Sunday, December 24, 2017

I Don't Ask For Much

"I don't ask for much." She says that while her and another close family member argue over a photo, over misrepresentation, over identity, over values. The latter will win and the former will fight back tears and everything for the rest of the day will be awkward so hiding away becomes the best option. And nobody wants to litigate or re-litigate old wounds but so many things have been internalized and nobody knows how to say no to a child or a parent or a friend or a boss and in this case we're all just searching for an identity, for 20 something years I was a ghost who rolled over and did whatever anyone ever told me, I had no sense of self. It is a small thing, this photo, but it speaks to something more; giving support doesn't give you rights over someone but the family member who protested the photo receives financial support from the other and struggles with saying 'no' as if it does mean she owes her, as if everything has a transactional basis, relationships are a ledger, if a friend or lover or family member does something nice you have to repay. That is not how things work and quickly becomes a cynical, amoral competition but it's still hard because one person is almost crying now, and I don't know anything, because for 18+ years I was led to water by family, choosing my classes, my clothes, my friends, my food, my values, protest falling on deaf ears, and nobody wants to step on anyone's toes or hurt feelings or drag anyone, surely I have failed and criticism from family members could be pasted on my forehead until it grew out like a horn, but at the same time at some point we have to be ourselves and represent our selves how we wish to be seen. And maybe it's just a photo but it's also a statement and we're all struggling on when to suck it up or when not to, when to say no or not to, when to criticize or not to, life is full of doing things we don't like, but then whose 'don't like' reigns supreme, when is a value worth compromising or not? And it all comes to a screeching and painful, awkward silence when the situation is punctuated by "I don't ask for much." Maybe that's our problem. None of us ever do.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Small Things at Year End

It's 6:17 AM and your alarm goes off in 43 minutes so you check it every 5 minutes or so and pretend to assume that it's much closer to 7 than it is to try to reward your brain with more time before you get up.

You try to hold your steering wheel with your wrists so that you can place your hands close to the heat vents in order to thaw the numbing effect of stepping into a 15 degree car.

You put a jacket on when you go to the basement to do laundry because the basement is perpetually cold in winter and this early in the morning your body is still adjusting to coming out of 4 layers in bed.

You practice a million speeches in your head you're going to give to your family when the holiday gatherings come along and something happens you don't like but in the end you'll be too timid and will simply ask someone to pass the ham.

You convince yourself multiple days that it's either earlier than you think or later than you think because of how dark it is but it really is truly 8am or 5pm.

You'll try to use New Years as a chance to look forward but instead you'll use it as a chance to look back and instead of on small victories it'll be on defeats and regrets.

You'll fear some arbitrary decennial cutoff getting closer whether it's 20 or 30 or 40 or or or...

You'll go to bed after all of this and wake up the next morning and do the same things.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


You could add layer after layer, blanket after blanket, 3, 4, 5 toppings for your cocooned self, trying to hide from the world and the cold in bed but painfully aware that lying down too much will eventually make your back weak and sore. You could try to hide not only from the cold that drifts in through poorly sealed windows and doors but also from the thoughts of another year that passed and brought you 365 days closer to some ephemeral post-peak or maybe a not so ephemeral descent into creaky limbs and bones. Maybe you could look back on the good and try to smile but it's so easy to lie still and gloss over that and focus on the negatives while the cold air accosts you, the water on your face from washing that you didn't fully dry, your feet at the edge of the bed that stick out from under several of the layers, lips chapped and skin on your hands parched no matter how much greasy, oily residue you leave on them from some overpriced artificial eucalyptus product. And with the darkness seemingly permanent and a perpetual state from 5pm to 8am the thoughts can be dark too for much longer, no warmth or light to break through the conflagration of regret or missed resolve or what ifs and whatever else your aging self perpetuates that always feels a bit too old to comfortably say out loud no matter how young you really are. And maybe you grab the blankets from the inside so as to not leave your arms open to the elements and try to scrunch and bundle them up closer and a little sigh will escape and you'll realize that you can only hide under the layers for so long, and that eventually, everything has to come out.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Family

The Family gathers and smiles and laughs and prays to God and exchanges gifts and food and doesn't just feign interest in each other's existence, it is general interest in well-being, grandmas, aunts, uncles, all wanting to see and share and eat and be merry. It's a cover like many families, like many Americans, like many white people or men, in between the bowls of mashed potatoes one uncle will talk about how 'you can't take the black out of them' as if to say the blackness is a sin itself, its very nature corrupted and criminal. Another will joke about thugs, or chicken and watermelon, and what stings you the most are your cousins and their S/Os, all younger than you, teens and 20s, nodding and laughing along, realizing they were raised that way and they will raise their kids that way and the cycle will continue, another white family feigning ignorance about racism and denying its existence while swapping jokes that violate the very people they say are not in harms way. It's an impenetrable loop and even when you and your one relative who is also aghast speak up, it is 12 against 2, and there is denial, and excuses, and 'life isn't perfect or fair' or 'the world isn't all roses' or 'I didn't even realize/think/know that was bad' and then it's just hopeless, so you excuse yourself from the table and just hope that nobody here will turn down a job application, or defend a state murder, or what have you, but deep down you know they have, and know that they won't change, because they have all been fed this from day 1 to year 60 of their existence, and your anger and frustration just brings out excuses and deflections - 'why didn't you say anything earlier? shame on you' and perhaps there is but I am not the one cracking racist 'jokes' so shame on them but they don't see it that way, because once again the world isn't fair and they aren't actually racist even though we have full control over what is fair and it is racist and we could stomp it all out if we wanted. That's the thing. Deep down the family doesn't want to. Because they are all white, there is not a single person of color here, and it's all they know, and to take that away from them - their racism, their jokes, their stereotypes - is to assault their very identity as Americans, as white Americans, namely, and that's a tear at the very fabric of this country. Because we all know, and they know, that white America feasts on this stuff, not the food and the gifts, and that power and ability is way more sacrosanct than a present or a slice of ham or God itself.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Opportunity Lost

In many ways winter is sort of a catch-all. There will be no more walks down Westnedge or around campus alone or with others, taking in the sun and the warmth, both of which left months ago. Confined to indoor spaces, huddled together briefly on a front porch that does little to shield you from the cold wind while your friend smokes, trying to get the layers just right so you're not too warm and awkward in the car but not shivering outside. Unlike the larger carapace of life, though, winter will pass, and outdoor opportunities will present themselves. The metaphor doesn't work. Your existence continued its decay nonchalantly. The seasons just cycle through as if nothing changes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Tree Called Home

The present author would like to offer, if one may, a sort of pithy advice regarding life. That is, one must aspire to never live in a house, apartment, or other residence in which the amount of housework one must continually pursue is infinite, in order to keep the place neat and tidy. This, of course, renders the amount of livable places rather limited. One might suggest to find, say, a big, towering tree to live in, somewhere pleasantly warm, and to reside, not unlike Tarzan, in the shelter of its branches. At that point, when one asks where you reside, you can respond thusly:

"A tree."

To which your curious communicating acquaintance might questioningly suggest:

"You mean a tree house?"

Given, however, your distinct control, still, over your verbal abilities and vernacular constitution, you could simply correct them:

"No, just a tree."

At which point, it becomes easy to weed out the friends you don't want from the ones you do, as those who might condescendingly raise their eyebrows are no friends of any inhabiter of trees, while those who might prescribe a sort of badassery to residing in nature's quintessential air filter are the friends worth keeping.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

False But Earnest

When one says that one might get a cold from being outside in winter without a hat, one does not do so intentionally to deceive or reinforce false data. Their earnestness is merely expressing itself as a false factoid. The harm is not in the actual suggestion, nor the feelings it conveys.

So too is there nothing intentionally harmful about one who attributes the temperature to when leaves change colour and drop (they're driven almost entirely by sunlight, which is why we can predict when they'll peak each year - it's the same time year in and year out with just a small effect driven by precipitation).

These sort of common mistakes - common knowledge passed as accepted wisdom but actually false -- proliferate our daily existence. The present author almost assuredly knows some things that are false. These unknown unknowns, as esteemed international criminal Donald Rumsfeld once explained, haunt us, dangling just out of sight - an ignorance we assume we have but have no way of finding or knowing. A sort of self loss of ego as we stumble around, wondering if the factoid we just explained or correlated was in fact incorrect all along. Even to attempt to research said acceptable data can be a rabbit hole of paranoia and confusion. One merely need look at the entire industry of research and data and ads and guides and self-help of diet and exercise to question what we really know and feel overwhelmed. The fact that we are so often driven by a desire to know what we don't know is one thing, the fact that even once we know something, we might still be wrong, is another thing entirely. As always, the end result is self-doubt.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Folly of Familiarity

It's been said that, next to writing, the most important thing one can do to improve one's writing is to read more. To read both the familiar and unfamiliar, popular and unpopular, books of styles and genres and variations to learn from and grow from and utilize. Alas, one also finds that, if one is lacking the ability to harness any of said styles or flourishes (as present author does), then reading a variety of prose, while interesting, only seeks to reinforce the reality that achievement is impossibly fleeting.

Monday, October 16, 2017

the friends we didn't make along the way

It's common in internet parlance to suggest that, regarding something that was difficult or obtuse, the real benefit was "the friends we made along the way." That the connections supplanted the work and trials of whatever else came with them. Given, however, the harsh reality of modern society, such that loneliness is now, on a per capita basis, higher than it has ever been in recorded history, and that it strikes all age, income, racial, and religious groups, is both more deadly than obesity and smoking, and is increasing on a year-to-year basis seemingly without end, one might be inclined to say that, instead, the real journey was the friends we didn't make along the way.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Spooky Month

One finds that, upon the beginning of October, a preponderance of content relating to spookiness, fear, and death (even if lightheartedly) takes place, as many celebrate the month - given its major holiday - as a time to revel in such subjects. Many find, however, this enjoyment frustrating in that it only lasts a month, and that said subjects nominally fade out during other times of the year. However, one finds that one can always live with spookiness, fear, and contemplation of death, if one simply embraces the overwhelming anxiety and suffering of being. To that end, one could, if willing to work for it, celebrate a spooky month 12 times a year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

be yourself

The world tells you to be yourself, your parents tell you, ads tell you, everyone tells you but they don't tell you how hard it is to find yourself, how hard it is to find out what it means to be yourself; is being yourself doing what you love for a living or making enough of a living to occasionally do what you love, is being yourself never compromising on anything, actually, before you even get that far when do you find out? Your mind is still changing drastically throughout your 20s so how can you find yourself and be yourself when your self is constantly under attack, it takes a long road for some to find what they want and who they are and some never do, but all the same, they're told to just... be themselves.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

letting go of what kept you holding on

When you're younger or youngish or just not staring mortality in the face I suppose you hold onto existence by the "eventually" and "maybe" and how some day something good will happen to you professionally, academically, financially, socially, whatever, you start to create fantasies early on where the novel you write gets published, or you become manager, or you save someone's life, or you retire at age 30 and travel, or you can sing, or dance, or solve an impossible equation, or fall in love, you'll figure it out. If it doesn't happen at age 18 it'll happen at 22, and then 28, and then 34, and before you know it nothing ever happened. We hold onto these things out of some malapportioned hope that they will happen and justify an existence otherwise marked by mundanity and suffering and dread. But perhaps these things drive the suffering because we keep wanting, hoping, begging for them to happen only for them to never come true. Perhaps the sooner we let go of the impossibilities that we think will make life better - the desire to be someone we're not, the things we hold out for and let drive us mad because we can't reach them - the easier it is to accept that life, as currently constructed, will never be profound.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Normal Routine

I suppose it's not a revelation to learn, eventually, that the vast majority of one's existence is spent doing things one does not like. Early years are spent in school that few children enjoy or profess to liking, its concurrent homework and bullying and social strata inflicting wounds and causing anxiety to fester. Adulthood is filled with hours at a job who most people don't like; job dissatisfaction at record highs, everyone wanting more weekend, or vacation, or what have you. Even sleep, which many claim to like, is most often a memoryless respite that, in our lack of consciousness, feels much shorter than it is, such as that even if we did enjoy it, calling it a third of our day would seem inaccurate. So we spend our existence meandering from thing to thing we don't like, perhaps wondering, how, in our collective pursuit of values and construction of society, we let happiness become such a small, finite part of our day-to-day routine.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

See What Sticks

A common verbal metaphor one might hear during their passage through life, in regards to what they should be doing with said life, is to "throw everything at the wall and see what sticks." This, thusly, describes the idea that one should attempt anything and everything in a vain effort to see what ends up being worth keeping with - or - what "sticks." This metaphor is most apt, however, in that it succinctly (albeit unintentionally) surmises the cold reality. Given enough time, gravity is inescapable, and anything that sticks will, sooner rather than later, come down. This applies, also, to one's attempt to find something worth pursuing - given a certain amount of time, said hobby, or interest, or pursuit, becomes unenjoyable and meaningless. It fails, in the end, to stick.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Uniqueness is a Lie

Many people seem to suggest that you might be well-served by not necessarily being the best at something, but simply offering a unique voice, perspective, or collection of talents. That by being something different, you can, indeed, stand out, and use this as a marketable skill. Given, however, that the present author is, as best can be surmised, the only human being completely lacking in any and all talent or skill of any or all kind, it becomes apparent that while being one-of-a-kind may help in some markets or respects, there is also a reality in which said one-of-a-kind trait is so immeasurably distasteful and meaningless, that it does nothing to present itself as worthwhile.

Friday, September 8, 2017

did the idea of wanting to be someone make you eventually want to disappear

Maybe you want to be wealthy, maybe famous, maybe critically acclaimed, maybe you want to save a school bus full of children, maybe you want to travel the world, maybe you want to tell your boss to "fuck off" one day, maybe you want to have a fulfilling and raunchy love life, maybe you just want a life, maybe, maybe, maybe, at some point you lose distinguishing between whether it's something you want, something you're expected to want, something you're programmed to want, something others want for you, it all blends together into unmitigated, unrelenting desire, of things that aren't and can't. Of being someone you won't and doing something you won't. It's funny how it morphs and readjusts itself as you age, your body seemingly inept to hold back the crumbling carapace it resides in but your mind constantly shifting goalposts; I'll do it age 20, then 30, then 40, and on, and on, maybe the desires change a bit but its all perfunctory dressing, just a whole host of gruesome, lonely people, looking for affirmation and love. Cleanup in aisle 8.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


The South Asian students that populate the apartments near my house moved in a couple weeks ago. I drive by makeshift cricket games on the way home from work. This week the rest of the domestic freshman move in, blessed by comfortable temps when it's very easy for the dorms to become stifling, A/C less hellscapes. I remember moving in with 90 degree weather, in fear of my roommate, trying to fill the time with WoW and avoiding contact with every human I saw. I hope nobody else feels that way.

The construction that permeates the summer on campus is now over. Shinier buildings, prettier landscaping, 100s of thousands of dollars spent in the college arms race to lure students and their money. A full time semester at the local 4 year now costs 12 thousand dollars. To attend for four years then would set you back just shy of 100k, more money than I pocket in 5 years, a seemingly insurmountable number.

The crickets start chirping now at 6:30 instead of 8:30 like in mid June when the sunlight drapes over us until 10pm. The days are shorter and the warmth is shorter and the summer is over, effectively, Labor Day serving as an unofficial end when the temperature becomes too cool to go swimming anyways, so the Great Lakes merely become a vessel for disquieting lake effect snow instead of the refreshing swimmable landscape they once were.  It'll start all over again in June.

I feel and look older but wish I could be new again, do things over again, maybe luck out and not get a perniciously violent roommate, maybe luck out and not be so socially anxious I skipped class, maybe luck out and not cut myself and try to kill myself. But I suppose those are bygones now and all I see are the new students playing cricket on the green grass, smiling and laughing, a swing of the paddle, and the ball is flying, over the trees and into the sun.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Every Number Is Scary

2 is scary because of needles and doctors and pain.
10 is scary because now it's double digits and now it's grades.
13 is scary because now you're a teen.
18 is scary because now you're an adult.
20 is scary because now you're no longer a teen.
28 is scary because now your physical peak is passed and likely your mental one too.
30 is scary because you're not so young any more.
40 is scary because you're halfway there.
50 is scary because now you're old.
Everything else is scary because it's one year of further depreciation.

Monday, August 28, 2017


It is not uncommon - if one is a being that exists in this world, as a human - to receive advice from various adjacent parties on a wide-ranging set of topics. One's parents, for instance, might advise on a school. A friend might advise on love. A co-worker might advise on future plans. Advice can be wide-ranging and broad or niche and specific, but it is almost impossible to escape it. While this previous blog has expounded on the explosion of the not-so-postmodern self-help business, even absent of any profit motive, people are consistently enamored with the idea of passing on their individual perspective's advice to others.

While a simple examination might, then, lead an impartial observer to believe that such frequent and diverse advice makes life easy, as it removes unknowns and routinely lays out what needs to be done, one finds that, in reality, the opposite is true, and the vast and wide-ranging advice of various types and quality leaves one, in the end, with overwhelming paralysis regarding which path - which advice - to take.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Hopeless Cases

It's ok I suppose to have no future, in a way none of us do, the same finite conclusion meeting us all, life an immeasurably short output of energy in a vastly grandiose and ancient cosmos. But that gets into metaphysical debates about the meaning, or lack thereof, of an existence that is both inconsequentially small and also enormously-consequentially unique. But in a small city in the Midwest where winters come soon and leave late and in a state with a bleeding population, the cold reality is apparent. No degree, few references, no contacts, the kind of person that gets looked at diminutively for years whenever someone asks what I studied, what I majored in, or even if I was going to school. Now that a four year university is an impossible endeavor, two semesters of it costing more than I make in a year, the immediacy of being left behind by the modern economy sets in. I sit at a dead end job making next to nothing simply hoping that maybe in my down time I can stumble upon writing something worthwhile, but I've been writing for 20 years and have nothing to show for it, no publication, no winnings, no name. It's hard to envision another 50 years of this, my only reprieve being that all the drugs and pills and illness I've pumped into my body has cut my lifespan shorter, more manageable, more elegant. My parents know this all; quietly they ask about me going to school several times a month, quietly they tell me they just want me to be able to afford myself an enjoyable life, as if money can fix 13 years of self harm and endless self-deprecatory platitudes about hopelessness. In their desire to see me happy they've run into the same wall I have seen before; there is no happiness, there is no future for people like me, just a cold, dull loneliness, a money-less future, and a 9 hour work day that ends with me, in despair, staring blankly at an LED screen.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dreaming Older

When you're 13 you dream of what you will do at age 18. When you're 18 you dream of what you'll do at age 22. When you're 22 you dream of what you'll do at 26. It goes on. Before you turn 30. Before you turn 40. Until one day you wake up and realize that decades of misplaced dreams and delusions of grandeur will never come true, that age has sapped you of what miniscule chance there ever was, and you were always better off living in a depressingly resigned reality instead of a depressingly, dishonestly hopeful one.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


If our past was worthless and we are worthless and the life we lead is worthless than why ever be tied down to a rose-tinted perversion of what was? If life is suffering and school was suffering and teens were suffering than surely we can remove our heads from ancient sand and at the very least uncover the new suffering that waits for us along with a future we can't construct and a past we can't escape. So on second thought, who gives a shit, it's the same value proposition whether you're weighed down by a false past or overwhelmed by a false future. A sad song is a sad song is a sad song. Lie in bed and mix regrets with longing, wait until you freeze and let it all wash over you. Destroy your nostalgia for what has happened and get rid of the fear of what has yet to happen, they say, in between ethanol and tobacco and other faintly nascent rhymes. It's all the same worthlessness. Put the song on repeat and do it again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Where Dreams Can Fester

Write that novel you've been kicking around
Bust out your paint brushes and see what happens
There's lots of free audio software to record stuff with these days

So are the types of phrases one might commonly hear when one professes to desiring some sort of financial and popular success in the creative arts. Yet, it is commonly assumed that many people never actually do pursue said creative outlet, instead letting their ideas - good or bad they may be - fester and languish in their imagination. This has been called laziness by some, or pessimism by others, and a host of other negative connotations. Given, however, that ideas in one's imagination can have the kind of success and reach that when put to reality they can not, and that while still festering, unpursued, can reside in pleasant daydreams and delusions of grandeur, one must wonder if not putting pen to paper, so to speak, is actually the optimist's route, and that attempting to achieve that of which can not be achieved in the first place, is ultimately the darker, less rewarding path, for it is only in one's wildest imagination that success can ever be attained.

Monday, July 10, 2017


If taken to its logical extreme, the statement "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" would seem to condone certain harmful activities that do not kill you but might degrade your health. For instance, smoking regularly would not necessarily kill you immediately nor, as deadly as it is, be your cause of death. Indeed, one could utilize the statement as a sort of nihilist hedonist creed, if one were to do simply apply the statement in its most absurd, literal fashion. In that regard, one might be pressed to find ways in which anything that doesn't kill you does indeed make you stronger, and not, as all things, simply reduced to suffering and dread.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

As Do All Things

I suppose it's the nature of things that bonds break. Cells break down. Body breaks down. We all say that everything dies but the process of death is a gradual destruction of the very things, matter, that holds us together. Sometimes the very things that matter. There's a movie that says that we move apart at 5 centimeters per second, or the speed cherry blossoms fall. That's probably too literal.

I don't know where my best friend from elementary school is. I know he is here in town, to the extent that he is alive and owns a business, and I know that he has a serious girlfriend, but I can not speak to anything else. We were once inseparable. Now if we were to sit down at the same table it'd be nothing but awkward silence and forced conversation.

My best friend from junior high was a bully. I don't know that he was a friend, ever, but I guess I put up with it because everyone was a bully then and at least it gave me social structure. He went to New York to study film. I stopped talking to him after one last one hour phone call where he lied, repeatedly, to me. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth reaching out. He sends me a happy birthday text every year and asks me to respond. I have no idea where he lives, what he is doing, or even how his looks have changed. All I've been able to gather is that 10 years of busting his ass off to get involved in making film never panned out. I guess even bullies get to suffer with the rest of us.

I couldn't tell you what a single former classmate is doing. Maybe it's for the best. I didn't really like how they treated me, many of them. But at some point I made the decision to not know a single person here in town and be the cherry petal that lands on a sidewalk and then gets picked up by a gust of wind and drifts into a shady looking alleyway with nothing else. Overdone metaphor be damned.

I'm sure it will happen again. As do all things, the bonds and connections break, the distance becomes to great. Between work, and family, and personalities, and change, and all the other modern stressors and contrivances. I'm sure the new friend I am seeing will eventually become just another dormant contact on a Facebook page full of nothing but them, our social media sites time capsules into a past we can't escape but at times want to relive. But even those memories, of past friendships, of past joys and heartaches, fade into obscurity. As do all things.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Another Serious Post

Today I will break, for the 2nd time, my rule against writing about politics.

As we near the final conclusion of one of the most secretive, haphazard, and controversial legislative processes that I've been privy to in my entire life, I wanted to take a step back and use this space as a place for me to explain how one of the most significant and all-encompassing legislative passages of the last 10 years has changed my life. What follows is a personal story. I don't necessarily view it as an attempt to convince (I call my legislators for that), but given the teetering existence of such an influential piece of legislation, I would like to share how, in many ways, Obamacare is one reason I am here today.

By all measurements I was a healthy kid growing up. No broken bones or sprains even though I played sports, perfect blood pressure, not even any allergies to talk about. While I didn't know it at the time, however, my parents were paying 10k a year for our family of 4 to have health insurance, something they came perilously close to dropping until a good friend told them that to do so would be madness.

But in May of 2008, at age 19, after I had moved out, I ended up in the ER and then, for a week, a hospital for the mentally ill. The last thing on my mind at the time was money. In fact, I can't even recall for one second thinking of anything related to money or cost, considering that I was a mere 12 inches from death.

About three weeks after my release, I stumbled upon a pile of bills that my parents had tucked away in a shelf in their living room. They were the bills for my hospitalization. They were almost 15 thousand dollars. The sinking feeling in my stomach at the time was eminently real. I knew that my parents could afford it; 60-70 hour work weeks when I was young managed to help them to a place of middle-upper class comfort by this time in our lives, but I was stunningly aghast at how that meant that, for most people, it would be unaffordable.

A month later, my mother and I sat down with an insurance salesperson (this was before Obamacare and marketplaces and all that) and started hashing out getting health insurance for me in case something happened, God forbid. For reference, I lived and still do in Michigan. Everything was going fine, we had narrowed in on a reasonable plan with coverage I needed, when the salesperson started asking me some questions. One of the questions was if I had been hospitalized for mental illness recently. Seeing as how I had, I replied yes.

I was then informed that nobody would cover me until it had been more than 6 months since I had been hospitalized. I walked away that day without insurance.

I shudder to think, looking back, what would have happened if I had to be hospitalized again before the 6 month period was over. My parents may have been comfortable but they were not made of money, and I was right out of my freshman year of college and its concurrent debt.

I am 28 now. I work a boring job and earn about 21-22k pre-tax. Thanks to Obamacare, I pay a still ridiculous but at least manageable $105 dollars a month to make sure my 4 prescriptions and regular doctor's appointments do not completely drain me. I own a house, and between that and the subsidies that allow me to afford my own health expenses, I am happy at the independence that is afforded me. Being that I have no college degree, the reality is I probably will never make a ton of money. I have a safety net in my parents, but if certain pre-existing condition protections are waived, and the number of plans that cover what I need drastically decrease in amount and increase in price, I, at almost 30 years old, will probably be forced to ask my parents to help me pay for my own health.

I am not pretending that Obamacare is perfect. But I truly can not exist without it, unless my parents would foot the bill, and honestly, I can barely imagine asking them for help at my age without feeling incredibly embarrassed. I've been working since I was 16 and I feel like I should at least be afforded a chance, by my own country, to have individual control and stability over my own health care, and to manage a disease I have no control over and did not choose to be born with.

If you are as worried as I am about the future of your wellbeing, or the wellbeing of your countrymen, I beg of you to call your legislator. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Today is the longest day - in English nomenclature - in the northern hemisphere; or, essentially, the summer solstice, as it is named. Day, in the former phrase, not meaning the actual 24 hour cycle of one Earthly rotation, but instead referring to the amount of daylight those in the northern hemisphere receive. Indeed, from this point on, the northern hemisphere will begin a six month metaphor for existence - that is, it gets darker and darker and gloomier and gloomier. Indeed, if one were to observe the planetary cycles, one could easily come to the realization that the earth is always metaphorically rendering the meaninglessness and futility of existence. For example, while one might be inclined after winter solstice to think that things are looking up, said optimism is quickly dashed by the fact that January and February, statistically, for much of the northern hemisphere, are snowier and colder months. And while one then might be inclined to a second wave of optimism in, perhaps, March or April, one finds then that the prevalence of tornadoes, hurricanes, and other maladies are on the upswing, and that the act of greater sunlight is now reduced to a mere two month period before it starts waning. In summer, firefly season may briefly inspire a bit of Earthly wonder and amazement, until one realizes that the lifespan of a firefly is about two weeks, and that like all things, the goodness in their existence is a brief temporary respite against the continual onslaught of suffering.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


In my dream I am running. I am running along a beach that I have seen 100s of times in real life and dozens of times in my dreams, where it is recreated with seemingly loving detail and realism. I can see the shape of the shore, the condos that speckle the landscape where Chicago tourists pay out huge sums of money for a chance to watch the sunsets over the never ending stretch of water.

I am running and it is the evening, the sun is only about 20 minutes from reaching the horizon. I can smell algae and fish, faintly, as a breeze coasts along the water and up and over my shoulders, tousling my hair and providing brief respite against the warm summer humidity. My feet make thudding noises on the sand that is just barely wet from the occasional wave that makes it as far as where my path is taking me.

I am running south, the water and sun to my right. The beach, surprisingly, is empty. It shouldn't be. There should be families, teens, college students, a mix of swimmers and volleyballers and tanners. But it's just me, rhythmic sound of my heavy, flat-footed footsteps, and the sound of the tide.

I am running more than I have in years. More than I have since school, when I used to run alongside the busiest street in town and up the steepest hill we had for basketball practice. But in my dream my breathing is not labored like it would be nowadays, instead each stride is smooth and athletic like it once was, my body seemingly recreating what it had as a child.

I don't know where I am running to. The end of this specific spot of public land is not far now, but I know I will keep at it; there is a long way to go before the shore curves west and heads north starting at Chicago, I could run for days and days before I got to that point. Maybe I am running from something, like I used to as a kid and nightmares involving horrifying creatures were a regular occurrence, me trying to run inside but body in slow-mo like the air was molasses. I am older now. There is no horrifying creature tonight on the beach.

I am running now, I remember, because it is all I have to do. Because the sunset is perfect and the beach is perfect and the speed is freeing, and running is all I ever have known. I am running from a past I can't forget and a future I can't escape. I am running from winter, from work, from people. I am running until I collapse in pain and out of breath, and then I will simply get up, and run some more. I will keep running. Perhaps I will go south for months, until I reach the ocean along the Gulf, and am forced to turn east or west.

I hear a noise, a blaring, alto screech.

I am awake now. A ceiling fan spins above me. My room drowns me in 90 degree heat and I lazily look at the clock. It is almost time to get out of bed and begin the day. I reach over and put on my glasses.

I walk out of my room. I wonder if I will ever run again.

Friday, June 9, 2017


It has been widely reported that many people around the world are seeing an uptake in their sense and feeling of dread. Such feeling could be entirely developed out of interpersonal, intrapersonal, international, financial, political, or a seemingly endless host of other possible reasons and contributors. That said sense of dread is new to some people, is, remarkably, a very real thing. The present author would suggest that, in order to lessen the severity of sudden and inescapable dread brought on by highly specific circumstances, one would be better served living in a constant, all-consuming state of dread, such as is that nothing could, conceivably, make it worse, and instead the never-ending state of existential fear simply becomes one's normal state of being.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


A common saying to suggest one's inability to live up to the previous established standards of their parents is "the apple has fallen far from the tree." However, this would suggest, if taken literally, a certain ability to rectify the situation. After all, while the apple may have fallen, there's nothing to suggest it could not be carefully washed and then consumed, at which point, given an apple's relative tastiness, one may be inclined to suggest that, while the extra work required to salvage said apple took time and effort, the end result was still, ultimately, satisfying.

Also given that the present author could very easily be described by other's as said apple, and that such description would, however, be wholly inaccurate - as it suggests the present author's situation in life could be redeemed - it would appear a newer, more gravely despair inducing version of the saying is needed. Such as "the apple fell far from the tree, and onto the busy street nearby, where it was promptly run over by a truck, and smashed to bits." That would, in the present author's case, seem to be more accurate.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Of Fast Food in Slow Towns

Culver's, the fast food chain, exists as a milquetoast celebration of the banality of its setting. While it maintains a high degree of popularity in its Midwest location, a cursory tasting of their food finds it remarkably; bland, uninspiring, and flavourless - seemingly existing in a world that does not use salt, pepper, seasonings, textures, or flavours of any significant note. In this way, its mundanity is actually a meta-representation of the American Midwest - a flat, endless plain, dull, flavourless, and unexciting, remarkable only in its ability to be utterly unmemorable.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Contrasting Policy

A whole host of economic, anthropologic, and pragmatic evidence makes the case for allowing humans to more readily and easier achieve moving. Moving, as in, relocating to a new town, state, country, or what have you. Alas, while the benefits of a fluid and transient and low-barrier geographical change of scenery are well documented, decades of public policy and private influences have poured trillions of dollars into rewarding the act of not moving, not relocating, and not changing. Given the risk and fear that comes with making any large scale change, and the fact that we continually make it even harder to commit to this specific change by way of public policy, one might be inclined to surmise that this is some sort of fitting representation of the futility of existence.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Can't Fix Tired

One finds that, as one reaches their teens, one exists in a continual state of drowsiness and a generally tired persuasion. Alas, the routes most apt to, theoretically, fix said drowsiness, only hasten the onset of fatigue. To wit; there is, seemingly, no accurate amount of time one can sleep that alleviates the drowsiness.

For example, while one may find that 7 hours is too little time to sleep, thus leaving one dissatisfied and drowsy come morning, one also finds that 8 hours is, indeed, too much, and causes a similar output. No amount of fiddling with the numbers seems to create a scenario in which the proper amount of time to sleep is accrued.

The end result is, of course, some 60-odd years of existence perpetually tired, yawning, heavy-eyed, wondering how, exactly, and if, exactly, it will ever go away. The answer, of course, is one that treads heavily into the reality of the finite nature of existence, that of which is too dark for such a light-hearted yet wholly without purpose post, to contemplate.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Flowering Bush as an Apt Metaphor of Existence

Outside the present author's house, on the south east corner, near the front deck, is a bush that flowers every spring, with gorgeous purple/fuschia color. During this time, it is not uncommon for the present author to find multiple - that is, more than one - bumblebees canvassing the petals excitedly.

The flowers last about 7-10 days, then all drop dead, and the bush is left wilted, green and brown and decaying, for the other 355 days of the year.

When Spring first comes around, the sun actually escapes the ever present winter grey, and warmth slowly begins to encroach, one might be inclined to have their mood improve, to take a new outlook on the future, and to feel optimistic. After a week or so has passed, much like the flowers, this beauty will have subsided, and existence resigned to the brown, decaying mass that we all presently inhabit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

One of the Worst Things Your Parents Said

One of the worst things they'll say to you when you're young is that getting older sucks, that adulthood is  not nearly as fun as childhood, that life is at its best when you are young. What a damning pontification. What, then, if the child is currently not enjoying life? You have condemned them to an even worse future. You have trivialized their current suffering. And what does that say to a 10 year old? That the next 70 years of their life, now, are all downhill? A slowly increasing haphazard of suffering and misery?

To a 10 year old who doesn't understand concepts like nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses, it seems true. Why would your parents lie? Why would they be wrong?

For some, they will be right, for others, they won't. To wit, the present author could never go back to junior high, or high school, long ago grown out of the cynical hardening and verbal jousting they required. The present author could never go back to a time when they couldn't choose what and when to eat, what to wear, when to travel. These are all immensely freeing and valuable occurrences.

So if any of you ever have children, all I ask is that, instead of trying to explain to a child how they have it so good, simply work to make it so, and give them reasons to embrace life, at any age.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Time Flies By

If one makes it to age 85, one finds that they will have spent around 80 years of their life hearing how fast time flies by, how quickly a year went, and how it all seems over so soon. One would think that, given this pernicious and constant reminder, many people would spend their lives in less futile and repetitive situations. Alas, not only is such change impossible, it is irrelevant, as the perceived speed of one's lifespan does nothing to alleviate the fundamental nature of suffering and failure.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

10000 Hours

Given the myth that a certain amount of time spent doing something allows one to achieve mastery of said thing, and given previous posts detailing the relatively small effect practice actually has on the quality of something, one might be inclined to suggest that this blog is, coincidentally, a pertinent example of time and familiarity (being that the present author is now two years into it) of both practice and repetition doing nothing to improve one's quality.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Some have said that your body is a "temple." Some have said that your body is "a Bible." Still others have said that your body is a "wonderland." All these things suggest a sort of holy and metaphysical euphoria. Given, however, that the average human spends 3/4s of their life with their body slowly breaking down, and given that physical peaks are limited such as that one can only enjoy them for a few years, and given that the entire world seems apt to force us to put the most unhealthy, god-forsaken food into said body, one must wonder how said temple, or Bible, or wonderland, manages to even still exist in anything but a constant vegetative state.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beautiful Day

While a sunny day may improve the mood of one who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or even just anyone in general, it is also an apt metaphor of the futility of existence. While one might be inclined to create all sorts of planned outdoor activities for a nice day, one frequently finds that, ultimately, all plans go awry, and the scheduled outdoors time is instead replaced with meaningless time staring at a screen, into the void. Given that this represents the folly of existence, one might be inclined to suggest that nice days are, infact, the worst, as they most accurately portray meaninglessness and ennui.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Consuming More

It's been said that, in order to get better at something, one must spend time doing said thing, and consuming works or jobs in said area. For instance, if one wanted to be a writer, one would be apt to spend copious amounts of time both writing and reading, the latter to learn what does and doesn't work, and to continue to evolve one's vocabulary and familiarity with successfully published works. Given, however, that the more one reads, the more one limits their ability to write something that they haven't read before, one might be inclined to suggest that while, in this case, reading is good for increasing one's knowledge of the written word, it is also good for reducing any hope of creativity or new ideas to zero.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Drug Induced Creativity

When struggling for any sort of content to post on a blog, one might retreat to books and videos about creativity, and the stunning amount of them that suggest ingesting hallucinogenic or psychoactive properties in order to unlock the deepest recesses of one's creativity. Given, however, that this suggests an apt amount of creativity and talent simply waiting to be untapped, such of which the present author does not have, all the legal or illegal substances in the world would, presently, likely simply reinforce a habitually underwhelming creative functionality.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Owning One's Mistakes

We are told - from an early age - that one must "own up" to one's mistakes, and take ownership of one's deeds and actions. If one were to, however, pursue Buddhist monkhood, then the 5th factor of the Eightfold Path would extol one to only possess that which is necessary to sustain life. As possession or ownership of one's mistakes does nothing to quench thirst, hunger, or need for shelter, one could argue, cynically, simplistically, and smarmily, that taking ownership of one's mistakes is in direct contradiction to the pursuit of the Eightfold Path and the end of suffering, by way of taking possession of that which one does not need. As such, if one were to lead a life in which one were perpetually in denial over one's mistakes and enjoyed an inability to admit to them, one could perhaps argue that they are, in reality, a profound example of non-possession. Or, if nothing else, the president of the United States.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lottery as an Apt Metaphor

It used to be common to see ads in the 80s and 90s for the Powerball lottery that ended with the tagline "You Can't Win If You Don't Play." A cursory examination of this statement reveals that indeed, one can not win the Powerball if one never plays it. Given, however, the monumental odds against winning said lottery, such as that it is many hundreds of millions to one, it would also be apt to say "You Can't Win If You Do Play." One finds that, fittingly, this statement, and the previous statement, both apply to the nature of human existence.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

28 Creations

Since the present author recently turned the ghastly age of 28, and since the present author is stretched thin for ideas, what follows is a personal post detailing 28 creative media that have meant an enormous amount to me (the present author). The order is largely without attempt at any organization or flow.

Star Wars (collected works)

I could tell you about the time in 5th grade I stayed home sick from school and marathtoned Episode 1 six times in a row with nigh but bathroom breaks. I could tell you of the over 125 novels I've read, some as many as 6, 8, 10 times. I could tell you of the collectively 80+ times I've seen all the movies. I could tell you of late night movie debuts. I could tell you of the hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of hours I put in SWTOR. I could tell you of roleplaying, of Halloween costumes, of playground lightsaber duels. Of trading card games, of video games, of toys and action figures. But really, all I can tell you, ultimately, is that no fictional universe, no creation, has been with me for as long, for as much time, and with as much love, as Star Wars has. May the Force be with you, always.

Catch-22 (novel)

I have imitated many things I love in life. I've attempted my hand at writing postmodernism in the vein of Leynar or Murakami or FLCL, of cyberpunk in the vein of Stephenson or Blade Runner, of melancholy in the vein of Shinkai or Lost in Translation, even of fantasy in the vein of Tolkien or Salvatore. But I have never attempted to write something in the vein of Catch-22. Why? Simply because I can't. Simply because the greatest novel I have ever read is so multi-layered, so complex, so nuanced, and so, so relentlessly quotable and funny and tragic, that to even attempt to be 1/100th of it would end in folly. I will never create something this erudite, this profound, this enjoyable. And that's ok. I don't need to. Yossarian lives in us all the same.

Lord of the Rings (books and films)

Tolkien is not a good writer. At least, not in the traditional sense. His dialogue is stilted, and he struggles with pacing. But I guess to call the Lord of the Rings a character study would be folly. It is a worldbuilding study. It is a masterclass of building a universe and inserting characters into it and throwing them on an epic, perilous journey. By the end, when Frodo sets sail and the endnotes detail what happened to everyone else, you'll have to fight back tears. You feel exhausted, like you were with them every step of the way.

As an aside, the films are pretty damn impressive too.

The Place Promised in our Early Days (animated film)

"She always said she felt like she was losing something. At the time... I was in middle school, and couldn't understand what she meant. But... those words had a strange effect on me."

"Living alone, the nights seemed to last forever. When I couldn't pass the time effectively, I went to a nearby train station and pretended to wait for someone."

In the span of about 3 years in the mid aughts, I watched this around 10 times. It is hauntingly, achingly beautiful and melancholy. It is doused in transcendent beauty that Shinkai is known for; colours and details in animation that only Ghibli can match. Tenmon's soundtrack is legendary. It layers ideas of multiple universes and dream realities through a story as old as time itself; what would you do for the one you love? That it never falls into melodrama, and that it doesn't end in a clear cut tragedy or victory is perhaps its most accomplished achievement. It is my favourite animated work. Ever.

Blade Runner (film)

Released in 1982, little movies have the breadth and influence that Blade Runner has had. Since its release, no other movie has had its soundtrack sampled as often. It spawned an entire genre; without its existence, there is no Ghost in the Shell, no Deus Ex, no Matrix, no cyberpunk as we know it. Its visual style has influenced everything from Drive to Star Wars prequels and more. It is a profound statement of humanity, of choice, of dealing with the fatalistic reality of all things. And it features perhaps the single greatest monologue (heavily improvised) and one of the single greatest lines in movie history. On a personal note, tech noir and cyberpunk have become easily some of my two most beloved genres, and if I could somehow create a great book or movie in those genres, I would do so in a heartbeat.

Harmlessness (album)

Nostalgia, summer camps, growing up, regrets, aging, trying to smile at the world. No album captures these feelings as effectively and beautifully as Harmlessness, an album that goes from 2 minute songs to 8 minute songs with no effort, no rough transitions, and leaves you both ephemerally happy and despondently sad at how much of your life has passed by. The entire experience is summed up most accurately by the name of the band; The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die.

Good Riddance (Time of your Life) (song)

I mean, it's cliché. How many graduations, how many "In Memoriam" slideshows, how many times did we hear it? And yet, for a band so enamored with power-chords, false-punk, and juvenile politics, this was the most punk, most vulnerable, most hardcore thing they did. A simple song about a simple breakup about a not so simple life. From about 2003-2008 this song got more play than anything else I listened to. It occupied a special place of beach sunsets and dusk drives and teenage angst.

Cerulean Salt (album)

Somewhere between the aching acoustic simplicity of their first album and the fuzzy distorted guitars of their third, Waxahatchee managed to stumble upon emo-pop perfection.  Katie Crutchfield coos about breakups and the lows of traveling alone and alcoholism and domestic fights and gives them all a sense of humanism and familiarity, even to those unaccustomed. The albums blows it out of the water in its 3 track ending, from Swan Dive's perfection at describing a broken relationship, to You're Damaged perfectly describing a broken person. There's no wonder these songs are their most requested at their shows. They capture a certain interpersonal despondency like nothing else.

Posthumous Release (album)

It might be the most earnest pop album of the 21st century. It is elegant and simple and honest. It spends its time dwelling on lost love and lost time, but manages to sneak in some punchy, uplifting tunes about groovy women and fucking at the graveyard. Why not? Life is weird and people are weirder. This album manages to capture that perfectly.

Side note; Matthew Lee Cothran, the band's lead, will make another appearance on this list later on. Dude knows how to make music.

Invisible Planets (short story)

Hao Jingfang's short and sweet and lighthearted romp around planets and cultures, told from mother to daughter, manages to be both ethereal and permanent. It's travel made life affirming and diversity made celebratory. It's a mother's love displayed as the most powerful force in the galaxy. It is sci-fi at its best; imaginative, evocative, alien, and at its core, deeply, irrevocably, human.

Untitled (album)

Sigur Ros have always been odd. I guess that's what you get described as when you use an entirely made up language that makes no sense in your music. But unlike post-rock's habitual reliance on guitar, the band expands the genre's horizons with keys and synths and falsetto, lending an at times haunting, apocalyptic vibe to their music, and others, a sad and regretful one. They're one of the genre's best, continually creating music that says, linguistically, absolutely nothing, but musically, absolutely everything. This album remains their crowning achievement, an emotionally exhausting experience that is best enjoyed alone, at night, with nothing to disturb you.

His Dark Materials Trilogy (novels)

I can remember the exact moment, every bit of it. Lying on the floor, living room, parent's place in South Haven, pillow propped up against the base of the couch, dinner cooking, summer between 5th and 6th grade. I reached the end of The Amber Spyglass, the 3rd and final book in the trilogy, and died a bit. I was young. I didn't know about love stories and tragedy and being told some things in life simply aren't possible. And yet here I was experiencing it for the first time, and it hurt. Like nothing else. I flipped back about 30 pages and read it again. It still hurt. I begged and pleaded internally. There has to be an epilogue I am missing, right? There has to be! This is children's fantasy, not heartbreak city.

But that was it.

I read the book and the trilogy a half dozen more times over the next couple years.

It remains, to this day, a painful life lesson. Some things in life are tragic. Happy endings aren't the norm. Enjoy what you have while it lasts. It's over all too soon.

Snow Crash (novel)

"Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world."

So says narrator and protagonist Hiro Protagonist (hacker and samurai), the star of a book so kinetic and visual it is probably a crime against humanity that we are still waiting on a film. The scenes leap off the pages and the entire book is darkly humorous and absolutely bursting with attitude. It's the future, and America is entirely privatized and chaotic and is good at only 3 things; porn, software development, and pizza delivery. It's one of sci-fi's most prescient works, popularizing the word avatar (yes, the term we refer to are pictures on forums and social media of. It comes from this novel), and predicting internet culture and cyberspace and MMOs and a whole host of other things before most people even knew they existed. And in a world of profoundly disappointing white dudes, here was a white male author who wrote a story starring a black-Asian male and a white woman, with a native-American antagonist featured too. It's spunky, edgy (in a good way), and rip-roaringly fun. Cyberpunk at its best.

The Dark Knight Trilogy (films)

There are some absolutely mind numbing flaws in these Nolan films. Plot holes, bad acting, and rushed character development. But you know what? It's ok. Because this trilogy asks us all; rich or poor, physically gifted or not, old or young, and everyone in between, to simply do the right thing. It is a hero saga (not a superhero one), and a rallying cry to those who do what is right, even if it is not what is easy. That Bruce Wayne is a billionaire is neither here nor there, what matters is that within us there is a moral capacity to do good. That it features an impeccable performance by Heath Ledger, a supremely underrated Anne Hathaway, and Gary Oldman at his best is mere icing. Not all superheroes wear capes. It just so happens that the star of these movies did.

FLCL (tv)

I've talked a lot in this list so far about nuanced and multilayered works, but for my money, this might be the heaviest hitter on the list. And if I were to rank this entire endeavor, this would be near the very top. Where to begin? It is enormously creative and visually magnificent. The soundtrack is absolutely perfect. It is consistently, riotously funny. But beneath the veneer of phallic symbolism and sex jokes, there is a never-ending cascade of ideas to unpack. From the psychoanalytical splendor of episode 4, to the adult/child inner conflict that plagues protagonist Naota, to the familial conflicts, to the zen and the puberty and the superflat, postmodern nature of it all. FLCL is a rock-and-roll koan turned up to 11, constantly probing, exploring, and exulting in what it means to grow up and come of age. That it manages to end so perfectly and hearth-achingly, even after 6 episodes of barely controlled chaos, speaks volumes.

Lost in Translation (film)

The first six or so times I saw this movie, I did not particularly like it. It's racist. The middle drags. It has a veneer of "what white people like" draped over it.

But I had watched it six times. Something was bringing me back to it. And that something was what this movie did well. Nothing else comes close to portraying missed connections and short-term relationships (friendly or otherwise) like this film does. And two scenes in particular stand out. From the endearing bed scene where Bill Murray's character talks so truthfully about getting older - a scene whose ability to not leap to romance or cliché propels it - to the end; a subtle, uncluttered exultation of what-could-haves and what-should-haves. That I've seen it many more times since my somewhat painful first six speaks volumes. Nothing about this film is lost in translation. It captures missed connections like nothing else.

Drive (film)

If Snow Crash is attitude in text, Drive is attitude in film. Featuring one of the snappiest, sexiest openings ever, a killer soundtrack, and enough Christian symbolism to shake a stick at, Drive revels in violence and bloodshed and revenge and 80s synths and style. Refn's best work among many greats, Gosling's understated performance underlies a movie that thrills with action and yucks and gucks, and yet dwells on drawn out shots, double and triple rack focuses, and drapes itself in neon and tech noir colours. It's one of the best works to come out of the 21st century, endlessly rewatchable, and perpetually enjoyable.

World of Warcraft (video game)

The summer of 2007 was two things for me. Well, four things I guess, if you include crippling depression, and anxiety over college, but primarily, it was 40 hours a week at McDonalds, and 60 hours a week in WoW. After my 6am to 2pm shifts, it was WoW the rest of the day, well into the night. I don't know if any other game - and I've played a lot - has ever swallowed a portion of my life in such a condensed time that WoW did. In just a few months I went from lonely peon to guild leader to social paean. Like Blizzard games before and after, WoW was merely a collection of everything that worked in one genre, more intuitive and polished than anything before it, and absolutely enormous in scale.

Overwatch (video game)

For a game without an actual ingame story or campaign mode, for a game without an open world, for a game without roleplaying, Overwatch evokes more worthwhile humanist values than perhaps any video game before it. Like the aforementioned WoW, Overwatch isn't new insomuch as it is new in just how it brings so many disparate elements from the genre together and polishes the hell out of them. And while the game is astoundingly designed, from the subtle and ingenious audio and visual clues that pepper the game but never overwhelm, and the explicit attention to detail, the game shines most as a testament to diversity and heroism. In a world of cynical, ultraviolent and ultranationslist shooters, Overwatch has the guts to say everything without saying anything.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (album)

Oh Kanye. What happened? Before you came out in support of Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, before your total creative control meant that albums like Yeezus became too inconsistent and musically frayed, you had this, the best rap/hip-hop album of the 21st century. It is a masterclass of production and instrumentals and deeply honest storytelling. Kanye revels in his ego and his vulnerability, dwells on his contradictions, and still manages to rap eloquently about being black in America and being a black celebrity in America. All of the contributing artists, all of the heroically arching horns that permeate the early tracks, it all works. Every song on this album is memorable, and it's a shame in one sense that Power has become synonymous with it, if only because there's so much else to explore here. But I can't complain. It might be decades before another rap album hits this height. That we got it before Kanye jumped the shark is something to be thankful for.

Ambling Alp (song)

I hemmed and hawed about this entry. Not because it isn't worthy, but because the album it comes from is easily one of my all time favourites, and the band (Yeasayer) is on my shortlist too. But I had to give a specific shout out to single Ambling Alp, a tremendously uplifting and empowering track that manages to encourage us to hold our heads high, stand up for ourselves, and wear our scars with pride, without sounding contrived, corny, or radio-centric. It is enormously enjoyable, catchy, and exciting to listen to. And the kicker? Yeasayer asks in return one simple thing.

That we give fascists hell (warning: copious nudity in the video, but the Jodorowsky inspired visuals are worth the price of admission alone).

Your Hand In Mine (song)

My college experience consisted of a lot of things, but one thing in particular that stands out to me was my stubborn refusal to listen to a whole lot else as I walked to class besides Explosions in the Sky's most perfect song. There aren't really words to describe this and the emotional rollercoaster it is. That it managed to breach mainstream consciousness with its inclusion on the soundtrack to Friday Night Lights is a testament to its quality; post-rock isn't exactly the most accessible. It's breathtakingly sad and yet it ends with a rising note that suggests a glimmer of hope - that suggests that truly, The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place.

Amelie (film)

I wouldn't necessarily describe Amelie as my favourite movie, but I would describe it as one of my most influential. If quirkiness and romance and innate Frenchness were made into a film, this is unequivocally what would come out. I've tried my hand at writing a story or two that feels this romantic and uplifting and life-affirming. I've come up short every time. Still, I am eminently thankful for this film, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's best in a loaded collection, from the neat visual cues and quick cuts to the heartwarming humour; Amelie, in contrast to a lot of things I've placed on this list, screams at us to experience life as much as we can, because some times, everything does end happily.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (video game)

I had to make room for my favourite video game of all time, I suppose. I don't really know how to sum up this game. It has the most exquisitely designed open world and lorebuilding of just about any creation of any medium. It is surprisingly funny and heartfelt. I still remember playing it for the first time, stumbling out of the sewers, and seeing the sun blast me with light, the wind-swept grass splayed out before me, the foliage of towering trees straining against the breeze, and realizing that this entire world, this entire visual splendor, was now mine to explore as I saw fit. No other medium can quite create that feeling, because no other medium can give us that can control. There might never be an open world RPG, even by Bethesda themselves, that is as perfect as this was when it was released. And that it still holds up so well over a decade later is a testament to its attention to detail and sprawling beauty.

Burial on the Presidio Banks (song)

This Will Destroy You. No really. It will. That it also happens to be the name of the band is fitting. This song slowly builds with nothing but a single guitar and string on sadness and regretfulness, and then, over the course of nearly 8 minutes, crescendoes with soaring guitar rifts, a simple but effective drum refrain, and fantastic violin, asking us to not merely dwell on the lows, but also to reflect on the highs. It is life made music, or music made life.

5 Centimeters Per Second (animated film)

Makoto Shinkai is one of two people I had to include on this list twice (he also directed The Place Promised in our Early Days). This is his story about heartache stripped to its most bare; lacking any sci-fi elements and clocking in at a mere hour. The visuals are even more saturated and splendid, the soundtrack is crushing and beautiful, and the movie overwhelms the viewer in perfect encapsulations of the way time and distance do things to us. From our jobs, to our education, to simply getting older, as each year goes by, we're left reminiscing over more and more faded and lost connections, curious daydreams of what our long-lost school friends or lovers are now doing, sprayed out across the country and the world, and yet still all looking for the same things in life. And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can prepare you emotionally for the end of this film.

New Alhambra (album)

While order wasn't considered much in the making of this list, I did save the best for last. New Alhambra came out on May 12, 2015, and since then, no book, movie, game, or album has come even close to the hundreds upon hundreds of hours I have spent with this. It is an utterly perfect creation, an expression of sadness, failure, and self-doubt that transcends a specific individual's experience of such things. It is not exactly a pick-me-up listen, featuring lines like:

I've always been a fake
Waiting on a big break
That never comes


I just let the silence drift over my mind
Would you ease up on me?
I have failed at everything that I've ever tried
Would you ease up on me?

With dreamy synths, distorted narration, Delaney's angelic backup vocals, and short but sweet tunes painting a picture of depression and loneliness, it's easy to think this album is without positive redemption. But through it all, the ending track - my favourite song of all time and a simple acoustic guitar and solo track - lead singer Matthew Lee Cothran says that even after everything we've been through, all these heartaches, all this failure, all this monotony, love tells us there is, at the end of the tunnel, more to life.

Monday, February 13, 2017


As a value proposition, nostalgia, insomuch as it can be said to be one, is poor. It suggests that what existed in the past is worthwhile and valuable simply because it existed in the past. Given the structural inequities that plague past existence even more severely than they do today, it is easy to the see that nostalgia is both blinding and unequal. Given, however, human predication to look fondly upon things we can't have, whether they are in the future (wealth and fame) or the past (youth), it seems that nostalgia - or The Act of Putting One's Brain in a Vat - will haunt us for all eternity.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


You could go to the concert alone and it'd be awkward but you see the girl there by herself and realize you aren't the only one and then your favourite bands come on stage and you are singing and they are singing and everything is good and the drive home at night was melancholy and beauty all wrapped up in one. You could go to the movie alone and get waited on alone and feel awkward until you see the girl in your row who is also alone and then you realize you're not the only one and then get swept away by the big screen and the soundtrack and the poignancy of a beautiful script. You could eat alone and be the only one who does so but the Cuba Libre is good and the food is good and maybe it's weird but you won't see these people again really, so why the anxiety, learn to do things alone and you are not dictated by someone else's schedule, their needs, their bathroom breaks or reluctance to split the bill, not to say that company isn't nice once in awhile but if the movie or the band is good then why compound your denial of social proliferation with denial of aesthetic pleasure? At least get one out of two and call it a day.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The City

One finds that, if one were to express moving to a certain US city, such as Los Angeles, or Miami, or Austin, one is constantly reminded by residents that the city is not truly a bastion of livability and community. Given, however, the fact that the vast majority of US cities are as such, one wonders if it is simply a manifestation of everybody's perpetual despair and ennui at living in the same city that they always have, hoping deep down they could be somewhere else, vainly attempting to convince others that their home is, indeed, of poor quality.

Friday, February 3, 2017


One would think, after 28 years, that the act of scraping snow and ice off a car, and of getting into a car only to see your breath inside, would get easier and more bearable over time. Given, however, that assumptions of an ease in suffering are consistently false, and that like all things, this could be an apt metaphor for existence, one finds that the act of clearing up a car in winter never gets easy, and is instead, consistently and utterly despair inducing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Baddest

Neal Stephenson once stated - or it should be said, wrote - a passage in a novel implying that man, until the age of 25, thinks it is still possible to be the "baddest motherfucker in the world." Given the ridiculousness of said delusions of grandeur, it would seem that abandoning this ideal as quickly as possible would put one at peace. Given wild gesticulations of violence both in media, arts, and real life, oftentimes by men, many of whom are older than 25, one might be inclined to state that many men still think they can be the baddest, and that doing so often involves some sort of fatalistic attribution of death to the claim. In the end, we are all the worse off for it.

Monday, January 16, 2017

How Dreams Change

It is apparent that, over time, one's dreams for the future of their life can change - drastically so. One may find that something they never even once wished to achieve is now the pre-eminent focus of one's daydreaming escapades, and that the forlorn interests of one's childhood are now considered passé. Most importantly, however, one finds that even if one's dreams change drastically in terms of industry, profession, status, or standing over the course of one's existence, the one constant is that they remain, as always, entirely out of reach.

Friday, January 13, 2017


For days, now, the present author has put off working on a longform post of a subject of relative passion to the aforementioned. Given, however, that such a long post would require a considerable time investment, only to be read and consumed by no one, one wonders if instead it is better to simply continue to write pithy, irrelevant shortform pieces, to be read and consumed, also, by no one.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


It has been put forth, several times, and rather controversially each time, that humanity has evolved to see the world around them in a dishonest way. That is, evolution rewarded self-deception as a coping mechanism and survival mechanism, and that were we to see the physical reality around us as it really "were" such as that or consciousness did not distort it, the terrors and chaos of the world would essentially overwhelm us. Given, however, that we are now all aware of this potential reality, one has to wonder how much good evolution really did, if we are now simply unable to perceive the entropy around us, but able to understand it exists. As always, the end result is, of course, dread.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Only Step

One find that, if one is fortunate enough to be able to clearly and easily understand what one's greatest mistake of one's life is, then it could be said that said person is lucky that they are able to identify it as such, because that then suggests that the mistake could be fixed or rendered moot. However, if admitting a problem is the first step to solving it, it also remains, in the vast majority of cases, the only step ever taken.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Avoiding Resolution

The Gregorian Calendar states that, just a few days ago, we switched from the year 2016 AD to 2017 AD. Given the assigned significance of this event by much of this world, many people use this period of time to assign themselves goals for the coming year (2017) under the label of New Year's Resolutions. Because studies have shows that the vast, vast majority of people fall short of meeting these resolutions, the current author would like to present a cure. When asked if one has any New Year's Resolutions in early January, it might be pertinent to suggest that this year, one is celebrating Chinese New Years, and thus has well over a month before the year changes and any resolutions must be made, thus freeing one from the burden of creating unachievable goals.

Of course, one must, then, once Chinese New years comes around, simply point out that one does not celebrate it, and instead falls in line with much of the world's acceptance of the Gregorian Calendar. By constantly moving the goalposts as such, and, ideally, avoiding the uncomfortable possibility of someone remembering your previous commitments to a certain holiday, one can free themselves from ever having to set a goal that can not be achieved, thus preventing at least one source of disappointment, in an existence that is already full of them.