Since this is my first post of 2007, I want to wish everyone the best for the new year. The way it usually works out, the week or so before the winter solstice through the first week of the new year tend to be a time of relaxing and self-reflection for me. Someone close to me refers to a "spiritual new year", which has been something I've incorporated into my life most of the time--for whatever reason, mine ends up coinciding with the calendar. Perhaps that's simply because that's a time of year for me when I'm usually not very busy--in fact, probably the only time I'm not very busy for any extended period. Whatever the reasons, its good to have a time to sit back, gather my thoughts, and recharge the proverbial batteries.
It still seems like only yesterday that we were ringing in 2006 and yet a whole year has passed. Its been a very crazy year with a lot of ups and downs, but somehow the ending has managed to be as wonderful and amazing as it was totally unexpected. We all have people lurking around on the periphery of our lives, acquaintances we know but don't really know in any kind of meaningful sense. But the past few months, almost as if by some cosmic theme, have included becoming a lot closer in various ways with several of those people who have either been in the background of my life or simply kept a certain distance for whatever reason. Its as strange as it is exciting. Its quite striking to stop and think about the fact that no matter how much you think you might have a handle on things, life can still surprise you in the most random ways.
I'm sure many will wonder whether the subject line on this entry is meant literally. And in fact, it is. This is going to be the last--or at least one of the last few--posts in this blog. See, I've spent a lot of time the past few weeks looking back and thinking about just how far I've come in the five years since I've started writing here. I started this blog in January 2002, partially on a whim and partially because of the urging of the always-lovely wlkinonsunshine. One of the major benefits I saw in having a blog was that I thought it would help in making sure I write every day, since I would know that people were reading. Mostly, it has worked, although for the past year or two, I haven't been writing to the degree that I used to. That's one thing I fully plan on changing now, but more on that later.
In some ways, its hard to believe that it has been five years. So much has happened and yet it all seems so fast. More than anything, these have been years of transition. There's much in this blog that is out of date or that doesn't reflect who I feel I am now or that I'm quite simply not proud of. But more than any of that, the real reason that this is my last post is quite simply that this particular transition is over. I am, as most of you know, a writer before all else and I feel that the time has come to bring this chapter of my life to a close. This has been a chapter about learning and seeing things that I needed to see. I feel that that process is now drawing to a close. Of course, there will always be transitions--that is life, after all--but I feel like its time to start a new chapter--one of not only learning, but also putting what I've learned into action.
Five years ago, I had no idea where my life would go from that point on, much as I had no idea what would come of this blog. I was only a little over a year removed from the ending of a bad relationship and I had decided that corporate America and the suburban life weren't for me. But I had no idea where to go from here or what would replace anything I had lost. I was, essentially, adrift. In the ensuing time, I've traveled a bit, moved a few times, learned a lot, found new interests and a new purpose in life, and met a lot of wonderful people along the way. I've figured out a lot about why our society is the way it is and why it causes so many so much pain--and ways to escape that cycle. I've stopped thinking of razor blades and knives as a source of solace for their potential to end it all. I've rediscovered hope and to a large extent, my humanity. And yes, I've even changed my political affiliation--you see, I used to be a Republican but that is probably a story best left for another time.
Taking a page from a friend...
Ten years ago: I was in the process of moving back to Cleveland after sticking around Charlotte for a year after high school for family reasons. At that time, I wanted to enroll in college to study physics and computers. I thought that one day I'd have my PhD and a nice cushy job in a lab somewhere doing research and ignoring the rest of the world. Politics was something I thought I had left far behind.
Five years ago: I was adrift and preparing for a move to Pennsylvania because I badly needed a change of scenery. Too many bad memories floating around--of my ex-fiancee, of disappointment. I knew that after 9/11 the world we knew would never be the same again--but little did I know that neither would my personal life.
One year ago: I finally started feeling as if I was getting to a better place in life. There was finally something of a light at the end of the long tunnel and I was getting comfortable with the idea that maybe this time it wasn't an oncoming train. Of course, it turned out life had a few more suprises to throw my way.
So where to go from here. I'll still be around Livejournal, reading and keeping up with all of you--in fact, probably doing more reading than I have been. I'm going to be setting up another blog, one to begin the next chapter. I'm going to be working on that over the next couple of days. I'll have a new Livejournal account, even if I decided to only use it as a mirror for a blog on another site. As soon as I have it set up--more accurately, as soon as I figure out a new appropriate user name--I'll let everyone know where I am so that you can add me again if you'd like.
A few final notes:
*The new Democratic Congress is an exciting new start. Hopefully, voters won't let them forget why they were elected. The work is far from finished; in fact, its just getting started. My great hope is that this is the start of building a society that's more progressive, civil, and humane--but we have a long way to go to get there.
*I'm no longer single. I'm very happy but I don't feel comfortable saying more here at this point. Perhaps that'll come in the next chapter.
*Still disappointed about my Buckeyes. And that the Panthers didn't make the playoffs. On the bright spot, Carolina is now number 1 in the nation in basketball--you know, our rightful place. GO HEELS!
...and a double does of the Friday Five (Pretend its still Friday)
1. favorite cereal and why?
Cheerios. Simple, wholesome, tasty.
2. what is the best thing about summer?
The end of it. No seriously, I really hate the heat and humidity of southern summers. I prefer much cooler weather and the chilly nights of autumn.
3. would you rather have a slurpee or a milkshake?
A milkshake. Better yet, a frosty. I don't even like slurpees.
4. If you could be a member of any band/musical group, past or present, what band would it be and why?
The Beatles. Do I really have to explain why???
5. Who is your idol? What are they famous for?
There's people I respect in various fields for various reasons. But I don't have one particular person I'd call an idol. But just for the sake of answering the question, I'm going to go with someone appropriate for this time of year--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for always holding on to the dream that we can be better than we are.
1. Do you have any pets? If so, how many, and what are their names?
I don't know, does Amy count? If not, then no, no pets at the moment.
2. What was your very first pet? Do you remember its name?
A white rabbit. I named him Cotton. One day he led me down this rabbit hole and...OK, I'm kidding about that part.
3. Is there an animal you would never have as a pet?
4. What common pet have you always wanted but never had? Why not?
A snake. I've just never been in a living situation where its been practical to have one.
5. What wild animal (extinct or not) would you own if you didn't have to worry about its adjustment or the cost of captivity?
I wouldn't own anything meant to be wild. Wild animals should be enjoyed in the wild, where they belong.
It was reported earlier tonight that Senator Tim Johnson from South Dakota had a possible stroke. Now jajy1979 has just IMed me with the update that the senator's office is now saying he did not have a stroke. That updated article is about five minutes old.
This is of course AFTER all the prime-time network news shows just went off the air after lengthy discussions from various pundits about how Senator Johnson was losing his seat. Interesting "coincidence" that the governor of South Dakota is a Republican who would presumably appoint a Republican to fill the vacant seat, making the Senate 50-50 again with Cheney breaking ties.
Something's fishy here.
And not only that, its a stark reminder of just how precarious the Democratic hold on the Senate might actually be, especially when one considers the ages of senators such as Robert Byrd. The scary part is, if someone were in an unfortunate "accident", how would we even know if there was foul play involved?
On the bright side, we're just one wrongly swallowed pretzel combined with a wee little irregular heartbeat away from one of Washington's most ardent liberals being in the White House. I'm sure that has to make the Christian conservatives sleep well at night.
I've become increasingly frustrated with our society this week. That's not exactly new in itself. For me, a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction with the way things are is a constant companion. The past few days have produced a larger degree of frustration than usual on a very personal level. One of the main reasons I believe so much in trying to bring about a better world has nothing to do with academic theories and political systems. Its very personal to me because in so many ways, I've seen what the various ills in the current system have done to people I know--in many cases people I care deeply about.
What is mainstream suburbia, really? Rows upon rows of dwellings that have the occasional variations but that are all basically shaped like cubes. And most of them are painted basically the same color. I'm not exactly someone with the greatest of artistic talent, so when it gets to the point where even I could do better, there's something wrong. Rows and rows of cubes. And no real opportunities to go anywhere without getting in your car. Certainly not much chance to interact with your neighbors and the community. Unless its through a homeowners association whose basic function is to enforce the sameness of it all.
How stifling. How boring. How oppressive. This is what many would have our society become. Existence confined to cubes. Someone owns everything and there's no public space. Humanity reduced to mindless conspicuous consumption and to hell with anything else that might bring people happiness. Being enslaved by our technology instead of choosing to allow it to liberate us. And a society based on plundering the earth and universe and consuming every resource in our path. Kind of like the Borg, for those who watch Star Trek.
Ah, if only one could find a girl who wasn't happy with everything being the same. Who would drive the homeowner's association nuts painting the cubes with vivid colors and flowers and serpents and who knows what else. And change it around every month or two. If only that girl would try to paint the world in her own colors. Try to live her own life. Not be one of the sheep. Be creative. Think for herself.
But there is such a girl. And lots of others like that. Only they are told by our oppressively conformist mainstream society that something is wrong with them. And that, at the moment, is what is infuriating me. Being different is not a disease that has to be medicated out of existence just because the sheeple don't know how to deal with anyone who shows the slightest bit of originality. Being open minded is not a phase. It doesn't mean there's something wrong with the person. Its a beautiful thing. Its a breath of fresh air. It makes us more human and it makes life worth living.
I used to surround myself with "normal" people. They're boring and thankfully I don't do that anymore. Life's much more fun when everyone around you is to one degree or another a bit off the deep end. Its OK to not conform. So I'd really appreciate it if so much of the education system and the psychiatric profession and the homeowners' associations and all of the rest of the mainstream sheep would stop fucking telling the people dear to me that there's something wrong with them. I've spent enough time trying to eradicate all this destructive poisonous bullshit from my own life. And guess what? The only thing "wrong" with people who are different are the conformist oppressive asshats who stuff their brains with this kind of trash. Stop it already. And live a little, for heaven's sake, life is short.
There are so many colors in the rainbow
So many colors in the morning sun
So many colors in a flower and I see every one.
And for something lighter--A Friday Five. I wasn't in the mood to do any of the recent ones, so I went back and picked one at random.
1. What book or books were special to you in your childhood?
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, A Wrinkle In Time, Lord Of The Rings.
2. What was particularly special or memorable about those books?
I loved the adventure, the carefully crafted stories, the new and different ways of looking at life conveyed in the stories. My taste in stories really hasn't changed--I like things you can appreciate on a lot of different levels. Entertaining, but thought provoking. Awe-inspiring special effects, but good characters and events that make you really think.
3. Have you re-read any of them as an adult?
I read A Wrinkle In Time again a few years ago. I read Lord Of The Rings again because of the movies coming out.
4. If so, were the books as good as you remembered them?
Absolutely. In some ways, even better, because of knowing a lot more about life now and seeing things in the books that I would have missed when I was younger.
5. What do you think about movies being made out of children's classics (like the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of The Rings, etc.)?
It can be a good idea if its well done. Lord Of The Rings, in particular, was quite impressive. But of course, the movie is rarely as good as the book.
1. Today was one of those days at work where it seemed like it was one thing after another going wrong. Between tons of holiday donations coming in, deliveries, ill-tempered clients, and staff getting stressed out and snapping at each other over nothing, it was nice t finally get out of there. Fortunately I was able to leave early, though not as early as I had hoped. The good thing is, I haven't let any of it stress me out. I've been extremely calm lately in general; I think that has a lot to do with having someone to help you just forget about the rest of the world for a while.
2. I suppose the day didn't start too well to begin with after reading about Reverend William Sanderson and his personal anti-gay crusade in the Southern Baptist Convention. You know, it would seem that with all the truly pressing problems facing society these days--little things like war and poverty, you know--that the Southern Baptist Convention would be able to find something more important to worry about than acting as some kind of Gestapo to "investigate" their own member churches if they're suspected of "coddling practicing gays". Hmm, does that mean that if they're already good at what they do and not practicing, then its all OK? Cause I could give them a list of names...
The ironic thing about this is that if I had to sit down and draw a portrait of what in my mind would be a stereotypical meth-addicted gay pedophile, Reverend Sanderson would be close to what I'd come up with. I guess it didn't help that one of the photos with the story shows him hugging a 13-year old girl. Seriously, what the hell is he hiding taht he's so preoccupied with this? Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, well, there are lots of sins. Hey, you remember that list of names I referred to earlier? I think I'll start with some of the Right's own high-profile leaders who who ask 15-year old boys if they're horny or perhaps the ones who visit gay prostitutes to feed their meth addictions (among other cravings).
Reverand Sanderson says, "We've got to fight for our children's lives. When they start saying in school that a man and a man is just like a man and a woman, well no, it's not." Oh please. This is probably a guy who goes home every night and sneaks down to the basement when his wife isn't looking to jerk off to lesbian porn. And I'm sure that in typical fundamentalist fashion, they would say that his fat lazy wife is at fault for everything.
I'm pretty sure that Yahoo's Launchcast can read my mind and has decided to mock me. I started listening to it earlier and here's the (supposedly random) songs that it played within the first half hour or so:
"Waiting For A Girl Like You" --Foreigner
"An Old Fashioned Love Song" --Three Dog Night
"You're The Inspiration" --Chicago
"For The Longest Time" --Billy Joel
"Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" --REO Speedwagon
"Stairway To Heaven" --Led Zeppelin
Hmm, I'm sensing a not-very-subtle theme here. You know what, I give up. I might as well just give in and go with it.
In other news, Ohio State is currently leading the Minions of Satan 35-24 late in the third quarter.
Very sad to hear about the death of Bo Schembechler. Even though he coached...um, that school up north...he was one of the greats and his death is arguably the close of an era. For the first time, he and Woody Hayes can kick back together and enjoy this latest chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in college sports. Farewell, Bo. We'll miss you.
"When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft. On the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing." --Bo Schembechler. Amen--I'm sure that's one that every progressive reading this can relate to.Bo Schembechler on Woody Hayes: I played for Woody, I coached for him, I patterned my life after him, and I consider him a great friend of mine.
Bonus points for anyone who knows the source of the subject line before reading the rest of the post (where there'll be obvious hints).
A quick summary of the past few weeks: nice relaxing weekends followed by some long and insanely busy weeks. Holidays, lots of donations and deliveries to IFC, a lot of thought provoking conversations to keep me awake way too late at night, great times with good friends--there's been a bit of everything. I really need to start updating more than once a month, but at least its an improvement over the once every few months pattern I had slipped into (Hush, Karley). Anyway--highlights and random thoughts follow:
1. I saw American Beauty again a couple of weeks ago, which I had not seen in five years in spite of it being one of my all-time favorite movies. My life has gone through quite a few dramatic changes since then. I saw it when it first came out and it was a large part of starting this whole process I've gone through to wake up from the illusions of "normal" mainstream society. The first time I ever saw the movie, I was engaged to a woman who was a lot like Carolyn Burnham, above all, in the way she worshiped "stuff" over living--or worse yet, confused the two. The past five years have often been far from easy, but it does not escape me that the alternative would likely have been been ending up a lot like Lester in my 40s. I feel damn lucky to not be on that path anymore and to actually be doing something with my life that's far more worthwhile than the endless pursuit greed, consumption, and "stuff". There's so much I could write about this movie; I could see it ten times in a row and get something different out of it every time.
2. I think I've become officially addicted to Smallville and a friend here renting the Season 1 episodes on DVD has pushed that process along considerably. I didn't pay much attention to it simply because the thought of yet another Superman series made me yawn. But I've grown increasingly impressed with how well done of a show it truly is. The development and depth of the characters is first rate, one of the things I always look for in a quality story of any kind. Some of the plot lines require a certain suspension of disbelief but that doesn't detract from the show for me at all. I find it a welcome relief from all the utter crap that usually comes out on TV these days.
3. Went to Halloween on Franklin Street and it was totally insane. I don't mean that in a bad way; I had a lot of fun. There's usually well over 50,000 people at the Halloween event here and 70,000 is not unheard of. I rather suspect that this year's crowd is toward the upper end of those numbers. I got there later than I had planned because much of my evening ended up being spent in one of those long lovely conversations with a friend I seem to be growing ever closer to lately. Definitely no complaints about that. And even arriving a little after midnight, Franklin Street was still closed off and packed for several blocks (from Raleigh St. to the east to all the way past the McDonald's on the west, for the benefit of my local readers). Not that much in the way of candy on Halloween here, but eye candy was, to say the least, plentiful. A friend here once described Halloween in Chapel Hill as "a bit risque"--which strikes me as a bit of an understatement. Again, not that I'm complaining. All in all, a fun evening, even if it did cause a few hours of lost sleep.
4. I've been having a lot of talks over the past few weeks with current and former UNC students, IFC volunteers, and student groups on campus about forming a revamped Community Initiative to End Homelessness that's more effective, action oriented, and focused on the political and advocacy side of homelessness issues. The group we've had the past two years has been entirely too focused on people already in the social services arena. The present group functions very well in the sense of being a forum in which different agencies can share information coordinate the delivery of services more effectively. But what CIEH truly needs is to be restructured so that the members we've had to date can stay focused on areas where they've shown themselves to be effective while a broader representation of the community as a whole steps up in areas that up to now have been overlooked. There is much to be done, but I feel very good because we've made some good first steps to start heading in the right direction. I was particularly impressed meeting with representatives of UNC's chapter of Opportunity Rocks who seem to have a very strong desire to jump in and get started with the task of creating a movement to stamp out poverty and homelessness. There's a great energy in the air lately and I feel incredibly optimistic in spite of the enormity of the challenge.
5. It goes without saying that I've been absolutely thrilled with the results of the elections. I think I had somewhere around 4 hours of sleep over the course of two days but it was well worth it when Virginia was finally called for Jim Webb. I think that Wednesday night was the best night of sleep I've had in six years. The Democrats retaking Congress is a good first step--as long as people realize that its only a first step. There's a lot of work left to be done. And by the way, I'm firmly in the pro-impeachment camp at this point.
6. My beloved Ohio State Buckeyes will have their final tuneup before January's national championship game tomorrow against the minions of Satan. In more local news, we also have NC State at UNC, but with the way the season is going here, I'm far less excited about that one. Especially with the inevitable traffic and crowds and hordes of barbarian tobacco spitting State fans that will be swarming Chapel Hill tomorrow. By the way, is it true that the chancellor of NC State actually uses the decorative spittoon in his office? Still, Go Heels! And Go Buckeyes!
7. Last but not least--this past Sunday and Thursday evenings were totally amazing. Sorry, not getting into details here. But suffice it to say that life is very very good right now. It's actually been good for some time now, but those two days were definitely some very sweet icing on the cake. And hopefully only the first of many.
Coworker: Did you need some help with anything?
Me: Are you a psychiatrist? I could use help with a lot of things.
Coworker: Well let's just start with putting this stuff away and go from there. Small steps, Mike.
The New York Times Magazine has a cover article this week on the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Our local paper was a bit ahead of the curve on this, since they published a series of articles titled "Afghanistan: The Forgotten War" about two years ago. It seems that Afghanistan was forgotten by most Americans not long after it began. I guess the cynic in me would say the government wanted that. Can you just imagine how much dirt about the Bush family would come to light if Osama bin Laden were ever actually captured?
Anyway, I haven't actually read the article--or much of anything else not written by John Grisham--today. So I can't really say much about it at this point. I've pretty much done nothing today. But hey, its cold, drizzly, and dreary outside, plus its a weekened. So I'm allowed, right?
OK, I take that back. I haven't done nothing today. I've written this totally pointless boring Livejournal post. So I guess the day isn't a total wash after all.