Monday, October 27, 2014

Motivation Monday: Halloween Edition



Maybe it's the time of the year.

Maybe it's because I haven't posted anything in over a week and I needed to stretch out and do something before I lose more followers.

Maybe it's because I re-opened my t-shirt shop with a couple of new designs, and one of them was a design that I've been preparing for a couple of months, but it wasn't completely finished until I found a technique that woke it up a little bit and I'm probably going to reapply this technique on future designs.

Like it? Buy it here.

Maybe it's because I could stop saying to myself, "It's only a matter of time before they reboot this" when I recently heard the news that they are finally remaking The Crow. My only hope is that they will be closer to the source material this time. Nothing against the movie, I had the movie adaptation on video. Watched it so much that the tape broke.

Maybe it's all these things that prompted me to make today's post, but since it the season for all things horrifying (Ebola hysteria notwithstanding), I thought this quote was particularly motivational.

"The Crow" was an independent comic produced in the late 80s. It's a dark series involving darker characters and even darker story line that was inspired by truly unfortunate and even darker, real events. I'll spare any spoilers for the one or two of you who haven't read it yet. I will say that the antagonist of the story isn't the most virtuous of souls. He is, however, one of the most tortured. Vengeance does that to a guy...especially for a guy that just came back from the dead to kill the people that killed him and his fiancé...





Anyway, today's motivation quote appears at the end of the book, as the hero returns to the afterlife reunited with his beloved. This quote has always stuck with me. First, in a paint-my-fingernails-black-and-listen-to-The-Cure-while-I-lock-myself-in-my-room kind of way. But later, especially in these days of striking out on my own, I've reinterpreted it as a way of saying, "it ain't over, till it's over".

Nothing is over until you say it is. Nothing. Not your life, your love, your wisdom, your empathy. Nothing. Yes they may come with bullets and crude weapons, they may come with a "cease and desist", they may come and liquidate your entire department while promising you that if another position opens up, you'll be the first in line and then 8 months later, advertise for that position in the want ads and "forget" to CALL YOU AND OFFER IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. ARE YA HAPPY, YA BASTARDS?!!!

....sorry....

While you still draw breath, you still have a chance. Poker players refer to this as "a chip and a chair"; so long as you have those two things, you still have a shot at the jackpot. It ain't over till it's over. Don't give up. You still have a shot and so long as you are still walking and talking, you have a chance. You're not dead yet.

It's only death if you accept it...

Font:
Picture:
  • unknown

Thursday, October 9, 2014

WIWW: Top 5 Songs That I Just Happen to be Listening to Tonight.



Yep, it's another one of those nights where YouTube is my best friend as I tune the FM dial in my head to sing along to something while I clean the kitchen.

Instead of jumping off into Freelance-Land today, I spent some of the day refining my linkedin account, my about.me page, scoping out Content Mills and generally getting acquainted with this world. I spent the rest of the day spinning around in another existential crisis: What's my niche? Do I have a niche? Is it important to have a niche? Should I spell it with the fancy é? OH LOOK! KITTEN VIDEOS!

Then, I took a nap.

If I'm going to do this, then I am going to have to get cozy with my old nemesis...

...Top 5 Lists...

My Top 5 for tonight are all the songs that have just plopped themselves down in front of me and begged for my attention. They have floated down my stream of consciousness and embedded themselves in my brain, I hope they do the same for you.

Enjoy...

#5 The Five Stairsteps: "O-o-h Child"

The first on the list is the first in my head as I stack dishes near the sink. Instead of succumbing to the dread of dishpan hands, I start singing the first few bars, and all of a sudden, my world turns a certain shade of Kodachrome. I grew up with this song. This song might have gone the way of just about every other song from the early 70s and just vanished. Luckily, the melody and message is timeless and has fortunately been rediscovered and covered every five years or so since its first release in 1970, most recently in the film, "Guardians of the Galaxy". This song is cherished to the point of being regarded as an American standard, and I have no problem with that. Yes child, things will get easier and you will walk around in the beautiful sun. You can't get much more positive than that, some days. Go ahead sing and rejoice. Sing and let the spirit move you. Sing along...you know you want to...ya turdblossoms! :)







#4 The Left Banke: "Just Walk Away, Reneé" (yay! I get to use fancy é!)

All it takes is one song from a particular time, and I just can't seem to walk away from it easily. If I think of one song, then another one invites itself in. Then another. Then another. And before I realize it, it's 3 in the morning and found myself still trying to stump YouTube, and then giving up and watching more cat videos. I fear it has bested me again (shakes fist in air). I was barely walking when most of these songs were released, and yet I remember them all. I blame Casey Kasem. A favorite and a staple of the Chamber Rock era, here is The Left Banke with the often covered, "Just Walk Away, Reneé". (yay! I get to use it again!)







#3 Colin Blunstone: "Caroline Goodbye"

Still riding that wave of childhood memories when I would sequester my mother's reel-to-reel player, slap on my pair of Realistic NOVA 40 Hi Fi Stereo Headphones (suck it, Beats by Dré....YAY! AGAIN!!!) and fall in love with a mix tape that my uncle made for her. It was all greatest hits by The Zombies. Side two was more Zombies with a few solo tracks from former lead singer, Colin Blunstone. My uncle is an audiophile. Maybe it was the way he manipulated the levels just right, maybe it was the headphones, but I searched high and low for an original recording; When I found it again years later, it was digitally remastered, and lost that lovely, cavernous, Phil Spector-type quality that went along with accommodating a full orchestra at the time. Thanks to the internet and a generation of people who just won't let vinyl die (thank you, by the way) I have found something close to what I was looking for. The acoustic solo stays with me. It's a scene from some French movie that I will never confess weeping to. It's the morning fog that rolls in off the ocean on an overcast autumn day. It's the memory of someone I can never let go...give a listen, you'll know what I mean.







#2 Bill Withers "Hope She'll be Happier"

Again, going back to my mother's reel-to-reel and pilfering her mix tapes, the other one that has stayed with me over the years is Bill Withers' "Hope She'll be Happier". Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he recorded this song more than once? I'm not sure. Again, maybe it was the strict recording practices my uncle enforces on everything he plays and listens to, maybe it was my headphones, maybe it was where my head was at at the time and looking back with an older set of ears... Maybe it wasn't the song the way it was, but it was the song the way I wanted to remember it, I have yet to find the one recording that is just right. The Goldilocks version, as it were. The only one that comes close (that still exists) is his recording from his concert at Carnegie Hall. Stark, haunting, deeply moving. Carnegie Hall is famous for its acoustics, which is why you can almost hear a pin drop from the audience when he hits that one, glorious, rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest note. One of my favorites...






#1 Chris and Thomas: "Incarnation Song"

I know, I know...quite the shock to go from an all 70s lineup to a song that was released a couple of years ago. It was around the time earlier this evening when I got the notion to compile this list when I turned on my Spotify player. I had forgotten I had added this recently. I fell in love with the harmonies and rich, cavernous recording quality. Not much to know about this American Folk duo who has spent a lot of time playing in British pubs, other than they're a favorite over at NPR, they score films, and they love to cook. First few notes hooked me right away and I must remember to buy this album soon. Tell me what you think of this....






Right. Well, off to bed now. I suppose I needed these tunes to ease my mind tonight while I focus on the task at hand. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity. Thank you for sticking around, and I hope you enjoyed.

What are the top 5 songs you're listening to right now?


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Motivation Monday: (Tuesday Edition) Paul Coelho



"So, you have how much experience in this field?" He made me wait in an uncomfortable meeting room for ten minutes. His assistant was in a rush for me to finish the five page, photocopied application. The application they had me fill out was something that I've never seen before. I was thoroughly convinced that it was set up specifically to deter...well...everyone. In the previous employer section, there was a part that I had to fill out entitled, "Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?" Like, differences of opinion, unable to meet unobtainable sales numbers, or getting laid off weren't good enough reasons? Is it really pertinent to this job I'm applying for? Should I remember the reasons you let me go in the future for the next company that doesn't want to hire me to begin with?  "How much experience do you have in this field?" He said, barely interested in what he was reading.

The week before, I applied for several jobs in one day. Got calls back on all of them. This job that called me back, I had no (literally no) experience in. I never expected a call back from them, but that all changed when the phone rang and I answered like some college kid hung over from the night before, "Who are you again?" Things, suffice to say, didn't go so well for the next 24 hours.

They called me into a job that I had no hope of ever getting hired in, the boss' assistant had to tell me to hurry up and fill out a five page application that was written by Beelzebub. Nothing in my life has prepared me for this moment in time. The boss of the company was playing with me; filling the air with, "Oh. You went to University...not a trade college?" and, "you know, it is difficult to find a job in this area." He said to the guy who's unemployment just ran out and who's been looking to no avail since January. "How much experience do you have in this field."

Although I didn't say it, my expression was doing all the talking. "Look pal, I don't know how I got in here, but you and I both know that this is just a waste of time. Can you just hurry up and get to 'no'?"

Waste of time.

What to do now?

Beat my head against a wall for another 8 months, or get up and move in another direction?

I'm studying Quickbooks. I don't need an MBA or have to be certified by some board, all I need is experience and the will to know how to use it. And, since everywhere in this town is a Mom-and-Pop Venture and they don't need CPA's with a Harvard degree, it would behoove me to bone up on this skill and become a gun-for-hire.

In the meantime, I have bills. And they're piling up.

I've been saying it for months. I've been dancing around the subject but never really pulling the trigger. I've been motivating myself every week, and I still have yet to take that initial step forward.


By the end of this week, I hope that I have some Freelancing gigs. Which is kind of a big deal, because I've never done this before. But considering the circumstances, I have very little choice.

I've been putting on my Bravado hat for months now. I've been saying that I will do this. I will do this. I will do this.

...so why haven't I? (Excuse me while I talk to myself for a minute...)
Marilyn Allysum

  • I don't have enough followers? No, that can't be the case. You have a fraction of the readership any other blog would have, but you're gaining interest every day, and you trust and love each of your followers. The numbers will grow. Just give it time.
  • I don't think I'll be able to reach the requirements? Well, considering you've just cranked out over 600 words in just under 30 minutes, I don't think that will be much of an issue. You used to thrive under pressure. You also had a mild stroke at 35. Regardless, it's in your nature to do this.
  • My research skills aren't that great? Dude...I don't wanna hear this. You were born in the Year of the Rooster, do you know what that means? That means you are a born detective. You were named after the Patron Saint who found things that couldn't be found. As soon as one of your so-called jobs asked you to do research on a certain subject, you dove right in without thinking twice. This is what you do. Stop denying yourself this. You aren't a numbers man. You're a words man.
  • I'd run out of things to blog about? Okay, now you're wasting my time...which is essentially YOUR time. I think you have run out of excuses...
So, why haven't you done this?

There is nothing to fear because nothing has happened yet. And nothing will happen until you move forward. If you want to fear something, fear not moving forward. Fear not taking a chance. Fear not believing in yourself.

Fear giving up.

...It's up to you...

Fonts:


Photo Credit:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Motivation Monday: The Dog Ate My Homework Edition



I'm up! I'mupI'mupI'mup...I'm awake...


Where is everyone...?

Where am I...?

Crap...missed it again...

Okay, the last thing I remember, it was Monday and I thought it would be a really cool idea to make a nice graphic in honor of National Coffee Day.

"National Coffee Day? What madness is this?" I ask to myself as I wake up and turn on my computer and listen to the news. It was the lead story on every news outlet. It was almost as if there was nothing else happening in the world. No war, just coffee, and the day attached to it. No political unrest in Hong Kong, no shake up at the Secret Service. Just...coffee. Coffee as far as the eye can see.

I started my day as usual, with a bowl of cereal and a pot of coffee. A few hours later, I decided to celebrate some more by making another pot, because this design wasn't going to make itself. I sat down at the computer with my fifth cup of the day.

And then all went black soon after...

I awoke several hours later. The general early 70s ambiance of my house was so rotten, so incredibly foul. What had happened? There was evidence in this room of excessive consumption of almost every type of drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD. What kind of addict would need all these coconut husks and crushed honeydew rinds? And why was my son duct taped to the ceiling? Too savage...too agressive...

Jesus...did I just say that?

I finally came down the next day with no project, no idea where to start, and a huge goddamned electric bill...

Sorry, just riffing.

My days are all mixed up and I'm not sure if I can stick to a regular schedule. But we must prevail.

Moving on...

Fonts:


Image:

WIWW: Cloud-Busting (for the Tell Me A Story series)



Okay, before I get down to business, let me get down to business. The above picture belongs to Maurizio Fecchio and is available for purchase here. I claim no ownership of this image and have no plans to profit from posting it...period. Wherever possible, I give credit where credit is due. I will go out of my way to do so; I make it a habit. The only reason I'm reinforcing this is that I'm currently looking for a way (other than AdSense) to monetize my blog and I don't want to be mired in any red tape while I'm trying to pay rent. 

The above is the inspiration for another writing prompt provided by +MJ Bush in her "Tell Me A Story" series. Yes, it is a few weeks later, but I've been letting them accrue and saving them for my Wednesday story just in case I'm drawing a blank on Tuesday. Let's see what I can do with this one...


~***~


Three days ago, they sat face to face in a diner on the outskirts of Flagstaff discussing the terms of their arrangement. William would point John in the direction of the treasure. John would sell it to a very interested and extremely wealthy party from China, William would get paid handsomely for his Sherpa services. They would go their separate ways.

Two days ago, they got lost five times, ran out of gas twice, and proceeded to argue at length over who took the last piece of beef jerky. At around 2 in the afternoon, after the sun was highest in the sky, they pulled off to the side of the road, abandoned the car, and proceeded to walk the rest of the way through the desert. Young William headed north. William reassured John that if they head in the direction of those hills, they will find the treasure they seek. William said he knows because his grandfather told him the story of the Golden Mountain many times, just as his grandfather told him. John trusted William. William is a child of the Navajo Nation.

Yesterday, they had to double back because William wasn't entirely sure if his grandfather said north or south because the last time he actually paid attention to the story, he still had his baby teeth. John didn't trust William so much anymore. Food and water running out. Patience will soon follow.

Six hours ago, remnants of the Santa Ana winds blew in, bringing with it what ever fog was left that San Diego couldn't take. It was just enough to veil the setting sun. It was just enough to bring a chill to the air.

Five hours ago, John loosed a string of profanities that bounced off distant canyon walls because of all the things that he needed to pack, a sleeping bag would have been helpful. He would have, but it was too heavy and he couldn't get passed the thought of snakes or scorpions or worse finding their way inside an enclosed area next to him. Nope. We shouldn't be long anyway. His exact words coming back to haunt him as he put on an extra layer of clothes.

Thirty Minutes ago, William awoke well before sunrise, walked several yards away as to not awake a grumpy, slumbering John, and knelt towards the east. He pulled out a tiny rawhide rattle from his pocket, and softly chanted a song of his people.

"Hey,"

It was a song that was passed down to him. The only one he could remember, in any case.

"William..."

He never asked the meaning or bothered to learn the etymology of the verses, but it was a song that was performed in time of need. Such as seeking rain in times of great drought, the health of a loved one...

"William!"

...or directions when you've lost your way.

"What the hell, William?!"

Five minutes ago, John woke up.

"Give me a second, would ya?" asked William without looking over his shoulder. "I'm in the middle of something." He softly continued his chant as the first glimmer of sunrise tired its best to force its way through the fog.

John was never a brusque man, at least, not in nature. In a previous life, John lived a life of privilege. The only child of extremely rich parents, John could have had his future planned, bought and paid for. But, he never liked that life. He dropped out halfway through his second year of college knowing that there was another way to retire comfortably. Twenty years, four continents, several broken bones, and even more broken hearts later, he has never looked back.

William is indeed of Navajo heritage. At least, that's what he found out after doing a Google search on himself. His mother is Anglo, his father owns a consulting company, and to this day, he has yet to visit a Reservation fearing that the indigenous peoples might be repelled by the stink of the suburbs that follows him.

This morning's sky was yet another battle in a war that the fog and sun have been waging for a millennia. This morning, it felt that the fog was winning. John could no longer help himself, enough time has passed. "You know William, I've been thinking," said John. "When you answered my ad last week, I was convinced, almost completely convinced that you knew this area like the back of your hand."

"Oh, you think I don't?" asked William, already on the defensive.

"You got us lost several times and north and south confuse you for some reason."

William was steadfast. This was no longer a petty argument over beef jerky, this is the first volley on an assault on his character. William would always be ready for this, except that he's not in his room in front of his computer, and there's no wi-fi access out here. "Uhhh...," responded William, "it happens to everyone?"

"No," said John. "No, it doesn't. It only 'happens' to snot-nosed, film school rejects who go into the woods with cheap VHS cameras looking for witches. It does not happen to very real, flesh and blood, not-fake Native Americans such as yourself."

"Oh yeah," said William with a dry smile."I hated that movie too."

"Now, I can understand a little hiccup here and there along the way, maybe take a few minutes to get your bearings, but most of the day?"

"It's not my fault!" retorted William. "Look, if you wanted to get there quick, maybe you should've gotten a GPS or something. But no! You had to wear your 'white man's guilt' on your sleeve and use a Native to guide you to a treasure that may or may not be there."

"Aw for cryin'..." John cast his eyes to the foggy daybreak. "I told you, there is no treasure map with an 'X' on it. There is nothing concrete, no artifacts. All I have is legend and hearsay and some kid who claims that he knows where he's going, who claims to know about the legend, and yet doesn't know which way is up without consulting a smart phone, so spare me that 'white man's burden' crap."

"Oh, whatever, Quimosabe! If you want accuracy in a timely manner while trying to satisfy your Native American fetish, maybe you should have tried one of the old dudes. Maybe they would have pointed you in the right direction while telling you a story of how they bagged a dinosaur or something." William turned back around and continued chanting quietly.

John gathered himself. "William, what are you doing here?"

"Helping you, apparently."

"No, I mean what are you doing here? You are a bright kid. You could have had your pick of any school in America. Any job in the world. Why are you out here in the middle of nowhere on some wild goose chase?"

"I could ask you the same thing, John. You had everything set up for you...yes, I checked...you could have skated right along easy street. Why are you roughing it for no other reason than to satisfy some boyhood fantasy?"

"That's easy, William. Money. Plain and simple." John paused. The sun was climbing higher, but the fog was still thick. "I go where the money is, and sometimes that brings me to the ends of the Earth."

"Yeah," said William breaking his chant. "Sounds like another white guy trying to take what's ours."

"William, I know for a fact that that shirt you're wearing right now came from Ambercombie & Fitch. You showed up to the meeting with an empty Starbucks cup in your hand. You are not hurting for money in any way. If you're against another white guy taking another piece of your history, then why did you agree to this?"

William stopped, stood and faced John. "It's for my Naali, John. My grandpa. I'm heading to college on a full scholarship next year, and he's rotting away in some trailer park. He's never had much, but what he had was enough. He's the one that told me the stories of the treasure. He's also the only one who never let me forget my heritage. While the other kids were learning how to throw a baseball, he was teaching me The Mountain Chant. My father never cared. He was more concerned about succeeding in a White Man's world. My grandfather made me care where I came from so I can see where I'm going."

"So you're here because of him?"

"He worked his entire life, but he doesn't have anything to show for it. He had to sell his old pick up truck when the work dried up, and a little piece of him died after that. I figured, if I can get enough cash to get him another one, maybe he would feel whole again." John couldn't argue with that. It was an honorable endeavor, and there was no reason to rebut. William turned to face the east again.

"I take it that your grandpa taught you this chant?" asked John.

"Yes."

"What's it for?"

"Well, it's for cloud-busting, actually. We're lost and he taught me this in case I ever needed to find my way."

"Oh, well that's helpful." John thought about what he was going to say next and for a second, considered biting his tongue. John can't help himself sometimes, "Any idea what you're saying?"

"No clue. All I know is that it's supposed to bring clarity."

His chanting grew louder as he felt the first rays of sunshine warm his cheek. Warm on top of warm. Heavy moisture thins to light atmosphere. The fog lifts, and the sun paints its target a bright, sparkling gold; a majestic wall of stone carved by the slow hand of time. John's eyes widened. He has been to the far corners of the world and has seen nature at her finest from Mumbai to Anchorage. He has never seen this. "Well, I'll be damned," was all that could come out of John's mouth.

"I know," William replied in silent amazement. "I'm just as surprised as you are." The higher the sun would climb, the more beautiful the scene, and they both marveled at the splendor just a moment longer. "Well," said William. "we should probably get moving if we want to get a jump on the day."

"No," said John. "You stay right there." William froze hard as he saw John frantically rifle through his backpack. For a brief moment, William thought he should run because he heard John's voice drop two octaves. He thought he should run because he heard a distinct metallic click from his backpack. Run because he's seen this movie before; the innocent one leads the villain to the treasure, only to get shot for his trouble. Run because it's been a long night, and this guy's got a look in his eye that could drop a tiger. Run. Now.

He couldn't.

He froze. He felt that this is the end, and he closed his eyes in preparation for his destiny. "Hey," said John plainly. "You okay over here? You look like you're gonna faint." William opened his eyes. John held no weapon. Instead, this privileged white man held a very expensive digital camera around his neck and smaller dufflebag in his left hand. "I need you to help me with this," John said, giving him the bag. William unzipped the bag and inspected what was assuredly a collapsed tripod. John had no intention of killing anybody, or taking any treasure to speak of. "Quickly now. I need to switch lenses before I lose the light." After quickly getting a general idea, William extended an locked every leg and guesstimated the general height of where a camera would go. "Thanks a lot, William," said John with a smile. "You should teach me that cloud-busting chant. It came in quite handy."

"Yeah," said William through nervous laughter. "I'll have my grandpa get in touch with you."

"You're...how did you say...Naali is a good man," said John, adjusting his focus.

"So, is this it? You're not going any further?" asked William flustered.

"Hunh?" grunted John. "Oh, the treasure?" John had to laugh in spite of himself. "I'm sorry, William.There is no treasure. If there was, it would be long gone by now. Besides, I'm not Indiana Jones; I don't raid other peoples' history for my own livelihood." The camera's digital "shutter" flitters away. "Don't worry, I'm not taking advantage of you for sightseeing either. We have a business arrangement, you and I, and I take that very seriously." And with that, John continued to fill up two memory sticks worth of pictures of the purple mountains majesty. Not much else was said after that. They relocated their car, they drove back to where they started, money was exchanged, and they both parted ways.

~***~

It has been two weeks since this adventure. William has since settled in with finishing high school. Back to his regular life. As he pulled into his driveway, he barely acknowledged the truck parked on the side of the road. Thinking it was a friend of his fathers dropping by after work. "Hello," said William as he walked through the door. "I'm home!"

"Hey, William," replied his mother's voice from another room. "How was school?" 

"Good," Back to his regular life. "Hey mom, who's here?"

"No one dear, why do you ask?"

"Well, there's this truck out here. I thought someone was here."

"No, nobody here all day except me. Funny, I didn't hear that truck pull up." William gazed hard at the vehicle. Little things get taken for granted when you don't pay attention. For instance, William noticed the truck, but didn't notice the temporary plates, or the showroom glow of a factory paint job, or the tape marks on the passenger window indicating where a dealer sticker was. Little things get taken for granted, like the envelope wedged under the windshield wiper. He walked out to inspect further, and just as he expected, the envelope was addressed, "William". He opened the note inside and read,

Dear William,

I've been thinking a lot about what you said. About another White Guy coming along and taking your treasure. Well, I just wanted to let you know that in a way, you were right. I took something from you. The wonderful view of your golden mountains. It was a sight to behold and I'm afraid I won't be able to give it back. Please forgive me.

What I said about the treasure being a legend, well, I was mostly wrong. There is a treasure, and my Chinese buyer was quite impressed with it. The buyer works for a film production company, and they needed someplace they've never seen before to be worked into a movie. They were impressed not only with the pictures, but they were also enamored with the tale of how I befriended a young Navajo warrior and how his perseverance brought me to this place of wonder. So thankful they were for my services and for being completely swept up in the story that they decided to sweeten the deal, as it were. 

Tell your Naali 'thank you' from me. I hope he likes it. The keys are under the seat.

All the best,
John

William neatly folded the note and placed it back inside the envelope and ran back to the house. "Mom!" he called out. "Call Grampa! See if he's home!"



©2014 The Writers Bloc/Tony Payson