I spent the better part of the last 48 hours thinking about and planning a lesson for this morning’s class on AI in science fiction. The lesson planning was more like lesson learning for me, as it allowed me to advance my own understanding of the no-longer fledgling field of research and the possibilities inherent therein. I suppose from a philosophical perspective the planning was my largest leap in understanding since I began reading Simulation & Simulacra after watching the Matrix all those years ago. I mean for my teaching to be reflective of my own learning process in a way and to ignite the process of others. Movies are meant to cause conversation and discussion and to promote more than entertainment.
One thought that continually stood out throughout the process of creation was the idea of process itself. For example, I have been on the path to ‘habitizing’ this process of how and when I write the blog (2.0) for 13 days now. It takes on average 66 days to form a habit and 21 to break one. I don’t believe I lasted the full 21 in my brief repose from the talisblog, but the formation of this new process should subsist for the entire timeframe. In fact I plan to make the number, 66, something of a goal of mine moving forward academically, personally, etc. 21 is likewise to be part of my process.
I am engaged in a number of transformative processes at this point in time. One is the breaking of my reformed soda habit. I’d like to quit entirely, but I like Jack and cokes and the occasional Red Bull, so the best I am willing to allow is a great moderation. 21 days from now we will see if I’ve broken the habit of simply reaching for a soda in the ‘soda fridge’. In truth, the best option there is to remove the stimulant and replace it with a better substance for me and my jazzed up boys.
In the end it all swirls back to the idea of process and the comfort and security of that. Each morning I wake up, say good morning to my love, go downstairs to prepare coffee and languish in the stages of that process. Then my coffee and I are here at the desk writing for the next ten minutes. That process–that familiarity is extremely grounding. If my kids are with me, they become a part of that process. However, they are not always here and will eventually grow and move on, so the core process remains love, coffee, and words. There is a simplicity and a wonder in that which warms my heart and lightens my soul.
- A friend asked me if I was a jealous person. I said no. I don’t think I was lying, but I feel like the answer is incomplete. In matters of the heart I am jealous to a certain extent. That extent is less physical than emotional. I don’t understand how to share love. That continues to be a problem.
- I don’t believe my writing days are over. I don’t think the stories are gone from my mind or that my access to the stream has been revoked. I believe it is clogged the way a drain clogs from too much rough use. I know this because in moments, in flashes of shadow and movement I see stories.
So you wanna be a winner? Stop being a loser!
It was that sort of early life advice that had me realizing that the answers to personal success were not going to be found anywhere near my zip code. I grew up in Harlem, NY where success was defined on two levels. To most, success was staying out of jail and off the smack. My success in that regard was preordained. I lived in an area where the village very much strove to raise the child. If I stepped out of line anywhere in a ten block radius my mother would not only know about it but would be told in a cheerful way by someone who wanted to quickly remind her that her shit did indeed stink.
I was that shit.
The other level of success in Harlem felt way out of reach to just about everyone. Those who made it still walked among us, but it was clear that you reached that level of success by having a unique talent or coming from old money. If that talent was not readily apparent then you were tracked into a mundane existence. My mother wanted me to be a garbage man. The kid who lived across the street and played his drumsticks nonstop on the top of a bucket, he was told to shut up and learn a skill. They told him that everyday. But Larry had a unique talent and it took him somewhere.
We had a place around the corner called Striver’s Row. It was all fancy looking brownstones down one narrow street. These houses–and they were houses–had small backyards and nice cars cluttering the narrow street. These were the doctors and lawyers and folks who were in many ways Harlem royalty. These were the ones who had something and took it to the top.
I grew up next to all of this, noticing what it was like to see success but not be it. It hurt me a little, I suppose, because when I finally tasted success I rested on that for a long time and lost all momentum. Now, I’m in a spot where success is almost invisible in the rear view. I’m living off the dying glow of work I did years ago and there is no new kindling of the imagination to strike a match to. Changing that will take time and effort.
- I think the primary problem between me and the rest of the world–especially the love of my life–is communication. Namely, I have trouble really hearing and understanding what people are saying. I often spend that time interpreting what I think is being said and not said. Unlearning is taking a while.
- I miss Obama. I miss the cool collectedness of the one time leader of the free world. He didn’t create problems. He fixed them.
- I missed the obvious 211 reference yesterday.
Lately I’ve been searching for topics to write about. One that continues to swirl in my head is the idea of modern friendships. Ever since that stretch of bachelor party movies that started, probably in the 80’s, there has been the question in my mind of wha a friendship is supposed to look like. When I read novels that deal with friendship the topic is often treated with a lack of intimacy when it comes to male relationships as though the gender stereotypes supersede the ability to create interesting relationships. The same is generally true in real life. I have few male friends. Furthermore I have next to zero single male friends. This means the friendship dynamic there often involves a female who reinforces, in their particular way, the male stereotypes that put such limitations on male friendships.
I’m not really the go out for a beer kind of guy. I mean I’ll do it, and I’ll have a good time, but I don’t need an activity to create the necessity to hang out with a guy. My best male friend is like a brother to me and we call each other and talk about our lives and what is going on in them. I’m good with that type of bond. Lately I’ve been trying to recognize whether or not that singular situation is enough for me, or if I need more to be truly happy as a social creature.
I suspect the real answer to that lies in the idea of what I want to do with my time on this planet. Travel, see cool stuff, play video games. Notice I didn’t put ‘write’ there again. I guess I am still burnt out in that respect.
- Loving someone often means putting yourself in a position to be hurt. When you love you open and you trust. Even the hurt then has value, because you learn what works and what doesn’t and you try.
Welcome back to Marvel Studios, Spiderman. Of course, the studio rolled out the red carpet and gave the webbed one a warm and raucous welcome. Spiderman: Homecoming is in every possible way a double meaning. The film exists on two levels: 1) to reintroduce Spiderman as the high school ‘avenger’ and 2) to reintroduce the MCU to all of their possible titles. In fact, the central conceit of the movie is that it exists as a ‘We’re moving’ movie whose plot swirls around the fact that Tony Stark sold the Avengers tower to an unnamed entity. I wonder what group has a symbol that looks strikingly like the A in Avengers tower and has been looking for a cinematic home to do them justice?
That being hinted at wasn’t the whole ballgame here. The Spiderman movie works on a level that feels slightly above the mayhem of the Hell’s Kitchen gang, but still exists on a power level far below the world-breaking madness the Avengers deal with every film. In other words, Marvel nailed it.
If you look closely you’ll see a film that is layered with easter eggs and in in every possible way a reboot that removes the iconic versions of characters such as Flash and MJ, replacing them with racially different versions. This is a thing now, but it didn’t feel like so much of a thing that it was distracting. Instead the film ignored iconic love interests and focused on a more fun and nuanced approach to the high school life and interests of the Superhero.
If that isn’t enough, the last line of the movie is perfectly set up throughout and delivered in amazing hilarity. I laughed and clapped and people looked at me like, ‘wow, he really liked that.’
Well, I did.
I’m going to rant about so-called fake news here for a minute. In doing so, I’m going to give a shout out to BBC and BBC America. I cannot recognize your target audience and that is cool. That means that you are casting words to a large net and hoping to, at least in spirit, report in an unbiased fashion. I truly feel like other news outlets are quickly closing ranks and targeting specific political or demographic audiences with how they report and what they say. It is all politics and profit, of course. I’m not just talking about FOX news. I’m talking CNN as well as MSNBC–all of them are in this strange ‘not fight’ for viewers. By that I mean that they are not competing news networks. Each carves out its own niche and speaks directly to that audience with the news and ‘truth’ it feels it ought to report and will get the viewers to return. FOX has its pro-republican slant, CNN has its grounding in ‘liberalistic’ storytelling and globe hopping. I say ‘liberal’ in quotes because I don’t know what that means other than not republican. It is the basis of this binary exclusionism that is core to the American political process–us and not us. Defining the not-us as a catch all category is as important as gerrymandering to preserving the strength of the ‘us’.
Okay there, I ranted.
- The hardest thing for me to accept is that I might not be right or might not be enough, which in turn means that I might wind up alone. I think that is my greatest fear. Not to die alone, because I have family and friends who will be around me. No, to live alone. I want to experience the world and explore and make connections globally. The act of doing that alone is a far different venture than the act of doing it with another person who you care about and want to be with every day of your life.
I hate comics.
I used to love them. I used to be terribly enthralled in all of the storylines that moved my beloved heroes through the world. I used to think Marvel comics could do no wrong. I wondered aloud at the Uncanny X-men and the love triangle between Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Wolverine. I saw the icons of the label as characters who were largely untouchable and beautiful and capable of amazing stories.
That fell apart around the teenage years.
It happened most vividly as the 2d world of comics made it’s fiercest entry in to the realm of movies. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Earth-199999) was in the nascent idea stages, the comic universe was straight up falling apart. I believe 2006’s Civil War represents the peak of the comic landscape for that particular brand. This is where comics and politics blatantly interacted in a way the marvel universe in particular had never chosen to do. Unfortunately, the storytelling went completely off the rails by the end. It led to some good (World War Hulk) and some bad (the eventual retcon of Steve Rogers as a hydra lackey and ‘pass the shield’ philosophy that followed his ‘death’). It also sparked the modern MCU.
Meanwhile DC was on the rise. Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985) proved they had the infrastructure to reboot comics wholesale and in an effective way. Nevermind the Goku level superheroes and limited plot devices, these guys had writers and a collaborative nature that was bar none. Infinite Crisis and Flashpoint were incredibly directed stories that crossed through so many comics that I went legit broke. I discovered a fascination for many more heroes than I’d followed even in Marvel. I fell in love with the Bat family–namely Oracle and Tim Drake (Red Robin, World’s actual greatest detective) and then that all went to hell.
The wonder of Flashpoint led to the horror of New 52 where they changed everything… in the sing song way that Marvel changed everything to make more user-friendly characters. It is all bad now in both worlds. Red Robin is basically a cast off–one of a half dozen Robins walking the earth. The cool asian Batgirl is, well, not Batgirl as they retconned Oracle to be not crippled, ruining an incredible storyline. Marvel…. well, at this point there are more ‘spider people’ than I can count. You can catch at least six of them on the latest Disney Spiderman show…
Maybe that is it right there. I won’t blame Disney entirely, because Batman vs. Superman shows that everyone can get a hero story very wrong. Still, the storytelling I grew up loving has all but faded from this world. Logan payed homage to a lot of that. It serves as a reminder that there was a golden age of superheroes, but now the media and merchandising rule the day.
I can hardly believe it has been a week since my life shifted phases and I restarted the blog. I talked about habits, basically to death, in the first few months of blogging. I probably related a lot to the Little Engine that Could (that relationship is going to be renewed shortly as I am soon to start Stephen King’s The Wastelands). The early ra ra was meant to get me excited about forming this habit. Lately the feeling is more of a settling down into what is right and important in my daily life. Connect to my love, connect with my boys, generate coffee, write. This four part harmony forms the shield over my day. I can take on the world the moment I click publish.
This feeling I get of sending words out into the digital ether reminds me of the sensation of tithing or prayer. I’m giving something of myself back to the storyspace without any real expectation of physical reward. I am not doing it to get famous or even to have people read the blog. Some (one?) do I suspect, and maybe that is part of it. Maybe I cast a phrase that impacts someone in a positive way the way script diving into quote archives occasionally yields beauty. Here’s one now:
To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.
That gem from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. is housed at brainyquote alongside other gems from the same learned man. I believe he means to remind us that while the ocean of our opportunities is dark and chopped with frothy fear, it is only at sail that we can discover what exists outside of ourselves.
Lately I’ve been thinking about what exists within me and what I believe I need to feel whole. Those things are separate but exist as part of a larger whole. There is who I can be alone and who I can be when I am connected and loved and loving. I used to believe one form was less than the other. Now I am drifting towards an understanding that they are instead different kinds of living. I am entirely capable of living a life unto myself and absent of connection. It is not the same kind or style of life I would live should I let love in. That other life is not exactly better. It is an apple to an orange. It is a different way of being and the way I prefer.
That kind of thinking represents an evolution–a departure from a shore where I truly believed there was no life in living and being alone.
- I intend to go to Europe in the next ten years and enjoy that part of the world. Then I’m going back to Africa for a while. Then Asia. Ten years here on the grind and then I’m out.
Yesterday’s local holiday celebration tapped me in to a reality that has been staring me in the face for a long time, but for the grace of love I have been able to actively ignore. You see, I do not belong in my town.
When I walk through the town I don’t exist as an individual but as a role or as the personification of a role. I am the coach. They call me that in stores and restaurants and when they see me on the street. Most of them don’t even remember my name. The other day I was in another city entirely on a staycation and someone from my small town was there and recognized me… as coach. What happened in that brief moment is what happened over and over again last night. See, when there is no present need for that role, there is little people can do but to comment on that role, have those kinds of brief discussions with me, and finally politely stare and smile expecting me to move along.
I felt completely an utterly alone in the world.
I didn’t entirely recognize this in the past because when I am out in the public space it is either in my role, during a time when my role is relevant, or when I am with my partner. I don’t have a partner in this space anymore. So, I am solo in a city dedicated to and populated by dyads. It is extremely difficult to be the single person in a city where every adult is either married with a huge family or a college-aged kid who exists in an entirely separate reality than I do.
I was lonely and I was angry and I felt the way I often assume a muslim woman in full burka would feel moving through an American suburb. Everyone looks at you, labels you, and has no real use for you or connection to outside of that.
What this means moving forward is that the world I am continuing to slowly create for myself needs to be one built from love and friendships and situations where the people around me appreciate who I am as a person. It means that I can no longer live in a scene where partnership is the price of social entry.
If I were to write a book on love I’d tell you I am no expert–at which point you would put the book down and label me another quack with a concept. You’d be right, but if you bothered to read a bit further you’d learn there are no experts in love, just people who figured out what works for them and assume that it works for you too. I would confess to being different than that. I would confess to being someone who has screwed up love on an epic scale, like one of those epic fail videos but for love. Then I’d tell you about those failures and how I learned from them. Maybe that advice would be a little helpful.
I’m divorced. Afterwards I found the woman who I am truly meant to be with for the rest of my existence (like biblical stuff here–post life and all–the other part of of our shared soul). I’d tell you how I screwed that up fairly quickly and spectacularly and have spent the better part of my existence afterwards understanding the conditions I created in my life which led to the state we exist in now. Obviously the thing wasn’t entirely my fault, but I cannot change another human–even one so entwined in my heart as to be a part of me. Which leads me to explain the relationship between love and priorities.
Today when I woke up I checked in on my love first thing. Checking in on her is the closest I can come to waking up with her between my arms. Instead I roll over, text, and when possible, communicate. Then I checked on my kids, made sure they were handled, know they are loved, fed. Then I came here to the blog where I am doing something for me that represents me and my heart and my growth as a person. After I’ll probably curl into a video game for a while and then do some work. It isn’t entirely me-centric, but it is more than I’ve offered myself in the past. The greater part of reducing the areas in my life is having more time and energy to focus on the one’s I kept and more mental ‘grit’ to continue growing all the while.
So, here is what remains:
- Self Growth
I haven’t committed to the last and I don’t know where the 4th is headed anymore. Still, I know the first three matter and exist in order of attention for today. I also know it is okay for that order to shift, perhaps constantly, so long as I continue to hold all three parts of my being equal. So far, I do.
- I don’t think there needs to be a 3.1 ever, but never say never
When the President tweeted a picture from his days with the WWE of him beating someone up and superimposed the words CNN on the face of his victim, I shrugged. I don’t think I entirely cared or was surprised. He’s that guy. However, that guy is going to have a lasting impact on what we call decorum in our world. He has billed himself as a ‘Modern President’ and exposed a culture that still, at the root, is about allegiances and a story it wants to tell. I feel like the entire world in in that place right now. It was evident in the Arab Spring and the Brexit and Trumpxit’s that are very much connected. It exists in the way that Manny Pacqiuao lost a boxing match when he landed twice as many punches as his opponent and connected at a much higher percentage than his opponent but was fighting in his opponents home nation.
We have separated from reality and begun to spin ourselves around dispersed non-realities which match the ideas that we want to believe in. Author Lisa Cron wrote, ‘We see the world not as it is, but as we believe it to be.” There was a moment late in the Bush II presidency where I thought that the world was on the verge of both recognizing and counteracting that philosophy. We were going to see the world as it is, if only briefly. Instead we closed our eyes even tighter against the reality and allowed those doing the talking to spin a narrative that gave us cause, blame, and even a way out. Cron also writes, ‘From birth, our brain’s primary goal is to make causal connections–if this, then that’. This is the basis of modern advertising, which is the basis of modern politics and decision making. We convince ourselves of cause and effect and create from that causality a world view that is not entirely real. The result is a world that is on the verge of moving on from common sense, and moving towards open ignorance of anything that is possibly wrong with it.
Once we move on, then what?