Cautionary Progress

With more and more car companies adopting electric models, we’re looking at a future that phases out gasoline and diesel in the same way that these fuels phased out steam-power. We’ve fought wars for fossil-fuels. Even this past year in the United States, the Dakota Access Pipeline has brought on many civil rights groups and activism to defend the right to live free of contamination. Americans have killed thousands upon thousands in order to maintain this resource, and now we’re on the cusp of creating a world where it it’s better put to use for starting fires than it is for running cars. Many major countries are aiming to eliminate fossil-fuel-vehicles by 2040. Previously, it was only cars that could be even hybrid, let alone fully-electric. That changed this past year, when BMW unveiled that it would be building a hybrid motorcycle known as the R1200 GS xDrive Hybrid. This will be the first hybrid motorcycle to reach a consumer market (and the first I’ve heard of any company building at all). This is still a hybrid and does’t guarantee a market for the fully electric model. So what do we know of the fully electric vehicle? Well, there’s Elon Musk’s Tesla for one.

While Tesla has not been turning profits since 2013 when they had their first profitable quarter in ten years, the company is still on many investors top lists. Despite not turning any noticeable profits since then, the company has been pulling in tons of revenue and Musk is planning to have fleets of Model S’s (their new sedan) set for the $35,000 vehicle mark. Pricey, but worthwhile. In the United States we offer tax credits to people who buy Electric Vehicles, with Tesla netting you a whopping $7,500 (the maximum possible is $7,500). So what’s to stop new drivers from switching to an Electric Vehicle? Using these vehicles doesn’t mean you can just plug into any outlet in your home. Sure, you no longer need to perform oil-changes, change engine fluids, or any of the other maintenance in relation to fossil-fuel-vehicle, but you will need a charger. You’ll need to ensure you’re doing proper battery maintenance, keep your battery levels appropriate for the distances you’re traveling, and ensure that there are stations along the way for your longer trips (not to mention waiting for your vehicle to charge on said trips).

Now, I’m not attempting to advocate for fossil-fuels in any way. If anything, I’m a huge fan of what Tesla is doing and cannot wait to drive my own Tesla sedan someday (long before 2040 I hope). The problem isn’t what EV’s will be bringing to the automotive industry, but what they will be taking from it. When we move to an Exclusively-Electric-Vehicle model, the entire Gasoline and oil industry will take a severe step back (or possibly dissolve entirely). A survey covered by the guardian back in January of 2016 shows that Solar has exceeded Oil in the total number of people employed. This survey only covers the USA, so calling it globally representative would be inacurate but it does help put things in perspective. The more important thing to think of is how many nations depend on oil as a resource in order to maintain trade and revenue. In that case, what does the Fully-Electric model spell for them?

When we jump (WHEN, not IF) we’ll need to ensure we’re creating a market for all these people to be employed in. Every single gas station you’ve ever seen will eventually close down for the sake of charging stations. Every single fossil-fuel-vehicle mechanic and repair shop will be unemployed if they don’t move forward and learn these new vehicles. Every scent of gasoline and that older car smell will be a memory and people will actually grow up in a world where they don’t know what a car engine turning on sounds like. These are things that will occur that we haven’t considered, along with millions of jobs that need to be replaced in order to maintain the societal norm when we shift away from Fossil-fuel-vehicles. It’s easy to say this is the right choice, but it’s harder to do it the right way. When we do shift, we will need to ensure that most (if not all) of the gasoline/oil industries move into positions which allow them to prosper. Multiple corporations which have been long-standing will need to change not just the way they operate, but also the product and methods by which they sell. We aren’t just talking about upgrading a technology, we’re talking about actually revolutionizing human transportation on a scale we have not ever seen before. Steam did not employ people on the scale that oil does. The invention of the fossil-fuel-vehicle created new jobs, there was a creation of a market without the destruction of another.

Again, I am not calling for us to halt on Fully-Electric vehicles. This is just a call to start the conversations we need to be having if we intend to be Fully-Electric nations by 2040. It will take us another 23 years to reach that point, and we need to ensure that we do not create a vacuum of employment for the working class when we do. I can’t say I’m too sympathetic for the corporate level oil-industry, however they too will need to be employed should they not wish to retire. Try talking to your fellow car-fans about these ideas and see what comes to mind! Seek out ideas and ways that will help to bolster the solar industry and employ the fading fossil-fuel industries. Instead of creating a void in our world, we should be moving towards this as the beautiful upgrade it really is. I hope this helped you to think more on the premise of Electric Vehicles from a perspective you may not have considered. If so, please leave a comment and continue the discussion! I’ll be sure to reply and keep the conversation going with you all.

From My Father

From My Father

The importance of a good work ethic, the importance of proper education, and how the two grow relatively inseparable. Our intelligence is directly tied into what we can accomplish, therefore the more that we know, the easier it becomes to achieve. My father works long and laborious hours, sacrificing his own personal time in order to be certain myself and my sisters had (and have) everything we could need or want. What little time he had left to himself was often spent taking us to events, spending quality time with us, and ensuring we were happy. Having been the only child on his side of the family until my 11th birthday, my father focused on me and made an impression. Since as far back as I can remember he has always tried to share his knowledge on how different devices and mechanisms work. When I got my first car, I didn’t know how to change the oil, so my father taught me. When I needed to get new rotors and brakes on my car because I had driven it to the point where I was actually eating at the rotors with the brake pads completely worn away, my father taught me how to change them. When we needed to remodel my little sisters room and build a closet in my room, my father taught me. At each point that I can remember in my life that I didn’t know something and he grokked it, he shared with me and oversaw that I at least understood the concept. He has always been generous with knowledge and freely states without shame when he does not know something (at least in this respect). This is yet another great lesson: When you do not know, Admit it. I can’t say that I’ve always adhered to the idea, or even that my father does in all scenarios, but the truth is it is better to pretend you don’t know when you do, rather than pretend you do know when you don’t. This conflicts with the premise of “fake it till you make it”, but of course, all things in moderation.

Respect for your elders, even when they may be wrong. This one took me a while to get right, as you’ll learn how to best correct those older than you as you attempt to incorporate this lesson. Among the best advice I can give on the subject, asking “what” instead of “how” or “why”; ex: “What led you to think this?” Rather than “Why do you think this?” Or “How can you think this?”.

Always laugh and be courteous to others until they give you a reason not to be. My father is not rude to others, nor does he laugh at the misfortunes others have. To this day, he does not laugh at drunkards in the street, and has corrected me even as recent as this past year when dealing with them in public. You have nothing to gain from laughing at the misfortune of others. You also have nothing to gain in taking out your personal feelings on strangers. Regardless what is going on with him, or with our family, my father has always been courteous to strangers. The exception to this rule is as follows:

Do not ally yourself with people who are not genuine. My father has counted very few people his friends, and for this I am grateful to him. It helped show me the value of friendship and how rare a true friendship is. In my youth, I believed myself to know what this meant and was wrong. He had no problem letting me know the realities of life in this respect, even if he withheld other truths for my own sake. Some people will screw you over, and when they do, you don’t get even. Your best course of action then is to just get away, and learn to make peace with it. The willingness to get back at someone, the drive to do others harm will only eat away at you in the end, and will make it so that your joy is consistently ruined by the anger you’ve held onto. In making peace with these situations, you’ll help prepare yourself for the harder part of being screwed over. When people deserve second chances, you’ll know, and if they don’t, you’ll also know.

My father has always treated our animals with care, treated them with respect and trained them to know their boundaries. We have always shared table-scraps with our pets, as far back as I can remember. The animals have always known not to come up to the table, only allowed what is given and never to take what isn’t handed to them. The only exception is our current cat Kali, who actually smacks you on the leg for food because she believes she is a dog. All our other dogs have known they are to patiently wait, and if they’re not receiving scraps a simple “No, go lay down” usually does the trick. My father has never made an animal sit by without giving them a reward; in this I’ve learned that if you are in command, you must not toy with the idea of a reward. It is not right to tease others with what they do not have, and it is both admirable and becoming of us to share what we can with others.

If it is within your power to help others, then you should. Do not think this means you should spend all your time committing to favors for others; it isn’t. Another thing to keep in mind is that in the event that you do this, whatever compensation you are given is a welcome gift; do not ask for more than what was given, and don’t speak of it. If you’re willingly helping someone, then you should be helping them and not expecting a reward in return. That is the definition of a good deed. To do for someone else without the expectation of any reward or praise, or the need to flaunt what you have done for them. Once you try to call upon the good you have done in the past as if it is a voucher for something you want in the present, you’ve nullified any good your deed once held.

Cleanliness is important (and this is “a do as I say, not as I do” moment). My grandmother was a very neat woman, and my father wanted the level of cleanliness she always demanded, even if he isn’t always as clean himself. Organization is vital, even if only you understand it. It is not becoming to sleep in late or stay up late; early to bed and early to rise. I am unfortunately just recently beginning to grasp this concept at 28, it would’ve served me much better a decade ago. For those of us working the night shift, those after-hours drinks shouldn’t prevent you from getting up in time to get anything done before your next shift.

There is no shame in being a sentimental creature. No man is weaker for sharing his love with the world, but there is also no need to flaunt your affections and cheapen their power. When you say “I love you” too often, it becomes weaker. Save it for goodbyes, and the moments that count. Never hang up the phone with a loved one without saying it. This bleeds out into all other relationships I’ve had with loved ones.

When you are doing wrong, ensure that you admit you are doing wrong. It is worse to declare you’ve done nothing wrong when you have, than to simply admit you’ve done wrong and see through it’s correction. My father never wanted me to smoke, and told me from the earliest age that even when I was old enough, I shouldn’t, because it wasn’t good for him. I didn’t listen, of course. I snuck cigarettes until my mid-20’s and eventually he found out as parents always do. He respected that I made a choice and just said “you should quit now, while it’s easy”, so I did. Admittedly, I do occasionally have a smoke when I’m drinking with friends, but it’s serious progress after having rolled my own for a few years and sneaking into the yard for a smoke when my parents had fallen asleep. In this I understood something about my father: he respected me enough to let me decide, but he made his view known without conflict or exerting some authority over me. That’s all you can do with the adults in your life, and anything beyond that would be grounds for conflict.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my father, is to let your parents call you by the nickname they gave you as a child. It is yours and yours alone, and should forever be a mark of honor and power for you. No matter how old I get I will always be “little man” to my father and there isn’t anything in this world that can take that from either of us. What’s the story behind your childhood nickname? What great lessons do you know you drew from your parents, whether by example of what to do, or by what not to do? Share in the comments and let me know, I’d love to hear from you all.

The Dark Tower; a film review with and without spoilers

Let me begin by saying this: I am a huge fan of the Dark Tower series. That being said, I enjoyed the recent film while sitting in the theater for reasons that aren’t valid, entirely sentimental, completely personal to me. Looking at trending news, the film pulled in less than half its budget (19.5 million profit on a budget of 60 million) during opening weekend, and has been less than well-received by critics. That aside, I have some actual “story” issues with the film which I’ll address further down the page, but the bulk of this post will be spoiler-free. I will clarify when I’m about to spoil anything, so rest easy and avoid skipping ahead if you’d rather avoid ruining any of it for yourself.

 
While King’s epic storyline contains seven main books and a handful of shorter additions in the form of Marvel graphic novels and reference books, this film is attempting to condense enough of that information (settings, characters, worldbuilding, etc) into an hour and a half to pull off a story. Admirable in theory, but damn near impossible to do well. There is too much information to condense into such little time. There is an idea floating around the internet which would render this film a purely fan service endeavor, and while I’m not convinced by this idea I’ll still address that premise later. For anyone intending to go see this film, keep in mind that there is a whole new world you will be dropped in. Without giving examples or details here, try to imagine cutting any Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter film down to an hour and a half and attempting to explain the full extent of that world; it’s not easy. The film is forced to make every single scene count, with very little time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Does this make it feel rushed? Honestly: yes.

 
The main plot here is Roland Deschain of Eld, a “Gunslinger” (the Dark Tower’s equivalent of a Knight) is trying to chase down the dark sorcerer, Walter a.k.a. “The Man in Black”. Roland’s prowess will appeal to any fans of action films, and Walter’s “dark magicks” are a mix of extreme persuasion, incendiary heat/fire, and psychic abilities. The two are fighting a war of determination and will, one on the light side and one on the dark. While not a novel idea, it’s the way these characters interact that makes the story interesting.

 
Idris Elba is as close to the Roland I remember as anyone is going to get. The defeated old knight who no longer feels he deserves the honor he was once bestowed, marching on to find the evil sorcerer that only he has the power to defeat. Matthew McConaughey becomes The Man in Black for an hour and a half, embodying the constant taunting that Walter does throughout the series, using his “magicks” to force his way into Roland’s mind and make him relive past tragedies as if they were preventable if only he were stronger. The beauty of these characters is that Roland’s will is pure-good and constantly tested by the guilt that maybe he could’ve been strong enough to save those he loved, while The Man in Black is not simply a villain in the usual conflict sense, but also gives an insecurity and anxiety to a character we would otherwise not expect to deal with such traits. While I won’t speak of events here in order to not ruin anything, the narrative progresses at a pace that feels slightly quick without leaving major plot holes. Sitting in the theater, people seemed wowed by the action, but underwhelmed by the multitude of easter-eggs that fans will recognize. The film is going to suffer from having a divide of those who know too much about and those who are just finding the series. If I had to assume the perspective of someone who didn’t know the series at all, I’d likely give it a 6/10, and this only because Elba’s and McConaughey’s performances mesh as well as they do.

 
As a fan, I had a very different experience. I squealed in my seat with the excitement of finally seeing the Gunslinger come to life on-screen, The Man in Black and all his dark magicks at work, and being in the world of The Dark Tower. My problem was after the film, when I looked back and realized we have to take this snippet of the immense lore and enjoy it, resigning to the same problem most book-to-film translations have. In condensing what took months to read into a single evening’s time, you’ll be losing a lot of material in order to make sense of it for a larger crowd, and satiate very few of the original fans in the process. Sometimes this can be done well, like Marvel’s single-hero titles. Other times, like in Marvel’s team-up films, the action serves to distract you from the fact that the story isn’t giving you all the details it should or could. I’d like to believe this isn’t the latter of the two, but in retrospect, I feel that it is. That being said, let’s dive into the non-spoiler free stuff.

 

SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS AHEAD.

 

An article on Looper by Claire Williams addresses the premise that Roland has the Horn of Eld this time around, meaning this film takes place after the events of the book series. I’ll refresh the memory of anyone who hasn’t picked it up since the mid 00’s when the “final” book was released since I had to do so myself before seeing the film. Near the end of Book 7, The Dark Tower, Roland arrives at the Tower and cannot free Gan/God because he doesn’t have the Horn of Eld. He is then returned to the beginning of his journey without complete recollection that he had been to the Tower (something it is hinted at that he has done before, as many as 18 times) this time with the Horn of Eld and a voice in his head singing the sweet promise:

 

“maybe this time will be different.”

 

Roland then sets out again on his journey (potentially the 19th attempt). Williams does a great job noting each little intricacy and poses her own theory, but let’s focus on the horn for now. A difficult task, considering it’s never shown in the film. I’d have no issue with this if it was just speculation on Williams’ part, but Stephen King posted a teaser image described over a year ago in May of 2016 on his Twitter, as you can see here:

 

 

Also referenced is “The Crimson King”, which despite multiple sightings of “All Hail the Crimson King” and the “eyes” showing up on Jake’s wall, also makes no appearance. Instead, the film revolves around Roland’s grudge against The Man in Black. This is a Game of Thrones movie with Ramsay Snow/Bolton as the main villain. Again, not an issue if only we weren’t told this wouldn’t be the case. In the cannon, The Man in Black isn’t our main antagonist. While we do end on a note of Roland inviting Jake along on his adventures, it is not stated if this is simply to accompany him back to Mid-world or to head for The Tower and finish what has begun. Worse, while we see these Crimson King hints everywhere, we know nothing of him and have no word on a sequel. If the box office is any influence on this decision (as it usually is for series projects outside printed media) we likely won’t get a sequel, nor does the ending tease/warrant one.

 

 

The Jake we get in this film is the same Jake that would’ve died in the mines. Roland and Jake should be running across the Mohaine desert to find him. Instead, Walter has some strange mechanism configured to use children’s minds as ammunition to topple the tower and allow demons into our universe. This very loosely addresses the story as it was in the series, where it is The Crimson King who wishes to restore Chaos to the order which Gan has brought to creation, where the Man in Black doesn’t even live to the end, where Eddie and Susannah Dean live with Jake in NYC, etc. I could go on about the differences. The issue here is we were told this is cannon and it shouldn’t be. I can understand the play at work to get fans of the series roped in, but with 90 minutes on your plate, this is a little less “Book 1” and a little more cashing in on an idea.

 

SPOILERS OVER. RETURNING TO NO-SPOILERS MODE

 
Now while this review may have some negative views of the film to it, I want to reiterate that I DID ENJOY the film. I do recommend anyone to go see it at a local non-chain movie theater and enjoy it themselves. It may not be the summers action blockbuster but it was an entertaining ride and it was fantastic to see Idris Elba firing off some of the most epic gun play I’ve seen in a while. The film tugs at all the right strings and while a bit scary at times, should definitely serve as a good jump-on point for younger viewers looking to be intrigued, or anyone that hasn’t yet taken a trip through Gilead and felt a bit curious what happens when a world has moved on. As an entry way for the series, this would’ve made me pick up Book 1 the next day and dive right in, and it definitely made me want to revisit Gilead. If that was King and the production crew’s intention, mission accomplished.

 
Idris Elba is said to be in a TV series next year which runs more in line with the books, and that I genuinely look forward to. His time as Roland here was worth the watch, as was Matthew McConaughey in his role as The Man in Black. The Jake Chambers we see here will do Jake of NY justice if he’s allowed to continue on the series as well. By that time, most new readers will likely just be finishing off Book “7” (King recently published a “Book 4.5”). For now, all we can do is wait, ya kennit?

 

Thankee Sai.

The Forest Marches On

Lately I’m trying to teach my younger brother what it means to be a moral human being. We’re both relatively inquisitive people and we both seem drawn to the idea of the human mind. Myself, I’m more intrigued by the idea that we’re capable of whatever we allow ourselves to believe we are. My little brother considers the study of psychology an opportunity to better understand himself, and consequently others, so that he might one day provide insight and assistance to those who cannot give insight to themselves. Admirable AF. I’ve recently given him Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. He enjoys some minor ideas but his process was a little screwy at first. He actually has read the introductory part of the collection (Book 1) three times at this point, the third time being with me in the room with him so that he might get clarification when he doesn’t understand something. It’s warmed my heart to find that the lines which reference Marcus’s brother are always underlined. Whether out of ego or simply desire to do right by my brother and help him the way my father helped me, it makes me smile and reassures me I’m doing something right.

In helping him to understand it, I came across an idea that might benefit others just as it benefits him. “Book 1” of Meditations isn’t the simplest of the twelve, and the Greg Hays translation only lists names and the ideas Marcus Aurelius has gained from them. It’s a fantastic list and definitely helps give us some insight on just how many good examples the emperor drew his ideas from, but the macro lesson here is easy to miss. We all likely have these role models and aren’t paying attention.

Marcus understood there was a capability to learn from everyone around him. We could all benefit from reflecting on what we’ve learned from the people in our lives. What have your parents/guardians taught you that made you a better person? What have you gained from your closest friends that benefits your personality? Who else has made an impact on you for the better, and what was that impact? It is questions like these that Marcus reflected on in order to record ”Book 1”, and it is these same questions we should ask ourselves. What do we admire of these people, and how can we better embody those traits ourselves? I’ve found it difficult to change my way of thinking and remember clearly having issues with my own evolution. The thoughts stopping me along the way were some you may find yourself struggling with:

”I can’t do that.” “That’s not me.” “I’ll never be like that.”

I can tell you as someone who has forced the changes upon himself, whatever you think you can’t do, you likely won’t. The process of self-improvement is difficult, filled with constant reminders and self-discipline. Despite Marcus’s simple framing, he understood this aspect of stoicism was a learning process which carried a hefty curve with it. The best way to get yourselves further up that curve is to begin stopping yourself mid-thought and correcting those thoughts. Quite literally, changing how you think.

”I can do this because…”, “I will be the person who…”, “I’m working towards becoming…”

The things we admire in others can be second-nature to them. They simply grok the idea and live it, and often we can’t just ask them “how/why do you?” But I’d challenge you to try. While it is important to pay attention on your own, if someone has a trait that you admire, it would benefit you to ask if they even realize it. Ask why they do it, or how they came to understand it as a necessary or even worthwhile behavior. Chances are their explanation will aid you in your endeavor to better embody the trait yourself. My brother has a bad habit of wishing people would simply give him a step-by-step on “How to be a Better Person”. While I’m not certain such a book exists (or that it doesnt), I’d like to believe that there are some “self-help” books that address these issues with logical and reasonable insight that clarifies how and why we should behave in these ways. While I’m not certain that Marcus Aurelius is the definitive solution, he does seem to be well-received and well-spoken of in current stoic trends. I’m no expert and very much a student myself, I’d like to make that perfectly clear. However, as a student who understands the constant struggle to progress, I would hope this helps give you an idea of how to seek some bettering without sounding too naive or simplistic.

Make no mistake, this is no easy task. When push comes to shove, the only people left standing are those who gave it their all. If reading over this post had you feeling uneasy and uncomfortable about talking to some of those you admire, I’d encourage you especially, do it. You’d likely be surprised how much of a compliment it would be to tell someone “I’ve always liked the way that you did this, could you tell me how/why you do?” And hopefully, upon reading this, someone will come to you and ask that same question.

I hope this leads you to happy discussions and some progress on your path to better yourself. Please leave a comment if you’ve any questions or feedback on the subject, and if I can help you in any way please don’t hesitate to reach out to me as I’m always glad to help others and discuss methods of improvement.

(A special Thanks to my little brother Gareth for his willingness to grow, regardless how scary and new that may be.)

Listen to shittier music

I believe that everyone gets one artist\band at a pivotal time in adolescence that sort of casts the net for our musical preferences. That one band might not exactly be your favorite group, but if you analyzed the style and elements that band\artist had, you’ll find you flocked towards what sounded like it for a time. Even after, it’s elements were capable of tracing in what you went forward into. It’s like the first book you really enjoy; your frame of reference begins here.

In Junior year of high school, Amanda Santillo sent me a few gigs of music over AIM. I’d had a blue iPod mini for about two months and only carried three bands on it, so this was a big change. I didn’t know who any of the artists were, but I was hooked. I’d lay in bed pretending I was asleep with the blue backlight on so I could see how long my battery life might last. It meant I didn’t sleep well, but I knew my music. I was listening to the point that I could play the “guess that song” game from the most obscure parts of songs. I recall sitting for an hour once, guessing 4 and 5 second samples correctly and then being done with it. I had trained my ears to that moment and I trained well. 

There was something about my youth that enjoyed shocking people. Maybe I needed to not be like everyone else, or maybe I just liked to see that look on people’s faces. Their reactions made me happy. “The Number 12 Looks Like You” aided me in that juvenile goal. Whether it was the unappealing vocals screaming over one another (which I found VERY appealing), the well-composed instrumental work, or just the naming of their songs and the lyrics in them, something sunk it’s teeth into me. With song titles like “The Proud Parents Convention in the ER”, “Don’t Get Blood on my Prada Shoes”, “Clarrisa Explains Cuntainment”, “Like a Cat”, “Sleeping With the Fishes, See?”, and the best cover of “My Sharona” you’ve ever heard, I was enraptured. It had everything I wanted. At the time I opposed the materialism of American capitalism, and they mentioned it just enough to intrigue me. I couldn’t imagine ever being like the kids at my school that got drunk every weekend and thought themselves mature for it. I hardly understood the lyrics myself in retrospect, but what did speak to me was cynical in a way that reassured me. “All these happy kids aren’t paying attention to life”; my teen angst felt vindicated. Likely a contributor to my need for proof and a solid backing argument as I got older, but back then it was just “the truth”. I’d thankfully grown more self-aware with time.

I’d argue then how musically, they put any other kids favorite bands to shame. The simple chords I heard in other bands couldn’t match the complex time-signatures and well-composed musicianship that Number 12 was doing. Metal guitars flowing over incredible drumming, almost like the notes just existed together, how could anyone possibly play this naturally? My father had raised me on Metallica and whatever 90’s artists I’d found through radio channels, so this was the most complex thing I had ever heard. I’d later realize it was just Jazz music; if the giants of the Jazz era never were, the Number 12 would’ve never known how to play Metal like it was Jazz (or Jazz like it was Metal?). 

I thought the screaming was pure emotion over audio format. While I pretended to know the words then, they were only lines I picked out from the screams which I can now admit I hardly understood. “It makes more sense to speak nonsense”, “In my heart I know that the devil doesn’t lie”, the sort of thing your Church-going parents don’t want you listening to. They had a concept-album written entirely from the perspective of a serial killer. Most of their songs spoke with an 80’s slasher film type of violence.  I was glued to those films when my headphones weren’t on, so I found their violence appealing instead of appalling. Their lyrics weren’t what made music really pull me in, but musically their complexity drove me up the walls. Admittedly, The Number 12 only began my relationship with music even though I didn’t get to see them play live until just recently. The political side of another band is what really pulled me into constant scribbling of lyrics on everything I owned, and even writing lyrics across blank shirts by hand.

Orchid did the music louder and more distorted than Number 12, writing lyrics about social and political concerns I had. I wish I could say they were what made me love music, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say Number 12 was my first dose. Orchid was the band that really took hold. I couldn’t stop from there. It was Orchid, Ed Gein, Combatwoundedveteran, Dillinger Four,  and others of the like, trading lyrical content for popular appeal. It wouldn’t occur to me that a band could do both until much later in senior year when Mike Durnin and Dan Neist showed me bands like Bad Religion and NoFX. Pete Ciullo would introduce me to Streetlight Manifesto and other punk bands that would focus my radar for music. They did this by example not by insistence, and at times even at request but never did they say “you have to listen to this” or “why don’t you listen to ______?”. It was always “oh if you like ____, you’ll probably enjoy ______”. And while punk rock definitely took hold when the well of obscure political hardcore bands ran dry, it was the lyrics that managed to pull me towards the less difficult to understand vocals. Greg Graffin and Fat Mike spoke to the general frustration, and Anti-Flag had my outlook pegged, but Jayson Green hit the issues head on.

It wasn’t just the way he saw the popular crowd, it was how he saw his own crowd. The Nietzschian sort of criticism that looked at his own tribe members and said “no, no, no, this isn’t how we live”. The song titles didn’t have any sort of juvenile appeal here, nor was there any violence to accompany the music for shock factor. If anyone didn’t like Orchid it was the sounds that turned them off, lyrically you couldn’t disagree. 

“And our party’s Mystique shall be our capability to think” highlighting the importance of intelligence over anything else.

“I never wanted to have sex til you asked me, goddamn I’m a brand new man!” A satirical prod at the idea that somehow sex should revolutionize who you are. 

“You own everything, that’s why there is nothing new. This is the face of the change, all in all, why not face it?” What better critique on the stagnacity of American thinking? 

“complete self-destruction, all the watches stopped when the first brick was thrown. Chaos is me.” Which covers the passion Camus had for rebellion. On another note, the band references important authors quite often; Marcuseh, Foucault, Adorno, and other French thinkers pepper the lyric catalog.

“your chaos ain’t me, it’s a mask that I put on and I wore it for too long. But chaos definitely ain’t you, no matter what the ship says.” Reflecting on the crowd their earlier works (“Desorde C’est Moi” tr:Chaos is Me) had gathered, the band turned targets on its own lyrics. Essentially going full-Nietzsche, the band turns even on its past self (“this too, only youth!”), Affirming the philosophy it has set out to prove.

After breaking up, Green would go on to form the band “Violent Bullshit” and move to NYC, doing what most youth idols do: change. While part of me feels disappointment, the more mature part of me is glad he didn’t waste himself trying to be vindicated by 19 year olds his entire life. There are enough failed projects in the world, but Orchid thankfully bowed out when it should. There’s a certain feeling in your favorite band being so unsung and with only a narrow chance of seeing them again. 

I recently got to see the #12 live for the first time. Despite being lyrically juvenile at times, their skill as musicians couldn’t be questioned. While I don’t know that I’ll get to see them again, I know I’ll try to catch it. That feeling of singing/screaming along with 50 strangers and a good friend to songs I thought only I knew the words to is incredible. I’d advise you find yourself a lesser-known band and see what it feels like if you don’t already know. 

Refused once said “How can we expect anyone to listen if we’re using that same old voice? We need New Noise. Great words won’t cover ugly actions. Good frames won’t save bad paintings.” We can’t hide behind shit art in nice packages for long. We need wittier music, shittier music.

How much more can you get done?

Here’s an original idea: you don’t have very long left to live. I’m concerned for you, thinking you’ve so much time in which to accomplish the things you’d like to. The good part is you have ideas for those hours. You’ve given this thought and you look ahead at all the time with an understanding that you’ll get there. Patience is terrifying, it’s the capability to look ahead at death heading towards us and play as if you have time. I don’t, you don’t, no one does. I recently became obsessed with this idea and the people I care about. I realized that time is a constantly depleting resource which we cannot regain. Worse still, it can’t be borrowed, earned, technically not even transferred (though metaphorically speaking you could pass organs to another and give them more time). Point being, how much time do we really have?

Like most things, it wasn’t enough for me to take a passing interest in it. I had to fully “grok” it. So I had to understand the formulas I could use to calculate this all. We know there are 24 hours in a day. We know there are 365 days in a year. That led me to:

H = [days] 365 * [hours p/d] 24= 8,760 [hours per year]

Okay. So there’s 8,760 hours in a single year. I’ve been alive for 28 years now, or rather, [10,315 days], [247,559 hours and 47 minutes] as of this writing. In that time I’ve graduated a public school curriculum, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a private college and thought up the foundation of an epic which I’ve lately been working on. All this, done within the 35.44% [estimated time] of my life that I have lived. How did I calculate this?

The average human life expectancy is 78.8 years.

This statistic is taken from CDC.GOV and can be viewed by clinking the above link. The information is drawn from different life expectancy surveys and studies conducted across different age groups exclusively in the United States and may be different than your country’s life expectancy or average lifespan. (Germany for example has a life expectancy of 81, according to this link.) Keep in mind that these statistics are meant to reflect the lifespan of someone born TODAY. The numbers for anyone born prior may actually be more, or less, though the numbers have not varied by more than 3 years in either direction over the course of the past ten years, which you can see for certain on that same link. Monaco has led the world at 89 years for roughly ten years now. Also, please note that while the human life span will not be found in the above link showing other countries, American life expectancy has been well-researched within our own borders by our own organizations and hence is not affiliated with the statistics conducted by http://www.Geoba.se.

Alright, now that we’ve got that disclaimer set aside, let’s do some more math. If the average human life is 78.8, let’s round that off to a nice even 79. Let’s run the same formula with just one more step involved. We’re going to look at this as Ld, for life expectancy in days. Lh for life expectancy in hours. Lastly, we’ll take into account Lp, for life percentage.

Ld = [79] * 365 = 28835 DAYS

Lh = ([79] * 365)*24 = 692,040 HOURS

Lp = (current age / 79) * 100

Okay, so now we have the math worked out let’s calculate it. You can actually copy these right into a Google search bar and Google will do the work for you. After plugging in the math, I found out that I have lived 35.44% (or (28/79)*100) of my lifeThis means I currently have 64.56% of my life left. That translates into 51 years, or 18,520 days (including the days I’ve already lived in 2017 since turning 28). If we’re being VERY picky then let’s call it 442,905 hours, though that number can feel a little less daunting for some, and I find the days remaining really hits home.

Now there are definitely more factors involved than simply the AVERAGE LIFE SPAN. I am NOT doubting that in any way, but understanding the average gives us a grip on what our estimations should be for a full life. We could easily die tomorrow, the day after, or a scientific breakthrough in ten years could make us completely immortal. Again, NOT discounting or disagreeing with those entirely valid points. If we are to be practical and realistic, these statistics do speak to a truth of the expected human life span as it currently is with our healthcare and dietary systems what they are. I am absolutely fascinated with this little idea and it motivates me HEAVILY to stay focused on what comes next. I don’t look at it as “How much time do I have left?”. I look at instead as “How much more can I get done?”. This distinction makes a huge difference for some, and is exactly the same for others. I am the latter, but I can understand how some may find this information a tad bit morbid.

We have no guarantees on our final day, just history and trends to understand what has happened to others and how that could happen to us. Please, for the love of all things that are, break the mold on whatever it is you want to be and become something unique within the parameters of your career decisions. Also, let me know what your percentages are and let’s discuss our mortality as a means of driving force to get our goals and objectives met!

As always, thank you for reading and I hope this has somehow made you happier and more focused in your life. In the event that it has not, here’s a link which should make you smile. Have a great day, and keep pushing forward with your life.

 

 

Welcome back.

*****I’ve attempted doing this to help some of you. That didn’t exactly work out, because in the end I run out of people to help and when there is no trouble, there is nothing to write. Simple logic and reflection could’ve told me that, but I think the truth of it is that I was always trying to write WELL. Somehow I convinced myself that if I was always writing to help others, that would need to be good writing. No matter how shitty it might be in reality, the fact that it helped someone meant it would be a good thing. That makes sense, to an extent. It’s great to help others, I don’t mean to devalue that premise or to insist upon it’s opposite. In fact, I’m still doing that in a way.

When I was younger, my cousin Franco ( if you’re reading this, thank you) sat me down at a kitchen table in his mother’s apartment and stated /*“Here’s three M&M’s. If you wait ten minutes and don’t eat any of these M&M’s, I’ll give you TEN M&M’s.”*/ You might think that a child would give in to instant gratification, but you’d be wrong. And here is your lesson, out of the innocence of children (where most good lessons come from): It is more important to wait and enjoy the 10 than it is to eat the 3 before you. While it’s a lesson I knew as a child, it took me time to understand it as an adult. Instead of chasing my nightly joys, I bided my time and understood that working diligently would pay off. That being kind and compassionate in the face of disrespect and neglect would only strengthen my resolve.

 “I will gain more in the face of difficulty than I will in the face of comfort”.

If you wish to excel and grow, then you can’t take the easy way out, you simply have to work at it and continue until you get better. You have to do the work and know that your rewards come later (if ever!). In some cases, the work itself will be the thing you worked for. Determination is that vital element that doesn’t allow us to quit. This isn’t to say that “stubbornness” pays off. Stubbornness and determination are not synonymous. And to those who might shed a negative light and hand out half-empty glasses, let’s be clear:

Determination: 1) Firmness of purpose, resoluteness. 2) the process of establishing something exactly, typically by calculation or research.

Stubbornness: dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.

Consider the irony that the word doesn’t even have multiple definitions; it’s too set on doing things ONE WAY. Where Determination will teach us that we should stand by our meaning, fulfill our purpose and see things through, Stubbornness is stagnant and involving. Determination says continue forward, and adapt. Stubbornness is pounding square pegs into circular fittings. This is my determination. I resolve to push onward and write not for all of you, in order to help myself. Rather, I write for myself in order to help all of you.

In writing to help others, I can only write what they need to hear. That’s not addressing the truth of a situation, it’s only addressing THEIR situation. This creates work that serves an individual, not the whole. It’s akin to being a high school poet and writing poems only you understand. Sure, the intricacies and sesquipedialan dialogue looks intelligent, but it’s actually shit when you review. I used to find some solace in that work, but it isn’t ever going to grow or develop me because it’s not me. I don’t ever speak that way, even if part of me wanted to be seen that way. True growth? True evolution? What growth is there without a degree of vulnerability and self-exposure? I can tell every last one of you who lays eyes on these words with the deepest confidence and happiest of demeanors, this was more fun to write and I’m still afraid of it. I’m afraid it will be shit, I’m afraid it will be mocked and welcomed with false praise. It’s more difficult than putting on a voice, than creating a persona with which to create. When you work as you are, you’ll shine through it and it will be Yours, and that is better than being anyone else’s work. I hope this helps some of you in some way. Thanks for reading, and please reply if you feel so inclined!