Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Story: Johnny Letdown

There once was a boy named Johnny. He was an artist of every caliber. He painted, he danced, he sang, played the trumpet, he acted in plays, and he made sculpture. And Johnny was mediocre at all of these because he never could focus his passion. But he spread it to all of the people he knew. He tried to make them happy. He lived for happiness.

Johnny at the church.

Johnny was making a play. He wrote his play and found a nice old man who owned a coffee shop.

"May I do my play here?" Johnny asked.

"What will you give me?" The old man replied. He smelled of coffee and whiskey.

"I will give you happiness." Johnny said.

So the old man let him do his play at the coffeeshop for he said: "Money makes me happy. You can do a play here. But you must make everyone who comes to watch the play buy a coffee."

"Okay." Johnny started making the invitations. He sent them out. He even included a note about seeing the play for the price of only a coffee. He invited all of his friends to the mediocre play that he was doing. They all told him how they were so excited and happy for him. They just couldn't wait to see it, they exclaimed.

"We're soooo happy for you. You're finally doing something with your life!"

The night of the play came and went. No one was in the audience. Johnny was torn up. He wrote this play and it was about to change the world and nobody cared, he thought. Johnny couldn't even say the first line to an empty house. All he could do was cry. The old man came out and started yelling: "You didn't give me happiness. You gave me bills to pay. I didn't sell any coffee and now I am using electricity for these stage lights. Get out of my establishment, sonny!"

Johnny started walking the streets. He was so sad. He was let down. His whole work, this his artist's life was never appreciated. His passion deflated like a blown up balloon that popped in his face. He wanted nothing more to do with art. He was Johnny Letdown.

He went to church. Inside he prayed to God.

"God," he asked. "What did I do to deserve this? Why do none of my friends care about me?"

Suddenly a voice rang back.

"Your friends care about you. But they are too selfish to read anything that anybody else has written, they are too busy to smell the flowers, they are too irresponsible and in between their marriages and babies, they will never ever enjoy life. Maybe they will enjoy it, but not with you. You must move on. Get over it. Go into business." The voice echoed in the hollow chamber walls illuminated only by candlelight.

"Who are you?" Johnny shot to the empty room.

"God, Johnny. And I didn't see your play either. Theater stinks."

Johnny went back to the streets. He found a man near an overturned garbage can. He was playing a harmonica. Johnny stopped to listen. He found a quarter and put it in the man's hat.

"Got any talents?" The man asked him suddenly.

"I guess not."

"It's not really if anybody thinks you're good," the man replied. "It's just if you think you are good. Are you happy?"

"I don't know."

"What are your talents? What do you like?"

"I like art, but I don't think I'm any good."


"I made a play and no one came to see it even though they said they would."

"Nobody ever comes to see me," the man replied. "I don't mind. I'd rather have no friends, than friends who lie."

"Me too," Johnny said.

"Why don't we be friends?"

"Okay." Johnny shot back. "You must show me how to play that thing."

"Only if you show me how to make a play."

So Johnny and the man did artistic things. And the work they created was life shattering, earth moving stories and music and art and life. And nobody ever saw it. Because nobody cared. But they were happy, homeless, and cold. And Johnny Letdown grew happily and artistically old. But no one knew because no one listens to stories anymore.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Ailment and an Excuse: Crazy Mania!

Mental Illness in all its forms is a relatively new discovery within the last century. Before the APA and other such organizations, Mental Illness was the way to describe a "crazy" person who had no other way to describe their behavior and their mental capacity. What started out as locking people up for insanity transitioned into more pleasing, medical ways to deal with the troubles of the now defined psychological disorders. But even with list of psychological ailments, plethoras of different drugs for different cranial problems, and a therapy center on every street corner, we as the American people have catalogued a lot about what we really don't know about our own minds. I think we are playing with fire. I do not refute that people do have mental illness, but now I believe it has become a fad to be mentally ill. I mean this by way of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and psychizophrenia to name a few. Everyone I know takes some sort of pill and just about everyone has been to a therapist or a psychologist. But this just in. . .which we have known about even before all those diseases. . .LIFE IS HARD. I know it's a big shocker, but just because you have an abnormal thought doesn't mean you are crazy, just because you feel sad once in awhile doesn't mean you have depression. Depression is a chemical imbalance AND a mindset. I firmly believe that Depression and other such disorders exist, but I also think they become excuses for people not to fully live out their lives. The invention (and indeed it was that because someone put the label on at some point) of Depression is a loophole for really lazy people to get out of working. Feigning "crazy" with psychizophrenia is a reason to claim unemployment from the government. It's a reason to live in fear everyday and it's a reason to give yourself to stay in bed. It's a way to claim life when really you feel dead. Maybe you are depressed, but how do we pump you back up full of gumption? How do we weed out these imposters? We study the brain and its processes more. Eventually heat imbalances and brain waves will scientifically prove the depression of a person or maybe not, but in the mean time before you pop one of those happy pills prescribed because you filled out a questionaire about your happiness levels, maybe you'll want to try exercise, eating right, not doing other recreational forms of drugs, and setting some goals for yourself. Happiness means some form of movement in ones own life. Say no to crazy mania and being lazy. . .I fight it everyday. . .I don't always win, but I think you need more than just the thought you have depression. Don't find excuses. . .find answers. OR maybe I'm crazy.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Check your stub! Payroll Errors Abound!

I have not trusted my employer since I started working there. Neither should you. The employer -whether it be a private owner or a corporation- is out to make money. As a responsible person, you should keep track of your hours worked, your salaries, and all of the withholdings in your check. Humans work on these things and errors do abound. Today I discovered that I am perhaps being screwed on my paycheck and that my employer is taking away half of my wages. Don't let it happen to you!

Here are some helpful links:
Paycheck Article
Free Paycheck Calculator!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Culture of Bitterness

I am a firm believer if you draw smiley faces on everything, it makes everyone in the surrounding environment more happy. If not for the actual niceness of the gesture for the absurd factor. Please don't puke. It's true.

Are you bitter? If the answer to that is yes, what made you that way? Do you say harsh and cruel things that hurt other peoples feelings? -that slander other people's reputations?Subconsciously or Consciously? Think deep about it. I have met so many people in this world that are bitter to the core. I make a daily and concerted effort to ward off the bitterness disease. I know people talk about people. Gossip is natural and I don't condemn it, but when that gossip or talk directly affects someones personal life whether it be their job or their survival in a social setting, ask yourself why do you do it? What do you lack in your own life? Do you hate the person you are trash talking? If so, why? What makes you not like them? Is their lifestyle different than yours? I think just as love, hate is natural. We are not meant to like everyone, but in this day and age, why do you let yourself be absorbed by so much hatred, when there is so much to love. Where has all your motive for living gone? Is bitterness just as natural as old age?

Most of these are rhetorical questions, but the anger I have seen come out of some people in my life is quite frightening. They could be so much happier, if they just made an effort. But trying is too hard for some people. Maybe it's a brain thing. Maybe some people are born with it. Well when they find pleasure in hurting others, I hope something else makes them happier and eventually they will turn to it OR realize how impossible they are to others. I have been bitter before, I am not perfect, I think a little bit of bitterness is natural, but sometimes we have to find other things to find the harder emotions to obtain -like happiness. Search. Plan. Goal set. Match. Please.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Riding your bike pays off!

I have started riding my bike to work in these first months of summer. I realized a few simple things about this when I started. One you are more aware of the world in general when you ride your bike. You are experiencing the world first hand: the wind, the ground, the rain, the dust, the dirt. I don't mean to sound poetic, but riding your bike is a poetic experience. Second you are more aware of yourself. Your body reacts to certain conditions: your wet skin in the rain, your taught muscles as your legs work the pedals, and the sound of your breathing. This is what life is all about, I think -building endurance and working toward something simpler, perhaps more healthy while enjoying the planet. Lastly the bike is a simple machine that makes us conscious and responsible for our world and it does little damage to everything else. Think about all the money I save on gas, all the exhaust I do not leave behind polluting the atmosphere, and the workout I get in the process. It's not always easy riding your bike given the weather conditions or how we feel. Our bodies and minds are prone to get lazy, but we must keep pedaling towards something. Here is a story that might make you want to purchase a bike, if not for the health reasons, maybe for the greedy.

Pedaling Pays Off

After a long day at work, I began my trek from St. Paul into Minneapolis as the sun was setting. I ride my bike home on Franklin Ave. this long mountainous street that descends into Minneapolis' Seward neighborhood. This particular ride always makes me nervous given the three facts that I have not purchased a light for my bike, the neighborhood is a bit full of homeless people, and the mountain requires little pedaling and as I descend my road bike becomes a bit wobbly with speed and I fear I may go so fast that my body will fly over the handlebars. But the wind in my hair with light pressure on the brakes and all the neat things I get to look at makes up for it. One thing caught my eye. As I began my descent, passing a red car on the street, I noticed something that looked like a twenty dollar bill rolled up. I noticed it because I was watching for cracks in the road which could throw me from my bike. I pulled a U turn, straining the ascent back up the road and I pulled up. Indeed, a rolled up twenty dollar bill on the ground. Without a second thought about the owner of the money, I scooped it up and descended the mountain. I could try to find the owner, I rationalized, but ANYBODY is going to say they lost it -especially the owner of the red car. I decided in good conscience: Finders Keepers, Losers weepers. And I descended the mountain without a second glance or a look at the money clenched in my fist.

I arrived home and put my bike away and went into my room. I unrolled the money and discovered, no, not one, not two, not three, BUT four twenties rolled up. I just made eighty dollars for riding my bike. Nobody in a car would find a treasure that sweet unless a bird shit money into their open window or they were in an accident and got to sue the bastard that hit them. And when is that going to happen? Not likely and Not in good conscience.

It just goes to show that bike riding is affordable, healthy, economic, and makes one much luckier than those in automobiles. I say, if you can ride a bike and want to make a change for yourself, START NOW. Trust me, you'll feel better in the long run.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Uncovering the Strange #2: The Lion and the Banana T-shirt

Hi. I'm on a quest to find a certain T-shirt that was sold by Urban Outfitters either last season or the season before that. I have called the companies 1-800 number and I've been all over the website searching for banana and lion and tee etc. It is a grey shirt with a giant male lion's head on it AND in front of the open lion's mouth a slightly unpeeled banana. It appears that the lion is getting ready to chomp on the banana. I have no idea why I like this t-shirt so much. Maybe it is part of my quest to obtain subconsciously some sort of elite masculinity. I hope not, but I do like the shirt. I didn't buy it originally because it was very expensive and wanted to wait until it went down in price, but now it appears to have disappeared. I will call customer service later today in order to attempt to find it. But if anybody has any leads on where I can get this shirt, please bring it to my attention.

This picture has nothing to do with this post. I just think it's cute. Love, Me.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fiction Writing: A Dangerous business

Anger. Angst. Bitterness. They built up and they create rage. Some people like a champagne cork must go off. They must release the built up pressure and pop. This April at Virginia Tech, one Seung-Hui Cho did just that. He killed 32 people in one of the largest classroom shootings to date. Afterwards there was the panic of the public. How could this have happened? Why didn't we see this coming? Why would one person do such a thing?
Seung-Hui Cho: Portrait of a Confused, Angry Young Man

Of course there is no easy answer. So many factors -both genetically and environmentally- could have set this young troubled youth off. A lot of people are looking to his writing now in an effort to make sense of Cho's rampage. His two plays "Richard McBeef" and "Mr. Brownstone" which I have just read about, but not actually read seem to be interesting creations. A friend of mine whom I work with stated: 'I read his plays on the internet the other day and they were just horrible.' I also read Stephen King's commentary about the plays on the wikipedia link above. Cho may not have had the best grammar or spelling skills, or have been very educated, but his plays are about situations where the characters are not himself. Whether his plays are realistic or not does not matter to me, but what does seem impressive is that Cho is writing attempting to write about other people. His imagination also stems into violence, but who has not had violent thoughts? My point on the matter is Cho is a true playwright in the sense that he had the sensitivity to try and understand people when nobody would understand him. What Cho did to those 32 people was horrible, but what happened in the mind of Cho to make him agonize and kill that morning, is just as horrible. Every story has two sides, every victim has a villian, and every villain can be made a victim. It is all a matter of perspective and the spin on the story. Cho maybe was a talentless hack, but you cannot judge the moral character of a person by what they write, or can you?

If I write the sentence, "Tomorrow I will kill 40 people." Who would believe me? Who would think I would do it? Who would take my sentence as fact and throw me in jail. Who knew it was the opening line to my first person narrated novel? You can guess and guess and theorize what a person is feeling by their writing and you can be correct, but you also cannot slander a person's character because they have the free will to create freely from their imaginations. I just read an article in the Star Tribune about a person who was rejected from the Marine Corps for writing about nymphomania in the first person in an assignment for a creative fiction class. I believe the person was being fined and may have had to serve jail time. Only his trial will tell the outcome. Tragedies will happen to human beings, it is best to be wary and sensitive at all times to people and their feelings. The following section from Shakespeare sums up my feelings about a "crazy brain":

The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear! (ACT 5, Scene 1: A Midsummer Night's Dream)

So before we go ahead and draw and quarter all of Cho's writing, maybe we should analog it somewhere in the history of humankind as part of a tragic canon. The truth is intelligence is in the eye of the beholder, and talent is immeasurable, but human suffering is easily readable on the page in light of characters, but before you lock up the writer for being crazy, maybe you should explore censuring your own fantasies and imaginations. Characters are creations. They are not us, they are not necessarily real, they portend tragedy and or trouble. Evil exists all around in stories and real life. People are not nice. People who are friends can pose as enemies. Hell, people pose all the time, THAT is what life is truly about. So while the media makes victims and villains, I will be reading and trying to understand people like Cho and the dead from Virginia Tech. And in the wake of tragedies, beware of fanatic militants out to protect everyone and sensationalize. There are those always waiting to capitalize off of tragedy and to stand in the limelight -in many many capacities, from copy-catting to red scare tactics {remember that period of history?} After all, I just wrote my opinion on this subject -maybe I'm just capitalizing too? I wonder if anyone else thinks it's any good. . . or perhaps I'll be arrested later today. Sensational.