Ode to a ballad of a day.

I have now ridden a bicycle twice this calendar year. It had been since freshman year at FSU since I had last ridden more than a few circles in the street, and it was marvelous. While at FSU I had a mountain-styled bike from the local target, which was beneficial to my riding style. I found my way across hops in pavement, ducked around shrubs, and blurred down the FSU campus to my classes (my dorm was uphill to all classes, which allowed a quick ride to, and slow ride back). But these rides were of necessity, not leisure. Todays jaunt on wheels was different.

This glorious day began as the sun rose. The orange glow emitted from the great fusion ball in the sky radiated warmth down, the light breeze a mostly mild counter. The simplicity of a hued sky and a wind on my face provides me with energy that no coffee or 40 hour energy blast could ever (although I did have my espresso in the morning, only to heighten already elevated jubilee) fathom. I was out and heading to my day of work, but no shift could stymie this encompassing feeling of serenity.

Hours passed quickly, sands of time coursed by without notice. I was released from my remuneration and given the rest of the day to pursue, and I knew exactly what those would be. There was a renovated old bike sitting in a garage that I need to sit on. A quick meal of some homemade soup (maybe my next cooking blog) I set off. The bike hadn’t felt pressure on its peddles in my memorable history, it is a remnant left from when my father was my age- using its 10 speeds and thin tires to trek about during college. Those gears still keep their place, each push down propels forward faster.

I left on a ride without measured pace, speeding towards the horizon with all the force my feeble legs could output, and crawling to nearly a stop enjoying pockets of interest that a speeding car could never see. From a driver’s side view at 40 you could never see the weathered regality of a… cow munching on a blade of grass, or its companion finding ecstasy in a patch of apparently delicious clover.

I eventually made my way to a chair and desk- my intended destination- and spent a few hours on some schoolwork and web design. Another ride brought me back to the place my bed sits. The trip home was lined with long shadows and dimming light, a waning end to the day. During my cycle back I switched gears, and loosed the chain from its gear. I bent down and began freeing the chain from the guard, but it was a stubborn creature. Finally sprocket met chain and feet began to push peddles down. Freeing a chain is a process that never leaves the actor with clean hands, for a few miles my hands were blacked by grease and grime but it felt good. Sooty hands reminded me these digits can accomplish. I panted to a stop as the last few beams of light from the once warming sun hid from my view, and now here I sit. Another assignment to do in another tab, but I couldn’t focus further without some sort of expression. I hope you have your own (maybe much less public if you were inclined) method of output. A few have found my words interesting, yet I know from my authorship here that there can be much more meaning found in your own few rambling paragraphs.

Just some stone.

There it is. A statue pristine bordered by destruction.

In a garden of discarded statues- piles of cracked marble dot an overgrown path, this one still stands, immaculately weathered.

Time has played its role well, freckling the once smooth surface, pitting and scouring chiseled inception. Cracks litter every crease, large fissures germinated from tiny scratches, a canyon has run a natural course, splitting an outstretched arm nearly in two.

Yet there it is, animated and living. Each drop of poisoned rain uncovers a layer of expression unknown at its birth, each spot of moss a shadowing compliment. Cracks break through a well tended facade, allowing the beauty of an uncultivated being to sprout forth.

So here I am, my marble corpse still smoothed, creases still defined, cringing at the pouring rain and splitting cold. Defying time, and inevitability. Paused.

Trembled, I hesitate. A heavy bead falls to my feet, and another on this figures arched back. It dribbles to the ground, a small fleck of white dots the beads’ reflection.

Polarity in reference to Politics.

I did not watch the State of the Union Address that aired tonight. Like many others I was working, making my money whenever capitalism thought my time would best be monetized. Now as I sit here I will take a few minutes to brief you on a few of my feelings of politics- be forewarned I am almost entirely ignorant, these rambles of mine won’t be based on many facts, or deeper understanding. My usual thirst for knowledge stops abruptly when I begin to observe politics. The games played with millions of dollars by shadowy figures never intrigued me as much as how the celestial bodies whip around space. But even without a TV I am informed- the super PACs money proliferates their ads well. That, and NPR won’t do an entire schedule of science based shows.

But I will start off with something more viral, and I think more confusing than the circular debates I hear- an anecdote that has spread (from what I can tell) quickly over facebook. 

 

This story confuses me. I won’t go into the body of the story quite yet, the first sentence bothers me. The story claims the professor has NEVER failed a student before. I have had many professors, spread over many schools, over several different fields. From the packed freshman classes of a Biology major, to the tiny technical classes now, even the liberalist of liberal studies courses I have dabbled in over the years none have expressly stated they had never failed any students. In fact, I have had professor who, when pressed, graded on a curve (a statistics professor, of course) where grades were determined on an actual normally distributed curve.

A single sentence passes and already the story loses all credibility, and my interest is diverted. Maybe this professor is so good that even the lamest pothead soon-to-be dropout can be motivated to study, or does the class merely require a heartbeat to scrape past with a D. I read the rest of the story, but wouldn’t bother with analyzation or rebuttal, the initial found flaw is too distracting. If the story had omitted this one sentence, maybe I could have muddled through the rest and found some meaning in the tale. An introduction, intended to heighten the end point, made my mind dismiss everything that followed.

And this is polarization. This need to heighten and escalate to impress an opinion is unflattering to all involved. The world isn’t bifurcated, there is no yes and no perfectly encapsulated for us to swallow. It is a shame that there are so many ways to exploit information, and policy to confuse and conflict citizens. This story takes an assumed opinion and gives a single, unfounded and unrepeatable  example to polarize. The same can be done in far fewer words: attack ads done by super PACs.

Millions have already been spent by super PACs. Again, even without a TV, or living in a state (until recently) hasn’t been the focus of the ads I know of their messages, and what group wants to destroy what candidate. But my focus has been on one such PAC: Colberts. Yes, the joke “Americans for a better tomorrow, tomorrow” that was created with viewer donations has noted how ludicrous PACs can be. Satire and comedy have become the only outlet for dissenting thought against a very stagnant and singularly focused media.

If you have a few minutes to spare watch the clip of the transfer of power from Colbert to Stewart. PACs are rife with hilarious absurdities. Click for Hulu clip.
 

 

Poison or a gun?

From time to time I travel for work. This makes me sound important, but I can assure it is not the business class tickets and the Hyatt double with complementary continental breakfast of boxed cereals and eggs poured from a carton- nothing that ritzy. No, this is the travel where mileage will be paid four months after you remembered you visited. It gives me a chance to visit some far away lands (who has ever heard of a place called Saint Petersburg? Of Clearwater?) and experience their culture localized in one of their massive consumerist capitals.

While eating my meal of a simple breaded chicken breast on a bun, paired wonderfully with some artisanal waffle fries I take a moment and savor my surroundings. I am in the communal dining quarters, different varieties dot the walls. It is splendorous: if you wanted to enjoy an authentic taste of the Asian-Pacific you need only walk a few feet, or if you preferred many fruits blended together chilled with ice you are welcome to meander down just a few more paces and find out what wonders a ‘pineapple paradise’ has to offer. My observations are jarred by an intruder: a lady with her own food sits close enough to me that when her chair is pulled, the extorted noise makes me jerk my head in her direction. At this point I have completely given up the pretext that I am reading, the book I had  brought as a source of entertainment sits closed barely in arms reach, its tantalizing stories of a thief and his chosen object of desire (quite possibly a book- I don’t know entirely as I have only managed to read this volumes first three pages)

This woman holds my intrigue. Before she sits down she spends full minutes scouring he chosen table, a moistened towel her weapon of choice for dissolving what bacteria may reside on the surface infront of her. Not a single spec of the pair of tables is missed: if there was a single germ within feet of her food it would not be missed and destroyed. Satisfied, she sits down and begins to eat with obvious enjoyment. This moment is what peaked my curiosity: she was entirely obsessed with the cleanliness of her surroundings, presumably so that she would not become impaired with sickness. Yet, this woman wasn’t without breadth. She was large, with several folds hanging from her chin, belly that when seated easily reached the table she had throughly cleaned. She had chosen to sanitize her eating surface, yet once the table was deemed clean enough to contain her food, she found a much more deadly poison to ingest instead.

Presumably she didn’t connect the two as I do. The germs that she thought would bring her ill-fate would do so almost immediately. These germs would cause her stomach to wretch, body shake and form beads of sweat in the hope her immune system could contain the infection. Heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension will not kill you hours after you have enjoyed your 1500 calorie meal. It is why I named this article as I did: These germs are the gun which kill almost immediately if they hit their pin-sized target, and the poison kills slowly  but is much more prevalent.  She is not alone in her habits, a third of Americans are obese. A third of us have habits, or a metabolism that simulates habits(I won’t assume judgement) that are destructive and will end their lives prematurely, and what lives they live are usually hampered in some way or another because of their slow poisoning.

I have read at least a dozen books on this topic specifically, and more on related food, societal, and neurological reasoning why we choose to over consume, and cannot correlate these foods with the massive list of negative health effects associated with them. Over consumption, greed, gluttony, and hedonism seem to be a running theme of my blogs for some reason. I have never considered myself that modest, it actually seems counter to many facets of my personality. I consume as much information and knowledge of my choosing that I can find perhaps with ill effects to other branches of my responsibilities, to find the joy in scientific journals or of a 3am meteor shower when school will call my focus just a few hours later. I am hedonistic, but my pleasure can be beneficial (hopefully). Sharing my experience can be shared, to teach others something about what I have discovered or realized. There is (again hopefully) societal value in my sort of joy. A diet of fatty foods carefully flavored with chemicals made in New Jersey have no such benefit to any consuming party. Chemicals tailor made to fill a void. If we find value, some substance in life that isn’t in a crisco can I think we would see a decrease in obesity, in over consumption of the basics. Exercise and eating bran over sausage for breakfast may cure physical symptoms but not heal the soul. Finding something that brings joy, real unencumbered  joy will satisfy far better than healthy living alone.

Presentation.

My most popular blog entry was my heartfelt mention of a poetry slam, and the emotions this mans spoken words brought fourth. Since then I have seen a few more performances, plays, compositions and I have wondered to myself: could I do that? Do I have the drive, or even the ability to acceptably express myself, to be so extraordinarily relatable?

My initial answer that was night was a vehement no. In the moments afterwards I had to confront what had been shown to me. He tore boundaries down instantly. Walls that, to me, are composed of reinforced concrete slabs able to withstand the force of a direct nuclear bombardment were crumbled with just a deep inhalation and the words that followed. Beyond this one spoken poet there were others of course, that night was a competition of unknown novices eager to show the world their styles. They spoke lines typed with thumbs, or scribbled on scraps of paper but they all said, all express something that was profound to them. Each of had their own style, and they were all welcomed. My mind wanders to think while these emotions, ideas expressed were theirs, were they tailored for me- for an audience, for acceptance.

This notion is now where I hinge. I think that, if I had something to say worthy of an audience I would speak it. This is a mammoth-sized step for me in both size and existence. In size this step hurdles over many of my socially awkward traits. In existence as well, as I haven’t in memorable history gone so far as to stand and emotionally express myself. There are fossilized remains in my mind of times when I had the ability, but those bones are covered and hidden by layers of sediment and extraction is a long and technical process. There are only a few examples of when I stood and spoke, let alone something that I authentically felt. The last time I can remember reciting original content (a  presentation in class is not original, just a well annotated recitation) was a speech I made upon graduation… of high school.

Yes, as the uncontested candidate for student council president I became a politician. I did no real work, and provided my lackadaisical influence when it was convenient but I was only there because it was convenient. My speech to my graduating class and their families at the USF Sundome reflected this convenience. I provided no insight, no real emotion. I just placated and regurgitated movie like sentiments of graduation.

I wonder then, do these spoken word poets do something similar? I tailored my few paragraphs to an audience that I knew, yelling “Oh-Six”(it has been a long time since high school)  with an upraised fist in celebration to a rousing cheer because I knew the effect it would have. If faced with an audience feet away, without microphone and a darkened room to hide their piercing pupils, would I be able to tell of my soul without adulteration? I am able to bring tears to eyes through this blog(apparently) by expressing all I feel, with words I can revise later if it doesn’t seem right. I can amplify from my bunker without walls being torn down.

We are all socially constrained, to deny that is ignorance. While someone is willing to yell their most intimate details, they still stop at a light to avoid crushing a pedestrian between their and another’s car: we all have limits. So I think that if I had my thoughts on paper, and an audience to speak to, I would become more relatable. Just like I lower my voice and grunt more when I meet an unknown man, humor their sports references, I would (I think) tailor my spoken word to the people in front of me.

 

Would you?

Childhood Curiosity.

I had… a thousand things to share last night, a car ride tends to bring revelation. However, my head hit pillow and the concussive force of polyester filling demanded sleep. With that sleep went all of those thoughts, I am completely unable to recollect nearly any of those profundities. I stared at this laptop for what felt like hours, attempting to massage the ideas to the surface. When massage failed, cursing was tried, with an equally poor performance. My eyes then focused on the screen in front of me, to the two figures that have graced my desktop for a while now: a spiky haired young boy and his tiger.

These two figures are staring up into the night sky, exploring the infinity as I have done so many times before. Yes, this is an ode to Calvin and Hobbes. If you were to look around my house you would see this questioning boy and his friend in every corner: a stack by my bed, on my desk, on my other desk beside my behemoth of a tower, uncharacteristically nestled in on or more bookcases. There is a strip now gracing my wall, cut out of paper a dozen times larger than its original in a Sunday strip twenty years ago.

I’m not alone in my admiration of Calvin and Hobbes. The internet seems to be filled with odes to tigers, snowmen in meaningful remembrance of the many that Calvin had created over the years. The pair together are harassing, destructive, and manipulative. Yet, they are idolized (by me and so very many others). I think it obvious why this decades old strip is popular, especially with people such as myself, but could it go deeper?

The easy explanation why I love this strip, and why the disillusioned masses of twenty-something year olds love it too is because it is taken almost literally. We become the boy that isn’t limited by the walls around him, by the stitches that hold his best friend together, by the known structures that have attempted to define him. Sitting in class I become Spaceman Spiff, blasting away as the oozing and gargling massive protozoan in front of me assaults me with new definitions and required readings. I recall my countless flights down a seemingly snow covered Alps-like mountain ahead of me on a simple plastic disk, wind pulling tears out of my eyes- I can now see that this childhood adventure was something profound. With all bluntness- this strip wasn’t for children when it was syndicated, it was for the adults who peered over their child’s shoulder.

And it was written by a disillusioned man. These aren’t comics that are supposed to be a retelling of a simpler time, Calvin never was a child. Curious, infinitely, but he is no simple creature that lusted over action figures. There are strips now depicting him as an adult, his arch rival being Winnie the Pooh and his human crony  Christopher Robin. This development doesn’t make sense to me, as I have said I consider him a child-like adult. Not simple, but untethered. He has adult relationships with his work, I see parallels all the time. A typical day at a desk job involves a lot of procrastination, and a small often fevered rush to complete an assignment towards the deadline. He has adult relationships. Each snowball thrown at Susie is reciprocated in kind, G.R.O.S.S. only a deflecting wall so his feelings aren’t hurt by the pitfalls of a known appreciation for each other.

Or I can just be attaching my own meaning to a strip that is meant to expand a child’s mind. I have found that I have a curiosity that cannot be quenched. Writing this short article has taken me hours, every little thought branching to another limb, sometimes these limbs lead to a seed that is soon pulled and drifts to new lands, floating towards other trees entirely. I amassed my collection of Watterson’s works early, every book fair I wound up with another book in hand. They contain meaning to me, from my own perception of their few words, and their scribbles. From the thousands of strips, and my hundreds of thousands of reads, I can only say that I find curiosity in simplicity. Unending.

 

Written and posted while I should be focusing on class.