Disappear here

It’s been quite a summer. I’ve moved across the country with my wife to start a PhD. I’ve quit my job. I’ve taken on a new identity- doctoral student. Progress.

Before I delve into the maelstrom of academics that is a doctoral program I decided to catch up on some pleasure reading. I wanted to remind myself that people do read for pleasure.  I read three books within the last 3 weeks:

The Catcher in the Rye- J.D. Salinger

Less than Zero- Bret Easton Ellis

Lunar Park- Bret Easton Ellis

If you know anything about the above books/authors then you know I am probably in a weird head-space right about now.

I picked the above books at near random- The Catcher in the Rye was given to me for free by a friend in Athens just before I moved, and I have the two Ellis novels as leftover Christmas gifts that I never read. Despite the lack of purpose in my choosing to read them they are all connected by a similar theme: Identity. In each of these books the main character is trying to identify himself. And, in all three, the main character is at some point of transition- either flunking out of school, returning home, or trying to transition into fatherhood.

The Catcher in the Rye and Less than Zero are the most similar. Being lost. Lonliness. Self isolation. It’s clear that, reading through these novels, Ellis has taken his cues from Salinger. Similar styles, stream of consciousness at times. Colloquial language. They both write in a way that draws you in. However, they both have a tendency to come off as entitled. Scenes of private prep schools, private liberal arts schools, excessive materialism, lack of value for relationships. Where Salinger is whiny, forever searching for some deeper meaning from a highschool dropout, Ellis is loquacious, often giving erroneous descriptions of a luxury car, household décor, names of people at parties.

Lunar Park, while tackling some similar themes, is different. It’s quite a strange novel, to say the least. I’m not even sure if it is a novel, or if it is a memoir, or some kind of horror filled yet hopeful wish.  Whatever label it should fit under is irrelevant as I’m sure the real purpose is to help Ellis work out his own inner demons (no pun intended) with his deceased father. It was a good novel to end the trio.

It’s poignant that my life, my identity, is also changing, is changed. In a way, I identify with all the characters here, I am these characters. Yet, I am not. In Less than Zero the antagonist, Clay, says all that matters “ . . . is I want to see the worst.” I don’t. Okay, I do, but that’s another blog post. Right now I want to see the best. I want to see the best in myself.

Where the characters of the aforementioned novels are filled with hopelessness, I am filled with hope. I am ready for this next stage of life. I am ready to achieve my best.

I appreciate all the readers who follow my blog. This was a heavy post, but a needed post. My writing may diminish in the coming months as much of my energy will go back into school. But I will be sure to post, I am trying to adhere to a once a month minimum, even if that once a month is just a photography post.

I hope you are achieving your best. If not, I hope you are on your way to it.

Thanks for the read.

-ASG

Do the anxiety (fixed version)

*quick apology: Sorry to anyone who experienced any errors the first time this went out. I was trying a new offline up loader and made a mistake.

Anxiety. It’s what I do.

To the people who know me this might not seem right. I don’t usually appear too anxious, apart from the fact that I talk pretty fast (but that’s also a relic of my childhood stutter) or sometimes I may seem busy. But those who know me really well know I can be a very anxious person.

I hid it well. Actually, I don’t really hide it at all- it’s similar to someone who gets overwhelmed and zones out. That’s how I deal with a lot of anxiety. I zone out. As an unintended side effect I appear to be cool.

There is a secret to doing anxiety well. That secret? Be anxious about things you can’t change. It’s perfect! By worrying about something you have no control over you will be perpetually worried, perpetually occupied. Plus, 99.9% of things in your life you have no control over anyway, so you never have to worry about running out of things to worry about. Also, shallow quick breathing does wonders for destroying any sense of calm. Try it! No, seriously, don’t.

I am in one an anxiety vortex as of late. I am stuck in a moment in time where I have huge changes coming (leaving my job, moving to start grad school again), any number of things to worry about, and essentially zero influence on any of it (at least at this moment). It’s the doldrums of anxiety – no movement in our out. Just sitting.

Sometimes I can simply recognize this happening. At that point I try to jump start myself out of it by visualizing things working out perfectly, by just focusing on doing something else that I can have control over (writing a blog works perfectly there), spending time with others, and meditation (that really works- it’s like Drain-o for your brain). But sometimes, despite my best efforts, my brain won’t listen. It’s like muscle memory movement, but instead of muscle it’s my neurons repeating the same paths over and over again. Or, sometimes I just don’t realize what is happening. Despite the familiar surroundings I just don’t recognize how much anxiety I am holding.

Then, like a curtain being thrown open, the anxiety is dissipated by an outside force. Usually different things can cause this, but a majority of the time it is music. Just a few simple notes and I am grounded. Add in a few deep breaths and it’s all good.

Today, I had one of those brain Drain-o moments where everything was un-clogged, and I was suddenly relaxed, okay with how things are going. So I will share it with you.

-ASG

Technology vs. memories

“Remember when we would get picture prints and the first print off of every roll was your ‘goofy-face’ test picture?”- Angela to me.

Yes, I do. And I miss them. A lot. How did I forget about those? It’s weird how some of the details of your own life can fade over time yet you don’t recognize that they have faded.

Wait. They didn’t fade. They were replaced. By this.

Fun destroyer.

Thanks to technology, I don’t need to take a goofy first-of-the-roll-test-pic to make sure the film is advancing properly. Bummer.

I wonder what else I am going to miss out on? Yeah, goofy pics aren’t a huge thing to miss out on, and I won’t miss the pics themselves (at least not too much). What I will miss is the 30 seconds of laughing with my wife over how ridiculous I look.

I also miss photo albums. Real photo albums. With actual photos. Sure, I have a gigantic collection of pics on my PC, and I can view them anytime. But, I never clean them out. They’re unorganized. There are just too many. Plus, I have to be logged on to my computer to have other people view them. It would be kinda weird for a friend to just pick up my laptop and start looking through my digital libraries. But somehow it would be okay if I had a photo album filled with all my personal memories and people could thumb through that.

So what else does technology accidentally replace? Hmm . . .

-Face to face conversations. Because, either they’re not face to face anymore (i.e. Facebook, which I try to avoid for many reasons) or if you are face to face with someone, they’re looking at a screen and texting someone else.

-Music. Yeah, music got a lot of benefits from tech, but it also loses something (see this CNET article). Also, anything with ‘auto-tune’ involved should not also be labeled music.

- Your social life. Especially if you are an online gamer. Especially if that game has anything involving dragons.

- Your marriage. Especially if you are an online gamer. Especially if that game has anything involving dragons.

- Seinfeld. Well, not directly, but this should explain it.

- Your memory.

Currently Angela and I are working on re-building our photo albums. I want to have something physical to pass down to my kids one day. Somehow I imagine handing over a hard-drive with a hearty “Here ya go, son.” Just won’t be as meaningful as hard-copies of pictures.

The picture I found that started this whole thing. Circa 2005.

-ASG

No more excuses

I have no problem with heaven. I long for it. But, it makes me lazy, unfocused. It provides a fallback position that undermines my relationships, my loves, my life. Some people think without an afterlife, without a judgment, people will live wildly, recklessly. As if no afterlife would mean our lives have no meaning. This might be true, but it wouldn’t last long. If nothing exists on the other side, it only ADDS value to our lives now. If there is nothing else, then THIS IS IT!!! Take a moment to process that- THIS. IS. IT.

Everything is precious! Everything you don’t tell your loved ones- they will never hear it. What if they are not looking down on us. What if they’re gone for good. What would you change RIGHT NOW if this were the case? Who would you call? Who would you spend more time with? Less time with? I think about times I’ve been with Angela, stressed or angry over some meaningless detail and missing out on our time- missing out on her when she was right in front of me. A rude waiter. Being cut-off in traffic. Being too picky. Just being in a ‘funk’. What terrible excuses those are. Excuses to not recognize the great things right in front of my face. I am changing that. I suggest you don’t wait, I suggest you change it now. What do you have to lose? How much more do you have to lose before you stop giving you life away?

I read somewhere that Buddha said that everything is burning. Coming from my Baptist upbringing this initially reminded me of hell- as if the intention is negative. But it isn’t. Everything is burning isn’t supposed to be a negative, painful, or punishing statement. On the contrary, it is meant to elucidate how quickly everything is changing around us. Even how quickly we are changing – our bodies, our minds. Imagine how rapidly your home would burn up if set on fire. All your possessions, gone in a flash. Our lives are like that. We may not recognize it because we live it every second, but everything is changing.

Is this change stoppable? No. Is it a bad thing? No. Many people would say that it sounds bad, almost hopeless. I think it can be hopeless- hopeless if you do not recognize this change. Hopeless if you resist the change. Hopeless if you ignore the change. I think it is liberating to take notice, to be aware, and really live . . . really appreciate those things we have and the people we share our lives with. How unfortunate for all those souls waiting on heaven to have a better experience. How unfortunate for those souls who set their eyes to the horizon, hoping to reach it. The horizon is unreachable- an illusion. You never get there. Like tomorrow- you never live in tomorrow, only today.

So take a few moments today, look away from the horizon. Look at your feet, then slowly gaze upward. Focus on what is in front of you RIGHT NOW. In THIS moment. What do you see?

-ASG

zensouth:

At the clinic I work at we just bought iPads to help our clients with related issues. I’m not sure where I stand on this article but it is good food for thought.

Actually, I know where I stand. Whatever the patents are that are being argued over should never have existed if an iPad app is infringing on them. The iPad is a completely different delivery device, and the app is a completely different product. No one should be able to hold exclusive rights to assistive technology.

Originally posted on Tech:

Earlier this year, I wrote a story about Maya, a four-year-old girl who used an app called Speak for Yourself to help her communicate with the outside world. Maya’s mother, Dana Nieder, preferred the app over more established augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices because it worked on an iPad, which was easier for Maya to handle, and it was cheaper — $299 plus the cost of an iPad, as opposed to bulkier devices that can cost up to $8,000.

The app is being threatened by a joint lawsuit from Prentke Romich Company (PRC) and Semantic Compaction Systems, which claim that Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender — the two speech pathologists behind Speak for Yourself — infringed on over 100 of their software patents. LoStracco and Collender fought back, claiming in court that the lawsuit is baseless.

Now it seems that despite the fact that the lawsuit is still…

View original 421 more words

Prometheus: initial thoughts and spoilers

I saw the sort-of Alien-prequel movie Prometheus last night. Well, it’s more of a prequel-to-a-prequel.

Movie Poster

My Thoughts Overall

Ridley Scott has said that the movie will be in the same ‘universe’ as the Alien franchise, but won’t link directly. And that is exactly what it is. I described it to a friend as a chapter book, where Prometheus is chapter one, and the first Alien movie is chapter three. They could link up with each other, but there is something else missing in between.

I was waaaaay too excited about the movie, so as a natural consequence it couldn’t blow my mind as much as I wanted. Having said that, it still blew my mind. The plot tackles some deep existential questions, the visuals are stunning, and of course it is suspenseful.

If there is any way that I could be disappointed in this movie it’s that it focused more on the sci-fi aspects and less on the horror aspects. I really wanted to feel trapped and terrified while watching it (like the first two Alien movies), and while I did feel that way at some parts, it wasn’t to the intensity level that I would have preferred.

Existentialism and Spoilers

Let’s get right down to it- this movie is deeper than it first appears. It’s the kind of film where you leave thinking “Okay, that was rad. I get it.” Then the questions come. And they keep coming. You realize that scenes and dialogue that appeared innocuous during the film were actually loaded with content. If you want a full breakdown of the movie, look somewhere else- I simply want to illuminate the themes I find appealing.

The main question the movie tackles is “Where do we come from?”

In the beginning of the movie so see a figure sacrificing himself in a river (on what appears to be Earth) which ultimately seeds the planet with the DNA so that humans may evolve. This is the metaphorical Prometheus of the movie, bringing fire (life) to Earth from the gods (the Engineers). It looks to be like a quasi-religious ceremony as well given that the figure (or Engineer) was in a hooded cloak.

Throughout the movie the team of the Weyland Corp. space craft Prometheus are trying to find their way back to the home planet of the Engineers to figure out why they made us. Mr. Weyland, who is old and dying, is also aboard the ship-likely trying find a way to avoid death by appealing to the intellectually superior Engineers. The ship’s crew are a mix of religious and scientific minded people, and it is clear that they are seeking the answer to where we come from for different reasons.

At one point the android, David, is having a talk with a scientist on board. The scientist is borderline obsessed with finding the Engineers to ask them why humans exist. David asks “Why did humans make me?” And the scientist replies “Because we can.” To this David retorts “Imagine how disappointed you would be to receive the same answer from your creator.” This is important because it implies that humanity’s existence is essentially meaningless, a theme that occurs throughout the movie.

Also, later in the movie, as Mr. Weyland is dying he utters “There is nothing.” David replies “I know, Mr. Weyland. Have a good journey.” This further implies that humanity is accidental, that there is no driving force, or no afterlife to look forward to.

David himself is also evidence of this nothingness, blurring the line of where life ends and begins. He is human like, watches movies, recites lines from his favorite films, and even has favorites. Also, throughout the movie, he tries to understand the human drive to know about their existence. I think the act of understanding itself is very human, further blurring the line between life and technology.

This theme of nothingness is juxtaposed throughout with religious faith. It is purposeful that the only individual who believes in religion survives, and continues on the search for why humans were created. Also, that the creation of life on Earth is also done in a quasi-religious ceremony further highlights the interplay between religion and nothingness in the movie. On the one hand humanity is only a copy of something else, a counterfeit. On the other, we exist at all due to possible religious devotion, which in a more philosophical way implies that we are religious beings, or at least the fruit of religion.

There a many other themes in the movie, including relationships, the dangers of genetic engineering, the dangers of having weapons of mass destruction, and the blurring of where technology becomes life itself (David). Also, there are various tie-ins to the alien franchise (even the implication that the existence of the xenomorph from the Alien movie is accidental itself).

These could all be stand-alone posts themselves, so I won’t cover them here. Besides, for Alien nerds like me those conversations are best left face-to-face. Or face-hugger to face-hugger.

-ASG

Dilemma of choice

Options. Choices. Alternatives. Stresses.

I love ‘em. Even if I don’t/won’t use them, I just gotta have ‘em. In everything.

Just take a look around my home. Two laptops. Two types of coffee, with two ways to brew them. Two different work bags. Multiple pairs of shoes. Multiple boxes of cereal. Three MP3 players. Two external hard drives (hey, that’s practical). Two beard trimmers, four types of shaving cream, two types of razors (and one has multiple types of blades). Two types of undershirts. I even wear two types of underwear (boxers and boxer briefs, now you know).

English: A modern safety razor, based on the c...
A safety razor, which I have about 10 types of blades for. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anytime I buy a new item, I want whatever version gives me the most options. It’s all about flexibility, really. I like my stuff to be utilitarian, and usable in many different situations. I blame my parents, well, actually I blame Boy Scouts. “Be Prepared” is the motto. So I am.

But why? Why do I have 5 different jackets when I live in Georgia? Yeah, I’ll be moving to New York state soon and they’ll definitely come in use there, but that was an unforeseeable change. They’ve been essentially useless to me. Is it materialism? Eh . . . maybe. I really do think that it comes down to my inner anxiety about any new situation. Gotta be prepared! Gotta have all the angles covered! But why?

Why not just roll with it? What do all those options matter? Occasionally I suffer from option paralysis (and not the awesome math-metal album by Dillinger Escape Plan, which I’m sure many people would count listening to as a form of suffering). No, I’m talking not being able to pick out an outfit because I am endlessly going through the combinations of pants/shirt/shoe/tie combinations in my head. My wife has seen it happen.

Cover of "Option Paralysis (Dig)"
Cover of Option Paralysis. Warning: Album May Kill You

It’s borderline obsessive compulsive. It get this inner compulsion to just check, to see if there are other options I am missing out on. There always are.

Enter this blog. I spent soo much time today pouring over other themes (that is, pre-packaged design templates) for this blog. Which ones had the best gallery looks, custom headers, post types, blah, blah, blah. I got this way because I was thinking that my current theme wasn’t customizable enough, that maybe there were other ones that would have better color schemes, more readability, easier accessibility, etc. Through my search I realized that the current theme was actually pretty customizable, and just like that, *snap*, I was out of my frenzy, content with this theme.

I could easily be one of those people who hoards stuff, waiting for the “just in case” moment when I need to use it.  Thank God for my need for aesthetic simplicity. I can’t stand a bunch of stuff just sitting everywhere. If Angela would allow it my whole house would look like a Zen monastery, with clean lines and no clutter. At least that’s what I like to think. Why can’t I snap out of it the rest of the time?

I think sometimes I just need to breathe. Just take a moment, breathe, and ground myself in the here and now. Not in all these future possibilities, not in all the possible combinations or uses of something, but it the now. Not judging, hoping, or worrying, but just living.

Anyway, what do you think?  What in your life do you have trouble making decisions over?