Friday, May 30, 2014

Utterly Useless

The reality of it hasn't hit home yet.
In a few short hours I will be on vacation. In a few short days I will be on a plane. In a few hours after that I will be on the balcony of my hotel room, puzzling over how to work the jacuzzi, and wondering how hard it will be to get refills for my drink from said jacuzzi. After a few days of that I will be celebrating one year married to a person I love. Which also hasn't quite hit home yet. Time flies when you're having fun and fruit flies like bananas.
The point is that with the realization comes a kind of mental fog. A dilation of perception. I'm pretty sure I've lived in this minute for the last hour. The minute before that was an eternity. I've been at work for days and only an hour has passed. It doesn't help that the work I'm doing this morning involves a lot of passive waiting for processes to complete before continuing to the next steps and continuing to wait.
So maybe a quick status update. Things I've been playing. I've been spending a lot of time in games that allow me to multi-task easily. For my birthday I received an audiobook from my mother (Redshirts, fantastic!), and so I finally decided to put my usual podcast rotation on hold and give focused narrative a try. I'm sold. I wasn't sure if I would be, the thing I like about podcasts is that with most of them I can drift in and out without feeling like I missed anything. I've let interviews run while I leisurely head upstairs to refill my coffee. I've pulled up forums to read and let the sounds drone in my ears like background noise... but Redshirts pulled me in. So I played Minecraft and listened. And then it was over. Where would I get my fix now? Well it turns out that a few months ago I donated to a charity through HumbleBundle and received a few audiobooks as a reward. I was only familiar with one of the works so I chose at random from the file names. I have now listened to a book called Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean. That is a thing I have done. To be honest, towards the end I had to switch games. It was too easy to pay attention while playing Minecraft and I was getting annoyed with the main characters. Sure, they were supposed to be 14 year olds in a future where oceans overtake much of the world... actually, that's really all you need to know about why this story didn't resonate with me. It bludgeoned you with their mythos. It made the characters go through chapter after chapter slowly decoding the literal meaning of the song they were taught early on which they actually used as the reasoning for escaping their mundane lot in life after being orphaned. My point is, I could have stopped listening. I could have gone to a different book. But I decided to let it spin on and simply switch to a game where I am required to pay a little more attention. Terraria. 
Terraria is a bit of a different beast, with rules and goals and a progression system that I still haven't wrapped my head around. It let me get through Vampirates with my sanity intact. I will be honest, I have no memory of how that story ended, but probably something like: And that's when the real adventure started!
I then picked another of the filenames at random. This time it was a book called Stolen. I didn't know anything about it, so I was a little shocked when a few minutes in the story-teller is drugged, abducted, and imprisoned. Enough years have passed for me to know what I can tolerate. I have a hard time with realistic depictions of suffering. Violence, pain, brutality... I won't say I'm fine with it, but I will say that the context it is placed in is important for me. Maybe the recent violence in the news has tainted the context of that story, or maybe I'm just not at a place in my life where I can enjoy the narrative... but I've left the story paused and went back to listening to a few podcasts. The scene it was setting was disturbing enough that I looked for a short synopsis, preferring a potential spoiler to the emotional torture I may have been setting myself up for. In many ways a good book with an overactive imagination is still more powerful than any virtual reality we will ever come up with. The human mind is terribly efficient at filling in significant blanks, something I am hoping to take advantage of in my own attempt at creative writings. But this isn't the time nor the place.
Hours have passed since I started this, believe it or not I actually do work! The computers around me are churning away and my video conferencing session is idle waiting for the next session to start.

Did I leave any loose threads? Absolutely. The alternative is not posting. If I restrict myself to only writing when I have a clear message then I will run into the same issue that I have with personal correspondences: absolute silence. I can't believe that anyone other then myself could be interested in the minutia of my life, even when abstracted into grand strokes. I lead a boring, comfortable life in relative idleness. A luxury considering the world we live in. And while I am slowly twisting and turning to start shaping some of the world into the thoughts and fancies I have swirling inside my skull it will be quite a while before any of that will seem worthy of presenting. Until next time... thanks for taking the time!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sharing a Secret

Yesterday I attended the dance recital of one of my nieces. Growing up in small towns I wasn't quite prepared for the spectacle that is a large 'dance-studio' recital. It was a two-and-a-half hour show, give or take, and there was a seemingly endless stream of kids. Lots of entertaining performances, but my main takeaway was the fun realization that the 'car-alarm' electronic music I've been listening to whenever I could get my hands on it is steadily creeping into the mainstream. My lizard-brain tickle-treats are taking over the studio dance scene!
As a youngster I was utterly baffled about how people found new music. I would tape hours of radio and spend more hours editing out the filler and fluff and find the songs that tickled my brain. Growing up where I did there wasn't much out there for me, but every now and then a gem would pop out of stuff like the Doctor Demento show, or some alternative DJ throwing me a bone. I didn't have a name for what I liked. Didn't know what to call it, couldn't really describe it, and sometimes the artist made me listen to utter crap for one single 15 second snippet that woke something that lives deep in the brain-stem. And then I hit college. I felt like a caveman walking into a Best Buy. Utterly intimidated and shamefully ignorant of what was out there. One of my prized possessions was the Mortal Kombat Movie Soundtrack. I wouldn't actually see the movie until years later, but what I learned early on was that the stores I had access to only stock what was on the radio. Stuff I had already discarded as mostly crap. So I would cruise the Soundtracks. We didn't go to the movies often, but there is a certain type of movie. A category of films that operate around a visual aesthetic that carries with it the necessity of a certain tone. Action movies are hit-and-miss, but the right kind of action movie requires throbbing bass, thrashing guitars, electronic squeals, big dramatic builds and climaxes. I consciously deleted the adjective audiorgasmic in the last sentence. This isn't that sort of blog. I would consider the album cover. I would study the track list. Basically I would try to judge the book by its cover. Lots of misses, but between the Hackers Soundtracks and MK 1 and 2 I have no regrets about my methods.
It took longer than I care to admit to realize that most of the music on Soundtracks hadn't been created specifically for that movie. That the tracks were just snippets from albums that an artist had released independent of the movie. I blame being raised on Disney movies. Shortly afterwards I realized that many artists really only have that one song from the album that tickles the right parts of my brain.
I was still a teenager when someone handed me a DJ mix-tape. The shameful secret is that I did not know it was a mix-tape nor had any concept of what a DJ does. It was a combination of big beats, electro pop, dance, and rap. I listened through it and I was amazed at how seamlessly the music transitioned. When, in an awkward attempt to engage in social dialog with humans, I tried describing my amazement at a flourish in a particular track and wondered aloud how this DJ had accomplished it. I was met with a blank stare. It took me longer than I care to admit to learn that the DJ doesn't actually perform the tracks but merely finds, mixes and fades several tracks together. I say merely only in comparison to actually creating a piece of music.
But in summation:
As a fond tourist in the electronic music world I was amused to see a stage full of kids dancing to the same rhythms I was blasting from my Plymouth Fury's tape-deck half a lifetime ago.