tripod are each a different height to facilitate putting a number of stands in close quarters. At the top is a standard grip pin. Generally a gobo head and arm are attached to the pin.** When all three risers are extended and the arm vertical they approach thirteen feet in height. The whole thing then collapses flat for easy transport and storage. Additionally, there are a handful of variations on the C-stand for particular applications. A "Gary Coleman" is a miniature C-stand, only two feet or so high, for instance.

I cannot overstate the importance of this piece of equipment. If you're in film school, familiarize yourself with this bit of gear. If you're thinking about starting a production company, get some of these. They're one of the few pieces of equipment that can be picked up relatively cheaply. If you're in a production office talking to the rental house and you can't get in touch with your Key Grip to find out if the order is exactly what he specified, always default to a half dozen extra. C-stands, when in abundance, can substitute for at least a dozen other pieces of equipment but absolutely nothing is an adequate substitute for the C-stand. One day, when I no longer have to share an office, I will build my shelves and floor lamps from C-stands and my desk from Apple Boxes just to impress on others how vital this kind of equipment is. Am I making sense here?

The very practices of Gripping and Gaffing are predicated on the assumption that there are plenty of C-stands go go around. Excepting Apple Boxes, they are the most ubiquitous item on a professional film shoot. All other pieces of film gear are designed to interface with them. They are such a staple of the industry that trying to light a movie without them would be a bit like trying to make a cake without mixers or spatulas.

Speaking of which, Apple Boxes, but that's a screed for another time.

*The name actually comes from the original C-stands extending to 100 inches in height.

**Technically, the gobo arm and the stand are separate bits of gear but they are so often sold, used and stored in this configuration that they are assumed to go together, even though the arm has many other uses independent of the stand, itself.

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Bloated, wasteful, hubristic, nearly useless bits of culturally sanctioned normalcy. They are everything that was wrong with the 50's station wagon but larger, louder and less efficient. They are the most obvious sign of a large fraction of the American populace that has become separated physically and psychically from the rest of human kind, icons of anesthetised suburbia.

After more than fifteen years of automotive domination, I take little comfort in the fact that they have become an economically and socially untenable industrial dinosaur.

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While Canada's on Fire...

The rain comes down in sheets and the coffee shop is completely full but no one says a word. You've spent much of the morning walking the razor's edge between introspective joy and economic terror. You find yourself chuckling to yourself, tapping your foot and making a hand written list of the things you hate.

Just one of those days.


Spare Me Your Indifference

I've been difficult to be around lately, it's true.

Outside of my blog I'm writing something of some length. The main character in which is a pure misanthrope. He is openly venomous towards all the machinations of humankind and generally despises everyone and everything.

Hilarity ensues.

Anyway, for the people who have noticed a change in my demeanor, please understand that I currently spend several hours each day sitting by myself and concentrating on hating absolutely everything around me. Understandably, this has an effect on the rest of my life. I hope to be done with the first draft before Giftmas and should be back to my regular, only mildly vitriolic self.

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Wikipedia Will Kill You

Before I get into this screed, I should disclaim that I love the Wikimedia foundation. They are on their way to fundamentally changing the way we learn. Their flagship project, Wikipedia is an important staple of the internet that has empowered individuals, expanded public discourse and generally done the noble work of making people smarter.

That having been said, beware what you find on Wiki's.

On WikiHow today I found THIS ARTICLE* on what to do if one's parachute fails to open.

The information contained herein is incorrect. Not just mistaken, no, it is absolutely and completely, from top to bottom, outright, bass-ackwards wrong and attempting the, supposedly lifesaving, technique explained here would likely kill not only you but whoever was dumb enough to try it with you.

This piece was clearly not written by a skydiver. Any of us who've been through a day one jump course knows better than this. Whoever wrote this has spent more time watching poorly researched movies about skydiving than they ever have spent researching the sport, itself.

The technique explained, essentially bear-hugging another jumper through their harness and having them deploy their canopy for both people, is unnecessary, impractical and dangerous, probably more dangerous than the chute malfunction that might prompt someone to attempt it in the first place.

First, skydivers break off our formation well above their deployment altitude. We track away from each other, ideally until there is more than one hundred feet between any two jumpers, before pitching our pilot chutes. If, at that time, one of us realized that we were having a catastrophic malfunction, we would likely not have time to track back to and dock with another jumper before both became meat waffles.

Second, even if one could accomplish the dock and the other jumper was able to deploy one shoot for both, the reduced drag profile and increased weight of two people falling together would mean that the pair were falling much faster than normal. Deploying a canopy at high speeds, while carrying double the usual weight is likely to snap the suspension lines or tear the nylon, collapsing the canopy and landing both people in a more precarious situation than.

Third, supposing, just for the sake of argument that one could pull all of this off, whoever managed to do it would have to be a highly experienced skydiver. No novice could manage it. More advanced jumpers tend to use canopies that are smaller in relation to their weight, often much smaller, than those used by their less experienced compatriots. We call this comparison between weight and size of canopy "wingloading" and I'm not going to go into any detail but, suffice to say, the smaller the parachute and the more weight suspended beneath it, the faster it travels, faster down and faster forward. Additionally, though a rig laden with two jumpers would go faster, it won't break any harder so the jumper piloting the canopy would have less steerability. Even if a pair of jumpers could deploy and get to the ground safely, they would have to land going twice as fast than if either of them was alone and with less control over the canopy.

Fourth, by FAA mandate, all civilian skydiving rigs are equipped with a second, reserve canopy. It is spring-loaded and packed in a manner intended to reduce or eliminate malfunctions. This canopy is, by law, inspected, maintained and repacked by an FAA certified parachute rigger no less than every 160 days. Reserve parachutes are some of the most well designed, extensively tested and reliable pieces of safety equipment on the planet and they make stunts like this absolutely unnecessary.

Finally, and this is the reason that I'm writing a diatribe on my blog rather than a hotly worded letter sent in triplicate to the FAA, FIA and USPA. Anybody who's had a first day's jump course, anyone who's had the tiniest bit of training, knows better than to try something so ridiculous. Sure, there are hugely experienced demo and stunt divers with thousands of jumps who have done exactly this maneuver but they do it as a stunt, not as a life saving enterprise. In either case, these are extremely advanced jumpers that aren't going to be getting survival advice from WikiHow.

The real point being, Wiki's can be edited by anyone. Generally, this means that they are self-regulating, with the best and most correct ideas gaining the most traction. At other times, though, they can be outright wrong, perhaps dangerously so.

Reader beware.

* I actually added to the article in both the Tips and in the Warnings sections to try and impress upon readers how unrealistic this article is.

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Species of Falsehood.

When one asserts something that is false but that they honestly believe to be true, we don't accuse them of lying. Mistaken, uninformed, incorrect, undereducated and a number of other less charitable things that may insult their upbringing and intelligence, yes, but we don't impune their integrity by calling them a liar.

What about situations in which a person asserts something that is clearly and demonstrably false but genuinely believes it to be true even though they really should know better? Do we have a word for someone who deliberately ignores or avoids information that would cause them to concede their incorrectness?

This is the problem with young Earth creationists, abstinence only proponents, laissez-faire market advocates, many card players and all scriptural literalists. They're not liars; their intent is not to deceive but rather to spread ideas that they cannot comprehend as being false.

What is the word for that?

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Is Ten Dollars Still Money?

When I go to see a movie on which I've worked or when I buy the DVD of that movie, should I feel good about supporting the endeavor on which I and my compatriots worked so hard or should I feel cheated because ours is one of the minority of industries that doesn't offer a discount to its employees when purchasing one of their own products?

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Morning on Bald Mountain

From the summit of Stone Mountain one can clearly see the miasma of pollution that enshrouds Atlanta. A vomit colored ribbon hovers some fifteen hundred feet above the city, beginning, quite distinctly, above five points and continuing nearly fifteen miles into Sandy Springs.

I live only a mile from downtown Atlanta and the air is, by comparison to other metropolises, quite breathable, lacking the industrial city-stench so obvious in Manhattan, Chicago and London. Though, if I ever thought the air in the Phoenix city was clean, yesterday's hike divested me of that illusion.


A Breath in a High Wind.

If you want to be alone, the best time is between four and five a.m. on a Tuesday. All the night owls have gone to roost and all the morning folks (venomous creatures) are yet to stir. One can walk the long lengths of yellow lines on urban thoroughfares unmolested an unquestioned.

If you want to go unnoticed, the best time is between nine and ten a.m. on a Wednesday. Everyone you might wake has gone to their worthless sales of labor. Anyone you do wake can't care to care. The world that might give you credence has gone to ground and you're left with nothing but hard, hateful morning.


The Good, the Bad and the Fugly

I've been re-reading a number of the materials that I had first been through during film school, books, articles, reviews and academic analyses.

While much of it, probably a third, remains illuminating, most of it seems irrelevant when re-framed in the context of my professional rather than academic life. Moreover, the handful of books that have been most influential to me I discovered long after I had finished my time in university.

Mostly, I'm troubled by the critics', both academic and popular, hangups on the ephemeral ideals of 'good' versus 'bad' film making. This is a concept that I categorically reject. Film is simply too expansive, too complex, too collaborative and too polyglot a discipline for a work to simply be labeled 'good' or 'bad' or with any such attendant superlative of those words.

Evocative, boring, engaging, character driven, wordy, amateurish, frenetic, tightly composed, saccharine, anachronistic, confusing, artistically daring, intellectual, lyrical, depressing, low-brow, uneven, hackneyed, relevant, gut wrenching, colorful, languid, unique, senseless, entertaining, gory, ill-concieved and unwatchable: such words I will accept but 'good' and 'bad,' no.

Granted, in casual conversation, I'm fine with these words as a shorthand for 'I liked it / didn't like it (for any one of a myriad of reasons)' but critics and scholars, don't dare be so lazy.


The Only Show I Ever Really Watched.

I love The West Wing, love it, love it, love it.

Why do I love it?

Is it because it was nearly prescient in it's prediction of a minority president? Is it because it has some of the best acting in television history? Is it because, ideologically speaking, it's tantamount to liberal porn?

No, none of these things.

I love The West Wing because it is the only show I have ever watched to which I must pay active attention in order to keep up. It is the only program that engages my intellect at an aggressive pace. It is the only televisual hour that rises substantially above the fray of the vast wasteland.

Sadly, it's no longer on the air. I'll have to make due with DVD and Bravo.

Well, there is Jeopardy.


Coldplay Wrote a Song about a Tree on my Block

Yesterday I found myself sitting under a yellow tree. It's high autumn and this tiny tree, no more than fifteen feet high, trunk no thicker than a soda can, just an upright branch, was ablaze. As a small child, my bedroom was painted bright yellow but that color was dull, muted in retrospect. I've never before seen such a vibrant hue. It drew the eye from a block away, this radiant, electric, platonic yellow. Yellow had been, to my mind, a wimpy color but it is not so anylonger.

In the next few days, of course, the shade will darken, the leaves will fall to the ground and by this time next week that tree will be little more than a denuded twig but today, today it practically burned they eyes with its intensity. The neighboring trees with leaves of umber and vermilion must surely have been a jealous as trees can be.

More than the color of the tree though, I marvel at my own fascination. Why is it that we notice some things so distinctly on certain days when most of the world passes beneath our notice?

Smells Musty in Here

Due to a catastrophic computer failure, badassbard.com is down and will continue to be so for some time.

I've come back here to pontificate in the mean time.


Not Older. Just one Year Closer to Burial.

Happy Birthday to Me.
Happy Birthday to Me.
Happy Birthday to Me-ee.
Happy Birthday to Me.


You Can't Take the Sky From Me

Today my canopy opened with me dangling above a thin, gray, cloud. It was an ephemeral thing, translucent, still in the process of coalescing some three thousand feet above the ground, more a bank of mist than a cloud at all. I doubt anyone on the ground could even see it.

As I glided gently over this evanescent bit of atmospheric moisture I passed directly between it at the sun and there, for a few heartbeats I could see the shadow of myself, hanging in air, my canopy and my body sharply outlined against the miasma. Around my shadow I could see a halo of color, a perfect, round rainbow encircling the impression of my shape.

I am not yet skilled enough to be allowed a freefall camera so I have no memento save my own recollection. Perhaps it’s better this way, the memory of something so lovely and so rare can live as a motivation for excellence, the possibility of such a sight pushing me to jump and jump and jump.

For those who keep wondering why I insist on repeatedly “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane,” picture that and it’s not so hard to understand.


A Reminder

This blog will be decommissioned next week. The whole of it's content as well as all future rantings are moving to Badass Bard Dot Com.

That site is already up and running if you want to go ahead and pop on over.

Get In My Belly

I once had a friend of great and unerring moral principal who refused to consume any product that was created through the perishment of another creature. While she would eat eggs and cheese, she would eat no flesh of any kind, terrestrial, aquatic, vertebrate or otherwise. She wore no leather and couldn't bring herself to string a tennis racket despite an overriding love of the sport.

When questioned on this conviction she would reply, "I don't believe in meat."

Not to defame someone that I love and admire but, excuse me, you don't believe in meat?

Meat is a fact. It cannot be denied. It's existence had been proven empirically.

You can disbelieve in Santa and you can disbelieve in the Easter bunny. You can choose not to believe in the fidelity of your lover, the promises of politicians, the potential for cold fusion and your teenager's explanation of late night tardiness but you can't choose not to believe in meat.

Meat is real. It's actually there. It's existence is confirmed by billions of individual reports. You can see it. You can touch it. You can pick it up. You can, if you are so inclined, eat it.

Yes, I understand that that's not what she meant but the English language is a semantic and semiotic tool of such power, efficacy and grace that we really should give some thought to it before we casually misuse it.


Freedom FROM Religion

Faith is rather like a rhinoceros, in fact: it won't do much in the way of real work for you, and yet at close quarters it will make spectacular claims upon your attention.

- Sam Harris
The End of Faith p.215
ISBN 978-0-393-32765-6


Everything is Perfect : Everything is Sick

Many of the best products of the human spirit are both achingly beautiful and entirely superfluous.

This is not to imply a similarity with the worst products of that selfsame spirit which often manifest those same properties.

The heart's greatest challenge may be recognizing the difference.


Hey, So Ya Know

This blog is going to be decommissioned in the next few weeks.

All of the relevant content as well as my future pontifications will henceforth be housed at BadassBard.com.

Currently, I'm cross-posting everything but that is for a limited time only.

Suggestions and comments for the new blog are welcomed and appreciated.

This is a Open Road Song

It's a bad idea but we've all done it, driven when we should have been sleeping. We've let our eyelids droop while behind the wheel. In a few heartbeats we realize and snap awake, hopefully while still on the pavement.

Once, when speeding down a desolate, pin straight, empty stretch of Arizona interstate I did exactly that but when I snapped back awake four songs had gone by on the CD.

I choose not to contemplate the potential ramifications of this.


Public Notice - Don't Fuck with Me While I'm Making my Movie

With the plethora of media production in the US, odds are that you will come across an active location shoot at some point in your life. Here are some tips for when that happens.

1. Don't stop anyone who is in the middle of a task to ask what it is that's being shot. They're working. They have something to accomplish other than accommodating your curiosity.

2. If a PA tells you to hold on a minute, to go around the block or to not look at the camera, do as they ask. Best case scenario, you end up in the movie in some small way. Worst case scenario ...

3. Do NOT, ever, for any reason, honk your horn or cat call at the production. This is doubly true if we're shooting on your block or somehow inconviencing you. Extraneous noise corrupts the audio recording and distracts the actors and thus guarentees that we have to do more takes. Ergo, if you make a ruckus, we will be there longer than we otherwise would have been.

4. Do not ask if you can be in the movie. Only one or two people on set are empowered to decide such things and they're not going to stop to talk to interlopers. Besides, no one who couldn't be a playboy centerfold has ever gotten into a movie that way.

5. Above all, remember that the people shooting this film are, at that very moment, at work. They are feeding their children, paying their rent, earning their paycheck. Movie business or not, they probably have a job that is as desultory and as aggravating as you. You don't need someone fucking with you while you're on the job and neither do we.

You have been thusly enlightened.


Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here

"Are you gonna be okay?" the B operator asks me.

It's three am and I'm laying backwards on a poolside deck chair, feet elevated and head hanging off the side where one's feet should properly go. I'm grinning from ear to ear and can't go a full minute without chuckling. I imagine my words are slurring a bit. How could they not be? I'm a bit tipsy, it's true, but I'm not nearly the drunkest one here, not by an order of magnitude.

"I'm fine. I'm just fine," I say.

He shrugs and wanders back towards the bar and the DJ, leaving me to wonder how I'm going to get up, should it become necessary.

I love these moments, rare as they are.

We're halfway through the season and the camera and art departments, with some help from the executive producer, have thrown the cast and crew one hell of a party. We're all having a great time, carousing, toasting, bullshitting, terrifying the hotel staff and living it up on sponsor-provided beer.

For as much as I complain about working on low budget projects, about the long hours, the crappy accommodations, the mediocre pay and the lack of prestige, these shows do have a precious and transcendent upside. Tonight I talked skydiving and album art with the creator/star of the show. I shared home brewed mead with the executive producer. Told dirty jokes with a first team actor and lost a game of beer pong to the gaffer. I've partied, without a trace of self-consciousness, with just about everyone involved in the show.

This doesn't happen on the big shows. On multi-million dollar projects everyone is more guarded. Above the line stays aloof and I.A. people keep largely to their own departments. Parties and other events are more a medium for producers to impress friends and investors than an avenue for camaraderie and release. Everyone is very politic and stays high on their toes lest they say or do something that will be looked upon unfavorably.

In low budget world though, we all know we've got the same shit gig so no one's that worried about impressing anyone else. There's an intimacy, a dedication to craft and a shared love of the work that's unique to works of this scope.

It won't be like this next season. When the show blows up, and it will; it's that kind of funny, the actors will all become famous and acquire assistants with assistants, the crew will double in size and each technician will keep to their family of similarly experienced individuals. The jokes will get cleaner, the tones of speech more serious, the stakes higher.

Sure, we'll all get paid a lot more but we won't have these moments, these times when we can all smile and marvel at how lucky we are. It's a trade off that we all know we'll have to make and complaining about it does about as much good as cursing the weather.

For the moment though, I'm fine; I'm just fine.


Johnnie Walker Gave me a Moment of Clarity

I love scotch, scotchy scotchy scotch. Down, down, into my belly.

I'm a particular fan of the Johnnie Walker family of scotches. Some will question my taste, it's true, since aficionados prize single malts like Glenfiddich, Laphroaig, The Glenlivet and McCallan's and eschew the more prolific and milder blended varieties like JW. What can I say? I'm a plebeian and I like what I like.

The crowned jewel of the Johnnie Walker collection is JW Blue. Perhaps you've seen it at the package store in it's satin lined box, kept under lock and key. It does retail for well over two hundred dollars, after all. Maybe you've seen it on a featured shelf at finer public houses. Perhaps you're familiar with John Spencer's monologue about it from third season ofThe West Wing. If you can afford it, you should try it, at least once.

Myself, I'm not so wealthy at to be able to indulge in more than a portion per year but I do love it so. I love it, but not why you'd think. Sure, it's flavor is smooth and robust. It's timbre uncharacteristically dark. It's aroma rich and inviting. It goes down easy and can be a digestif for a proper winter meal, a perfect compliment to a finer cigar or a distinctive standalone treat. These things are all well worth the savoring but they are not why I love Johnnie Walker Blue.

I love JW Blue philosophically.

Some of the individual malts that go into this blend are upwards of sixty years old. When these whiskeys were first fermented my father was but a boy and my mother not yet born. The peat for these libations was harvested during the second world war, before computers, before commercial air travel, before the space program, before the cold war and before television.

Don't misunderstand. I don't love the heart of this scotch because I fetishize what is old. No, I don't so much admire the age as I admire the patience involved. Any decent scotch sits in it's cask for at least twelve years. Finer scotches age for upwards of two decades. That's a mighty long time for a distiller to wait to see if their hard work, their execution of craft has come to fruition.

The malts in JW Blue sat in their barrels, absorbing the wood tannins, deepening in color and tithing to the angels well more than half a century.

That means the man who first casked that whiskey at the tail end of WWII did so knowing that he would not live to see it bottled, fully aware that he was beginning a job that he would never see finished.

That's a kind of dedication to craft, a kind of long haul thinking that we just don't see any longer. Does anyone even think in terms of legacy anymore? Does anyone have the gumption, the pride, the altruism of spirit to work and slave at something knowing they will never get credit, that perhaps their grandchildren will reap the rewards?

That's why I love Johnnie Walker Blue. It's a taste of history, three fingers of posterity and a reminder of an ethic I can only hope to emulate. That's on top of being a fantastic scotch.

And so, to that man who casked my scotch without the first hope of ever tasting it himself, I raise my glass. May the road rise up to meet you.


My First Solo Jump

Perfect diving exit.

Hard and fast 360's in freefall. Hard back loop, four rolls over, for three thousand feet.

I could have stood up the landing but I wimped out and rolled soft.

I can't remember a time in my adult life when I've been more proud of myself. I exited, free-fell and landed m'self in near textbook fashion without a single word of advice.

After today, I am properly and truly a skydiver.


And Some Days...

... you look out and see that the world is a long, long way away; the closest thing you have for a mentor knocks you arse over head and you come back to Earth feeling like you've really accomplished something.


Cheap and Evil Girl

This week's episode of the TV show I'm working on centers completely around a woman's chest and our protagonist's obsession therein. In fact, nearly every male character featured in the episode is infatuated with this female character's cleavage.

I've been in the middle of this all week, there for every single take. I've sat through all the jokes, both scripted and unscripted. I've weathered all the innuendo by crew and entourage. It's giving me a headache. I can't imagine what it's like for the actress who plays our amply-endowed object of desire.

Through all this I've realized, I just don't get it.

I mean, boobs are pretty. I'm a big fan of boobs but really, but if a hefty chest is all that a woman has, then she ain't got much.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen attributes that trump tits: legs, for one, smile, for another, plus eyes, scent, back, tattoos, voice, the small of the back, the nape of the neck, and let's not forget brains, eloquence and a reckless disregard for social propriety.

Now, if I can find a woman who has all these things plus a great set of knockers, all the better, but really, let's understand our priorities here.


Some Pagan Beliefs Make No Sense to Me.

Dear Fellow Pagans,

Please stop believing in stupid shit. Rather, please stop making a show of believing rediculous, foolish, demonstrably false things that have nothing to do with religious faith.

By example, there is no planet Nibiru orbiting the the sun in a three thousand year period and it will not collide with the Earth in 2012. If there were, we would be able to detect the effects of it's gravity on other bodies and we do not.

Also, vaccinations do not cause autism. A number of rigorous, peer reviewed, double blind studies have failed to establish a connection between the two.

Additionally, the pyramids were not built by aliens. Look it up.

While we're at it, lycanthropes, blood sucking vampires and baby stealing sprites aren't real. No verifiable specimen of any such species has ever been observed.

Finally, you, no matter how much you like to think that you do, do not have supernatural abilities. You just don't. Trust me on this one.

Every time I find myself in a group of Pagans beyond a certain size, I find a preponderance of people that believe pseudoscientific, conspiratorial, anticritical garbage and that do so with a zeal and a certainty that is diametrically opposed to existing evidence on the subjects.

We practice a collection of beautiful and powerful religions, faiths that explore and reveal some of the most profound philosophical truths of the human condition. Our set of beliefs challenge, inform and demand of us in profound and unique ways. Our mythologies and practices also put us profoundly at odds with the dominant culture and this divide strengthens us and, above all else, informs and defines our culture.

While the importance of our belief in the unorthodox cannot be understated, quackery does us no good. It taints the legitimate teachings of our faiths, impedes rational inquiry and makes us look like a bunch of nut jobs to the culture at large, a culture already entertaining enough misconceptions and a fair amount of hostility about our community as it is.

So, my fellows, I say in all seriousness, let's believe in our faith; let's believe in each other and in the power of our community; let's believe in magic but let's please quit the douchebaggery and ground ourselves a bit in reality?

Deepest Respects and Merry Parting,



In a World of Human Wreckage

You do not have bad days. Some days are hot and the AC goes out. Some days you have to sit in traffic. Some days your boss is crabby. Some days you're crabby. Some days every song on the radio is about everything that's wrong with you. Some days you realize how you've been fooling yourself and some days someone else realized how they've been fooling themself about you. Some days you're broke. Some days the dog bites you. Some days you work your ass off and accomplish nothing.

Despite this, you don't have bad days.

Why, you ask? My day was terrible. Why don't I have bad days?

Because despite all these things, you're not squatting in a bathroom hoping a mortar shell doesn't land on your house. An act of an angry god hasn't washed your home away. You have not been forced into sexual slavery. You do not fear for your life because of your ethnicity. You can speak your mind without fear of government reprisal. You've nothing to bitch about.

I say this, of course, with the presumption that you're from the industrialized north, that you enjoy the privilege, security and equity that comes from accident of birth and wealth of nation. There is the possibility that you are in poverty, in a war zone or have been robbed of your self determination by forces entirely outside your control. If this is the case, you have worthy complaint.

To the rest of you, though, those of you that bitch to no end about your job, your iced coffee or the state of high fashion, really, just grin and fucking bear it.


In Other News

I just retook my AFF level 3 and had a nearly flawless dive; held my heading; kept to my dive flow; pulled dead on my crit altitude. I pulled two hard 1080 spirals under canopy and came home right on time. I dragged my ass on the landing but I'm not really expected to be able to stand one up yet.

Got my groove back.

Whatever You do, Don't Fall Asleep

It's the same every time. I wake but I'm not sure that I've woken; I hover between states of consciousness. Wrapped in my blankets, savoring warmth, I hear a familiar sound of day and not of morning, the din of the labor of dozens. My eyes open just a bit and I find I'm the fourth wall. Above me, a camera is poised on a fisher dolly, tilt plate set aloft, gear head locked. Beside me, a ballast hums and a lamp head radiates white heat. Grip gear clutters the corners of my bedroom and technicians scurry about the business of making a movie.

While this is the standard template for my workday, it's decidedly awkward in my bedroom and all I can ever think to say is “Where's the UPM? I didn't sign a location release.”

I've had this dream at least once a month for the whole of my professional life. I think that it's the moviemaker's equivalent of the naked to school dream, which coincidentally, I've never had.

This week my recurring nightmare came true. In an attempt to conserve funds, the show that I am on for the next ten weeks has rented houses in which the upstairs serve as quarters for the out of town crew and the ground levels serve as sets. Yesterday we used my house. While we didn't actually shoot in my bedroom I did roll out of bed to find locations and art department prepping my temporary home for photography.

Maybe this will cure me of my nightmare.


How Embarassing

I failed my AFF III test.

I was working so hard on my heading control through the clouds that I didn't pay enough attention to my altitude, which is about the worst thing one can do as a student skydiver. I pulled well above the hard deck but 1300 feet below my planned deployment. My canopy opened with me in a medium lateral spin and I broke in a line twist that took me nine hundred feet to uncoil.

My first two jumps this weekend were nearly flawless so this one spooked me a bit.

I'll be back to it next Sunday.


Like Hummingbirds in Heavy Rain

A runway at night is a scene of apocalypse, flat, hard paved, empty and adorned by hundred of droplets of colored light. The mynd-like silence is broken in even intervals by the shredding of air by props and jets only to return to the infinite anticipation of soundlessness. The beacon hums lowly as it flashes its distinct code of white and color across the landscape, illuminating all in operatic sweeps.

Everything seems strangely far away, the service vehicles along the access road, the rustle of wind socks and the chatter of jumpers just inside the hanger doors. The real world doesn't touch this place any more than it has to. This is the realm of daredevils and weekend aviators who frequent the work-a-day world just enough to be considered members of society and not a touch more.

Everyone is waiting, waiting for the light, waiting for the weather to clear, waiting for the next load, the next jump, the next seventy seconds of freefall.

It's a bit like real life that way yet comfortably not so.

Kids Today

Kevin over at Pointless Banter has an interesting article lambasting anyone born since 1981 for lacking culture relevance.

I agree with his basic premise, that the popular culture of the generation that came of age in the late eighties and early nineties carries a great deal more cultural gravitas than most of what's been produced in the last few years. Reality Bites, Nirvana, the original The Real World, the works of Kevin Smith and many of their contemporaries have an edge, a force and a quality unmatched by The Hills, Fall Out Boy or MTV's later forays into reality television, to use his examples.

I cannot, however, agree with his assertion that this is generation Y's, failing, or at least not their fault. Kevin Smith's first few films notwithstanding, the makers of media are rarely the same age as those who consume it. The production personnel, money moguls, gatekeepers and producers that created generation X's iconography all grew up in the seventies. Likewise, the people who have created this last decade's drivel, the media slop that generation Y consumes so readily is made, predominantly, by members of generation X.

So, yeah, the stuff from fifteen years ago was pretty great. What's disappointing is that we, the people who grew up on it, can't get our shit together well enough to produce something consistently as good.


When My Cup's Already Overfilled

"Wow, you have an awful lot of free time. Maybe I should do what you do," he said to me.

I suppose my neighbors and acquaintances can be forgiven for thinking this. I do often have a whole week off of more. Last year I was idle for six consecutive weeks. They notice me when I'm not on a gig because I'm pretty conspicuous, home all the time, up at late hours, wandering the neighborhood aimlessly and wasting several hours a day at the nearby coffee house.

What is apparently not obvious is my absence when I'm working, waking before dawn and returning home late into the night, sleeping only a few hours at a time or spending weeks on the road.

I did the math and I worked around 2300 hours last year, about fifteen percent more hours than the average American professional. My work days start in the twelve hour range and go up from there. I once worked a twenty-six hour day. On non-union shows we work six days a week.

It's not that I have a lot of time off. Rather it's that my work hours are uniquely distributed. My friends and neighbors notice that I'm often relaxing when they come home from work but they don't notice that I'll work with barely so much as a coffee break for weeks at a time.

I like my way better. I did a desk job once and it made me into a bad person.


And Some Days...

... you find yourself cooking stew over a fire of wet wood whilst dodging hail, practicing kendo and wondering about the meaning of faith. You take a pause to shower and then attend a Jewish wedding and marvel at the energy behind the party. Later in the day you'll turn down an invitation to any orgy because you're just not in the correct psychological space.

When your mother warned you there'd be those days, this wasn't what she meant.


Mead and the Pyramid.

I asked this question in childhood. When I was still in elementary school I made a bit of a quest out of finding the answer. I consulted dozens of books. I inquired of teachers and I even had my mother call our family doctor to ask. Nobody knew. I never did get a good answer and the question faded from my mind, unanswered. It had gone almost forgotten until the other day when, in a conversation about brewing mead, someone asked the same question of me that I had once asked so many others.

"To which food group does honey belong?"

I had to chuckle at the full circle this question has made with me. Musing for a moment, I replied, "Since almost all of honey's nutritional value comes from carbohydrates, I suppose it would have to go with the breads and the starches but that's just an educated guess."

After twenty years of curiosity, I'm happy with my deduction.

If anyone knows for certain, please tell me. Otherwise, I'm keeping what I've got.


The Inevitability of History

Unquestionably, today is a landmark day. Doubtless, the California Supreme Court's ruling, unequivocally lifting the ban on same sex marriage, will be a watershed for American family law.

Despite this, I continue to be bothered by the shortsightedness of moral conservatives as they continue to oppose universal enfranchisement of a myriad of social groups.

Much like the bulk of my generation puts as much stock in someone's race or gender as we do in their shoe size, so, too will the next generation find sexual orientation to be equally as irrelevant.

In fifteen years we'll all be embarrassed that we even had to have this debate.

Here's to greater equality.

And here's to power greedy, pig headed, antiAmerican faux moralists learning to just shut the fuck up.


Rock n' Roll [TM]

Rock n' Roll [TM}
What happened to Rock n' Roll?

What happened to Metal Gods and prayers for peace and tuning in and dropping out? What happened to Woodstock and Lou Addler? What happened to smashing guitars sticking to the establishment? What happened to nigger music corrupting well behaved protestant white kids?

When did music stop being dangerous, sometime after they cut Elvis off at the waist for fear that a television broadcast of his hips might crush civilization as we understand it but before reggae became popular in Japan. When did the songs of redemption and revulsion, freedom and fanaticism, sex and social symptom become fodder for doctoral students' theses? When did youth culture acquire it's own historians like a half century's cultural transformation was a blip in the annals of collective yesterday like the Boer War and the fall of Czar Nicholas as if Anastasia herself might be found if only one studied the liner notes with enough vigor? The next generation's music has prompted no senate hearings, no conservative outrage, at least no more outrage than is considered ambient for anyone far enough to the right. No one has locked themself in their studio so that rock could flow through the atmosphere and no one has kicked down the doors of a radio station to stop the pollution of young minds.

Are Marylin Manson and the Insane Clown Posse the best that we can muster, a clan of would-have-also-never-been's that perpetually mistake grease paint and facial piercings for an authentic pair of testicles and never understand that Kiss and Dee Snider and Ziggie Stardust actually made music.

Madonna danced before a tableau of burning crosses. Ozzie Osbourne, mandibular dove decapitations aside, snorted ants and drank Nikki Six's urine. Iggy Pop wore a leather SS uniform, immolated himself with a broken beer bottle and invited audience members to drink his blood. Bob Marley took two bullets in the chest and finished the show before seeking medical attention. Ray Charles did more heroin in the summer of '62 than everyone born since 1981 put together and all of these people did this with a self determination and abandon unknown in today's popular culture.

What happened to it all? What happened to rebellion and radicalism, to leather and lace, to talking guitars and rock operas, to hedonism and heroism, to the decade of decadence, to an entire generation with an axe to grind, to stratocasters and strife, to arenas and anarchy, to loving life and hating our parents, to the British invasion, to carousing without consequences, to vinyl, to groupies, to pumped, powerful, preening, primadonna, piss n' vinegar rock gods? Who decided that Genesis could score Disney films or that "light rock" wasn't an oxymoron.

What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck happened to Rock n' Roll?

They happened. They, the empty pronoun, the ephemeral other whom we can never know except to know that they are unlike us. They happened. They unmade Rock n' Roll. They sold it back to us, shrink wrapped, portion controlled, ergonomically redesigned, shipped overnight with bonus gifts of mass production attitude and manufactured soul. Rebellion is a product. Purpose is a slogan and angst has to many consecutive consonants for a twenty first century VJ like Carson Daley to bother with. Profit is erzatz. Melody is afterthought. Lenny Bruce is rotating so fast in his coffin that the TVA is thinking of hooking him up to a turbine to bring a little bit of light back into the abyss that used to be southern rock.

You can't always get what you want, unless you're at Wal-Mart. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose unless you have Aflac. School's out for summer so it's time for a Carnival Cruise. Stephen Tyler pitches digital cameras. Ozzie Ozbourne has his own reality show and his wife is competing with Oprah for daytime Neilson points. The ghost of Freddy Mercury hocks low carb Coke as if that were the kind of coke that rockstars would care about.

Yes, the Beatles had bobble head action figures. Yes, there was a Jefferson Airplane comic book. Yes, Alice Cooper once hosted the Muppet show. Maybe hindsight is all the blurrier for having to stare through the lenses of ten thousand hangovers and perhaps it is the prerogative of one generation to idolize the icons of the generation previous. These things are true and to be remembered lest the silver glow of an polished past lack the obligatory tarnish. It still doesn't feel the same.

Is it gone or is it just sleeping? Does the soul of Rock n' Roll hibernate deep in the collective unconscious, waiting for the right combination of hermetically intoned power chords to awaken it like Lovecraft's Leviathan? Has the beast been tamed or is it waiting to lash out at a would be master? Will there be another Elvis or another Carol King? Will there be another Jimi or a new Grace Slick? Will there be another Jimmy Page or Roger Waters or FUCK, I'm desperate, another Huey Lewis? Will music remember how to feel and how to believe? Is there a tomorrow or are Eminem, Daughtry and Fred Durst all we can hope for and more than we deserve?

John Lennon went to the Dakota and Rick Allen lost an arm, which is a fucking stupid thing for a drummer to do. Janis Joplin found a needle full of shit to good for her. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Holly and Jim Croce should have taken the bus. Axl Rose grew a pot belly when he should have died young. Gerry Garcia committed a crime against humanity by dying from the same disease as my grandfather. No matter how scared a kid's parents might be by Marylin Manson, his grandparents were ten times as scared of Little Richard. And Johnny Cash is still the meanest and toughest SOB in this corner of the cosmos and cardiac arrest be damned.

Turn me on dead man.

Yeah, it's a repost but it's one of my favorites.


I Think It's Going to be a Long, Long Time.

Here I am.

All this time away and I'm back in this place again. There's no design to the visit, just a whim, some accidental proximity and the words in the back of my head, “I haven't been there in a while. I think I'll drop by.“

When I was a junior and senior in college, I was here everyday. I knew a third the clientèle by name and another third on sight. I languished after hours, knew the life stories of the employees, understood the intricacies of the pricing system, could sing all of the canned songs and I had a table everyone knew to be mine. Kitten worked in the bagel shop next door and would join me each afternoon when he had finished work and I had left class.

The place has changed in the half decade since I vacated, changed, but only just so. The tables have been rearranged and the kick-nacks re-purposed but the functionality and feel is exactly the same. The menu has expanded but the simple black coffee never evolves. The faces are different but the people aren't. They're just like I was a half decade past, eager but waiting, unsure but certain and carefree with the weight of an imagined world on their shoulders.

There's a familiar face at the other end of the room but I'm tempted to assume that I'm not recognized, looking so different now than then. I'm sure that if I were identified that any interaction would be awkward and strained. I can't even remember if that person liked me and I'm very sure that it doesn't matter any longer.

My world has both expanded and narrowed since my days here. I crossed a certain critical life threshold and the possibilities regarding the balance of my life have transitioned from a broad expanse extending endlessly and dauntingly in all directions to a simple set of paths that, though treacherous, circuitous and difficult to traverse, have a precise course and an unambiguous destination.

Thusly, I have no more time for this place, for the idle hours and the meditative afternoons, for the languid conversation and the self-congratulatory ownership of space. I don't care to spend more than the nostalgic hour remembering the ambitious, eager and clueless person that used to wear my skin. Don't misunderstand; I had many happy times here. This was a place of camaraderie and laughter, of revelry and learning, of contemplation and confession. The time I spent here reading, carousing, studying, scheming, chatting, dozing and busily going about the business-less business of being in my early twenties remains some of the most memorable. That time was not wasted. The place just doesn't quite fit today, like an old leather jacket that still has it's style and smell but has gotten too narrow in the shoulders, the one that was so cool but that you know you'll never put back on.

It's a nice place to visit but I'm glad I don't live here anymore.


A Production Department Brain Teaser

You have a production coordinator, a makeup artist, a producer and an actor that each have a rental car that needs to be returned to a specific lot on the north end of town by the close of business today.

Industry etiquette dictates that none of these people be made to return their own car.

The actor flies out at 1000 hrs & his car is at a downtown hotel.

The makeup artist flies out at 1300 hrs & her car is at an uptown hotel.

The producer flies out at 1700 hrs & his car is in the parking lot of a bar on the east side of town.

The production coordinator lives locally.

The airport is at the south end of town.

Using only two production PA's, how does one get each above the liner to the airport and their car back to the rental lot through Atlanta traffic without incurring late fees or overtime?

Show your work.


And Some Days...

...you find yourself lying on your back, dressed in hunting orange, surrounded by a gospel choir, praying silently to a Pagan god, hiding from the unblinking eye of the fourth wall and knowing, for once, that you've finally made a good choice in life.


He's an Ox and he's a Moron

I don't know what kind of work they do but the side of their truck says, "We specialize in everything."

I wonder if they even understand why I find that funny.


No One Suspects the Spanish Inquisition!

When I was in my accident last year, the doctor attending my wounds had to conduct a test to see if I had ruptured my knee. Using a syringe that might have been labeled "ACME" and been brandished by an anthropomorphic coyote, he injected the interior knee with a silicate jelly to see if it leaked out.

It hurt, alot.

In retrospect, the words "searing, white hot agony" might sum up the experience, though they still fall far short of adequately explaining the sensation. The thirty seconds of this test might have been more painful than any other part of my treatment and recovery. It hurt a hell of a lot more than the accident did. This aspect of my treatment taught me one very important thing lesson:

It's really good that I'm not in the CIA.

If I were as spy and I was caught whilst spying, all the enemy would need to do is obliquely imply that that I might be subjected to that test and I would sing like a canary on amphetamines. I would give them the secret plans or the launch codes or the names of all the undercover agents in Romania or whatever the hell it is that foreign intelligence officers would want to torture out of any American operative. That's all it would take and I would tell them anything they wanted to hear.

Herein lies most people's misunderstanding of the current debate over torture.

The intelligence and defense community does not want the authority to torture prisoners in order to garner information. Any interrogator will tell you that intel acquired under such duress is, at best, unreliable and at worst, outright false. Moreover, torturing a prisoner cements their identity, instantly solidifies their conception of the torturers as evil, prevents them from ever trusting their captors and thus robs interrogators of a myriad of other methods of inquiry that are both more effective and more humane. The victim is thusly eliminated as a possible ally. Ultimately, there is very little useful information available through torture.

No, the purpose of torture is to intimidate the populace, to leave ordinary people afraid of the possibility that they, under certain circumstances, could be tortured. Stay in line or you'll be the one being waterboarded, thumb-screwed or sensory deprived. Moreover, pay extra attention to what you say, do and to whom you speak because your family and friends are at risk as well.

Once torture is an available option, other civilized concepts of law and ethics that would otherwise protect the innocent are obviously out the window. Our mundane concepts of individual responsibility, innocence and guilt cease to apply. Watch your friends and neighbors as well as yourself or you might find yourself under duress as the result of their actions. This is what torture does, it cements fear, divides populations and undermines faith in civilians' right to justice. The torture of a scant few can then be used as a tool curtail the rights of many tens of thousands.

The debate thus far has centered on the human rights of those being tortured and on the political credibility of the United States. While the infringement of the first and the loss of the second are both tragedies, they pale in comparison to the larger implications of what such a policy shift indicates.

The value of torture is not the information it extracts from those who are tortured but what information it conveys to those who are not.


Your Indignation is Beneath Me

Years ago, when my mother was a case manager for the State of Wisconsin, she had a wooden desk plaque that read, “Sheer 'd Phuk UP.” I'm reminded of this today because, for no reason I can divine, the whole world seems to be in a really crappy mood.

Did something happen today?

I mean, of course something happened today. All sorts of things happen every day but did something big and depressing happen today and somehow I missed the news? My neighbor, who was out working on his truck, was tight lipped and gruff in that leave me the hell alone kind of way. The barista at the coffee shop was snippy and dismissive. The guy at the table beside me snapped when I reached to retrieve his cigarette lighter when it was knocked to the floor. For the first time in six months I gave fifty cents to a beggar and he complained that nobody's given him a whole dollar today. The horn honking quotient is vastly above normal.

I can't understand it. By all accounts it's a fantastic day. It's Sunday, so most folks aren't pissed about work. The weather is fantastic; sky clear, temperature mild and comfortable, a perfect spring day. There's no major traffic or construction delays in my part of town. I looked at the news and there's no major national crisis so will someone please tell me what the hell is going on?

Who pissed in Atlanta's collective corn flakes? Is it national sourpuss day and I didn't get the memo? Does everyone around me have a close friend that I've managed never to meet who just died in a bizarre bee keeping accident? Is there some sort of radiation to which I'm immune? Is it a sports thing? Did some team I can't be bothered to care about loose? Did everyone get their hot water turned off on the same day? Did the price of gas shoot up to fifteen dollars a gallon and I haven't noticed? Did everyone just now realize that they can't buy beer on Sunday?

I've never been big on the everybody-be-happy school of thought but for Gods' sake, the weather's nice, major sports aren't on strike, there's no plague threatening to wipe out humanity and here in the USA we're not having to hide in our bathrooms every time there's an air raid. Can you people just count your blessings? Y'all are really killing my buzz.

Sheer 'd Phuck UP.


The Sleeper Must Awaken

I used to scoff at those perpetually bored types that felt the need to change aspects of their life, seemingly without reason, the people who would rearrange their furniture, restyle their hair or quit their job every so often because they “just needed a change.” I took this for childishness, the obsession with novelty that comes from a surplus of unmanaged energy.

I have to confess, I largely still feel this way. People obsessed with shifting bits of themselves about for no reason do tend to be those perpetually bored and disaffected types that constantly want the world to act onto them, that have trouble marshaling themselves for constructive purposes. On the other had I have come to realize the value of such things.

In the words of Frank Herbert, “Without change, something sleeps inside us.”

While constantly shifting one’s environs is a symptom of disengagement, failing to do so can disengage one just as much. Psychologists call this process habituation; it’s an intrinsic property of the brain’s wiring, observed even in newborns. Habituation is the brain’s process of getting used to something, an image, a sound, an activity, an environment. Once habituated to a particular stimulus, the brain no longer reacts to that input as it did when it first encountered it.

Do you remember the last song that floored you, the last tune to come on the radio and stop you in your tracks?* When you first heard it, it kicked you in the chest. It conjured vivid images. It prompted new combinations of emotions. It rang inside your head like the clapper in a storm bell. It evoked memories that you’d forgotten you’d forgotten. It was just so, so new. Now, however many weeks or years later, you’ve heard it dozens, perhaps hundreds of times. You recognize it at the first note, word or chord. You know the artist, the album and you’ve heard the live version and the club remix. You know all the words and can sing along idly whilst doing other things without dividing your attention. It still evokes, to be sure, but not the way it did the first few times you heard it. It has lost it’s novelty.

This is habituation. When the song was new to you, you brain was constructing new pathways and, much like construction in a major city can’t help but upset the older buildings nearby, in the cerebellum’s the forest of synapses, new branches can’t help but shift the old. Those new electro-chemical avenues cement themselves quickly. The song becomes familiar and that combination of beats and frequencies looses the ability to evoke new thoughts.

This is only one example. We habituate to everything in our daily lives. Without novelty, we have nothing but habituated experiences and the internalization of non-habituated information becomes more and more difficult. Herein lies the value of shifting things every so often, shifting so that we can see things differently, so that we might think new thoughts and re-experience old ones, so that we can see some small part of the world anew, so that our brains never have the chance to get lazy and so that we come to know a bit about what how much we don’t know.

Thing are changing for me, presently. I just did a gig that was entirely new for me. Next week I shift jobs within my industry. I’ve rearranged my furniture simply because I was too comfortable with the way it was. Finally, Badassbard is about to undergo a huge change to which I am quite looking forward.

Here’s to what’s next on the radio.

*For those interested the last song that floored me was Flogging Molly’s The Story So Far.


To Join the Black Parade

"Did you like that kind of life?" she asked.

"We were the best." I replied.

"That wasn't what I asked."

My tenth high school reunion was a few months ago. That four year slice of life has thusly come up in conversation these last few months much more than at other times.

I don't remember how we got onto the subject but I was commenting that our marching band, of which I was a member, practiced more than our football team. We had ninety hours of practice in the two weeks preceding each school year. For the eleven weeks of the season we practiced an hour during each school day, three hours after school each of three days a week. We'd come to school two hours early on Tuesdays and Thursdays for sectionals. Two or three times each fall we'd sacrifice our Saturdays for six or eight hours of practice. The five or six hours devoted to football games each Friday weren't to cheer on the team. They were to get audience experience, to prep for our own contests. In all we averaged more than twenty hours a week preparing for marching competitions.

The two hundred of us in the band thought of little else during those three months of the year. It dominated our free time, our conversations, our dreams. It took every minute of our attention and every ounce of our energy. And, we were very, very good.

"Did you like that kind of life?"

I don't know how to explain such things to her. Did I enjoy each minute, even a majority of minutes, no. Did I enjoy hours on the field in Georgia's driving summer sun, no. Did I enjoy the burning arms and aching back from all that time standing at attention, no. Did I enjoy the plastic lined uniform that made my skin wrinkle from the sweat when it was warm and that offered no insulation against the cold, no. Did I enjoy the sanctimonious repudiation for even the slightest of errors, no. Did I enjoy running laps, rising before dawn and investing over a thousand hours in something that never garnered me a position of leadership, a scholarship or even the respect of the rest of the school, no, certainly not.

What I did enjoy was excellence.

Drum corps and competitive band people are a peculiar breed. Like artists and artisans, they recognize superlative work instantly. When we would be called to attention in the presence of other bands and the clean, clear, full chorus of two hundred voices called "Uhn" in perfect unison, cutting the night air like a shot, you could feel the jaws drop. When our company front turned fore and our horns went to the box, when the flash of halogen lights was reflected from a hundred polished horns, when concrete stadiums vibrated with the force of our combined energy we could see our opposition biting their lips and shuffling their feet. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the absolute and abject awe of my peers.

I enjoyed being there the first year that we swept our season, placing first in every single competition we entered. I enjoyed competing on the national level the following year. I enjoyed traveling half way around the world to demonstrate our skills. I enjoyed being a champion. More than all that, I enjoyed being part of something larger than myself. I enjoyed contributing to something beyond what I, as an individual, could accomplish. I enjoyed belonging to an organization that could say, without reservation, that we were among the best.

Did the grand total of ten or fifteen hours of joy and victory make up for the thousand of misery and labor? I don't know, I suppose they must, since I look back on those days proudly and fondly. Would I do it again, certainly not, but I would also not be the person that I am had I not.

"Did you like that kind of life?"

No, not really. That's not the point. If you only do what you like from moment to moment or from day to day, you're not likely to have much to be proud of.


The Free Play of Signs and Signifiers

Language can be compared with a sheet of paper: thought is the front and the sound the back; one cannot cut the front without cutting the back at the same time; likewise in language, one can neither divide sound from thought nor thought from sound; the division could be accomplished only abstracedly [sic], and the result would be either pure psychology pr pure phonology.

- Ferdinand de Saussure


Scenes from an Italian Pancake House

Suppose that you're more than ten years out of high school. You have a well paying job with a modicum of prestige. You're happy with your life and you've grown up to be something akin to what childhood you expected. This is not to say that every day is wine and roses but you're generally short on serious life complaints.

Let's also suppose that, while about the business of being who you're happy to be, you bump into an old friend from that blissfully hateful life period called high school. You were not so close to this person that you bothered to keep in touch since but once upon a time they were part of your nearer circle. They called you by name, visited your house and probably knew a few things about you that you prefer they didn't. Likewise you called, visited and learned reciprocal things about them.

Let's now suppose that this old once-was friend has obviously not done as you have. You encounter them in their professional capacity and they job completely sucks. They are obviously unfulfilled. They garner no respect and probably earn an offensively low wage in a position most people can't be bothered to acknowledge even exists. They are not the person you thought they would grow up to be.

Now let's suppose that your appearance had changed so much in the intervening decade that you're absolutely certain that they don't recognize you.

Do you say hello?

Do you acknowledge them? Do you passively point out the differences between the two of you by striking up the strained and constipated "how have you been" line of conversation?

Or do you silently pass them by?


Big Ol' Jed Had a Light on

Just now, a jumbo jet just passed over my house, huge, subsonic, deafening, low to the ground, rumbling, raging, near and awakening. This happens once every few days when the prevailing winds put the approach path of Hartsfield-Jackson directly in line with my apartment. Despite four years here, I never anticipate the change from day to day.

Feeling the thunder of that first approaching craft I'm always caught by the assumption of impending doom from either a tornado or a nuclear attack.

It was neither, of course, but as the plane passed over head and the tremble of dishes and picture frames transmogrified into the whine of receding jet engines I was struck by how untroubled I was by the thought of passing on whilst engaged in the activity of that moment, the reading of a good book.

Most people say, half seriously, that they want to meet the apocalypse whilst at the emotional and ecstatic pinnacle of the most intense fucking imaginable or while staring at the sunset ocean. They prefer to meet death at the moment of little death and they want to feel true awe while viewing the awesome.

Tonight I was content to lose the grip of life while grasping towards enlightenment.

For one who confesses to fear death as much as I do, I'm strangely contented by this realization.


Just a Day Fading into Another

There is a school of thought in modern physics that holds that time is neither linear nor progressive. The entropic arrow notwithstanding, this school of thought holds that our perception of time as an advancing parade of causes and effects is an illusion, a perceptual byproduct stemming from the computational processes performed by the electrochemical computers we all carry about within our skulls.

Lacking the mathematical savvy and professional experience to critically evaluate the evidence, I neither believe nor disbelieve this supposition. Musing on this assertion, though, I wonder what other aspects of the universe that we accept as axiomatic might be our own biology deceiving us.


Sacred Silence and Sleep.

It's eight-thirty on a Friday night and I'm going to bed.

Why, you ask?

I'm going to bed at eight-thirty on a Friday night because I have a crew call at five tomorrow morning.

Witness, film and television professionals suffering to bring quality programing to you.


No More Wi Wuv Woos.

I declare, as of this moment, an eternal moratorium on the use of the letter "W" in acronyms.

Why, because it's just plain stupid to use that letter for abbreviating anything.

Let me clarify.

Of all the phonemics we ascribe to English language characters, "double-ewe" is the only one that requires more than one syllable. Moreover, it takes three syllables to identify that particular Roman character. This makes it an exercise in futility to abbreviate a "W" word that contains less than four syllables because one reaps no net benefit from the shortening of the expression.

Now, I'm kind of an all or nothing guy but I'm willing to let slide true acronyms, those that are pronounced as if they were words: NASA, IATSE, ASVAB, BASTARDS and, to use a germane example, WYSIWYG. One does, in fact, shorten the amount of effort expended through this act of abbreviation. However, abbreviations that are identified by pronouncing the attendant phonemes ascribed to the characters, like FBI, ATM, ISBN, DUI and PPPoE, should not involve a "W." "Double-ewe-tee-eff,"requires more effort to say that "What the fuck."

I see two possible solutions. The one with which I began this post, simply saying "World Trade Center," rather than saying, "Double-ewe-tee-see," or we give the "W" a better name. Personally, I think that the second option is more functional. I suggest "wha" as the name for the character. I doubt that the etymological community is likely to go along.


Posting Will be Scant for a While

They tell me the reason that reality shows are so popular with networks is because they are so easy to make.

I don't know who came up with that because this gig is wearing me out.


A Hazy Shade of Winter

Earlier this month the temperature dipped into the teens. By Atlanta standards, that's cold.

Despite this, I left my heat off. I haven't turned on my heat in three years. I've weathered three winters with only blankets and an eight inch space heater. It sometimes gets cold enough to see my breath in my own living room. I'm bothered not at all by it.

Perhaps this is because the back room in my old house had been a storage space and was never properly insulated when remodeled into my childhood bedroom. I doubt it, though.

I'm not much bothered by heat, either. I turn on my AC for only the hottest few weeks each summer when the mercury breaks one hundred degrees and then only really to prevent the furniture from warping.

It's not that I don't feel the temperature, I do, very much. I sweat and I shudder. I bundle up and I strip down. I'm quite aware of the elements; I'm just not much concerned by them.

Most people live lives as comfortable as they are desperate, divorced from the oscillations of atmosphere. They never walk in the rain. They rarely go out into the wind. They hate to sweat and they never shiver. They live in hermetically sealed boxes, shielded from the weather as if underground.

I couldn't live like that.

Don't we loose something that way? We're made from the same meat and dust as the rest of the world, fed from the same soil, breathing the same air and ultimately powered by the same sun as all else and it seems that we should not shy away from the engine of the Earth. We rightly seek shelter from hail and hurricane but should we really sweat a little sweat? Aren't we less in being removed from that aspect of the world?


High Pressure System with a Chance of Perky

Most of the things that delineate others' good days from the bad are things over which they have little or no control. Realistically speaking, that is. One could simply quit a job or divorce a spouse over the balance of days in which the relationship with lover or employer are less than radiant, but most aren't willing to reorder their lives so easily or so often.

These things being so arbitrary and so inconsequential, I've decided to base my evaluation of each day on only the weather. Really, it's the deciding factor in most other people's days, so I might as well try it.

My advantage, I like to think, is that I lived in England and the upper mid-west as a child. When the day is cold or rainy, I'm delightfully reminded of my childhood and when it's sunny and pleasant, well, it's just sunny and pleasant. It's a win/win all around.

Thusly, I have concluded that every day is a good day.

I'm not sure how long I'll be able to persist in this world view but it's worked pretty well for most of the afternoon.


Popularizer is an Evil Word.

Science is as resolutely personal an enterprise as art, even if the chief prize be truth rather than beauty (though artists also seek truth, and good science is profoundly beautiful).

-- Stephen Jay Gould.


Thinning the Herd

Romney pulled out.

I've got a dollar that says he cut a deal to be McCain's running mate.

Any takers?


Before You Throw my Heart Back on the Floor.

In matters of faith there are times when, "We don't know," is a perfectly acceptable answer. Indeed, there are likely times when it is the only acceptable answer.

Distrust anyone who would say otherwise and claim to be selling wisdom.


A Note About Gravity.

Anyone who says, "Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?"

Obviously hasn't seen the planes that we use.


Alas, Poor Lester, I Knew Him Horatio

I posted comment to another blog that chose to obliquely defame the memory of Georgia's late governor.

I need to disclaim that I am a big fan of The General, such a big fan, in fact, that I will be adding him to my blog roll immediately. His satire is sharp, intelligent and gut busting funny. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

That having been said, he has chosen to satirize the late Lester Maddox. Now, the governor ranks high on any list of American political leaders deserving of commentary, satire and ridicule. This I cannot argue. His politics, though complicated, were reprehensible, his conduct unforgivable. All historicizing aside, I feel safe in presuming that the General never met the late governor. I did, more than once and never in a political capacity.

I had coffee with him in a tiny house in Cobb County, now since demolished. I shook hands with him and chatted with him as a friend of a friend with no agenda other than convivial conversation. I found him to be quite unlike his historical characterization. I posted the following comment to the General:

By a strange twist of fate, I dated the granddaughter of one of Maddox's best friends for more than a year. Strangely, she was unaware of the fact that 'uncle Lester' had ever been involved in state politics. He was simply a friend of the family, one of Cobb County's old guard. I met the man twice. He was sharply intelligent and remarkably literate even in his old age.

What struck me most about him, even knowing his history as I did, was that he did not come across as the history books had portrayed him. He was not the angry sort. He was quite polite, reserved and, though I had a black friend with me on one of the occasions on which I spoke with him, evidenced no bigotry whatsoever.

Perhaps this was simply old southern courtesy, the desire not to make a fuss when a guest in the home of another. Perhaps he had changed his ways in the years since his tenure as governor of Georgia. Perhaps he was too old to care.

The facts, in many respects, speak for themselves. He ran and won office on a states' rights platform, the same platform that won Reagan many southern votes in the 1980's. He handed out axe handles to his white restaurant customers and poured corrosives into the pool at the hotel and diner he owned in order to deprive black customers of access,

Via that same token. as governor, he forcibly integrated hiring practices in his state and integrated the Georgia civil service despite the protests of dozens of his subordinates. He hired more minorities, blacks in particular, into the Georgia's government workforce than any governor in the history of the state.

On the two occasions, and the total of fifteen minutes, I spent with him, broaching such topics seemed rude. I made small talk with him as if he was any other lifelong friend of my girlfriend's grandfather. Something in me cannot reconcile history's view of him with the frail and clever old man that I met.

Perhaps I am deluded, bamboozled by the etiquette of an antiquarian. Perhaps he was a product of his age, a true believer in states' rights whilst not a bigot, in the manner that Confederate fetishists wish. Most likely, history has not been entirely fair with him, nor I honest in my interpretation and the truth lies at some nebulous point in between.

Point being, I've met the man and I'm confident most others that would comment here have not. History is neither fair nor accurate. Lester Maddox, while no hero of mine, I can say with certainty, will never be fully understood.

And that's the whole point.

My meeting the former governor did not change my opinion of him nor of my state's history. It did, however, change my opinion of history as a concept.

There is much more than what is written in educational texts, so much more than was ever committed to print. When I am old, historians will write at length about the man that I met and that they never shared time, let alone coffee or conversation, with. I cannot claim that that does makes me more knowledgeable about him than future historians. It does mean, however, that I have a unique perspective on him and that, in the end, is what history really is, perspective.

Old Man, Take a Look at Your Life.

Though I am loath to concede to the concept of history's uncounterable force, I must concede that my generation, despite the generation previous reneging on a myriad of social promises, has never been cured to hardness by a vast social crisis.

In the words of Frank Herbert:

There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.

The unifying experiences of our parents and their parents have left us unprepared for a lifetime without commonality.

Thusly, we have been betrayed.

The fact that this is not being played out in the current election rhetoric is a disgrace to our nation and to our perception of the future.


Never Heard of Laurels

The riders in a race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends and to say to one's self: "The work is done." But just as one says that, the answer comes: "The race is over, but the work never is done while the power to work remains." The canter that brings you to a standstill need not be only coming to rest. It cannot be, while you still live. For to live is to function. That is all there is in living.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


It's Something Unpredictable, but In the End, It's Right

It shouldn't be a big deal. It's a business move by Cumulus media. I shouldn't be bothered.

It's just a radio station and, until just yesterday, I thought it was going to be just another of those trivial events in local media that usually pass me by. That's not the case, though. My general contempt for popular culture notwithstanding, I find I have some very mixed and some very powerful feelings about today.

99.7fm, WNNX-Atlanta, Everything Alternative Ninety-Nine X, goes off the air today. Sure, they're going to soldier on as an internet and HD station but their days as a staple of Atlanta broadcast are over. Though I cajole myself for an emotional attachment to such a thing, I'm going to be very sorry to witness such an important symbol of my formative years silenced.

Before they were 99x, they were Power99 and they were the only ATL station I took a liking to when I moved here as a frustrated and hateful eleven year old.

I remember the day the first Iraq war ended. Power99 played the song "Celebrate," the same one that's gotten so tiresome at weddings, for two solid hours.

99.7 sponsored my first concert when I was twelve and at least two dozen more in the intervening years.

I was still in junior high when they shifted format from the new wave/technopop playlist to the alternative rock format of 99x, back when "alternative rock" still meant something, back when Nirvanna, Pearl Jam and Sound Garden were just getting ready to make headlines, when most rock stations were dominated by guys who permed their hair and dressed in spandex.

It's one of two local radio stations for which I can always remember the name, frequency and call letters and it's been the first station I've programmed into the radio of every car I've ever owned.

It's so staid to say but that station was, in a very real way, the voice of my generation. Anyone my age that grew up in suburban Atlanta knows that station and can sing along with nearly every song on it's playlist. This was the music that we all listened to through high school and college, the songs that played in the background behind so many of our lives' firsts.

There it was, just now: 0528 EST, 1/25/08

They played the oh-too-obvious Green Day song, the one I first heard on that station. The one that made us all go, 'excuse me, who? Doesn't sound anything like them.' I remember the day, driving my Camaro along Post Oak Tritt road not far from my old house, on the way back from a line rehearsal at Katie D's house. Strange that I should remember that song on that particular day but that is just how important some of that music has become.

And then, silence. A long deep silence as they switched over to the simulcast of the sister station that will now be appropriating the frequency.

All things must fade, I suppose and it does me little good to get so worked up over it. That last song hit it right on the head. So, thank you to 99x and to everyone who has been a part of it. Thank you for being there as I grew up. Thank you for shaping my taste and for sucking so much less than every other station on the Atlanta dial.

I hope you had the time of your life.


The Most Divisive Question in History.

At least, in the history of mead making:

To Boil or not to Boil?

This may seem a trifle but I once saw this debate come to blows. More than once I've seen it come close. Mead people get really worked up over this.

Should one boil honey before fermenting it?

Honey is basically an emulsion of simple and complex sugars and waxy lipids. Boiling the honey causes the emulsion to separate. If you've ever tried to heat hollandaise above a critical temperature you've noticed a similar phenomenon as the sauce split back into butter and egg yolk. When honey is heated slowly the solids, the wax, grit and bee effluvium separate from the sugars and float to the top. Along the way it becomes a sticky, slimy, foul smelling mess that is easily skimmed off the top of the mix and discarded. This process is time consuming and labor intensive.

There are advantages and disadvantages to boiling. I'm going to go over both and save my opinion for the end.

First, health issues. As most people make it, mead is an entirely organic, natural, authentic beverage produced from uncorrupted ingredients. Thusly, we always run the risk that there are harmful organisms present in the finished product. Boiling the honey greatly reduces the chances that a stray bacterium or fungus will contaminate the mix. On the other hand, most people are perfectly happy to eat raw honey with no from of decontamination whatsoever so this concern, while valid, isn't life or death.

Second, consistency. Honey varies in color, density, complexity and quality. Because the boiling process removes virtually everything but the fermentable sugars, each batch of mead produced from similar honeys will be that much more alike. You will have more predictability in your product from year to year and even from batch to batch in the same year.

Third, sediment. If you don't boil the honey, a thick layer of sediment, approximately an inch's worth in a five gallon batch, will collect at the bottom of the brewing vessel. Sediment poses all kinds of problems. When draining or siphoning the mixture you may suck up sediment that will then take days to settle. If you don't filter you will always end up the bit of it in the finished bottles that might make the last swallow unpalatable. The more sediment the more often you will have to rack the batch from one container to another. Worst, if left too long without racking or chemical stabilization, yeast will feed on the sediment producing an unpleasant, burnt/spoiled flavor.

Fourth and most important, clarity. Because boiling removes everything in the honey save the sugars, the components that might cause a batch to be discolored or cloudy are removed ahead of time. Mead from boiled honey is lighter in color and much more transparent than mead from unboiled honey. This gives you a leg up in getting your mead consumed by the uninitiated or bought by the unsure. People are simply more willing to drink things that they can see through. Also, if you were to enter your mead in a brewing contest, clarity is often, though not always, one of the judging criteria.

On the other hand, boiling has it's disadvantages.

First, loss of color. True meade from boiled honey will look like a white wine, whereas the same product made from unboiled honey might have a light amber or orange color that more reflects the nature of the beverage. Hue is also a judging criteria at many festivals. Specifically, the color of the finished product is expected to reflect the color of the varietal of honey.

Second, loss of complexity and varietal. While separating the solids from the rest of the honey, heating also causes the more complex sugars such as maltose and dextrose, which are rich and fruity in flavor, to break down into fructose and glucose, which are basically the same as the white sugar you put in coffee. This leaves you with intense sweetness but costs you subtlety. Heating robs the honey of most of its character and distinction, essentially reducing it to refined sugar. It flattens the taste of the mead, making it much less complex while eliminating many of the flavors specific to varietal honeys.

Third, aging, related to consistency as explained above. Like wine, mead should age, depending on the type, anywhere from four months to three years. While mead made from boiled honey requires less aging compared to an equivalent blend with an unboiled honey, the aging does less. Fewer age dependent compounds are present in the mead. Some people consider this an advantage but most do not. The smoothness, complexity and and robust flavors that come from a properly aged, unboiled, mead cannot be matched in a boiled product. Though the boiled honey mead peaks much faster, if it has an unpleasant sharpness or an aftertaste, those flavors will probably never fully age out.

Personally, I don't boil my honey. Partly, I'm lazy I don't want to take the extra step and I don't want to stink up my kitchen. Much more importantly, though, I'm an adventurer. I make mead as a means of self exploration. I don't like determinism and I'm not trying to produce a commercial product. I much prefer a rich, complex, developed mead to a consistent one. For that matter, if every batch I made came out the same, I probably wouldn't enjoy it nearly so much.

In summation, if you want a consistent, transparent, sterile mead, and you're willing to put in the effort, by all means boil. Don't let any dickhead homebrew snob tell you not to. If you want a less predictable but richer, darker and more adventurous drink don't boil and, likewise tell anyone who says otherwise to perform biologically untenable acts upon themselves.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no right and no wrong way to make mead. I've never understood why but mead people get themselves really worked up over this boiling thing. It's the Catholic/Prodestant, Army/Marines, Camaro/Mustang, GT/UGA, Tastes Great/Less Filling argument of the mead world. Who gives a rat's ass?

Know what you're getting into from the beginning. If you're pleased with your product, make that and drink that but, no matter what you do, do it deliberately.