Tuesday, January 19, 2010

721. You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?

1. People in 2010 who still don't receive text messages on their phone. You need to accept that in these modern times, no one wants to have a real conversation with you.

2. The fact that AT&T has only made 8 million dollars for Haiti. All you have to do is send the word "Haiti" in a text to 90999 and they will donate 10 dollars to The Red Cross for you. At that current total that means only one fourth of one percent (or 0.026 percent to be exact: 800,000 people) of Americans have donated. There's 200,000 dead; a million displaced. Squeeze your wallet harder. See what comes out.

3. Vampire movies. Can someone create a new monster or creature, please? They did in Cloverfield and that movie made like 15 BA - zillion dollars.

Okay bye,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

720. Elliott Smith: A Tribute

So, I've been thinking a lot recently about art. Well, to be honest, I think about art all the time. It seems to be the one consistent thing in my life that I can use to channel my energy positively. I've been thinking about folk-rocker, Elliott Smith, who died over five years ago.

I was once in a dark place -- darker than I ever knew existed. There, I shamefully hid my passions and stowed away within my own self-destruction. Beyond not getting a DUI or AIDs, I didn't really accomplish anything at all for those three years of my life. I certainly didn't make anything beautiful.

Elliott Smith on the other hand, was a man who experienced challenges and personal drama that went way beyond my scruples and follies, yet still reached down to make some of the best and most powerful songs ever crafted. That is, before he committed suicide by stabbing himself in the heart.

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit, years after I first listened to his posthumous album, "From a Basement on a Hill," I still really don't know all too much about the man. I've never decided that I needed to. I discovered his music through a review in Maxim Magazine while I served in Iraq; I resolved to purchase his album when I returned. I did purchase it then, and that timing was perfect: my great three year depression started upon my return home. I've listened to that album now at least 500 times. It has impacted me to this day so much, the title of this blog takes inspiration from his lyrics off that CD.

It's hard for anyone to really say what it is about someone they love that makes them love them; it's hard to make it really tangible and describe it for others. Ben Folds tried to do this with his tribute song to Elliott and summed up pretty well the way all of us Smith fans feel:

"Elliott, man you played a fine guitar / and some dirty basketball / The songs you wrote, got me through a lot / I just wanted to tell you that / but it's too late."

After his death, dozens of myspace.com tribute pages went up in his honor. You would only have to read a dozen or so comments to know this was a man you wanted to hear. On your typical band page people say, "oh, I really like your one song," or "the drummer is cute." On the Elliott's page people said, "Elliott, your music changed my life," or "I still think about you every day, and I've never known you."

Elliott suffered from rampant depression, severe alcoholism, and heavy drug usage. Despite this, I can't think of any other artist of any medium who still loved so much; who still had such an amazing heart; who still cared about the world and others. Can you imagine just being so wrecked by poor mental health and addiction but still writing songs about how much you are frustrated with people who mistreat the lower classes of the world? On the final track of "From a Basement on a Hill," "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity to be Free," Elliott sings:

"You disappoint me / you people raking in on the world / God knows, why my country don't give a fuck."

That to me is an unparalleled beauty and emotion that I think makes Elliott's work just a little bit better than even the best of what I've heard or seen or felt.

I miss you too, man. I hope I can do something with art that is nearly as amazing as what you did.

"Because your candle burns too bright; I almost forgot it was twilight."

- Elliott Smith, From a Basement on a Hill

Thursday, January 7, 2010

719. Yeah, So I Started Blogging Again...

Greetings, reader:

This is my 719th blog in about five years (the first seven hundred are on myspace.com - I might copy and paste them to over here at some point). I stopped blogging last semester for the most part. Life was happy and graduate writing work consumed most of my time (the previous dozen or so postings on this blog are of the assignments I completed in the Fall).

Long story shortened, it's a new year so I'm blogging again. If you get a few minutes every couple days, check back if you like, and hear what I have to say. I promise to be innovative and thought-provoking, or - at very least - entertaining.

I think it's logical at this moment, my return to blogging, to simply outline some of my goals as a writer for this new year:

1. Sell both of my books. One's a memoir. Two's a novel about veterans who survive a chemical attack. Am I crazy to set this goal? I think so, but I'm close. One agency has already expressed interest in the second book and I've had a lot of interest for my memoir (interest that ultimately became rejections, but I'm doing something right to be able to stand out from all the other thousands of assholes who are trying to get books published too). Recently I sold a scene from my memoir to www.worldhum.com, which will be posted online very soon, and that credit will likely aid my goal of publication even more. That's all I've ever done with my life since leaving the Marines: take one success and exploit the hell out of it. Hmm, where did I learn to do that?

2. Continue doing my very best at Hopkins. I earned very respectable grades last semester, and I hope to maintain that momentum. It's hard down there because I'm tremendously outclassed. The majority of my peers are older than me, and they are business professionals - often times working writers - who actually have careers and real lives. I'm just some unemployed kid (sustaining myself off of the GI Bill) who shows up to class all haggardly looking with my red beard and long hair. I'm pretty sure when I speak in class everyone thinks, who the hell is this guy?

3. I hope to complete a book of poems. I want rewrite all the stream of conscious junk I've written over the years and approach them again, this time while considering line length, rhyme, and metering. I think that would be cool and rewarding.

4. I want to make some money with my words. Like enough for sushi. That would be cool.