On A**holes, Sh*heads, Thursdays and “LOST”

I am functioning on very little sleep as I write this. Let me be upfront about that. I don’t think I’m suffering from sleep deprivation yet but I am getting close. Call it borderline sleep deprivation. If there were a way for me to sleep for 24 hours straight right now, I would. Of course, knowing me, I would wake up crankier than I am, presently. Your ol’ buddy the Madchronicler is funny like that. I can go x-amount of days on limited sleep and be in almost complete control of my mental and physical facilities. But if I get more than five or six hours in a given night? I wake up with a headache and an overwhelming need to scream “FTW” from the proverbial mountaintops. It’s not helping that seemingly every person I’ve talked to today is a complete and total a**hole. I’d say sh*thead but as you that are reading this already know, the term sh*thead is reserved in my subjective universe for a different type of person. I am a sh*thead, and the world is full of them. Of us. I’m not an a**hole, though. At least I don’t think I am.

Am I?

One of the early signs of sleep deprivation is paranoia, so I need you, my friends, Romans, countrymen and women to confirm for me that I am not an a**hole because despite the fact that I don’t think I am one, I can’t help but feel like I am one, presently. Why? I have my reasons but for the purposes of this blog entry, all you need to know is that I just do. Please, feel free to leave your comments, good or bad below. Or, drop me a line at any of the number of places out there… out here on the World Wide Web that you can find me. Twitter, FB et al. Links to “contact” under the “About Me” tab. Or, just check out the ENDWORLD page (www.theendworldseries.com). They’re all on there, too.

I just texted my wife about the prevalence of a**holes in my subjective reality, today. Here’s the screen cap of our “conversation”:

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Assuming that Nicole is right and Thursday is… we’ll call it National Be An A**hole Day, then I can’t be the only one going through this right now, can I? Let me take a poll: How many of you reading this are suffering from the same BS that I’m suffering from, i.e. “short” people (as in angry, not vertically challenged), rude people… an assorted collection of all the different types of a**holes that exist. Professional a**holes (i.e. people that are trained to treat other people like crap), personal a**holes (i.e. people that treat other people like crap ’cause they want to), romantic a**holes (i.e. people that use other people to “get their rocks off” and then drop them like a bad habit)… you get the idea. Moving forward, the general term a**hole will refer to any one of the above mentioned… well, a**holes. And if you have any others that you’d like to add to the list? Please, contact me via the same procedure I outlined above. I look forward to your respective responses.

Suffice it to say that the world, at least on Thursdays, is apparently filled with a**holes. Just like the world is full of sh*theads 24/7/365 (and in a Leap Year 366). But why? What is it that brings them out on days like today, when I’m functioning, albeit barely on minimal sleep and the sky overhead is gray/the air is thick enough to cut with a knife? I can think of any number of reasons. Postulations, really. And here they are:

  1. It’s Thursday. As in the weekend minus one. And here in southeastern Pennsylvania in the summertime, weekends mean one thing: The Shore. As in the Jersey Shore and no, I am not referring to the now defunct, MTV show (the damage on pop culture from that little phenomenon is, blessedly, done). Come Thursday, people are already looking forward to cutting out early on Friday, packing their families into their respective cars and heading east to that place where the ocean meets the land. So of course they get grumpy and turn into a**holes on Friday minus one. It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde “thing”: Those same people that are calling me up/cursing me out on the phone today will be the ones sitting on the beach tomorrow night with a wine cooler in one hand and a cigar in the other. Maybe that’s why I’m not one, at least per my own reckoning. I don’t, in the immortal words of Billy Joel “spend my weekends on the Jersey Shore.” I generally spend them at home in Broomall, Pennsylvania either doing stuff with my kids and my wife when she’s not working, or doing stuff around the house. So Thursdays, for me, are just another day. Fridays, too. Saturdays, Sundays… they all kind of meld together for sh*theads like me. I haven’t really had a weekend in a while. Maybe I need one. But then again, if I do take one I might end up turning into an a**hole. It’s a Catch-22.
  2. They’ve had almost an entire week to build up to it. This one presumes that a**holes are just a**holes 24/7/365 (and in a Leap Year 366) and Thursday is, in fact, National Be An A**hole day. It’s an unwritten pact among them. They begin building up their angst on Monday AM and let it fester until Thursday. And then? They lash out with the full force of their a**hole-ness. They get it out of their respective systems by the end of the day Thursday so that Friday, they can come in to work fresh and unhindered and coast through the day until the ringing of the bell at quittin’ time. Then, they go home and treat their loved ones with respect. Because they “got their rocks off” on poor, unsuspecting sh*theads like me. If I may bastardize the words of the progressive rock band Midnight Oil, “A**holes are a**holes so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully?”
  3. It can’t be Jerk-Off Day. That’s Monday. Depending on who you ask, every day is Jerk-Off Day. I once knew a guy who bragged that he could do so two, three… four times a day (his nickname was “KYW” and if he’s reading this, he knows who he is). Quick parenthetical aside: How does one do… that that many times in one day? It’s the equivalent of paint primer on a very sensitive portion of the male anatomy. Calluses, maybe? ‘Dunno. End parenthetical aside. This blog entry is not about Jerk-Offs though it was inspired by my wife’s text regarding them (booyakasha, dear: RESPECT). It’s about a**holes. But the Jerk-Offs already have a claim to Monday (I trust Nicole on that point implicitly). Wednesday is Hump Day which eliminates it and Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the Weekend which eliminates them. That leaves Tuesday and Thursday and Tuesday? Tuesday has no identity. It doesn’t deserve one. It’s just… BLAH. Never any good television on and most people are just… not a**holes, but miserable because they’re a day plus detached from a weekend and further away from the next one than closer. Tuesday doesn’t deserve an identity in my subjective reality and since we’re chillin’ on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence here on “Random Musings,” F-Tuesday. I’m eliminating it from contention. Thursday wins by default.
  4. They miss “LOST.” I guess this one’s a bit of a stretch but think about it: For six seasons, the mind-bending, water cooler conversation enhancing, oft times brilliant, others aggravating television show “LOST” was on every Wednesday night at 9:00 PM. I know my wife and I never missed an episode. It gave us something to talk about on Thursday AM. But ever since the show ended I’ve noticed an uptick in the quantity of a**holes that come out every Thursday to make my life a living h-e-double hockey sticks. Are they longing for the adventures of Jack Shephard, Kate and Sawyer? Locke and Ben? Richard Alpert and the Others? I guess the likes of “Chicago Fire” and “Nashville” just don’t measure up comparatively. Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and J J Abrams take note: If you’ve got a spin-off/sequel in you, now might be a good time to start writing it, ’cause the longer the world has to go without the particular brand of insanity/brilliance that was on display every Hump Day the more chance that everyone, including me is going to morph into an a**hole. “Property Brothers” has been a good, temporary stop gap but I need me some thought provoking television. I love “The Walking Dead” but it’s mainly popcorn entertainment. I love “Game of Thrones” but I already know the outcome having read the books. I love “The Killing” but they totally “Seven’d” out the end of this last season. That said, I’m begging you on behalf of Losties everywhere: We’re still here. And we’re waiting. Save us all from our inner a**holes.

I couldn’t think of “5.” My mind is starting to go a bit fuzzy around the edges. Gul’darned borderline sleep deprivation. Sorry. If you’ve got a “5,” a “6” or a “7,” please feel free to… repeat the litany with me, guys: Send it to me via the above mentioned procedure. It’s a heady proposition that Thursday = National Be An A**hole Day, and while the above, four postulations give a good basis for my argument, circumstantially at least, every argument, especially one by a sleepy sh*thead that calls himself the Madchronicler deserves all the support it can get.

Things have quieted down here in my subjective reality on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence this afternoon. The gray, threatening sky overhead has finally started to yield a little bit of precip here in southeastern Pennsylvania. One of my all time favorite movies is “The Crow” and there’s a song in it called “It Can’t Rain All The Time.” It seems like it’s been raining on both a**holes and sh*theads alike for the last couple of weeks. Whether on the weekend, Jerk-Off Day, the identity-less Tuesday, Hump Day or the theoretical National Be An A**hole Day… apparently precip plays no favorites. This past weekend, I did get to go down the shore for a bit and it was actually sunny and beautiful for once. I sat on the porch of the house on the Jersey Shore where I was staying with a White Russian in one hand and a cigarette in the other and I pondered… postulated. Years ago I said that “the world is full of sh*theads” and I ended that piece of mental flatulence with a bold statement: I want to be a sh*thead. I want a mundane, routine existence as a normal nine to fiver. The question that I now face–as Thursday slowly segues into Friday, AKA another weekend spent landlocked with my girls in Broomall, Pennsylvania with a full list of things including yard work and replacing a shower head to do–is this:

Would I be better off as an a**hole? Do I want that the same way I wanted to be a sh*thead back when we all lived for a time in “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else? Would I rather be the caller than the unsuspecting answerer? That’s a damn good question, guys. I look around me and do you know what? The a**holes? They’ve got nice lives for the most part. They spend “their weekends on the Jersey shore,” they “get their rocks off” during the week so they can go home at quittin’ time on Friday night and treat their loved ones with respect. They could give a flying fig about Tuesday and Jerk-Off Day? It only comes (pun intended) two, three… four times a month. Just like every other day. Maybe they miss “LOST” as much as I do. Maybe they just can’t stand “Chicago Fire” and “Nashville” and haven’t yet discovered “Property Brothers.” I could be that person. That guy. An a**hole. So why don’t I?

Because despite the borderline sleep deprivation I am suffering from, I’m still in complete control of my mental and physical facilities. And those facilities? They’re generally not predisposed to a “FTW” mentality. ‘Cause I’m a sh*thead. A nine to fiver. And I’m a nice guy. And if nice guys are destined to always been the answerer? Well, guys, it turned out okay for Jack Shephard, didn’t it?

Yeah. It did. Until next time, fellow sh*theads and a**holes. Stay frosty.

F.

In Which I Blog Backwards

You read the “headline” of this blog entry right, guys. “In Which I Blog Backwards.” I’m actually going to write my closing statement first, which means you get a quick payoff. Thereafter you can go about your merry, non-sleep deprived business, unlike those of us who are already counting down the hours until we can go back to sleep. For the record? A shade under 12 hours by my best estimation. Analysis? This is going to be a long f*cking day. But in the past, sleep deprivation has equaled creativity for your old buddy the Madchronicler. So this could be really good. Or really bad. I don’t know. “It’s a mystery.”

Anywhos, the payoff. Here you go: Only a parent can comprehend the sheer horror of a child or children, not sleeping the night before said parent has to return to work after a three day weekend. Likewise, only a parent can appreciate the utter contentment of falling asleep, even for a whopping 15 minutes with their formerly wakeful child (or children) passed out on their chest. That is, until fatigue sets in an hour later while they’re driving to work and they almost crash the rental they’re driving in to a ditch.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Have a great week.

There you go. If you want, you can stop reading now. Or, you can read on and see how I ended up there. Or here. I guess it all depends on your perspective. I think I went cross-eyed again. Time to crack Monster Ultra Energy Drink numero uno. I have no idea how many of these I will go through between now and… 11 hours and 40 minutes from now. I know you’re not supposed to ingest more than three in a 24 hour period but seriously, guys? I don’t know if three’s going to cut it. I’m pretty foggy, right now. Dear Body: Please give me a caffeine consumption exemption for today. Por favor, no heart palpitations. I just want to remain clear-headed enough to get some work done. I promise I’ll return to my max limit of two MUEDs tomorrow. Do we have an accord?

I have no idea what I just wrote. Something about energy drinks and Spanish. Seriously. I need to go back and reread it before I continue. BRB.

Okay. Done. T-minus 11 hours and 15 minutes now until I can place my weary head down on my pillow. Assuming my minions cooperate, tonight. I honestly believed that they’d cooperated last night. Everything went swimmingly. Both girls were bathed, watered and in bed by nine PM. Nicole and I were watching “Game of Thrones” by 9:15 and “The Killing” by 10:15. Ah, Slit Your Wrists Sunday, otherwise known as the most depressing television night of the week. It didn’t help SYWS’ cause that last night’s eppy of “Game”–“The Rains of Castamere”–will go down as arguably the most gruesome and depressing episode of the show’s three year run, but I’ll spare those of you that haven’t seen it yet any spoilers save for (SPOILER ALERT) this little meme that has been circulating since the credits rolled, last night:

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Ladies and gentlemen? George R R Martin. For the record, please note that I did say “SPOILER ALERT” above so spare me the hate mail/hateful comments. It’s also not really a spoiler: Anyone who was watching when they killed Eddard “Ned” Stark in Season One knows, even without reading the books, that GRRM has no qualms about killing off his main characters. It’s all part of the whole “Game of Thrones”/”A Song of Ice and Fire” experience. The BLANK or “RW,” as portrayed in both the television series and the books is just another way that GRRM equal parts embraces us and shuns us as fans of his work. And I f*cking love that about him, which makes me equal parts a fan and a guy that wants to kick him in the nads if I ever meet him. Dear George: I love you. But I also hate you. Please, finish book six really, really soon so I can see what happens to the few remaining, favorite characters I have left. Sincerely, Me, AKA A Die-Hard, Stone Cold Fan of Everything and Anything “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

But I digress. Sh*t, when do I ever not? As the midnight hour rolled around and all remained quiet in the Marsh household, Nicole and I finished our SYWS routine by watching a couple of episodes of “Friends” before bed. We turned off the television and closed our eyes at approximately 12:30 AM. The sound of the rain falling against our windows lulled us to sleep. Thereafter? All h-e-double hockey sticks broke loose.

It started with my oldest (an enigma in and of itself; normally it’s my youngest that kicks off the late night/early morning festivities). At approximately 1:30 AM I heard Cara in the hallway outside of our room. I got up, and stepped out. She was standing outside our doors crying. I asked her what was wrong and she tearfully informed me that she had “changed her underwear” because the one’s she had been wearing “were dirty, Daddy.” That was all.

I escorted her back to her room, got her a drink, removed her “dirty” underwear from her bed (they actually weren’t dirty; not sure what happened there) and got her back under her covers. Within a minute of when I did so she had fallen back to sleep. I include this herein not because of it’s impact: Had she simply gone back to bed and had nothing else happened I would have been fine, albeit a bit groggy this AM. Nothing new for a guy accustomed to writing until one or two in the morning some nights, and certainly nothing a Monster Ultra Energy Drink couldn’t cure. Nor do I include it for comic relief i.e. my four year old, recently bathed daughter changing her clean undies in the middle of the night for no foreseeable reason.  I include it as a proverbial Prologue to the story. Her part = Over. Kinda’ like CENSORED’s role in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” but without pissed off daddy’s/granddaddy’s that vaguely resemble Filch from the Harry Potter movies.

I crawled back under my covers and closed my eyes. I listened to the rain–the Rains of Broomall–falling against our windows. All was quiet. Peaceful. I started to nod off. Then, as quick as a crossbow bolt fired from a balcony, I heard a preemptive whine from my younger minion. It was followed by another. And another. And did she just say “Mom,” too? The realization hit me like… well, like a crossbow bolt fired from a balcony (sorry, guys, but fogginess = The reuse of the same metaphor, potentially on multiple occasions). She wasn’t just stirring. She was waking up.

I laid in bed for a moment and prayed for it to subside but I knew better. Natalie’s been gracing us with her presence for over a year now (one year old as of last Thursday; Happy Birthday, Natal-ya!) and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about her it’s this: When the whines in the middle of the night are unintelligible she’s just having a dream, or experiencing a Night Terror per the pediatrician. But when words like “Mom,” “Da,” “Ba-Ba” and occasionally “Ca-Wa” can be discerned between the whines? Yeppers, boys and girls: We’re f*cked. And be “we’re” I mean me and Nicole. Cara could sleep through the apocalypse if given the opportunity which, hopefully, she won’t be but Natalie? I swear that kid hears a pin drop and wakes up.

After a few, anxious moments I stood and made my way into her room. She was standing in her crib waiting for me. I picked her up and held her. She wanted “down.” So I put her down. She proceeded to head over to her “NATALIE” bench–i.e. the ones you buy at Pottery Barn Kids that have the letters of the child’s name embedded in them like puzzle pieces. She removed all the pieces and begin playing with them by the light of her nightlight, “coo’ing” like the most contented toddler in the whole. Wide. World. After a few moments of letting her play she started rubbing her eyes. I relocated her to her crib along with the puzzle pieces. Survey says: Bad move. As soon as her rear hit the mattress more crying and gnashing of teeth ensued. She likely would have rend’ed her garments too had she been wearing a shirt and pants. Thank God for PJ onesies.

I left her for a few moments but after about 10 (or 120; I honestly don’t know what time it was when I left her/went back to mine and Nicole’s room), I simply realized the inevitable: Sleep wasn’t going to happen. Not for me, not for Nicole and not for Natalie. So I gave up, went back into her room, and relocated her downstairs to the combination living room/playroom around five or so in the AM.

A quick parenthetical aside (as I crack MUED numero dos and look at the clock–t-minus six hours and 15 minutes until I can, hypothetically, rest): Had I known how grating the Fisher Price Disney Princess Little People Castle sounded at five in the BLEEPING AM, I never would have gotten it for her for her birthday. No lie, it’s like finger nails on a chalkboard just… without a slate. Or chalk. Or even a classroom. End parenthetical aside.

Anywhos, once downstairs, Natalie was as happy as a clam. Around 5:30, she started rubbing her eyes, again. I got her her morning “ba-ba” which she drank on my lap until she passed out 5:55 in the AM. Mind you, most days this kid sleeps until at least seven so this = Highly unusual. I carefully shifted my position until she was lying belly-down on top of me and closed my own eyes. Cue 20 minutes of restful bliss until Nicole got out of bed, Natalie heard her, woke up, started “mom, mom, mom’ing” like it was going out of style and that, friends and countrymen/countrywomen? That was my night.

In summation? Total time spent consoling the minions between 1:30 and 6:30 in the AM roughly two or three hours (I can’t really be sure because I was kinda’ a zombie for part of it); total time spent nodding in and out of sleep one and a half or two and a half hours depending on your perspective and total time spent actually sleeping? Ayuh. Twenty glorious minutes. Amount of rain dumped upon my area of DELCO between 1:30 and 6:30? I’m not entirely sure, but judging from the sound of it I’m guessing at least an inch, maybe more. Finally, number of times I checked my Twitter and Facebook feeds to see people’s reactions to “The Rains of Castamere?” Countless. Seriously. I probably checked it 50 times post-the eppy ending and the moment when I almost crashed my rental in a ditch this AM.

Perhaps I should elaborate further on that last. Perhaps not. It’s really not important. I didn’t. But it was close. Damn Rains of Easttown-Tredyffrin threw me off. Lesson to all of you reading this, right now: Never rub your eyes vigorously when driving through a construction zone in the pouring rain on 20 minutes of sleep. You… miss things. Like cones. I’ll just leave it at that and let your imaginations do the speculating.  

And there you have it. That was my night last night. And my day today? A relatively normal one save for the haze that has surrounded me since I “woke up” and the last remnants of MUED numero dos coursing through my veins, presently. T-minus four hours and 55 minutes until I can crash. In between, I need to drive 36 miles, pick up my minions, drive home, make dinner, clean and water them, get them ready for bed and probably watch either “Sofia the First” or “Dora the Explorer” for the umpteenth time. Not because I don’t want to play Rapunzel, but because I honestly don’t think I can. Something tells me that once my a** hits my couch at home I’m done for the evening. Put a fork in me. Sorry, Cara Bear, but you’re going to have to put your little sister to bed tonight. Daddy’s going to either A.) Curl up into a ball in the corner and rock back and forth while singing “The Rains of Castamere” or B.) Start playing “Candy Crush Saga.” Yes, “Candy Crush.” For all you Candy Crushers like my wife that have been waiting for me to start playing I’m close. Damn close. I don’t know that my brain will be able to handle anything else after I finish this blog entry. Which, in all honesty? I probably should so. Okay, then. Commence ending.

Don’t get me wrong, guys. I love my aforementioned minions. With every ounce of my heart, soul and mind. They, along Nicole are my life. There are other “things,” both animate and inanimate that “are my life” to some extent. But those things? Things like blogging, MUEDs, SYWS, GRRM and the “RW?” They are secondary to Nicole, Cara and Natal-ya. But some nights, guys? Some nights when the Rains of Broomall pound the windows of my humble abode in DELCO… some nights when minion one changes her clean underwear for no reason in the middle of the night and then gets upset about it… some nights when instead of a quick whine, I hear “Mom,” “Da,” “Ba-Ba” and occasionally “Ca-Wa” mixed in from minion two… some late nights/early mornings when I regret purchasing the Fisher Price Little People Disney Princess Castle with every ounce of my being because that which, by the light of day seems awesome oft times, in the dead of the night, is the most annoying thing ever… those times?

Wait for it.

Those times I both embrace and shun my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. And I love the f*ck out of it for that very reason. Because only a parent can comprehend the sheer horror of a child or children, not sleeping the night before said parent has to return to work after a three day weekend. Likewise, only a parent can appreciate the utter contentment of falling asleep, even for a whopping 15 minutes with their formerly wakeful child (or children) passed out on their chest. That is, until fatigue sets in an hour later while they’re driving to work and they almost crash the rental they’re driving in to a ditch.

Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Have a great week, everyone. And remember:

And who are you, the proud lord said, that I must bow so low? Only a cat of a different coat, that’s all the truth I know. In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws. And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours. And so he spoke, and so he spoke, the Lord of Castamere. But know the rains weep o’er his hall, with no one there to hear. Yes now the rains weep o’er his hall, and not a soul to hear. 

T-minus four hours and 25 minutes to go. Oh! And the Lannisters send their regards.

A Pi Day Reflection on High Blood Sugar, “Pinky and the Brain,” a 1200 Word Short Story, Purpose and an Un-extraordinary Life

Good day, everyone! Happy Pi Day! No, I’m not talking about “pie.” I’m talking about Pi, alias the irrational number that we all learned about in math: 3.14 et cetera, et cetera. Though a piece of pie would taste good to this sugar-deprived, pseudo-madman right about now. Sadly, my desire for a piece of pie will have to remain unfulfilled until such time as I reduce my blood sugar from where it is to a manageable number sans medication. Thanks, Doc L. I know you’ve got my best interests in mind, but really? Depriving me of pie… of anything with sugar in it is almost as bad as depriving me of caffeine. At least I can get the latter with no sugar in it. I can’t exactly get sugar without sugar.

Oh f*ck. I’ve gone cross-eyed again.

Believe it or not, Pi Day, irrational numbers and my sugar intake (or lack thereof) are not the things perplexing my oft perplexed mind, currently. In truth? There really isn’t anything new perplexing me save for the same sh*t that has been on my mind for the last couple of weeks (book stuff, of which you guys are already aware). Instead, I’m reflective. Yesterday, at the urging of my wife, I did something that I never thought I’d do. I entered a short story in a contest. But not just any old contest. I’ve done that plenty of times before this. No, guys. I entered a short story in a contest sponsored by an organization that specializes in giving non-professional authors like myself with children an opportunity to showcase their work. Sounds innocent enough, right?

And it is. In fact, I’m very impressed with the organization and what it stands for. So why write that its “something that I never thought I’d do?” There are multiple reasons, none of which reflect poorly on the organization in question or others like it. Primarily? I wrote that because X-amount of years ago when I wrote “The Wandering Seeker,” I never dreamed that the scene portrayed in it would be a scene from my own life.

I don’t know if I can publish it here on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman.” That’s http://www.randommusingsofapseudomadman.com. Yes, I wrote “.com,” and not “.wordpress.com.” I have, as of yesterday afternoon, purchased the domain name though really? The prospect of anyone ever using a domain name even remotely similar to it is pretty remote. What can I say? It’s a part of my ongoing bid to dominate the internet on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I already own “frankmarsh.net” and am eyeing up “frankmarsh.com” if the person in DC that holds it ever relinquishes it. To quote one of my all time favorite cartoons:

Pay no attention to the snippet of Raul Julia from “Street Fighter: The Movie” at the end of the clip. I’m sorry, but it was the cleanest one I could find on Youtube. And really, WTF does Raul Julia have to do with “Pinky and the Brain?” Note to self: Make sure to tag this blog entry with “randomness,” as well, when completed. Thanks for f*cking my world up, WelsheyOneder.

But I digress. I was writing that I don’t know if I can publish “The Wandering Seeker” here because of the contest rules. No submissions of previously published material can be entered. Once I put something on “Random Musings” it becomes a part of the Eminent Public Domain. I don’t know if blog publishing counts as publishing so rather than risk it, I think I’ll deign to not post it. That doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about it, though.

In short (and it had to be: 1200 words max; limiting a short story to 1200 words is almost as daunting a task as writing a novel, at least for my long-winded a**), “The Wandering Seeker” is the story of a father who is awakened in the middle of the night by his daughter whimpering in the room next to his. He goes into check on her and asks her what’s wrong. She informs him that she heard crying outside her window and it woke her up. “Oh, that’s nothing,” the father says, “that’s just the Wandering Seeker.” She asks him who the Wandering Seeker is and he tells her a story about a person that used to wander the world… “the worlds” searching for answers. His travels took him many places but in the end? He ended up settling for a normal life and not an abnormal, pseudo-chaotic one. He met a woman, fell in love with and married her. He had a couple of kids. “He doesn’t wander anymore.” The tears that the man’s daughter heard? They were an echo of the Wandering Seeker’s tears. “He cried because he didn’t have a family to love” her father tells her, “but now? He doesn’t wander anymore. He’s stopped crying. But occasionally you can hear him on nights like this one.”

There’s a bit more but rather than ruin the O’Henry ending (which, if you know me is pretty predictable), I think I’ll stop there. Keep your fingers crossed, guys. I’m still waiting for my “big break” and while I don’t know if this could be it, the reward and the platform said reward would provide me would be very, very beneficial to a burgeoning writer, about to publish his first novel. But the contest? It really is supplemental to the story: A story which I wrote long before I met Nicole.

You see, “The Wandering Seeker” was another one of my early-adulthood attempts to envision my life as I desired it to beand not as it was at the time. But the amazing thing about it? As opposed to my other attempts to write “Autobiographical Fiction,” the events depicted in “The Wandering Seeker?” Well sh*t. They came true. Everything down to the color and style of my wife’s hair in it (brown and curly, a part of the story which I was, sadly, forced to edit out to get it under 1200 words), the color of my daughter’s eyes, her age and the style of her own hair (aspects of the story that I did retain; in essence, I made it 1200 words about a father and his daughter and not 2000 words about a father and his family).

Now, you could argue this eventuality a couple of ways. You could say that the story, which was written with my ideal in mind some 15 plus, very odd years ago could not help but come true. You could say that I would not have settled for anything less than the woman pictured in the story and the little girl that was, quite obviously, a hybrid of her appearance and my own. Contrary to that interpretation is another, though. One word… a word that I’m leery of attaching to anything for fear of either sounding like someone not grounded in reality, alias someone who believes in things like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Or that Pi has a final number. That word? Fate. Or destiny. Or any number of other synonyms that exist.

Let me be frank with you, guys (no pun intended, or course): I don’t believe in fate, destiny or whatever you want to call it. I believe in pulling myself up by my bootstraps. I believe in free will. But I do believe that we all have a purpose and that purpose is hard-wired into our souls pre-conception. Getting there? It’s up to us. Some of us achieve our purpose and some of us don’t. How we are judged by the almighty for our incapacity to either use what he or she gave us or not is purely speculation on my part. I won’t know if I succeeded until I’m gone from this world… from these worlds. Even then I may not know. But I trust in the belief that I have clung to since I was a child. If one day, I die and find out that it was all a farce? Well sh*t. It won’t be the first time someone played a cruel joke on me. Hardy har-har. Insert pie in the face here. 

But being a good husband and father? I truly believe that those things are a part of, if not my whole purpose. The scene that I pictured in my story? It was bound to happen, but not because it was destined to. Nor because I had the foresight to extrapolate what mine and my ideal woman’s daughter would look like at 20-something years young. I don’t even know that I could do that now at 37, going on 38 years old. It happened because when God or whatever gods you believe in was dolling out souls back in late 1974 and early 1975, he or she took one look at the wispy “stuff” that was going to make up mine and said, “do you know what? This one? He’s going to be a good husband and a good dad. He’s going to put his family before anything and everything else in his life. If his daughter calls his name crying in the middle of the night, he’s not going to roll over and cover his head with a pillow. He’s going to get up, no matter how drowsy he is, and make his way groggily into her room. He’s going to sit with her and tell her a story. I’ll let him decide the content of it.”

That’s me, folks. About as plain as can be, really. I’ve been summed up in many ways by many, different people over the course of my… for the most part… un-extraordinary life. Some have called me a lover. Some, a fighter. Some, a big p*ssy and some a fedora and trench coat wearing elitist (you know who you are). I really could give a flying f*ck what people think of me. Some may believe that this blog is just another means of me, drawing undue attention to myself and I’ll concede that while I don’t believe that people always embody the traits of the Zodiac sign that they were born under–mine was Leo, BTW–that particular trait? Yep. I do have it. But only to a degree. I am also humble. I believe that everything that I have, pre-programmed or not, is a gift. And I cherish it. My family? My ability to write? My sometimes quirky sense of humor? My capacity to love unconditionally? All. 

I mentioned earlier in this blog post that I was not perplexed, but reflective. I’m reflective about where I am now this chilly, mid-March Pi Day in 2013, and where I was then, an undetermined day of an undetermined month some 15 plus, very odd years ago when I first wrote “The Wandering Seeker.” Back then, the life that I have now was a dream. Today? Well, guys, I may not yet be a published writer… I may only be a part of the Eminent Public Domain currently… whatever I am, there is one thing that I am for sure. And that is? If you know me you already know the answer. I’m the guy who got out of bed and told one of, or both of his whimpering daughters the story of the Wandering Seeker. Beyond that?

Well sh*t. You don’t want me to give away the O’Henry ending now, do you?

“They’re Pinky, they’re Pinky and the Brain Brain Brain Brain Brain.

🙂

Douglas Adams – An Appreciation

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I need to be.”

(Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish)

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There is a little known fact about me that you may or may not know. When most people think of me as a writer, they think of someone who was and still is inspired by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Asimov, Tolkien and Robert Jordan (not Brandon Sanderson). Why? Because for years, I have been claiming that they were the authors who most directly inspired me to write.

And they did. They still do, even now. But I’d be lying if I said that they were the only authors who have inspired me. Among the others, in no particular order are Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Sam Shepard, Tony Kushner, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, T. S. Eliot et al. I could continue but in truth? I have no desire to fill this entire blog entry with a list of influences that I may or may not ever measure up to. Note that I said “may.” Anything is possible, right? What can I say? I dream big.

But one author is conspicuously absent from the above list. That author? The late, great Douglas Adams who’s Hitchhiker’s Guide, five book trilogy (yes, I said “five book trilogy”) remains one of my all time favorites. While I find it hard to believe that anyone is unaware of what the f*ck I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer for those of you that don’t: Arthur Dent, the main character,  is an Englishman who is one of two human beings to survive the destruction of the Earth (the second and only other survivor, Tricia McMillian–“Trillian” in the books–travels around the universe with Slartibartfast, a once designer of luxury planets). He escapes with the assistance of Ford Prefect, an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse who is a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Guide is just that: An instruction manual for how to get around the universe on a budget (hint: Make sure you have a good towel). Arthur and Ford go on a myriad of adventures across the universe and through time which I will not itemize herein. If you’d like to know more about them, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Zaphod Beelbebrox, Deep Thought, 42, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and the time hopping, Chesterfield couch et al, check out the books or ask me for mine. I’d be happy to lend them to you.

I first read the books in college at the urging of my friend Pat (booyakasha, Vato. Respect), and have since read them multiple times, most recently to my firstborn, Cara. It was a part of our nightly routine when she was still a toddler: “Ba Ba,” book(s) and bed. Sadly, Adams passed away in 2001, way before his time and yesterday, 3/11/13 would have been his 61st birthday (shout out to Google for their terrific, Google Doodle honoring him). Last evening, in honor of it, I picked up my dog-eared copy of  Life, the Universe and Everything (Book Three) and started reading. I was immediately re-immersed in the universe that I loved and continue to love so much now, almost two decades after I first read about it.

Too this day, I’ve been unable to determine whether the Hitchhiker’s Guide is a product of Adams’ insanity or genius. If you’ve read any portion of it you understand why. So many of his ideas are so “out there” that it’s hard for me to believe that a sane, or non-substance induced mind could have come up with them. I mean really, I’ve always considered myself pseudo-mad and I can’t come up with anything like what he did. The Impossibility Drive? The SEP (“Someone Else’s Problem”)? Not even when I used to drink heavily and smoke ‘da Chiba. The phrase “often imitated, never duplicated” applies perfectly to him… was, in fact, used by fellow author Neil Gaiman to describe him in the Forward to The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The answer to what it really is is irrelevant. Regardless of what Adams’ original motive for writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide was… whether he actually conceived of the idea one night, drunk in a field while hitchhiking across Europe or he came up with it on the spur of the moment to meet a contractual obligation to the BBC, it has affected and continues to affect others too this day. Everyone has their own reasons.

As for mine? His style of writing–cloaking the problems of the world, nay the universe in absurdity–is something that I’ve tried to do, to an obviously lesser affect in everything from these blog entries to their precursors (“Mental Flatulence”) to their precursors (“Dissertations”). I adapt it to my own, personal issues on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence, as well. “The world is full of Sh*theads?” “The Feminine Bane of my Early Existence?” I never would have come up with those ideas were it not for The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Adams taught me to not necessarily laugh at the same things that once upon a time (’cause all good stories begin as such) vexed me, but to look at them with a degree of jaded humor. The time I did BLANK to BLANK? I used to obsess over it. After I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though? Well sh*t, guys. I guess if Adams could make light of the destruction of the Earth to make way for a hyperspace bypass–an obvious allegory of how infrastructure has replaced and continues to replace all things pure and traditional in our world–then I could make light of my one or two, misguided attempts to forge a relationship with a woman that really had no interest in me, or a “Biological” that had moved on with his life at mine, my sister’s and my mother’s expense. In short? Douglas Adams not only affected my writing, he affected my mentality. And for that–the ability to laugh at the things that used to bother me–I am eternally grateful.

I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to write this blog entry, today, save for an inherent desire to express my thoughts on, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century in lieu of what would have been his 61st Birthday. I guess I figure that over the next few months–if everything goes according to plan–I’m going to be writing a lot about an idea that is very un-Hitchhiker’s Guide-like in both its tone and its scope. I originally conceived of ENDWORLD – A Novel before I’d ever read a word of Book One, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Even now, after its most recent rewrite, ENDWORLD is more King meets Asimov meets Jordan in its tone and scope than Adams. If I ever get to the point that I’m ready to put it out there… out here for you guys to read it, I intend to market it as such to my “Targeted Audience.” But the last thing that I want if I ever do achieve my big, big dream of being not just a published, but a successful author is to be pigeonholed as purely a genre writer. I’d love to write something Hitchhiker’s Guide-like one day. And while I would never aspire to the same heights as Douglas Adams achieved… while I never could achieve the same balance of comedy, satire and narrative flow that he did, I’d very much like to try.

That said, I’m done, albeit somewhat more prematurely than normal. What can I say? Not every blog entry is going to be a rambling rumination on my own personal life, the universe and everything. In closing, I’d like to thank not only Douglas Adams, but Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Slartibartfast, Trillian, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin the Paranoid Android and all of the other personalities that inhabit the universe portrayed in the Hitchhiker’s Guide. Reading about them again last night was like reacquainting myself with my old friends. I’d also like to thank my Vato, Pat for lending me his copy of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so many, many years ago. My mind hasn’t been the same since. In closing, I’m not going to take the easy way out and say “DON’T PANIC.” Nor am I going to finish with “so long, and thanks for all the fish” though admittedly? Both would work. No. Instead, I’m going to close as I opened: With one of my favorite quotes. This one is actually from the Adams penned Preface to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It may be one of, if not the best observances of humanity and the human condition ever. Enjoy!

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans. And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything. Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever. This is not her story. But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.”

(Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish

Happy, happy December 20th, fellow Sh*theads. Not only are we five days away from Christmas or one day away from the Mayan Apocalypse depending on your perspective (or preference; I don’t doubt that one or more of you reading this would be okay with the world ending tomorrow), but this post, if I am fortunate enough to complete it before the end of the world or Santa’s arrival (whichever comes first) will be the 30th blog post that I have completed since I created “Random Musings” back in 2009. Back then, I and most bloggers that I know (or, as some called us then and continue to call us now, “Proverbial Time Wasters”) lived on Google Blogger and no one lived any place else. No one that I was chummy with even knew about WordPress despite the fact that it has existed, per Wikipedia, since 2003 and is now the “most popular blogging system in use on the Internet.” News to me, folks. I just thought it was a trendy alternative.

I have since put away childish things and moved on. “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman Version 2.0” is, in my opinion, superior to “Random Musings” version one, but my original Blogger site will always occupy a spot in my heart, simply because entries one through 22 of this venture were all introduced via it.

Those entries? Some were better received (see Penn State Proud – A Pseudo-Madman’s Take) than others (see “I guess in a way, you always end up right back where you started…”). All have been imported to this site (hence, the links) and the original “Random Musings” has since gone the way of the Dodo Bird. But regardless of the response to an entry or the lack thereof, I never once wavered in my resolve to write what I want to write, when I want to write it and for as long as I choose to do this? I never will. I don’t force it, as can be evidenced by this blog’s time frame–three years–and its output–29, soon to be 30 entries. If you do the math, that averages out to approximately 10 entries a year which, by blogging standards, is little more than a drop in the bucket. Jesus, I’ve only been on WordPress for a few weeks and some people that I follow have already posted 30 entries in that time alone.

What can I say? For me, it’s not about quantity but quality, a fact of my life which transcends just blogging and writing. Roll snare drum. If you didn’t get that good. Newsflash to any newcomers to these compositions: I often take digs at myself and they are many times obvious. If I can sneak a veiled one in every so often… well, to quote those eminent sages of modern cinematic wisdom Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Logan, “Excellent!” I don’t have to always eviscerate myself, do I?

Um, that was a rhetorical question, guys. Please don’t answer it unless you can support your argument. Gracias. Sin digresiones mas. 

Quality over quantity. I’m not saying that the aforementioned, other bloggers that post every day are in any way, shape or form inferior to me. Quite the contrary: A few of them have a skill and a fortitude that I will never equal. To be honest with you? I’m slightly envious of them. I just don’t have the time or the patience to do this every day. But I have approached and will continue to approach every one of these little ditties that I do find the time to write as more than just a standard, run-of-the-mill, one or two paragraph blurb that can be pigeonholed by one classification and two tags. In truth? Writing is writing, whether you’re blogging or attempting to compose the next great American novel (the last one was “The Stand” by Stephen King; yes, I know that’s my own, personal opinion but I don’t think that I’m alone in my assessment). And I love WordPress but am having a b*tch of a time tagging my work. It defies classification and always has. Still, it would help me to know if there is some veteran, blogger secret that Google Blogger neglected to teach me about how to successfully tag and classify your blog so as to maximize its visibility. If there is and you know it, please message it to me, Tweet it to me or email me it. I’d rather not use a tag like “Valtrex” unless I really, really have to.

No. I approach them in the same way that I approach anything and everything else that I write, be that “anything and everything else” a novel, a short story, a poem or an email (yes, I said “email”; you don’t believe me? Let me know and I’ll send you a copy of “The Collected Couch Chronicles”): With an eye toward perfection. Whether I achieve that or not is your call, not mine. I also like to have a topic in mind when I start writing. It’s not just about… what did I call it a few entries ago? Opening up my proverbial man purse and spilling my problems out on the Intranet for all to see. No. It’s about writing something that I feel is relevant. To a time, a place, a mentality or a situation. And to me. Having a personal connection to what I am writing is crucial to what I view as my success or failure as a writer. Plus, I like to amuse if I can. If I have failed to do any of these things in the last three plus years then I am sorry. I can point you in the direction of any number of other blogs that have effectively achieved all of these goals if you’d like. Just say the word.

That said, this particular blog entry is a bit of an enigma compared to the others. Why? Because I really don’t have a topic in mind this time. Henceforth it’s title, “Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish.” Vague, huh? In truth, my always perturbed mind is perplexed presently (try saying that five times fast) by many topics. Not just Christmas and the 2012 Phenomenon but the Newtown, Connecticut shooting that transpired a week ago, the impending Fiscal Cliff and the problem of when I am going to get my hair cut and my beard trimmed between now and Christmas. Concerning the former two, I’ve considered writing about both but have decided against doing so for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I don’t feel as though I can contribute anything relevant or original to the ongoing dialogue about them. As for the latter, I guess I am holding out hope that the world ends tomorrow and in the process erases the need to be properly groomed for the holidays. If it doesn’t? Well sh*t. I may just take a set of clippers to both my hair and my beard. Maybe my eyebrows, too. Instead of a younger version of Santa Claus I’ll look like a fatter version of Pinky from “The Wall” when my family comes to Christmas Eve dinner. Or a baby rat: Whichever you prefer.

Note to all: That dig was not veiled. I was calling myself portly. End note.

Incidentally, it is now post-12 AM on December 21st in the Far East and the reports coming in from that area of the world are pretty gul’darned saccharine. No fire and brimstone in Sydney, Australia or Tokyo, Japan as near as I can tell. The Earth’s gravitational field appears to be in tact and there’s no sign of Nibiru on either NASA’s long range or short range scanners. Sounds like our New Age interpretation of the termination of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar was about as accurate as our prediction about Y2K. The only difference for me, personally? On New Years Eve, 1999 I was completely fuschnookered at a party and tonight, I will be at home with my two daughters watching “Caillou’s Holiday Movie” or the equivalent. Which is better and which is worse? I’m not really sure, but I know that the 30 Jello shots that I slammed in 1999 would kill me in 2012. Give me death or give me Caillou? No offense, but I’ll take the kid who’s four (’cause each day he grows some more!). End discussion.

Seriously, people? Whether you believe the Bible or not (I, for one, do) you have got to admit at this juncture that in all actuality, no one has any f*cking idea when the world is going to end. As my one friend so aptly put it in response to my Facebook status earlier, “I’ll just wait for the Pope to Tweet about it.”

Incidentally, that status was:

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What can I say? I’ve got grooming on my brain. If you could see me right now you’d understand why. I guess that’s the nice thing about writing something without a specific topic in mind: You can jump from one idea to the next at whim. ‘Course it’s also the bad thing about it because a lot of people won’t read something unless it’s focused. Incidentally, I should insert here a shout out to the two people other than me whose responses are visible in the above screenshot. I did not get their permission to use their names or their profile pics and I hope they will not sue me because of this. Anywhos, you know who you are. Booyakasha. Respect. Pero estoy divagando.

Is the world going to end one day? Of course it is. Everything does. But why live your life in fear of it? Live each day like it’s your last and let the Rapture take care of itself. Stop building doomsday bunkers, training with semi-automatic weapons and stocking up on freeze dried lasagna. Save that kind of energy for more important things like your kids. Look at what happened last Friday. Would it kill you to spend another few hours playing with them and not stringing your compound bow? No. It wouldn’t. So do it, dammit. Dress like Eugene/Flynn Ryder from “Tangled” and play princess with your daughter. Trust me: You won’t regret it.

Me, personally? I’d like to believe that when the end does come… if it comes in my lifetime, I’ll have lived my existence with my wife, my daughters, my family and my friends to its fullest extent. That way when the Pope Tweets about the Rapture and I know, with 100% certainty that it’s coming, I can gather up my family and head for ground zero with no regrets because baby? I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books… hell, written enough books that ruminate on the “after” to know that I want no part of it. The survivalists can have their new world order. I’ll take my wispy place in the Ether next to the remaining 99% of the world’s Sh*theads that didn’t survive the scourge. And as the blinding, white light and hot fire engulfs me like it did David Estes in this past week’s episode of “Homeland,” I’ll be able to smile as I feel the heat singe my unruly beard, my wavy salt and pepper hair and my cheeks and say…

You guessed it: Oh thank God. 

So brings me to the conclusion of “Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish,” otherwise known as “Publicar el Número 30 en los Puntos de Subtitulado en Español.” I’m only doing a little of this translation by memory, guys. Two years of college Spanish does not a bilingual blogger make. I may have forsaken Google Blogger in favor or WordPress but Google Translate is still one of my best friends, along with the people at Wikipedia. I hope you weren’t expecting something momentous from my 30th blog entry. I guess I just didn’t have it in me, today. Maybe I’ll save “momentous” for 50 so long as Saint Nick and the universe cooperate. I’ve always wanted to write something on my own, personal multiverse theory. Perhaps that will be the time. But not now. Now, I’ve got a million and one things to worry about, the least of which is how I’m going to get a haircut and trim my beard between now and next Monday night. I guess I’m going to have to. Why?

Because as I write these words, it is 8:35 AM in Sydney, Australia and 6:35 AM in Tokyo, Japan on December 21st, 2012. The Winter Solstice came and went at 6:00 AM in both locations and guess what? Both cities are still in existence. Mind you, the Mayans weren’t based in those locations but rather here in North and South America, where it won’t be 6:00 AM on December 21st until… well, 6:00 AM tomorrow morning, EST. So there is still a bit of wiggle room for the New Agers who believe that the axis of the planet is going to shift within the next 24 hours and fling all of us in to space. While there is still a degree of uncertainty surrounding whether the world is going to end in a few hours or not there is no uncertainty surrounding my 30th blog entry. It is done. To those of you that have followed my inane ramblings for the last three plus years? Thank you for seeing 30 with me. For those that have just discovered “Random Musings” in the last few weeks thank you for seeing eight with me. And for those of you who have stumbled upon these words for the first time?

Welcome. My name if Frank Marsh but I call myself the Madchronicler. I’m a Proverbial Time Waster and an amateur writer. Oh! And I am a Sh*thead. That’s not me taking a dig at myself which I do often. It’s the truth. And guess what? You’re one, too. The world is full of Sh*theads. To be one in my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole is not a curse but a blessing. It means we’re alike, you and I. And we are, to some extent. Stick around if you want to know more. 30 entries down, and who knows how many more to go?

“Excellent!”

The Geek Rebooted

DISCLAIMER: I rarely begin a blog entry with one of these. Usually I wait until I’m thoroughly ensconced in the writing of it to insert one. But today is different. When I first began writing this late, yesterday afternoon the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” was still a handful of hours away and anticipation for it was understandably very, very high. In the time since then a horrific tragedy has occurred in Aurora, Colorado. As you have likely heard, a lone gunman named James Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theater and killed 12 people/wounded 59 during a screening of the movie early this morning. My heart goes out to the victims and the families of the victims affected by this tragedy. They are all in my thoughts and my prayers and WERE, even as I strove to complete this composition, today. Now that it’s done? Well, I feel that I should be upfront with you. “TDKR” features as a topic in this blog entry albeit not a prominent one. If you are uncomfortable with me or anyone referencing it at the present time PLEASE do not read this, now. I promise that it will be here at a later date. 

Thank you, all. Sincerely, F.

Good morning, afternoon, evening or night, friends. I hope that everything is well in your own, subjective universes. Things in mine? Well, they could be better but they could also be worse… a lot worse, and I consider myself fortunate that the worstthat I have to deal with in this day and age is a rebellious three year old and a seven week old. If that’s the worst that my worst is going to get then I’m a very, very lucky man. That said, I have now used the word “worse” or a derivative thereof (see, “worst”) seven times in less then a paragraph. Rather than risk being called redundant (like that’s ever happened) I’m going to leave my worst behind me and focus on my best. At least the best that I can do on limited sleep. ‘Kinda a common theme for ‘ye ‘ole pal the Madchronicler, these days.

Eight “worsts” and two “bests.” 8/2. 80/20. The same winnings split that my Fantasy Football League is employing this season. FYI fellow managers (I’m looking at you, Nicole, alias “I Just Tebowed” and you Chuck, alias “Cuff And Link”), “Mennonite Mafia” is taking the lion’s share of the prize money home with him this year. Any time that I employ a team name that draws upon the PA Dutch community as inspiration I’m invincible. Best just concede now before you embarrass yourselves. And with that little revelation I have, for the first time, added smack talk to my blog. It’s a momentous day! And there was much rejoicing…

Yay.

In truth? It is not just a momentous day but it is a momentous time for people with certain sensibilities like my own. What sensibilities you may be wondering? In case you did not know or have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, tonight at midnight, arguably the most anticipated movie of the year will premiere in multiplexes across the country. Illegal torrent streams will begin appearing on the internet shortly after 3:00 AM… reviews will begin posting on Youtube and on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB… critics that hate it will be demonized or “trolled” and those that love it will be glorified and raised to the highest level of esteem that they can achieve along the shoulder of the ever growing, ever evolving information superhighway. I speak, of course, of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final chapter in Writer/Director Christopher Nolan’s visionary re-telling of the Bruce Wayne/Batman mythos. His rebooted franchise–which began with “Batman Begins” and continued with “The Dark Knight”–has redefined the superhero movie.

Whether you’re a fan of his Batman movies or not you can not deny that he really has redefined the genre. Who’d have ‘thunk, 10 years ago, that a superhero movie could make an insane amount of money and also be considered one of the best pictures of the year? (see: “The Dark Knight”). Earlier this afternoon, I was stumbling around the internet in a sleepy stupor when I came upon someone who was, in preparation for seeing “The Dark Knight Rises,” re-watching every Batman movie ever made and reviewing them. I’m not just talking about Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” not to mention Nolan’s two outings, either. I’m talking about the original, Adam West camp-fest “Batman: The Movie” from the 1960s, the highly underrated, animated “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” from the mid-1990s, the eminently forgettable, “Batman Forever” and… CRINGE… “Batman And Robin.” BTW, guys, if you’ve never seen the last one that I mentioned please:  Don’t. The universal disdain for that movie is legendary. Believe me when I tell you that everything that you have heard about it–from the nipple suit to ‘Ahnold’s portrayal of Mister Freeze–is 100% accurate. I remember going to see it in the theater with my friends and feeling, within 10 minutes of when it had started, that Joel Schumacher had decided, sometime after “Forever” was a box office smash to sh*t upon the respective childhoods of people with sensibilities like mine.  

What sensibilities you may be asking again? Geek sensibilities, guys. I have been, and always will be a geek. That classification–which I wear like a badge of honor and have worn for the better part of my late-teen and early adult life–is the reason why I am writing this little piece of mental flatulence this evening. I’ve never hidden what I am from anyone. At least not for a while. But my existence… my geekdom if you will wasn’t always this public. Once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

Being a geek was not as chic as it is presently. Movies like “The Dark Knight Returns”–the soundtrack of which I amlistening to right now via Spotify despite the fact that I have not seen the movie yet and likely won’t see it for another week or two–were considerably less popular. Growing up, being a geek was not something that you publicized. Generally you would not be able to tell a geek from a jock in public because we hid our sensibilities beneath our overpriced sports jerseys, our sweat pants and our Nike Air sneakers. We didn’t want our “friends” to know what we really were. We wanted to save ourselves a beating or three. We wanted to fit in and we did everything in our power to do so.

Maybe this doesn’t apply to you and perhaps I should not generalize. After all, I can only speak from personalexperience and anyone who has known me for more than a decade knows that many of my experiences growing up were unsavory at best. Some of them were downright horrific. But sometime around my sophomore year in high school I met a group of people like me that convinced me that it was okay to be… well sh*t, to be me. Rather than hide my obsession with a galaxy far, far away, my innermost desire to wear a brown, leather jacket and a fedora and to shout “1.21 JIGAWATTS!” at the top of my lungs they taught me to embrace it. That group of people? They were the first real friends that I had in my life and I am thankful… nay downright blessedto still have a relationship with many of them to this day. Thanks to them I found my niche and was allowed, at last, to be me. Not some sad-sack hiding in his room after midnight on a Friday night watching his old, VHS copy of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” until the reels squeaked. Me. Bonafide and certified, baby. And there was much rejoicing…

Yay.

Even then geek was still not chic despite my own, personal acceptance of what I was. I graduated high school, went to college and took up with a whole new group of friends that had like interests to mine. I spent four, phenomenal years with those people and again, I am blessed to maintain relationships with many of them,along with my high school friendsto this day. While I was attending Penn State, however, things began to change. Not just in my life but in the world at large.

I can postulate about what caused this change to occur. Perhaps it was the crossover appeal of a show like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the first, syndicated show to ever be nominated for a Best Drama Emmy. Perhaps it was a little movie that came out in the summer of 1993 called “Jurassic Park” that portrayed intellectual heroes as opposed to the brawny, ‘Ahnold-esque ones of my childhood. Maybe it was a little video game called “Final Fantasy VII” that shattered every previous, video game sales record despite its fantastical, anime background. Whatever the case, geekdom began, much like the Dark Knight, to riseout of obscurity and in to the mainstream. And while I was still a member of a minority I was far from an outcast. It continued to grow… continued to evolve long after I had graduated college in 1997 until at last, in the early 2000s, geek finallybecame…

You guessed it: Chic. Am I being redundant again? Probably. I can’t help myself: It just ‘kinda rolls of the tongue. Geek… chic… it’s like the two words were meant for each other.

And here we are. It’s 11:10 PM on July 19th, 2012 and in approximately 50 minutes, theater doors up and down the east coast will open to the throngs of people gathered outside, awaiting their first… and sadly last glimpse of Nolan’s Batman. Reports are already popping up across my social media feed.

“Someone shined the Batsignal, so I’m filing in and answering the call.”

“In line to see the epic movie event of the year.”

“This is gonna be the best three hours of my life.”

“At a midnight screening. I will be let down if it’s not also an allegorical defense of Bush era anti-terrorism policy…”

Okay. Maybe not that last one…

As of right now, #TheDarkKnightRises and #TDKR are both trending on Twitter and Get Glue already has over 13,600 check-ins… and the damn movie hasn’t even premiered yet! Why? How the hell can this be? How did an adaption of something that I was once mocked by my peers for enjoying–a comic book–become the “epic movie event of the year?” Well, guys and gals? That’s why I’m here, today: To hash ‘er out

First? Movies. If you look at a list of the highest grossing movies of all time, worldwide you see a surprising trend in the top 10. They are, in descending order:

10. Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (1999)

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

8. Toy Story 3 (2010)

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part Two (2011)

3. The Avengers (2012)

2. Titanic (1997)

1. Avatar (2009) 

(Source: Wikipedia)

See what I mean? Of the top 10, highest grossing movies of all time not adjusted for inflation, eight out of 10 (highlighted) are movies that would have once been considered “Geek Movies,” i.e. fantasy, superhero or science fiction movies. The remaining two movies are not and while I understand “Toy Story 3’s” inclusion on this list I will never, EVER as long as I am alive understand “Titanic’s” (sorry, Mister Cameron. I’ve enjoyed every one of your movies save for that one, and while I understand that it was a labor of love come on: You went from the sheer and utter awesomeness of “True Lies” to a sappy melodrama). Furthermore, seven of the eight movies highlighted above have appeared in the last 10 years. The trend becomes even more palpable the further down the list that you proceed. In all, 20 of the top 25, highest grossing movies of all time, worldwide fall in to the category of once-Geek Movies and most have appeared in the last 15 years.

So why the sudden change? How did we go from a society that embraced movies like “Love Story” and “The Godfather” to one that embraces movies like “Independence Day” and “Armageddon?” I’m not entirely sure that there is a single, set answer to that question but the same trend can be seen across other forms of media. Media Mediums if you will.  

Por ejemplo? Television (a quick, parenthetical aside: I’m sorry about the emergence of the occasional Spanish word or phrase in my writing, lately, but I’ve been watching “Dora the Explorer” with Cara and… well, that sh*t rubs off on you!). It is much more difficult to work up a list of the most popular television shows on presently since Nielsen ranks pay TV (alias cable) differently than basic TV. But I did find an interesting list on IMDB of the top rated television shows of 2011 per a combination of critical and audience appeal. They are, in descending order:

1. Game of Thrones (9.4/10)

2. Breaking Bad (9.4/10)

3. Suits (8.8/10)

4. The Walking Dead (8.7/10)

5 (TIE). The Big Bang Theory (8.6/10)

5 (TIE). How I Met Your Mother (8.6/10)

7. White Collar (8.4/10)

8 (TIE). True Blood (8.1/10) 

8 (TIE). Pretty Little Liars (8.1/10)

10. The Mentalist (8/10)

(Source: IMDB)

What jumps out at you? Perhaps the trend here is not as glaring as it was in the movie section of this composition. Four out of 10 of the highest rated shows from 2011 (highlighted) would have, once upon a time, been considered “Geek Television.” But three of the top five shows are unmistakably Geek TV. The top rated show from 2011 is an adaption of a best selling fantasy book series. The fourth highest rated television show is an adaption of a comic book series and the fifth? Well sh*t. It’s a TV show about… you guessed it: Geeks!  Follow the list down a little bit further and you see the prevalence of other shows that fit the same mold: “Falling Skies” is about an alien invasion of earth; “The Vampire Diaries” is about…. well, vampires; “Once Upon A Time” is a retelling of virtually every fairy tale ever written and amazingly enough… rolling in at number 23 despite the fact that it hasn’t been on first run television in a few years? “Lost.” Normally I would stop at number 25 but I would be remiss in my duties as a self-proclaimed geek if I didn’t mention that number 29 is occupied by, historically, one of the geekiest shows on television and one of my personal, all-time favorites despite it’s camp factor, “Doctor Who.” It’s damn nice to see people showing their love for one of the most inventive, longest running shows on television. And there was much rejoicing by the Tennant-ites and the Smith-ites that once secretly, and now publicly populate the Whovian community…

Yay.

Why? Again, I don’t know. In both of the cases that I have cited there is a counter-argument, one that I am sure the vehement, non-geeks of the world will employ if they somehow stumble across this blog entry: Who is more likely to go and see a movie on a Friday or a Saturday night, a geek or a non-geek? Who is more likely to watch television, go online and rate the shows that they watch, a geek or a non-geek? I’ll not deny that the sample size is, in both cases, likely skewed in favor of the geek but any non-geek (I used to call them “Ogre’s” when I was a kid, after the character of the same name from the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies) can go and see a movie. Any non-geek can watch television. Most do though I’d wager with absolutely no factual basis whatsoever that non-geeks watch more unintellectual fare on both the big screen and the small, thus explaining why Adam Sandler movies and Reality TV continue to thrive alongside the Marvel and DC Multiverses. Regardless of the purity of the sample size that I am citing here it is all that I currently have to go on, so please let me say to my detractors with the utmost respect: Until such time as you compose your own, counter-blog entry to mine, “I FART in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries. Now LEAVE or I will taunt you a second time. Ttthhhpppttt!!!

Perhaps someone should conduct a study of geeks and non-geeks and their media medium viewing habits. I’d volunteer the Mythbusters but the Ogre’s of the world would likely veto that proposal. After all, the Mythbusters are geeks themselves. I am open to ideas if anyone would like to offer them.

But the viewing habits of the geek and the non-geek are not really the crux of this little piece of mental flatulence. The basic question of this essay/blog entry/whateveryou want to call it is this: How has the geek been so successfully rebooted in the last decade or two? How has being a geek become trendy or… chic? You may have your own answers to that question and I’d loveto hear them. Really, I would. I fancy a good debate and I rarely get to have one nowadays between diaper changes, birthday parties, baptisms, bottle feedings and “Dora the Explorer.” I have shown you what I feel is proof that this shift has happened and is happening, presently. Now I’d like to answer the fundamental question posed by this composition. How has the geek been so successfully rebooted in the last decade or two? How has being a geek become trendy or… chic? 

In a word? Technology, friends. We as a society exist now in a world comprised primarily of Gigabytes (still working on the Jigawatt) and HTML. Everything that we are… everything that we do on a daily basis we do with some variation of a computer, be that variation a PC, a desktop, a laptop, a Mac, an e-reader, a tablet or a smart phone. And the people that have the technology? The people that have the brain power to create and improve it? Those people are primarily cut from the same mold that Iam. Many, if not all of them are well ensconced and established in their own, personal and communal geekdoms. They were reared, like me, on the promises of tricorders and phasers, communicators and EMHs (emergency medical holograms), warp drives and alternate universes… and they will stop at nothing now that they are adults to make those promises, little more than technological pipe dreams when they were children, a reality.

Think I’m exaggerating? Hmm. Okay, then. Here, in ascending order, is Forbes’ 2012 list of the 10 richest men and/or women in the world, the industries which they serve and their estimated, 2012 net worth:

1. Carlos Slim Helu and his Family: Telecommunications. 74 billion 

2. Bill Gates: Computers. 56 billion

3. Warren Buffett: Telecommunication. 50 billion

4. Bernard Arnault: Luxury Goods. 41 billion

5. Larry Ellison: Computer Software. 39.5 billion

6. Laksmi Mittal: Steel. 31.2 billion (incidentally, his company–Arcelor Mittal–is one of my company’s best customers)

7. Amancio Ortega: Fashion. 31 billion

8. Eike Batista: Oil and Mining. 30 billion

9. Mukesh Ambani: Oil and Gas. 27 billion

10. Christy Walton and her Family: Retail. 26.5 billion

(Source: Forbes)

Notice anything interesting? Four of the top five richest people in the world (highlighted, baby) currently are in technological industries, thus contributing to my postulation that the technology-infatuated geek really has taken over the world, or at least a lot of the world’s money. That postulation assumes, of course, that the people highlighted above played Dungeons and Dragons, Risk and Settlers of Catan growing up like I did and watched “Mystery Science Theater 3000” which, for all I know, they did not.

Perhaps it is wrong of me to link technology and geekdom. Perhaps in doing so I am invariably generalizing my fellow geeks as little more than science fiction obsessed dreamers. That was and is not my intention. But compare much of what you may or may not have seen on… say, “Star Trek” with what you see on a daily basis now: Touch screen computers, tablets and phones, holograms of Tupac Shakur, communicators in the form of two-way radios, phasers in the form of the Taser and tricorders in the form of NASA’s “LOCAD.” Not to mention Apple’s SIRI and Android’s imitators, but SIRI especially which sounds distinctly like a a first generation, Enterprise computer (voiced by Majel Rodenberry, Gene’s wife for anyone that didn’t know and would like a little piece of pointless trivia to wow your peers with at your next office party, sarcasm fully intended). So many of the innovations that technology has brought us in the last few years seem to be lifted directly out of an episode of one of the many incarnations of “Star Trek.” Is it wrong of me to assume, then, that the creators of said innovations were inspired by what they viewed on the big screen and the small screen voyages of the Starship Enterprise?

No. I don’t think so though you may believe otherwise. Perhaps the next next generation–the one that my two daughters belong to and that many of your children belong to–will take these innovations a step further. Who knows? Perhaps I will see a sonic screwdriver in my lifetime just like I always dreamed I would. Perhaps not. I’d rather not speculate on what will or won’t happen in the next few decades. Had you told me a decade ago that people would be lauded and not ridiculed for dressing up like their favorite movie or comic book characters and attending an event like “San Diego Comic Con” once a year by the tens of hundreds of thousands I would have called you a crackpot. But low and behold, it now happens once a year.

The Geek truly has been rebooted, friends. He or she has risen from virtual obscurity 20 years ago to societal dominance of not only industry, but entertainment in the year 2012. And because of that, friends? There is much rejoicing…

Yay. 

The Mix Tape – An Appreciation

“The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. Anyway, I’ve started to make a tape in my head. Full of stuff that she likes. Full of stuff that makes her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done.” 

– Rob Gordon (as written by Nick Hornsby and played by John Cusack), “High Fidelity.”

Last evening, I moved a bed out of mine and Nicole’s “Room of Requirement” and replaced it with a glider. For those of you reading this that have been living under a rock for the last ten years or have simply never seen nor read a Harry Potter story, the “Room of Requirement” is just that: A secret room in Hogwarts that morphs in to whatever the person that discovers it requires. A magic dojo; a place which hides a Horocrux. Pick your poison, friends. Every house has something similar. Some more organized households have a drawer or a closet. Nicole and I? We have a whole room. We originally set it up six years ago (when we bought our house) as an office/guest room. Over time, it grew in to a repository for everything from old files to my deadbeat father’s coin collection/memorabilia collection. Our office is still there albeit buried beneath rolls of wrapping paper and behind totes filled with holiday decor (due mainly to Nicole’s passing, two year or so fancy with the Cult of Home Interiors) but the room itself resembles something out of an episode of “Storage Wars.” Save for an old Sirius/XM dock, a couple of recievers and a collection of first edition, Stephen King hardbacks (unbroken all the way back to “Bag of Bones” I am proud to say) there is little of value in it but “YUUUP,” It’s there. 

I digress… again. Last night, I moved a bed out of that room and replaced it with a glider. You see, our once-“Room of Requirement” is soon to be the plus one, alias Natalie Theresa Marsh’s nursery. Much remains to be done–carpeting, painting, maybe a new ceiling fan and, of course, furniture–but we’ve finally begun the long and laborious process of cleaning it out. In one of the corners of the room behind the bed I discovered my own version of “The Wow Factor”: The stereo that I bought for Nicole way, way back when we first began dating for her birthday, complete with a three CD changer, an AM/FM radio and… brace yourselves, guys… a dual cassette, continuous play tape deck. But that’s not all. Beneath said stereo in two ancient milk crates that I have carried with me since my days as a wayward pre-teen living in a room in my mother’s house in Jenkintown, PA were tapes. Actual tapes, guys. Everything from the first tape I ever purchased–Journey, “Look In To The Future”–to the last one I purchased before I finally gave in and upgraded to CDs–Prodigy, “The Fat Of The Land.

I was shocked. I quite literally gasped at my discovery. Did it still work? I had to know. So I found the power cord, made sure that my cats hadn’t chewed through it (they hadn’t), unwound it from it’s twist tie and plugged it in. Eureka! The face lit up and a single word appeared upon it in angry, orange letters: “TAPE.” I knew it was a sign. I immediately began shuffling through my tape collection and was in awe at the diversity displayed by it–Everything from Paganini to Bon Jovi, “Fields Of Gold” to “River[s] Of Dreams”–a diversity reflected to this day in my eclectic, 36 year old taste in music. I found a cast recording for “Pippin”–the musical I proudly played King Charlemagne in during my 19th summer of life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I found an old recording of “Dark Side Of The Moon” on one side and “The Delicate Sound Of Thunder” on the other that my uncle once dubbed for me… off of vinyl. I could go on and on–From Prince and the New Power Generation to the Moody Blues–but to do so would defeat the purpose of why I am writing this little piece of Mental Flatulence currently. Simultaneously with Nicole’s and Cara’s arrival and a spirited, “What’cha ‘doin?” from my wonderful wife, I moved a stack of tapes and discovered not one, not two but at least a half a dozen, if not more Mix Tapes. Yes, you heard me right: Mix Tapes that had been made for me by friends, ex-girlfriends and “others” over the course of my young life. I removed one and gasped as I saw who it was from. I removed another and tried like hell to remember who had made it for me. I removed still another and remembered my creepy, once-Head Cashier at the now defunct CVS in Plymouth Meeting, PA who behind his greasy, black hair and a serious case of halitosis had once of the most impressive and nightmarish musical minds I had then and have ever encountered. Memories flooded back–some good, and some bad–and the only thing that I could think to do to avert the tidal onrush of emotion?

I picked one of the tapes up, smiled, removed it from its case, inserted it–Side A–and hit “PLAY.” I didn’t even glance at the “liner notes.” I wanted to be surprised. After a second or two of what sounded like someone passing gas in slow motion, Van Morrison’s all-to-familiar lyrics hearkened to my ears:

“Hey where did we go? Days when the rains came. Down in the hollow. Playing a new game. Laughing and a running, hey, hey. Skipping and ‘a jumping. In the misty morning fog, with you. Aw, my heart started pumping with you… my Brown Eyed Girl. YOU MY… Brown Eyed Girl.”

Cue musical interlude.

As “Brown Eyed Girl” segued in to “In The Jungle” and “In The Jungle” segued in to “What A Wonderful World” and “What A Wonderful World” segued in to “Witch In The Ditch” (remember that one?) a few things happened simultaneously: I remembered who had made said Mix Tape for me, my two and a half year old daughter started dancing to music she had likely and… in this day and age of Gagas and Minajes… might never hear again, and my wife and I started singing along. While these things were happening something else occurred to me. Far be it from me to over-dramatically link my little discovery in my “Room of Requirement” to something as monumental as, say, finding the Lost Ark, but I realized that I had uncovered and was enjoying a long, forgotten art form: An idea that was touched upon by Nick Hornsby in his phenomenal book “High Fidelity” and was later successfully transposed (with the help of a then-unknown actor/comedian named Jack Black and a well-established but typecast actor named John Cusack) to celluloid. The Mix Tape. Not just a collection of songs thrown together to listen to in your car but something more. Something deeper. To once again quote Rob Gordon/John Cusack, “The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.”

The Mix Tape is a lost art form, friends. When one was created properly and with the right amount of care it was as magnificent as a painting, as pithy as a poem or a song or as epic as a novel. It was a way of telling someone how you felt about them “back in the day” without using emoticons or multiple “u’s” at the end of “I HEART YOUUUUU.” Back before any of us could afford jewelry or a fancy dinner we could always afford a package of three 120 minute, blank cassette tapes at the local CVS. And who didn’t have tapes or, later, CDs to “dub” (now we call it “burn” but we used to call it “dub”)? “Back in the day” I considered myself quite the maestro at “using someone else’s poetry to express [how I felt].” So much so that I promised Nicole, shortly after we had begun dating in 2001, that I would make her a Mix Tape. I was quite confident in my ability to craft something lasting for the woman I had so quickly fallen in love with. Sadly, circumstances interfered and it took me an additional year or two to put one together for her. But then, one late night in 2003 (per my hand written liner notes), I fulfilled my vow to her. I put together what would be the last Mix Tape of many that I had made over the course of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. I split it up in to two parts: Side A was entitled, quite simply, “Fast Tracks” and the song listing?

“Without Me” – Eminem
“Cowboy” – Kid Rock
“Question” – Familiar 48/Bonehead (take your pick; same band/identity crisis)
“Grey Street” – Dave Matthews Band
“Love Rollercoaster” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Nookie” – Limp Bizkit
“Lucky” – Downcircleback
“Everyday” – Dave Matthews Band
“Preaching The End Of The World” – Chris Cornell
“Brand New Day” – Sting
“F*cking In The Bushes” – Oasis

No subtext, guys. No, none whatsoever. Side B was called “Love Songs” and the track listing?

“Sunshower” – Chris Cornell
“To Be With You” – Mr. Big
“If You’re Gone” – Matchbox 20
“Where Are You Going?” – Dave Matthews Band
“Porcelain” – Moby (yes, once upon a time I listened to Moby. My techno-identity crisis was brought on by a friend. No names but if you’re reading this, you know who you are)
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” – “Jesus Christ Superstar”
“Lullybye” – Billy Joel
“I’m Open/Around The Bend” – Pearl Jam
“Somewhere In Between” and “Everything” – Lifehouse
“May It Be” – Enya

Again, no subtext. I swear. While the songs chosen may seem tame and… relatively Top 40 in their nature in truth? You’ve never met my Top 40 wife. Seriously, though (and sorry about that, sweetie), I had never put more thought in to a single Mix Tape that I had made for anyone. Why? Because I knew, even then, that I was making it for the woman I hoped I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Marry. Buy a house with. Have children with. Create a “Room of Requirement” with. Turns out I was right in my assessment on all fronts though admittedly? Had things gone awry I would have felt much like Lloyd Dobler–a different John Cusack interpretation–did when in “Say Anything” he told the woman of his dreams to “burn” the letter he had written her, for “it hurts him to know that its ‘out there.'” There are a few tapes that I made for people over the course of my life that I know remain “out there.” Does it hurt me to know that they are? Not really. Because each of those people–be they friends or ex-girlfriends or “others”–had an indisputable impact on my life at the point that I made said tape for them. Each in turn helped me to grow beyond the child I was then and in to the man I am now and for that? I am eternally grateful. Maybe one day–if I ever achieve my seemingly ceaseless dream of becoming a published author–said tapes will be worth something though I’m quite sure given what little, legal knowledge I retain that copyright infringement is a valid worry. Ah f*ck it. I’ll cross that particular bridge when and if I come to it.

Perhaps there are others out there either reading this or not that feel the same way about the tapes they made for mebeing ‘out there.’ If any of those people are reading this I have one thing to say to you: Don’t. Ever.I’m not a big fan of looking over my shoulder at this juncture in my life though occasionally, an odd situation like this onepresents itself and reminds me of the road that I traveled and the people that I encountered to get to the point I’m at today. I’m even less a fan of “looking back in anger.” What do I have to be angry about? I’m pleased with how my life worked out and I hope that you, you and you are too. If anything, I will always hold said compilations near and dear to my heart because they represent something more than a DVD or even a book. They represent a little piece of your heart and soul. There is, in my opinion, nothing more selfless and thoughtful than that. So thank you. All of you.

Cue musical interlude. And of course, I digressed… again. 

As Cara danced and Nicole and I sung along andtook turns dancing with Cara I proceeded to look at the other Mix Tapes that I had uncovered. I determined upon closer observation and thought that there are, in fact, five distinctly different kinds of Mix Tapes, many of which were represented to some extent in my collection. We’ll call this my own, “High Fidelity-esque”Top Five List. “The Top Five Distinct Types Of Mix Tapes As Partially Represented By My Own, Personal Collection.” In no particular order they are:

1. The Friendly Mix Tape: This one is about as simple as they come. The songs are selected not by significance but by what flows and what naturally goes together, i.e. Jimmy Buffett with James Taylor, The Police with solo Sting, etc.. I have multiple versions of this Mix Tape in my collection. One of them I have already mentioned–The one with “Brown Eyed Girl,” “In The Jungle,” “What A Wonderful World” and “Witch In A Ditch” on it. Many of the others were made for me by a good, still-friend of mine after my unfortunate run in with a white picket fence and a pond one icy night in December of 1993 in Huntingdon Valley, PA. My entire tape collection was ruined by the two feet of water that seeped in to my mother’s Pontiac Sunbird and he took it upon himself to replenish it as best he could from his own collection. I still have all of those Mix Tapes today, their liner notes written in precise long-hand by a now, mid-30 something, still-perfectionist who I have been and remain proud to call one of my oldest and best friends. No names, but if he’s reading this he knows who he is. And if he doesn’t? Wus. 

2. The I Want You But I Don’t Know How To Tell You Mix Tape: This particular tape is, perhaps, the most complicated of the lot because it is difficult to determine if the Mix Tape that was made for you is, in fact, what I’ll call a “Number Two.” Number Twos are halfway between “Number Ones” and “Number Threes.” I potentially have two such Mix Tapes in my collection. I say “potentially” because classifying either as a Number Two is not an exact science since only one resulted in a very short-lived, albeit intense relationship for the same reason that I just mentioned. Ask yourself: Is there a subtext to the song selection or not? In many cases the only person that truly knows for sure is the compiler him or herself and all you, as the recipient can do is speculate and be grateful. But if you have a thing for the person that made you what potentially could be a Number Two? Well, friends, said speculation and gratitude can quickly become the cause of a lesser form of insanity that can drive you to drink, do drugs or, in many cases, do something drastic only to discover that the only reason said person put “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel on there was because he or she likes the song. Not because he or she is telling you not to give up on your chances with him or her because he or she currently has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Not that I ever made that mistake…

Cue musical interlude. “I don’t care what you play just play it loud!

3. The I Love You And You Reciprocate My Love Mix Tape: Case in point is the above mentioned Mix Tape that I made for my then-girlfriend Nicole Gentile: The song selection has a clear subtext. The only real guesswork for the recipient comes from determining the intensity of the Love echoed by the tape. How deep? How physical? Here’s a tip for any dinosaurs out there who are considering putting one of these together: The inclusion of a song called “F*cking In The Bushes” means that the giver really, really wants you. Really. And there’s a reason why “Cowboy” by Kid Rock is the second, most popular song for strippers to dance to directly behind “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard. Don’t believe me? Google it. “Cowboy, baby.”

4. The I Want You Back Mix Tape: Admittedly, I don’t have a single one of these. I never madeone either. Generally speaking if you dumped me or if I broke up with you it was pretty mutual. That may sound cold but trust me: My personality tends to grate on people after a while. Even now, I marvel at how long Nicole has stayed with me despite my oft-times quirkiness (see: This blog post). Looking back over the course of my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in this, my own subjective universe I can only think of one, particular incidence where “wanting someone back,” at least from my perspective was even a consideration post-break up. As it turned out that desire was little more than a pipe dream, fashioned by me from my own psyche to compensate for the knowledge that I was not in lovebut was, rather, in love with the idea of being in love. Because I was a romantic and I wanted to be in love so badly.

And believe it or not, I didn’t even need a shrink to teach me that. I just ‘kinda… figured it out. 

Little did I know what True Love felt like. Not melodramatic, “Princess Bride-esque” “‘Twue ‘Wuv” but Love with a big, bold capital “L.” My wife taught me that first. Now my two and a half year old, “Dancing Queen” daughter is teaching it to me. And in a few months? My plus one alias Natalie Theresa will, I pray,  teach it to me even further. How do I know this for sure? Simple: I just do. 

5. The I Despise You On This Or On ANY Side Of The Proverbial Wormhole Of Existence Mix Tape: “YUUUP.” These particular Mix Tapes? They’re generally very similar in content regardless of who or what is making them. They usually start off with something from “Jagged Little Pill” Era Alanis Morisette. It doesn’t have to be “You ‘Oughta Know.” It could be something veiled in anger like “You Live You Learn” but if said selection doesn’t start off Side A I gauren-damn-tee you it is strategically placed on there somewhere. Other musical selections that might be included on said tape? “Head Like A Hole” by NIN. “I Won’t Become The Thing I Hate” by Stabbing Westward. And the always pep, pep, peppy “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace (about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the nads). I can’t say that I ever made one of these Mix Tapes nor did anyone ever make one for me. I count myself lucky on both fronts but if you have made a tape like this for someone in your wayward, youthful, lovelorn days? Fret not: One particular friend of mine got a combination Number Two/Number Five Mix Tape once. We listened to it multiple times in his now-defunct, black Camaro as we ferried ourselves too and from State College, PA back in our own, shared, wayward and lovelorn youth, alias the mid-nineties. If anything, it was an always reliable topic of conversation. “No message, Vato?” No message, Vato. None whatsoever. Cue Stabbing Westward, “Shame.”And cackle in a combination of humor and fear for your respective lives.

And there you have it, friends. THE MIX TAPE: An Appreciation. Perhaps not as poignant as “Contrary” but it sure was fun to write. We live now in a post-modern age of MP3s and streaming music. Even the CD has begun a steady, fiscal decline similar to the decline experienced by the cassette in the early parts of the last decade. The future of music is digital and what I am referring to via this composition as an art form may be little more than just one, pseudo-madman’s rambling about the mentality he grew up with: A mentality reflected in a book and a movie like “High Fidelity” but nowhere else. No one will ever confuse a Mix Tape with a work of art by Vincent Van Gogh, a poem by T. S. Eliot, a song by Kurt Cobain or a novel by Toni Morrison. But for me, it exhibits many of the characteristics of each: It’s colorful and textured like a masterwork of art, it’s multi-layered and symbolic like an epic poem, it’s a virtuoso synthesis of music and words like a musical composition and it tells a story like a book. It is, in fact, a synthesis of all art forms and science, i.e. the ability to duplicate–oft times illegally–previously recorded content. You don’t have to run to the clearance table at Walmart or Target and buy a cheap, three pack of 120 minutes cassettes. You may not even have access to a tape recorder or a stereo. But remember the idea of the Mix Tape. Pass it on to your children. Tell them about “dubbing” and teach them how to “burn” music for someone they care about. Maybe one day–when everything is holographic and stored on an extensive Cloud–one of them will find their old, iPod docking station and their equally old iPod behind an old bed in their own “Room of Requirement.” They’ll plug in the docking station and charge up the iPod on it. They’ll realize both work and they’ll power up the latter, select a playlist that they created and shared with a friend, ex or “other” once upon a time and hit “PLAY.” And as the lyrics penned by Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj echo out from the speakers and across the room that they’re prepping for the arrival of their own, respective plus one they’ll watch with their own wife or husband as their first born child dances awkwardly across the floor to music they’ve never heard before and likely never will again… the music that they grew up with. They’ll look at each other with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes and they’ll think to themselves…

You guessed it: “What a wonderful world.”

F.