Parables.

• Tuesday, June 28, 2011 4 comments
My computer's casing cracked again. I'm not entirely sure why - yes, I move it around a lot, but it's not like I'm wacking it against things or dropping it on the floor. I think I have just begun to come to terms with the fact that I bought a budget-priced laptop, and the wear and tear is just the side-effect of that. It is the exact same kind of problem I paid Dell somewhere in the area of 200 dollars to fix before. This time I just took super glue, and press the cracks together, sealing the whole thing up on the outside. It looks like crap, like I actual took a butane lighter and melted the casing back together, but otherwise, it has worked perfectly.

It is in these moments I fear I may have forgotten myself.

I find myself wondering why I have strayed so far from these sorts of solutions to my problems, why I had gotten to a place where functional [when all I needed was function] wasn't good enough. It screams of trying to impress someone, and missing the point of what I should really be doing entirely.

I've been pretty busy this past week - most of it has been from paying work. My book reviews have gotten a little intense, longer books arriving at shorter intervals from each other - nothing to complain about, what I get is really just a roll of the dice, and when I get it is almost entirely up to me, when I turned my last review in. But occasionally when two land so close together it's easy to feel overwhelmed, like all I'm doing are reviews, and that's when a pretty sweet deal tends to feel a little more like a job. The company seems really pleased with the work I do though, and I like that, and I don't know this for sure but I've felt lately like I've been getting better assignments from them. I can't think of a single way they'd do that, but still.

It's one of those management tools I picked up from Terry back in the day - letting your people know they're doing good work can really make them feel better about said work they're doing, even if the tasks themselves haven't changed much.

Speaking of Terry, working on the press releases for our PRSA-WV Crystal Award win was what the bulk of last week went to. You can see a bit about our win here on the PRSA website [search "Vandalia," "Angela Beth Armstead," or "Terry Lively" on the page to see the exact info], and I'll link one of the press releases proper if either go up on the web. I got eight billable hours out of doing the releases, which is pretty accurate to the actual time spent working on them - I'm still in that place where there's always an hour or two I forget to account for, and I'm never comfortable guessing and charging the client for that, but I was much better at keeping track this time. I thought it turned out well, but I promised a final edit, which will probably come down the tube sometime this week.

I also got this on Twitter last week from my cousin Travis, concerning the copy I did for his website, TCustomz.com:

DM from TCustomz: "dude, i'm on the first page of Google for "soul beats" and "sampled beats" thanks to your writing"

This? This I really love. This is a DM notification I'd frame if possible. Twitter should look in to maybe selling prints of said tweets. If I got these for everything I worked on, I almost wouldn't need paid.

I also said goodbye to my kid brother this week. Aaron's... shipping out, sans the ship, headed to basic training as part of the US Army. My mom and step-dad threw a small get-together in his honor on Saturday, and even though I'm just as proud of him as anyone, I still have crazy-mixed feeling about my only sibling going off to join the armed forces in this particular climate. Anyone who doesn't give a shit about politics clearly has never had someone they loved in a position to be put in harms way, and I've just been kind 0f... I'll be honest, I'm not even half-way to untangling all my emotions as it concerns his enlisting. I was very lucky to have my friend Beck along with me, it helped take the edge off like you wouldn't believe, and though I've tried, I'll never really be able to thank her enough for that.

The crazy thing is, Aaron is one of the strongest guys I know, and as much as I'm sweating this for him, I imagine to him it's probably next to no big deal. He has this amazing ability to be calm in the face of things that most of us couldn't even dream of dealing with in such a composed and measured manner, and I honestly don't believe there's anything they can throw at him that will ever be able to throw him. But hey. He's my little brother.

I worry.

I'll be out from under these book reviews by the fourth [there's always more, but hopefully not in the same quick succession], and imagine I'll have notes on the press releases and will have made all the important changes by then, too. I'm hoping to have the time to work on some of my more creative projects after, either editing on "The Tagalong," or maybe starting the script for "Cherry Stone." Both have been on my mind a whole lot lately, and I'd like to have the time to put some work in on them. Plus, I have this nice stack of new books from friends for my Birthday that I'd love to start tearing into ["Bone," anyone? Also, Gillen and McKelvie's "Phonogram" - and a bunch of Tina Fey's essays].

I'm also hoping to have an update about "VHS Generation" from Ander. I know he was under the gun on deadlines for a bit, but last we talked he also seemed like he was making some headway on maybe some layouts, or something nifty I could show off here. The same is true for Justin - I heard from him around my birthday, and it looks like he's found a better way to schedule time for the comic [re: "Calamity Cash and the Town with No Name"] around or maybe during his working hours, so I wouldn't be surprised if I have something to show off for that in the next couple weeks too.

State of the Human Address XXVI

• Tuesday, June 21, 2011 2 comments
I should really be sleeping.

Hey, that sounds kind of familiar.

Seriously, though, it is ridiculous how much work I'm looking at this week, all of it paying, but not much of it all that creative. I have already complained too much about needing to do things that will ultimately put a little more green in my pocket, so I'm going to try and avoid that, and talk about matters at hand. Well, one matter.

My twenties appear to be circling the drain.

Yesterday was my birthday, the big 2-6. And though I don't feel all that differently, there's a big part of me that desperately wants to sit here and echo a lot of the thoughts that Amy Klein touched on in her post earlier this year entitled "A Woman of a Certain Age." Every few minutes I've had to spare lately, I've been pulling it up and just reading through it. The larger points in it are very gender-oriented, as they should be, as they sort of have to be [given current attitudes and events], and admittedly, your time is probably better spent reading it [as its points are much less selfish, and much more important] instead what I'm about to ramble on about. Because there is snag in it for me. And something in it that doesn't have as much to do with our society's fucked up ideas about age and gender, something that has to do with pursuing a certain kind of goal deep into your twenties, and, barring success, onward, and into your... thirties.

I am worried about being too old. I keep thinking about older people I know, individuals pursuing dreams as lofty or loftier than my own, and how as that age goes up, the more willing I am to scoff at their goals. How ridiculous that seems to me. As if instead of rejecting the idea that growing up is necessary, I decided that, if a certain amount of success was reached by a certain age, it was okay to carry on. It wasn't sad, or pathetic, I wasn't deluding myself. There was still time to dream big. Still room to find out if the way everyone does it was just one choice among many.

I don't know why I think getting older might sacrifice that. I don't know what it is that I expect to impede me as the years progress, other than similar thinking like mine from people who will judge me as uncreative, uninteresting, or unfuckable. I keep trying to stay optimistic, think of "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" and how there are "old hippies too." Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. It's hard to see those I know who are better than me struggle, and even fail. Difficult to watch peers find more success, and wonder if my time has past. Discouraging to hear someone as talented as Amy Klein, who in a very short time has become one of my favorite writers, doubt her own shelf life, when the world would be mad to ever let her be forgotten.

But there's hope. I don't know what it is, or what it looks like -- ironically, descriptions that might describe my own feelings on my personal aspirations. There is hope that those who flounder will find their footing, there is hope in any one of us succeeding, and there is hope that the doubts of the best among us are just that -- doubts, not predictions.

In some respects, today has been kind of brilliant. Remarkable, as I've taken to describing things, perhaps a little too often [I always find a favorite word, for at least a little while]. John and Sarah, two of my better friends, and two of the more skilled writers I know, have complimented my abilities, complimented my attention to my craft. They've also both gotten me books, incredibly encouraging gifts to a writer, or at least this writer, as I have used the works of so many others to sharpen and polish my own skills. I doubt, seriously, that were I to give up writing all together, the books would stop, and yet there is a still a part of me that, upon getting a new one, looks at it as a possibility to improve. To see something I haven't recognized, to get better at something I've done badly, or have never done before.

Outside of my storytelling work, there has been other praise. A website I worked on not too long ago recently got an award. Another project, the owner of the site, sent me good news regarding how well my copy had served his site. These accomplishments are to be shared another time, and another place. They just stand to make me feel a little better.

And there's more work on the way. More reviews to write. More freelance work on the horizon. A head full of comic book and creative ideas. Justin and Ander still toiling away at Calamity Cash and VHS Generation, respectively. A new idea I just need time to put together. Some old ideas that are begging to finally be finished. Not to mention a few more responsibilities here at home.

This is hard for me. I am not good at figuring out my own feelings, and it doesn't seem like something I'm getting any better at over time. But I think I have to admit, by how much I'm scrambling, how much I'm neglecting this blog, how behind I am on my daily reading, how many other, personal things I have failed to get done... that my grandmother's recent hospital visit shook me up more than I realized, enough that things aren't going to fall back into place quite like I expected them to. I'm not entirely sure what fixing that is going to entail.

What I do know is that I want to stop neglecting this space. I want to get back to posting two or three time a week, maybe even more. I want to get back to basics with the place, where I actually talk about writing, but when I'm not writing, I'm not afraid to come here and say as much. I think I've gotten self-conscious, the longer this space has been here. I don't think I can afford to do that anymore. And I have to trust that if someone's going to come here, to read "New Hooverville" or to read essays I'm working on for "Casey Jones's Blues" that they'll also be able to tolerate me opining about the minutiae, whether that entails getting or not getting the work done. Or, at the very least, they'll be able to overlook that stuff for what does interest them. I need to stop running this place like it's some half-assed resume. I shouldn't be worried that I don't have enough to write about, or that I've prattled on for too long on any one subject. I shouldn't be worried about the consequences, or looking a certain kind of way. There are places for those kinds of things. I don't think this is one of them. And I don't think that's the kind of professionalism I'm striving for here.

I'm 26 now. I do not know exactly what that means. If I'm honest with myself, I don't want it to mean anything, but I have a fair idea from the lump in my throat that is probably not the case. Because I'm a freaked that I'm closer to thirty than twenty now. And I think I'm choosing to regress a bit because of it - move back, to that time, that process that was working for me before, that made me feel like I had a little better handle on the world.

I don't want to lose any progress I've made. But I'd like to get back to that place where I wasn't constantly doubting myself for the progress I hadn't. And I've already got enough obstacles without making more. I can't find any reassurance in going forward with this, if I already think it's too late.

...then again, sometimes it's easier to play a game that you don't really think you can win...

No. That's a whole different thing. For some other story, or some other day.

I'm going to post a couple of updates on paying work [re: TCustomz.com, Vandalia Productions] before Saturday. Nothing earthshaking. All of it good news. But I need the next couple of days to play catch up, first.Couple of postcards to put up, once I find my scanner, too.

Happy Birthday to me.

Stacking Mad Paper with TCustomz.com

• Monday, June 13, 2011 0 comments
So, this was sort of buried in my previous post, and I just want to call attention to it again, because I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

TCustomz.com

TCustomz Productionz is committed to bringing premium beats, instrumentals, and drum kits to artists and producers looking for that perfect sound to complete their projects and support their flow. Producing both composed and sampled beats, TCustomz reflects the old school tradition, but with a new school twist, offering a cleaner, industry quality sound that remains true to the gritty, underground style. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, an up-and-coming producer looking for quality drum kits, or an established star trying to find something fresh and real, TCustomz Productionz has what you need.

Above is part of the mission statement - to read more, go check out TCustomz.com.

I cannot say enough about how proud I am with the finished product on this. This was a great job to work on, Travis made himself incredibly available and was just so passionate about what it is that he does, and was so willing to just sit and talk about it that I went into the actual writing process with a wealth of information to craft into the final copy. There were deadlines, but nearly all of them were self-set, and quality was valued above anything else. At this level, this is the sort of freelance gig you dream about. And not to pay myself on the back, but I think it shows in the work.

Again, I want to thank TCustomz for the opportunity to be involved in the next step of the growth of his business, and for being such a great client.

And not to shill, but I also want to say that if anyone reading this is involved in music in any way, in any genre, and is looking for someone to do website copy, or press releases, or anything like that, to take a look at my work on TCustomz.com and, if you like what you see, email me at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com. Though not a musician or a producer myself, I'm very passionate about music, and love any chance to write about it, and hopefully help those involved with it if I can.

Serve the Servant(s)

• Monday, June 6, 2011 0 comments
Few things to run through. Just not like, you know, on a sword.

First up, congratulations to my kid brother, Aaron, who graduated from high school this past week. As you can see in the picture, like most high school grads, he can't quite see what all the fuss is about - a feeling I remember well, the sort of "what did you expect was going to happen" vibe that makes it difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. While I certainly felt like high school was going to go on forever, and even hypothesized once to a very stoned friend that maybe it would, that somewhere along the way we had died, and went to hell, and that this was our eternal damnation, two kids forced to live the same day over and over again, backs to the same wall, going through the same routine, over and over again, with no deviation. All as some punishment from some past deviation.


I think what I neglected back then, what the grads are probably suppose to neglect, is that this was not so much a day for the grad. Commencement is for the families, the relatives. A show you act in, but would really not be too keen on watching.

I enjoyed the ceremony, found a lot of hilarity in how high strung my mother was, and gave Aaron a nice gift to commemorate the day. I tracked down an old Raketa watch from the 1970s, the sort issued in the Soviet Military along with the more
ostentatious and common [so I'm told] Vostok watches. He's always been a bit of a war buff, and I wanted to get him a watch because my Dad got me one when I graduated, and that seemed to fit. Plus, a proper tank of wind-up that only the USSR can make? Can't beat that.

And it's hard not to find the tiny "CCCP" pretty nifty too.

We got my grandmother home on Thursday, and most of my time since then has been getting her settled in, making sure she doesn't overdo it before getting back to 100%. She's always been intensely independent, and I personally believe that you don't live and go through the things she has, and then have to get ordered around by some 20-something, no matter how good his intentions are. So it's mostly about keeping up with things, getting them done so she just doesn't have to worry about them. We're slipping back into a regular routine here, but it might be another week before I get back to serious work on any sort of writing project.

It's good to have her home. I appreciate all the support, all the nice things said or done by folks while I was dealing with all this. Thank you.

This whole thing is the major reason while my normal, daily linking of things on my Twitter page has stopped. I apologize to anyone who thinks I might be snubbing them by not throwing them some coverage, believe me, I want to, I've just been really busy and really distracted, and that's put a crimp in things. Most everything I link tends to show up in the right sidebar there under "Blog Roll," so I'd recommend checking there daily. Even if I haven't blogged [and that might continue to be sparse too], please come back and see what all my friends have been up to.

Also, something to check out:

Some, though not all, of my copy for TCustomz.com has went live. Travis is exceptionally pleased with what we have so far, and we're really only one sit-down and probably a little bit of editing from yours truly away from being completely finished. It was a new experience for me, as I'd put website copy together before, but never for a company like this, and there is very little out there to use as examples or build upon. I'm pleased though, and again, feeling a little better about trusting myself.

Speaking of web copy, the company I was working for on the Angela Beth Armstead, DDS website - Terry Lively's Vandalia Productions - has won an award from the West Virginia branch of The Public Relations Society of America. I don't know much in the way of details yet, but apparently there's going to be a dinner/reception on the 15th that I'll be attending. We're all going as group, company solidarity, I'll probably write more about it when I have more information. It seems like a pretty big deal, though.

As personal work goes, I want to thank John, Ian, Max, and Dave for all the kind words and retweets on "Dante Hicks is Dead." That meant a lot, and along with the "likes" on Facebook, I'm thinking these essays are something I might like to pursue. I jumped the gun a little with this one - I don't feel nearly ready to churn these out on anything resembling a regular basis - but that they elicited any response at all made me think I wasn't crazy to put some time towards this first one, and that it was all positive seems like an even greater endorsement. I am sitting on about ten other rough topics for these essays- originally, I was considering something only 80s and 90s-based, but I've since had a couple of ideas concerning things like Scott Pilgrim and Bryan Danielson, so this might just become something of a catch-all "my life through pop culture" kind of memoir thing.

So there will be more, under the tag of "Casey Jones's Blues." I expect it could be a little bit before a second installment, just because, again, I put "Dante Hicks is Dead" up before I really had an overall theme in mind or anything like that. I've also got to finish "The Tagalong" and some stuff that I have been working on/putting off since before I decided to throw this first essay in a series out into the world. But I feel pretty confidant that I'm going to keep at it, and hopefully soon, if only because I've been reading so much Joan Didion, and Bucky Sinister.

If you know their work, you'll see where I'm coming from.

Brief letter from Ander recently, telling me to expect an email sometime this week. Possibly "VHS Generation"-related artwork? Fingers crossed.

Speaking of comics, my friend Sarah told me today that "Girls with Slingshots," a web comic I enjoy immensely but desperately need to catch up on, is authored by a West Virginia native, someone still actually living here in Sheperdstown. I had not known this about Danielle Corsetto, and am a little bummed that she hasn't gotten more local coverage [or perhaps I had just missed it], but I found myself almost too excited about it, a little gleam of hope that I haven't had since finding out Norm Scott [that'd be of "Hsu and Chan" fame] was also from around here. Of course, I don't draw, which is really a problem since it's so difficult finding people up for any sort of long-term collaboration, but still.

Also local, not comic-related, but still cool, the oft-linked, always quality Glen "Mario's Closet" Brogan has begun working on a mural in the city of Charleston. You can see his announcement of the project here, and some posts about his progress here and here. Big congratulations to Glen on this - we're all proud of him.

Looks, it's no secret that I hate it in this state. You can point a lot of fingers as to whose fault that is or isn't, whether I'm difficult, or if there's just nothing here. I find people will make their own decisions, there. The long and short of it is that Randall Nichols and West Virginia have not worked out for each other in many creative ways - but those who it has, those who I would like to call peers [as the gaps between their successes and my failures grow, I feel worse for doing that], their accomplishments are substantial, and I like celebrating them, want to celebrate them. And stuff like this gives me hope that myself and WV may one day work for each other enough so that the two of us can go our separate ways, hopefully in peace.

Hoping to grab just a little bit of sleep. Feeling a little more tired than usual.