My resolution for 2013 was to make myself more interesting. Vague, I know. But I did endeavor with something concrete: I wanted to make myself more interesting by learning how to juggle. Seriously, yes. I’d been wanting to learn for years, but never got over that whole dropping-things fear.

Well, this year, I actually executed on it: purchased the Klutz juggling manual and beanbag juggling ball set, went through the tutorial, step by step. For about two weeks, I was half-assedly at it, throwing these three little beanbags around my apartment, having them hit the couch, the bed, the walls, the floor, thud-thud-thud. Turns out I have the physical grace and skill of a three-year-old, and after enough times dropping those damned bags on the floor, I began to worry about my status with the downstairs neighbor and I stopped. I just can’t handle more than two beanbags without losing my concentration.

Those three bags are still sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I see them every day taunting me, but I just don’t have it in me to get over myself and not care about pissing off the neighbors.

But isn’t that the purpose of being interesting?

Termination Shock

So, apparently it is a season of finishing things in Shawn Land. It’s not totally a good thing, though; it’s more like a mixed blessing. But it’s necessary.

First off, I finished an audio project for a friend of mine who asked me to create sound for his short film. The film is 5 minutes long, but is completely silent until the first line of dialogue halfway through. His experiences with test audiences and festival screenings taught him that audience members were being pulled out of the film, cocking their heads to the speakers and wondering if the projectionist is not doing his job. The request was for me to create a “tone poem”, or a series of sonic motifs that build in crescendo and tension and tell a story, but without interpreting what’s on screen. I’m pleased with how quickly and how well the entire thing worked out; I have a happy customer and got paid for doing something I like. I can’t wait to see the final print.

Speaking of media, I finished the entire 4-season run of “Farscape”. I got into it during the 2nd season, but dropped out after a while because of Other Things. This time, I managed to stream and watch the entirety of it in about 2 months, which is no easy task, especially somewhere around the middle of season 3 where it goes into the weeds. I’m happy that the story worked itself out and everybody got what was coming, but that ending came out of left field and left me shrieking “What?! NO!” I certainly hope “The Peacekeeper Wars” answers what just happened.

I’ve been reading Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” for the past few months (more like “carrying it in my backpack for the past few months”). In a tiny way, after finishing it I understand “beat” culture a little more and how much it influenced and inspired the generations that followed. The Beatniks were a cultural phenomenon in the 40’s and 50’s, and these guys, the original beats, were the match that set off the fire. What we on this side of history think of when we hear “beatnik” is a vastly sanitized, culturally homogenized version of the actual thing: not a smoky bar full of black turtleneck and beret-wearing jazzhounds quoting poetry with bongos, but a ragtag group of people uneasy with staying put, uncomfortable at the thought of living with unspent wealth when there’s a wealth of experience it can buy, who seek no other goal in life but to push to the horizon and really dig that crazy vibe, to make with the real gone people. To get that tea and jazz. Thumb and drag. Wheel and track. Slum and tent. Beat, as in “beatified”, as in suffering for their sainthood. Chewing into the marrow of existence because true nature demands it. After reading this, I can point to a few of my old friends in school who may have read this in their youth and had it inform their lifestyle just a little bit. I love them for it; they are the personification of beat, and I’m glad they showed that side.

Now that “summer” is over, my downstairs neighbor is running his air conditioner a lot less, so I felt it safe to finally rearrange my apartment so that my bed is back in the bedroom and the couch is back in the living room. My home feels less weird now. “Why was the bed in the living room?” you ask. The air conditioner compressors for both apartments are sitting on the flat roof above my bedroom. The first 2 summers were somewhat fine with the hum from above, but downstairs’ compressor is having age problems and its thrumming is unbearable, which is why i moved my bed. The funniest part, now, is that even though tonight it’s 40F outside, the neighbor is still running his A/C like he’s a bear from Minnesota or something. Egregious. I’d love to see his power bill.

And, finally, the bad, bad news. I’ve been contracting with AMD since May, and today I was informed that AMD is canceling my Volt contract early. They want me, and three of my coworkers under my current manager, to be gone and off the payroll before they close the 2013Q4 books on the 28th of this month. So I have, essentially, 1 1/2 weeks left before I’m out the door. I had expected as much, considering what I’ve seen in other teams and departments. It’s not a personal thing; it’s completely impersonal. Not my performance, but the company’s performance. I should be OK with this, but it’s a tied-hand “what can I do?” situation. I’m not OK with this. I’m a contractor, so I’m a capital expense; the company has no legal allegiance to do right by me, and if the beancounters decide I’m expendable and easy to jettison when the books are heavy, then what can I do, really, but to just walk out and try to find something else? Just for once, I’d like to be let go for my own performance; that way I know it’s personal, that they’re actually paying more attention to me than their own quarterly reports.

Let us all praise the holy Quarterly Report. Without its guiding light, we might think long-term strategies were a good thing. And who has that kind of patience?

I certainly hope I can find something else, and soon. I have an addiction to money; my existential angst is tied up with it. I could live the beat life, but as it’s been described in the texts I’ve read, it’s not a great way to live. Especially when you’re my age.

So, things get finished. That’s a good thing, for once. I need to finish more things. The problem, then, is what to start next. But what a wonderful problem to have.


If you are nothing,
Then you can be anything.
But if you are something,
Then you can be nothing else.

This — my guiding philosophy — is the principal reason why I don’t have tattoos. It also explains why I don’t express too many opinions, choose a girlfriend, plow forward on a career, make a stand, own property, define myself. If I abstain from committing to being something, then my possibilities are boundless. I could be anything I want to be.

The flipside of this is that I have spent the duration of my adult life being nothing. In my 20’s, I got drunk on the idea of a bright future, of something great just around the corner. I know it’s a lie now, but then? I’d get off work on Friday and just get excited about what the weekend might have had in store for me. Truth is, those weekends had nothing — but think of the possibilities!

I sometimes come to this crossroad, and at some point, I will have to walk in one of those cardinal directions. Standing on the corner is itself pregnant with possibility, but failure to decide a path is a lifelong stillbirth, the end of which is a long, long list of could-have-beens. I live with the fear of being one of those sad bastards who did nothing with his life, but fear is a bad motivation. I can only hope I’ll find my one true passion (and soon!) and then let it inform my life and all of its decisions.


The muted hush of melancholy settles upon me as I face — with my back to a week off full of squandered potential — the work week ahead. Back into it. From obligation, to obligation, back into obligation. That’s what I have come to. Obligations. Obliged to do this-and-that, not enticed with reward, but enlisted by duty, automatically walking through and doing, because that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Obligations.

Hoped to have an easy week off; nothing of it was easy but my resignation to my fate. Spent a lot of money to get my car fixed: suspension and tires. That really, really hurt me. Obligation. Drove home in the middle of the week off to visit family for the holiday. Obligation. Family time was good, but hard schedule, hard driving, hard couch. Obligation. Final days spent getting my head back together, dreading work tomorrow. Obligation.

Desire would be good. Motivation. Connection. Calling out. These are other purposes of life. I miss them. Instead, it’s the dry feeling of corn meal in my mouth, the bleary eyed, gray face of obligation. The red flash of the alarm comes in the morning. Will be a week of hell catching up at work, I just know it.