20 June, 2010

Petty's Got Mojo in 2010

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' new album, Mojo, is a blast. I probably wouldn't have even bothered to buy it if it had been completely up to me. Not because I didn't think I'd like it, but because, though I like Tom Petty a lot, he's never been one of my personal top favorites, and as far as modern albums go, well, you're often not sure what you're gonna get. I bought The Last DJ back in 2002, though, and that one was fantastic. And this year's Mojo is, too. I think whoever's idea it was to give a digital download of the album to anyone who buys concert tickets to go see Petty on his tour this summer, it was a brilliant idea. My family has sort of got into the tradition of seeing Petty in concert every time he comes through town, and though there are other acts I might be more excited to see, I can't complain, because Petty is a classic rocker, and a class act - a real musician with integrity.

So what about the album? Mojo is a very bluesy album - for Tom Petty. And there are a lot of good rocking tracks on it, plenty that could stand for "hits". A lot of the song material is kind of melancholy, but with a certain energy - very bluesy in mood, you could say. And the closing track, Good Enough, on its own is...good enough...to move product. Since I've been listening to the album so much, I'll go through it track by track:

I read that Jefferson Jericho Blues is a song about a love affair involving Thomas Jefferson. It's a bit quirky, but it's an upbeat track to open a relatively heavy album (heavy mood, not heavy metal). You'll probably like it if you dig a good, swinging blues harp track.

First Flash of Freedom inevitably paled in comparison to Good Enough, the top standout track from this album, but in the context of the rest of the album, it proves itself to be one of the stronger tracks. The instrumentation is good, and the lyrics are pleasing in a rhythmic fashion. There is probably some kind of patriotic context to this song, but aside from being a song about America (assuming that much), I couldn't say what the deeper meaning is. "We felt so much more than our hearts could explain, on our first flash of freedom." There's a nice guitar lick in this song that makes me think of Joe Bonamassa every time I hear it, which is not something I'd have expected from a Tom Petty song, but I like it.

The next two songs on the album are both bluesy songs that, while I may not have much specifically to pick out about them, are ones that I like a lot, and make for a great atmosphere for listening to. The first one, Running Man's Bible ("I've been next in line, I've been next to nothing"), is a bit more of an upbeat rocking blues, while the second one, The Trip To Pirate's Cove, is slower and much more melancholic - and the guitar licks permeating it create a beautiful (if sad) mood. "She was a part of my heart; now she's just a line in my face."

Candy starts out with a fascinating premise which I can very much relate to, but ultimately it becomes far too repetitive for me to like listening to it terribly much. It's like, even by the end of the first listen, you've heard it enough and are good and ready for the next song. "I sure like that candy, I don't go for them turnip greens; so when you put it on the table, oh mama think about me."

No Reason To Cry doesn't really stand out, to me. I was wondering why, thinking that it must just be a generic song, but then I figured it must be the inclusion of that country slide (like the kind you'd hear on Harvest). Funny, that. It sounds pretty, sure, but for some reason, hearing it just makes my attention sort of turn away. I like my guitar with a more biting tone (and phrasing).

I heard the track I Should Have Known It on the radio, and I thought that was pretty cool. It's a great rocker, with a well-executed riff/chorus. There's not a whole lot to it, but it's a good one to listen to. "It's over now, you see; it's the last time you're gonna hurt me."

I have to laugh when I hear U.S. 41. Okay, not really, but the tune is totally a ripoff of Poor Tom (recorded by Led Zeppelin and released on Coda). Also known as Prodigal Son, when the Stones recorded it for Beggar's Banquet. Though the tune dates back (according to my research) to a Robert Wilkins song from 1929 titled That's No Way To Get Along. Not that I have any kind of moral objection to the recycling of musical themes. And the majority of Petty's track is probably original, from what I can tell. I'm just saying, the tune sounds quite similar. ;-)

Takin' My Time is another great blues, with an appropriately slow (considering the theme), stomping rhythm, and some great manipulated guitar (there's some noticeable wah) throughout. It has a bit of a dark, evil mood, on account of the mean rhythm and guitar tone.

Let Yourself Go is a solid song, if it doesn't completely stand out musically. But I like it in particular because of one line in the song - "cute little hippie girl lives in town." Yeah, I know, I'm vain. The harp returns in this one, and is a bit meaner than it was on Jefferson Jericho Blues.

Don't Pull Me Over is a Bob Marley-inspired reggae-flavored track that, despite being something of a cliche, is actually pretty good. The lyrics work as a nice plea to the authorities to overlook what have been called (though not in this song) "consensual crimes" - acts that involve only consenting participants yet are still against the law. The obvious example here (considering both Marley and Petty) is pot smoking, but the lyrics are vague enough that it could be applied to other such harmless acts of illegality. "What I've got to say won't hurt anyone; what I've got to do won't hurt anyone." The lyrics also allude to the concern over putting constructive citizens in jail over "moral infractions", and the effect that could have on the person's dependants (e.g., family). "Don't pull me over, I've got mouths to feed; don't pull me over, they depend on me." Is it worth destroying people's lives just to keep them from smoking pot (and doing other activities that don't hurt anyone, but for some reason we think are immoral)? The song also touches on the very relatable fear of being pulled over by a cop, regardless of whether or not you've got something to hide. "When the moonlight turns to blue light, makes me so afraid; let me go, leave me 'lone, til I'm home and safe."

Lover's Touch is a mellow track with a somber tone permeating through it. It speaks of desire, yet with a sense of melancholy, and depression. Like the feeling you get when you've already lost before you've had a chance to really get into the game. The best part, aside from Petty's effective vocal delivery (in that he really sells the emotion, not that he sings prettily), are the pauses that lead right into the title phrase, "she got the lover's touch". That's something that stood out for me from the first time I heard the song; it's executed perfectly.

High In The Morning is a song that combines a nice distorted riff with a watery piano part that could have come from a Doors song. I'd say it's a pretty strong middle-of-the-road rocker, with some interesting lyrics that seem to warn of the dangers of getting in over one's head - especially dealing with the token vices: alcohol, women, etc. "Boy, that power belongs to the devil, better leave that power alone, could be the devil gonna want it for his own."

Something Good Coming has a watery, reflective quality. Like something you'd sing when you're down at the river alone, watching the water drift on by. The vocal delivery is very reminiscent of past Petty tracks - the more laidback ones, that is. The theme is also classic Petty - the idea of pulling something positive out of a life that is not without its share of hardships. And the song has a nice, pulling riff to it that, like everything in the song, is present but not overpowering. "I'm an honest man, work's all I know; you take that away, don't know where to go."

Good Enough was the advance track from this album, and I liked it from the first time I heard it. Musically, it's rock solid. But what lifts it above just plain good is the concept of the song. As another reviewer put it, Petty sings that it's "good enough", but the song seems to suggest that, somehow, it isn't. It's that tragedy, of trying to content yourself with settling for less than you'd really like to have, that fuels the song's driving emotion. I want more, but this is all I've got, and it's gonna have to be good enough... "I can't trust love, it's far too risky; if she marries into money, she's still gonna miss me - and that's good enough."

Best song on the album? It's gonna have to be Good Enough. ;-)

Listed hierarchies are always difficult (and imprecise), but I've been listening to this album long enough that I felt up to putting the songs in general order (meaning, with a fair amount of leeway), from best to worst:

Good Enough
First Flash of Freedom
Don't Pull Me Over
Lover's Touch
Takin' My Time
The Trip To Pirate's Cove
I Should Have Known It
Running Man Blues
Let Yourself Go
High In The Morning
Something Good Coming
U.S. 41
Jefferson Jericho Blues
No Reason To Cry

Like, musically, Don't Pull Me Over isn't as good as some of the songs below it, but it means a lot to me (and I wrote so much about it), I feel like it deserves a high position. And I don't know if First Flash of Freedom is really the second best track, I just put it there because of the way I described it above. Anyway, as I said, leeway. The only real solid spots are the top and bottom. ;-p

15 June, 2010

Re-evaluating My 43 Things

Two and a half years ago, I discovered 43 Things, a website designed for you to list up to 43 things you'd like to do with your life before you die, and to let people motivate and help each other reach their goals. It sounds kinda sappy when you describe it that way, but it's actually a really cool way to mark down and share some of the things you want to do in life, and to help motivate yourself to do them (sooner or later). Since it's been awhile, and because I'm trying to redirect my life in a more productive direction, I thought it'd be interesting to go back through those things I still have listed, and talk about whether or not those goals are still "live" for me.

live in a loft

This is still something I'd like to do. I think loft apartments are really neat, and I have a mental image of them being perfect locations for the two things I'm pursuing in my life right now - music, and photography. A loft apartment (depending on how warehousey it is) can be a great place for band practice, and it also has a great sort of atmosphere for inviting girls over to take their clothes off and get their picture taken. :3

live on a lake

Still one of my dreams, although I'm not sure if it's the type of dream that I'm destined to realize someday, or the type that remains a pipe dream. Maybe, if things go well for me, I can make enough money and spend my retirement in a nice lakeside cottage. Who knows.

own a beach house

Also still something I'd love to do, but this one is leaning even farther to the "pipe dream" side of the spectrum. I guess if I had to be realistic, I should change this goal to something more like, "go to the beach more often". That would, I guess, be a more or less acceptable compromise. Because I do love the beach, and as nice as having a beach house is (we're talking totally romantic dream territory here), the important thing is really just getting a chance to spend some time out on the beach, one way or another.

learn to play the blues

I guess you could say I've made partial progress on this one. I can play some blues, but I'm not at the level of proficiency I'd like to be at. To be more specific, what I want to be able to do that I can't do right now is jam/improvise (which is actually listed down below). Or in the context of the blues, I want to be more familiar with the blues format such that I have some confidence in being able to "create" a blues song spontaneously, which again relates to being able to jam/improvise.

be in a band

This one is still of utmost importance. Everything I want to do with music involves the band format, where two or more musicians combine their talents together to create music more dynamic than any one can play alone. Rock band, blues band, cover band, tribute band, I just need to find musicians to play with (who I can get along with, whose taste in music is compatible with mine, and who have the time to practice/rehearse/perform). It's harder than it sounds, though.

find my dream job

This is still a nice dream, but I think I could compromise on finding a dream job, rather than the dream job. A job that I can really enjoy - one that I'm proud of, and that I can enjoy doing. Something that thrills me and fulfills me, and makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile above and beyond simply making a living. But of course, what's more important in the interim is getting a job in the first place, and working up from there. Unless I get super lucky.

move out of my parent's house

I moved the apostrophe. This is important, although there are other goals I have to meet first, like getting a job so I can afford it. But ultimately, this is an integral step on the path towards becoming independent, which is really what I want to be. I want to have the means to provide for myself, so that I can shake off the feeling of dependency and no longer have the feeling that my very existence is dependent on the good will of others, which naturally decreases the importance of my own judgment of personal worth. As long as I rely on others to survive, their opinions will maintain a hold on my self-esteem.

be a ghost hunter

Lol, after seeing Paranormal Activity, I might just give up on this goal! >.< Okay, maybe not. But I'm not real concerned about becoming a "ghost hunter", all I really want to do is go ghost hunting at least once in my life. That would be fun.

learn kendo

Eh heh heh. Well, I still like kendo, and the idea of learning how to wield a sword, but... Well, learning kendo isn't as much a priority (if you could call it that) as it used to be. It's just that there are other things in my life I'm more interested in spending time learning how to do (like get better at music and photography). And besides, kendo is a sporty kind of thing, and while I could use some regular exercise in my life, sports aren't really my focus. So, I still like swords n stuff, but maybe joining a dojo and all that isn't really something I need to do.

draw more

Well, I kinda failed on this goal. I've always had an interest in drawing, but it was always an interest, and never really a hobby. I've never been able to get into practicing drawing regularly, and as such, I have zero drawing talent. I want to be able to draw well really badly, because then I could share these worlds that exist in my head, in a way that's more visceral and meaningful for me than through writing (I apparently have a talent at writing, but I'm also a very visual person). But, at this point in my life, recognizing the type of work that's required to be good at something, and recognizing my interest in other things, I'm thinking that maybe I could be okay with the fact that I'll never be particularly good at drawing. There are other outlets for my creativity...

write stories

Well, I tried this for a bit last winter. It was a good exercise, but I wasn't totally into it, because it was more being forced to write stuff rather than writing stuff from inspiration - not because there's a deadline, but because I feel like it has to be written, that I have to get it out of me. I've still got unfinished stories (the good ones) left inside of me, and while I haven't been thinking about them a whole lot lately, I'd still like to get them out of me someday. But I don't really want to force it. On a related note, I'm told my writing (not strictly fictional) is good, so perhaps a good goal for me would be to figure out some way to put my writing talent to work (either for me, or for the world at large).

record my music

I feel like this goal had a lot to do with the original music I was working on a while back. I sort of abandoned that project, and I've since been entirely focused on building my base musical talent, without concern for writing original material. And at this time, I still don't have confidence in my songwriting ability, because I don't know enough of music yet to create the kind of songs I like to listen to. Anyway, this might sound like defeatism, but I'm really more concerned about playing good music - regardless of whether I wrote it or somebody else did - than creating new music for the world to experience. I don't see myself as a "musical artist" as much as a "musical performer" - it's that thrill of playing really well, and playing it to an appreciative audience, that drives me. I might change my mind someday, but that's how I feel for now.

be in love

Well, this is still applicable. Though it's kind of broad. What I really need to do is build up confidence and not be afraid to flirt with all those pretty girls out there. That alone would vastly improve the quality of my life, I think.

learn how to surf

This is a nice dream, but I don't really see it happening. Unless I get that beach house. I really do feel like I was a beach bum in another life. I bet surfing is fun, but even just life on the beach, surrounded by babes in bikinis, sounds like a good gig. I think what I'll do is leave a place open in my heart for the beach, so that if a freak opportunity happens to open up for me, I can take it. Otherwise, I can compromise by the previously mentioned revised goal of "going to the beach more often". Although I would really love to live on a tropical island, but maybe it would be good enough just to vacation on one someday.

swim with a shark

This is still something I'd absolutely love to do someday. Would be a great opportunity when I take that vacation to a tropical island. ;-) In the meantime, I'll have to make do with Shark Week each summer.

be a nude model for an art class

Honestly, I think the major appeal of this goal is just being naked in front of other people, which is something I was able to do at Burning Man (though I wouldn't mind doing it some more). And there are other outlets for that, such as my experience (albeit in my own company only) as a nude model for photography. Now that's something I'd like to try - modeling for someone else - just to experience what it's like (even though I am more interested in being a photographer to other models than a model to other photographers). The art class thing seems too stuffy and formal to me, and I don't relish the idea of holding poses for long periods of time (whether or not I'm better at that than others). So I think this goal can be satisfactorily disassembled into some related goals.

learn Japanese rope bondage

Well, I learned how to do a basic harness, and that was fun, but I don't really see myself using it often, or becoming so engrossed in the activity as to require knowing how to do all sorts of different knots and such. The important thing is that I know how to tie the wrists and ankles, which is quite easy, and the primary thing. I do need to get some shorter ropes for that, though. I'd love to experiment more with light bondage in general, though, I think that could be fun.

beat social anxiety

Working on it. Perhaps a more realistic goal would be "manage my social anxiety", or "learn to deal with my social anxiety" - you know, without being defeated by it.

become a better conversationalist

Also working on it. Not necessarily through targeted efforts, but just by gaining more experience engaging in conversation. Actually I've been told I'm a fine conversationalist, but I'm still prone to awkward silences, and my general disinterest in the things most people talk about makes me less than the most interesting conversational partner. Really, I just want to be more comfortable talking to people, and more capable of saying what's on my mind.

live up to my potential

A lot of people tell me how wonderful I am. Coming from my relatives, it's never meant a whole lot, because they have to say that (unless you have a crummy family). But it's not just relatives who say that, and I know I'm good enough to be somebody. I don't know who, but somebody. Me. Anyway, I'm working at building confidence in myself and my passionate views on things, and honing my craft at the things I'm interested in (music, photography, writing), so really, this is a good goal. I think I can make some kind of a difference.

take a shower outside

Ha. It's the simple things. Still got to do this sometime. Walking in the rain is also great, but doesn't quite count. I'd love to have even an indoor shower in a room that had glass walls and was open to the outside (presumably some kind of pretty garden and not main street or whatever), but the best thing would be a shower actually outside in the middle of the garden.

photograph beautiful people nude

Yes, this is one of the most important goals in my life right now. I think it's pretty self-explanatory. So far I've only really photographed myself, out of desperation, and what I want more than anything is to photograph somebody beautiful. That alone would be satisfying, but to photograph such a person nude - even better. This is one thing I'd really enjoy doing with my life. But I gotta work on connecting with people first.

start a webcomic

I really like this idea, but I think, going hand in hand with the "draw more" goal, it may not be realistic. Of course, you can do a webcomic without having any real drawing talent, that's true, but if that's the type of webcomic you're doing, there are probably other mediums out there to get across the same point.

shoot infrared photography

My initial interest in infrared photography was the idea of being able to shoot in the dark without using/needing [visible] light, but whether or not that's a viable purpose, I've seen infrared shots and they look really cool. It'd certainly be worth trying at least once.

buy a mannequin

This is one manifestation of my desire to own a dress-up doll. I still think it'd be really fun to do. Even though I've been experimenting with being the "doll" myself, nothing can beat having a mannequin with the actual girly proportions I adore. Anyway, it's not so weird as it sounds. Fashion designers and such have things like this; I'm a photographer, I also have an interest in ladies' fashion. So it's definitely something I'd still like to do.

learn to improvise on the guitar

As mentioned above. This one is of prime importance for me right now. I'm still more comfortable learning predetermined passages, but I want to be able to improvise, to play with others without rehearsal, to participate in a blues jam. This is something that needs lots of work and practice, and will probably take time, but I should get to work on it. Although, the more blues songs I learn, the more licks I familiarize myself with, which ultimately helps me build up a language that I can use in an improvisational context (once I internalize the rules of putting the "words" together). So I am working on it, after all.

have sex in a church

Okay, I'll admit this one is of mainly prurient interest. But there's some meaning behind it. I think sex can be a spiritual act, so what better way of proving that than to have sex in the hallowed halls of a holy building? So maybe this one might offend some people (and perhaps seriously offend some others), but come on, lighten up. You only live once.

have sex outdoors

Nature, to me, is spiritual, and so the outdoors is kind of like my idea of church, so this is sort of similar to the last goal. Except probably more likely to happen - sooner, and more frequently. :3 It's more important to me, certainly.

wear more interesting clothes

This is something I'm working on, in terms of trying out women's fashion, which is, as I've said, far more interesting (i.e., attractive) than men's fashion. It's a delicate balance, because I like the idea of dressing up like a girl, but at the same time I don't want to become one of those guys that makes girls look bad - in terms of wearing things he probably shouldn't. Anyway, I'm still looking for something I can wear that a) makes me look and feel attractive, but b) isn't incredibly uncomfortable (if that's possible).


As I said when I originally picked out this goal, it really should be "cosplay more", since I have cosplayed in the past. Though at this stage, I think I'd be happy to just make it "photograph cosplayers more", because I'm not really passionate enough to compete with all those other cosplayers who do a much better job than I would. Not to say that I wouldn't still do it just for fun. But, one related thing I definitely want to try is to wear Lolita fashion sometime. And of course, all the Lolitas out there would cry out in anguish at my mentioning Lolita fashion in the same paragraph as cosplay. I know there's a difference, so get over it. Anywho, I'm in love with the Lolita silhouette, and I like pink dresses so...it's something I have to try at least once in my life, if not more than that. I've also gotta try cosplaying Chii one day (I can hear more Lolita screams ::rolls eyes::).

be more confident

This is definitely an important goal, and it's something I'm working on, and also gradually getting better at. My confidence is already higher than it was not too long ago, and I intend to build it up even higher. I'm getting more and more confident of my talent in the things I do - the music I'm playing, and the photography I do - and I hope to use that confidence to move forward with those things. But also, I want to be more confident in general, when it comes to talking to people and getting things I want/need out of life.

overcome my fears

This is a related goal. I just don't want fear to continue to rule my life, to dictate what I choose to do. The fear is there, but I don't have to listen to it. And if I ignore it enough, maybe it'll go away, even if just partially.

become a rockstar

Well, the "rock star" dream is a nice one, and I think it would be fun, but I don't need to sell out stadiums to be satisfied with my life and with my music. What's more important to me is finding a band, so I can feel like a true rock and roller (star or not), and so I can perform for an audience (whether an audience of 20 or 20,000) - that's the important thing. To be liked and respected for the music I play, to the extent that people really enjoy listening to me play and want to hear me, because they dig what I'm playing, not because they know me and want to encourage me.

spend an entire day watching the extended version of all three Lord of the Rings movies back-to-back-to-back

Okay, this is honestly a huge commitment, and the reason it hasn't happened yet is because I'm afraid to make it. But it will happen someday, I guarantee you that.

start a revolution

I want to change the world. But I'm also realistic. All my life I've gotten the feeling that I'm different from the average, and I have certain insights about the world. I'm really not trying to sound conceited, but I think I have something to offer the world, if only they'll listen to me. Whether or not I change the world, the important thing for me is that I accomplish something worthwhile - whether it be writing a book, or by putting forth a certain worldview through the art (photography) I create, or if it's something more substantial than that. I've been reading about activism lately, and I think there's a lot to be said on issues regarding sexuality in this culture. I just want to make a change for the better, to help people like myself, who may feel oppressed by the majority.

start a radio station

I dunno how important it is for me to actually start a radio station, I just enjoyed having a radio show, and I'd love to do it again - except that I'd have to have control over the programming. No Clear Channel Setlist bull shit. Maybe with the way technology is changing the landscape, it will be possible through some kind of internet service. But there's really something about having a place to go to set up your show and interact with the listeners, as opposed to simply loading a setlist onto some webpage while you go about whatever else you're doing in life. I don't know, it's something that requires some thought.

perform a concert to an empty coliseum in Pompeii

Just like Pink Floyd did. Okay, well, it's a really cool idea, and to follow in Pink Floyd's footsteps would be awesome, but I don't really need to do this to find happiness in my life. The key thing behind this is the feeling of playing loud amplified music to a large, open, dark environment devoid of people. It's the atmosphere. And really, I could do that any number of places not in Pompeii. And to take another step backward, the really great thing is just getting to play music outdoors. That's my favorite venue - open air. Oh, another goal I came up with was to play an outdoors performance nude sometime. That would be great. I should get in touch with the local nudist resorts and ask them if they're looking for an entertainer. :p

live in the Winchester Mystery House

This is another one of those more out-there goals. I figured, Jimmy Page bought the Crowley mansion, if I were to become a rock star, I could probably buy the Winchester Mystery House. But they probably like having it open for tourists. I love the idea of living in a house with really bizarre architecture. It's like being a kid again, exploring the hallways, and the wierd rooms, and balconies, and going on the roof, and the views, and all that. I guess the Winchester Mystery House is really just one of the best examples of truly bizarre architecture. I'd still like to visit it someday, just to see it. Maybe when I finally make that cross-country trip to California! (Granted, Nevada is pretty darn close).

see a total solar eclipse

Sure, I'd still love to.

see the aurora borealis

I almost wanted to take this off, because it's like, when am I ever gonna get a chance to see the aurora borealis? But I've seen pictures of it, and I'd really love to see it in person someday. I guess, going north into the colder climate doesn't sound as nice to me as going south for the tropics, but on the other hand, there are some advantages to the Great White North. Less people, more space, and the idea of days/nights lasting for whole seasons. I think it sounds awesome. I might not want to live there for very long, but it could be an interesting place to visit.

change my name

I don't know. I don't really like the idea of having any name be my "official name". Why do we have to have official names anyway? For that reason, I feel that it's just as well that I leave my official name what it is, since I'm not real concerned with it, and just go on calling myself whatever I feel like. To hell with beauracracy, anyway. I don't need to get the courts to sanction something for it to be meaningful in my life.

14 June, 2010

Burning Man

I was thinking today about the photos I lost at Burning Man (yet again), and I came to a decision. Every time I talk about it as a "once in a lifetime experience", I put a question mark in parentheses after that phrase. Well, I decided today that I want to do Burning Man again someday. To have a second chance.

Now, it's not going to be this year obviously, and I doubt it'll be next year, or even the year after that, but it's something I want to do. And it's something I'd love to do with more friends than I had the first time. I'd like to put my first-time experience to work and make it even better this time, having some idea of what to expect. When I go, I don't want to be the unfamiliar stranger who doesn't know what's going on, I want to make Burning Man mine, make it work for me.

So, it's a soft commitment with a vague (and flexible) time frame, but who's with me?

06 June, 2010

Why I Hate Animals

That cat doesn't seem to like loud noises. Which is cruelly ironic, because the sole exception is the loud noise that constantly emanates from her own mouth. It's been thunderstorming a lot these past few days, and the cat is predictably scared of the thunder. A couple nights ago, she followed me up the stairs and into my room (which rarely happens), and spent some time camping out underneath my computer desk, beside my feet. I don't think she likes the music I'm constantly playing in my room, but it just so happens that thunderstorms are one of the few reasons I'll have to turn off my music (I like to listen to the thunder, as well as the rain pounding on the roof). So I didn't have the music on, and the cat was nice and comfortable.

Now, the problem is, every time I show the cat the slightest bit of friendliness, she rewards me by making more noise around me when she sees me day to day. And this drives me insane. I hate the noise, but it's particularly bad at night, when I'm trying to be relatively quiet, and she comes in screaming. Essentially blowing my cover, is the way I feel subjectively about it. And all I want is for her to shut the hell up. But there's nothing I can do to get that point across to her. I can't reason with her. I can't communicate with her because she doesn't understand me. Any attention I give her - both positive and negative - prompts more noise from her.

I know this is just the way she is. She's a Siamese cat and Siamese cats (so I have read) are notorious for being very social with humans, and very talkative. But the noise she makes bugs the hell out of me. I just wish I could tell her in some way (that she could understand), "I don't like the noise you make". If she didn't make that noise, I'd be so much friendlier to her, because I don't want to hate her, and I actually like having her around - except for the noise. And, as I said, if I'm friendly to her, she rewards me by making more noise. So, even though I can't get her to shut up completely, I can at least make her less of a nuisance around me if I ignore her. It's hard constantly giving her the cold shoulder (because the slightest bit of attention, remember, whether positive or negative, will just encourage her to make more noise), but it's the best I can do. And even then, if she's in a talkative mood, there's nothing I can do.

I often feel like strangling her, but I'm a nonviolent person, so the best I can do is suffer in silence (that damn cat should learn a thing or two from me).

05 June, 2010

Analyzing Anxiety

I tried out a brand new Open Stage this week, on a recommendation. Usually, in these cases, I'd think, "hey, that sounds cool", but when it came time to actually get out of the house and try something new, I'd take the easy road and stay where it's comfortable. But since I'm trying not to encourage my reclusion, any reason to get out is a good one. And even though I had noone to accompany me on this new adventure (traveling new lands alone increases my self-consciousness and thus my anxiety, compared to traveling with a known companion/friend), I still went for it.

The Open Stage was nice. The demographic was young, as had been described to me, and the girl to guy ratio was actually approaching one, for once (not quite there, but close, and that's significant). Ultimately, though, I chickened out on actually performing. We could talk about all the little reasons that resulted in that eventual outcome, but the bottom line is that I was uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings, and without having anyone I know to gently nudge me, I was more comfortable taking a seat and watching the action than stepping up front and drawing attention to myself. Even so, having got out there was a good experience for me. But now the question comes up: should I go again?

Firstly, are there any reasons for me to go again? Certainly. Let us count them:

1. It's an excuse for me to get out of the house and interact (even if passively) with people, which is something I need to become more comfortable doing.

2. If I do start performing there (which is an inevitability if I keep going back), I can get both a) more experience performing in front of an audience, and b) more exposure as a person and especially as a musician.

3. There are girls there.

To anyone else, barring a significant schedule conflict or a simple lack of a strong desire to go out performing at Open Stages (I actually do want to perform for people, I just wish I could do it more confidently - and practice/experience is probably the only thing that will help), the above would be reason enough to go back. But in my special case, there are any number of nagging thoughts in the back of my head that make me wary of going out into the world again (and regularly). Let's take a look at them.

1. I'll gloss over the actual getting-out-the-door difficulty, simply because it's something I'm not interested in talking about here.

2. Going out regularly means using the car regularly. Why is this a problem? Firstly, it's not my car. And what if it breaks down? I don't carry a cell phone (or have much desire to). It is getting old, after all. Also, gas is expensive. I may not have to pay for it myself, but if I don't, that's just more guilt about spending somebody else's money.

3. Speaking of money, going out into the world inevitably means spending money. Whether it's food, shopping, or admission to some form of entertainment, the world revolves around spending money. Most people make money, so they can afford to spend it - for them it's merely a balancing act. I don't have an income, and my savings are getting slim. I can't afford to drop a few bucks at every stop. A drink here, a book there, a movie over there. And I feel guilty going places and not spending any money. Like at a coffee shop. If I'm not a paying customer, I tend to feel like I'm loitering.

4. Just the thought of sitting in that coffee house, as nice a place as it is, and as nice as the people are, makes me uncomfortable. It's not their fault, it's because I'm not a very social person. I'd be comfortable if I, like them, were chatting amicably with a friend or a friendly acquaintance, but I'm a stranger there. Of course, that might change if I get to know people (and if they get to know me), but the "getting to know" process invariably involves a stage of unfamiliar awkwardness which I'm afraid of.

5. Even if people do love me and my ability to play the guitar, I will inevitably (have you noticed how much doom-and-gloom is inevitable?) have to face explaining to them that I'm not as good as I sound, and I actually can't play lead for them because I don't know how to improvise, and my whole act is essentially a convincing farce. And even if I were to fool myself and try to stretch out, I'd inevitably (see?) find myself in that uncomfortable, self-conscious position of knowing that I don't know what I'm doing, and that it doesn't sound good (or at least isn't making me feel good, which, after all, is what really matters).

6. If this is as good an excuse to get out of the house as I need, there are any number of other excuses. So, I should be going out of the house all the time. Every day, perhaps. But of course, that amplifies all the existing problems above. The more I go out, the more the problems of going out are enhanced. Perhaps, with the further experience of going out, I'll become more comfortable going out, but there's still the matter of money. Even if any reason is a good enough reason to go out, I can't afford to let any reason be a good enough reason to spend some money. And to avoid spending money, it's so much easier to stay inside. The irony is that I can't earn a living if I don't get out, but I can't go out until I'm earning a living.

So anyway. Reason to go back every week: it's a good idea. Reason not to: it's too scary and too much effort and I won't feel comfortable, and I might as well stay at home and practice rather than waste time listening to other [non-professionals] play.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

There's a thing of buffalo chicken dip in the fridge, and I'm making way too big a deal about it (in my mind). But the fact that I'm making such a big deal about it is a key example of my anxiety and how it affects my life. The problem, as I see it, is that the dip is being consumed too slowly. Now why is this a problem? It's a problem because, if it's consumed too slowly, then my dad may get the impression that it's not well-liked (or so I conjecture). Now why should that be a problem? Indeed it should not, because it's really not a big deal, is it? Whether or not someone likes buffalo chicken dip is not the fulcrum upon which the entire world hinges, is it?

But it's a problem because there have been some assumptions made. Or rather, there would be some assumptions made. I like buffalo chicken dip (or maybe just chicken wing dip, come to think of it) - this is a fact, and this was made known previously. But I like the homemade dip better than the store-bought kind. This may or may not be known, it may even be self-evident (homemade things are usually better). But the problem comes up on account of the fact that though I do also like the store-bought dip (albeit not as much as the homemade dip), I have discovered that my stomach doesn't really agree with it. I don't know why, it might be because of the strong concentration of buffalo flavoring (which is really more than necessary), but regardless, on the topic of store-bought buffalo chicken dip (I don't recall having this problem with the homemade kind, though I may not have had it often enough to tell), my tongue and my stomach do not agree.

Thus, though I like it, I am hesitant to eat very much of it. But because of this, I fear my dad may get the impression that I don't like it, thus prompting an expression of "but I thought you liked it". I don't like giving off false impressions. I'm also not very good at communicating my feelings clearly (off the page). Were I to bring it up, I'd undoubtedly make it sound like much more of a big deal than it really is (because in the grand scheme, and to anyone else but me, it's really not a big deal). But then I risk having my feelings minimized. To get a reaction of, "oh, that's fine, it doesn't matter" completely belittles the fact that I've spent way too much time agonizing over it. Not that I would want it to become a big deal, but I've already invested so much mental energy into it...and ultimately, I'm afraid to admit that it's a less than sane, fully well-adjusted thing to do (invest so much mental energy into it, that is).

So if I don't say anything, I have this mental image of my dad's disappointment and confusion at not being able to read my mind, thanks to my lack of communication skills (scenario: damned if I don't); but if I do say something (which is not easy for me to do in the first place), I risk encouraging my own belief that it is a big deal (by being big enough to mention it), and simultaneously widen the rift between my feelings (it's a big deal), and the normal reaction I'm likely to receive (it's not a big deal), further cementing that gap (scenario: damned if I do).

I can't just forget about it, because every time I look at the dip, I get the same feeling. A feeling of guilt, about not being able to control other people's minds - i.e., having them understand my feelings without having to communicate them - while on the other hand not having the courage to communicate those feelings. I know the solution is just to communicate, regardless of the reaction - and it's the only way to set my mind at ease. Yet it's still an immensely difficult thing for me to do. And the more I agonize, the harder it gets, because the bridge between my thinking it's a big deal and it really not being a big deal widens ever more.

It's like having to crawl through a tunnel of millipedes. It's already terrible as it is, but the longer you agonize and wait, the more millipedes enter the tunnel, making it worse and worse. There's no "good" option. Just a single bad option that gets worse and worse the longer you put it off.