I hate my blog

15 10 2010

I really hate my blog. I’ve always struggled with my online identity. Should I be funny? Should I be serious? Who knows. Guess it’s a little bit like real life.

Not that I don’t like blogging. No, on the contrary, one thing I can tell you is that blogging can really help you out.

The best advice I’ve ever heard is to try to take your feelings and put them into words. Whether you share them publicly is your choice or not, but it’s nice to struggle through a complicated thought and come out on the other side with a better sense of clarity. A blog can be your ally in doing that. Depending on your situation, it can really help you solve a difficult issue. I’m a firm believer in the format. It’s good promotion, too, assuming you are careful about what you express.

I guess what I’m saying is, I’d like a real bona fide thing that says, “this is who I am,” that isn’t vulnerable to some opportunistic rant that could show up in the Google cache some years later.

The age of the homepage seems to have died. It used to be you’d get an angelfire or geocities account and build some crappy circa-1994 thing and push it out there and tell people that’s your homepage. Now it’s blog, blog, blog, which is cool, but doesn’t provide that biographical feeling (and can really catch you at an awkward moment without the context of who you are).

After working 11 days in a row (mostly by my own choice), through my somewhat bleary eyes and short-tempered stupor, I feel like maybe this is a good time to give it some thought. What would my ideal online home look like? What would it have?

Would there be a text area? Video? News? Something interactive? What would I want to put there?

I almost feel like my ideal blogging situation would be a bit like Twitter or the Facebook feed … you know, there’s various kinds of activities. There’s the things you’re reading, the things you take pictures of, the things you write in 140 characters or less … oh, hey, there’s Tumblr for that. I think my big gripe with Facebook is it’s kind of ugly. It is, however, highly reliable. No fail whales there, Zuck.

So look for some updates to come as I hash out my thoughts. Chances are, I’ll be putting them into words right here.

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Being a good listener

30 09 2010

My listening skills are something I desire to improve, and something that people are always saying you should do — so much so that it often feels like an “in one ear, out the other” kind of thing. But I know it’s important, and I’m beginning to realize that actually fixing the problem is more vexing than I bargained for. It’s not just about taking off your headphones or cleaning out excess ear wax. It’s about changing the way you view the world and your place in it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that we value listening habits because they appear to symbolize the value we place on others. Hypothetically speaking: When you place a lot of importance on a particular person, you  may find yourself at times listening very carefully and trying to memorize what they say. There may be specific motivations behind this kind of listening. It sadly can feel like an act of deference or flattery to pay full attention to someone, rather than simply a common courtesy. That stinks. Perhaps listening should be more commonplace. Then, more people would do it.

A poor listener may, in theory, view their opinions more highly than those of others, regardless of the actual relative merit of those ideas. They may have a short attention span or a preference for other forms of information delivery (i.e. visual). They may be preoccupied. Or, the poor listener may in fact value another’s opinions, but not know the proper way to balance their own input with others’.

Listening is valuable to human relationships for these and other reasons:

  • Understanding feelings and motivations of others
  • Incorporating new information into your worldview
  • Getting the global picture of an undertaking
  • Avoiding repetition of information/instructions (a biggie for many bosses)
  • Understanding of another’s point of view
  • Anticipating possible challenges or difficulties

The difficulty lies in our inherent egocentrism as human beings. It’s not an excuse, but a possible explanation. We are driven to fight for our own interests and to get the best meat on the Savannah. At the same time, our society wants/demands/requires us to be collaborative and places strong value on altruism. We can’t be industrialized or function in the Information Age without working together. All of our political arrangements and capitalism and socialism seem to boil down to different ways we channel our self-interest to work together efficiently.

The way I’m beginning to see it, the act of listening is a connecting force that allows us to reconcile the competing needs of the Self, Other and Society.

When you’re listening, you’re not speaking. Someone else is taking the stage. This can feel threatening in a group setting, where people are fighting to come up with the most entertaining anecdote or share the most enlightening observation. The people with the most status are the people in the best position to dominate a conversation. And, if they’ve accumulated significant awesomeness over the years, they may also be relaxed enough to police the conversation for the benefit of the group. This is a sign of high personal power. To be a good listener, you have to be comfortable with the idea that you aren’t in the spotlight, and that you are an audience for someone else. In turn, the speaker should be gracious to you.

We have to ask ourselves in life, how comfortable are we with the idea of being someone else’s audience? And how do we feel about the people who are an audience for us? The answers can be revealing.

Listening is at the crux of the ever-present struggle between the Self and the Other. The world is a competitive place and we all have to fight for attention and splendor and money and wealth and friends and lovers; it sometimes seems like whoever provides the most value takes the spoils. At the same time, we all have to get along, and we all depend on each other. We have to use each others’ ideas. A leader who can’t mobilize their followers can’t get anywhere. To balance one’s own needs with those of others requires clarity of mind and purpose, as well as a strong awareness of your personal motivations.

You can almost imagine contributions to a discussion being graphed in the shape of a hill, where the percentage of domination is on the X-axis and the value of what is being said is on the Y-axis. The crest of the hill is the sweet spot of how much you dominate a conversation, where you’re getting maximum value without going overboard.

So now I sit, wondering how to make myself a better listener and balance all that conversation bubbling up from within and without. Finding the sweet spot and consciously training the mind to place value on others’ views may be the key. I’m convinced it will help me out in several areas of my life, but I also know it will require me to fight evolution, experience and instinct. But I bet it’s worth it.

In summary, listening is important because it tells you something about a person’s world view. Learning to listen will for sure change that perspective, and require further changes in turn.





Savannah trip, philosophically speaking

22 09 2010

Perhaps the secret of life is telling a good story. Think about it. Every social interaction, every nugget of information we give, can be provided in many ways. Ultimately, many times the story format is most appropriate because it speaks to us from one person to another.

Perhaps the answer to all the world’s troubles, and perhaps a few of mine, is to strive to tell a good story. And, as we tell these stories, to be truthful just about always, in an appropriate manner for each situation.

One of the big challenges I struggle with is, “What exactly constitutes a story?” It’s not enough for people to tell me something or for me to hear something. I’ve got to process it to understand it. So in my process of great understanding, I fed this data into my subconscious and put in a ticket for tech support to come up with something meaningful and applicable to my daily life. When the motor of my mental machine stopped whirring, I ended up with what I hope is a good working definition of a story for my own purposes.

For example, I could tell you that I took a trip to Savannah this weekend. It was four hours’ worth of driving each way, and I traveled with three others on the way up and two others on the way back. Our accommodation was a three-bedroom vacation rental. We visited the beach at Tybee Island, and walked around the historic districts of Savannah before leaving.

I’ve conveyed raw information to you, but there isn’t much value to this information on its own. I’m leaving an awful lot to your imagination. You might infer that the beach is a pleasant getaway and that the three-bedroom vacation rental was pretty spacious. I didn’t qualify any of my descriptions or tell you if the trip was bad or good. But you do know that I went, and you kind of understand what I did. In short, the information I gave you wasn’t anything different than what you could have researched in a travel pamphlet. Most of all, there’s no value attributed to it, and no color or description.

If I turn this information into a “story,” then you start to get a little more information and there is more meaning and value to what I’m telling you. I could say well, it was a long day on Friday after struggling through a challenging project, but I escaped and made it out there. We were late thanks to me and got to Savannah at 1 a.m., checked into our beautiful rental with the gorgeous wooden trim and historic decor, visited a famed local bar and woke up late the next day. We had a marvelous day at the beach under warm skies, fanned by warm ocean breezes. After a lovely dinner at the brewery, we took a walk by the river to the sound of live music blaring from the buskers and bar bands. And then the next day, we had brunch before touring SCAD’s art shop and the historic cemetery where Capitol Records founder  Johnny Mercer is buried. The statue featured on the cover of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was discovered in that same cemetery yard, but it’s not there anymore. On the way back, we tried the famed Stickyfingers barbecue chain, which isn’t available in Atlanta. And then we crashed and went to work again.

That gives you a lot better idea of what we did. There’s a fair amount of description and context there. I could go even further and talk about the personal situations of each of us, give more details about the area and perhaps discuss the wonders of our living accommodation. There’s a host of other devices I could use to expand upon this.

So I think it’s interesting to give conscious thought to how we convey information to others, and to consciously think as we are having experiences, “What will I tell others about this?” I think for a skilled storyteller, things like this are second nature. Some people seem to be built to be journalists and love to tell a tale. It’s something that takes practice and work to perfect of course. I’m not sure where I fall on this spectrum. It depends on what medium I’m using to convey the information.

I do know one thing, however. I’ll be thinking a lot more about the story I want to tell about XYZ experience as it happens.





Desktop philosopher

21 09 2010

The other day, I decided that I was going to start writing out my philosophies, just because I think they’re funny. I hope you do, too, and I think pretty much everyone should do the same. Unless you’re boring, in which case, please don’t. Sometimes I walk down the street and I observe someone honking at someone, or there’s a funny sign or just some kind of wackiness in a store display, and it reminds me of some philosophy of some sort.

Back in the old days when people wore monocles and big white wigs (well that’s what I like to think) we used to have lots of these pesky philosophers roaming around, like John Locke, who was a man of faith that got stranded on an island and came up with some of the most important thoughts that would inspire democracy. Pretty good for someone stuck on an island, and the best part is, he didn’t need a wheelchair anymore. But then Ben Linus killed him, so I guess all’s fair after all.

But apparently these philosopher types are still around, and it’s pretty quaint when you spot a real, live one. I saw the other day a French philosopher speaking on TV about the moral underpinnings of the stoning practice in Iran — you know, the deeper and darker parts of the soul that want to mutilate the most important part of the body, the face — and I realized there is a practical application for philosophy.

After reading a one-act Woody Allen play aloud in the Barnes & Noble and making a fool of myself, I made up my mind that I was going to go home and scribble out the “Pagina Monologues” (that’s Spanish for “page”) and bake those thoughts into surrealities. It’s funny how everything I’ve read and seen today has been synchronous with my life.

So, here, just to get us started, are a couple of philosophical nuggets, best dipped in habanero chili sauce:

Disclaimer city — I’m going to disclaim responsibility for my opinions and my connections to my employer. Bottom line, anything I say here is just me flapping my mouth / fingers on my own behalf and for no one else but me. Although, I’ll let you decide the worth of a disclaimer on your own. Just don’t sue.

Synchronous Symbolism — Life brings you what you need, and then you give back. That’s why sometimes you’ll hear about this old chicken place you’ve never heard of, let’s call it Wacky Chicken, and then all of a sudden you keep hearing about it endlessly. That’s because the Universe wants you to get some wacky chicken in you. But then you are also responsible for perpetuating the myth of wacky chicken, so in way, you provide the Synchronicity for someone else. And everybody hears about wacky chicken.

Whoa, it’s magic — Lots of people wish there was more magic in their lives. It’s easy to forget that life itself is kind of magical, too. The fact that you exist as one entity, as a distinct sentient being from myself with your own concept of the universe entirely separate from my own … I don’t care what your background is or beliefs are, but that qualifies as something that approaches being kind of magical to me.

The real world is virtual — Life as we know it is a symbol in and of itself. What we perceive to be solid and smooth is far from it under a microscope. Colors, shapes, light, dark, smells, tastes are all fabrications of the human mind. The world that we’re in seems so real, but all is not what it seems. While this can be unsettling at times, it’s also somewhat reassuring when life starts feeling too stressful.





Thinking at the speed of light

24 06 2010

You surely know by now that the one thing that gets me back to this blog time and time again is those moments when I have so much passion or zest for life (or an aspect of life) that it kind of spills out and I have to express it. And, when I can’t sleep.

Right now I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m feeling especially creative and also hungry for knowledge. Other people have noticed this and commented on it, so it can’t just be my imagination and I know it’s fairly obvious to anyone who knows me well.

This is very exciting for me, because I fought a certain intellectual apathy for much of my teen years and into my early to mid-20s. Granted, this apathy was necessary in order to get me out of the house and socializing with other people and growing up and working at the college paper and getting a job and learning to conform to society. Now that I’ve done some of that (some), and I’ve got some of the external things figured out, I think I’m returning to the world inside my skull and filling it back up with the imagination and enthusiasm of my youth, as well as my bookworm tendencies. People used to think of me as a bookworm, but I don’t think that I have that reputation anymore, because I’m not. And so this kind of revisiting of what makes you who you are is what is necessary to become a whole person — to focus inside and out as well. I think I do a fairly OK job of balancing these competing concepts of self, but I can always get better.

Enough with the introspection, already. What this translates to is, I’ve got more passion for everything and more ability to absorb knowledge around me. At work, yeah. I’m fired UP. That’s fired UP, people. At home, yeah. Lately I’ve been hashing out plot synopses (about a page long) for stories I’d like to write. Many of these synopses are really stories in and of themselves that can be taken at face value. In the past I’ve found these sorts of things difficult to envision, but lately the trajectory of a tale is much easier to contemplate. I’ve learned to read new scripts and languages; I’ve boosted my brainz, and heck, I’ve never been so creative or focused. Granted, this is me we’re talking about.

I think I’m just growing up.

I’m even managing to have healthier eating/exercise habits and, off and on, cooking for myself and keeping my place clean. And socializing and going outside and doing things and traveling. Life is good, man. I may not have a glamorous existence, I may not live in the most amazing city or the coolest ‘hood, I may not have lots of money, I may not be powerful, I may not be suave, I may have my flaws (many), I may have my issues, but you know what? I’m a happy camper. Most of the time, I truly enjoy my imperfect, wonderful life.

And I’ve always known — believed — had no choice but to assume — that one must consume in order to produce. Often times, I’ve been out of whack, leaning to one side or the other of that scale. But right now, I’m in a rare equilibrium between desire to take in data and desire to spit it out. I’m born to be a storyteller, I know it, and it may just be the one and only thing that I know how to do in any medium or platform.

In the coming days, expect to see me delve into aspects of culture and things I’m thinking about or exploring.





Knowledge for knowledge’s sake

22 02 2010

I really want to get learning again. I felt a touch of yearning to start focusing back on educating myself over the past couple days, but I don’t want to go back to school because of the expense and career setback involved. This might sound a bit odd, but I got to thinking that an interesting compromise would be to put myself through a “school” of my own design. Devising some independent-study courses would be a creative project that I could test and evaluate and turn into a cool experiment, itself a form of study on our educational system.

If you know me, you know I go through phases where I seek to learn certain things for a short while. It’s sort of like a class, just done independently. Having this structured format, I think, would help me become more interested in things going on around me and would help me be more creative in my daily life, and have more things to talk about as an unplanned consequence. Here’s a few courses I’d like to take (some of which I never imagined I would want to take in my school days):

  • European historical geography
  • Language (Spanish, French)
  • Film/TV philosophy
  • Modern television series
  • U.S. travel and tourism
  • Independent music
  • Game theory and its applications to business
  • Social networks and game theory
  • Beginning computer programming principles
  • Geometry
  • U.S. history
  • Newspapers throughout the world
  • Science fiction in film
  • Reggae and society
  • Electronic musical instruments
  • Physical education
  • Origins of English
  • The Big Three Religions
  • Ancient History
  • Human Migration
  • Urban planning and city design
  • Cartography
  • Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Video animation techniques
  • Video editing
  • Social media and journalism
  • Psychology

That should give you an idea. I think I might be serious about this, and I wonder if this will pan out. I was thinking of having a “course schedule” of sorts on a monthly basis with a topical course, a scientific or technological course and an “elective,” as well as some sort of “physical education” for my health’s sake. I dunno, maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. I thought I’d start out in March with my first set of courses. In the meantime, I may take a mini-course or devote some time to researching independent study and curriculum development.

The downsides to this approach are that I would not have the guidance and expertise of a teacher or the social interaction with classmates. There would be no formal evaluation process. I might lose interest or focus. The upside is I can just do it with minimal overhead and interruption of my current routines.

So stay tuned; I’ll be posting my conclusions here on my blog. The first step, as I mentioned, will be to study curriculum development and learning techniques. On March 1, we’ll get started with the official courses if my interest in this project persists. Check back in and let’s see how it goes.





Podcasting experiment

6 02 2010


The Big Chicken

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This here is the Big Chicken in Marietta, Georgia. I’m doing a little podcasting experiment since I was in GarageBand messing around with the hats project. It’s called “14 Miles From the Big Chicken.” I’m totally stressing out about whether that’s “14 miles from” or “14 miles to.”

Anyways. Here is an experimental audio podcast that I did (and even a little tumblr I started for it so it would have an RSS feed associated with it).

Weird, huh? I don’t know if I’ll do another one, but I thought it’d be fun.