chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

Archive for January, 2009

Great Quote

Posted by Jason on January 24, 2009

“An elementary school music teacher is kind of like an animal lover working in a slaughterhouse…”

-Some dude on NPR


Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Update: Saga of a Love Affair

Posted by Jason on January 21, 2009

When I decided to play guitar again, I thought it would probably last a day or two and then fizzle out. It’s happened before. I get all excited about playing again, just enough to dig a guitar out of the closet and make a giant mess. I play for a day or two, and then I forget about it, or we have to clean house for friends to come over and the guitar and music stand go bye-bye.

This is what I expected of myself. To my surprise, I played guitar every day except Friday of last week (even though I really wanted to). I took the long weekend off, but I still really felt like playing the guitar even if my hands were beat up from yard work or changing a toilet or whatever. Those four days without playing could have been the nail in the coffin, but I decided to play a bit on my lunch break yesterday. This morning I looked at my little music nook and decided I’m actually going to clean up the living room in order to be able to play guitar after school today. Crazy, isn’t it?

What has really been interesting to me is the power of memory, specifically the kinesthetic or tactile memory. I’m playing things that I learned 5 years ago in Spain and haven’t really played since. I have some books that are helping me remember and develop the basic musical structures of the different flamenco songs, but some of the solos I learned by imitation from my teacher in Spain are all coming back to me. A couple I’ve played since then, but many I’ve not. Very interesting.

There is a lot of truth in the old adage of “it’s just like riding a bike: you never forget.” It is widely known that, of all the different types of memory we have, kinesthetic is the second strongest. Smell/taste is the first. Because your brain and muscles work so hard with so many repetitions in order to learn a physical skill or a fine motor movement, this link is seemingly unbreakable once formed. Obviously, memories will fade without use, but physical memories and smell/taste memories will be the last to go.

It’s also important to exercise your brain and force yourself to remember things sometimes. For instance, I’ve been working out of these flamenco guitar books at home the past week. Even though I didn’t bring them to work with me, I still made the decision to practice a little bit on my lunch break. Now, did I just twiddle around and play all the songs I’ve know for years and years? No. I wanted to play the flamenco stuff that I’d been working on in my books. While I exercised my memory by trying to remember stuff from my books, it also jogged my memory of the stuff I learned years ago that wasn’t in my books.

It’s pretty fascinating to see what our brains can come up with when we turn them on and actually use them…

Posted in music, Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Worst Excuse Ever…

Posted by Jason on January 14, 2009

Keep in mind that most of my students live in giant apartment blocks within a half mile of my school. There is no bussing in our district so everyone has to walk or get a ride.

A girl walked in like 20 minutes late to 1st period.
“Where were you? Why are you late?”
“Well, teacher, the reason is I was late because I walked…”
“What? Everyone else here walks. They made it on time. Do you just walk really slow or something? Did you break your leg or something? Get here on time next time…”

As I write this, I’m realizing I sound like a jerk. Still, she just waltzes in and thinks that walking is a valid excuse? Gimme a break!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Israel vs. Palestine

Posted by Jason on January 14, 2009

I’m pretty sure that very few of us Americans actually know enough about what’s happening there and what has happened there to actually have valid points to put forth in public. I was talking with wifey last night and we both realized we totally don’t know enough about this stuff. Even listening to NPR and reading several newspapers on a daily basis does not give me adequate confidence in my knowledge of the subject and the conflict’s history.

I consider myself fairly intelligent; you may not, but that’s fine. It boggles my mind that people can claim enough knowledge to put forth blog posts that say, the U.S. should do this or Israel should stop that or Hamas is the devil because of something else. Also, there is the entire question of blame. Who’s to blame for starting the war? Who should end it? Why does nobody abide by the powerless U.N. anymore?

Conspiracy theories abound, hatred of one side or the other flows freely, people vilifying the intentions of world leaders whom they’ve never met… this is the great new intelligence that is supposed to be our world’s new think tank? I’m not buying it. It seems the blogosphere is more a giant electronic soapbox than anything else that might even resemble collaboration and exchange of ideas.

As for Israel and Palestine, I say let them duke it out. Let them acquire weapons from anyone they want, as long as no foreign soldiers enter the conflict. Make the only restriction that no one be allowed to use nuclear weapons. Civilians may come and go as they please. 

Have at it, kids. May the most violent and bestial religion win!

Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Do All These Writers Really Do?

Posted by Jason on January 13, 2009

I’ll make no bones about it, I have next to zero experience with writing for an audience larger than one. This blog and a short story I’ve started are it…period. I read on many other blogs about people writing novels, finishing novels, busting out a short story or two in a day or a week. In addition to that, many of these people maintain active blogs. My question is this:

What the hell do these people do to actually make money?

I’m guessing that very few of these people actually make a living off of their writing, so how do they keep food on the table or access to the internet? I can’t imagine many jobs other than mine (summers off are great… I have yet to fully utilize this time for writing), that would allow someone to write and/or finish a novel. 

It’s very possible that I can’t understand what these people go through because I’m not really a writer. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and go for a run with the wife and dogs. I go to work. I get home around 3:30 or so. I spend time with my family (wife and dogs) until 8:30 pm and then go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. I have some endeavors that I engage in, like guitar or bonsai or exercise, but that’s about it. I rarely have time to think about writing anything but a little blog unless I’m on vacation.

What do people with normal jobs do in order to write a book? 

Posted in books, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What Will the Future Really Know About Us?

Posted by Jason on January 13, 2009

I read this post and it provoked a lot of thought in me. The author pondered what archeologists would conclude about her when they dug her house up hundreds of years in the future. What are we leaving behind? What will people thousands of years in the future think about us?

After briefly grazing upon the future and realizing that the only things that will be left from my existence are books, guitars and bonsai trees (most of all these things will probably decompose over time, leaving nothing of note from my life), my attention brought me to different pastures of the past. 

How much do we truly know about civilizations that are basically extinct? We have some writings and maybe pictures here and there. Some descriptions from conquering civilizations survive, but many of those are clouded by insurmountable greed or religious fervor. In most of the world before the printing press, writing was purely for the wealthy and privileged. In some settings writing was reserved for royalty only. What do we know about the poor slobs like us? Maybe their lives are completely irrelevant. Perhaps our lives, our average middle class lives will prove completely irrelevant over time. 

This blog is a very public record of my existence, but it could easily be wiped from the slate of history with a click of the mouse. In fact, it most likely will some day. There is very little permanent record of my existence. I think I need to go carve my name on a rock somewhere. Paper will decay, electronic media will be erased, all of our stuff will decompose (eventually).

Will I do anything that will be relevant to history? 

Most likely not…

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Saga of a Love Affair…

Posted by Jason on January 12, 2009

Sounds racy, doesn’t it? It really has nothing to do with anything juicy in my love-life. Marriage is great. This has to do with another, earlier love of my life: the guitar. I started playing classical guitar about 12 years ago, practicing like a madman throughout high school, playing in college ensembles while in high school, suffering through a university music major, studying flamenco music in Spain, playing weddings and dinners, etc. 

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve touch the guitar since about October. I had a wedding and a church dinner to play for in the same week (when it rains it pours, I guess). Last year I started playing more and wanting to get into jazz, since jazz is a pretty heady music and I like that mental challenge of it. Over the summer, I kind of lost interest and just the whole prospect of playing the guitar hasn’t really excited me for a long time.

I feel a little guilty that something that I invested so much time and money in has really taken a far back seat in my life, if it’s even in the car at all… I feel weird that I don’t really care too much anymore about something that has been a huge force in my life for so long. I have so many other things that pique my interest that playing guitar doesn’t really hold the same allure as pretty much anything else that I’m into right now.

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided that I’m not going to leave the guitar just yet. I don’t think I can… ever. It would also be a sin to let the skills I have deteriorate into something I “used to do” way back when. Today when I get home from work, I’m going to file my nails to a decent shape and get out some books and a guitar and start playing again. 

I’m not going to expect much, but I’m not going to let the guilt of what I should know how to play eat away at me, either. Throughout my late college and post-college days, I had always been angry at myself for not being a better guitar player. I’ve been angry that I didn’t have the singular drive that I did when I was in high school. I got distracted by life and never fulfilled my potential for true guitar greatness…

Bollocks to all that, I say. Nobody is telling me what I should know how to play or whatever. I know how to play the guitar plenty well. I have more skills and knowledge than most guitar players that make a bit of money at it. Now I’m going to play stuff that I want.  I’m going to bust out some of my flamenco books and really get back to the heart of what intrigued me so much from the beginning. I have good foundations in flamenco from my time in Spain. It’s high time I went back to that. I’m only going to learn classical music if I feel like it, and I won’t beat myself up over not completing a piece of music. Maybe I’ll even feel like performing again, or accompanying for a flamenco dance studio or whatever.

The sky is the limit, not the goal. I have to keep that in mind. I think the communal nature of playing in a group or accompanying someone will really help me enjoy music again. However, I’m super self-conscious about my performance that I don’t feel I’m nearly good enough to play with others, especially if they are good enough to challenge me in my playing. I get embarrassed and I’m scared to hell they’ll find out I’m really not that good. I’m sure it’s also a pride thing. Well, that’s way down the road, and I don’t have to collaborate if I don’t want to. So there. 

It’s guitar time, everyone!

Posted in music | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ah, the Joys of Net Plagiarism

Posted by Jason on January 12, 2009

So it has been brought to my attention that my content has been copied verbatim and posted on another blog. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t even that great of a post that was copied. My little rant about people bitching about Obama’s choice for the (soon to be forgotten) inaugural prayer was not among my finest posts. Nevertheless, some schmuck decided to cut-and-paste my post into his own blog on blogspot. No props, no acknowledgment, no linkback, no nothing.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve never been the “victim” of plagiarism before. It’s quite a different feeling. I’ve seen scores of examples of it on the internet, but it’s never been my stuff before. I mostly think to myself, “Wow this person is a loser. They can’t even write their own posts. They claim to have information, but it’s not new or different in any way from something else I just read.” And then I move on in my never-ending search for more information about this topic or that.

I did some research, and apparently the practice of “scraping” is quite common and there’s really nothing that can be done to prevent it. If you can read it you can steal it. However, once you’ve been scraped you can try to contact the webmasters and have them remove the content. Or you can try and contact the individual scraper (good luck with that). If the person is making money with Google Adsense, you can tell Google and they’ll stop paying the person. And then there’s legal action, which is never a certain win because the laws are kind of mucky and it’s a waste of money.

Anyway, I haven’t resolved what I’m going to do yet. I’ll probably try and contact the person once I get home from work. I don’t think I should be flattered, since the post was kind of dumb anyway. It’s not like my favorite work was copied and pawned off as someone else’s own work. Maybe I should find some crazy hacker to terrorize his site and harass him. Whatever… Any thoughts?

Posted in writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »