snooze button.

February 6, 2012 - One Response

I’ve been having trouble sleeping a lot lately.  Most nights, I don’t really have a good excuse for not being able to sleep.  There’s always the old reliable “noisy neighbors”, but the dudes upstairs are pretty decent folks who tend to keep it to a dull roar after 10.  And the 1 or 2 times I’ve been compelled to ask them to keep it down, they’ve politely obliged (Truth be told, I was just really trying to watch reruns of How I Met Your Mother).

Tonight, however, I can “thankfully” narrow down my current state to either of two things: the lone cup of coffee I had earlier in the evening (Seriously, why do I always do this, thinking it will have a different effect?), or the thoughts that refuse to stop racing around in my head.

The logical (read: not logical) side of my mind tells me that being awake is something like an egg timer.  You run through as much crap from the day as you can–what you did, what you need to do, what you should do–before the timer runs out of ticks.  And when the bell dings, you fall asleep, whether you’ve mentally reached some semblance of closure or not.  Well that’s how sleep works for me, at least.  As I see it, the coffee just keeps winding that damn egg timer, piling tocks upon ticks, until all of these seemingly innocuous streams of thought intertwine, congeal, cut from one another, and circle back onto themselves.  Plainly, one thought leads to eight others, lead to six more, lead to one, leads to twenty-seven… you get it.

And while I do a good enough job deluding myself into blaming the coffee for duping me out of a good night’s sleep, forcing my mind to race wildly with senseless thoughts, there’s a deeper truth that I seem to refuse to accept (though oddly am quite willing to divulge on a semi-public forum (“semi-public”, since I only average 7 views every few days (I need to stop it with all of these asides.  It’s too many parentheses to keep track of.  Footnotes would be easier, but I’m too lazy.))):  There’s a very good chance that I’m still awake at 1:45am on a school night because my thoughts are racing, and not because of the coffee.  And there’s a very good chance that my thoughts are racing because my subconscious deems them important things that need to be addressed, and keeps bringing them back to the surface to remind me–like some sort of horribly annoying alarm clock with the most sinister of snooze buttons.

It’s the same damn thing every morning.  Our alarms go off at the same time every morning.  We hit the snooze button every morning.  We know exactly how long that snooze is.  We know that snooze won’t really make a difference other than softening the blow of being awake and dealing with real life.  And yet, we have no qualms slapping that damn button if it means we can delay reality as long as possible.  Because that 10, 20, 30 minutes between dreaming and reality–where we’re asleep enough to be rested, yet awake enough to enjoy the restfulness–is one of the few places in time and space where we have full and complete control over our lives.

 

I need to wake up so I can get to sleep.

i’m hearing voices

April 27, 2011 - Leave a Response
Weird voices.  Everyone has them.  Even if you’re the type of person that will never ever attempt a British accent in public, you’ve done it in the privacy of your own home.  You speak in a terrible Jamaican accent in the morning when you’re looking for your keys (or maybe that’s just me).  But when you struggle with a tough decision, or consult your conscience, is it your own voice talking back to you?  Mine isn’t.  In fact, there’s more than one voice.No, I’m not schizophrenic, nor do I have some sort of multiple personality disorder.  And no, I’m not talking about an inner-narrator that comments on every little thing that occurs around me.  Plainly, when I’m weighing out tough decisions, James Earl Jones is there, advising me on the best option.  Actually, it’s not James Earl Jones, as much as it is Mufasa.

I know, James. I know.

What?  You can’t tell me if you had an important decision to make, you wouldn’t want the original king of Pride Rock guiding you in the right direction.  It’s no contest.  Just imagine when you messed up:  “You deliberately disobeyed me!  And what’s worse?  You put Nala in danger!”  Ok, maybe it’s not completely apropos for the situation, but you get the idea.
The other voice isn’t my conscience, but rather what I hear whenever I’m reading a book, or studying something.  A lifetime’s worth of HBO Sports Documentaries have forever etched the alto-smooth timbre of Bob Costas in my brain.

Whether I’m reading up on standard deviations of depressive symptoms in patients or finding out what lays in wait for Lisbeth Salander, it’s good ol’ Costas giving the play-by-play.  But lately, Gus Johnson has been making a strong case.  I feel like just walking to my car in the mornings would be more epic if it were commentated like this:
Oh, and just because this is a post about voices in one’s head:
Cheap Trick – Voices

it only took two pedals to shift this paradigm

April 11, 2011 - 4 Responses
A by-product of being the son of a psychiatrist (as well as working in a psychiatric institution for over three years) is a well-developed awareness of my environment and how it affects me.  I’ve gained a sense of things that have happened in my past and how they affect my present and future decisions.  As I get older (not necessarily mature), I continue to develop an awareness of how present events influence future outcomes and decisions; I’m beginning to realize the potential and pitfalls presented with each new venture.  What’s most exciting, however, is when something I see as nothing more than a passing fancy drastically changes the premise under which I conduct my life.  Case in point:  I bought a bike.

In the city of Houston, living “inside the loop” affords itself a number of opportunities: exposure to a diverse culture of social phenomenons and customs (read: different types of scotch), easier access to social functions (read: places in which to drink scotch), as well as closer proximity to friends and acquaintances in my age group (read: friends with which to drink scotch).  After living in the loop for a few years, I finally wanted to take full advantage of the closeness of everything, and I soon realized getting a bike would be the best means of achieving this.

So I set out to procure a bike that would suit my needs: relatively easy maintenance, fit for the weathered Houston streets, and lending itself to a variable gauge of customizability.  As many of my friends and close folks will attest to, I am incredibly wont to obsess over the most minute detail when buying a new toy.  That said, I will spare you the exhaustive details of my search for the ‘perfect’ bike.  Suffice to say, I eventually found a bike that satisfied my needs:

For the few of you interested (and that couldn’t tell just by looking), the bike is the ‘Roll 1’ model by Globe Bicycles.  Pretty standard specs for the type of bike: Cr-Mo track frame, flip-flop hub for fixed gear or single speed riding, 700c wheels and tires, and of course, adorable yellow accents so I’m always looking stylish wherever my travels may take me.

To that end, I thought I was done.  I found a bike that suits my needs.  It takes me from point A to point B, saves me gas, as well as the hassle of finding parking, and provides some good exercise.  But the universe began to reveal itself to me in the most unsuspecting way through my bike.  More than just a mere means of travel, riding my bike became a destination unto itself.  Rather than taking the ride to the grocery store only two blocks away, I opted to go to the grocery store a couple of miles down the road in order to “make the most” out of the ride (the gorgeous Houston spring weather also played a huge part in this).

Soon enough, I wasn’t riding just to save gas, or to avoid the hassle of parking, or to get a good bit of exercise in.  I was riding out of the pure joy of riding: meandering through quiet neighborhoods, weaving in and out of crowded asphalt arteries, zipping through puddles, and having an almost unnerving sense of control over my direction with barely a second’s thought to the destination.  I was intentionally riding and splashing through puddles with abandon just for the sheer joy of doing so!  For the longest time, I had so much trouble understanding where this feeling came from.

Reflecting back on it, I realized that all of this–this re-descovery of some lost part of myself–is really predicated on one simple, four-letter word I’ve known my entire life, but have never given much thought to: ‘play.’  Take a second and think about it.  The definition of this word changes so dramatically as we get older.  After 27 years, I have now come to recognize ‘play’ as a task.  We play games.  We play sports.  Sure, we derive enjoyment from most of these activities, but we set out with a definite goal (essentially, advance some object or idea forward in progress, score a point, repeat until victory), dedicating resources to the completion of that goal.  And once the goal is attained, the task is complete.  Play is done.

But by observing something my two-year old nephew knows innately, I’ve learned (or more aptly, re-learned) that riding, for the pure joy of riding–without a pre-defined destination or any semblance of direction–is play.  It’s my form of play.  Just like my nephew stacks wooden blocks taller than him only to knock them over, and tosses toys on the ground just to hear the noise they make, I found myself riding up and down the same neighborhood streets in endless loops and paths, not worried about paying bills, not what work I needed to finish for the week, not even where I was going to ride in the next five minutes.  I was riding because riding is fun.

That’s the beauty of play.  You can do something–anything, really–without worrying what the outcome will be.  There’s no need to worry about the result as long as some modicum of enjoyment is derived.  It’s a concept we discovered before we could walk, and became blurry as soon as someone told us there were “no tag-backs.”  So much more of this idea was muddled as more rules and boundaries were placed around our play, that the definition was lost.  But as adults, we can now play–conscious of what impending rules and regulations restrict our simple enjoyment of any activity–and regain that part of our existence that was so easily lost so many years ago.

So now what?  Here’s my advice:  Get up, get out, get going, and play!  Jump as high as you can for no reason!  Run as fast as you can just because you can!  Do some awesome air kicks because it’s fun!  Use an unnecessary amount of exclamation points in your blog!

Besides, it’s not really fun until someone gets hurt.

aural morsels vol. ii

March 16, 2011 - Leave a Response

The Gorillaz ft. Little Dragon – Empire Ants (2010)

This is the portion of my blog where I take a chunk out of a song I’m particularly fond of and share it with you.  Hence, the title.  What I offer up for your consumption could be something as simple as a few strikes of a chord, a percussive cue, a clever line or verse, or even an entire song.  The bottom line is that I’ve heard something I find aurally novel and interesting enough for me to share with you.

The brain-child of former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame, The Gorillaz has been called many things.  Whether it’s performance art at its most meta, a musical collective, a band, an experiment in design, or just an example of the far reaches of the creative mind, it’s clear The Gorillaz is damn brilliant.  This shines brightly as each musical endeavor offered seamlessly blends various elements of hip-hop, rock, alternative, electronica, and pop into an experience unlike any other.

The seventh track from the band’s third studio album, Plastic Beach, “Empire Ants” exemplifies the sheer breadth of range music is capable of, if simply given the time to mature.  Joined by Swedish electronic band Little Dragon, The Gorillaz have crafted a piece of music that is easily digested but brings an immense amount of gravity with it upon further samplings.

What starts innocently enough as a calm, ethereal meditation soon flourishes into what can only be described as a shimmering, expansive swell of phonic brilliance.  The crooning nature of Damon Albarn’s voice wafts over guitar riffs that seem more like musings than actual musical expressions.  Albarn’s piano lilts above this all, almost imperceivable.  This near-celestial mood is further purported by the long line structure of Albarn’s verses.  And just as the listener becomes comfortable in this airiness, the drums in the background become more urgent, the synthesizers become more pronounced, overpowering the piano and guitar, and a chorus of strings come as a distressed wave, pushing the listener to the next movement.  A nimble bass line essentially harmonizes with the synth (which took over the piano’s duties at the top of the range) to provide a full, robust flavor to the last act of this piece.

Filling out the upper half of that range, Little Dragon’s vocalist Yukimi Nagano delicately weaves her verses throughout the last movement of this track with what I can only describe as a charmingly impish tone.  The beauty of her voice wavering, almost cracking on each high note adds a great amount of texture to the audio palette of the piece and compliments the distressed wave of orchestral strings quite nicely.

If this song could lend itself to imagery, I think the path of the sun in the sky would be the most apropos.  Damon Albarn’s verses in the first act serve as the pre-dawn hours, when deep violet hues begin to give way to more vivid tones brought about by pulsing synths and Nagano’s streaking vocals in the afternoon, when the sun is at its most brilliant.  Finally, as day becomes night, a smart space-synth echoing earlier melodies and riffs draws out those same deep violets and pinks as the sun dips below the horizon.

The complexity and texture of this track is so beautiful, it stands as a shining example of how far musical expression has come.

the one where i blow the dust off of this thing.

March 8, 2011 - Leave a Response

I really can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything in this space.  In case any of you care to wonder, I didn’t do much writing, period, in that span of time.  Part of it was lack of motivation (OK, more than just a part).  Part of it was getting busy with my life.  But most of it was a considerable lack of inspiration.  Even with such events as a new job, a new niece, a new girlfriend, and a significant paradigm shift in my approach to health, I just couldn’t find the words to adequately describe my feelings on the matter.  It’s quite possibly one of the worst bouts of writer’s block I’ve encountered.  But if writer’s block is some form of intellectual constipation, someone just slipped me a huge mental laxative (a little odd, but I think the analogy is apt).

In any case, the bottom line here is that I feel my creative juices flowing and I’m ready to start writing again.  So, dear reader, be on the look out for something resembling creativity in the not too distant future.