Opinions and Facts

An Epiphany About Google+

I was reading a discussion about Google+ compared to Facebook and how many people are not yet seeing its full potential because they don’t understand it or are just looking at it as a direct Facebook substitute. The main thing that hit me was how using Circles you can have friends, colleagues, celebrities, and any other grouping of people in the same place on one website but you can choose to read/post to any or all of them selectively. Where this struck me was in relation to my experience on Facebook.

I started out with just my personal page. Then I started pondering if I should start a “musician” page. At first, I saw no reason for that but then someone made the awesome point that at some point, hopefully, my “fans” won’t necessarily be just my “friends”. People may want to see where I’m playing or hear my music but I may not necessarily want them all added as “friends”. So I started my musician page. Now I’m also an actor but I don’t want to make an actor page as well. That’s just getting silly.

However, even with my musician page, I still get friend requests from strangers who find my band pages or have seen some film I’ve done. When I first joined Facebook, I was extremely selective about who I added. They had to actually be a real life “friend” or at the very least someone I had at least had a decent conversation with at some point. As time went on though I became less and less discriminating, especially as potential film industry contacts started adding me. This was a wise move as these connections have directly led to work but now I have tons of “friends” many who I don’t really know at all. Yes I know I can hide anyone I want from my news feed but that’s just an extra annoying step and maybe I don’t want them permanently hidden but just separated from my true “friends”.

With Google+, this problem is elegantly solved. Sure, at this point it doesn’t have all the features of Facebook (or many of the annoyances as well, so there’s two sides to that coin) but I can add friends, fans, film industry contacts, funny strangers, Lemur lovers, peanut butter and banana enthusiasts, deep seaa Yugoslavian folk dancers and all other manner of people into their own “Circles” making it very easy to selectively read or post to any individual circle, combination of circles or everyone including the public.

Yes, Google+ is still in its infancy. Yes there are bugs, annoyances, things missing that many people may want (however that’s another Pandora’s box as any given feature may be wanted by many while being considered clutter or annoyance by others). But all in all, I personally think it is an elegant and well done improvement over Facebook and have faith that it will only continue to get better.

The Path to Enlightenment, or “I Knew I Should Have Taken a Left at Albuquerque”

Spirituality and more specifically, religion, is a topic I tend to stay very far away from. It tends to be very personal and, moreso, it tends to be very divisive and inflammatory. However, today I feel the need to explore these dangerous waters with you. “You” being no one really since I’m pretty sure my only readers are Google’s web scouring index-bots.

I am a very spiritual person. I, however, am not at all religious. I am not a part of any organized religion, nor do I care to be. That’s an even more inflammatory topic that I won’t go into as it’s not really relevant here. I have always had a very personal spiritual relationship with the universe at large. I think a lot of religions all have good things to teach and offer and so I’ve sort of made my own little spiritual casserole with a bit of this and a dash of that.

Eckhart Tolle was a name that had crossed my attention several times in the great zeitgeist. I’d seen him on friends’ lists of favorite books and seen references here and there and it always seemed to be from sources that made me think I should investigate. People with similar outlooks to my own. Recently, one of my closest friends who I feel more spiritually in sync with than anyone I’ve ever met, highly recommended Tolle’s works and lent me her copy of “A New Earth” along with Einstein’s “Ideas and Opinions”. Both are great in totally different ways. The Einstein is wonderful but very crunchy on the brain, in a great way. I have to digest it in tiny bites. The Tolle has been nothing short of life changing for me.

Now, my head is always filled to bursting with a million different things and my mind is always racing at light speed around the universe. It made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. Suck it, Han Solo. Recently, I have been going through a very difficult period. Full of anxiety, angst, pain and just a general maelstrom of tumultuous turmoil. I’ve felt like a barely functioning human being in a lot of ways. There is epic, gargantuan, really heavy stuff (to me any way) that’s crushing me and making me feel like I’m in a catatonic state just because I have to direct all available energy to fighting the storm, struggling to find the path through to the other side where it’s calm and serene. Truly caught between Scylla and Charybdis, where option A sucks and so does option B. Now don’t get me wrong, I am equally filled with love, beauty and gratitude but the funny thing is, even of your life is 95% absolutely amazing, that 5% can somehow seem like it taints and overwhelms the other 95%. Which is why this book could not have come along at a better time.

I swear to you this book is psychic. Every time I sit down and read it (and I mean every time), the next chapter addresses something that’s going on in my mind that day. I feel almost like I could think “Hmm, I’m so torn as to what to have for breakfast” and then I’d sit down to read and the first line would be “Chapter 12: Bananas and Peanut Butter”. When I’m reading this book, a still, calm peace comes over me and everything just makes sense. Unfortunately I have not yet mastered holding on to this serenity long term and as soon as I stop reading, like a slippery eel, the effects start to fade until I’m fighting the good fight again but I am getting better. Much better. Like going to the gym, I can feel my mental muscles strengthening. I can feel myself changing. I know I’m in the middle of a huge metamorphosis right now and that I am closer than ever to being who I want to be (though that is a journey that will continue for the rest of my life).

Luckily I had already come a long way down my path before reading this book so I was well ahead of the game but I find that I’m learning the finer tools to battle my personal monsters. I am becoming a stronger, better, more conscious person with every day of my life. If you find yourself lost, adrift, stagnant or just in need of something, I highly recommend this book but go with your own gut. It might not be for you. Your spiritual journey is not the same as mine. Your battles will not be the same as mine. I am still chock full o’ insecurities, doubts and fears but I know I’ve made progress.

I’m learning patience and to tame the control freak within me that wants to mold the universe into what I want it to be. I’m learning to let go and let the current take me to my destination. These things, however, all go against my nature so it’s not going to be an easy journey. The world doesn’t work like I want it to. People don’t work like I want them to. Relationships are not what I want them to be. I’m someone who needs to be fed. Not a lot but at least a morsel. Often. So many times I don’t understand why something happens or why someone acts the way they do and those voices kick in and try to read all kinds of negative things into it (one of the downsides to having a very vivid and active imagination) but more and more I’m able to recognize the static in life and tune in to the real signal.

Don’t be afraid to tell people that they are beautiful and that you love them. And if you are reading this, you are beautiful and I love you. Even you, Google Web-bots.

Wow. I cared!

There was something about this election. It seemed to me to be the most intensely passionate, most cared about election of my life. It was the first time I actually voted. It was the first time I really cared. It was the first time I actually had the election results on the TV all day. I feel good. I feel like finally “my people”, as in those that I feel the most kinship and connection with, my kindred spirits, have taken action and taken control. It feels like a new era, a revolution. I’ve never been a political person at all but this time I knew it really mattered. When I look at the totals of the popular vote and I know that I am one among that number, I smile. I’ve already seen much graciousness and much grumbling, sour grapes and sour comments. I hope that we can all truly come together as one nation united, and put aside that which divides us and makes us choose sides. For the first time in my 37 years, I care. No matter who you voted for, I hope your future is as bright as I know mine is.

“The Dark Knight” (No spoilers)

Wow. Frickin’ wow. Totally worthy of all the hype. Intense. It felt like two movies worth of experience, at least (in the best possible way). So dense. Heath Ledger is as amazing as everyone has been touting (or expecting). Not once was I pulled out of the movie by bad CG. Brutal without being graphically gory.
Though this movie obviously requires some suspension of disbelief, there was only really one thing that snapped my suspension of disbelief for a nanosecond but then I got over it and was back in this amazing film.
My one complaint, and it is oh so minor, Christian Bale’s voice when he’s batman and not Bruce Wayne. It’s just too gruff and affected. It makes him hard to understand and sounds like he’s desperately in need of a bat-lozenge for his throat. As one comedian put it after “Batman Begins”, it’s a little like cookie monster playing Batman.
“DO YOU HAVE A COOKIE FOR BATMAN?”
I WILL be seeing this movie again in the IMAX. It almost demands multiple viewings to process it all.
In another interesting twist, my acting career idol, Gary Oldman, plays probably the most boring, normal, plain part of his career. A part that’s so not “Gary Oldmanesque”. And yet, in a strange twist, it being so different in itself kind of makes it Gary Oldmanesque! Don’t get me wrong, he does a great job and I love his character, he’s just so normal, plain and kind of boring (the character, no Gary Oldman).
See this movie. Multiple times. Genius.

Chipmunk Punk

When I was a kid, I had the album “Chipmunk Punk”. This was a 1980 album of Alvin and the Chipmunks doing 9 songs that were not really in any way, punk, but were pretty cool and influential to me. This album actually introduced me to a lot of songs that I would later come to really love. At the time, I had never heard of “The Knack” and I don’t think I had heard of most of the other songs on the album either. I just knew I liked the Chipmunks as we had a cool clear red album of theirs from 1969.
Recently I was thinking back on this and realized just what a weird album this was. The track listing was:
Side A

  • “Let’s Go” by The Cars
  • “Good Girls Don’t” by The Knack
  • “How Do I Make You” by Linda Ronstadt
  • “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  • “Frustrated” by The Knack

Side B

  • “Call Me” by Blondie
  • “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel
  • “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen
  • “My Sharona” by The Knack

Now the first thing I noticed is that one third of the songs are from The Knack. Now don’t get me wrong, I love The Knack’s debut album “Get The Knack” which spawned all three of these songs, but to have three of nine songs by The Knack, who I had never even heard of at that time, seems an odd choice. Were the producers friends with The Knack? Did they get a hellaciously good deal on song rights?
Secondly, though I remember very specific changes they made to the lyrics to make them more kid friendly, those three songs from The Knack are racy! They’re all about trying to get laid. Sure they changed “Til she’s sitting on your face” to “Til she’s sitting in your place” but a few lyrical changes do not change the overall subject of the song.
I don’t really remember realizing at the time what these songs were about, but again in hindsight, WHOA! How did this album get made?
“You thought you heard her saying ‘Good Girls don’t’…but she’s been telling you ‘Good girls don’t but I do.”
“Frustrated” is all about blue balls, basically. Some girl not putting out.
“My Sharona”, all about lusting after this young teenage girl.
Again, I ask, HOW DID THIS ALBUM GET MADE AND RELEASED? All I know is I’m glad it did, because I played the hell out of it and was introduced to some awesome music. I own every one of those songs on CD by the original artists. Except for “How Do I Make You”. I can’t remember how that one goes but I remember I liked the Chipmunk’s version of it. Somehow I listened to this album repeatedly without ever really realizing how inappropriate some of the songs probably were for a nine year old boy.

Prejudice

I had an experience a few weeks ago that made me realize just how lucky i am to live a fairly prejudice-free life. I am generally surrounded by non-prejudiced people in a fairly non-prejudiced town, at least to the point where something like this actually took me by surprise which is a good thing.
I was at a band gig when one of my band mates was talking about his family trip to Disneyworld. This individual is a very generous generally great guy but he’s also an old country boy farmer. Sometimes these things just don’t seem to go together, such as when him, his wife and their teenage daughter were talking about how they happened to be at Disneyworld for gay pride day. And, oh my goodness, they were surrounded by GAY PEOPLE! Shock! horror! And, I quote, “It was disgusting!”
I sat there kind of fuming trying to figure out exactly how to handle this. I had no idea what to say or do. I wanted to speak up but in a non-confrontational way that would hopefully reach them and make them think instead of just alienating them but I just couldn’t think of anything to say. I ended up muttering sarcastically, “Oh no, gay people,” but no one really heard and I didn’t want to make a point by repeating it or whatever. I think the real shame is that their daughter, who is a bright, intelligent girl, is having this kind of thing put in her head.
There are so many people in the world and the vast majority of them are going to be different from you in at least some ways. Sometimes you have close friends who are good people and yet have some pretty major differences from you. Sometimes that can be really hard. I actually wondered, albeit only briefly, “Do I really want to be in a band with people like this?”

Thoughts on “The Twilight Zone”

I have always been a big fan of “The Twilight Zone”. I remember my uncle and grandmother watching reruns when I was growing up and I think that it probably stuck in my psyche somewhere pretty deep and played a part in forming who I am.
A while back I bought the entire series on DVD (box set with episodes in order of airing). We’ve started watching them from the beginning and I’ve noticed some peculiar things. Now let me first say that, yes, I do realize that TV was a completely different beast back then as well as movies and probably just general storytelling techniques. I still love this show but have noticed it’s tendency to assume that the viewer is so stupid as to be just shy of brain dead. This is kind of funny because on the other hand it can go to some pretty cerebral places too so it almost seems as if it’s catering to really smart folks and people who are dumber than a box of non-sentient rocks.
For example, in one episode, Burgess Meredith plays a man who loves to read. So much so that at lunch time he goes into the vault of the bank where he works to read. One day while in the vault, the world gets destroyed by H-bombs but he survives since he was in the vault. We see all this on screen. Well we don’t actually see the H-bombs and such but it’s all illustrated quite clearly.
Then, upon leaving the vault and seeing the state of the world, he monologues to himself (since everyone else is dead) something along the lines of:
“Oh my god! The world was destroyed by H-bombs! Everyone is dead except for me! *a look of realization* I survived because I was in the vault!”
Well. That was a bit of totally unnecessary exposition! And we just won’t mention the two dimensional character that was his harpy of a wife who refused to let him read at home.
Then there was another episode where these astronauts go missing off the radar as they launch. It turns out they’ve crash landed on “an asteroid” as they call it. An asteroid with an perfectly human compatible atmosphere and mountains and stuff. O.K. so they really should have just called it a planet. Then they have a conversation about how, from the looks of things, the sun appears to be the same distance and trajectory as from the Earth meaning that they must be on an asteroid in the same orbit as the Earth!
So basically, five minutes into the episode, they’ve just hit you over the head with their “twist” ending. OMG! It wasn’t an asteroid at all! It turns out they had just crashed in the Nevada desert! All that strife and killing wasn’t necessary after all!
As I said, I just find these things fun to nitpick. I still think The Twilight Zone is an awesome, brilliant, landmark show.

Literally

The misuse of the word “literally” has gotten out of hand. It’s everywhere. Even in the media and printed materials. Ever since I have had discussions about this with friends, we’ve all suddenly become attuned to it and have started noticing how rampant it is. It’s like when Roddy Piper got those sunglasses in “They Live!” and could suddenly see all the aliens or whatever they were. People say things like “It literally blew my mind!” Umm, no it didn’t. I know this from the fact that they were standing there telling me this.
Two recent observances that really stuck out to me were in video game related materials. In an ad for the Super Smash Brothers Brawl game it said “…literally anything can happen, and usually does!” Wow, that’s some serious technology they’ve developed there. So it’s totally possible and in fact likely that I could be playing the game and suddenly see Dennis De Young from Styx fly in on a half-dolphin, half-bagel creature with purple monkeys flying out his butt.
In a review of Assassin’s Creed on gamespot.com the reviewer mentioned how the game’s atmosphere was so great that it was “…literally a living, breathing world.” Again, I really had no idea this kind of technology existed! They should really let some top scientists study this stuff!
We have friends who use this word in what seems like every other sentence. It seems like they just use it for unnecessary emphasis or something like, “I was like, literally, just sitting there eating my dinner…” Really? I’m glad you specified because I thought you meant it figuratively. You know, that old colloquial saying, “eating my dinner” meaning that you were building a wooden effigy of the Bee Gees.

Can someone help me understand myself?

I have always been anti-smoking. My mom has smoked for pretty much my entire life and I always hated it. Hated the smell. Hated that I seem to be extra sensitive to smoke. The slightest whiff, even from quite some distance can choke me up. For example, tonight, several people were smoking on the balcony with the door open and I had to close my bedroom door because I could smell it. Of course there’s also the extreme amount of money smokers spend and the whole issue of supporting the evil tobacco companies and plenty of other rational arguments that could be made even if you’re one of the people who believes that there is no scientific evidence that smoking is linked to health problems, but that’s a whole other subject and I don’t want to start that debate here. My issue is more personal.
The part I don’t understand is my own vehement reaction to it. With everything going on with Jess, I think one of things that hurts the most is that she has started smoking again. She smoked before I knew her but had quit before we met. The fact that it even registers on my radar sounds ridiculous even to me. Why do I care so much? Why is it such a big deal? Why is it so important to me that my loved ones not smoke? I feel the same sense of hurt and distance when Larry occasionally smokes too. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that no one is doing it to be hurtful or anything. I just don’t understand why it means so much to me. The first time I saw jess light up on our balcony, let’s just say my reaction was completely and irrationally emotional. Maybe because of our separation my subconscious read more into it like because she knows how much it means to me maybe I stupidly saw it as a big final “fuck you” which, of course, I know it isn’t. I’m sure we all know the stupid things we can think when we’re emotional.
But the fact is is that is a big deal to me and I don’t know why. I don’t think it’s a judgmental thing, but admittedly I could be wrong. I don’t think any less of her for it and I don’t think I’m better than people who smoke. I really do think it’s more of a connection thing. It makes me feel distant and disconnected and I do legitimately worry about the health of the people I love and supporting the evil empires of tobacco (which ironically is a trait directly instilled in me by Jess). To me it feels like it comes from a place of caring and concern and not a confrontational or judgmental place. I value my connections with people and anything that interfers with those connections bothers me.
I just don’t understand why I feel the way I do. I don’t want it to interfere with my connection. Why can’t I just not care about it? When Larry smokes, I feel down. When Jess smokes it’s of a whole other order of magnitude. It feels like it almost hurts as much as our separation which should be ludicrous! I’m sure there must be some deep subconscious motivation at work here. I just can’t figure out what it is. I’m really trying to be better about this and at least not be judgmental or sanctimonious about my feelings. I’d love to find the root of this and find a way to overcome it.

The Beatles: “Love”

For Christmas I received not one, but two copies of the new Beatles album, “Love” which I had desperately been wanting ever since learning of it. For anyone who doesn’t know, Cirque Du Soleil wanted to do a Beatles themed show so George Martin and his son Giles took the original Beatles master tapes, put them in a metaphorical blender and came up with some amazing musical casseroles, some pieced together like Frankenstein’s monster, with amazing results. Some songs have the vocals from one song set to the music from a completely different song with various textures from even more songs thrown in, while some other songs are changed very little from the originals but almost everything has at least some small subtle bits from other songs creeping in.
I definitely think the die hard Beatles fans (like myself) will reap the deepest rewards from this collection but even more casual Beatles fans can’t miss the more extreme remixes and sound collages which, in my opinion, are by far the best and most amazing. This album continues to elicit goose bumps from me even several after listenings. I’m just about as big a Beatles fan as there is but I have yet to be able to trace each bit of each song back to its origin. The end of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” mixed with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” sounds to me like a pristine aural representation of Hell, and I mean that in a wonderful, pure genius way. Listening to this album is like being caught in some strange wormhole where the entire Beatles catalog exists as one living, breathing entity; time and space ripple and fold back on themselves as sounds and images fade and meld into each other and through you.
I’ve evangelized for years about the genius of George Martin and how I think his role as producer had as much effect on the end result of Beatles records as the 4 Beatles themselves had in writing and playing them and I think this album puts his talents on display more than ever. Just listen to “Anthology” and you can hear a demo of a good song end up as a true masterpiece due in no small part to Martin’s input.
The album is also available in two formats, standard CD, and a double CD+DVD version which includes the whole album (with some slightly longer versions of some songs) in 5.1 surround sound. This is an absolute must hear. Absolutely one of the most creative and amazing things I’ve heard in a long time.