Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Criticism and Attention

Criticism

When someone asks you how this taste or how they look, unless they are immediate members of your family, it's hard to give the truth without pissing them off.  People are bad at taking criticism. Period.  Even if you preface criticism with a line like "Do you want to know the truth?".  People will reply in the affirmative but then get offended when you hit them with honesty.  "This tastes like shit, that makes your butt look weird." This makes the sentence "Do you want to know the truth?" an absolutely useless sentence.  *me all of a sudden on the edge of a cliff for some reason in Scotland shouting* "Why can't people handle the truth?" Maybe it's too direct.  It's too personal.  So I've been beta testing a new method.  It's simple and anybody can do it.  Instead of criticizing the person/object/whatev directly, you criticize it indirectly through storytelling.  Here's an example:

Bakery employee: How was everything?
Me: It was alright.
Bakery employee: Did you enjoy the pastry?
Me: Well it reminded me of this trip I took with my girlfriend.  The whole point of the trip was to climb this beautiful mountain the first day and then bath in our accomplishment the following days.  From the brochure, it seemed like a fun, accessible feat, but once we stood at the base, we realized we're going to have to work together to finish it.  The beginning of it was alright and typical of most hikes, but the middle was exhausting and we had to really struggle.   The cold and exhaustion started to get to us and we just started fighting and screaming at each other.  Another young, handsome hiker, named Jon, came by and gave my girlfriend solace from my anger - leaving me in the cold, completely lost.  After many hours, I somehow navigated my way back to the hotel to find her and Jon making love in our hotel room.


Attention

To enable attachments is to open yourself up for suffering, but much of this suffering can be minimized by understanding attention.  This first thing to understand is "Everything" is driven by attention, "Everything" wants your attention and without attention "Nothing" can happen. To show this on a larger, modern scale, negativity draws more attention thus typically outweighs the use of positive storytelling in general conversations or the news.  Similarly, social media platforms generalize notifications and use video over text to catch and keep your attention.   On a personal scale, we brush our hair, iron our clothes and talk confidently to draw and keep attention, and we pay attention in school and topics of interest to build skill sets for which we can give more attention.  Practice is basically sustained attention to some task.  Indeed, attention should be guarded against unwanted distractions while guided towards beneficial outcomes. 
This is not only true for external stimuli, but also for internal responses that create outward behaviors.  For instance, think of the last time you were focusing on some task and another, unrelated thought popped into your mind.  Let's say a conversation you had last night at the bar.  This thought and the thought engaged in the task are now in competition for your attention. Here, you have to decide which thought will win, and this choice will have consequences for later, similar choices until little conscious awareness is needed to decide. You are practicing how your attention will be allocated for this type of situation.  In this example, you could get better or worse as keeping focus on the task at hand depending on your attentional choice.   Over time, simple and more complex competitions have been exercised, in which we practice some preference to lessen the cognitive load needed so we can focus on more pressing matters needing our attention. Some practices has been rooted in us over time, especially those tied to emotions, and may not make sense.  Therefore, it is important to uncondition initial responses deemed inappropriate with careful examination with "yes, you guessed it", your attention.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Top Tens and Sustained Happiness

Top Tens

This year I moved to another state, another city and another food science department.  I turned 30 and still making mistakes - sorry mom and dad.  It's been eventful and scary, but the stress shits have gradually decreased as the year has progressed.  December: no stress shits, but one pants party foul.  This year was pretty decent for cinema, but even more decent was my beloved shoegaze genre on the music front.  The later was so great, you should really consider my list as completely biased to the 'scene that celebrates itself' and sigh with a little mutter like "bob, you sad, stupid piece of shit".  With all caveats in place, here's my top tens.

     Movies:

1. Sacred Killing of a Deer
2. Blade Runner 2049
3. Call Me By Your Name
4. Lady Macbeth
5. Baby Driver
6. Phantom Thread
7. Lady Bird
8. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
9. Dunkirk
10. The Shape of Water


I did not get to see Florida Project, Good Time, The Square, A Ghost Story.

Music

1. Slowdive - Slowdive
2. Iron Chic - You Can't Stay Here
3. Fazerdaze - Morningside
4. Tigers Jaw - spin
5. Deafcult - Auras
6. Airial - Molten Young Lovers
7. Miniatures - Jessamine
8. Radiogaze - Blankenberge
9. EP Daily Double: Big Nothing - Big Nothing | Kindling/Kestrals - Split
10. Drab Majesty - Demonstration


Runner-ups: Pia Fraus - Field Ceremony, Images - You'll Never Get to Heaven, Cigarettes after Sex (self-titled), Gleemer - Anymore, Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds from Another Planet, Kelly Lee Owens (self-titled), Panda Riot - Infinity Maps.


Sustained Happiness

The use of "I" in this post is intentional.  Everybody looks and deals with problems faced throughout life differently, and below is how "I" viewed and dealt with them. Sometimes another's perspective is helpful so here is mine.

Recently someone asked me how I was so calm about some situations while still being involved and caring about others.  If asked this before turning 26, my answers would be ones not based on experience, but on observation.  But I'm 30 now, and in the last 4 years I have experienced many the situations/feelings that I had only once observed and now realize these past answers to things were disillusioned at best.  My solutions to most problems up to age 26 were temporary and I still did not have answers to two very important questions: What is happiness? and How do you sustain happiness?.  Reading the questions, any one can see that one question came before the other, with the first recognized while I was young and the other manifesting only in the last 4 years.  Going back to the first sentence of this passage, I was asked about how to handle situations/feelings.  My answer to this was with the acknowledgment of these questions and their solutions.  Funny enough, the solutions to both questions are very simplistic with the first involving a binary balance based off a binary choice of the second; however, maintenance of the first question based off the choice of the second takes practice. To achieve happiness, you must have a balance of connectedness and pursuit.  In other words, you need mutual love with people while having goals worthwhile of achieving.  It's a very simple truth that works for me, but to maintain that balance the second question must be addressed.  For each object which fits within these counterbalanced categories, connectedness and pursuit, you must decide to either have an attachment or a non-attachment.  Preached heavily by Buddhist teachings, attachment equals suffering, but unlike the Buddha and his followers,  I don't think total non-attachment is a good idea if you want a life worth living.  To this extent, I agree total non-attachment removes the balance equation and can keep you in a constant state of happiness, but you lose out on a truly enjoyable life.  You lose out on a the occasional imbalance that can lead to extreme happiness (and sometimes extreme sadness). Once you decide which things are worthy enough to make an attachment (e.g. career, a lover), you must learn how to regulate the emotions that come with that attachment (and they will come).  To this point, I've been heavily practicing a version of mindfulness. A somewhat shortcut to reduce the harmful, nonsensical emotions (or at least reduce the time they spend in consciousness) while enjoying the beneficial ones.  I'm not going to explain it all here, but it's a way to look at each emotion objectively to determine if they are real or an illusion, if they warrant attention or not. Together, by regulating the emotions that accompany the attachments you choose and restoring balance across connectedness and pursuit, you can sustain happiness.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Condiments and Back to Punk

Condiments

As you may know, I'm a condimaniac. Love me some condiments.  It's a land of many rulers and regions divided by many nationalities. You've got your basic western condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and hot sauce.  Then you've got your eastern condiments: soy sauce, hoisin, ponzu, and fish sauce.  In between these prominent regions lies several towns and cities of equally amazing oozes.  Some are larger metropolitans like BBQ sauce while others are only quaint towns in small packages like fire sauce at Taco Bell or Chick-fil-A’s Polynesian sauce.  To explore this world has always been a goal of mine where my fridge displays the trophies from my travels.  A ceramic jar of French mustard with stone seeds and slightest hint of vinegar pushed in the front next to a hot sauce that destroys your palate for a day.  When guests come over, I direct them to my pantry with a spoon. Oh you haven't tried real Mexican hot sauce, no worries, I've smuggled some Tapatios into Germany from my last visit to the States.  So you like hot things, try this Harissa I found in the oriental bazar last month.  Give me topic and I'll give you a sauce.  Follow my lead to fish sauce town and nobody will want to talk to you for a couple of days.  Just trust me and I'll lead you through this beautiful world called condiments.


Back to Punk

I'm a 28 year old punk again: lost, confused, and angry by the actions of my past.  I tried to be an adult, tried to live a responsible life. Worked hard to fight my attempts at flight, and fought hardest at being content with the idea of being a good husband, father, and friend cause I found somebody worth a damn – someone to grow old with.  I got pretty far, but went about it all wrong. I went at it alone.  I now know that happiness is not real unless it is shared.  So simple a concept, so easy a plan, but acknowledged too late and not expressed soon enough. Now I'm back at square something.  I won't lose what I've learned and still learning, keeping it in a bag to pull out for someone special, even if that person may not come around for some time.  Because the fact is I’m not good at casual dating.  It's just not for me. I don't need a body to grab onto, I need a personality and future to hold onto.  So I'll live my old way; a punk way. Strong, passionate, and pushing forward alone until I can rest in someone's loving arms or six feet underground.


Note: These posts were written in May 2016.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Analogy Whore and Ringmaster

Analogy Whore 

This title is an analogy; fuck me. I tend to dislike too many analogies in writing, but damn do I like making them myself [see passage below, and this whole rant]. I’m so bad at it - like I was going to name the passage below Lord of the Love, but realized I’d have to kill myself for doing something like that. But I love them because what better way to describe a shitty day than comparing it to the watching Grown Ups 2 on repeat for five years straight or saying “it was like smashing my dick between two bricks.” What’s a nicer way to tell your Mom her cat exploded? Letting her know the gory details or comparing it to a flower blossoming. I’d go with the later and maybe talk more about the happy flower shit than the mess of cat hair and guts all over the carport.

Ringmaster 

I miss companionship, embrace and ultimately love, but I have a problem of dealing with its presence too. Love’s warming touch comes with anxiety that its potency may fade or embrace may be shared with others. To love unconditionally: that’s my quest. However, in this pursuit, I've only drove myself and those willing to take the journey with me completely crazy. I’ve garnered trust, wholeheartedness, and pure love from others, but have not been able to return the favor. I doubt and behave outlandishly, making claims on irrational futuristic thoughts. Sitting on the fence waiting for it to break. I’m now officially a member of the circus I shied away from so long. But I guess knowing is power, and I plan to get better at this. Maybe one day I’ll be the ringmaster and not the hungry lion.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Personal Fashion and Vices

Personal Fashion

I'm not a fashion buff obviously. Most of my shirts and pants are wrinkled, stained (mostly mustard and coffee stains), covered in cat hair, missing zippers or buttons, and are probably home to undiscovered biological life while my shoes have many holes to prominently show everyone that my socks don't match. This slop fest is then enclosed in a giant black tortilla called a trench coat. In general, I pretty much have had the same wardrobe since high school with a few tweaks. For instance, I wear less shirts with funny phases on it like "Don't let me get my flying monkeys", and I've also thrown away most of my iconic fast food branded t-shirts after realizing that nobody goes to bed with someone labeled Taco Bell. Furthermore, I completely removed myself from the Crocs line of shoes which might be one of the smartest decisions in my life. Not that I don't think they are comfortable, but the fact that no style of that shoe is attractive - yeah, definitely not the ones with fur on it. Actually, if I ever discover a volcano, I'm dedicating it to all the UGG boots and Crocs of the world. It will have a sign on the bottom that reads "Step up to the volcano edge, take off your shoes, throw them in and start increasing your chances of getting laid." The volcano would also be named Helga and have a Dippin Dots ice cream stand because your future life without those feet dwellers should start with futuristic ice cream.


Vices

I got to start remembering that a glass of wine is not a bottle. There's something to this; everything seems simple and usually leads to something more complex. A heartbeat leads to a stroke, or more simply life leads to death. A perfect example of chaos. Vices temporarily remove us from this conclusion or maybe guides us to some kind of compromise. Its job is two-fold: to keep us from fully understanding the fucked up situations we take on or maybe make sense of them. But how many cigarettes do we have to smoke till life comes into full focus? How many drugs are needed to produce something we can accept? Everything manifests into a form that is unique to us and it is our job to interpret it. Narcotics, alcohol, and promiscuous sex can only take us down so many paths, with each road engaging new ideas or fables while truth slowly reveals itself, whispering around every bend. Consequently, you know deep-down that a fire starts from a spark, burns with a hot heat, and ends in embers. Each story a drawing board that illustrates nothing significant and is easily erasable. Divination might be the answer. Knowing that the feelings or words we want to say have no future. Maybe, it's drowning thoughts that make the most sense sometimes, and it's vices that keeps them from floating to the surface.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Worst DJ and The Result of Too Many Rom-Coms

The Worst DJ

It’s easy to be a good DJ, but it’s even easier to be a bad one. I’m talking about playing all the right songs at all the wrong times. Spinnin’ the Thong Song at Little Timmy’s communion or droppin’ the 1998 hit single from Will Smith, Miami in Miami. This is the road to being a bad DJ, but why stop there when you can be so much worse. Yep, it’s finally time to bust out that wolf coat and dad cologne to dress the part. Maybe become a dread head or get a perm; hair-do or don’t. It’s all part of your funk and it smells so bad. Similarly, it’s time to work on those moves. Yeah, you’ve got the wave, but what about the tsunami? Take a splash with a quick dip and plug your nose, or throw callbacks to all your favorite movie bust-a-moves (Pee Wee tequila dance ya’ll). Don’t spin records, spin CDs and hit on every girl you see. You're doing great, but don’t forget to keep asking the crowd to bring you a jagerbomb.


The Result of Too Many Rom-Coms

How does it happen? A random bump, some snuggling, and then living with the ones we think are right. Is it trial and error or just giving up? Finally settling and giving into mediocrity with the mindset that it’s better than being alone. We stitch the patterns we hate. It could be better, but we compromise on the one thing that we have all the say in - love. It doesn't have to be like that. Romance is not dead; it’s still breathing. It’s reaching out for your hand with its trembling one, but it’s exhausted and tired. Not from waiting, but from trying.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cleaning and The Reuben

Cleaning

Cleaning is less about sanitation, and more about self education. Everybody has doubts; everybody has that existential moment at the tail end of a wine glass where they ask themselves “who am I” or “what have I become.” Don’t answer these questions with a thumb up your ass and a self-delusional fantasy; get up and start cleaning. It’s opening a dusty drawer and finding that sad, expired box of condoms that really capitalizes on your state of loneliness. It’s locating a pack of unopened, thawed corn dogs wedged between a broadsword and a spare tire which truly emphasizes your laziness and love of nerd culture. Rummage through old love letters to understand your incompetence at dating or calculate your manliness by counting the number of hot sauces in your fridge. The evidence of your life is sprawled out in an unorganized fashion, hiding among clothes, camouflaged as a bookmark, or lost in a shoebox. It’s time to start playing your own, personal game of Clue where each character is another one of your characteristics and each item or setting adding support for why you portray it. It’s time to put on your detective hat, start picking up the pieces you’ve left behind and cracking the case of who you really are.


The Reuben

I don’t think it’s a secret, I love reuben sandwiches. In my opinion, they are up there with the Mona Lisa and Egyptian Pyramids as one of man’s greatest achievements with the additional advantage of being edible. In a city of sandwiches, they are a castle among clay houses. For this reason, it is tattooed to my body and eating them has become part of my lifestyle. The reuben is a simple, but complex sandwich containing an awesome combination of bitter, sour, and sweet with a huge hint of salty beef. These features are placed between two slices of lightly toasted rye bread and served hot and kinda sloppy where the cross-section resembles a Mike Myers’ victim after several months of decomposing. Sadly, the description I entail to you now is one rarely seen in the wild. Restaurants today have gotten the gall to place this darling on their menu only to deliver something that wouldn't even be accepted in a small-town beauty pageant. It’s disgusting with many faults including not enough beef, sogginess, and the worse, complete dryness. This monstrous act not only discourages the average reuben-goer from ordering them anymore, but also gives a false impression to newcomers. If you’re going to represent, represent the real deal dawg. If not, don’t half-ass it and stick to hot dogs.