Sunday, December 23, 2012

TCitR

"All right. Listen to me a minute now . . . I may not word this as memorably as I'd like to, but I'll write you a letter about it in a day or two. Then you can get it all straight. But listen now, anyway." He started concentrating again. Then he said, "This fall I think you're riding for--it's a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn't permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement's designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn't supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn't supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. You follow me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Sure?"

"Yes."

He got up and poured some more booze in his glass. Then he sat down again. He didn't say anything for a long time.

"I don't want to scare you," he said, "but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause." He gave me a funny look. "If I write something down for you, will you read it carefully? And keep it?"

"Yes. Sure," I said. I did, too. I still have the paper he gave me.

He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. "Oddly enough, this wasn't written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here's what he--Are you still with me?"

"Yes, sure I am."

"Here's what he said:"
The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause,  
while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

He leaned over and handed it to me. I read it right when he gave it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket. It was nice of him to go to all that trouble. It really was. The thing was, though, I didn't feel much like concentrating. Boy, I felt so damn tired all of a sudden.

You could tell he wasn't tired at all, though. He was pretty oiled up, for one thing. "I think that one of these days," he said, "you're going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you've got to start going there.

"But immediately. You can't afford to lose a minute. Not you."

I nodded, because he was looking right at me and all, but I wasn't too sure what he was talking about. I was pretty sure I knew, but I wasn't too positive at the time. I was too damn tired.

"And I hate to tell you," he said, "but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You'll have to. You're a student--whether the idea appeals to you or not. You're in love with knowledge. And I think you'll find, once you get past all the Mr. Vineses and their Oral Comp--"

"Mr. Vinsons," I said. He meant all the Mr. Vinsons, not all the Mr. Vineses. I shouldn't have interrupted him, though.

"All right--the Mr. Vinsons. Once you get past all the Mr. Vinsons, you're going to start getting closer and closer--that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it--to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them--if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

He stopped and took a big drink out of his highball. Then he started again. Boy, he was really hot. I was glad I didn't try to stop him or anything. "I'm not trying to tell you," he said, "that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It's not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they're brilliant and creative to begin with--which, unfortunately, is rarely the case--tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And--most important--nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?"

"Yes, sir."

He didn't say anything again for quite a while. I don't know if you've ever done it, but it's sort of hard to sit around waiting for somebody to say something when they're thinking and all. It really is. I kept trying not to yawn. It wasn't that I was bored or anything--I wasn't--but I was so damn sleepy all of a sudden.

"Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it'll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it'll fit and, maybe, what it won't. After a while, you'll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don't suit you, aren't becoming to you. You'll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly."

Then, all of a sudden, I yawned. What a rude bastard, but I couldn't help it!

Mr. Antolini just laughed, though. "C'mon," he said, and got up. "We'll fix up the couch for you."


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Emotional Handcuffs

I used to be elusive. I used to never let anyone know how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and I never wore my emotions on my sleeve. High school was the last time that applied. I smiled and joked and generally committed myself to a bouncy disposition.

It's been thirteen years, and since then I've gone to three colleges, toured all over the country, visited two others, and returned a lot more jaded, and with less care about who sees what I feel or hears what I think. And so I more or less say what I think and share what I feel, openly.

The only problem is, being an adult means you're supposed to have that filter installed. Now I get looked down upon for letting my emotions known. Telling someone about your bad day is burdensome, writing in Facebook status about a philosophy on love is childish, and not acting like everything is perfect as soon as you walk out your door is weak. My favorite part? This all comes on the feminist heels of how being a man doesn't mean you have to suppress everything and how it's okay to cry.


But don't believe it. Don't you ever, ever believe it. No matter how much a girl or woman may say she doesn't mind it if a guy shows vulnerability, or even if she says she likes it when a guy cries because it shows he can be sensitive, don't listen. Because while she may mean it in that moment, looking back, when she's in a bad mood or the waves in the relationship start getting rough, she'll remember you and how let her into that soft, delicate place inside you, and she'll see you as "whiny" - which strips away the main characteristics a man prides himself on: strength and security. And you won't be able to unring that bell.

So don't cry. Never cry. Never lament. Never let her in. She'll sucker you into a false sense of security then use your lapse in stoicism as a tool against you down the line.

Men: You are never free. That is the sad, unalienable truth. Men are raised to "suck it up and don't bitch" all their lives, and women are taught to see us that way from birth. A few months in a liberal classroom or a idealistic book she reads isn't going to reverse thousands of years of gender roles and expectations. Sure, some women may not like a quiet, enigmatic, silent rock type (though most do), but no woman will ever be with a guy that's as emotionally open and exposed as she is. They don't want to hear about our problems. Sharing our complaints makes them feel like they're suddenly mothering a helpless child. And we all know the double standard of letting them shed tears about their ex-boyfriends, the death of a pet, the loss of a house, being sick, or just simply venting during their "week". The capricious current of sympathy flows in only one direction between man and woman: From us to them.

Never be too proud to comfort, but never become too comfortable to be comforted.

We men get to be the physically stronger and faster sex, so the balance of that is that we don't "get" to sob and bemoan about life the way women do, no matter what persuasive words they may try to convince us with. It's unfortunate but it's true, and always will be.

And the ironic conundrum? While all men will know exactly what I'm talking about, women will see this entry about not being able to complain... as whining.

Thus, further proving the point.

-HKR

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hope Kills Logic

What is it to like someone? What is it that draws us to one particular person and not another? When we say we "like" or "love" someone... what is that? Is it chemical? Serendipitous magnetic charges? Neurons firing at a precise and consequential moment in time? Biological bubbling? Or simply chance?

So, okay: "I love you."

"Why do you love me?" they always eventually ask.

And how do we respond? We start listing off the things we love about them. Their hair. Their smile. The way they talk and move and think and their philosophies on life. The scent of them when they lay next to you. How they make love. The cute little thing their nose does. Their ambitions. The conversation. But then, aren't those just the essences that hook you and altogether form an emotion in you that manifests into love itself? When you say you love the food you're eating and someone goes, "Why?" You say, "'Cause it just...tastes great!" Not, "'Cause I love the brand of the spatula the chef used and the burlap sack the spices came in. And goodness, don't get me started on the mustache of the waiter who brought this dish to me. Let alone the quality of grand cherry oak of the table we're sitting at." Details like those are trivial as to why you enjoy what you're eating, aren't they? Not that hair and smiles and eyes and personality are petty issues when it comes to being in love with someone. But they're simply the ingredients of your love. Part of the recipe. Not the dish itself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Supervisor and the Mastermind


It's scary to think I might end up happy this time.

Thoughts and fears and insecurities get in the way, reminders of a past gone wrong.

I'm constantly afraid of overlooking something and being blindsided in my bliss.

There's a fine line between trying not to make the same mistakes and letting something new happen.

This could be good. Amazing good.

I'm trying to ignore the scars from others.

I'm trying.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Madness?


"I don't believe in souls, or reincarnation. But if I did, I'd believe we were Leonidas and Gorgo of Sparta.

"...or maybe Socrates and Plato. If you include the relations of the period."

Friday, November 2, 2012

What I want. And don't.

Looking back, I've always been fascinated with jobs that require a suit and tie ever since I began watching Friends in 1994. It sounds shallow, I know, but I was 12 at the time and after Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, my "adult-esque" influences had to come from somewhere. I always liked the character Chandler Bing, and how he made the most money out of everyone, didn't make a big deal about his job (by the end of the series, the running gag was that no one knew exactly what he did there, even after ten years), had a terrible childhood, and yet still managed to be the funniest and most caring of the group.

When my cousin Rick hooked me up with a gig at NBC/WB studios on the set of Friends and Mad About You, it was a dream come true. Suddenly, that appreciation for the "suit + tie = money" equation jumped to a whole new level. Execs and directors and management were bustling in and out, talking, demanding, making decisions; and even though I was only 16 when I started working there, I quickly understood that if you looked good, it was because you could afford to, and if you could afford to, it was because you were successful. Or so goes the illusion that we play to is presented.

Anyway. I'm obviously quite aware of the difference between fantasy and reality. I don't want to be Chandler Bing. After all, I've worked those awful retail jobs at Blockbuster, Kohl's, Office Depot and Petsmart in my late teens and early twenties. I've been a host, server and bartender at Red Robin and Applebees and was VIP at Disneyland during my mid-twenties. And I went on to cut decent paychecks touring with my band across the country for a couple years after that. But the desire to have a job that made money while also allowing me to look good has permeated into all of my goals towards a career. Even when I was with my band for a couple years, we wore suits onstage. Sure, it was a little tongue-firmly-in-cheek style, but I enjoyed it. Fast forwards to where I am now, I'm thisclose to finishing college after finally clearing away enough debris from my past to where I can see the elusive lights of my future beaming through the cracks. Life may have thrown a battalion of hell at me for thirty years causing me to stall, but I'm on the precipice of having a great job that can go on to become a fulfilling and lucrative career.

That said, I could make $300,000 a year (this is plausible) and none of it would mean anything to me if I didn't have something - someone - to come home to (also plausible).

Yes, he seems miserable.
So I make money. Enough to buy a house. And a dog. A new car. Brand-new wardrobe. So what. Now I'm just a lonely rich guy. I suppose most men in their 30's would find that setup downright Utopian, considering the disposable income and potentially disposable women. Young, good-looking, healthy, intelligent, a house, and places to go and people to see? No-strings-attached sex? What guy doesn't dream of obtaining that, to become Hugh Hefner incarnate?

Me.

I don't.

I just... don't. I never have.

When all of my friends were out partying and drinking and smoking weed and generally being teenagers, I was the designated driver. I was the one with the job and therefore the one with the money and therefore the one that bought the beer. I never got blitzed or wasted with them every weekend. I was the "responsible one", which invariably led me to lose all of my friends due to the fact that I ended up being so dissimilar. Maybe I was deemed the "party pooper" at the time, but when the dust settled, they all came to me about their real problems. When all my friends were having fun and having casual sex and trying to compete with each other over stories and scores (both guy and girls did this), I was the one that sat with them afterwards, privately stunned, as they all complained to me one by one over and over again about all the mistakes they made, all of the regrets, how alone they felt, and the occasional STD anecdote. I simply did not understand the allure of casual sex and meaningless "hook ups", when all it did was magnify your shallow desire for human contact and your deep flaw of fear of more at the same time.

I'm a firm believer that no one can just have sex. It's either really good sex (in which case you want more, which it then becomes more) or it's really bad sex (and you regret it entirely). And if it's just average "eh" sex, then you wasted your time to begin with, since you could have done a better job yourself. At least, that's my philosophy. What I do know is, that across the board, to every person that's ever existed, the best sex is when both people care deeply about each other. There are no exceptions to this rule. You might be able to pull off wilder sex with that crazy girl or that asshole guy; Or longer sex with that slut or womanizer; A guy may find bigger boobs or a better body and a girl may find a bigger penis with some stranger. But none of those equate to the best kind of sex. When both people care about each other, every option is on the table. If you love her, you'll do that crazy move or say those things she wants you to say. And if she loves you, she'll put on that lingerie or do that fetish. Finding someone close to you that you can share and indulge your secrets - the ones not appropriate for the outside world - creates a hidden, sexual bond that coincides with love. And that sex is the best sex.

When it comes right down to it, if the fate of the world came down to you having the best sex, you would choose the person you love.


*   *   *   *   *


My point is, I'm not a guy who dates girls in bunches. Nor am I a guy that "sees" multiple women. I'm a serial monogamist. I am me, I am who the fuck I am, and that's it. Due to this fact, my friends used to call me Maverick in homage to the main character in Top Gun (was actually on my name tag at work). They quickly learned that I never "fired until something good was locked on to." Meaning, I never cast a wide net and chose quantity over quality. I was patient when it came to choosing a woman... probably too patient. In my early twenties I went almost four years without a girlfriend, and yes, by choice. It was when I was 20-24, and to put it plainly, not many girls were worth a damn. Few still are. This isn't to say the sea of men is any easier for a woman to sift through, by any means. It's slim pickings either way, which only magnifies the importance of hanging on to someone special when you find them.

So what do I want? Same thing I've always dreams of since I was a kid: A house. A driveway. A yard. Decorations around the house. Nice neighbors. A crazy neighbor. A dog waking me up. A cat keeping me warm. And a woman to keep me humble. To wake up early, make coffee, put on nice clothes for work, kiss her goodbye, go to work, where I can make a difference in society and my community via teaching, art, advertising, and politics, and come home to my pets. And if she's not home by then, make dinner. Clean up around the house. Make her life easier. Go out and try new restaurants. New foods. Watch TV together. Keep her warm when her hands and feet are ice cold. Go out and see a movie. Talk politics and world views. Stay in pajamas all day and read. Plan for vacations; some luxurious, some more adventurous. But always enriching. I want her parents to be involved, and proud. I want my parents to be non-existent and forgotten (see, I'm not a complete romantic). I want to be around a family that I get along with, gets to see her happy, and invites us over for the holidays. I want to see what a real Thanksgiving is like. A real Christmas. I want my girlfriend to be proud of me, not ashamed of me. For once in my god damned life.

So many people throw away the and only thing I've ever truly wanted: Somewhere and someone to belong to.

And what about her? What do I want in my desired woman? Intelligent, first and foremost. This isn't everything I need (it never is), but it is the deal-breaker. She must possess it in spades. You could be Diora Baird, but if you're unable to dive even a few layers into a subject matter, cite sources or at least have an anecdote that relates to the subject, then I don't care. You lost me. You're a waste of time, at least on a relationship level. Am I an intellectual snob? Perhaps. It's just that if we can't sit and talk in depth about something - or at least you keep pace with me when the conversation hilariously veers off course for an hour - then how could I possibly justify spending the more important days and years of my life with you?

α + α = <4
She must be beautiful. This isn't shallow of me; It's natural and it's ingrained into my being. Being physically attracted to someone and them being physically attracted to you is the one and only thing that pushes a friendship into deeper territory. After all, if two people laugh and like the same things, think alike, share moments, and help each other but have absolutely no intention or desire to have sex with one another, guess what they are? Friends. But you can take two people who only agree on 1/10th of the same things, and if they like fucking each other's brains out, you've got yourself a relationship. Or a hooker. Depends on what gets exchanged in the afterglow. All I'm saying is that, to me, she has to be beautiful. I must be physically attracted to her. I suppose I should define what that entails?

Short or long hair, doesn't matter much, although I tend to lean towards long.
Hair color doesn't matter. Half the women out there aren't showing their true hair color anyway.
She can't be overweight.
Flip side, she can't be super-ripped and buff. Or 90lbs. and skin and bones.
I don't want to feel like I'm having sex with a small boy.
I want to be with a woman. Curves. A body.
She has to taste good.
Kiss well.
Have a sexual drive at least on par with mine.
Height? I'm 6'2" when I'm not slouching like an idiot, so she can't be taller than me.
I think anything under 5'2" would weird me out. I dunno. At that point I suppose it would depend on how she carries herself.
Democrat.
Or open-minded Republi- No, no, scratch that. Democrat.
And she can't be religious.
Maybe... spiritual, but not religious (there's a difference, look it up). I don't believe in God and I don't want to have to deal with explaining why humans and dinosaurs never lived together and that man did not "ride on them like in the Flintstones."

She can't need marriage just because society says so. I'm not against it, per se, in that I hate people who get married. It's not like that at all. It's just a personal choice. I don't see it as an end-game goal, and while I understand the benefits to it (social, economic and otherwise), I think I'm just one of those people that just doesn't give a damn. Maybe when I'm older? And she proves herself to me? And vice versa? I dunno. But it's not on my radar right now and I'm not chasing that idea. Same with kids. She can't need kids just because "it's our job to as a human race". Not right now, anyway. To be honest, I can't imagine myself being ready emotionally or mentally to raise a child. Because, really, the woman who can be with me isn't going to be able to be a mom, either. I just kinda laughed. I adore kids, though.


*   *   *   *   *


I want to enjoy life. I'm free from the burden of some ethereal god's mythical judgement, and thanks to my childhood I don't have to worry about any parental or family approval of what I'm doing or who I'm doing it with. That said, I want to work, love, be loved, and learn as much as I can about this world before I'm forced to go. And I want her to be with me when I do all of these things. Whatever it is we do. We can go to places she's always dreamed of going and she can teach me all she knows and I can be constantly twitterpated in awe at her unending curiosity with the world.

She has to have drive. Want more out of life. Not be content with everything. To keep moving forward, higher, to keep learning. However, the tricky part is, she still has to have the ability to be happy and appreciate things. Her life, her health, the little moments that mean more than we remember, etc.

And me. She has to appreciate me. At the very least, for what I try to do.

I'm a giver. I buy gifts. I stop and think of little surprises. I write letters. I listen and pay attention to conversation and pick up ideas for dinners, birthdays, and vacations. I enjoy cleaning. Laundry, vacuuming, dishes, washing the car, mowing the lawn, setting up computers, televisions, fixing appliances, plumbing, everything. I like it. It makes me feel like I'm making the place I'm in my own. I've lived in five or six different places over the course of my life, and I'm inevitably always the one that cleans up. And it's almost always been with other guys and roommates, so I've always been the one that cooks and prepares and yes, even makes dinner. I used to find it incredibly annoying. There were plenty of times where things got into arguments with my friends and I just listed off everything I did while all they did was sit back and drink and play videogames while I cleaned the place up before going to work. I felt like a nagging wife. Or their mom. But I look back now with a bit of masochistic appreciation: It was a boot camp for being grown up. I learned how to live on my own and take care of myself by dealing with ungrateful others.

I like grocery shopping. I like making coffee in the morning. I like giving massages - feet, shoulders, back, everything - every day. I love hearing a girl moan and groan when I rub their tight and tense muscles, because I know how good that feels. I love listening to every absurd and ridiculous moment that happened throughout her day. Your boss said something stupid? Tell me about it. Your co-worker wore something awful? Let's make fun of her. Your sibling did something infuriating? Let's analyze it. You're just flat-out having a bad day? Let's take your mind off of it over some wine and chocolate. I've sat and watched some terrible shows with girls solely because I know it comforts them; Jersey Shore, attending church, Sex and the City - for fuck's sake, I went to the midnight showings of the Twilight movies for one girl. Do I get any rollover credit?

The show where every guy is a ripped, hung, wealthy bank investor
that's amazing at sex and still not good enough.
As bad as that sounds, really, deep down, the pros outweighed the cons because her happiness is more important than my temporary eye-rolling boredom. And to be honest, I would hope she would be willing to do the same for me. One day.

This doesn't mean I'm perfect. I still have my "guy" moments. I swear pretty casually. That's a bad habit. The good news is, after meeting dozens of ex-girlfriends' parents, I can shut it off instantly. I was with my last girlfriend for about five years, and for half a decade, not once did I slip a single bad word around her ultra-Christian family. So that's a badge. I watch basketball sometimes. Mainly just during the playoffs. But never with a crowd of guys in my living room, screaming at the TV, spilling buffalo wings and ranch on the carpet and yelling at my woman to bring me a beer. It's usually just me and my brother watching the game somewhere else while we talk about life in general. I don't drink (I've only been drunk once in my life), I've never done drugs (not even weed), and I don't smoke (though I did, briefly, for a few months after my beloved godmother died).

I have a terrible time dealing with sadness. I overthink. Though I'd gladly stop if the worse-case scenario would stop coming true. I'm paranoid about making her feel bad (and hence, finding me undesirable), that instead of yelling and fighting, I'll grab my keys and go out and drive alone for a couple hours. In a weird way, this shows how much I love her. With anyone else - friends, family, etc. - I'll just rip on them and bomb them and logic and facts, and I'll do so for hours until they concede I'm right or we can at the very least come to a concession of where a misunderstanding took place. And that fire in me was planted via decades of living with my family. They're almost all vindictive, volatile and venomous people. And just to survive there you had to know how to scrap yourself out of a corner. So that's in me, and I know it, and I never want to subject the woman I love to that heat. So I drive. It's not healthy, but it's the only solution I have right now that helps me find my center and put perspective on a situation. And it usually works. Usually.

When all is said and done, though, I'm loyal. I don't lie, and I don't cheat. I believe women should be cherished, and if you find one that cares about you, she should be valued above all else. Which is what I do.


I'm getting older now - I'll be 31 in a few months - and I'm running out of time to be relevant. Both to society and the opposite sex. If I'm being completely honest, I'm not worried about ending up alone. It's not hard for someone like me to find a girl to like him. That's easy. A smile, a wink, a dash of philosophy, and lowering my bar just enough to pick someone up that doesn't know any better. That wouldn't be difficult. So I'm not worried about ending up alone.

No.

No, I'm worried about ending up not happy.

Not ending up with my house that I work on and spend money to improve. Not ending up with my dog, my cat, my huge bed, my guest bedroom, my new guitars, and good food every day. Not having someone home to ask me how my day went. Or introduce me to new things. Hell, I'm not even worried, really. Just quite simply afraid.

I don't want to go on vacations with someone empty inside. With someone that doesn't know the depths of me. I don't want to continue to build my life without someone important and incredible. I don't want to come home to someone I have to hide thoughts from. I don't want to establish my mini-empire in my little corner of this world with a broken heart. I want to go out and have fun with someone I can cry with, share secrets with... go on road trips for hours, days, and weeks to new places... fly to new countries with, make fun of people with, exchange glaces over the heads of 99.9% of the population, have nonsensical inside jokes with... have sex with on good days, fuck on those crazy stressful days, and make love to on those nights when she appreciates me as much as I appreciate her.

It's impossible, I know.

But it's what I want.

-HKR

Blue Spin Zone

"Most of us become infatuated with certain people over the course of our lives. Once in awhile that passionate feeling works out, but much of the time it does not. Infatuation is always temporary, often based upon nothing other than powerful attraction. Unfortunately, that kind of attraction often makes us do thing we would not ordinarily do. 

I was once infatuated with a woman who was the poster girl for venality. This woman was so selfish, she made Leona Helmsley look like Edith Bunker. She was off-the-charts manipulative and didn’t even try to fake that she wasn’t. She was so good-looking, she knew she could con men into giving her just about anything she wanted.

For the record: Left - Leona Helmsley, Right - Edith Bunker

"I actually thought I could change this woman. This was insane. She was disrespectful to pretty much everybody, including her parents, and openly mocked some people she had screwed over. One time she hid behind her answering machine as an old boyfriend asked her for a callback. She snorted derisively even though she had gone with the guy for years. I told her flat out that she was engaging in disgraceful behavior, but even though I knew the woman was a block of ice, I did not disengage. Looking back, she should have been lodging at the Playboy Mansion, not hanging around with me.

"The good news is that I did not alter my behavior. I associated with this woman but kept my defenses up and my actions under control. Finally I wised up and told her I had better things to do with my life. However, I wasted and enormous amount of time and energy dealing with the lady, on mostly her terms. So if this can happen to me, a rather hard-edged, no-nonsense kind of guy, then it can happen to anyone.

"The solution to toxic people is simple but difficult. You must divert yourself away from them. Once again it comes down to discipline. If the fruit tastes good but you bleed after eating it, you’ve got to dine elsewhere or be drained all the time.

"What society needs is a 12-step program for infatuated American. This organization would supply wise counselors when we are tempted to associate with those who would do us harm but look so good doing it. I’m not kidding. If you can get somebody to come over and talk you out of making that stupid phone call to that dangerous person, do it. Then immediately go out and have fun.

"You can have plenty of good people in your life, but one emotional partner who is pernicious can negate them all. Remember, chaos always breeds more chaos. If a romantic partner (or even a family member) is causing you consistent and unnecessary pain, get out and stay out. The short-term feeling of loss is nothing compared to the damage that a truly bad or weak person can do to your life. You must see people as they are, not as you want them to be. You are not going to change a callous, cruel, selfish person.

"If you do hook up with Dr. or Ms. Evil, don’t blame me. I’ve told you the truth -- you can’t change him or her. Some people are bad to the bone and there’s nothing anyone but the authorities can do. Learn it, live it, and spread the word."

- Bill O'Reilly, an excerpt from "The No Spin Zone"

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Konstantine.

When it all comes together...

The weight of my body on hers, the swerve of the love in hers, the cold hands anchoring themselves around my arms, my back and shoulders, my hands pawing at every bit of her I can grasp...

The scents of the warm aura and the moist creases of the lower neck, the shoulders, inside the elbow, the chest...

Softly taking flesh between teeth with appreciation of the color and the taste of flushed skin and hushed whispers...

Grabbing hold of hips and fingers gripping curves that flex with every turn and slide, exhales in the darkness, smiling in relieving ecstasy, tasting sweat, sliding fingers through hair, making a fist, pulling back, licking freckles...

Taunts and pleas and mewing in the moonlight, under over covers, damp sheets and pillows stamped with our sweat...

Gripping and pulling, spinning and pushing, skin heating, blanket clenching, perspiration collecting in curves, blank thoughts and blissful prayers, envious neighbors...

Promises, deep inside, claiming, marking, imagining, fulfilling, letting go, filling...

Radiating...

The afterglow, the glaze, the slowing, the world slowly coming back into view, the cars outside the 3rd floor window, the people, the music, the lights, and how it's all unconcerned with us in these tall, tall walls of secrecy and safety...

When it all comes together...

"...there is no one like us."

-HKR

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paperclips.



"I want to shoot technology in the face."

[laughs] In the face?

"In it's stupid, smug...

Cyclical?

"...smug, cyclical face."

You realize you'd be shooting it with technology.

"No I wouldn't. I'd shoot it with fire."

So you want to shoot Technology in it's smug, cyclical face with fire.

"Yes. I hate it."



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Exhale, These Static Romances


This moonlit chill in my chest fills my head with doubts and my breath with fog. All of these broken playgrounds of swing-set hearts... it’s all just... rusted. Everyone’s made of recycled air.

Every girl is a fallen star collection; a pixie, imperfect. Warm hearts and frozen fingers are the order of the evening - every evening - until 5:47 a.m., when heavy lids take the place of weary souls and emotion invincible. The most important moments that govern our lives always seem to take place in our absence. And that itself fuels our fear of slumber.

So much can be lost through gallons of apathy and yet so much can be avoided: White knuckles and crumbling plaster, living quick and dying faster. We’re all just static romances. With fluorescent hums in place of hopes, replacing dreams...colliding perpetually in cathode rays of light, being watched by someone else; Someone far grander than we can conceive.

He must be watching - but laughing -at all this poetic numbness.

-HKR

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Princess Pillow and the Story of How the Earth Was Created


Are you tucked in? 

"Yes."

Lights off?

"Just the one above my bed is on."

Warm?

"Kinda."

Okay. Close your eyes and just listen. Relax.

"Mkay."

Once upon a time there was a princess named Pillow...

"Why Pillow?"

Because when the queen was giving birth she just looked at the closest thing to her and named her daughter that and she was very tired and stop interrupting my story go to sleep.

[laughs] "Okay."

Okay... Once upon a time there was a princess named Pillow. And she was very fat.

"Oh, God."

Hey, this will have feminist undertones, so you'll appreciate it. Close your eyes.

"Oh boy."

Now Pillow was a fat girl. And all the girls at her school told her that if she wanted to find a boy, she should be skinny and pretty like they are. But no matter how hard Pillow tried, she couldn't get skinny. So instead of being made fun of by everyone, she just went around ate all the pretty boys.

"This is ridiculous."

Look, do you want me to hang up and you can tell yourself a bedtime story? 'Cause you won't have my voice and this story is about to get awesome.

[laughs again] "No, no. Continue."

Alright. Close your eyes and relax. Just imagine what I'm saying.

"Who is going to do the drawings for this book of yours?"

Picasso will illustrate.

"And who will do the soundtrack? Hall and Oates?"

That's for people over the age of 45.

"Fergie?"

That's for people under the age of 15.

"But I like...

IsaidNoFergie.

"Okay. Go on."

So Pillow just went around eating all the pretty boys and any girl who made fun of her. And all the halls and all the oats and every black-eyed peas in the world. All that was left was ugly boys, nice girls, and good music.This made her bigger and bigger and fatter and more swollen than ever before. 

"Swollen..."

That was just for you.

"I know."

Keep your eyes closed.

Now Pillow was so fat, that she didn't know what to do with herself. She was all alone, and all the skinny girls were telling her she should stop eating people. They told her that she should try to diet and exercise not because she would be prettier - she was already beautiful inside - but because it would make her healthier. And being healthy is always better. So Pillow decided it was time to start living right. She start dieting and running. She ran a mile in 40 minutes, then 20, then 14, and then she got it down to a 7 minute mile. Which is pretty good. But then one day she ran so much that at the end, she was so exhausted that she threw up. And she threw up all the pretty boys and mean girls all over again. 

"This isn't helping."

I'm making this up on the fly, here.

[chuckles] "I can tell."

So then the princess looked up at the narrator and said this premise is pretty fucking thin. 'I know,' replied the narrator. 'Then let's start wrapping this up and bringing it together somehow. I'm tired of being fat.' 'Alright, chill the fuck out. I got this,' said the narrator.

"I bet you do."

I do. Close your eyes.

"Mmmm..."

By this time, since nice pretty girls don't exist, Pillow created a reality where boys actually had more choices than girls did in relationships. No longer could girls go around picking and choosing boys on a whim while leaving the ugly boys to wither away in a dive bar somewhere. But the universe couldn't handle such a dynamic. The thread of the space-time continuum were being shredded apart, all because Pillow had a weight and ego problem. 
So Pillow decided to just eat the entire world. Ugly boys, pretty boys, skinny girls, nice girls and all. She just ate the entire world. In one gulp. And soon, she was just floating in space. How did she survive? Well, she ate the atmosphere, too, which gave her enough oxygen to live on for a few hundred years. Which was just enough time she needed to flutter away to an alien planet.
At the alien planet, she was greeted by more girls. And they never made fun of her weight. But she noticed there were no boys. The girls pointed to the sky at another planet; a planet of all boys. On this planet, shit got done. Things got built. There were socks lying around everywhere, and entire holidays were dedicated to Call of Duty and Buffalo Wild Wings, but it functioned. It didn't smell as pretty as the girl planet, but it was less dramatic. 
Pillow knew what she had to do. With her last breath, she ate both the girl world and the boy world, swirled them together in her mouth, made one single planet, and spit it out into space. There, as she floated away, she saw a planet with boys and girls of all sizes, shapes, weights, heights, colors and beliefs, and they were all getting along. She cried seven big tears - which made seven great oceans. 
And as she floated away into the sun, she tried to name the planet. But her mouth was full of chocolate covered gummy bears and all that came out was, "Urf." And the people heard "Earth." And when she floated into the sun, she exploded.
 And that's where solar flares come from.

You awake?

[yawns] "Mmm... I love your voice."

Why?

"It's comforting. Makes me sleepy."

Yours, too.

"Goodnight, Red."

And the princess finally, mercifully, peacefully fell asleep.  
The end. 
Sweet dreams, Blue.

-HKR

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Mayonnaise Jar and the Two Beers.


A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes.'

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.The students laughed..

"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions - and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car... The sand is everything else: the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you."

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.


-HKR

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Less than four.


There's not much left you can say when you're soul is no longer whole. You can find esoteric words to use, but none of them hold meaning or can come close to accurately defining the depths of you.

Some people are drawn to brilliance and will chase it endlessly; like a naive moth fluttering around life's porch light in a futile attempt to catch... something. Who knows? Its own agenda.

Other people respond to bitterness, and will only react to the negative in life. They crave friction. The good things may be cautiously accepted, but it's the dark that truly stirs their mental tanks. And then they wonder why it keeps reoccurring, never realizing that just by reacting to the negative, it positively reinforces the cycle.

I'm broken. But, like a boulder that's been obliterated by dynamite, I still exist, even if half of me has disappeared into dust. The rest of me resides in little pieces - never to be whole again - for everyone who knows me to pick up their own special fragment of what I mean to them. No one I know in my life has ever seen me whole, but everyone's got a piece of me in their pocket to keep. They freely take it with them via memories, and I freely let them have it.

But not you...

I wanted you to see me put together again. I wanted to be whole with you. To be something - someone - you could lean on. To give you shade during those especially tough days. To protect you when you needed someone to hide behind. To stand on when you wanted a better view of the world. And to always be there when you needed me, and you would always know where to look and find me.

But you just stood and lit another fuse.

And walked away.

-HKR

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Acoustic Commiserations.

Intimacy is such a strange, scary thing.

There's always those moments when you kiss someone new where they feel alien. Standing up and kissing them... gently pressing lips to lips that aren't yours... new scents and sensations you've never pressed before. Her breath so dissimilar yet humid and fresh... nervous to go on. Her smaller body curving, molding into mine... so invigorating and terrifying. Her smaller and more slender fingers wrapped around my neck, and another hand along my arm... I would never get used to it.I would never grow tired of it. Each kiss is another lesson. Each kiss you learn something new about their rhythm, their pace, their preference of top or bottom; when to breathe and when to hold it in; the signals their jaw gives. And the absolute best and treasured of them all... the kiss that inexorably turns into a smile... the smile that you feel with your eyes closed. Feeling their lips tighten and hear that breathing grin.

Arms wrap around and pull you down on the floor with a giggle, never missing a heartfelt beat. The warmth of their skin, the way her hair behaves when she rolls around on the ground, as she tries to "win". Senses so untrained to each others movements... You strive for that one reaction you want to induce over and over again.

Love - in those very secret moments - is in its truest element; where is belongs. You are both meant. You are both meant to be there. You still have so much of each other to explore and the adventure is just getting started.... with a kiss.

I've never had that before.

-HKR

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chasing Amy

"I love you."

 "And not in a friendly way, although I think we’re great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way, although I’m sure that’s what you’ll call it. And it’s not because you’re unattainable. I love you. Very simple, very truly. You’re the epitome of every attribute and quality I’ve ever looked for in another person. I know you think of me as just a friend and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you’d ever consider. But I can’t do this any longer. I can’t stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can’t look into your eyes without feeling that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can’t talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. I know this will probably queer our friendship - no pun intended - but I had to say it, because I’ve never felt this before, and I like who I am because of it. 

"And if bringing it to light means we can’t hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But I couldn’t allow another day to go by without getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot- down. And I’ll accept that. But I know some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there is a moment of hesitation, that means you feel something too. All I ask is that you not suppress that - at least for ten minutes - and try to dwell in it before you dismiss it.

 "There isn’t another soul on this fucking planet who’s ever made me the person I am when I’m with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it’s there between you and me. You can’t deny that. And even if we never speak again after tonight, please know that I’m forever changed because of you and what you’ve meant to me, which - while I do appreciate it - I’d never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Religion's Intellectual Ceiling


[Forward to 1:40 for the magical moment.]

We do understand the tides, actually. Now, if he used an example of something that we don't currently understand, this would be less susceptible to comedic mockery than, "Tides come in, tides go out, you can't explain that." Yes we do. We've known how to explain that for the last couple hundred years. Give a better example. If he said, "There's dark matter and dark energy forcing the expansion of the universe so fast that it's accelerating. You can't explain that." Right! We can't explain it. I don't think Bill knows enough about physics to tell us what we don't understand yet.

But here's the paradox: If he wants to use that line of reasoning for his explanation of God, all we have to do is come back and ask, "If you don't understand something and the community of physicists don't currently understand something, does that means God did it?" Is that how you want to play this game? Because if it is, there's a list of things in the past that the physicists at the time didn't understand. And a talk show Bill might have conducted 200 years ago would have said, "The planets do retrograde? You can't explain that. Must be God." And at the time we'd say, "You know, you're right." And then ten years later we'd understand it. So then what do you do?

Winds and fire and lightning were explained by Aeolus, Vulcan and Zeus. The moon and earthquakes were explained by ravens and turtles. Over the centuries, science has proved physics and evolution as the catalyst and answer for mysteries, and not ethereal deities that judge us from on high. Christianity is merely one of the newest religions to form and try to use their god as the explanation for the currently unexplainable. Until we find the answer. And then it's on to something else to assign "God" to.

If that's how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then the notion of God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance. It's getting smaller and smaller as time moves on. So be ready for that to happen if that's how you want to come at the problem. It's simply the God-Of-The-Gaps argument that's been around forever.

And for the record, I don't even mind or care if someone wants to say, "You don't understand that? God did it." That doesn't bother me. What does bother me is when a person is so content in that answer that they no longer have curiosity to learn how it happened. The day you stop looking and trying to learn because you're content "God did it," I don't need you anymore.

You're useless on the frontier of understanding the nature of the world. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Disaster Porn"


A lot of people got shot this summer and since we’re not going to do anything about any of it – not even a token gesture with real impact – it’ll happen again soon. And everyone’s reactions will be exactly the same. So just imagine another shooter. Let’s say he’s got green hair this time and he hated working at Lobster Pot – it doesn’t matter. This is now the mass-shooting template for America:

► Day one: The shooting. The shock. The live coverage. Footage of crying people hugging and police in riot gear making their way through the building. Death tolls indicate the amount of coverage: Below five: it’s a one-day story. If it’s above five, it’s officially a national tragedy. Brian Williams is going to be there all week.

Both candidates release statements saying they’re shocked by this senseless tragedy and their hearts go out to the victims and their families and the community at large. They will rebuild.

► Day two: We find out who the gunman is. We’ll also find out it was easy for him to build a small arsenal. Interviews with neighbors former teachers, etc. Lots of shots of candles and teddy bears by a fence.

► Day three: We find out someone warned someone else about the gunman being a nut. The media asks, “Could more have been done?”

The NRA sends out a fundraising letter saying Obama will use this to come and take your guns.

► Day four: Here come the stories of heroism. They replace the stories of tragedy. You’ll hear the term “guardian angel.” A lot. Because viewers can only do tragedy for so long. They want to hear about someone taking a bullet for a loved one.

► Day five: Liberal columnists start pressing the gun issue. Conservative columnists respond by saying more people with guns could have shot the gunman earlier. Nobody changes their mind.

► Day six: President Obama tells us to search our souls. Which sounds better than “Really, stop asking me to do something about guns. It’s election season. And I don’t care.”

And we’re done.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sketched


Everything's different now.

The desk is gone. The chair's moved out. The last of her clothes have been handed back to her. Long ago, the empty apartment, the empty passenger seat, the empty rooms, and the empty driveway. Stuffed animals, movie theater stubs, DVDs, recipes, rings and things.

It's strange. A part of me always felt like she was just on vacation. Like she was coming back. Like this was all just some alternative universe I was stuck in, still in queue to go back home.

But we're on our way now, both of us on the road to just becoming people we used to know.

I don't know how long we've been broken up for - I haven't exactly been counting. Some days it feels like it was last night. Others, like it was merely years ago.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Welcome To The Jungle

I had a dream during my brief, 90-minute slumber. I’m slowly recalling it, and it’s more and more strange as it comes to me in pieces.

A Vietnam setting. I was in the war, crawling in the mud through swamps. My troops and I come to a small muddy island, maybe 30 ft. x 8 ft.; long and narrow. The wierd thing is, my allies are donald duck-looking guys. Like, seriously, a bunch of Donald Ducks and Scrooge McDucks. They were all wearing army gear and all serious and everything; yelling, waving troops in, ducking, rolling, shooting into the forest, everything.

All of a sudden, these... cuban-looking guys (which is odd, considering this is supposedly Vietnam) jump on my back and grab my hair and lift my head up. The other one jumps in front of me and looks me in the face and brandishes a machette. And then he smiled and grabbed the back of my neck as he sliced my throat.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Rembrandts

After an interesting week, I suddenly have a flood of people swearing they're my friends - and always have been. To each of them I politely nodded in quiet acknowledgement, shrugged, and mustered my best, "All right." This isn't to say I felt they were lying. I'm sure they genuinely believed their words. But the truth is, what they consider "being a friend", I consider "being a mere acquaintance". Friends aren't people you have to chase down and tackle just to share what's only now barely appropriate. Friends are people who find out what's wrong alongside you because they're willingly a part of your life every day. They call. Or come over. Or offer lunch. They're just there. Constantly.

But as we get older, finding friends like that becomes virtually impossible. From your mid-20s and beyond, you have to concentrate on your life and work on becoming the person you're meant to become. Unfortunately, the side effect of that is that you have no time or energy to actively deal with other people's problems. In fact, many times, someone else's problem is your gain, and you're taught to use that advantage to improve your own situation in life. So misery is actually a good thing, provided you're sidestepping that landmine and ensuring others take the fall. Thinning the herd, so to speak.

My point is, the type of friendship that would genuinely benefit me right now can't really be provided by anyone anymore. And that's no one's fault. That's the simple evolution of life. You grow up, be your own person, everyone else be damned, and only after you're successful do you circle back and check how everyone else is. Usually to stand and compare at the finish line.

It's this race of life that put me in the predicament that I'm currently in: Somewhere around 6th or 7th grade I stopped caring about coming in first place and started caring more about what people thought about me. Chalk that up to abuse at home, skipping grades, losing friends, genetic faults, whatever you want. The fact remains that I was never rewarded for intellectual or academic superiority; only punished for not behaving properly or bullied for not being likable enough. The true consequences in my life occurred based on my lack of personality and charm, not grades and rubric scores. So I adapted. I went for the funny. I watched Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, MadTV, Friends and other movies that had characters everyone at school enjoyed and laughed at. I did impressions, accents, jokes, skits, dances, and even miming through the windows for my classmates when the teacher made me stand outside for misbehaving in class. I may have plummeted from Principal's Honor Roll to pasting Ds and Fs across the board (always As in PhysEd, though), but I was popular. Everyone knew me, everyone wanted to be my friend, and girls liked being in my groups. Along the way I was voted "Funniest" three years in a row. I figured my home was a nightmare regardless of my scholastic progress, so I might as well have fun at school. I never skipped classes, never ditched, never intentionally acted sick to miss a day. School was my sanctuary. I couldn't be touched or hurt there, and I was surrounded by hundreds of friends who adored me and I adored in return.

This strategy obviously doesn't translate very well by the time you're 30. The world wants documentation and papers and citations and numbers proving your worth, to which I have none. And friends don't have all summer to hang out anymore. Everyone has a career they're hammering away on, children they're trying to juggle, and a husband, wife or a divorce they're tolerating/smothering with love. "Hanging out with friends" is, at best, 4th or 5th on the list of priorities. At worst, it's deemed a waste of precious time.

You're going to lose friends. Period. The longer you live, the more friends you're going to lose. Because the more time people spend existing, the more opportunities life presents them with ways to differ from each other. When you're in elementary school, everyone's on the same page: Dogs bark, cats and cute, and glitter is edible. In middle school, physicality starts bubbling to the surface, and the athletes separate themselves from the intellectuals, and vice versa. In high school, those subgroups are fragmented even more by music and after-school life, with surfers, skaters, jocks, nerds, goths, hipsters, band kids, theater groups, and so on. By the time college comes around, politics and religion have entered into the mainstream of the young consciousness, further splitting everyone into smaller and smaller groups.

This is why we all played "Duck-Duck-Goose" in groups of forty in 2nd grade but now discuss global economic policies with a only like-minded friend or two in a coffee shop.


So relationships become the primary source of emotional, physical - and sometimes mental - equilibrium. We start craving for a connection with someone else on our astronomically specific level of personality combinations. As previously pointed out, friends simply don't have the time or resources to truly understand or care about you or your problems in depth. But that one right person does. Call it love if you want (or don't), but that spark is the highly saturated remains of a desire that no longer gets fulfilled by spending time with dozens of friends every day. There's a reason friendships become more important as you get older: There's less of them. But the same need for them exists. And when no true friends are possible, the intensity for a meaningful connection magnifies And that's why finding someone you click with feels so mind-blowing, amazing, scary and overwhelming at times. They're essentially every friend you've had/needed in one being.

I appreciate the friends I have now and all the reaching out they've done. I won't use names, but there have been a few pleasant surprises. But I also know that if I don't initiate texts or calls or speak to them, they won't text, call or speak to me back. Which, again, is 100% normal and can't be criticized. We'll see who cares enough to stick with me this time around.

I'm done helping people at the sacrifice of myself. I've been burned over and over and over again, and if I'm being honest, it's my fault. I've been forcing my naive 7th grade mentality on the world, believing that just getting people to like you is enough, and that trust is a default setting. But the adult world is cynical, negative, and needs an ass-kicking. And I'm tired of being nice. I've given up on having good friends.

But friends or no friends, all I want is my one connection.

So I have someone to share my world-stomping with.

-HKR

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Endth Degree


"Is going to college still even worth it? College grads are coming out with degrees, yes – and herpes – but also with student loan debt totaling $60,000, $80,000, $100,00. These kids haven’t even gotten started in their careers and they’re already saddled with what’s tantamount to a full mortgage. In this shitty economy, graduates find themselves back in their old bedrooms at their parents’ homes, taking jobs in the service industry that they could have gotten without a college degree.

"The cost of higher education in the US has soared in recent decades while median incomes have stagnated. The California State University schools raised their tuition for the second time in less than a year, making this year’s tuition over 23% higher than the previous fall’s. And those are just the most recent increases. Attending a Cal State school now costs twice what it cost just back in 2007. And that’s not even counting the price of weed.

"The old canard is that people with bachelor’s degrees make twice as much as high school graduates over their careers. But average starting salaries for college graduates just fell 10% and, if you take into account the higher income taxes paid by college grads and the four to six years they spend out of the job market getting their degrees, is that $60,000 to $100,000 in college loan debt really worth it?

"And is the degree really worth it? A new comprehensive study of college grading over the decades finds that just about everybody who pays their tuition bills is deemed exceptional. 43% of letter grades awarded today are A’s as compared to just 15% back in 1960. By 2008, A’s and B’s represented 73% of all grades awarded at public colleges and 86% of all grades awarded at private colleges. It’s Lake Wobegon,  'Where all the children are above average.' And that’s in spite of studies that show college students spend far less time studying today than they did decades ago.

"If everybody is a genius, aren’t you paying $100,000 to $150,000 just to get your ticket stamped? You’re not buying an education so much as you’re buying a degree with a commendable GPA. Has the college degree with a B average become just a consumer product you can buy with a $100,000 loan? Wouldn’t a bright, industrious kid be better off in this economy to just jump into the job market and try to excel through merit?"

- Bill Maher

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Screaming Insecurities

"You always help everyone else but you never let anyone help you."

Dear God, the amount of times I've heard that in my life. It's right up there with, "He has the smarts, he just doesn't apply himself!", "You were right," and, "Santa hates you." And while the latter three only mildly bug me due to the only possible reaction being a smirk and a shrug, the You-Never-Open-Up lecture has always lingered around in my mind with each new person that says it as I add them to my collection of arms-length "friends".

What caused this? I dunno. I'm fairly certain there's no singular catalyst. It's not like Bruce Wayne where the reason he became Batman was (1) the death of his parents and (2) see number 1. If you dig around my past enough you could chalk it up to abuse, neglect, stress, abandonment, and a host of other after-school special plot lines. And I'm sure they'd all be valid to a degree and could be easily snapped into place in my psyche's history.

But why do I still do it? That's a more complicated subject. It's not as if I'm immune to loneliness. I go through that every night. I don't fall asleep next to someone, which is a big thing for me. Even going back to college constantly reminds me of how out of the loop I've become. Put it this way: I went through high school before Google or cell phones. In fact, the only thing the internet was good for was AOL instant messaging... mainly because there were no cell phones. So there's a very intense gap between me and most kids there. The internet jump-started a mini-generation that I was at the beginning of, but now anyone even 3+ years younger than me reveals a stark contrast in culture. Even when I'm around colleagues at work, there's still a disconnect, because after we're done at the studio, I head home and they go out without me because I don't drink - not socially, anyway. And there's no comfort at home (sans my guitars) which would normally be enough to temper the sting of solitude if the songs and sounds that come to my fingers didn't amplify the situation.

"Then sing happy songs!" 

That's like telling someone who stepped on a landmine to "walk it off."

Shut up.

Monday, June 4, 2012

...and a Happy New Year.


Walking out of church, Greg asks if he can be driven to his car at the other parking lot. My father nods and through the crowd of people breathing steam under a chilly night, we find our car. A few slow minutes and a gradual turn or two, we arrive at my brothers spot. I tell my family I'll ride with Greg to my great grandmother's house and I'll see them in a few. They wave me off.

On a whim, my brother decides he's hungry and asks if we can stop to get some pizza before we get there. We pull into a Papa Johns and order a special for $13.50. Ten minutes later, I'm ducking into his 2001 Mitsubishi Mirage with a hot box of pizza in my lap. We share a few jokes back and forth, laughing with our heads thrown back and elbowing each other's shoulders on each punchline.

Our cell phones both buzz simultaneously. The intersection's red so we pull them out and check. It's from my little sister, Lindsey. "Get here right now!" it reads. Greg and I smile at each other at my sister's technological ingenuity and continue on down the dark highway telling jokes and discussing our fantasy basketball league.

My phone rings. It's Lindsey again.

"Neil, can you please get here right now?"

"Why, what's up?"

"Um, everybody is fighting."

Rolling my eyes, "God, about what."

"I don't know. Shelby and grandma were yelling and then they were pushing and stuff and then grandpa was there and Jerry started hitting everyone and now grandpa's bleeding."

"WHAT!??!"

"They're inside yelling right now."

"Is mom there?"

"She's in there yelling, too."

"Stay outside!"

I tell Greg to drive.

I swing the car door open and jump onto the curb before Greg can come to a complete stop. Running across the street, I shove my sleeves up. I can hear the yelling from inside already. I jump the porch railing. The front door is half open and I hear heavy objects being knocked over from inside. I shoulder the door hard and dash into the living room. And there's Jerry, my 38 year old cousin, smiling and looking down at my grandfather on the floor while my mother stands between them. My grandma is on the floor in the kitchen holding her knee. As the front door i hit slams the wall behind it, everyone looks back at me. I ask what the fuck is going on and point at Jerry. He looks at me and jumps behind the lounge chair. My mother, Donna, Shelby and Debbie run in front of me to stop me from charging Jerry but I moved them aside. My great grandmother, June, yells my name and tells me to just stay put. Jerry stands up, pulls his long hair back behind his head and runs down the hallway to his room. Donna keeps yelling, "You don't know what happened! Stay out of this!" I tell her to fuck off because I see my 67 year old grandfather bleeding and her drug-addict, ex-convict, on-parole son looking down and grinning at him. My brother walks inside and grabs my arm telling me to just hold on because it won't help doing something to Jerry. I yell down the hall to stop being a coward and to come out of his room to pick on someone his own size and age. Only dark silence. So after a minute of my brother and over 800 lbs. of people holding me back, Donna screams at my grandmother, walks away and shuts her bedroom door. I tell them to tell me what happened.

My aunt Shelby and grandma (her sister) haven't gotten along for years now, half over money, half over two sisters getting old. To the point where they visit their mother (my grandmother) in shifts for the holidays. Well this year, Shelby stayed longer than usual and was still there with her kids Chris and Debbie long after 7pm, which is when my grandmother visits. So as my grandma arrived, Shelby and her kids pass them as they leave, ans my grandma wishes them a Merry Christmas. They all turn their heads and say nothing. My grandma again says Merry Christmas as they pass her. Again, nothing. Then she says, "I guess that's typical Rohmehild now." The son, Chris, snaps back, "You know what Judy, kiss my ass." So an argument ensues, and Donna (the other sister), comes over and starts yelling at my grandma. They have a yelling match, and Donna pushes my grandma, knocking her to the ground. My mom steps between them and my grandma stands herself up and slaps Donna over my moms shoulder. Donna stats kicking and targeting my grandma's bad knee. This is when my grandfather walks in and steps in between them with my mom. Donna's son, Jerry, hears everything and runs out into the kitchen screaming at my grandfather to stop hitting his mom. My mom tells him he's not hitting anyone. This doesn't stop Jerry from running around the house to the other side of the house and starting sucker punching my grandfather in the head from behind. The blood was all over his shirt and kitchen floor.

And that's when I came in.

All too late.

After a call to the police is made, everyone decides to leave and go to their homes before they arrive. My grandfather returns from Emergency Care an hour later with nine stitches in his ear and gauze and padding wrapped around his head. My grandmother's knee is swollen and can't walk. My mom's $400 glasses were crushed in the scrimmage.

And I can't help but wonder why in the hell I wasn't there to help stop this. My dad? We was at home making a dish for the dinner that night. Like my brother said later that night, they should let me take care of Jerry since no one else can/will.

What was the purpose of leaving me out of that? If I was there it would have stopped long before it got that far. Five women over 50 can't stop a fight, let alone a crack head 38 year old.

I feel so angry. And helpless. And more than anything, sad.

This is my family?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Subtle Rules


I was at a party recently, observing fifty or so twenty-somethings interacting with each other. They all had their stories, their dramas. I began thinking. Then writing.

If you keep scraping at the garden, you will never allow anything to grow. People in our hungry modern world are always scraping at the clay of our hearts. They always have a new thought, a new plan, a new syndrome, that explains why they are the way they are. They have found an old memory that opens a new wound. They keep on relentlessly, again and again, scraping the clay away from their own hearts. In nature we do not see the trees, for instance, getting seriously involved in therapeutic analysis of their own root systems or the whole stony world that they had to avoid on their way to the light. Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild roots.

And then I began pondering many a friend’s comment that I "think too much".

Negative introspection damages the soul. It holds many people trapped for years and years, and ironically, it never allows them to change. It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life. You might not see anything stirring for a long time. You might have only the slightest intimations of the secret growth that is happening within you, but these intimations are sufficient. We should be fulfilled and satisfied with them. You cannot dredge the depths of the soul with the meager light and self-analysis. The inner world never revelas itself cheaply.

Perhaps analysis is the wrong way to approach our inner dark.

-HKR

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Telling A Movie

There's only thing I hate more in movies than having childhood-crushing concepts to begin with.

Bad writing.

More specifically, writing down to the level of the perceived demographic.

Exhibit A.

So I saw this Twilight movie thing this weekend on DVD. Fans of the "franchise" always vehemently correct me and say, "IT'S BREAKING DAWN, NOT TWILIGHT!" No hun, it's the twilight of your virginity, and the rest of your life is going to be a very dark and lonely place. The whole story is fail, and it embarrasses all girls who are desperately trying to gain a modicum of respect in this world. It's awful that they're already constantly represented as an indecisive, withdrawn from reality, weak and whiny, gender who only chases ego-driven muscular monsters. I doubt most girls even want a bloated, muscle-bound guy; mainly because the drive to look that huge stems from insecurity and goes on to conjure asinine personalities (not always, but it's proven at every high school, college and beyond). In the same vein, most girls don't want sullen, pale, hair-obsessed introverts who smirk from the dark corners of a room and wear tighter pants than the girls themselves. To quote my friend Tina: "When I'm with a guy, I don't want to feel like I could break him." The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

Anyway. After I eye-rolled and groaned for two hours (not in a good way), I discovered a very sad pattern that's been snowballing more and more as studios try to bank and bet the house on that one big summer blockbuster once a year. The writing is getting worse and worse. I'm sure the trend started before I was born in 1982.

"Star Wars: A New Hope" in 1977 is widely considered the first "blockbuster" in movie history. It earned over $775,398,007 worldwide back then, making it the first film to reach the $300 million, $400 million, $500 million, $600 million and $700 million mark. Adjusted for inflation, that's the second highest grossing movie of all time in the United States, behind "Gone with the Wind" in 1939, (and that film was in theaters for almost a decade). Movie-going was different back then with not a lot of competition. So ever since Star Wars fired proton torpedoes into our eyes and obliterated our expectations, studios sat up and took notice just how much money they could make when special effects take a front seat to the entire experience. You can love the Star Wars films as much as you want, but when you mention the name "Star Wars" to anyone around the world, they think about lightsabers, X-wing fighters, Chewbacca's growl, and Darth Vaders helmet and breathing sounds; not the rich plot and weaving saga. So the moral of the story became: Spend a lot of money, get even more back. It was the beginning of the Studio-to-film maker-to-ticket price-to-viewer inflation. The rules changed. You didn't even need a major actor in the movie anymore, as long as the cool special effects held up. From then on, the movie itself made the actor's career, not the other way around. While thespians everywhere shook their heads, stunt doubles filled their pockets with cash.

And then Steven Spielberg flipped the movie industry on its ear again and went full-CG for the action scenes with Jurassic Park, and it kicked the walls down from a film maker's previous restrictions. No longer were you handcuffed to wires and strings and camera tricks and shadows and animatronic costs and glitches and puppeteering. With CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery), finally, anything was possible. Spielberg and Jurassic park reinvented the wheel, sliced bread and fire all at the same time. Try this: Watch a movie prior to Jurassic Park. When you're done, go watch a film made after Jurassic Park. The special effect jump is astronomical. Once again, the studios found a new reason to push special effects to the forefront of the medium while everything took a step - and sometimes two steps - back.

► Dumbing Down The Protagonists

Remember that movie, Quarantine? It was about a reporter that followed a fire station crew on a call to an apartment complex. When a zombie-like epidemic is discovered, they try to escape the building, only to find out the government has quarantined it; barricading the windows, bolting up the doors, and covering the structure with plastic, leaving our survivors inside to fight for themselves. It was a pretty cool, neat little premise. Not wholly original, but at least it was one where you thought, "I guess that could happen under extreme circumstances, sure." So you buy into it and settle in.

Unfortunately, as soon as the zombie shit hits the fan, the whole story loses steam very quickly. And here's why: The bad guys didn't get smarter; The good guys just get dumber. This annoys me to no end, and it happens in just about every horror movie. It might have worked in the 60's and 70's, but nowadays, audiences are simply too refined and smart and clairvoyant to have their thrill nerve triggered by a character who refuses to turn on the lights when they enter a room. And in "Quarantine", our heroes do stupid stuff over and over and over again. For instance, when it becomes clear that people with certain symptoms will end up as raging, raving lunatic, undead, people-eating machines, shoot them. Kill them. Chop off their heads. I don't care if it's only a little girl. I don't care if it's a friend of yours. I don't even care if it's me. Kill them. No excuses. Are you going to find the cure within the next 5 minutes? No, you're not. Kill them. Shotgun to the face. Kill them all, find a room, stock up and wait it out in peace. What's that? The guy who's been complaining the entire time about how the various plans we come up with won't work is showing signs of the virus? Shovel to the throat. Don't care. Very simple. This isn't difficult. You bring with you the people who are fine and kill those who aren't.

The worst part of the movie is when they actually catch a zombie-thing and still don't kill it. Instead, what do they do? Get this: They handcuff it to the stairs. And not just any part of the stairs. The bottom of the stairs in the center of the apartment complex where everyone has to run across and up and down. That's like chaining a demon to the stripper pole in the center of your room. To make it even worse, every time they ran past it and screamed when they were lunged at and attacked, they still never killed it. I could go on and on, but you get my point.

The same mind-numbing things happened in the recent movie, "Splice". The scientist couple were given hundreds of reasons and proof as to why they should kill the damn thing. But they never did, even though at every new stage of its life it caused irreparable damage to one or both of them either physically or mentally. Instead, they kept it around long enough to (spoiler alert) have sex with it, torture it, kill it, watch it turn into a male version, kill one of them and rape and impregnate the other... before eventually killing it anyway. And then having its baby on the off-chance audiences actually want a sequel (hint: no, please).

Hey writers, here's a protip from me to you: If, at any point during your writing, it will make the audience groan and ask, "Why are you doing that, you idiot?", then you're doing something wrong. Scary movies and scenes are always much more effective when even the viewer would do what the character on screen would do to try and get out of the predicament. Because then we're thinking, "Wow, even I'd be screwed. How can you beat this guy??" That's scary. But if the characters decide to run into the woods at night and walk into an abandoned cabin with blood on the walls, all we're thinking is, "Well, the black guy and the tough guy are toast, the hot girl gets brutally murdered second-to-last, and party-minded guy who goes exploring solo will die first. And let me guess, the batteries in the flashlight are dying and there's no cell phone reception. If only there was a clue to let them know they should get out of there. Oh hey, someone's heard of a old myth about this place..."

I just wish writers write UP the intelligence level of the villains, and not take the easy way out and simply dumb down our heroes for the sake of plot progression.


► Keeping The Characters "Static" ◄

Another thing that pisses me off in movies is when characters never really change. The ones where they never learned the lesson or understood the deeper meaning of their adventure or even took a moment to consider the ramifications of their actions. Perhaps the worst offender of this in recent years was the movie "District 9."

Now, I liked this movie. Matter of fact, I have it an 8.3 on my ratings board, putting it above "Avatar" (7.1), "Battle For LA" (8.1) and "Eclipse" (Beiber.Lohan). But my main issue with "District 9" is that the main character, Wikus van der Merwe, is essentially an unbearable prick throughout 99.9% of the movie. Even after becoming part Prawn and being put through the torture, ridicule and experiments that Prawns had to undergo themselves, he still had no sympathy for them. And even at the near-turning point of helping the parent and child Prawn escape, he still sabotages the plan for his own purpose.

Wikus: Half Prawn, Half insufferable douche.

It's at this point when he gets caught by the pirate-Waterworld-gang-whatever and they want to chop off his arm to be able to use the advanced weapons. The problem is, you simply don't care about Wikus enough to give a damn if he dies anymore. In fact, I overheard the people sitting behind my friends and I saying out loud, "Just kill him already." And it was true. It was a popular sentiment, especially since at this point in the movie, they writers introduced you to the truly sympathetic characters: The Prawn family. That's how you wanted to see survive and escape. But we kept following around this selfish, arrogant, stubborn and narrow-minded jerk, and he kept ruining the story for the supporting characters, the Prawn. It was just hard to give a damn if he died or not. He never changed and was a "static" character for virtually the entire film, as good as it was. To be honest with you, I forget if he ends up alive. And I don't care.

The point is, people enjoy it when the characters they follow grow, learn and change, and become what's known as "round" characters. Otherwise the last two hours were a complete waste. Villains are often given a pass on this because the one constant a story needs is conflict, and an antagonist provides this. If the writer wants to be bold he or she can give us a backstory as to how the villain became a bad guy, but it's not always needed. Or, if they're feeling really brave, they can "round" out the bad guy, have him join the good guys, and reveal the "true" villain behind it all (i.e. Magus in Chrono Trigger). That's always fun. But at the very least, the heroes need to grow and change at least a little. Give us a moral. Have some friends die. Make us care about what happens. Think of your favorite movies: Braveheart. Avatar. Star Trek. Star Wars. Dune. The Matrix. They Live. Whatever. In all of those movies, the main character(s) changes and evolves into a bigger role.


► Not Letting The Movie Breathe

Lastly, give the movie time to be an experience. Look, at this point, the teens and young adults demographic is the most pop-culture and tech-savvy groups on the planet. We can spot lame CG effects miles away, we know how Photoshop works, and we've seen all the cliches before. You don't have to bombard us with special effects and explosions just to impress us. Remember Transformers 2? It was basically lame parent jokes, explosions, something about millions of tons of metal humping the camera, more explosions, Megan Fox acting awful in slow motion, another explosion, and Shia LaBeouf yelling a single word. A lot.




And then all of that explodes into one, big, massive, explosive explosiontastic explosionala of an explosion into a hundred explosionillion pieces. Also, massive Decepticon Testicles. And I won't even go into the embarrassments knows as Skids and Mudflaps. The movie was never really a movie. It wasn't bad, per se (I gave it a 5.8 - still above average), but it was hardly great by any means. People will point to the fact that the story was awful or that it had no plot at all, but I retain that it was the pacing - or lack thereof - that killed it. Because if you're going at hyperspeed the entire time and your main focus is explosions and special effects, then you're not giving time for the story to breathe and grow and have it's moments with the audience.

Telling a story is much more than just regurgitating information. You have to use bait to get them interested, hooks to catch their attentions, mysteries to keep them involved, and exploiting moments of drama and surprises to keep them thinking and guessing. And you have to have an ending that make emotional or logical sense as the reward so they come back for the next story (or sequel). You can't just say, "Okay, audience. Here's the two main characters. Now watch this: EXPLOSIONS! Why, you ask? Just because! BOOM!! Look, they're running! MORE SPECIAL EFFECTS!!! Okay, they're crying now, so you should be, too. Now BOOOOM!!! AGAIN!!!! HAHAHA!! Oh, this is so freaking awesome." It doesn't work that way. Say what you will about the show "Lost", but it was so popular for so long and will go down as one of the greatest shows in television history because of how it told it's story, mysteries and all. Even the aforementioned "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was more reliant on story and pacing than special effects. Sure there were incredible monsters and magic and fight scenes, but they were all tied to the pace of the plot and made sense. They were used sparingly; Only when asked for and needed. Can you imagine if Michael Bay directed "Lord of the Rings"? It would look like someone typed a script on a laptop wearing boxing gloves while riding a horse backwards. And then the horse exploded.

Ultimately, that's my main concern in film: How it tells its story. I hope the writers and directors understand that they can take their time. Don't rush a single scene. You can have your huge, sweeping angles than pan around the battlefield with all the fireballs and dragons and crazy magic everywhere, sure. In fact, it better have that. But please don't make that all it is. Give me a reason to cry. To cheer. Give me a reason to hope I see character X in the following films. Don't be afraid to spend 10 minutes developing our group of protagonists with a conversation around a very non-special effect campfire scene. It's okay if there's silence and a few loving glances or angry glares instead of yelling. Let the film breathe.

Also, Anne Hathaway. kthnx.

-HKR