10 Years From Now…[Part 2]

Sorry guys. I forgot to upload the video for the movie “10 Years,” which reminded me of this question, spawning this series of blog posts. It may help you get the gist.

 

So, to back up.

The hardest class I ever took in college wasn’t even required for my major. And the worst part of it was… I took it “for fun”. Ya, I was that guy in college. I took extra classes, “just cause”.

[So I totally understand if that makes you want to tune me out right now. But I promise this series of posts isn’t about school. Unless you want it to be. Hopefully, it will mean something different to everybody.]

Anyways, I took this Public Relations course, where your grades were judged from projects like raising money for a non-profit cause, by putting on a benefit concert, or selling raffle tickets. Stuff like that. Very unconventional class, to say the least.

Our groups created imaginary P.R. companies. If we didn’t succeed, we didn’t pass.

Ya, there was no pressure on us or anything.

This teacher was like Mr. Keating, but raging on steroids [Dead Poets Society]. I think I’ll call him “Dr. Reality Check”.

Instead of bubbling in scantrons, I found myself drawing up a business model and creating commercials for TV and radio, to promote our company’s cause. It was almost all out-of-class work.  In class, we gathered around for fireside chats and discussed, realistically, how we planned on executing our business plan – the specifics. No generic fluff. He spotted that quicker than a fat kid tastes splenda in his “sweet” tea. We quickly realized that proposing solutions for problems are easy, when everything is hypothetical and the hot air never rises beyond the classroom ceiling.

With Dr. Reality Check, the usual college-kid bull shit answers were not acceptable. We all feared the moment he lifted his pointer finger to call on one of us. There was never a “right” answer, it seemed. No quoting the textbook. He would pace back and forth, saying, “hmmmmm….does anyone else have a better answer? That’s not what I’m looking for.”

But in my defense, it wasn’t our fault. We had been programmed over the past 18 years of our life in the public education system to give the predictable, textbook highlighted “right” answer. It’s what the teachers have always wanted to see, grading our tests. I think it is every bit like answering “Jesus” for any given question in Sunday School; Yes, it’s expected, but never wrong. But that wasn’t what this teacher wanted. This dude required us to think for ourselves and show how we came to that solution.

We all hated him by the end of the semester.

Poetry would have been a whole lot easier to come up with, on the spot.

We barely slept. My classmates, to this day, will attest to having violent, PSD-induced night terrors, imagining him calling on us. We thought we had the school system all figured out, by this point in our college career. But this random class was more work than all my other classwork combined. This isn’t how it works! We had no clue how far off we were. But none of those are the reasons we dreaded his deep breath, before announcing end-of-class assignments. Well, mostly. I did enjoy sleeping and having a social life, before that semester.

Yes, we loathed, even feared, the inevitable homework  which we wouldn’t humanly have time for. But the real reason for this dread is, we couldn’t stand the fact….. the answers couldn’t be copied, word for word, out of the book. He made us think.

We just wanted our standardized testing back. And his hardest portion of the final test was the question:

 

What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

Sounds easy right? Everybody has dreams and shit– you know, the stuff that keeps you awake at night. Or daydreams at a dead-end job. Either way, we all got ’em. Everyone could write a novel here. But the second part was harder.

 

Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

“Oh.”

Ya, that’s everyone’s reaction. I dare you to get out a pen and paper. Because it’s really hard to commit to the second part, listing verifiable ways to actually see them happen. This is the part that stumps most of us. We have the first part, the easy part down, like our last name. We’ve rehearsed it a million times in our head. But the second part, we’ve contemplated about as many times as Lindsay Lohan has sobriety.

Dr. Reality Check said it is very easy to keep creating these elaborate dreams, if we don’t feel the pressure to follow through on them. No commitment factor= no pressure, basically.

 

Even today, as I write this, the question still hangs over my head.

So, what’s it gonna be? I mean, sure, I have an pretty good idea. But I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out.

There were no easy answers for the “solution” to this problem.

There never will be.

Because nobody can take control of your life for you. It can feel like others are integral to it sometimes, as they help guide you, walking along a similar path, in step, but nobody can walk it for you.

For example, a couple months ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to show. I asked the nurse, “What kind of vitamin supplements should I be taking, as a 21 year old guy?”

Her response: “Oh, just Google it. I don’t know.”

Gee thanks.

But honestly, the secret is really this: nobody knows. Almost everyone’s faking it. The few who “get it,” have already been to the lowest place, the place where everything is stripped away, where only the bare truth remained, where they were forced to find the answers themselves, because those higher-ups who were “supposed” to know didn’t– a place where there is no Google solution.

We need to learn to be okay with that.

Especially in our (my) generation of get-it-quick-results and Googling damn near ev-er-y-thing.

High school and college can be great times for learning and thinking outside the box. Yes, I know that. I’m not discounting their importance. [More in part 3]

But, after that, what are you going to do–when the regimented structure and prodding is stripped away?

You will only have yourself consult. Only yourself to fault for failure, not the system.

No matter how much other people may want it for you, the choices in life are ultimately yours.

And, as I described in Part 1, not deciding to do anything IS making a choice.

 

So, 10 years from now, where do you want to be?

[To Be Continued……..in Part 3]

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10 Years From Now…. [Part 1]

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

So I came across this movie the other day, 10 Years [2011]. I was mildly intrigued. At first, I passed it up and looked for another movie. I mean, it’s not exactly a cookie-cutter blockbuster script. So, it didn’t get a lot of attention. But, after a few days, this “10 years from now…” question really started rolling around in my head and gaining traction. It reminded me of something my teacher had asked me last year [more in Part 2]. I found myself daydreaming at work about what my reunion would look like. I wanted a really badass story to tell. Lets be honest– we all do. Would I be single, married, poor, or rich? etc.

The concept was really starting to interest me, and I hadn’t even seen the movie yet.

Well, I finally watched it. And yes, it was good. Remember, the film is NOT set in their high school prime. Which is odd for a plot. Think about it: In casting, they usually like to keep the characters young, healthy, and bright-eyed– in the “best years of their life.” But not this movie. It fast forwarded to 10 years later.

It’s the story of 4+ bachelor dude-bros/best buds who triumphantly reunite after all this time. Some things are the same, but things aren’t as they left them. And a bunch of insane guy-talk, beer, and hi-jinks are thrown in for good measure. And lots of reminiscing on old pictures and scrapbooks and memories.

But I’m more concerned with the reunion aspect.

It’s never how you picture it.

(or in some cases, it IS, because they stayed exactly the same, which is equally as sad)

I imagine, some of us will get fat. Some of us will chop off a foot of hair (some of us will grow it out and do the comb over. It will look horrible). There will always be the inevitable goatee, everyone sports. Which will be a better option than the other half of men, which will own mustaches. Some of us will have kids. Like 5 or 6 by then. But a few will just be getting started with their marriage, due to graduate school or a start-up business. Some people will have traveled around the world, or made a fortune; but others will never have left their hometown. Some will be druggies. Some will be unrecognizable with plastic surgery. The prettiest kids will lose their looks, and others will finally grow into them. Some of us will be famous, finally gaining popularity we never had in high school.

I think it will shock you. I have no idea what your reunion will look like. But I think the lack of nostalgic dreaminess you once envisioned will be what does surprise you. It will surprise you for completely different reasons

When I left for college, I didn’t go back to visit for over 2 years. At all. And, moreover, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve been back after.

I was only out of high school a couple years when I first got a taste of this. And it hit me in the face. Hard. One winter, after this long-awaited visit, I found myself shuddering in the rain, leaning heavily on a (now long-gone) friend’s shoulder, searching for cover from the downpour on the town square, shaking uncontrollably, whether from the cold or the night’s string of hazy encounters, I don’t know. I swallowed back the dry, inevitable feeling which rose in my larynx, threatening to steal the moisture also from my eyes.  I hadn’t cried in years. And now I found myself trying to hold back all those rising emotions, for fear of embarrassing myself in public.  I didn’t want to leave yet, but I realized I had nothing and nobody to stay for. I didn’t know where to go just yet, so I curled up on the steps of the  courthouse. Shit. I had come back for nothing. It was too late. I felt I wasn’t there when they needed me. Not that there was anything I could do, but it was crushing me anyways. I had found out one of my best friends was a drug dealer, who now hated his life, who talked in a passionless, monotone voice. Apathy filled the slow stride of his walk, like the bottles in his fridge. It broke my heart that night to see the depressing state some of my friends were in.

Anyways, When I did finally go back, I didn’t recognize my hometown. The usual shock I suppose: high school quarterbacks now fat, working minimum wage jobs, your old sweetheart is married, the religious zealots are now drunk dropouts, the nerdy kids became ridiculously successful, and an assortment of druggies, community college cop-outs, baby-mommas, and altogether lost friendships.

Very few of my closest high school friends made it very far. Even fewer had goals, for the next year. Much less 10 years.

I vowed to never let that happen to me.

I wanted to keep moving forward. High school would not define me. I was determined. I believed that. And I still do, very strongly. Your past does not determine your future. No matter how unlikely.

I want you to see that I am living proof of that. I was told I would” never finish college”, and “never make it in the real world,” and repeatedly that “I would never amount to anything”. But I did. And I am. Despite all odds. This is not a Joel Olsteen inspirational speech. I’m certainly not saying its easy. But I am saying its possible. I am saying, don’t buy into the lie that where we grew up defines or limits our future. I’d say more, but that’s a story for another day.

So, here’s a belated “I’m sorry” to those  friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was just something I had to do. I had to take care of me. I had to go learn all the things that made me the man I am today. Or else I’d be in the same, or likely worse, place, instead of traveling this world and writing to you. I fear what I would have become, had I stayed in that town.  I couldn’t grow, as a person, sleeping in a bed which I’d my feet already hung over the edge. I had to roam and stretch those legs. I still do. I’m not done yet.

I noticed the physical changes of the landscape too.  Even the city was in on the joke, playing along to this giant metaphor. As the city slowly started to creep in on my quiet suburbia. The bike trail I used to ride on with my best friend, taking long day-trips far away on countless adventures, was defiled by a modern transit system which links to Dallas. Well, there goes a piece of my childhood. That’s growing up for you. Change happens whether you like it or not. I will happen with or without you. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. Use it to catapult you, to give you the needed shove to move forward, to embark on something much better. (instead of being left behind)

 

 

I’ve been thinking lately,

Where do you want to be, 10 years from now?

Because that will change how you live, in the present moment.

 

{To Be Continued…..}
More on this question in Part 2.

 

 

-Carpe Diem Dave-

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Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Most Underrated Artists of 2012

Here are just a few. I obviously can’t list them all. This is only a jumping-off point for you mainstreamers. So, please, music nerds and those with terrible taste, don’t send me hate messages about how the Avenged Sevenfold, or Chopin, discography should be on here.

Rock

As if Brandon Flowers [The Killers frontman] hasn’t been busy enough with his new album Battle Born (incidentally, also making the list), he’s been handpicking his legacy– an emerging band called Imagine Dragons. Released in September, this beast of Flowers’ creation has taken on a life of its own. After the song “It’s Time” worked its way into several movies, shows, & late-night programs, their roar was finally heard, being nominated for “Best Rock Video” at the VMA’s. By then, of course, they had already put out another album, Night VisionsBut go listen to both. I was pleasantly surprised by lyrics and unique sound, while maintaining a rocker quality.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why you hadn’t heard of them until lately. Amazon.com called the band their “Favorite Rock artist of 2012.” Billboard Magazine listed them as one of “2012’s Brightest New Stars.” Perhaps we will see more of them soon in 2013.

And, am I the only one who noticed The Fray kind of….disappeared from the popular music scene after their chart-topping songs “How to Save a Life” and “Over My Head”…..??!

I think they have now finally matured, with the latest album Scars & Stories, both lyrically and instrumentally, but hey, this is America’s jukebox. I don’t control it; anyways, I’m sure it’s already too full with Beiber and Miley Cyrus. This is just a suggestion. If you liked their earlier stuff, I think you might like their new stuff even more.

Branching in between the categories of Rock and Singer/Songwriter is my discovery of  The White Buffalo, competing for the elusive “all-American” sound on this blog. Gaining their fame only recently by the show “Sons of Anarchy,” I stumbled upon them, then listened to the new album “Once Upon A Time, In The West”. My favorite songs currently of their’s are The PilotI Wish It Was True, and their cover of House of The Rising Sun.

I can’t describe the music better than the band itself:

The White Buffalo represents an authentic homage to the times of hard touring, hard drinking artists who truly lived what they sang about. Seamlessly moving from heartfelt ballads to raucous bar songs, The White Buffalo sings with honesty and thoughtful reflection as he travels the road, sharing his music. Everything about him is big, from his imposing physical size to his amazing vocal range. From his whiskey-drenched, growling lows to heart-stopping highs, The White Buffalo paints a touching picture, whether he stands alone or performs with his energetic, charismatic band

Download for free here

 

Singer/Songwriter

Tyler Hilton‘s  new album “Forget the Storm” has finally broken him out of the one-cast mold we’ve heard in the past ones. He’s really shown a new spark of inspiration since his days in acting [Walk The Line – Elvis; Charlie Bartlett; One Tree Hilll] yet somehow struggled to gain popularity among the masses. I’m not sure how that happens, because he does have quality music, with surprisingly good lyrics. Perhaps he didn’t have time to fully put into his music career until late, but he’s sounding more confident and diverse. He’s gained a rocker edge, though not completely lost from his mellow “Missing You” days. He has songs like “Prince of Nothing Charming,” but also bold rock anthems like “Loaded Gun

I have no idea how City & Colour‘s new album Little Hell went unnoticed. There’s not even enough space on here for me to rant about Dallas Green’s genius. So I’m not going to. Just go listen. (You may recognize this old one – “The Girl”

Parker Millsap: For my Okie friends, you might check out this guy, who I can only assume to be a long lost relative of Johnny Cash. Actually, wherever you live, do it. He’s officially my favorite underrated artist of 2012

“Parker Millsap and Michael Rose are essentially a force of nature. To compare them to any person, place, or thing is redundant. They are like nothing in the music market and their audience is probably clapping with one hand with that fat naked Buddha leading the devotees’ applause. Comparison is futile. Still, we strive to label that we may pass information on to our peers.” via parkermillsap.com

So here I go, I’ll try my best:
Born and bred in the heart of the American promised land,  this is exactly where I met Parker along his rambling tour — in downtown Oklahoma City. (though he plays shows in Texas too). He was hired as live entertainment for the (boring) Oklahoma Creativity Conference, which me and my friend Sally quickly decided to ditch and sneak off to our own private concert. There aren’t many who I can honestly say are”refreshing” or “enable us to breathe deep again,” but this troubadour has earned the title.  I was drawn in by the lyrics, showing the obvious marks of a captivating storyteller, like a ballad or incantation or something out of literature. He is either highly educated in the fine arts, and translates it into colloquial speak, or is just very street-smart, poetically speaking. Yet, his performance didn’t seemed strained’; he did it all so cooly, with that…haunting…groan fr0m the very depths of  his person. Right then, somehow, I knew these were more than lyrics, these were stories from his life, all of our lives; moreover, a larger narrative of America. Maybe what intrigued me, as it will you, is I couldn’t immediately nail him down (which is what we immediately want to do – stereotype & categorize). Was he country, alternative rock, folk, or what? In any case, it had the sound of something both unique and familiar, like a love-sick lullaby you must’ve heard sung you to sleep before, half-aware of the words.  I listened to this one-man act: a wicked-sweet howl it was- like a craving for tangy-sour dichotomy on the tongue- it both perspired and inspired the taste for more, as he wildly played numerous instruments, eagerly interacted with the crowd (us), kissed the harmonica  passionately, and stomped his foot, all at once. Standing there, listening, alone,  in the lobby, I had to think — this is the epitome of underrated. 

You can also listen to a few of his songs here.

Also, if you like those, check out the artist M.Ward. Listen to my favorite album, bootleg recordings, here. He literally recorded these albums in an attic, I think, for the vintage sound.

 

Indie/Folk

Ron Pope, famous for “A Drop in The Ocean,” should be on this list. I can’t believe people don’t know this guy. He’s more of a pop-acoustic-indie rock, but I don’t know where else to put him. He’s an interesting blend. Even if just for the lyrics, go look him up. He’s one of my favorite lyricists and writing inspirations, hands down.

Of Monsters and Men: This band is taking up the American airwaves, more and more, as they have gained popularity in the past few months. But they are actually from Iceland. You may have heard their songs, Mountain Sound & Little Talks peaking on the billboard charts, but you might check out the rest of the album. Especially if you’re a Mumford fan. Personally, my favorite is King & Lionheart.

Run RiverNorth (formerly known as Monsters Calling Home): More than anything, I was just so damn intrigued by how this band gained popularity, and wondered where they would go. I don’t want to spoil the story, but basically they went from unknown status to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. My favorite songs are Foxbeard and Growing Up. You can buy/listen to their EP here.

The Lumineers: Although the selft-titled album debuted in April, this unknown Denver band finally broke big with the song, “Ho Hey” in December. It was played on the radio, rising to the #11 spot on Billboard. Whether they stay a one-hit-wonder, or rise to fame is up to you. Check out the rest of the songs on the album and let me know what you think. Give it a full listen though; their songs tend to have a build-up.

If you like those, check out Best Coast, who has the sound of growing up, the sound of teenage transition, on their lips, with a little punk-indie edge.

 

Ambient Music

William Fitzsimmons, an Illinois-based singer-songwriter with a Masters in counseling, is I placed in this category for his raw, solo performances, as well as his synth remixes on the album “Derivatives.” Whichever you prefer. Most likely you’ve heard his (breakout) song Passion Play, as it was aired on countless TV shows.

Tycho : My personal favorite, a smooth blend of coffee-house melodies & silent-movie-like electronic cardio. No lyrics, almost all synth- a modern jazz. Great for studying or writing papers.

Washed Out, the most chill of the bunch, for those late hours of tedious work, when you’re too stressed to listen to fast BPM’s.

 

Techno Beats

Kap Slap: Specializing in all high BPM’s & crazy electronic-cardio remixes of famous songs. If you need workout music, look no further. One track of his will suffice. Seriously. He has a 1 hour-long track he made downloadable for freeon his facebook page. It’s the Back to School Mix. How appropriate.  I guarantee you, there is nothing (worth doing) in this world you shouldn’t be able to accomplish, within the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee & play the length of this energy-boosting track. My sister can attest to this; it’s the only way I passed biology last semester.

DJ Trademark: Vocal mash-ups are this artist’s specialty, with seamless transitions between popular songs, focusing on the art of blending high-quality jams, rather than creating fast techno-rave beats.

 

Stringed-Instrument groups

I’m going to put Hunter Hayes in this category. As I mentioned in my Top Pop Artists of 2012 blog a couple weeks ago (An Apocalypse Can’t Stop the Music),   At 21, playing more instruments than he is old, he’s not your average “country legend” or “band”. Check out the music video Storm Warning. Watch how many stringed instruments he plays.

In late 2011, while working at a country music station, I predicted him to be the rising star of 2012. He had not gained popularity for any of his singles then, but I saw something in him, something which would later inspire me to write these music blogs. I liked to play this game with my co-workers, “Who to watch for.” I told my boss Hayes had talent, that he would get big someday and we should interview him. My boss laughed at me, as if I knew more than him. Well, a year later, his song “Wanted” was chosen as the #5 best country song by Billboard and had three Grammy nominations, winning “Best New Artist.” I only have one thing to say: Who’s the boss now?!!

Seryn: Turn it up and jam-out in the car. Straight outta my hometown, this band, from Denton, Texas, is like Bon Iver on steriods -multiple voices shouting without reserve.  Have some patience with this band. I find them to be the one you “warm up to” after a few listens, but not after just the first time. Their music has long portions of instrumentals between harmonized vocals, but good things come to those who wait. The build-up & release is so, so worth it. Believe me.
Listen/Buy here.

[“Using a variety of instruments including guitar, ukulele, kalimba, accordion, bass, drums, viola, percussion and more…”]

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This Year, Resolve to Work Out Your Brain Too: 10 Healthy Tips

 

For those making resolutions to hit the gym this year….

You might want to consider working out your brain too.

Here’s why:

If you don’t start now, you won’t have half as many stories to tell your grandchildren.

You simply won’t remember. Seriously.

In Layman’s terms, our memories are kind of like a huge library. If you keep shoving them into the back of the dusty corner, you’ll eventually forget where you put them.

Now, I’m not talking about dementia or Alzheimer’s. This begins happening as soon as your brain reaches maturation. You are not exempt if you are only 40, or even 20.

Childhood memories slowly begin to fade away, and only the significant events remain.  Sure, some item or person may suddenly jolt your memory, but you will be less likely to remember that on your own.

 

Recognition Vs. Recall

Note: There is a difference between recognition and recall. —-Recognition is the association of a memory with an event or physical object you’ve encountered. So, you might see a baseball glove and suddenly remember how your grandfather took you to a Texas Ranger’s game. Recall is more like a Fill-In-The-Blank. It’s not even multiple choice. You have to remember something, with nothing in front of you to help.

 

So, what to do about this?

Well, the brain is a muscle, like any part of your body. Time to pump the iron.

If you’re looking to improve your memory, with training techniques, there might be far more indirect brain benefits than you realize:

It will keep you telling those hilarious stories at social events, lower your stress, keep you better organized, stay mentally healthy, more alert, and better grasp concepts.

 

My 10 Practical Tips:

Yes, I’m hitting you with the diet stuff first. Let’s get it out of the way. Hey, if it makes you feel better, I’m medically allowed to add wine to this list.

  • Get enough sleep.

(Yes it’s that simple. No, we don’t do it.)   Nothing makes for a foggy day like being sleep-deprived. The reverse is true: nothing makes you feel more alive and alert than a full night’s sleep.

  • Carry around a notebook

Whether you’re nostalgic or frustrated, a new parent- creating a book of bedtime stories, or collecting material for your memoir, ALWAYS carry a notebook with you. everywhere. Best advice I can give you.

  • Exercise

Stimulates production of new synapses, essentially new pathways which are applicable to any situation (whereas learning Sudoku might not help except in number-related puzzles). Also, the increased oxygen to the brain= good thing. Trust me. Last but not least, when you work out, (whether cardio or weights) it releases the feel-good chemical endorphins. (see link for targeted work-out tips)

  • Play video games   (for real)

Neuroscientist Yaakov Stern of Columbia University said in an article, “It requires motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory, and decision making,”  [also ability to control and switch attention among different tasks.] “People get better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills, and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.”

  • Stay creative.

Don’t just do busy-work and boring work. Do something everday you love, for you. Writer Charles Bukowski didn’t believe in the “tortured genius.” He believes our motives affect our performance.

  • Laugh

It’s good for the soul. And apparently your memory retention? Also, don’t forget to laugh at yourself! Many memories are embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you. You might find some of them hilarious now, which you swore you’d never speak of again. In fact, tell it to a friend. Laugh until you cry. You never know, it might bring up other pieces of the event, if it happened with a friend.

  • Drink green tea.

Not only is it good for your brain, it actually has 7 other healthy benefits.

  • No More Mean Girls. Make real friends & real memories.

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Ok fine, we can still watch the movie. I just mean, friends are the ultimate memory booster. They always remember stuff for you, good or bad. They induce those memory recall situations. Not to mention, people are the most important memories.

  • Try meditation, reading an old book, visiting where you grew up, yoga,  crosswords & Sudoku, using Mnemonic devices, active listening to radio news, trivia games, or (my favorite) photo albums.


I’d love to know:

What proven method did I leave out?

What unconventional method works for you?

What’s your strongest memory?

What triggers your flashbacks?

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2012 for Dummies: An Apocalypse Can’t Stop the Music

If you’ve been living in an abandoned silo-bunker for the past year, preparing for the apocalypse, here’s what you should know:

Well, nothing happened on 12.12.12, except for a volley disappointed Grumpy-Cat memes and massive hangovers the next morning.  Of course, its a bummer for the southern folks who’ve bought out all the crossbows & assault weapons, but sorry folks, the zombies won’t be coming out to play anytime soon.

(It’s safe to resurface now, but don’t contact your real estate agent just yet. Those underground bomb-shelters are going for a steep price on the 2013 market, as the fiscal cliff loomingly approaches. Remember, my Alabama Slammer friends, those unused stockpiles of liquor and ammunition may come in handy if the apocalypse was just a military code-word for Operation Shit-Storm: world “peace” 2013.)

The Skinny on What You Missed

Nicky Minaj got weirder. And worse at singing. While gaining popularity. Yes, apparently that’s possible. Hail to the chief of ‘Merican reasoning.

And if that wasn’t proof enough Americans don’t listen to the lyrics, we made Psy’s “Gangam Style” the most watched video. ever. [Really? — ever?]

Skrillex is still pumping out beats only white kids can dance to. (hey, ya gotta give ’em somethin)

Carly Rae Jepson is still waiting for him to call her. Maybe. We’ve heard rumors, but we’re not sure.

Mumford & Sons made banjos the coolest instrument to learn. But no matter how hard you try, you will never be THAT cool.

Pitbull‘s still rapping about stuff…..which nobody can quite make out, except, MR. WORLDWIDE!, but everyone loves it.

People are still unsure of how to pronounce Gotye.

LMFAO is still being party-rocked to at numerous lame high-school parties around the world.

Nobody has yet to hear any other song by Foster The People, except “Pumped Up Kicks.” Kids, if you read this 20 years later, please don’t over-think it. They probably conspired with M.I.A. & their song “Paper Planes” to have a hipster duel. They take it to the streets to shoot it out.  In West Side Story fashion, that is.

Wiz Khalifa stopped making music altogether, focusing all his energy on smoking copious amounts of cannabis, pondering whether to grow out some dreads in unique Marley-esque fashion, and writing super-obscure, tween-loveable tweets.

Not to worry though; some things never change. Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, and Luke Bryan  are all still taking Chevys down dirt roads to the square dance, chuggin beer, balin’ hay, hittin’ on pretty lil’ thangs, watchin corn grow into whiskey, often at the same time……while gaining southern listeners. Need I further explain?

This previously mentioned cowboy hat-toting, country-rock blend excludes one melody of ingredients. This exception is the 30-some instrument-playing Hunter Hayes [Storm Warning]. At 21, playing more instruments than he is old, he’s not your average “country legend.”  In late 2011, while working at a country music station, I predicted him to be the rising star of 2012. He was not even on the Billboard map then, but I liked to play this game with my co-workers, “Who to watch for.” I told my boss he  had talent; he would get big someday and we should interview him. My boss laughed at me, as if I knew more than him. Well, his song “Wanted” was chosen as the #5 best country song by Billboard and had three Grammy nominations, winning “Best New Artist.” I only have one thing to say: Who’s the boss now?!!

You can still blow someone’s mind by telling them Lady Antebellum or The Band Perry isn’t a girl band.

The first boy band since Justin Timerberlake‘s acne days has surfaced atop the musical waters, from nowhere, with a brooding, pop-bromance vengeance: One Direction. Rumors are they spent billions of dollars producing their high-quality music video for the song “What Makes You Beautiful,” which somehow got voted “Most Share-worthy Video?? [I’m sorry. Forgot to say, “Insert sarcasm here] It’s truly the end of times people.

 Demi Lovato, looking all grown up now, has put her Barney days ( starring as Angela) behind her. But she hasn’t forgotten her upbringing altogether. When she’s not off starting a new philanthropic movement for kids, writing, or singing, or acting, {or being a semi-professional race-car driver/amateur tattoo artist?} she found time to accept her VMA award. That award was for her platinum single “Skyscraper”, the “Best Video with a Message” I guess old habits die hard. She was supposed to release the 1st single for her 2013 album in December, but she never did. So keep your eyes peeled….errrr ears tuned.

Taylor Swift cycled through another 3 or 4 boyfriends. Of course, that’s not really news to you. But we got the chart-grossing album “Red” out of it, which is impossible to even summarize. So I won’t. Enough has been said already. I think, after the majority of the songs in your album hit the Billboard Top 10, they should have to make a whole new award-category for you.

The woman-empowering, modern day powderpuff girl is the most likely, but least capable candidate to rule America one day.  And as long as Taylor Swift hasn’t gone through menopause, we’ll still have hope and love (albeit pessimistic)  in our life, for years to comeMere days after finishing her “Red” album, a barista mixed up her drink order. In other unrelated news, she’s writing a new song about coffee-shop romance gone bad. Expect an album in 2013.

Lady Gaga showed up to the VMA’s this time as her male alter ego – Jo Calderone. Seriously. Since last year’s “f*****g meat-dress” was too tame a wardrobe choice. Ah yes, teaching boys and girls around the world to “be themselves.” And by be yourself, she means “be anything but you.”  Now, I’m no psychiatrist, but I think this is less of “Jo” coming out, and more of “Gaga’s”  high school insecurities, from which she apparently never graduated.

Lady-gaga-jo-calderone-08062011-02_large

When she’s not getting kicked out of Gaga-indifferent countries along her “Born This Way” world- tour & working on her new 2013 album “ARTPOP,” she’s been working on a collaborative album with the classy and reserved Tony Bennett. Well if that’s not split-personality for you, I don’t know what its. She’s also acting in some upcoming movies and starring in Terry Richardson’s documentary about her life. No doubt, 2012 is the calm before the storm, as this woman prepares to take over pop-culture with the odd-ocalypse.

Adele’s still singing whiny songs to the tune of her 49 cat-producers at home, while finding time to lose the very weight she claims she didn’t need to earlier this year.  The nose-job was because she had a deviated septum, not because she wanted another shade of white; God knows the camera couldn’t handle that glare anyway.  Oh, and something about her being the 1st to have an album going 8 times platinum. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure something must be in the water. Mostly because she’s setting fire to it, somehow, and we’re all still drinking it up like rats in a beer pong maze.

In other news, I’m pretty sure Kanye still thinks he’s Jesus (throwing middle fingers to the world instead of forgiveness), although he didn’t turn over any tables at this year’s VMA awards. So Taylor Swift got to breathe a sigh of melo-dramatic relief. In fact he pulled out, altogether, from September’s show. I can’t say the same respect was extended to Kim Kardashian, who was the reason for this move. They sat on the sidelines this year, instead announcing to everyone the pregnancy of the dreaded beast, born too little too late for the apocalypse takeover: a Love Lockdown baby. Congrats Kanye, now you’re locked into writing Usher-esque, baby-daddy lyrics for the rest of your career.

    Our girl “Katy Perry”, the gospel artist formerly known as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, has too many awards to even read off. Most impressive though, is her ability to stay high on the charts, year round, even without an album out. Between her numerous hits from the same album [Teenage Dream, Last Friday Night, California Gurls, Firework, Peacock,The One That Got Away,  E.T.] her career isn’t in jeopardy, despite the fact that it will have been 3 years between albums. Her new one is rumored for summer ’13.

And although KP hasn’t put out a new album since “Teenage Dream,” she was somehow still nominated for “Video of the Year,” [2012] with her surprise summer single “Wide Awake.” And although she fell short of that winning that big title this year at the VMA’s, she scored the “Best Art Direction” trophy. No surprise there. She’s been an innovative, creative-junkie since the time of her Pentacostal days, secretly dancing and directing music videos in her bedroom. In fact, she co-released her own bio/concert-documentary movie in July, “Part of Me,” which was, surprisingly, one of the successful documentaries of all time.

I think we are all a bit intrigued by KP’s “born again” reference in “Wide Awake”. What to expect from the new album? Truly nobody knows. I think she’s trying to compete with Lady Gaga on the in-your-face lyrics and the weirdness/ fashionable scale.  Either way, for some odd reason I always want to go watch “The New Girl” every-time I look at her.

  

   It was a wild up & down ride for Rihanna this year, making history with her award-winning video “We Found Love,” a bold statement about closing the chapter on relationships gone wrong.  Then she got all sentimental and took a trip down memory lane, shacking back up with wife-beater-wearing Chris Brown. But hey, “Do as I say, not as I do,” right?” Her new album, ironically named “Unapologetic,”  debuted in November with the song “Diamonds,”  perhaps hinting at ‘ol Chris Beaty to make it up to her with some bling. I guess some people are just beyond help. Listen, I know the new album cover bares all of Rihanna’s vulnerabilities (aka body), proving the bruises are gone, but was this taken before or after the Brown re-bound? At any rate, you made Rihanna the most digitally downloaded artist, just in the U.S. alone.

While on the topic of hip-hop and new haircuts, I’ve decided to place “the Biebs” in this category. It’s not like America knows the difference anymore. It’s all pop-club-rap-rock anyways now.

    Like the kids on Boy Meets World (soon to become Girl Meets World in 2013), the whole world has watched him grow up. One CNN article put it best: “As a star birthed by YouTube and raised by Twitter, Justin Bieber has never had the luxury of growing up outside the public eye. In the two years between his breakout 2010 LP, “My World 2.0,” and “Believe,” his second proper full-length, Bieber has had to go through cultural puberty and actual puberty…”

This year, testosterone hit more than just Rihanna. Posting pictures of his abs and fresh tats, the Biebs has really proven himself to an aging tween audience, who is now growing into their large, adolescent ears. He has embraced the haircut and the voice change with a positive outlook, taking the opportunity to completely reinvent his sound and style.

And as much as I can’ wait for the CIA to roll out their best snipers and eliminate the threat to our hypnotized, mush-for-brains society, I have to hand it to him — it’s clear he’s worked hard to become the AMA Artist of the Year. America agrees, boosting numerous singles to the charts, such as:

Boyfriend, As Long As You Love Me, All Around the World, Thought of You

Usher, his mentor, who apparently has nowhere else to go with his career, has been introducing him to artists like Drake & Nicky Minaj. I think we all know how this story ends up. They made a movie about it in 2003 with Jamie Kennedy, called “Malibu’s Most Wanted. It’s about the white boy who….

Well, maybe it’s better if you just watch the trailer.

 

 

 

On that more humorous note ladies & gentlemen,

I wish you a Happy New Year.

-D.R.-

[Keep the change ya filthy animal]

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The Bigger Picture

A little something to take you outside of your bubble today.

The movie “Tree of Life” (2011).

It’s a tale of “Leave It to Beaver” gone wrong.  (Wait, that show was scripted?! My worldview is crushed.)

Somehow, this decade makes a comeback, offering something for audiences something today?

Somehow, in the midst of this movie’s headache-inducing, confusing cacophony….I found meaning.

(That’s life.)

I believe this a relevant conversation for our generation. Regardless of decade.

Recurring Themes

The recurring theme of the plot is the battle for the characters to choose one of two paths in life: the way of grace and the way of nature.Clear lines of division are drawn between the way of nature’s harsh, unforgiving tactics, versus the learned ways of grace’s gentle simplicity.

You only have two choices in this world. But you cannot live by both. You must choose one.

The chasm dividing these two proposed opposites grows wider as the story progresses, intentionally seeking to highlight and polarize the two.

We see these elements of nature and grace are embodied by the characters of the abusive father and the loving mother, respectively.

We all know and have “characters” in our lives, which very clearly embody grace OR nature.

Most interestingly, is how nature represents what cannot be salvaged – fallen nature (acting upon impulse); grace represents the spiritual and supernaturally learned (aware, willfully reacting with love).

The way of nature

The Way of Grace

I could get further into the movie, talking about the massively unheard of amounts of Carl Sagan inspired, National Geographic rivaling- clips of landscapes and animals.  Despite the irredeemable juxtaposition the movie poses, it at least goes beyond the surface.

There is hope after all. Nature is not simply represented as shots of sunflowers and waterfalls, but clearly alliterates to the way we live our lives, choosing to simply love and follow after ultimate truth, or become bitter and set in our ways. It is posed in a question format. No blanket statements are made. If anything, the film itself is a resounding question, meant to ring in the ears of the viewer after watching.

Whatever that something is, that makes a piece of work transcend eras, it must be universal. I can only assume it must be the very same stuff that makes people still read Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, the Bible,  Walt Whitman, or J.D. Salinger.

Some of my friends hated the movie.

I heard a girl say, just this past weekend, “I don’t want to have to think when I watch a movie. I want turn off my brain &  feel good when the credits roll.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how my brain was designed. I’m constantly thinking about the underlying story.

Thought provoking at the very least, “Tree of Life” promises good things for those who watch it without preconceptions or short-tempered cynicisms.

The Summary

Between the surreal images of nature, microcosms, outer space and the wistful yet tormenting flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, viewers soon find out Jack’s family is less than perfect. A gritty tale of tragedy jump-starts the opening scenes.

     

His brother’s death is told through the voice of maturity — that of Jack as a prospering middle-aged architect haunted by questions bigger than himself. Set primarily in a South Texas neighborhood, the father’s harsh, borderline-abusive relationship of tough love overshadows the teachings of his mother’s unconditional, free-spirited love.

The film leads down Jack’s paths of growing up in the ways of love, hate, rebellion, nature and grace. The plot winds around the way childhood innocence somehow slips through one’s fingers in time and knowledge of the world. It is about a road every young boy must find and follow, only to learn they cannot go back.

The Public’s Reaction

After the initial premiere in select theaters, critics and citizens alike found themselves immediately polarized in opinions of hate and love for it. Perhaps, the only agreeable point was that everybody had some opposing opinion or disagreement about the movie’s worth. It either was bashed as incredibly boring or glorified as infinitely beautiful. At the Cannes Film Festival, it received boos alongside a standing ovation.The deciding factor for people’s reactions has to do with their intentions for watching this film.

Roger Ebert’s Review

Roger Ebert explained his (Tweet) comment about the movie in a similar way: “Many films diminish us. They cheapen us … hammer us with shabby thrills and diminish the value of life some. Few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer.”

You cannot walk into the theater expecting a 90-minute, feel-good romantic comedy. Malick never intended for his film to be the kind you don’t have to contemplate. If you want that, you’d probably be better suited with letting your brain cells degenerate a bit at “The Hangover II.”

But, you don’t need to be a philosopher or a genius to understand and enjoy Malick’s movie.

For this movie, you simply need to have an open mind and cannot be afraid to actually think about its meaning.

After reading Ebert’s quote, it’s hard to argue. What more could you ask of a two hour movie? I can honestly say that it was one of the first movies which ever inspired me to action, to ask questions, and not to simply drool on my shirt while shoveling popcorn down my gullet.

The movie begs us to live intentionally.

The Perspective it Offers

For the cinematography quality alone, it is definitely a must-see. One thing to keep in mind if you go: Have patience and let its poetry wash over you as a whole, and not critically analyze the meaning of one certain scene.Don’t get frustrated with the plot or the unconventional style of filming. Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki provides the rare opportunity to literally look on as an observer of another world instead of from the usual vantage point through one character’s eyes. The script is not linear either. Malick often blended voice-overs with sweeping camera pans of nature and human movement rather than facial close-ups of characters reciting lines.

And yes, I know. Some of you felt robbed after watching a two and-a-half-hour story without a discernible climax or conflict resolution.

But I believe that’s life. And sometimes, the journey is greater than the destination. In this case, it fits. Unlike most movies, if you walk away with unanswered questions, Malick has done his job right.

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My Earliest Memory

Okay, I figured I’m gonna induce flashbacks and make you recall your earliest memories, I should be willing to do the same.

So here it is. Confessions of a fat kid.

Scribbled in mom’s handwriting:
January 1992
“about 9 1/2 – 10mo.”

Our family moved to Texas on my 3rd birthday. Apparently I got car-sick and chucked up my birthday cake all over my grandmother’s velvet back seat.

Happy freakin birthday to me. and Mimi. Sorry about that. If it’s any consolation you don’t have to worry, I don’t get motion sick now. You can stop reminding me of this occurrence every time I ride with you.

I don’t remember very much about when I lived in St. Louis.
Hardly anything, if I was honest. Just snapshots. Quick flashes in my memory.

I remember,  the curtains on the window next to my crib were  a pattern of red, blue, and green airplanes.

I remember the ice cream man. The back deck. The swing-set. The “woods” behind our house.

 

The treasure. Priceless.

The first vivid one?

I remember finding where mom stashed the Whoppers.

I had seen her put them up once. Lewis & Clark “aint got nothin on me.” Adventurer from birth. I slyly pretended to go down for a nap, waited ’til she was gone and escaped, climbed on top of the toilet seat, opened the sink cabinet, reached for the treasure, and plunged my hand to the bottom of the bucket. I then happily plopped myself down on the stairs and ate them triumphantly, while waiting for my mother to walk by.

I’m sure it would’ve been hard not to laugh,  seeing me cradling a pound carton of chocolate, half of it now in my stomach, with a huge grin.  I don’t remember what happened when she did find me, but…. seriously who keeps stashed candy in the bathroom??! That was obviously a rookie mistake which deserved to be outwitted.

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Your Earliest Memory

courtesty of jttphoto.com

Courtesy of soadahead.com

 

Here’s an interesting project— try to think back to your earliest memory.

your VERY earliest.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

——- — — – – — – – –  –

tick-tock-tick-tock

(insert waiting theme song from Jeopardy)

Okay, not that long.  Geez, don’t have an aneurysm.

It’s really hard isn’t it? If you’re the average person you don’t have many memories before the age of 4.

Maybe a couple, a handful at most. They get progressively fuzzier, the younger you were when it happened.

Don’t feel bad. You can chalk it up to Childhood Amnesia.

The problem.

Yup, that’s a real thing.  Childhood Amnesia. Something about our brains not done forming or something stupid like that…..

And the worst part: it’s proven you actually remember less and less of your childhood as you get older.

I’m not talking about losing them when you’re old and wearing dentures. Right now. Whether you’re 14, 24, or 44. The memories are slipping through our fingers like sand. Not all at once, but rather -piece by piece. We cup our hands and hold most of it….but given enough time, the majority falls through the cracks.

So why does this matter?

Well, apart from sentimental reasons…..the little stories in our life will add up to the giant narrative.

We construct the base of our identity from these memories.

I like to think it works a lot like the Implicit memory. Every day, you tie your shoes, without thinking about how you do it. Although you only learned it once, it  now it affects you subtly every day.

Certain experiences define us. They shape us. Mold us slowly into a different person.

 

 

The push-back: I know some people might say, “good! I don’t want to remember some of my childhood!”

 

but this is really extremely frustrating for me personally.

I didn’t always feel this way…..but I’ve realized I want to be able to tell my kids stories about everything– how I grew up, the good and the bad.

It makes me reconsider just exactly how much I may have intentionally blocked out too. It begs the question, can we intentionally try to recall those memories?

[Don’t worry, I’m not going all Inception on you. It happens all the time in our daily lives.]

For example, children who were abused maintain a sort of partial brick wall, which may come tumbling down when an event/person later on in life pulls the bottom one out. Believe it or not, that trigger is almost never a therapist, trying with all his might to force it to budge. It’s random.  [ http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=173431 ]

If those extreme cases – the farthest, most disassociated, unwanted memories – can be salvaged……surely our normal ones can. Right?

 

Note: There is a difference between recognition and recall. —-Recognition is the association of a memory with an event or physical object you’ve encountered. So, you might see a baseball glove and suddenly remember how your grandfather took you to a Texas Ranger’s game. Recall is more like a Fill-In-The-Blank. It’s not even multiple choice. You have to remember something, with nothing in front of you to help.

 

So, what to do about this?

Well, the brain is a muscle, like any part of your body. Time to pump the iron.

If you’re looking to improve your memory, with training techniques, there might be far more indirect brain benefits than you realize:

It will keep you telling those hilarious stories at social events, lower your stress, keep you better organized, stay mentally healthy, more alert, and better grasp concepts.

 

My Practical Tips:

Yes, I’m hitting you with the diet stuff first. Let’s get it out of the way. Hey, if it makes you feel better, I’m medically allowed to add wine to this list.

  • Get enough sleep.

(Yes it’s that simple. No, we don’t do it.)   Nothing makes for a foggy day like being sleep-deprived. The reverse is true: nothing makes you feel more alive and alert than a full night’s sleep.

  • Carry around a notebook

Whether you’re nostalgic or frustrated, a new parent- creating a book of bedtime stories, or collecting material for your memoir, ALWAYS carry a note book with you. everywhere. Best advice I can give you.

  • Exercise

Stimulates production of new synapses, essentially new pathways which are applicable to any situation (whereas learning Sudoku might not help except in number-related puzzles). Also, the increased oxygen to the brain= good thing. Trust me. Last but not least, when you work out, (whether cardio or weights) it releases the feel-good chemical endorphins. (see link for targeted work-out tips)

  • Play video games   (for real)

Neuroscientist Yaakov Stern of Columbia University said in an article, “It requires motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory, and decision making,”  [also ability to control and switch attention among different tasks.] “People get better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills, and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.”

  • Stay creative.

Don’t just do busy-work and boring work. Do something everday you love, for you. Writer Charles Bukowski didn’t believe in the “tortured genius.” He believes our motives affect our performance.

  • Laugh

It’s good for the soul. And apparently your memory retention? Also, don’t forget to laugh at yourself! Many memories are embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you. You might find some of them hilarious now, which you swore you’d never speak of again. In fact, tell it to a friend. Laugh until you cry. You never know, it might bring up other pieces of the event, if it happened with a friend.

  • Drink green tea.

Not only is it good for your brain, it actually has 7 other healthy benefits.

  • No More Mean Girls. Make real friends & real memories.

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Ok fine, we can still watch the movie. I just mean, friends are the ultimate memory booster. They always remember stuff for you, good or bad. They induce those memory recall situations. Not to mention, people are the most important memories.

  • Try meditation, reading an old book, visiting where you grew up, yoga,  crosswords & Sudoku, using Mnemonic devices, active listening to radio news, trivia games, or (my favorite) photo albums.

 

I’d love to know:

What proven method did I leave out?

What unconventional method works for you?

What’s your strongest memory?

What triggers your flashbacks?

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Pictures & Memory Association

Above: 10 year-old Neo Makoena on his birthday, playing in the street. 

Quick summary: Neo was born HIV positive, by no fault of his own. Even if you don’t need to know the story of the how…all you need to know is that he should have died in December. BUT “H.I.V. can’t kill Happy Birthday”

He’s a fighter and a conquerer with a beautiful heart. He got to enjoy another year’s celebration of being alive. God bless you buddy. May I always remember to dance as carefree as you do.

So, lately I’ve been thinking about how pictures create “a radiating web of associations” in our mind.

Isn’t it crazy how a picture can take us back to that moment, in the snap of the fingers? With just one glance, we are submerged in that memory. We are there. Taken back in time.

I don’t know what that might be for you — a picture of your family, a long-lost relative, a lover, a childhood snapshot…..but it’s powerful isn’t it?

I took that black & white picture this summer, during a photography stint in Capetown, South Africa- documenting the youth of the slums.

The associations a picture creates can be “good” or, in the same regard, “bad”.

I’m not sure how you would label this one…..but I can tell you this. It still haunts me today.

It was…surreal being there. My head was swimming. The reality didn’t (fully) kick in until I returned stateside.  I don’t think anyone can truly comprehend a 10 year-old staring down death with a smile…..until you actually meet such a person. Seriously, I don’t. You have to put a face to a name.

Seeing this– suddenly flashes memories from that day: endless talks in the car, driving what seemed hundreds of miles, fighting mental and physical exhaustion, Edwin’s orchestrating of the gigantic party like a proud father, food, the words on the cake – burning into my retina afther the flash, a donated DJ,  presents from the community, the whole neighborhood packed into to every square inch of the property- spilling out onto the street, music blaring, Neo’s mad dance moves, children running, Edwin trying to speak over the numbing buzz in my brain, my unsolveable anger for the whole situation……

It’s powerful– somehow I still am transported back there, upon seeing the pictures.

Let me tell you why.

The doctors said that Neo should have died in January. Yet there he was. Smiling. Dancing. Living.

Above: Mother (left), Neo (middle), Edwin (right)

It’s almost as if you could write more than just a few lines to describe some of your memories…..you could write a novel.

It’s a never ending web of associations. One thing sparks another….

[I’d love to hear what pictures do that for you]

Well, I found myself writing this poem, in response to reviewing them. I hope it helps explain things further.

Ode to Neo

Your mother realized she was pregnant, the same night she wrecked her car

checking for blood transfusion, the worried chaos beyond the immediate, a deafening crash of

“what will he think when he finds out?”- -smack, another painful blow, again undeserved

you see, she found out the bad news too, she had been given AIDS from someone else

when she got home, nobody could tell the difference between another black & blue bruise

a broken family, an only twin, you were no stranger to the pain when birth came

without a Dad, but Edwin made sure you had more- a Godfather closer than heaven

he held you, baptized you, bought you clothes, called over the whole neighborhood to play,

one last party to defeat the slurs of death, you danced over your own supposed grave

December’s calling should have given you a new name,

but instead

you threw down that badge and entitled your own –

the fighter: one whose feet move too quick for death

now, I know I have no room to talk about shed tears, but

remember, this is hard for me-

a paradox I can’t deceode

a metaphor I can’t create

a picture from which I can’t look away

A party so full of life, amidst the wreckage

It was not our gifts, which gave you grace to smile tonight

I realized the contrary was my lesson

You were slowly teaching us

how to shine

kids and adults alike

how to move to the music, to run in the streets

not denying the darkness

but shining in the midst of it

the very thing we long for as old men

wishing we could have done

Neo, dancing at the party

Neo, playing with his friends in the street

Edwin (the godfather) suprising Neo at his school, giving him clothes as a birthday present

*This post goes out with special love and dedication to Edwin Louw from These Numbers :  a family man, a mentor, a friend to so many, an inspiration, a role-model, a teacher, and above all– a father to so many.

Edwin, I miss you dearly from this side of the world. Please give Neo a hug for me. I will do my best to continue providing captions to the endless amount of untold pictures. I will do my best to tell the story well.

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