Archive for December, 2009

Why start a blog? My Internet creativity story.

Why start a blog? When I typed this question into Google during my French Literature After 1945 course a few weeks ago, a variety of themes were found in the results, but reflecting back this morning here on the train to work, I smirk at the realization that the only thing I really remember seeing was the word money: how to make it, why it’ll work, what to do, when to do it, where to focus.

There were also some results on topic: how to choose a topic for your blog? Make sure readers will find it interesting in two or three years, and before you forget to pause and think about it, make sure you’ll find it interesting in two or three years. These rules help narrow one’s scope, but of course there are the other types of blogs that don’t exactly focus on a certain theme or topic: the journal/diary blogs. Those are the fun ones, the LiveJournals (the LJs!) where the emo kids in high school spent time posting their half-assed poetry (and now the hipsters post their half-assed music); where you could stumble upon (no pun intended) a random junior high school girl in Vermont’s diary of her desire for suicide, her concentrated need to be understood…

Today, these blog-journals are but journals. Exciting? Not really, but what intrigues us about blogs anyway? Something keeps us as Americans (dare I generalize and use the word humans instead?) interested in what someone has to say about their personal lives, day after day. I have been reading some sort of “blog” or another since before the term was officially coined by UrbanDictionary or Wikipedia; in fact, before these websites even existed. I’ve read online comics for nearing a decade (oh god, really?), and before that I spent my time in the junior high video game Maxpages/Angelfire web “designing” community. Two things these two branches of websites will always have in common is a blog normally entitled something simple along the lines of “News & Updates,” where the ‘webmaster’ would post updates about what was going on with the website (new design, new pages, new annoying MIDI or enlarged GIF in the background, etc), while posting news going on in the Pokémon or Nintendo world as it arrived (or after IGN wrote about the E3 expo). Not only did I follow my friends and random websites, I had my own!

I loved to update my website, yet never really had a reason to as I rarely wanted to create new pages and search the Internet for CuteFTP 3.0, which was one of those quality pieces of free software that “used- to-be-on-my-old-computer-but-haven’t-found-since-I-got-a-new-one-with-a-whole-128-megs-of-ram.” The day I discovered that I was actually capable of installing Newspro on my Perl based website (Newspro was what us professional seventh graders used for a browser based method of updating our websites, completely modifiable and template-able). I was overjoyed; yet still found nothing to write about, petting my little kitten and watching Toy Story 2 fresh on VHS. I kept my traffic flowing in through my forums, which eventually evolved into something solely for webmasters in my little click.

Sometime after the joysticks and during the online comic phase, I found The Best Page in the Universe and Tucker Max (I found the website of that Real Ultimate Power book too, inspiring me to buy the book, yet I never enjoyed browsing the site itself). They gave me some laughs as I could NEVER imagine either of them possibly being real people (yes, me tucked away in my suburban cave I couldn’t imagine such follies with felatio, or such hatred with preschooler’s artwork).

When BlogSpot and Blogger and WordPress blogs started popping up all over the place—again, emo kids and depressed Goth girls made name to this new fad— I did little besides purposely ignore it—I’ve been using this Internet thing here for YEARS, assholes, and you kids come in here and act like you know it, with your everyday journal? No one wants to read that shit. Why the hell would I, when I could keep refreshing my Hotmail inbox or chat away on AIM, browsing the Fat Wreck Chords catalog searching for a Strung Out shirt I didn’t have and couldn’t afford?

As you will soon read, this plays a vital role in explaining the point I’m trying to reach.
And then Mitch Clem moved all his comics over to his domain, where I discovered that it would be a lot simpler to read the scarcely updated Nothing Nice to Say and Coffee Achievers just by checking his blog, where he would announce if there were a new comic. It was through said blog that I began to understand what this no-longer-new phenomenon was. Mitch Clem was not just a funny-as-punk cartoonist, but an artist who had a LIFE of which he would share intimate details (okay, not so intimate, but I learned that he was moving from Minnesota to Texas) alongside showing his fans his artwork and his comedic standpoint on the whole punk scene that I was so into.

Okay, that last part may have been misleading. I learned what was a blog through the rain of bastards, but I didn’t start reading them. Least I Could Do and PVP kept me coming back for their random words as well as comics, but Penny Arcade or Ctrl-Alt-Del couldn’t do it for me—Tycho’s words were just too extreme for my little brain (ADULTS aren’t actually on the Internet posting COMICS are they?).

I started my own blog—Jordan’s Blog Abroad: France—in fall of 2007 when I moved to France for my sophomore year of college. I began by updating it twice or thrice a week, excited to share my pictures and cultural mishaps and random experiences abroad… Slowly this trickled down to once a week, and by January, after I’d discovered cheap round trip flights to the Netherlands, it turned into a scant once per month—and only because my father’s intercultural communications class was obligated to read and report on it once a month. It was a great way to keep my family updated; plus I got to design and re-design a website again. And then re-design it again. I always loved designing, and I always hated creating content. I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m still the same way in many facets of my life: I love cooking but I hate learning recipes, I love playing music but I hate writing it out and organizing it. I love getting to know a girl through all that special hazy romance but I normally can’t stand her after.

Abstract examples, yes. Valid, maybe.

I never made this blog abroad for the public, however; and this is where I realized I’d fucked up during all those years in high school by ignoring BlogSpot and Blogger and all those who I thought to be but mere depressed folk intruding on my Internet. Had I any idea what I were doing, I could have easily—and I mean easily: what’s not to want to read about a confused twenty-year old virgin wannabe bodybuilder deciding to go study in France with a group of forty girls and seven guys (three of which homosexual), who ended up playing American Football, hitchhiking around France, and taking mushrooms on both Christmas in Amsterdam and his birthday in Den Bosch; all the while forgetting about his girlfriend, his strict diets, college, career? I’m not sure—written and created stimulating content that kept visitors coming back..

Point in case, I could have capitalized. By using one of these free blog services to make an anonymous blog with a name unrelated to my own—so the folks wouldn’t find out, of course—I could have talked about all my smoking sessions in almost ten Western European countries (note to self: write something on this topic), the different bar scenes, the near-sex encounters (note to self: stop kicking yourself over it), the missed planes, and the PEOPLE.

Think about that: hundreds, thousands of visitors coming to see how awesome my life abroad for a year was, seeing pictures of my exploits, and wishing they had the money to do the same thing. Then, at some point, I’d bring up the fact that I had no money, and I did this all on a student loan I have yet to pay back. Does that bum me out? No. Has that affected my life whatsoever? No. Does that change the amazing year I experienced before even turning twenty-one that I’ll never forget?

Of course not.

Now hopefully I’ve made my point somewhat clear: I could have influenced people (positively, mind you). I could have inspired someone—and even if it were solely one person, that would have made it all worthwhile—to go abroad themselves and meet the other people outside the walls that are our borders, immersing themselves in cultures so familiar yet so strange outside of a Disney movie.

Bummer, yes, but I’m not one to mourn. Moving on: so why start a blog, why am I writing right now? You’ve just read my reasoning. I missed out when the pan was hot and now my crêpe batter is sitting in a bowl next to the sink getting moldy and gross. Bad analogy, but if I can’t go back in the past and re-live that year (sometimes I wish I do, sometimes I’m glad I can’t) so I could blog it, the next best thing I can do is start from where I am now: right here. I can only hope I can write words that do anything from inspire to make think to make do…

There you have it: my topic will be to inspire, to make think, and to make do. Everyone can be inspired, so I can only hope some words here and there will do the trick; there’s not much more I can do on that part.

Everyone’s a thinker, but not so many realize how constricted we’re taught—molded— to think, and thus too many thoughts are purely naïve, repetitive and pointless, not contributing to positive change. With any luck, an odd perspective (I label it ‘illusioned’) can spark a few crossed wires and do some untangling.

Not everyone is a doer (this is actually a word, see how odd these letters look next to each other?), but with enough cause and a hint of passion, anyone can be stimulated despite confidence, thought, or justification.

Thus there you have it, welcome to the curse.

Drunk Tuesdays: Distraction

All he wanted to do was write; yet as we all know he couldn’t even begin once it came down to starting out. To tell a story to express what was going on in his life—be it romantic or just plain philosophical; there was always something distracting him. Be it the coldness of his fingers, the headache the cigarette brought to the cheap beer-induced state, or the fact that the new word processing software didn’t automatically double space the text for his own aesthetic pleasure, something was always able to manifest itself into a distraction.

After formatting the paragraph details to match his comfort zone, after the undeniably distracting time spent with social network communication, after deciding viral audio clips would soundtrack the night, and after the insecurity that the burning cigarette fumes would reach from the kitchen to his roommate’s room, he realized after typing a few words to document the events that what he’d decided these actions would become was that the materialization of opening the word process could be the only step he would possibly take towards what he deemed productivity.

He tried not to dwell on his romantic psychological issues that he still refused to acknowledge after the lost perfect night with the perfect lost girl that could satisfy his cravings; he still figured making the most of his Saturday night by consuming some massive amount of alcohol would take his mind off what he believed to truly be bothering him: the absence of sex in life, the absence of romance… Thus equating to the absence of purpose? For so long the coexistence of romance and the mere possibility of sex seemed to be more of a hindrance as it motivated him to change his life, to take pride in what emoted him… Until he realized he needed the sex as powerfully as he necessitated the inspiration to engage in the activities he loved.

A balance was—fuck it, I’m gonna go paint.

Obsessions of the Week

Writing / Pop Culture

The Story’s Story review of Avatar: Yes, I saw it on Christmas Eve with my family. And I loved it. I don’t have anything to say to you who believed the storyline to be zero: what the fuck do you expect near the end of 2009? It’s all been done, and our public no longer cares. Just go to the fucking cinema to enjoy the movie. Great review, however. Technology dipping in its finger in the technology it seeks to question

Slate: The Addiction Habit will tell you a little about yourself.

The Evolution of Car Logos is really neat. Weird to think that that stuff mattered back then– I mean, the car is being developed here!

I stumbled upon Lost Pearblossom Highway and I think I can speak for most LA based people when I say that no matter what perspective it comes from, we all love reading and talking about Los Angeles and transportation.

Films / Viral Vids

The Honest $10000 Spam… Not as clever as that guy that’s faxing us plots of Three Kings from Kuwait.

Medium Rare: I love the British. In every aspect of everything, they excel with remarkable creativity and innovation that I just cannot understand.

David Blaine Street Magic Volume 4… These will never cease to astound me.

Greatest Freak-Out Ever FAQ Real or not, I don’t care. As guilty as it feels to be entertained by this, I am.

Music

Nothing like beautiful covers of rap songs to justify your guilty pleasures. Anya Marina’s cover of TI’s Whatever You Like is just that.

And while we’re at it:

and


A Smoker’s History: Volume 3

Follow up to A Smoker’s History: Volume 2

My oldest friend (since second grade! Note to self: write about distinction of friends one day) was in town for the semester, having graduated a semester early and waiting to go to grad school. He was a smoker. He didn’t give me shit for smoking roll-ups, but once I’d run out, we (him, myself, and two others), decided to attempt to master cleanse ourselves. It was great for the week it lasted, but we were back smoking the day we were done. I normally stuck with American Spirits, all natural as they’re said to be, and he claimed he couldn’t imagine a “disgusting Camel” after that cleanse. Good, I guess.

But then the yellow American Spirits got old and boring and gross. He brings a pack of Lucky Strikes from Europe after going to see his girlfriend, and immediately I was in love.

Most smokers like Lucky Strikes (am I wrong?). There’s something about the whole toasted flavor thing that really does the trick. Not just the taste but the texture of the smoke inside your mouth, engulfing your lungs… Something about it is just delicious. Rumors said there was cardboard in the filters, thus the reasoning for their termination of sales in the States; but I’ve found no such evidence in my little bit of research–all I’ve found out was that they weren’t selling too well in the States anymore, so they took off. Granted, the cigarette’s new distributor British American Tobacco may very well have taken care of that evidence of the cardboard, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Now: imagine that smooth taste & texture of the Lucky Strike. Yum. Now imagine it after an eight month smoking career of boring, as-natural-as-it-gets tobacco– no chemicals for flavor, no preservatives to make it burn more enjoyably, nothing. This Lucky Strike was GOOD.

After that night, there was a tingling sensation in the back of my mind that while I was smoking my Spirits, I COULD be smoking cigarettes with taste… Thus a few weeks later when I began dating artist_girl, who smoked Camels, it was no surprise to me when I woke up one morning and drove hung-over to the pharmacy to buy a two-for-one-point-five pack of Camel lights. After a month of that, I switched over to a coworker’s preferred brand of Camel Turkish Golds. Delicious, almost reminding me of that night of the Lucky Strike… He said everyone up north smoked them, but down here in Southern California it may as well be Camel’s abused middle child. For the same price, too.

So that was my brand for awhile. I guess it still is, in a manner of speaking. I smoked Lucky Strikes straight and through the two months I was in Mexico, and brought two cartons back to the states (and one carton of Gauloises bleus, bad idea). I fell in love with them again and couldn’t imagine how any Mexican nor American tourist found them “too strong” and preferred Marlboros. Maybe ‘twas a marketing thing: you could only find Lucky Strikes at the Oxxos (7-11s) in any case. Sometimes it was quite a chore to go buy cigarettes as I refused to buy anything else, despite my level of intoxication.

Now here I am, puffing away on the first pack of the carton of ‘Strikes that some visitors from Mexico brought me as a gift. There were a few moments of contemplation last week, smoking a pack of American Spirits I bought for the hell of it after I found a pack outside my house and rather enjoyed it, when I thought of going back to rolling the old Spirits, getting that good old headrush like those first days. The days when it wasn’t an addiction or craving but an experience that required a little finesse from my soul to make it worth the smoke.

Finesse from the soul? The reader asks. Yes, finesse from the soul. I’m a believer in fighting that twentieth century urge to just let it be more convenient; putting some moi into it makes anything physically healthier. If the soul gets exercise, the whole being benefits. One can look at this in many different terms, but I think a universal aspect notable in many facets of life is that great feeling you get after a good exercise sesh, or after cleaning the house all day, or after cooking your dinner, or after doing your homework, or after taking care of something really important at work…

You cared about something, poured a part of you into it, and saw great results. Thus making the physical benefits, productive feelings, or nourishment that much more alive and reputable within yourself.

Case in point, it’s still smoking; but at least it works that much differently inside.

Hangover Saturdays: Passion versus Productivity

Maybe it was the beauty the present morning was echoing through your senses that made you want to tie up that piece of severed rope you’d left on the kitchen floor weeks, months, years ago but never managed to pick up and throw in the garbage. It would tug at your mind to remind you to throw it away, given it’s lack of purpose, but something always came up ; probably since it never really bothered you when it came down to it, you just said fuck it and acted as if it was a subconscious thing that made you walk around it as opposed to on top of it every time you walked through the kitchen. But that morning with the ocean’s eyes sparkling and the sun’s rays smiling, with the tree’s winds glimmering and the bird’s essence twittering, you felt the need to fix it rather than simply throw it away and spend a few extra dollars on another one.

But maybe it was the little happy things that had somehow stacked up over the last couple of days that had completely blocked the blinding penetration of the past weeks of sweaty insecurity and civic lust, casting a shadow through your office window that graced you with the shade and the comfort that you hadn’t realized you’d been seeking so you could gather your thoughts. You finally gathered them in your newfound shadows and, upon weaving emotion through the seams of the rough fabric of thought, glided with your soaring spirit. Upon entering such a mystic state of euphoria, you forgot to remind yourself not to step on that severed rope in the kitchen. You stared down at it under your foot and smiled.

However, there’s always that chance that nothing in life is so simple or metaphysical. It could very well just have been the practicalities of a hangover: your mind, still breaking down the last of the ethanol molecules, created an extra jolt of that genuine emotion spawned from the act of having a good time or, simply put, drinking alcohol.  Maybe it truly  was a good time, because the last time you’d opened your eyes with such a sense of peace was thousands of kilometers away, in a memory you can only recognize as what outer space is to you now. As you lie in bed, that extra surge of emotion avalanches the snowed-over mountain of post-brain-cell-genocide thought back to the rope on the floor, and you rise out of bed to go tie it.

Despite the reason, you fixed that rope and it lays on your desk now, hanging out like you were for so many years. You don’t know what it’ll be good for– you don’t really even care, you’re just glad you finally took care of it. As you sat and stared at your productivity, you had a sudden urge to go partake in a passion of yours of which you’d deprived yourself as of late, so you did.

merry fkin christmas, here’s a mixtape

I threw into a playlist the songs soundtracking my life the last two weeks, then decided to mix them. Not too fancy since I’m not that fancy, but the music is cool. Definitely giving some credit to the wonderful  DJ CPI for the discovery of a few of these and her damn amazing mp3 selections in her blog (and also definitely recommend subscribing to it if you like music. At all.).
We span from soul to lounge to house to indie-electro to a little dubstep to more indie shit, to some old swing to acoustic to pop to progressive… For all of you with as bad of music ADD as myself. Enjoy.
The tracklist:
Backyard – Belleruche
Sincerely, Jane – Janelle Monae
Basking In The Ambience (Tm Juke Remix) – Palov & Mishkin
Chase Me – Edward Cufaude
Right Hand Hi (Riton Vocal Rub) – Kid Sister
Pippi (Diamond Cut Remix) – Fear Of Tigers
So Far Away (Kaskade Mix) – Kaskade & Seamus Haji
Cruel Intentions ft Beth Ditto (Joker Remix) – Simian Mobile Disco
Message In A Bottle (Fresh Direct Remix) – The Police
My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille – Beirut
These Foolish Things – Benny Goodman
The Long Ride Home – Tessa & David (this is my sister and her boyfriend)
Whatever You Like – Anya Marina
Strobe (Club Edit) – Deadmau5
Download the na’vi jingoist here. Cookies if you get the title.

A Smoker’s History: Volume 2

This follows A Smoker’s History: Volume 1.

Later that legendary day when I bought my first pack of tobacco, I was at a bar and a fellow wannabe smoker buddy of mine and I decided to go outside to go roll a cigarette. We sat there in the dark passing it back and forth, using fresh papers, dropping the tobacco… It took us half an hour to roll that goddam cigarette. Two cute French chicks walked by while we were in the process and one asked us to borrow some tobacco; as they walked away with me staring at them, I noticed she had the cigarette rolled by the time she turned the corner fifteen paces away. There was clearly something we were missing.

I lost the pack somewhere on the way back, along with a few of the filters and the papers. Thank the gods, I thought to myself. I didn’t take any action for about a week, since I figured that’s how long it would have lasted me (as a nonsmoker: yeah, right) and I couldn’t afford to blow another six euros like that right away. So that time after that week had passed I just bought Marlboro lights. A couchsurfer had gotten me into them, offering them everywhere we went; so I just took a liking to them..

I’ll speed up the story: so I began rolling my cigarettes more and more (sticking to American Spirits only); and finally, in Germany, the boyfriend of the sister of the guy that I met at the airport waiting for the bus finally taught me how to officially do it, making sure the tobacco content was equal all the way through. Then a simple wrap of your outstretched index finger, and you have a rolled cigarette. It was so much easier to smoke, and I actually retracted the gift I’d given him fifteen minutes earlier of what was left of my tobacco and papers, saying I couldn’t handle it.

So that was it for Europe. I came home and after my welcome home dinner had to tell the folks I was off to smoke a cigarette (since that’s what I DO now, mom), and my dad asked me what else I was rolling inside as he walked out onto the patio. I chuckled. Halfheartedly.

Now I’d like to mention that during the first few weeks of said summer I only smoked three or four rolled cigarettes per day; even if I were drinking, things weren’t too different. I got my tobacco injection, and I was content. I never craved a cigarette: I merely wanted to smoke once in a while, so I did.

And then I ran out of filters and papers, so while I awaited my great friend back in Paris to come with my smoking goods, I smoked the black packs of American Spirits (this was the closest to the rolled ones in intensity), moving on to yellow and blue. Cigarettes were becoming so much easier to push down; I noticed I was smoking a few more than four per day… But then my filters and papers came, and since I still had discipline and morals at the time, I began rolling them again. This lasted all the way until late September, when I ran out of tobacco, papers, and filters while I was in Vermont, en route to Costa Rica after a school orientation.

Arriving in central America, things changed. Drastically. Hanging out with two Austrians on the organic farm on which I was working didn’t help me trying to not smoke so much. Long story short, within three weeks I was chain smoking like I’d never before. Like I’d never even imagined. A pack of smokes was but a dollar, why not smoke a pack per day? Then came the Swiss, and this new habit couldn’t even take the time to see where it was going: it just went. When I went off solo to Nicaragua for about a week, I was hoping that without the influence I wouldn’t do it so much. I didn’t want to do it at all, until the freeways closed down due to flooding and I found myself stuck with three Ticos and a Welshman drinking and smoking the afternoon away at a nearby bar.

I met up with the Europeans once again in Nicaragua, and voilà. I smoked until I came home. Come day after Halloween in the legendary college town of Isla Vista, I found myself as “that guy” who needed a cigarette, begging his best friend’s girlfriend to run home to grab her pack of yellow spirits. I started rolling again soon after that, and albeit that I smoked more than four per day, I still stand by the fact that it’s cheaper and healthier. And what happens late January? I run out of supplies once again.

This is where I officially became a smoker. Stay tuned for part three, coming soon…


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Another twenty some odd young adult who believes he sees things from a unique perspective. Here be my poetry & prose, short stories, favored school papers, rantings, and "blogs." Comment, critique, and profit.