Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Albums I Bought in Brief:

I bought a bunch of albums this year. A whole bunch in a binge in the last month or so. I like lists of things. Occasionally I am snarky, though its not a lifestyle choice. There was a lot good music this year, and a lot of crappy music as well. These are just some quick opinions. You have the right to disagree. You have the right to think I'm wrong. But anyone who assigns too much importance to them really needs to get out more.
A bunch of these albums are also not stuff that was actually released this year, just stuff I wanted to own (hence a slew of early punk albums). It also does not include stuff I re-purchased when I lost my iPod or stuff I got for free from other people (Which is a whole other list, though for the record you should all get Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel...(long ass name):

2013 Albums I Bought in Brief:

Kanye West: Yeezus – As crazy as everyone says it is, and not nearly as good.
Janelle Monae: Electric Lady – Not as weird as you hope it is, but nearly as good as you hope it would be.
Lorde: Pure Herione – Way better than it has any business being for an album by a 16-year-old, which is exactly what everyone said.
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories – Just as good as everyone said, though I think Nile Rogers deserves like 85% of the credit.
Jake Bugg: Jake Bugg – Like listening to something from Bob Dylan’s back catalog, in a good way. This would be really high praise if not for the fact I’m not a religious Dylan fan.
The Pacific Rim Soundtrack – If not for the kind of lame song at the end, a pretty cool score. I loved this movie and I am a nerd and you shut your mouth.
Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power – Do I really need to explain or review this. Do you like punk? Listen to this album.
The Velvet Underground : The Very Best of the Velvet Underground – Kind of a Ditto here, but also some folky Lou Reed goodness in there for good measure.
Wavves: Afraid of Heights – Like something from the mid-nineties, like Nirvana. Except, you know, without Kurt’s growl, and all the punk-influenced dirtiness that actually made it interesting. Speaking of which...
Nirvana: In Utero 20th Anniversary – The first part of this is just as good as you remember it to be. The second has some interesting alternate takes and demos/instrumentals of songs from a production standpoint but don't really add anything in my opinion to the effect of the original release. I am also not a Nirvana cultist music-wise so maybe I'm not the core audience for this.
Pearl Jam: Lightning Bolt – Is it as good as their old albums? No. Is it reminiscent of Eddie Veddie's solo efforts? Yes. Is it still a really good album? You betcha.
Best Coast: Fade Away – Everyone said this was a great kind of poppy So-Cal, beach kind of music. Considering what I usually do when I’m on the beach is leave, find a shady spot and take a nap, they were right, that’s exactly what this album makes me want to do.
Atoms for Peace: Amok – Such high expectations, such low payout. When will I learn? Maybe I just need to give it a few re-listens, but still. A lot of the recent Radiohead stuff makes me feel the same way. A big ole "meh".
Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork - Makes me feel like pounding whiskey, driving into the desert in a Cadillac and cooking some meth. So in other words: the perfect soundtrack to watch an episode of Breaking Bad on mute to.
Kyuss: Big Sky – Pretty much the same deal here.
Arcade Fire: Reflektor – Like all of Arcade Fire's albums in my opinion: really interesting and/or brilliant arrangements and musical choices. Really interesting lyrical content. Very little that grabs me in any primal emotional way.
The Lumineers: The Lumineers – Yeah it’s just as good and cheery and sad as you hoped it would be. Wish I had bought it at the beginning of the summer and not the end though.
Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City – The album that makes you want to punch everyone close to thirty, hipsters, and lead singer Ezra Koening in the face.  I tried okay, I really did, but I still don't like this band.
Avett Brothers: I and Love and You – Not as good as I had hoped it would be. Somewhere between Mumford and Sons and Lumineers but not as good as either.
Churches: The Bones of What You Believe –This album was a bunch of things that musically I have no interest in. Catchy dance-pop, ugh. I should have known when the single was available free from Starbucks. Why did I buy it? Because it was $3.99, and I'm willing to take a risk on something I might not be into for $4.
Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city -A lot like Dr.Dre's early stuff, and inasmuch he does a guest spot on the album, but there's a sense of self-awareness and introspection that was missing from Dre's stuff. Its really for this reason that it also has the distinction of being just about realest hip-hop album that has came out in a while.
Hans Zimmer: Man of Steel Original Movie Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition) - I like soundtracks. This happened to be one that was actually better than the movie itself. Go figure.
Black Flag: Damaged, Adolescents: Adolescents - Let's just go ahead and group these up with that Iggy and the Stooges album up there shall we?
The Germs: M.I.A: The Complete Germs, X: Los Angeles: Really variable quality here, but if you know anything about these two bands, that kind of makes a lot of sense.
The National: Trouble Will Find Me - Just as sad and morose as you expect it to be, but with some bright moments. Some of the songs will have a tendency to sit on your chest and weigh you down, but in a good way.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On the definition of a nerd and the permeation of nerd culture

  What is a nerd exactly in today's world? This a question I think has been floating around a lot now that nerd culture has become essentially mainstream. I've given this a lot of thought lately (as well as to the concept of a "nerd girl" and "love among nerds," but more on that in a later post). There is also this idea among some of the more old school nerds that the "new nerd" culture is kind of bullshit, I'm not sure if I entirely agree with this idea. I think what it ultimately comes down is the idea of feeling like the "other."
   It used to be that when you were a so-called "geek" or "nerd" it was a title of derision by people who were the popular kids. For a long time too, and not to get too heady, this was also considered a predominately "white" trait as well. Which is why so many minorities who were also considered nerds were also put down with the stigma of "acting white." So not only were these unfortunate souls outcasts in mainstream culture, but there was an undercurrent of racism running through it as well. They were in effect, double cast as the "other." Homosexuals were also tapped with the "nerd" or "geek" tag as well for a while, if not explicitly then generally grouped into the same "other" category. There was a time when being any of these things would have considered a negative by mainstream society, especially for pre-teens or teens.
  Middle school was generally the time period where the social dynamics started to play out of your favor. In fact most nerd obsessions start in the teen years as a sort of escape from the harsh reality of your days at school. At least that is the way it was for me.
  So what is a "nerd" or "geek" anyway? Well back in the day, generally speaking, even though the terms can and have been used interchangeably, a "nerd" tended to be someone who was really good at academics, and a "geek" was someone who tended to have a vast knowledge or some obscure thing or things in pop culture. Nowadays the term "nerd" tends to apply to both groups, and both groups aren't necessarily independent of each other. The word nerd tends to be applied to anyone who has an obsessive or extensive knowledge or something. Like really into the minutiae, and it doesn't even have to be something obscure anymore, though that still exists.
   But what about this so-called "otherness"? Does it still exist in today's world? And now that being a "nerd" and "geek" are points of pride, and so many people claiming nerdiness, who are the real nerds in today's world? Can someone rightfully claim to be say, a "sports nerd"?
   I swear when I started to write this I thought I knew the answers to these questions. And that was like a month ago. Now I'm not even sure what the words are supposed to mean. I mean I see myself as a nerd, I know I have a lot of friends who consider themselves likewise, but as far a what it means in culture at large? I think the way we use terms to define things like "nerd" has become so fluid that the word itself, like so many other words, does not mean anything on its own. The only meaning comes from the context in which it is used.
  I know I like to a certain extent the way nerd culture as become more accepted. I also know that I don't necessarily like the way certain aspects of nerdom have been appropriated to make money. I also know that in spite of our "otherness" nerds are some of the most judgmental people I know. So I'm throwing it to you folk. What is a nerd?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mourning a part of the community

    I got up Sunday in kind of a weird depressive funk I couldn't quite place the cause of. It was a lovely day so I decided to put on my skates for the first time in while. I hit up the skateparks down by the Hudson as was wondering where everyone was on such a nice day. I then pulled up the I Roll NY website to see if there was any event I was missing. There was. It was for a memorial fundraiser session in Flushing, Queens for a rollerblader named Alex Nunez.
   After reading it I decided it was too late for me to head out there and I was just going to roll home. Somewhere rolling up Park Place I had to sit down. Before I knew it tears started to form in my eyes. I texted a rolling buddy of mine just kind of dumbfounded.
   Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea, Alex and I were not friends. We weren't even crew buddies. We had a couple of mutual friends/acquaintances so I had skated with him a few times. I wasn't sure why learning of his death hit me so hard. It kind of sat in my head for the rest of the day stewing. As sometimes happens when I have a strong emotional reaction to something kind of tangential to my immediate life my brain starts looking for the real cause. It got a stuck on another person I knew and started to loop. Because this can sometimes also be the result of a cognitive misfire I didn't really trust it too much either. So I rode it out.
   I wrote a blogpost about "brain looping" hoping the process would get me to some root cause, and also hoping if it was a cognitive misfire it would distract me long enough for it to pass. The loop passed but the emotional pain did not. I racked my brain a little to try and come up for a reason a "stranger's" death would hit me so hard. Then it occurred to me he wasn't really a "stranger."
   Alex was in a bunch of video edits I had so I was pretty familiar with him. I felt like I knew him a little because of this. He also won the East Coast Real Street Contest the year I really, really got into skating. It occurred to me that Alex was a part of our community, this little subculture we call aggressive rollerblading or whatever you might call it. More than that he was part of the New York scene, and even more than that he was really close to me in age. We don't talk about it much, and sometimes we don't act like it, but this little community is a family, and we'd just lost one of our own. Now, we were all getting together to mourn, as a community, in the only way we really know how, by skating.
   On top of that I realized that a part of my life was now done too. That competition was one of the last times I was really into skating, with a crew of friends to back me up. What I was mourning was a part of my life that was now gone. Suddenly I was very aware of my own mortality, and all the things I hadn't gotten done, and in particular, all the people I felt I hadn't told I cared properly. And then I freaked out. I think I may have texted/Facebook messaged three or four of my friends that night asking when I was going to see them again. I panicked a little when not all of them replied right away.
   Then, as often happens, some more time passed, and so did the dread. But if you are out there and you didn't hear from me: Know I still care, a lot, even if I haven't said it in while. And if you knew Alex, were his friend, are a member of his family, or just some random person who rolled with him, know that I'm there with you too. Don't be afraid to tell someone you care about them, that you are sad or in pain at this loss. Care for yourself, care for others.
   Be a family to each other.

There are donations be taken for the family here:
"Paypal at Seriously, ANY contribution will help. Also, if you do decide to donate, make sure you send it as a “gift” so paypal doesn’t take a percentage of it."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Looping and Obsessive Thoughts

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets these, but one of the more irritating little side things I've noticed of my post-head injury life is what I like to call "looping." Looping is when a few thoughts, or more often one line of thought, starts to repeat itself over and over in your head. I'm sure everyone has had a version of this. A song gets stuck in your head, an event that happened to you gets replayed over and over.
    This is of course one of those lovely qualities those of us who tend to over-think things have had to deal with throughout our lives of mental disorder/disfunction. I have at least one friend whose habit of doing this borders on the pathological. I am also pretty sure (in fact I have a few pre-injury friends who can probably attest to this) that this is something I did before my injury and I only really became aware of it post-head injury.
   That doesn't make it any less frustrating or problematic when it happens, especially when bouts of it also can, and often do, involve strong emotions. The issue here is that when it happens, the brain tends to fixate on whatever that train of thought is, and can't navigate its way out of it. No matter how much I may want it to, or how inane the thought is, my brain will remain in that state until a) it is distracted or b) the cause of the thought resolves itself.
   Some of the more fun results of this "condition":
- inability to fall or stay asleep, which is great, because lack of rest really improves this condition (no, it actually doesn't, for those of you bereft of the skill of detecting the sarcasm in the word "fun")
- compulsive and/or obsessive social media checking, which usually starts as a attempt at distraction, and then all of the sudden its 2am and you are arguing with someone in Vancouver about alternate side of the street parking rules. This is especially a bad idea when said cause of train of thought is a person. Most especially when that person is someone you may or may not be romantically interested in/involved with (Wait, what was that? It sounded like the collective painful sigh of several of my friends who relate. Awww... you're shaddup)
- compulsive and/or obsessive texting to friends (see above)
- compulsive and/or obsessive blogging about your "problem" (okay, so I'm guilty of that one right now, sue me)
- combination with a cognitive misfire, a most dangerous mixture

I've found their are really only a few real solutions to "looping".
 - Distraction. Aside from the more dangerous forms listed above, comfort can often be found in watching television, a movie, listening to music and/or reading a book to get the brain working on something else. Be wary of movies, television, or music that reinforce your train of thought however, especially is said train of thought is a person. Also be wary of comfort eating, as a) it doesn't really work for this particular problem and b) is probably unhealthy either way. Exercise can also work pretty well too. And hey also, look at this, writing can also help. Unless of course you keep writing the words "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy," in which case please put the axe down and leave your wife and child in peace.
- Meditation. Meditation can help you clear your head but it takes discipline to do it correctly, and oh boy, can it take a while to do. Which leads me to my next point-
- Riding that shit out. Its miserable, it can stress you out, and even if you are meditating you still need to do it. Sometimes the only solution to "looping" is time. Sucks I know but thems the breaks. In fact, its best to ride it out a while especially if it lasts more than a day and you are forced to do the following step.
- Dealing with the loop's cause. This is generally only necessary if said cause is person and/or the loop is a recurring problem but I'm including it because its important. You need to deal with whatever issue is causing you to obsessively think about it. Since this usually involves a person you need to communicate with that person, preferably in person. Most often in my experience the thing you were obsessing over is actually not that big of a deal, and you are dumb. Every once and while however, it is actually a major issue and the sooner you deal with it the better.

   I have had this sequence of events (i.e. it's not a big deal and I am dumb) play out so often I beginning to suspect I might actually be a profoundly stupid person. Which is strangely comforting, actually, as it reminds me I'm still human. Also, I'm not sure when this blog somehow morphed into some sort of mental health self-help type thing, but here we are. Hopefully next time I will be back to ranting about Walking Dead, or giant robots or some such other nerdy nonsense, or (SHAMELESS SELF-PLUG INCOMING!!!) shall I direct you to my podcast:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On the CitiBike bike sharing program and bike lanes in general in NYC

The central problem with bike lanes, particularly in Manhattan, is that they DON'T ACTUALLY EXIST. Painting a line on the asphalt does not a bike lane make. Especially when anyone can walk or hail a cab, turn into that lane willy-nilly with no consequence. And completely and utterly ignored every, I MEAN EVERY TIME, one of these articles comes out is that bicyclers are NOT THE ONLY PEOPLE ON WHEELS USING A BIKE LANE. As someone who skates all over the city, I can say without dispute that bike lanes are infinitely more dangerous for me to navigate now since the implementation of the bike sharing. The lanes were painted on, but nearly none of the asphalt was fixed. In order to avoid potholes, I have to skate on the sidewalk, where I am in danger not only of hitting pedestrians, but of being ticketed for violating a law that was designed to keep bikes off the sidewalk. For some reason, this law applies to everyone with wheels under them without any consideration to whether it was realistic or practical to enforce. The same is true with the bike sharing and bike lanes. They were implemented seemingly without any thought to how they would actually be used.

Monday, June 3, 2013

How Losing my iPod was like ending a 3-year long relationship

  So a couple of months ago I lost/someone stole my iPod classic after going to see Star Trek, Into Darkness (great movie by the way, despite what the critics say, but more on that at some other time). As with many things that happen in my life, this was after a particularly amazing two days. And life doesn't ever seem to allow me to have a really nice time without subsequently kicking me in the balls somehow. I realize this may be a self-fulfilling prophecy to some extent, but you shut your damn mouth, little voice in my head.
  Like the ending of many relationships, this one was the result of carelessness and/or sheer stupidity, possibly both. I was so focused on sharing my joy in my movie-going experience I wasn't focused enough on checking to make sure I had everything until after I left the theater. Now to be clear, I was miffed, but after several trips back to the theater and costumer service, I finally just shrugged and kind of accepted it. It wasn't until a few days later it started to sink in how much the content on that iPod had become an integral part of my life. The more psychoanalytical of you might see this as a crude metaphor for a lot of my relationships. That thought has not escaped me, but I've found dwelling on it just makes me sink into a cycle of questioning myself, which I do enough on my own, thank you very much. Also incidentally, it make me miss the damn iPod more, so I decided to let it go.
  For one thing, there was an accumulation of about three years worth of music and podcasts on that thing. Some of which is not backed up because it was essentially stolen from other people and will now have to be purchased. Proof that sometimes I am both lazy and a bad person. I also didn't realize how much of my daily routines, and therefore, a certain extant of my mental stability, was based around playlists on that thing. It's like living with a significant other and waking up the next morning after breaking up to find your whole daily routine now has to change. I realize that's a over-exaggeration, but a lot times you don't realize how important all the little things are until they are gone. Obvious? Yes, but it never fails to surprise you when it actually happens.
  To get into some specifics, here are some playlists that I had and the reasoning as to why not having them actually became a issue for me.

On the Go: Basically a playlist of all my favorite songs. Like a giant blueprint of the randomness that is my brain, and a profound comfort blanket whenever or wherever I am.

Wake-Up: Music that helps me get out of bed in the morning, and adding to this, a couple of educational podcasts I listen to get my brain moving on groggy days. This was the first one I didn't realize how integral it was to my morning routine until it was gone.

Aesop to Sollila: A carefully curated mix that could be started at the beginning of the day skating and ended on the way home at night.

Battlestar Meditation: I ostensibly stopped meditating for a period of time without it. I initially panicked then I realized that I only really used a couple songs on it to actually meditate. This was one of those moments where I realized having an abundance of choice wasn't necessarily a good thing.

I am a Superhero: Have we not established that I am massive nerd? Another one I didn't realize its importance until it was gone.

Skating: A comprehensive playlist of all the music I like to skate to/gets me amped. And holy shit that was a lot of goddamn music...

Other playlists I created were not as important, but are still missed.

  I have since been using my smart phone, which only has 4gigs of storage. This has been a interesting exercise in paring my musical life down to the most important things. It's weird how much you take all that space on an iPod for granted. It kind of makes you lazy when it comes to music. I often found myself using it on shuffle. And I am almost certain there are albums I have put on there that I have not given a true chance because they have been lost in the sheer amount of choice on the damn thing.
  Maybe there is some epiphany that should happen here about how limiting your options actually improves your life. Maybe. But I'm still going to buy a new iPod classic.

Friday, May 24, 2013

AJ and EP

( A lot of this is lifted/inspired by “Remember This,” Joshua Foer, National Geographic, November 2007)
                There is a woman known in medical literature as “AJ.” She remembers almost every day in her life since she was eleven.  There is also a man known as “EP,” who remembers only his most recent thought. “My memory flows like a movie –nonstop and incontrollable” – says AJ. Her “inexhaustible memory for autobiographical details is so unprecedented and poorly understood” new medical term had to be coined for it: hyperthymestic syndrome.  EP’s memory loss was caused by the herpes simplex virus, which left two walnut size holes in his medial temporal lobes.
                There is one medial temporal lobe on each side of the brain. This space includes the hippocampus and several other regions responsible for turning our perceptions into long-term memories.  The memories are not actually stored in the hippocampus, they are located an outer layer called the neocortex, but the hippocampus is what makes them stick. EP’s hippocampus was destroyed, which means that he can perceive things, but not store them. My brain works a little differently. I perceive things and also store them, but this stored information is mixed with invented things from my subconscious. I am sure this happens with other people as well, but I believe in my brain they are more pronounced.
                There are two types of amnesia:
Anterograde - which means you can’t form new memories.
Retrograde – which means you can’t store old memories either.
                Most of us exist in a nebulous realm in between the two.  That three pound or so of wrinkled flesh attached to our spines is a weird goddamn thing. You remember useless TV trivia but can’t remember where you put your keys. What is memory? The best neuroscientists have been able to come up with is that “memory is a stored pattern of connections between neurons in the brain.” Real poetic isn’t it? There are about a hundred billion neurons, each making maybe 5,000 – 10,000 synaptic  connections with the other neurons, which makes about five hundred trillion to a thousand trillion synapses in the average adult brain. You got all that? Here’s more. Synapses are strengthened, weakened, or formed anew constantly, even when we sleep. The very physical substance of us is always changing.  Do you have a headache yet? Me too.
                Damaged memory can profoundly affect your sense of time. EP has both kinds of amnesia. He does not remember he has a memory problem. He forgets that he forgets which makes every causal slip just an annoyance. He has no real sense of time, trapped in an eternal present. He is a happy all the time presumably because there is nothing in his life that can cause him stress.  With my own memory affected, I am often struck with the perception that time is flowing way too fast around me. I am aware this is also something that everyone feels from time to time. But with me its effects past events as well – I can remember details from events in my life but not precisely when they happened. I go to bed some nights and wake up some mornings feeling as if several days have passed without my knowledge. That the memory of them is a blurry illusion my brain has cooked up for itself.
                You can also learn things unconsciously without knowing you are learning them. This is because there are two kinds of memory- declarative and non-declarative – sometimes referred to as explicit and implicit. Declarative memory is things you actually remember, like what you ate for breakfast this morning. Non-declarative memory is things you know without consciously thinking about them, like knowing how to ride a bike. Those memories don’t rely on the hippocampus to be put together and stored, they occur in completely different parts of the brain. Motor skills are learned in the cerebellum, at the base of the brain, perceptual skills in the neocortex, habit learning in the brain’s center.
                Most of the metaphors we use to describe memory suggest mechanical accuracy, but memory doesn’t really work that way. If you were to use an electrical probe to touch parts of the temporal lobe in a person, that person would describe vivid experiences that would resemble recollections, but they are actually closer to fantasies or hallucinations than to memories.
                AJ’s memory would seem to embody the sort humans have idealized since ancient times. But your memories exist the way they do to protect you. Remembering everything is maddening and lonely for AJ. Like the Jorge Luis Borges story, if you remember everything, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the important and the trivial. You remember good things and bad things with equal clarity. Our modern technology has been quickly replacing our internal memories with external ones, and in the process something has been lost. The whole point of our brains and by extension our whole nervous system is to absorb present information and apply it to future events so we can react to it in the best possible way. Memory is  our brain as a prediction machine, and a consistently crappy one at that.
                EP takes the same walk virtually every day; he meets the same neighbors but reacts as if meeting for the same time. He responds to them in a friendly way because he’s learned through habit that these are people he should feel comfortable around. In other words, an unconscious learned feeling of comfort can trump your memory. I find this comforting. I have emotional connections to memories I am not sure actually happened. Many of these “memories” influence fundamental ways in which I interact with the world around me.  In this way my emotional connection trumps my desire to know the objective truth about these events, particularly because some are virtually impossible to trace. They have become defining characteristics of who I am as a person.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Homophobia and Aggressive Inline

   You know I hadn't really given this thought until now, but a bunch of the insults thrown at my Aggressive Rollerblading brethren (or whatever you want to call it) are also homophobic. And also inline skating itself in any form seems to be associated with homosexuality. When did this happen? And now that I think about it double-fuck the Human Giant joke about it for being both ignorant and homophobic. This is how stupid homophobia really is, that ignorant and dumb people use it to mock things that aren't remotely related to it. The biggest throwing of stupid insults to rollerblading has been from the skateboarding industry. A so-called "outsider" culture (you are no longer a subculture when your pros can afford "cribs" style houses and people use your image to sell car insurance) that should fucking know better. 
  I think what has happened here is really pretty simple and a story so old its become a cliche. Skateboarders are now the jocks of the extreme sports genre, and rollerbladers are the nerds. And what do jocks do to nerds? By extension, what does any part of mainstream culture do to something deemed uncool? We shit on it, push it into the edges of society. And homophobic language is still, despite all the supposed work towards "acceptance," used to demean anything that is deemed as lesser. So rollerbladers become fruitbooters, rappers still use the word "fag," and fucking idiot jock douchebags coming out of a Knicks game beat the shit out of two gay men in broad daylight outside Madison Square Garden. And those same type of homophobic dickwads try to mess with me when I'm on skates for the same reason. I am in no way trying to equate the two, just pointing out that intolerance doesn't always just effect the minority being persecuted, it can also effect people who are only vaguely associated with it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Cognitive Misfire

   I was going to make this most recent post about the inherit fallacy of dieting, but I'll hold off on that for awhile and instead address a little thing I call the cognitive misfire. We are familiar I think with this occurrence: you are looking for your keys and realize they are in your hand etc.  When you have a former or current brain injury these little misfires can come not only more often, but can be a little more troubling, especially when they pertain to emotions.
  Now to be fair, I'm not a nueroscientist, or have any degree in psychology or psychiatry, so all that I am about to tell you may be bullshit. But I am just doing a lot of research on all three of these topics for a book I am currently working on. I am going to share a little bit about those moments where your brain not work so good.
  One of the more troubling things that happens when you have a major head injury is that your emotions can be thrown all out of whack. You have rage that bubbles up for no reason, you get really sad and tear up sometimes without explanation, you laugh uncontrollably at inappropriate times. In the past, my friends and I used to make a joke about these occurrence and call them "male PMS." More recently I have begun to suspect this is one of the long term affects of an brain injury I sustained in 2003.
   Most of the time, I work pretty diligently to maintain and control these outbursts of emotion through meditation, herbal tea, yoga, exercise etc. Occasionally though, I don't keep up with these things as much as I should and occasionally, people have to deal with one of these seemingly out of character emotional outbursts. A lot of things can exacerbate the situation like alcohol, lack of sleep, stress at work or at home etc. Every once and awhile - and a lot more before I learned how to manage these issues - people around can be hurt by these outbursts. Especially when it comes to anger. One of lovely things your brain does when it gets conflicting information is it tries to make order out of chaos. Unfortunately when you have a damaged brain, you brain will try to "order" things that don't really belong together. For example: you are angry and don't know why, and at that moment you randomly think of your grandma. All of the sudden, your grandma becomes the object of your anger, even if you are really angry about something else, or as can be the case with brain injuries, you are angry with no actual concrete cause. Bingo! Cognitive misfire.
   Usually when I have these, I have the good sense to sit on the thought for at least a day. Nine times out of ten, I realize it's irrational and let it go. Even if it is reasonable, I still sit on it for while to make sure its actually worth dealing with. Again, nine times out of ten its nothing and I just let it go. But every once and while, one sneaks past my better judgement and wrecks havoc.
   This is one of the reasons I try really hard to AVOID THE INTERNET during times when this is happening. Amongst your friends, if you send a bizarre out of nowhere angry text to someone, you can explain the next day and hopefully eventually forget about the whole thing. On the internet however, that shit can become everyone's business, and suddenly you've involved fifteen or more people in you cognitive misfire. It also stays there, in the cloud, forever, like a giant dead rat no one can locate in your radiator.
   One of the other frustrating things about these occurrences is it is in my nature to try and explain them when they happen while not necessarily acknowledging it may be because of my brain issues. This is also usually a bad idea. I have the amazing ability to compound the problem when I do this. This is where the situation leaps its way from cognitive misfire to neurotic stupidity. Up until this point, I kind of still have an excuse for what is happening, although granted, had I been better at keeping up with the maintenance exercises, this might not have happened. Afterward however, I am past the point of an accident, and have now buried myself in a blackhole of stupid. This, as many of you know, is what happened to me a couple of weeks ago.
   One of the other more unfortunate things when these cognitive misfires happen is that you are not aware they are happening until sometimes days later. When this happens, the best thing you can do is a) immediately apologize for whatever it is you have done/said b) explain the about your issues, honesty is the best policy at this point, c) be more aware of the things that may trigger you (i.e. lack of sleep and alcohol in this case), and d) avoid the goddamn internet for a least one night

Monday, March 18, 2013

Committing Blasphmey for Nerds or Why I am Buying the Stars Wars OT Blu-Ray Set

    So I have decided to buy the original Star Wars trilogy on Blu-Ray despite the seemingly blasphemous (at least to Star Wars nerds) changing of the original films by George Lucas. I did not do this without paining about it for at least a week. Why did I eventually cave? Mainly because it costs $40, but also because when in came right down to it, the improved visuals and sound outweighed the scenes that Lucas changed. When you come right down to it, all the scenes that everybody made such a big fuss about are either not as bad as everyone makes them out to be, or so short it doesn't matter. I will address some of the individual scenes below, leaving the most egregious ones for last
  1) The CGI Jabba/Han Solo scene: Not as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. Yes there's a crappy CG Jabba the Hut and a really weird edit where Han has to CGI step over Jabba's tail. This is because in the original scene Harrison Ford walks behind another actor who is subbing for Jabba. But you all knew that already. Plus to this scene (or another minus if you want to be really pissy about it)? Five second shot of Boba Fett mugging at the camera.
 2) Weird added animals to Mos Eisley spaceport and the extra Stormtrooper scenes on Tatooine: Also, not as as as everyone makes it out to be, and all the scenes last like 5 seconds at post. This applies to a lot of the little extras added for the re-release for the Trilogy in the late 90s. So release your asshole and get over it
3) Replacement of the "YubYub" scene at the end of Jedi: I have been very open about never liking the original song all that much to begin with. So sue me.
4) Really aggressively stupid musical scene in Jabba's Palace scene: Yeah, I agree with all of you, it's as bad as you made it out to be. Still, not enough to overrule the $40 pricetag
5) Putting ghost Hayden Christensen at the end of Jedi: Yeah, fuck that, that's some sacrilegious shit. I mean if you're going to do that, why not replace Alec Guinness with Ewan McGregor while you're at it? God-fucking-dammnit!
6) Greedo shoots first: Do I really need to explain this? This is one of the few of these that actually fundamentally changes your introduction to a major character. Plus, the edit is so fucking awkward looking.

  But ultimately there's two factors that make this decision for me: 
1) Even the most horrible of these scenes is at most only a few moments long and for the price, I can actually live with them and still enjoy the rest of film. I've reached a point in my life when I just can't be on board with nerd detail bitching anymore. Mechanical web-shooters versus organic? I don't give a shit. Is the core of the characters and the film intact? Yes? Then everything else is just a minor detail. With the changes to Star Wars, the only change that qualifies as a major change is Greedo shooting first, and even that scene is what? Three seconds? I can skip over it and pretend it never happened.
2) I am really, really tired of all this "recapturing the feeling from my childhood" shit. What I've discovered is that when you actually come back to those things as they were originally conceived, nine times out of ten that thing wasn't as good as you remember it. The original Star Wars movies are great, enjoyable, popcorn films. I love them, we all do. I love me some Extended Universe shit too. I own five lightsabers and a giant Millennium Falcon toy. But are they masterpieces of modern cinema? No, they're actually kind of derivative of a lot of stuff that came before them, especially Kuroswa's films. Return of the Jedi is actually kind of a lame rehash of the first film (Also, remember the  Ewoks? I rest my case). Any of you who tries to argue otherwise needs to release your hopelessly tight nerd assholes.

Look, I know a lot of you fellow nerds are going to jump down my throat for all this. And that's fine, you have the right to disagree with me. I'll even grant that some of my points may be flat out wrong, I'm okay with that. But when you come right down to it, when it's only $40, I think you're getting exactly what you pay for.

I'm still never going to buy the prequels, because those just suck big fat elephant scrotum...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

In defense of live comedy


Have I known you for more than a couple years? Do we spend enough time around each other that you understand where I'm coming from? Yes? Good, we can have a discussion about where we disagree. No? You don't know me well enough to comment or judge anything I say. Period. Hurray me, hurray you, let's all be adults about this. Kay? Thanks.

   I am getting really, really tired of defending live comedy just because people in general don't understand context. I am especially tired of people misunderstanding that defense of a form is not the same as approval of a point of view or specific joke. It annoys me that I end up in the position of defending someone like Daniel Tosh - who I don't think is particularly funny - by proxy by having this opinion. I also tend to find a LOT of stuff that other people find offensive funny. I find offensive stuff funny in general, regardless of what is being joked about. 
   Case in point: rape jokes. This is one of those topics that many people say you can't joke about. I fundamentally disagree with the idea that any topic can't be joked about. However, the big exception to this is context. There is a fairly large segment of the population that will never, ever, think these jokes are funny. And that's fine. It's an appropriate response. What the comic performer needs to understand is that you will never be able make these people accept your rape joke. Ever. Period. There is no argument you can make that can justify your material to them, even under the auspices of freedom of speech. You can also be wrong in understanding your own context as a performer. I.E. If you are a man you need to be very aware of the context in which you talk about a issue like rape comically.  Race issues present a similar conflict.
   Often my first response to something fucked up is to immediately laugh at it. This recently happened at a show I performed at where some extremely racially insensitive improv sketches were done. While not condoning the material, I laughed at both, but that is mostly because my context for the material (i.e. being a white male, liking offensive shit) is completely different from the people who were offended. I refuse to be apologetic about the initial reaction to the sketches. I do, on the other hand, understand the reasons why other people were deeply offended. I also understand I am speaking in a position of privilege here. I also think the improv troupe either did not understand, or was not fully aware of the context they were performing in. If they had, they might have understood that certain subjects were inappropriate for them to broach. I.E.: If you are in a venue or a show that prides itself on its spotlighting and/or promoting minority issues and artists, its probably a bad idea to be a white person making slavery jokes.
   However, by extension, any audience member needs to understand that a live comedy show (most especially a comedy club) is a context in which anything can be joked about at anytime. In addition, one of the comics may fuck up a joke that night, or have a inappropriate response to a heckler. It will be a singular event that happens that night and may never happen again, and it will offend you deeply. Fine. Be offended. Tell the performer you were offended if you must. Engage in a conversation in person ideally. But don't post a video of it on YouTube from your phone or write a Facebook bitchfest about it. I'm of the opinion that the experience of a single night of live comedy on a certain  level should remain a singular experience only between the people involved. I know that on some level this is idealistic and naive, but I don't care, it's how I feel. Having a honest discussion on a complicated issue with the people involved is not the same as flaming about it on the internet. Also, and I'm painfully aware of how stupid this may sound, its probably not a good idea bring your rape survivor friend to the comedy club.
  Making fun of or making jokes about these issues is how we come to realize how absurd or wrong these things are. But the context in which these jokes are made is always what seems to be ignored. I have repeated this so many times is has become a mantra: CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING WHEN IT COMES TO UNDERSTANDING COMEDY. You can not and should not try to control content, but you can make a greater effort to control and prepare for context.