Phrase o’ the Day: Ectoplasmic Tommy Gun!

Hrm…  Okay, so I’m still playing catch-up on posts, which means I think it might be time for the writerly equivalent of the puzzled shrug…that old slacker favorite, the list:

  1. I read a few news bits over the last couple of days about the State of the Union.  More specifically, about postponing or cancelling the thing because of the government “shutdown.”  To these pieces — and to the concept of delaying/cancelling — I say, “Well, duh.”  Is there a more pointless or pathetic example of kabuki theater than the freaking State of the Union?  For a long, long time the damned thing was just a letter sent to Congress, not the spectacle of imperial excess and extravagance that we have now.  Shit, all the Constitution requires is “notification” to Congress of the state of the union (note the lack of capitals!).  coronation_of_nicholas_ii_by_l.tuxen_(1898,_hermitage)What it does not require are speeches carefully scripted and crafted with *wait for applause* moments.  What it does not require is the expenditure of millions of dollars on something we already know will be cheered by one team and booed by the other, regardless of content or message.  What it does not require is empty pomp and circumstance and ceremony from 500+ people who can’t even do their fucking jobs.
  2. Ahem.  Rant over.  Thanks for your patience.
  3. Britain and the EU.  Oh, Britain and the EU…  As a history-nerd, I absolutely love the political maneuvering and shenanigans on display.  As an English history-nerd, I am completely appalled by the sheer incompetence on display.  I mean…shit…how in God’s name can you make the US Congress look like freaking workaholic geniuses?!?!  winston-churchill-with-tommy-gun_a-g-7613085-0Churchill isn’t turning over in his grave, he’s off getting pass-out drunk.  Every single person at Westminster — both government and opposition — should be happy his ghost is just doing that, by the way…otherwise he’d be stalking the halls with an ectoplasmic tommy gun, taking them all out.*  Look, I love both England and Europe as a whole…but the EU is an idiocy.  As a trade union, it’s great.  As a common market, it’s perfect.  As the “ever closer union” trying to force 27 very, very different nations/peoples/societies/cultures to turn into some bastard-mutant-child of the worst parts of France and Germany, it’s nothing more than the rankest insanity.  Unfortunately, like every single example in history of “technocrats” and “elites” who “know better,” who know “what’s good for you,” they won’t — they can’t — let even one single person slip from their control…
  4. *Churchill 2: He’s Back, And He’s Pissed! — hey, I’d pay to watch it!
  5. It’s gonna snow again in a couple of days…and I can’t freaking wait.  After the last dumping, I took off for a moderate off-trail hike.  Now, it can be hard in Colorado to find “untrammeled wilderness” without having to go deep into the mountains, but a nice knee-deep coating of snow with no footprints from anything or anyone but the wildlife is a nice freaking start. I’m getting the itch again, by the way, for one of those 6-month jaunts off to…err…well…nowhere in particular.  Go back to Krakow or Tallinn or Prague as an illegal alien, working tour gigs and bartending…or hike the Pacific Crest Trail…
  6. Yep, there’s a song for #5 too!:

Slipping Away

I watched a BBC documentary the other day.  Now, like most BBC docs, it was a pretty good program…but that isn’t what got me to thinking about this post.  No, what got me to thinking was one specific line/thought from the show.  It was a line that has stuck with me, a line that started thoughts knocking and thumping, asking — demanding — to be written:

“My life, it’s slipping away.”

When you’re young, a year is a lifetime.  The world is a parade of faces, both new and old, met amidst adventures and experiences and days that seem to last forever.

But that doesn’t last.

Life changes as you get older.  Life changes, but still you can hold to some of that enthusiasm and adventure and zest.  Still you can remember what is was like when a day was a lifetime.

But even that fades.

One day turns to another.  One week, one month, even one year, passes and you barely notice.  It all becomes about getting through from one day to another, from one paycheck to another, one year to another.  You don’t live, you merely survive.

Survival is not life.

When we were kids, we were promised so much.  When we were kids, we dreamed…everything.  It was all there, all in our grasp, an entire universe…an entire life.

And then it all began to slip away.

Slowly, sometimes, and far too fast at other times, those dreams — those hoped-for realities — began to slip away.  As we got older, as we matured, they slipped and faded.  We slipped and faded.

The days — the weeks, the years — are no longer a lifetime.  No, they have become instead something to be endured rather than lived.  They have become a haze of time with one moment indistinguishable from another, the simple ticks and tocks of a fading beat.

Life isn’t supposed to diminish as it passes, life is supposed to be more.

Life isn’t supposed to slip away, life is supposed to be lived.

At least that’s what we were told.

I can feel it, my life slipping away.

They Won

dogs_lgnv95Like a lot of folks, I love me a good David and Goliath story.  Hell, I’m a writer, I kinda have to like those stories since pretty much everything I create has some form of David & Goliath or another to it.

But, it’s important to note, I don’t like those elements just as a writer, I like them as a person, too.

Hell, a big reason why I — and folks like me — get so into sports is that same David v. Goliath thing.  It’s why we root for the underdog.  It’s why many of us root— even more strongly — against the “big boys” who win the league all the time.  Whether you’re talking about the NFL’s Patriots, MLB’s Yankees, or insert-your-own-dominant-team-here, we love to see the powerful fall and fail just as much as we love to see the underdog win.

But in the US we really only get to see a bit of that.  The Yankees will always be the Yankees, and the Patriots will continue to be the Patriots so long as Brady and Belichick continue to sacrifice small children to their infernal master…

No, although we have plenty of worst-to-first stories to talk about — I’m an LA Kings fan, after all, I lived that journey! — our league structures are just too rigid and defined to have true magic.

Soccer, however…

Okay, fine: football.  European football gets it right.  Promotion and relegation are true rewards and punishments, they bring true emotion and drama to the teams and fans involved.  A team can — theoretically — climb over the years from the lowest, most miserable league all the way to become champions of the highest one.  Look, think about it like a writer: would you rather write a story about the continued ineptitude and mediocrity of the Browns in NFL season after NFL season, or one about that same team having to rally and fight to keep themselves out of a forced move to the CFL?  I know which I’d rather write…

But even that doesn’t compare with true drama, with the true David versus Goliath stories…with the English FA Cup (and the other national cups around Europe).  Now, for those of you who might not know, the FA Cup is (mostly) not a thing of leagues and rankings.  No, instead all of the professional and semi-pro teams in the top 10(ish) levels of the English professional football pyramid take part.  Oh, the big boys get to wait to enter until the later rounds, but when they do enter, they still go into a hat to be drawn for matches against, well, whoever.

A team who normally plays in front of 500 folks in bumfuck Norfolk might end up playing in front 75,000 at Man City…

But that’s not the best part.

No, the best part is that team might win.

This past weekend was a special time in the English FA Cup, it was the Third Round.  The Third Round is when the Premier League teams jump into the pool, when the sharks start chomping on the minnows.

Now, sometimes you get the feel-good stories of the minnow fighting back, of the plucky 6th tier team that comes this close, that almost pulls off an upset against one of the biggest teams in the entire world (Woking versus Watford this year).

black_eyeBut occasionally…rarely…the minnow actually eats the shark.  The little guy wins, and the bully gets the black eye…

This year’s Third Round had a few such upsets, had some moments that were special, but it wasn’t until one of the last games of Sunday that the true magic came.

The Newport County Football Club — appropriately nicknamed the Exiles — is a team that disappeared into bankruptcy not so long ago, a team that had to fight its way back up the English football pyramid level by level.  It’s a team that wasn’t even allowed to play at its own stadium for a few years, for God’s sake, because they owed too much money…

The Exiles were playing not that team from bumfuck Norfolk, not another team from the shadowy, underpaid, rough & tumble lower professional leagues.  Nosirree, they were playing Leicester.  They were playing the team that won the freaking Premiership just two years ago.  They were playing a team that is arguably among the top 20-25 in the entire world.

And they won.

The American equivalent is Pasadena City College playing the LA Rams…and winning.

newportNewport fucking won.

This is why we talk about the emotion and drama of sport.  This is why we talk about the magic of sport.  This is why it affects folks so deeply.

This is why I love this stuff…

The Music…Oh, The Music…

Well, shit.

How many times do I have to write about music?  About how important it is to me?  About how it inspires and drives my creative side?

How many times?

At least once more, it seems.

So, if you haven’t guessed by now, I decided to take a break from the blog.

A long break.

I haven’t written since Thanksgiving, and — quite honestly — I wasn’t sure when I stopped if I was going to take up again my keyboard and the commitment to share my thoughts and myself three times a week.  I was burning out, I was tired, and I wasn’t sure I gave much of a damn anymore.  Oh, the words were still there, but they were harder to find.  The urge to share was still there, but the energy…the energy was not.

And the worst part was that I didn’t know why.  I couldn’t put it together.

“What changed?  Why is it so hard now?”

What changed?

What changed, indeed.

I had stopped listening to music.

Oh, it wasn’t anything conscious or driven or intentional.  No, it was the stupidest of things: I got into a few podcasts, and they took up all of my “listening time”.

Now, look, I’ve talked many times before — many, many times — about music, and about how it matters to me.  Well, none of that was exaggeration.  Take away the music, and I find it hard…no, strike that.  I find it all-but impossible to really write.*

*The shitty pseudo-temp job didn’t help, either, by the way.

So tonight…

Tonight I was sitting there, starting to cook, and I decided to fire up some music.  I had no stinking idea what I wanted to listen to, so I went with a favorite artist…an artist who has inspired a number of writing sessions and flash fiction pieces in the past.

Umm, not to repeat myself or anything, but…well, shit.

It wasn’t a chorus of angels — that is reserved for when I have my first coffee after a long time without — but it was stinking close.  Almost as soon as the music started, the urge came back.  The words came back, and the energy came back.  I had to take that bit of advice that I’ve given to others so many times: when a thought/idea comes, you don’t wait, you don’t try to “capture” it, you write it. 

So I did.  Write it, I mean.

The particular song?  Well, I’ve talked before about my current favorite band (Gaslight Anthem).  The creative force behind that band has a solo career as well, and he is far and away one of my favorite songwriters.*  As for the song that…err…well…got me going (again)…well, it speaks to me.  It’s a symbolic song, a song with a lot to say.  It is, in the end, a song that speaks to me about a number of things, but especially it speaks to me about me (and, no, you don’t get any more explanation than that):

*The artist’s name is Brian Fallon, by the way.  He wrote, for vastly different songs on vastly different albums, two of my all-time favorite lines:

“I get up in the morning / Like a ghost chained to a haunting” from Proof of Life


“With everything discovered just waiting to be known / What’s left for God to teach from his throne / And who will forgive us when he’s gone?” from National Anthem

Oh, I burned my dinner, by the way…