July 2011 Viewing

Super 8 – fun, loud, full of explosions and great acting from the kids; too many lens flares
Bridesmaids – fun and funny, great cast
Bleu – reminds one of why great films are great
White Noise 2 – horrible, atrocious, terribly cynical, but Nathan Fillion and Katee Sackhoff made it necessary to watch
Withnail & I – crazy, funny, odd; fans of Richard Grant or Paul McGann should definitely check it out
Anatomy of Hell – not a horror movie, though some very disturbing scenes. ah, the french and their sexual explorations
Zombie Women of Satan – cheap, silly, not worth watching really, except Victoria Hopkins totally caught my eye and her character, Skye Brannigan was kind of cool . . . at least on a hypothetical level

Broken, Part 1

I’ve been putting off writing this essay all day because I am rather frightened of putting these thoughts into words and putting those words out to the world. But I have done nearly all my other work for the day and I need to maintain my current goal of writing 500 words every day. So, here goes.

I think I’m broken.

Stop. Hold on. Let me back up to how I was originally going to start this essay as if formed in my head this morning at 7 am while I was struggling to get motivated to get up . . .

The thing about Hawaii is that each and every morning I was there, I was eager to get up, to see the sunrise, to feel the wind, to smell the air. Each and every day I was up early and excited for the day. I’m sure that the time change had something to do with it, even Joya, who is decidedly not a morning person was getting up early. I’m also sure it was the newness and excitement of being on vacation. Still, days when I’m genuinely excited and looking forward to the day are . . . well, let’s just say very, very rare.

So that’s where I was going to start. A safe place, a positive memory. So why start with “I think I’m broken”? Because, I think it’s true and I think I need to work on fixing it before I go back to Hawaii because if I don’t, if I go to Hawaii and find that, after the newness wears off, I go back to dragging myself out of bed each and every morning instead of embracing the day and feeling excited . . . well, I just don’t know what I’d do.

Now, what do I mean by “broken.” I honestly don’t quite know exactly. I know that I’m not clinically depressed: I can laugh when I’m with people I care about and trust, I can deeply enjoy books and movies. I am able, despite the fact that I am never actually excited by the day, to get up and to work and to create and to get some regular—if not enough—exercise. I have started playing my guitar again and am thinking of even attempting an open mic night before the summer ends. I am very happy with my new apartment and feel so much more positive about my surroundings on a daily basis because of it. Although, while I say “very happy”, I’ll be honest: I don’t know what that means. I certainly appreciate my new apartment and even love it in some ways, but happiness . . . happiness seems like it’s something other people do. I have moments of joy, moments of laughter, and moments of great contentment. Most of those moments have to do with being around people I feel safe with and who I genuinely like/love. But they remain moments. Happiness . . . happiness . . . I don’t think I know what that means. At least not in any kind of real, sustained way.

“Are you happy,” Emily asked me when we met for lunch while I was in RI.
“I’m working on it,” I replied.

We talked more, though she was asking most of the questions. At one point, she asked if I’d considered getting help. The word “drugs” was mentioned. She wasn’t the first to have mentioned getting help. Joya had suggested, several times, that I might benefit from either talk therapy or, possibly (and she would broach the subject carefully), some combination of drugs might be in order. I wouldn’t hear of it. I mean, it’s all my fault: I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t exercise enough, I don’t maintain a decent creative output, I don’t meditate, I don’t do yoga, I don’t seem able to find the right group friends who will spark me in the right way.1 If I just did all the things I ought to do, I’d be happy. Right?

Right?

“Are you happy?”

I’m reminded of the scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall when, after breaking up with Annie, his character approaches a beautiful looking couple and says that they look like a happy couple, very much in love, what is their secret? The woman responds, “Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say,” and her partner follows her with, “And I’m exactly the same way.” But, as much as I might find that scene amusing, it’s cheap and cynical, and exactly the kind of defensive maneuver that . . .

wait.

No. Wait up. Hold on. I’m avoiding the issue.

The issue is I’m lonely. The issue is I can’t remember the last time I woke up genuinely excited and looking forward to the day. The issue is that I am constantly struggling to do the things I love to do and to be the person I know I want to be. The issue is that I prefer staying in my apartment, alone, because the feeling of being alone in a crowd when I’m surrounded by others is getting to be so heart-breakingly difficult that I sometimes want to cry while walking down the street and watching all these people, this whole other species of beings that seem to have figured out (or at least that’s how I am perceiving them), how to do this life thing.

The underlying issue is this: I’m lost. Lost in a mind that hasn’t let me be fully me in a long, long time. And I’ve gotten used to living on a level that denies me full access to my love of self and of others; to my love of my work and my thoughts; to my courage and desire to be a force in this world instead of running away from it.

As I write these words, with the plan of posting them in public view on my website, I feel sick with worry about my mother’s response, about my father’s thoughts—not that they will judge me or think ill of me, but I don’t know how to face their concern and love in this matter without reading it as pity—no, that’s not quite right either. It’s their sorrow I am terrified of.

I’m also worried about the fact that my colleagues in the department may very well read these words, colleagues who I respect as students, historians, academics, and scholars but who are not, for the most part, close friends. I don’t want people to know, especially people I’m not close to, that I don’t have my own shit together and that I’m not fully and completely capable of being as completely self-sufficient as possible.

Also, this means that I am making a commitment to try to change things. That I am, in public, committing myself to get better and to make an effort, no matter how uncomfortable that effort might be, to regain the me I distantly remember from a long time ago.

But really, the resistance and the pain and the tears of writing this, of posting this for all to see is that I am, here and now, admitting to something that is the hardest fucking thing in the world for me to admit:

I need help.2

  1. I console myself with the thought that at least I’m not blaming the universe for just being a harsh an unfair place like I spent most of my twenties doing. At least there’s that. []
  2. I’m staring at this damn blinking cursor trying to work up the courage to post this and my mind is already thinking of ways to back away from some of what I’ve just written, to pass it off as nothing but too much wine and a lonely Friday night; that I’m being self-pitying and self-indulgent and that my problem is that I’m just lazy and think too much and I just need to work harder, exercise more, get more sleep, and it’ll all be better, I can fix this all on my own, really I can. Really. There’s nothing really wrong with me at all, forget what I just said. Of course, I need to post this for back-pedaling and disclaimers to mean anything. Still staring. I guess if you’ve read this, I have, at some point, hit Control+Command+P. []

In Case You Forgot

Lyle Lovett is awesome. If you haven’t listened to him lately, you should.

If you’d rather the original video, it’s not embeddable but you can click here for it.

One of my favorites:

And finally:

Of Course I Bought OS X Lion on the First Day

Because some times you just have to be who you are, and I’m the type of person who likes new operating systems and playing with new ways of doing things and futzing around with settings on the computer. I mention this not to seem special or especially adventurous, but to let my readers know that if you upgrade, either through buying Lion or when you get a new computer, and have any questions about the new features and settings, please feel free to ask me questions. I am by no means deeply knowledgeable about the underlying architecture, but for non-computer geeks I can probably answer most of your questions or concerns, or at least point you in the right direction to address them.

Here are just a few brief thoughts mostly related to user interface elements:

  • New Scrolling Directions: Take some getting used to, but are worth putting in the effort to retrain your muscle memory, with the caveat that if you work on multiple computers or operating systems, it might be a good idea to switch back to the “regular” way of doing things.
  • Hidden scrollbars: Bad, and I switched them back to always visible. I like being able to see where I am in a document at all times if I want to without having to move my mouse.
  • Mission Control: Very good, almost great. The one quibble is that I would like to wrap around to the first desktop from the last instead of having to go backwards.
  • Resizing windows from any point along the edge instead of the lower right hand corner: about effin’ time!! That was always one of my pet peeves about OS X, even years after switching from Windows.
  • Full screen program view: In general, I really dig them, though there are some odd differences in how different programs present the menubar when you mouse up to the top of the screen. But I’m already frustrated with programs that haven’t integrated full-screen yet.

There are few other things I’ve tweaked (turning off the auto-correct function that is system wide) and a few other quibbles I’ve encountered. Because of how Lion remembers a program’s state (both content and window(s) position) I find myself with way more browser windows than I want whenever I open Safari. Yet, I don’t want to turn off the feature entirely because it’s so damn useful. What I’d like to have is individual settings for programs so that, for instance, Pages always remembers its state after I’ve quit and Safari starts with only one, new window.

So, a few thoughts and an invitation for family, friends, and those few strangers that read my words here: feel free to use my love of new Mac operating systems for your own benefit and let me know if I can help in any way.

UPDATE 2011-07-23: Logic Express 8 does NOT officially work with OS X Lion. There is a way to launch the program through the Terminal, [and my thanks to Bch2 at the Apple Discussions Board for posting it][1]. Once launched, the program seems to run fine, though you will need to keep the Terminal window open for as long as you are using the program. Definitely not something I expected!! While I have been considering upgrading to Logic Express 9 for quite a while, I’m also not sure if there might be a Logic Express 10 coming soon.

Once More with the Project 365

365-001_Windows in the Rain

Those who follow me on Facebook or happen to regularly check my Flickr account might have noticed that I started a new Project 365 on my birthday. For those who aren’t aware, Project 365 is an attempt to take a photograph for each and ever day of a year. I did one when I turned 39 and then took last year off. Interestingly enough, even though it was a nice break not having to worry about taking a picture every single day, I quickly missed the awareness of my life and surroundings that I’d built up while doing the project. Basically, when you know you are going to have to take a picture, and when you have the least bit of artistic sensibility and don’t want to be boring, you invest a much greater awareness in your everyday circumstances. When walking to the store, you are always on the lookout for a good shot. Sometimes when it’s late and you haven’t take a picture, you look much more closely at your apartment, looking for something interesting, something that will catch your attention. In the end I found that each day was a bit more heightened than when I’m not trying to find something to photograph. Sure, sometimes its a bit of a drag, but considering I carry my iPhone with me pretty much wherever I am, it’s almost always possible to capture something of slight interest.

The other thing that occurs while doing this kind of project, is that you get better at taking pictures. You become more attuned to composition and shades of light and color and the ways in which they combine to create a compelling image, as well as sometimes the way in which each of those elements can also serve as the primary focus of some pictures.

Because I have done this before, I am not getting the same level of awareness and excitement as I did the first time. Probably because the first time also contains more suspense about actually being able to complete the task. Knowing that I made it through the first time with only a few forgotten days means that I am pretty darn confident that I can do this. While I’m not going to necessarily restrict myself on this go around, I’m fairly certain that if I do this another time in the next couple of years, I might choose to create some proscriptions on what I can use as subject matter. Off the top of my head, I could maybe do a year of photographing people, or specifically focusing on buildings, maybe even doing a year of black and white only. But I’m getting ahead of myself. For this year, I’ll be taking pictures of whatever strikes my fancy. You can see the beginnings of my results here and a few of my favorite shots from my last go ’round here.

I heartily urge you to try this challenge, but I don’t think it works if you can’t share the photos daily. Part of what works, at least for me, about the project, is the fact that the task isn’t done just when I take a snapshot. I only tick off my “project 365” todo box after I’ve chosen what picture I’m going to use, made whatever slight adjustments to it, uploaded it to Flickr and submitted it to the Project 365 group that I’m a part of. There are other places and ways you can hold yourself accountable. Tumblr might work well for some, or you can even submit to 365Project.org. Regardless of what mechanism, I strongly believe that having some way to publicly post into a community is both part of the fun but also part of what can motive you to stay on track.

If you do start, please let me know so I can follow along with your year-long journey. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy mine.

As Simple as a Breeze

Yesterday was probably one of the most lovely days I’ve experienced in Pittsburgh since moving here nearly a year ago. Bright, but not hot, a lovely breeze that lasted the entire day instead of dying a still, sullen death in the early afternoon leaving the air to stagnate and stultify as it does most summer days. Here in my new apartment on the ninth floor, the constant breeze was delightful and made the whole apartment a pleasure to be in.

I can only imagine how frustrated I would have been in my previous place, shut up in my bedroom and running the ac simply because I couldn’t open my windows for any length of time. I don’t think I really appreciated just how important having a breeze flowing through my living space was until this past year’s experience of having to choose between open windows or the smell of cigarettes filling up my apartment. Here, now, having the windows wide open and being high enough to have no immediate obstructions blocking even the slightest of winds, I am much more appreciative and aware of how important a breeze can be.

Today is not quite as nice – though it is still one of the nicest summer days I’ve seen here. While I should probably be doing more outside, I’m also very much enjoying the fact that my apartment is beautiful and bright and breezy.1

(Not to turn everything into a fantasy about Hawaii, but on that note, one of the things I most miss about Kauai is the air: that ocean air so clean, so fresh. There is something energizing about such air, something that fills you with a kind of sustenance that is both real and yet intangible.)

  1. I will be going for a walk shortly though, so I’m not a complete shut-in. []