Focus

Sometimes, I feel like I could overachieve my goals, exceed my horizons, conquer the world, write the best stories, craft the best music, win the greatest triumphs, if only I had someone to do it for. If only I had one person to impress. Not the multitude of faces all around me all day, every day — one face. One person. One partner. One desire. One love. If there was one person I was trying to impress, I think that would be enough to push myself past the friction of stasis, past the “why bother”, to get the wheels rolling, to move the world. But there is no one, just everyone. I look around my apartment and see my projects half started. Sketches, notes, ideas, fragments. Everyone is not enough. The thought of a million eyes watching means my performance is personal. But to have two of the most important eyes watching makes it personable.

Solar Quarters

On sunny days there are actually two sunsets.

The first, at high noon, when the sun is vertical enough to be obscured by the eaves and cease shining its warm light of promise into the windows of my house. The mood shifts, the room turns blue, the mind bends to the knowledge that daylight is fleeting, and things must now be done, hope or no hope.

The second, of course, is when it is horizontal enough to be obscured by the landscape and cease shining its cold light of performance on my world. The irises widen, the creeping blue that follows whispers promises for when we light the fires of the fleeting night. Reach out and rest now, hope or no hope.

The Last of FM

I dunno, but I think I’m done with Last.fm. It was neat, I guess, but after five years, I’ve determined that it’s just not useful to my life.

Essentially, supported music players could be connected to your Last.fm profile and every song play is tracked (it’s called “scrobbling”). Ostensibly, it was a way to discover new artists or find music that you’d be interested in. And, on occasion, when you visited your profile, they might offer some free downloads of music that might interest you. All statistics, really. They then bolted on this social aspect to it so you could compare your tastes to those of your “friends” and make new “friends” out of strangers. I guess that’s useful if you live in a society where your identity is tied to what media you consumed (like the one I grew up in). But I don’t live in that society anymore.

I guess my musical enjoyment has waned in the past five years I’ve been using the service (since June 13, 2009). I mean, they’ve tracked 40452 of my song plays on all my linked media players (Winamp, Banshee, Rhythmbox, Amarok, etc.). So I’ve listened to a lot of music, but on every playback there’s this background paranoia that my activities are being logged and put on display to anybody who visits my profile. That paranoia existed in the noise floor of my life, always below the squelch level since I had this feeling that the service was a Good Thing. But my feeling now it that it’s not exactly all that great or useful, so the squelch level has been adjusted lower to be more sensitive, and that nagging in the gut is sharper than ever.

These statistics are serving Last.fm (and their parent corporation CBS Interactive) more than they’re serving me. I guess that’s what burns me a little. A look at my own data tells me a few things, but nothing I didn’t much already know. And it certainly doesn’t accurately predict who my favorite artists are – it just predicts whose songs I play the most (aye, there’s the rub – if an artist produces long albums with short songs, Last.fm thinks you are absolutely in love with that band, because look at all the songs you played!). So, according to Last.fm, my top artists are as follows:

Rank Artist Plays
1 Nine Inch Nails 865
2 Shpongle 846
3 Depeche Mode 829
4 Stellardrone 784
5 VNV Nation 629
6 Skinny Puppy 626
7 Gary Numan 573
8 mind.in.a.box 504
9 The Orb 497
10 The Future Sound of London 487
11 U2 476
12 The Cure 459
13 Rush 457
14 The Knife 445
15 Type O Negative 403

Sure, quite a few of these bands are my all-time favorites, I’ll grant that. But Stellardrone, for instance, was a recent addition only because I grabbed the artist’s discography and used it judiciously to mask background noise while trying so sleep for my graveyard shifts (a recent concern in the past year). The problem is that this data doesn’t reflect my entire history of listening to music since I got my first Walkman in high school – I love so much more than these top bands (where is Pink Floyd, Yes, or Sarah McLachlan, for instance?). This data reflects only my logged plays on connected devices since 2009. Any passing fascinations with such-and-such a band during that time artificially carries stronger weight than it naturally would have carried in the grand scheme of things. Statistics are funny like that.

I uninstalled the Last.fm scrobbler plugin from my laptop’s Winamp over 2 years ago – that was kinda the beginning of the end (really, it was just another piece of software stealing precious processor cycles from my low-powered laptop). I’ve also stopped linking any new software to my profile, just letting the old ones fade out due to upgrades and attrition so that only the Banshee software on my Linux desktop is reporting my song plays. But after recently becoming acquainted with the Plex Media Center, where I’ve been going through my collection at random as the mood fits, I noticed something was missing: the paranoia. Nobody’s watching! (*That I know of, but since Plex is a network-based service linked to a single-sign-on at the plex.tv site, even though the media is hosted at my own house, they could very well be tracking plays on the back end). The scrobbler is still installed on Banshee, and may stay installed for a long while, but I have disabled scrobbling.

So yeah, I’m kinda done. There is so much in my music collection that I adore, so much that I’ve loved in the past, so much that I want to listen to more of, but the thought that I’m being watched (voluntarily, mind you) kinda puts a wet towel on that fire. I want to enjoy my music again without looking over my shoulder. I volunteered all that data, and now I’m voluntarily opting out. The payout just hasn’t been worth it.

From the Flotilla, Under Full Steam

Way back in early October I was invited by some friendly associates at the cafe to participate in an anthology of horror-themed writings for publication before Halloween. I initially balked, but the more I got to thinking about it, the more these little tendrils took root, and I found myself grabbing a recorder and blurting out the initial plot of a story, slowly unfolding it from scene to characters to some end result. When I had that down, I had no choice but to commit, accept the offer, to submit a writing to the anthology.

Thus began over a week of naming characters, creating scenes, and hammering on a keyboard in my bedroom, undistracted by the world. Some 5300 words later, I had a fully-formed short story that passed through two rounds of draft and revision before I submitted it to the group a mere 3 hours before deadline. The leaders of this little assemblage of Epoch Coffee literary regulars were to take our stories, pair them with some artwork, and compile them into both an online and print publication. How cool!

So we all waited with bated breath on the announcement of publication. And we waited. And we continued to wait. And then Halloween came and went. And then Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s Day. Hints and rumors, but no publication. Due to an unfortunate series of personal events and production setbacks, the core designers of the group never finished the publication. You can say the follow-through fell through. So I made a decision.

As much as I would have loved to have my work paired with many other works of the same horror vein; as much as the whole would’ve been greater than the sum of its parts; as much as I would’ve dreamed of having outside readers stand up and say, “Damn, these people can write!”, I think I would rather publish my own story on its own than have it not published at all.

So I’ve created Fiction, a new page on this site, as the library of works that I choose to self-publish. It is here that I have made my first self-publication: this short story called “To Dust”. It follows the crew of the trading ship Paladine as they pick up a mayday transmission from the lost ship Janus orbiting the holy planet of Salim; they divert their mission to render aid and end up trading more than they bargained. It’s a hard sci-fi space horror and is packaged in both Epub (for your e-reader) and PDF form (for printing).

Any constructive feedback you have is more than welcome. Thank you.

Perihelion

I’m painfully aware that I haven’t particularly been a paragon of positivity these past few years. I’m pridelessly petitioning any pantheon or cosmic presence for power and perseverance in the pursuit of pleasance. As the panel of my peers, please have patience while I program my persona to permanently pause the pity party. Perhaps pretending everything is perfect is pretentious, but it is possibly the first pavestone I can put down on the path to peace. If we pass each other on the promenade, I pray that you place your palms out and pull me into the present. It’s a perilous push to the peak of my potential, but I can persist with the passion and pleasure provided by you, my patrons and paramours.