Friday, February 17, 2012

My REM cycle will grow trunks like a mighty oak

   For somewhat obvious reasons that I'm not willing to get into right now, I've been having trouble sleeping lately. This is nothing new. I've had bouts with insomnia since I was a kid. But it's always been about having trouble falling asleep more than being able to stay asleep. Recently, though, I've been finding myself waking up at 3 or 4 every morning. At first I assumed that it was just premature onset of old age. But once I realized that it isn't to pee and already in the throes of a panic attack, I figured I had to do something. Changing my diet and/or exercise regime is clearly not an option, melatonin gives me really weird dreams. So obviously, I resorted to changing what I listen to.

   Up until 25 or so, I fell asleep listening to music every night, and I could use just about anything. It wasn't until I was living with someone did I realize that other people don't find shrieking blues musicians or DJ Shadow to be as soothing as I did. and frankly, it started to wake me up with a start as well, so I just stopped.

   I think I already mentioned this somewhere, but there's a site, You are listening to Los Angeles, that I use a lot when I'm writing or just trying to think. It's a combination of super ambient music and police scanner broadcasts. In spite of the obvious contrast, I've found it to be one of my favorite things online. Lately, even more features have been added and I love it even more. But as much as it soothes me, there is no way I can fall asleep to descriptions -however codified- of homicides and animal abuse. But I still love the idea.

   So I started using an app on my ipod called Ambiance. This is essentially a huge archive of sound clips culled from and sent in by users. Wanna listen to a campfire or crickets or a thunderstorm? done. Tuvan throat singers? done. There's even weirdly specific ones, like "rain on a tent" or "TV through a wall" that are oddly captivating. You can even opt for plain old white noise (though I prefer violet noise for reasons I do not understand)*.

   But as much as I love to sleep listening to these things, I've still had trouble falling asleep to them. It's just boring enough to let my mind race. So, inspired by the site mentioned earlier, I decided to start making my own soundtrack. You see, Ambiance can let you play your music along with the sound effects. So I for the last few months I've been experimenting on what works. One of my favorites is playing Brian Eno's Music for Airports with a clip from a bowling alley. It sounds like that would be torture, but with the levels just right it's just as good as any dream I'd come up with. I've also used an old Smithsonian Jazz Piano box set (my go-to sleep music for years) blended with the sound of rain on corrugated metal. Chopin's nocturnes seem to go well with a bed of white noise, and Elizabeth Cotten's guitar picking blends nicely with the sounds of a typewriter.

   If I was a normal person, I'd probably be content with that. But I had to go the extra mile, so lately I've been collecting samples for what will undoubtedly be my unfinished opus. Yeah, I'm planning on creating a 5+ hour, nonrepeating audio track. I've been collecting audio clips of music boxes and armoniums. Of 17-year cicadas and nightingales. Also a lot of clips of people talking, almost exclusively with received pronunciation. I don't know why, but it helps.

   I have no idea how long this will take me, and I'm pretty sure I'll never stop tinkering with it, but I've been enjoying the process, and I guess that's why any of us have hobbies. I just wish mine resulted in some cool ships in bottles or something.

*I also use Brownian noise, which bears a very clear distinction from the Brown note, which would be infinitely less pleasant.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


  I don't care about Valentine's Day. I never really have. It's not because I've been with someone for the better part of 12 years or that I was particularly lovelorn as a youngster, but just that it's a crock of shit. I'm fortunate that my wife feels pretty much the same way.

  I mean, what type of perverse monster would create a holiday that:
-makes people not involved in a relationship feel lonely
-needs to remind people in a relationship to celebrate their love
-artificially forces couples into new levels of commitment/hyperinflated affection?

  I don't like any holiday that gets people down, and I can't even entertain the notion that people aren't thinking about love (or even sex) often enough. As far as I'm concerned, we should be celebrating Arbor Day with more vigor than this bullshit. At least then people would plan some trees or something.

  If you're with someone who needs a February 14 to say "oh, right. I bet he or she would like some chalky candy and calendar-mandated sex!", you should probably rethink some things. This is hardly a new or unique opinion, but it is sincere nonetheless.

   So I don't know, enjoy the day. Go out and be with friends or spouses or cousins or whatever. Watch a movie not directed by Garry Marshall. or be miserable, for all I care. Just don't be miserable because of the date.

Full disclosure: I am cooking a very nice dinner for my wife tonight, but it has more to do with my butcher having Valentine's Day specials than anything else*. I might not be sappy enough to fall for a fake holiday, but I'll always be a cheapskate at heart. Plus, the fact that I'm sick and all of my head-holes feel packed with gauze means that it wouldn't be romantic if I was wielding a bow & arrow and wearing a diaper. Do you see how ridiculous this is!?

*If anything, I think we'll be celebrating the butcher store, which is one of my favorite places in southern California.

Friday, January 27, 2012

 The cat, playing in the yard. I know this is the most boring of boring, but for me it's like seeing a newborn thrown into the Pacific Ocean, so here you go.

I woke up early this morning and saw this through the curtains. It's one of those occasions where I wish the picture could have contained just 10% of the beauty I saw. Still, it came out okay.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I posted this on Twitter a few days ago, but not many of you follow me on Twitter. Also, this might be the most insane panel from the most insane issue of a comic book that I've ever read.

From The Defenders: Tournament of Heroes #1 (Marvel, 1978, republished last week).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

   So, I've started writing up my thoughts and comparisons of Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (I know, right?) a couple of times now and I keep losing interest. Sorry about that.

But this happened...

   About once or twice a week I go on these little Fruitthievery™ expeditions where I walk around for a few hours collecting fruit. What one Paul f. Tompkins bit calls "migrant worker fantasy camp". At this point, you can call me cheap and you wouldn't be wrong. You can buy oranges for practically nothing just about anywhere out here. But there's benefits other than the six bucks I might've saved.

   For one, the best tasting fruit is stolen fruit, ask anyone. Despite the name, though, Fruitthievery™ is primarily taken from public or college lands that encourage people to help themselves. Even though what I'm doing is completely legal there's something about walking around on private property and harvesting fruit that gives it a sinister feel. and that always tastes better than something you bought in a store. Or ,in the case of many southern Californians, a freeway off-ramp.

   Another benefit is that the town we live in has fruit trees everywhere. The above map, taken from Fallen Fruit*, shows a small corridor on the college campuses nearby and what grows where, or what did. Sadly, a lot of construction has rendered this map nearly unusable. Still, there's plenty of other sources and I like to find them on my own just by walking around. Ever since a particularly intense night during college** I've made it a point to be able to recognize any spot on the ground within 2-3 miles of where I live. That sounds easy, but you'd be amazed at how many people take stuff like that for granted. Even if you walk a lot, you might not make it down certain alleys or through patches of trees. I try to as much as I can. Which means sometimes you find yourself potentially trespassing or walking through an elementary school by yourself like a weirdo, and it's times like those helps to be carrying a sack of grapefruit.

   Today, for instance, I found myself crouching in some bushes on an all girl's college campus.

   Let me back up a little bit. The campus is part of a much larger combined campus, so it's not like I was like hanging from a tree with binoculars in a convent or Themyscira or something. Still, it doesn't make me any less self-aware of what I'm doing or how I'm doing it. So yeah, I found a tangerine tree (which I haven't seen as many of) and it was ripe and plentiful with fruit. So I sort of half-climbed it and started filling up the bag I had wrapped around my shoulder. Normally it takes me no more than 2 minutes to get what I need, but tangerines are different in that I like to eat and juice them. Oranges and grapefruits I always juice. So I took my time up there.

   Of course, when I had gone up the tree, there was nobody really around. What I realized was that in the 5 minutes I had climbed into it, the surrounding area filled up with a bunch of people. There was some sort of event going on that people were gathering for, and while I'm sure they saw movement in the tree, I'm assuming they thought it was a squirrel or something not a grown-ass man. And I started panicking.  

   What if they never disperse and I'm up here all day!? (Okay, I definitely didn't think the word "disperse"). But at some point I realized that I had to get out of there, embarrassment be damned. So I dropped myself down out of the branch I was standing on.

   Or at least I meant to. What actually happened is that my shoe was sort of wedged in a forked branch and so while most of my body dropped down three feet or so, my foot rose up to slightly above waist level. It was about as comfortable as you can imagine. Also, since my "drop" didn't go as well as hoped, I had to keep holding on to the tree to keep balanced. Which made a lot more noise than I would've thought. Instead of feeling awkward in front of a few people, I ended up looking  awkward in front of a significantly larger crowd.

   After some clumsy maneuvering I managed to free my foot, pick up my bag of tangerines (which had begun to spill on to the ground did I not mention that?), and half mumble before walking off briskly. All in all, I got a whole bunch of tangerines, a weekly supply of oranges, some kumquats and some limes.

I'm not sure if I should start buying my fruit or touch up on my tree-climbing skills.

*Check that site to see if there's a map for your neighborhood!
**I don't think I've told this story here. I also don't think I ever will. It involves me getting lost and taking an entire neighborhood's Sunday morning papers. Ask me about it in person sometime.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Post

   I need to start writing again. This, some fiction, anything. I need to start flexing that muscle again. One of the things I have the most trouble with writing is not mimicking whatever it is that I'm reading or hearing lately. Then before I know it, I'm aping Justified while writing two astronauts talking. I'm not sure if this means I have no consistent stories to tell or that I have no consistent voice of my own.
   It doesn't matter, because I'm terrified that if I start trying to really take on something serious, the anxiety and self-doubt that has become so engrained in my professional life will seep into whatever I'm writing. Then it'll echo back on to me and I'll be trapped in some sort of negative feedback loop. The thing I was working on, the thing about Mars, sort of just slipped back into the quagmire that is my brain floor. But I'm thinking of something (tentative title The Fattest Spy) that maybe can get me started again. I'll keep you updated. Maybe. Probably not.

Anyway, yeah I'm still here. I hope to be posting again soon

My day, by the numbers:
1 bowl of cereal (Cheerios)
1 large cup of coffee (light cream, light sugar)
1 small glass of orange juice
2.2 job applications completed and sent
between 3-5 miles walked
300 situps
100 pushups
2 college lectures listened to (Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History and Ben Franklin and the World of the Enlightenment)
1 podcast listened to (NBA Today)
3 songs listened to ("Soul Shake" by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson; "Don't Know You at All" - Blood Feathers; "Unheard Music" by Elastica with Stephen Malkmus)
3 short phone calls made
.6 Meatball sandwiches*
1 large salad*
1 handful gummi candy*
1 shot espresso*
1 magazine read (New Yorker)*
2-3 hours television played, half watched (???)*


I feel like I'm preparing for something, but I have no idea what that is. Maybe that's a good sign