Inspiring!

So, my sister, Masha, has nominated me for “Very Inspiring Blogger Award,” which is surprising and very gratifying.

Very Inspiring Blogger award with pixie dust

Apparently, I’m supposed to give seven things you might or might not know about me. Without repeating my first 7 Quick Takes post.

  1. I have a very old soul and an oddly extended memory. That is, I tend to look back on history as though it were contemporary to myself. For instance, I refuse to call a movie ‘old’ unless it was made before, say, 1970 at the earliest. And any time I hear an idea described as ‘out of date’ I take it as a sign to see whether there might be anything to it.
  1. I’m something of an anglophile: most of my favorite authors are English and many of my favorite stories either are set in England (usually either Victorian or interwar) or grew out of that world, and I adore nineteenth and early twentieth-century British culture.
  1. My Freshman year of college, as part of our introduction to each other, a group of us were asked to share who our heroes were. Since I went to a very Catholic College, almost everyone else said things like “Jesus,” or “John Paul II.” I was the only one who had a non-religious hero: I said “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
  1. I hate flying, but I really enjoy long car trips. This is a nicely balanced state of affairs, though I can’t always make use of it due to time considerations. The reason I hate flying is that I’m apparently very sensitive to changes in pressure, which makes flying a thoroughly miserable and often painful experience for me. I’m not exaggerating: flying can actually be physically painful for me.
  1. Right now my reading mostly consists of Part one of The Last Lion: William Manchester’s masterful biography of Winston Churchill. Fascinating stuff, but I’m trying to hurry through the end so that I can start reading Don Quixote. I read multiple books all the time, but reading two GIANT books at the same time strikes me as pushing it.
  1. I have this thing where, whenever I find something (a song, a story, etc.) that I really like, I immediately want to do something creative with it. That’s one of the reasons I make music videos for a hobby, and one of the reasons I’m trying to learn how to draw.
  1. I almost never read internet comments. I always get an urge to try to answer someone I disagree with, but once I do I start obsessing over the question and worrying that I’m not answering it right. So, I don’t let myself get involved: it’s just another time waster and stress-multiplier that I don’t need.

Now I think I’m supposed to nominate others…hmm…

First is my friend EG Norton, who is sincerely one of the most interesting people I know and who has operated several marvelous blogs over the years and currently blogs at The Martial Theologian. She doesn’t write very regularly, but she’s always worth reading when she does!

Next is my friend Teresa, who blogs at Daughter of Judith, but who hasn’t written much lately due to personal issues. This is to say that your patience and continued concern for others inspire me!

Seven Quick Takes Vol. 55

  1. My intention to blog more is off to a slow start. Part of that is that I had a freelance job to complete this week, which occupied a lot of my writing time, and part of it is that I still haven’t quite worked out how best to schedule my time to get done everything I want to get done in a day. I try to put most of my efforts into fiction writing, so blogging (and email) kind of gets the short end of the stick, especially since I largely stay off the internet for most of the day
  1. This week I listened to the audio version of From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz, who has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary authors. Mr. Koontz generally seems to cater to dark science fiction or horror stories that are nevertheless laced with lots of hope and humor, which is pretty much exactly the sort of thing I like. I’ll have to write more about his work soon. By the way, when I say dark, I mean dark, as in ‘serial-killers, rapists, and lots of bad things happening to good people.’ For instance, From the Corner of His Eye featured long stretches from the point of view of a delusional psychopath who doesn’t have a single redeeming quality and divides his thoughts between considering what a wonderful, sophisticated man he is and fretting about how cruel the world is to him as he goes from one horrific crime to another. At the same time, though, his scenes are laced with a strange kind of pitch-black humor, since he’s really just such a pathetic loser you kind of have to laugh at him even as he makes your skin crawl.
  1. As I think I mentioned before, I have what may be an unhealthy fascination with evil: crime, disaster, and even demonology and the occult (though I have the sense not to attempt any serious study of the latter two: I know enough of the subject to know that that would be a really stupid thing to do). I’m toying with the idea of trying to make a study of criminology, or at least to dip my toes in to see whether it interests me enough to pursue as a serious field of interest.
  1. Don’t get me wrong: my interest in such things isn’t mere ghoulish fascination. Actually, as far as that goes, I’m more squeamish than anything and crime stories depress me as often as not. Rather, my interest is more as an off-shoot of my interest in self-defense issues. It’s a dangerous world out there, and I prefer to have an idea of what I’m up against. ‘Know thy enemy’ and all that.
  1. My blood pressure’s going down fitfully, though it keeps flipping back up again, but at least it’s trending downward. Last weekend I ordered a salad as my main course at a restaurant for the first time in my life, and found that it was actually pretty tasty: chicken Caesar. Though it doesn’t really satisfy the insides proper, if you know what I mean, and I’m looking forward to the days when I’ll again be able to indulge in hearty foods at least some of the time (yes, I intend to keep bringing my weight down and watching my diet permanently, but giving up delicious meat is out of the question).
  1. I’ve also been walking a lot: mostly down to the coffee shop and back to write and enjoy a nice cup of coffee and a baked good (neither is good for my blood, but I figure a small indulgence in the midst of a four-mile round-trip won’t hurt), but occasionally to the library (one mile) as well. Maybe it’s because it’s Ann Arbor and we’re a town of loonies, but I don’t find the selection particularly impressive. I’m gonna see if they have Inside the Criminal Mind next time I’m there.
  1. End quote:

Ed (on the phone with an investor): “So, how did you like the picture? Really? Worst film you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better! …Hello?”

Ed Wood

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

7 Quick Takes vol. 54

  1. I hope everyone had a blessed Easter!
  1. I have now been self-employed for two weeks. During that time I’ve written quite a bit, read rather more, and made some adjustments to my daily schedule. I completed one Freelancing job, picked up another, and received invitations for two more. So, so far, so good.
  1. Still settling into my new lifestyle. Right now my focus is on getting paid; arranging it so that I’ll have at least a little steady income. I mean, financially I’m doing fine, but I don’t feel comfortable calling what I’m doing a job until I can actually show a profit.
  1. So, when I went over to my parents’ house for Palm Sunday, I had a bad headache. My mother (a former nurse) took my blood pressure, and we discovered that it’s dangerously high (remember how I mentioned last time I was overindulging in take-out? Turns out that may have been a bad idea). Since then, I’ve been working to bring it down to normal levels, though it’s frustratingly slow and it means I have to postpone the exercise regime that was going to be included in my work schedule.
  1. So, my blood pressure medication has some side effects, most notably drowsiness and lethargy. That’s put a bit of a damper on my work, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging as much as I thought I would be. I’m intending to change that in the coming weeks.
  1. Due to the aforementioned blood pressure problems, I’ve been avoiding the news like the plague lately. Let’s face it, it couldn’t possibly help, could it? More and more, I’m thinking ‘bitter recluse’ is my best option for dealing with the modern world. Another reason to make this writing thing work.
  1. End Quote:

“We’re advising our clients to put everything they have into canned food and shotguns.”

-The Brain Gremlin, Gremlins 2: The Next Batch

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog. 

7 Quick Takes Vol. 53

1.     Today was my last day of working in a regular company! As of today, I am officially and completely self-employed. I’m as excited, nervous, and happy about that as I can be!

2.     Everyone at work was very kind and supportive of the change: most said they’d miss having me around, and a few said they were envious of my breaking out on my own like this. You know, I didn’t like the work at all, but I really lucked out on the company I worked for; good people, flexible culture, not much drama that I could see. Yeah, I really have no complaints about the people I worked with. It was the work itself I couldn’t stand.

3.     Now, the plan is that I’m going to maintain a regular work day where I will allow no internet or other time-wasting distractions (I’m installing blocking software to make sure I can’t use it during the designated time) and will permit myself only a limited range of activities, all of them useful. Writing, of course, will be paramount, but since most of the time I can’t just write for hours and hours on end I plan to break it up with reading, practicing violin, exercising, and so on. At the moment, I intend to make it from eight to four, Monday through Friday. Saturdays will be reserved for ‘tidying up:’ cleaning the apartment, taking care of business, shopping, and arranging notes. Sundays are, of course, a day of rest. I plan to experiment a little to find out what specific schedule works best, but these are the basic guidelines I intend to follow.

4.     This past week I’ve been indulging in certain pleasures that I won’t be able to enjoy for a while now that I’m unemployed: mostly of the food kind. In short, I pretty much way over did it on the pizza. The good news is that now I have lots of leftovers.

5.     Since I’m the kind of guy who likes to set things to music, here’s a song about my life right now:

6.     And another! (have I mentioned how much I like Country music?)

(Sinatra’s My Way’ would have worked as well, but I didn’t want to post the same song twice in one week)

7.     Now a quote!

“But…to sing, to laugh, to dream,

To walk in my own way and be alone,

Free, with an eye to see things as they are,

A voice that means manhood – to cock my hat

Where I choose – at a word, a ‘yes’, a ‘no,’

To fight – or write. To travel any road

Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt

If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne –

Never to make a line I have not heard

In my own heard; yet with all modesty

To say: ‘My soul, be satisfied with flowers,

With fruit, with weeds even; but gather them

In the one garden you may call you own.”

So, when I win some triumph, by some chance,

Render no share of Caesar – In a word,

I am too proud to be a parasite,

And if my nature wants the germ that grows

Towering to heaven like the mountain pine,

Or like the oak, sheltering multitudes –

I stand, not high it may be – but alone!”

-Cyrano de Bergerac

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog. 

7 Quick Takes Vol. 52

  1. One week to go! I’m excited, nervous, and, more than anything, thankful that I won’t have to deal with my work computer anymore. Really, that thing is a wonder to behold. About every couple hours or so it locks up tight and refuses to budge for several minutes, then runs fitfully for about a quarter hour afterwards. The later in the day we get, the more reliably it’s going to have a series of debilitating strokes; just to make sure I’m good and mad by the time I leave. Heck, for the last hour of the day or so there is really no point whatsoever to my staying at my desk, since my computer virtually doesn’t work. Ordinarily I’d ask for a new one, or try to get this one fixed, but since I’m only here for another week (and my replacement is getting a new computer) there doesn’t seem to be much point to that. So, I’m just going to suggest that they scrap it after I’m gone.
  1. You might have seen that I not only saw Cinderella last week, but that I’m absolutely over the moon about it. It’s probably going to end up on my all-time favorites list, at least in the ‘romance’ category. The only thing that could possibly make me happier is the fact that it’s been dominating the box office, which brings a ray of hope to my bitter, pessimistic little heart.
  1. Speaking of which, this week I officially made the call not to try online dating again, at least not anytime soon. In the first place, I was never comfortable with the idea of seeking a relationship at the same time that I’m casting myself adrift from the safe harbor of employment to try my hand in the open seas. In the second, I have what might be called a strong gut feeling that I’m not going to find my beloved through this particular process. I mean, maybe, but for sure not right now. What I’m looking for is so unique and so mysterious, even to me, that I doubt very much that I’d be able to indentify it by reading people’s profiles, but if I don’t see any indication of it, I wouldn’t bother contacting them. That probably makes no sense. The point is, my strategy at the moment is to simply pursue my own solitary aims and trust that God will reveal her to me when He’s good and ready. Though, I confess, it is frustratingly lonely in the meantime.
  1. I expect to be late posting the next chapter for Alpha Man this week, since I’m frantically trying to get my next Minecraft fan-fiction installment done in something approximating the agreed on time. That has to take priority, since I’ll actually be getting paid for these. Fortunately, the guy I’m writing for is very patient and understanding, so I don’t expect him to fire me if I don’t get it in quite on time. Between work and preparing for not working, there’s only so much time and energy left to write (which, again, is the reason for the not working thing). The good news on that score is that I (finally) actually know what the plot is about.
  1. I’ve learned that I am very difficult to fit for…well, anything really. I’m not especially tall, but I’m pretty broad and I guess I’m oddly proportioned in some was, so I usually end up with some degree of too small or too large clothing. This week I got fitted for some new athletic shoes (the only pare I had were quite literally falling apart). It took nearly an hour if trying different types where the shoe size was fine, but the shape of the shoe was somehow wrong for my foot. I ended up more or less compromising with a decent pair that wasn’t as sturdy as I might have liked, but they were the only ones that would fit.
  1. The shoes were my last big purchase (I hope). Now I’m pretty much all set and ready for my self-employment (I’m saying that rather than ‘unemployment’ because I am going to be working, just not for a steady paycheck). The tricky part is going to be collecting the habits that I’ll need to survive; at the moment, my work habits are frankly abysmal. I’m thinking some of that is the draining effect of the job, but I am going to have to be very strict with myself in at least the first few weeks of my self-employment. That’s the thing that’s really worrying me, more than the money question.
  1. Ending Quote:

“Well, what do you know. Here I am talking with some of the smartest people in the world, and I didn’t even notice!”

-Columbo: The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case

 We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

7 Quick Takes Vol. 51

  1. Biggest news this week was the birth of my first nephew! Welcome Ilya Birch Goeple! (to my disappointment, he is not in fact named after the Russian folk hero Ilya Morumets).

 

  1. It is official: my last day at this job will be two weeks from today. Then I plunge into the unknown. Quite literally the unknown: I have no idea what I’ll do once the lease on my apartment is up. The goal, as I mentioned elsewhere, is to be able to support myself by my own efforts, whether by writing or by some other skill. We can call this period my first attempt at that goal. If it doesn’t work out this time well…we’ll cross that bridge, etcetera, etcetera.

 

  1. Cinderella opens today, and after a glowing review by Steven Greydanus which seems to promise exactly the kind of movie I was hoping for, I’m planning to go see it right after work. Yes, that’s right: I’m planning to catch Cinderella opening day, because that’s how I roll.

 

  1. Yesterday I finally went and purchased my own violin after about two-and-a-half years of renting. I really should have done that earlier, not least because I only used a little over half of the store credit I’d built up over the years. This store’s rental policy is that your rentals fees could be used to pay for up to 50% of the purchased instrument. I had about $460 and only used $250. But of course, that saves me money, since if I bought a $900 instrument I would have been out $450, plus the money for the bow and the case.

I’m sure you found all that fascinating. The point is I finally have my own violin. But I’m still not skilled enough to play without the tape (beginning violin players use tape to mark the correct finger positions), so I haven’t been able to do more than, uh, fiddle with it. I mean, I can still play it and I can sort of get the positions right, but I’m not comfortable with it.

 

  1. I’ve started to peruse Murder She Wrote, which is fun, but not quite as engaging as, say, By the way, I’m the sort of person who has to watch a TV show in order; even when the episodes don’t have anything to do with one another. I have to start at the beginning and proceed doggedly though the archives until I either finish or move on to something else. Since Mrs. Fletcher’s adventures are charming rather than enthralling, I think the latter will be the case this time, but so far so good (question for any lawyers out there: is it actually legal to bequeath your estate to a dog?).

 

  1. Today is the second Friday the 13th of the year, which I don’t think happens very often and which, I believe you celebrate by wearing a sugar bag over your head (oh, I really hope someone gets that joke).

 

  1. Ending Quote:

Dudley: “Believe me, there’s no trick or mystery to making good selling displays…”                                                                                                                  Servo: “Hell, a platypus could do my job!”                                                                                                                                         –Mystery Science Theater 3000: Out of this World

 We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogs.

7 Quick Takes Vol. 50

  1. You may have noticed (well, probably not, but maybe now you will) that I’ve been enjoying my new blog. I think I mentioned last time that one of the reasons I made the switch was to have more flexibility in what I posted (I’m anal like that; if I decide that one particular thing only ought to be for one particular subject, I will stick with that decision even if I end up hating it). This week, among other things, I fisked a stupid piece from the Huffington Post (did the makers of that fine example of journalism intend people to think of ‘huffing paint’ whenever they said the name? Because I do), posted some lovely Monet paintings, and linked to a much more talented writer who actually gets paid for this sort of thing. Now I’m trying to decide whether my next post should be my thoughts on the death penalty or a piece discussing how Teen Titans illustrates the shallow nature of lust (hint: not in the way you’re thinking).
  1. Speaking of TV shows (Teen Titans is a show, in case you didn’t know that), my media diet this week has mostly revolved around episodes of Dragnet from the 1960s. For those who don’t know, Dragnet was the original police procedural, which it was so successful at that episodes were actually used as training films by the LAPD (the episodes were all based on real cases that creator Jack Webb solicited from officers). Ironically enough, modern audience would probably find it kind of corny, since for all the realism there are quite a few speeches about various societal ills. Personally, though, I like them; they’re ills that society needed to be lectured on and, unfortunately, still does. Amid the swiftly deteriorating structure of the American mind in that era, Dragnet was one of the islands of sanity.

Plus, it’s also pretty fun, with snappy, fast-paced plots and lots of banter between the protagonists, Friday and Gannon (Jack Webb and Harry Morgan). Then, every so often, they sucker-punch you with disturbingly realistic events of the sort you don’t expect to see on a 1960s TV show.

  1. The other staple of my media diet has been clips from What’s My Line, a game show from the 1950s and 60s. The format was that there was a panel of four players who were challenged to ask a series of yes or no questions to try to discover the occupations of the show’s guests (their ‘line’), which the audience was told, but the panel wasn’t. Each episode also featured a ‘mystery challenger:’ a celebrity, for whom the panel blindfolded themselves and the celebrity would disguise his voice (generally to comic effect, though Groucho Marx broke the format completely by adopting the persona of a senile old German Jew, which didn’t allow any questioning, but sure was funny). It was a very fun, very polite show (the host, Jim Daly, was always warm and hospitable toward the guests), and it was often fascinating to see the different people who would show up. For instance, one clip I watched this week featured the very gracious Colonel Sanders himself, who was not a celebrity guest, and it took the panel quite a while to guess that he owned a fried chicken company.

Archbishop Ven. Fulton Sheen was a celebrity guest in one episode: he answered all his questions in French and ended by asking Mr. Daly to send his winnings to a leper colony. His segment also prompted one of the panelists, upon ascertaining that he was both non-profit and had a regular television show to comment “boy do you have a crazy sponsor.”

  1. I spent most of my work week trying to chase down certain receipts for my company credit card statement which certain people apparently didn’t think necessary to give me. The nice, efficient, small-business operation that used to supply our janitorial supplies was purchased by a larger company a few months back, and this new company seems utterly incapable of providing us with receipts unless directly asked (they include shipping documents with their packages, but they don’t include the price, making them completely useless). Then there was the Japanese electronics company from which someone bought a few parts that he then immediately shipped on to Mexico along with all the documentation. Oy…I cannot wait to be finished with this job.
  1. I’m trying to train myself to swear less (a combination of a stroke-prone work computer and a bad habit of reading the news conspired to give me an unpleasantly limited vocabulary for expressing displeasure). To that end, I’ve made a rule where every time I say the ‘F’ word I then have to say the Our Father. It’s actually working pretty well; this morning I saw the headline on Drudge of Our Glorious Leader commenting on Ferguson and managed to restrain myself from whisper-screaming my response at the screen. See, I am growing in virtue this Lent!
  1. Now I have a dilemma: Cinderella is coming out soon, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it (and I am confident enough in my masculinity to admit that), yet it’s being preceded by a Frozen follow-up short, and I really didn’t like Frozen (I didn’t think it was awful; just mediocre, and hearing it constantly raved about ever since has made me thoroughly sick of it). Do I go and hope the short is more like the film’s good bits, or do I try to time my arrival so that I get there after the short is finished? Probably the former, but I confess I rather dread the experience.

P.S. Speaking of Frozen, I really like the song Let It Go, but the credits version of it (which I heard playing in a store the other day) really kind of sucks. It sounds like the singer forgot half the words and is trying to make it up by singing what she does remember with extra exuberance.

7. Ending Quote!

“It is noticeable that pacifism and anarchism…are now gaining ground among the young. These creeds have the advantage that they aim at the impossible and therefore in effect demand very little.” -George Orwell, A Review of ‘Beggar My Neighbor

Now you can go back to This Ain’t the Lyceum for the kind of blogs you were actually looking for when you unsuspectingly clicked on this link and were welcomed by a huge snake.