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A Mirror Turned Inward, Reflecting

02/28/2012

…that thing that happens right before you sleep; every mistake you’ve ever made, every word you wish you’d never said, every moment that crushed you comes flooding back in excruciating detail…and all you can do about it is cringe and pretend it all never happened.

I hate my memory. It is full of useless details, facts, occurrences and happenings that even those who were involved don’t remember. I can name minute things associated with a one-time memory that held no intrinsic value to anything save that it is forever tattooed in the folds of my brain. People sometimes refer to me as some sort of idiot savant with the way I can recall things. I don’t like it. I’d love to be blissfully unaware of the memories that swirl in my subconscious. I wish I didn’t remember that one time when I was 17 and was somehow unable to stop my mouth from forming the words that never should have left the back of my brain. To this day, I can be back in the same place, at the same time, failing to stop the sentence from leaving my lips and seeing the hurt and anger register in my friend’s eyes.

I wish I didn’t remember the decision I made that resulted in making someone angry; nor do I want to remember the time I was responsible for hurting someone else. I can remember good things, but the bad ones are the ones that seem to pervade my waking thoughts. Drifting off to sleep is very difficult while reliving the time someone was so angry with me they threatened to break my arm if I didn’t listen. Or being back in the spot and time when I made the stupidest of all remarks and became the brunt of an ongoing joke because of it. Actually, the latter happens a lot more often than I care to admit.

It would be nice to be able to detach and turn off the thoughts in my head and meld into a state of peace and contentment, but the constant wrinkles, meanderings and expeditions my mind takes renders that impossible.

To be a drop of water in an ocean of the unaware; I could only wish.

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Miscellany

02/17/2012

It has been a while since I’ve contributed anything to my little corner of thought here so I figured I would try to squeeze some blood from the proverbial stone today. I figure today’s ponderings might come out more as a wave of thoughts and words instead of a more composed, concise summation of ideas.

The Grammys came and went, and while I did not watch them (my bitterness toward what the music “industry” has now become is only exacerbated by this award show) I did note some results and comments that I wanted to touch on. Firstly, the only category that caught my eye was the Hard Rock/Metal Performance, which was, of course, awarded pre-show and without any fanfare (yet more proof that metal never has been and never will be part of any of the public’s eye). The nominees included Dream Theater, Mastodon, Megadeth, Foo Fighters (?) and Sum 41 (they still exist?!!? Really??!?!). Now while the prog nerd in me wanted Dream Theater to win, partially to shove it in Mike Portnoy’s pompous face, and the music snob in me wanted Mastodon to win so perhaps the public might get a better idea of how good they are, the realist in me knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that The Foo Fighters would take the aware. And they did. So what does that prove? Firstly, it proves that the music industry has no real clue what metal is as a genre. Sum 41 and Foo Fighters do not belong in the same category as the other three. Say what you wish about your personal musical preferences, but those two acts sound NOTHING like Megadeth, Dream Theater or Mastodon; rock and metal are not the same thing.

Secondly, the Grammys show that they are no longer awarded based on merit, musicianship or creativity; they are awarded based on popularity and record sales. This is what is fundamentally wrong with the music industry. Music as it is promoted by big media is no longer an art form, but a business. New artists are cultivated not for their new ideas, methods and sounds but for the bottom line they potentially can bring to the record companies. When is the last time a new artist that hit major airwaves and media popularity actually did anything revolutionary? The creation of reality music competitions have contributed to render the creative musician all but extinct. Look back to the Beatles and the British Invasion of the 60s. This was a new sound, a new look and a new genre that kicked everyone in the ass. It took the country, and ultimately the world, by storm and changed the face of music. Nothing had come before or since that sounded like that. Then there was Motown. Before that there was DooWop. Follow those up with the funk movement in the 70s, punk, metal bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and you have groundwork being laid for the evolution of music. Led Zeppelin had a sound. The Beatles had a sound. Parliament Funkadelic had a sound. They were unique, they were original and they inspired countless acts to follow. Bands like Rush, Def Leppard and the like are so unique you would be hard pressed to find anyone that could even remotely resemble them.

Since it is a band I am so familiar with, I will use Rush as an example, even though I would never consider them at all mainstream. When Rush started out in Canada, they put out their self-titled debut album and stormed across the country, but they couldn’t break into the US. One day, in Chicago as the story goes, a radio DJ was looking to play some “bathroom music,” aka they find the longest track on an album and play it with the hopes they can take a bathroom break and return before the song ended and they faced dead air. The DJ at the time selected the longest track on this new album from a band called Rush, titled Working Man. She returned from the bathroom and the phone lines were lighting up with people demanding to know who the artist was, what the song was, when they were touring and all of that stuff. The music, the lyrics and the sound had enthralled the listener base and almost overnight got the band a United States recording contract.

That simply doesn’t happen anymore. Music nowadays is farmed and cultivated to appeal to the lowest common denominator and bring the largest amount of dollars. It is no longer about self-expression and creativity but about appealing to the masses to win the almighty dollar. One has to look to the indie scene, be it indie rock, electronic, rap, metal or whatever genre, to find the artists that breaking ground in their styles. These artists are expressing their musical desires and signatures rather than writing for contracts and record deals and is that inherent musical nature that is utterly absent in the popular music scene.

Of course, that is just my opinion.

The other point I wanted to talk about relating to the Grammys was the sheer ignorance of the younger generation. Now, I’m not going to wax nostalgic and wave my cane at a bunch of young whippersnappers, but I do know this: when I and the rest of my generation were growing up, we knew what our parents listened to as kids. We had heard of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and all of the “Oldie” acts. We may have even liked them. But like or dislike, we knew about them. We knew what came before what we were listening to and what might have laid the foundation for the music we were currently enjoying. And that is what is painfully absent today. If you looked around Twitter after the Grammys, you would see kids, 14, 15 and 16-year-olds tweeting “Who the hell is Paul McCartney and why is he at the Grammy’s” and “I don’t know who the fuck Paul McCartney is, but he sucks.” Sorry but one of the most influential musicians and songwriters of the past 60 years is performing onstage and these kids aren’t even aware that he was one of The Beatles? I’d bet good money most of them don’t even know who The Beatles were. There are no roots anymore; the knowledge of what came before is essential in understanding what is here now and what will come in the future. I think that is true for many things, not just music, but it has become brutally clear that the current generation of music listeners is completely detached from what came before and exist with blinders allowing only the current to be heard. We knew who came before and can appreciate what has come since. Unfortunately, that knowledge is slowly but surely being flushed down the toilet.

Wow, that was a hell of a diatribe, wasn’t it? I wasn’t expecting to write so much on that subject. I’ll see if there is anything left in this cavern I call a head to add anything else to this post…..

In personal news, since his surgeries, Cody has gained 20 pounds of muscle in his hind quarters and it up to a lean, but meaty, 104 pounds. He is stronger, more powerful and more comfortable than ever.

Eric is talking more and more and is growing so much. He runs around the house and smiles with this freedom and uninhibited joy that only serves to make me smile wide. His hugs are heartfelt, his laughs are genuine and the adoration in his eyes when he looks me, MB or Cody is heart-melting. I can’t believe I had a part in creating him.

Number 30 is approaching and I almost find myself looking forward to it. In reality, the milestone isn’t important to me; age has never really meant a ton to me and I certainly don’t fear growing older. I’m noticing more and more that things I enjoyed in my childhood are quickly becoming “classics,” “oldies” and “vintage,” but it doesn’t bother me, despite the occasional groan of realization that, yes, it really has been 25 years since Sweet Child O’ Mine was released, or something of that nature. I look at it this way: I have a beautiful wife I love, an amazing son, a wonderful dog, a great family, a job I enjoy and a roof over my head; as long as I have those things, growing older can’t be too bad.

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A Comfort

01/10/2012

Cody was an unhappy pup last night. I heard him whimpering from his bed around 11:30pm, so I went over to check on him. Nothing seemed to be the matter but it was obvious he wasn’t feeling too well. When I knelt down to cuddle him, he rested his head on my shoulder and began licking at my arm. I figured his stomach might have been bothering him because he was also licking his lips a lot, so I gave him a Pepcid to see if it would settle him. I decided if the pup wasn’t feeling up to snuff, it would be alright if he slept on the bed for a night, so I invited Cody up to lay next to me while I slept. He was definitely pleased with the idea, though after about 2 hours, he decided, “to hell with this,” and got down and went back to bed. He wasn’t whimpering anymore, so either being near me settled him or the Pepcid did the trick. Either way, I was glad to be able to be there for my pooch when he needed me.

Cody has time and time again proved what a special dog he is. We got him from Fallston Animal Rescue back in March of 2008. He had been abandoned by his former family and left at a kill shelter. The good people at FARM saved him from that terrible fate on the date of his schedule euthanization and we were lucky enough to find and adopt him. He was 11 months old when we got him and he has been such a wonderful member of the family since, always happy to see us, expressing love and compassion and regularly enjoying life. We have seen him through two massive knee surgeries (one on each knee) to repair a degenerative joint with which he was born. On both knees they repaired a torn ACL, torn meniscus and osteoarthritis while simultaneously performing an osteotomy that corrected and leveled off his tibial plateau (the angle at which his knee sits on his lower leg bone). These surgeries not only corrected his issues, but freed him of pain from which is was likely suffering for the entirety of his life. Not long after the second surgery site healed, Cody was behaving like the dog he had never been, playing and jumping and having fun, able to use his rear legs in ways he was never able to before. He has built up more muscle since then and as a result is up to a meaty and healthy 90 pounds.

His disposition with Eric is a sight to behold. He seems to know that Eric is a little person, not able to protect himself or handle the strength that MB or I can, and Cody lessens his grip, lowers his play level and respects Eric’s space when he is around. In his toddler meanderings, Eric will of course trip over Cody, attempt to pet him a little too rambunctiously or, and we are trying to teach him to put a stop to this, attempt to whack poor Cody in the head with his toys. Through it all, Cody doesn’t react, but instead looks at Eric with this sort of longing stare that says, “Kid, no matter what you do to me, I’ve got your back.” He’s been that way since the day they met, when Eric was only 5 days old. Cody took one look, one sniff and parked himself at his feet, as close as possible without covering him, protecting him. Whenever Eric cried, Cody was at the bassinet, attempting to peer over the side to make sure his “little brother” was alright. Theirs is a friendship that will last a lifetime.

Empathy is a trait often found in dogs, and Cody is no exception. He has a way of knowing when we are down or sick and does his best to convey comfort and care in such an unbridled, real way that your heart can’t help but feel warmed. He will lay with us, rest his head against us or just come closer for contact when he feels we need it. Our moods can directly affect his, as well; if we are nervous or agitated, he will pick up on it and feel that way as well. When we are happy, he is more relaxed and laid back.

I often describe Cody as our “dark shedding companion,” a monicker that earned quite a big laugh from MB the first time I said it. In a more detailed manner, I describe Cody as a son, a brother and best friend all in one loyal package. I can’t imagine a dog more suited for us, for our family, than that lovable, tall, lanky, goofy and affectionate black lab mix that will undoubtedly be attacking my legs when I come through the door later tonight.

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A Sea of Words

01/09/2012

A new year, perhaps a new outlook…

One of my presents this year was a much-desired Kindle Fire. I found myself wanting to read more and more, yet also realizing I had less and less time to go to the library or the bookstore to peruse the shelves and borrow or purchase books. Sure, you might say, “Get up off your lazy ass and make the effort,” but the simple fact is as one of a pair of full-time working parents with a rapidly growing and blossoming 14-month-old boy, time is a valuable commodity that is best reserved for the truly important things: family and grown-up responsibility. I thought to myself, as the gift-giving (and receiving) season approached with its bevy of people asking me what I wanted, maybe I could ask for an e-reader, perhaps thinking if the avenue of easy one-click borrowing and purchasing was made available to me, with the the ability to carry thousands of books in my hand, per se, maybe I would be able to read as much as I wanted, or at least more than I was.

It’s been roughly 2 weeks since I was given the Fire and I have since read two books; King’s X by Stephen T. Harper and Far And Away: A Prize Every Time by the incomparable Neil Peart. I will refrain fromreviewing  these books, as that is not the purpose of this blog (at least, not yet), but I do want to mention a thought to which I kept returning as the pages swiped past: I feel more complete when I read. Maybe it’s a flawed point of view that by reading I am somehow culturing myself, or maybe there is simply a part of my mind that lays dormant until the written word ignites it. Either way, I found myself rediscovering that wonderful eagerness to return to the pages (or screens, as the case may be) the comes with reading a good book.

One of the things that struck me, in particular while reading Neil’s book (as I refer to him like he’s a close personal friend — wishful thinking, hah!), was that I should keep more of a journal. I had recently redesigned my website to function as a WordPress blog since it lends itself so well to being a content management system, but I feel my personal ramblings should not mix with my artistic and professional portfolio. That is why I am writing here, in a semi-neutral environment that will not intrude on the additions to my galleries. I was intrigued, almost impressed, with the way Mr. Peart (more professional, now) was able to articulate his thoughts and actions in a way that not only told a narrative but also allowed the reader a glimpse into his mind and inner workings. My life is certainly nowhere near as exciting as his; my days are habitual and rhythmic as opposed to his daily jaunts through the snows in Quebec, motorcycle adventures through the backroads of whatever country in which he happens to be or any other of his hobbies, but in the same breath, nothing is stopping me from sharing and expanding on all that I do. Nothing, that is, except me.

This past weekend was one of laying low and letting things pass. Saturday had me feeling weak, weary and achy all day, despite having no fever. I spent a good deal of time in bed, when not watching Eric while MB completed work she unfortunately had to bring home. Anyone who questions the dedication and heart of a teacher truly has no idea of the reality of the occupation. Mountains of work, unruly students and sometimes, just as unruly parents. But I digress. Saturday was a low-key day. It has become a regular and very welcome sight to watch my son grow at a alarming rate. Having just surpassed his 14th month, he is running, playing, laughing, smiling and entering in the ever-evolving language of babble on his way to talking. Each day that I look into his eyes, hold his hand in mine or feel the weight of his head on my chest when he tuckers out, I smile in disbelief that this amazing little person came from me, came from MB and is now in my arms, growing and living every single day. It’s been over a year and the novelty, for lack of a better word, of being a parent has not worn off; every day brings the possibility of a new discovery, a new action or a new accomplishment for our Little Bear, and his enthusiasm for everything is contagious.

On that note, another tangent: while I will not delve too deeply into the nature of this topic, I want to say that advances in psychotropic medication are wonderful. Having been mired for a very long time in a low that wouldn’t lift, a visit to my doctor brought about an addition to my daily regiment that was felt within 48 hours. Again, without entering into too much detail, my mind is clearer, my mood is brighter and my quality of life has improved tenfold. It is because of that improvement that I am even able to write this entry; before now, the words would have faltered after less than a line had been written (typed). Now I feel expressive, articulate and, quite simply, able.

For our Sunday sojourn, we went to MB’s parents’ place for breakfast, the early football game and belated Christmas gift exchanging (MB’s sister was away on business for the holiday, so the gift exchanged was pushed back until she had returned). It was tiring for me because I still did not feel particularly up to snuff, though a good time was had. We returned home weary, all three of us, and while MB settled in for yet more work, I took care of the weekly laundry and ordered up some pizza for dinner (yay, healthy eating). The evening ended well enough, with a full week looming in front of us and a Steelers loss still keeping the energy in Baltimore elevated.

Tonight, I plan on starting a new novel, this time borrowed from the Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, titled Asylum by Kristen Selleck. I am looking forward to continuing my newfound (?) dedication to reading and, perhaps, expanding my mind.

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Ponderous

06/30/2011

Been a while since I wrote anything here. I suppose I just haven’t been able to collect and organize my thoughts into a post-worthy jumble of language and grammar.

The past several weeks have been exhausting, both on an emotional level and a physical one. On the good side of things, my 3rd anniversary with MB was this past Tuesday and we celebrated by having a wonderful meal at Restaurant Sabor in Timonium. MB got a smoked salmon spring roll appetizer and homemade gnocchi with steak for dinner. I had the chef’s roasted red pepper bisque, a smoked salmon salad plate and a bison bolognese pasta dish. All were delicious. We brought our favorite Riesling, Relax from Germany, and lushly enjoyed almost 2 whole bottles.

This weekend we are heading down to the beach for the long weekend. I have taken an extra two days off after the 4th to extend our stay and we are both looking forward to the relaxation. It will be Eric’s first trip to the beach so we are really looking forward to seeing how much fun he has.

– – –

A lot of different themes have been running through my head lately: respect, faith, friendship, pessimism and hope.

I’ve been fighting with a lack of respect in different areas of my life and I’m struggling to understand how to respond to it. I often take it internally and hold back a response, just because in the situations in which I find myself, I don’t feel a response would garner any sort of realization or change in the other people involved. Futility is not something I welcome, so I tend to remove myself from the situation as soon as possible.

Along with respect, I have found myself wondering where in the scheme of friendship I stand with several people. Sometimes I feel as though I really am a valued friend and other times it’s as if I’m only thought of in cursory glances, with a fleeting mental mark left that I exist. I have also found that there are perceptions of me that are so wildly different from anything I could anticipate that I don’t even know if I can understand how I am viewed by others anymore. It all contributes to this confusion that I can’t seem to escape. I suppose all the thoughts that have been swirling in my mind loop and knot over themselves so they all become an intertwined jumble of conscious chaos. I’m not sure where I stand outside of my own house anymore and I think it has me feeling like I don’t have a place. I know where I am in my home, with my family and those I love, but when I leave those walls I feel I fall away and become less of a person, less of someone who has value to the world.

I suppose that is a struggle I’ve had for much of my life, though I kind of thought by now I’d have it figured out.

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And so I sit…

06/09/2011

I’m sitting in the La-Z-Boy while MB paints. I’ve added a bunch of music to my Library, which now totals 22,007 songs, and have been listening to the new In Flames album, Sounds of a Playground Fading for the past little while. I like the album; it’s a little more melodic and atmospheric than their previous releases and I think it suits them. It is definitely a far cry from the brutality that was Colony or Whoracle, though.

Now, as I type, I’ve switched to the latest from God is an Astronaut. If you haven’t listened to them and are into instrumental post-rock, I highly recommend them. Any and all of their albums are fantastic.

This week has felt rather surreal, with ups and downs. The heat wave that snuck its way in has made being outside rather unbearable. Oh, and by snuck in, I meant smashed through the wall screaming “Oh Yeah!” Internet issues continue to abound at work; I’ve had to repatch everything back to the way it was last week. It is rather infuriating. And to make matters worse, the fax line died this afternoon. I guess I’ll be on the phone with Verizon support tomorrow.

I would like to post some photos of the 92Q vehicle wrap I designed that was completed last week, but I forgot to bring the finished photographs home. If I can, I will post one or two here tomorrow. I have another wrap in the works now, for Elite Lock & Key. It will likely not be wrapped until the week after next, though.

The upcoming weekends look to be increasingly busy, with appointments, parties and such to go to. MB, Eric, Cody and I are planning to head to the beach for the 4th. I hope to take a few extra days off after the holiday to be able to stay at Bethany for longer than just the weekend. It’ll be nice to be there when they set off the fireworks on the beach.

I’m somewhat struggling for words at the moment, so I believe I’ll wrap it up here.

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Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

06/02/2011

So where to begin….

I got back into work Tuesday, somewhat fearing the shitstorm that might have been waiting for me since I took last Friday off. While I didn’t really have a ton of things waiting for me, I came in to realize that the internet, not-so-ably provided by Clearwire, was horrific. Our downstream and upstream numbers were hovering below what I used to experience with dial-up ages ago. Thanks to the deplorable upstream numbers of .02 Mbps, Our VoIP OfficeSuite phone system was basically nonfunctional. We could not answer phones, access voicemail or even log into the phone system to change it to alert incoming calls of our technical difficulties. While on the phone with Clearwire tech (non)support for 3 hours, we tested every browser on every machine on every operating system in the building at for Speedtest.net results, most of the time being totally unable to even reach the site, let alone run the test. The people on the phone didn’t seem to grasp the concept that the browser, cache properties or specific computer we were using had nothing to do with the fact that the bandwidth was unacceptable and no browser test would rectify our phone system. After finally getting to a level 2 technician, the end result was that there was obviously a problem with the local tower and they would have to put a ticket in for it to be checked. Meanwhile, we would have to deal with the horrid internet access until they somehow managed to figure it out and fix it. GREAT!

3 days later and it’s still deplorable. However, thanks to a little ingenuity on my part (pats self on back), I was able to patch our network to share our colleague’s DSL connection (even longer story, we can’t get DSL, FiOS or Comcast…..yet). That allowed us to have a fully functional internet connection and, even more importantly, functional phones. I cannot emphasize enough how much CLEARWIRE SUCKS!

I am reminded of a quote by a famous man, repeated quite often by a colleague of mine: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”  -Ben Franklin

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