Thoughts on the Ted Wells report

Today, Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP released the firm’s findings on the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito bullying case in a report commissioned by the NFL on behalf of the Miami Dolphins on November 6, 2013. The report is available in its entirety at nfldolphinsreport.com. It is a difficult read, to say the least.

In his introduction, Wells notes that they interviewed every then-current player and coach on the Dolphins, as well as the management team (including owner Stephen Ross and former-GM Jeff Ireland), for a total of over 100 interviews. In the course of his investigation, he had the privilege of wading through a mountain of vulgar text messages, voice mail messages, and testimony, and while every player was cooperative, he did face hostility to his endeavors from the head athletic trainer.

His findings include, in general: that Martin was certainly subjected to textbook workplace bullying, led by Incognito and abetted by fellow linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey; that another young lineman was subjected to constant homophobic bullying by the three; that an assistant trainer – who is of Asian descent – was repeatedly and mercilessly bullied about his heritage; and that the Dolphins’ management and Head Coach Joe Philbin were not aware of the bullying.

I’m not going to recap Wells’ entire report; it contains great detail about his findings. However, I will say that if one were to make judgments based solely on what’s been available via various media over the past few months, and then make comments such as this one made to Peter King about “the pussyfication of this country” without actually reading the Executive Summary (pages 9-49), one would be making such comments (and underlying judgments) having only skimmed the surface.

(Yes, I know that is a gross understatement.)

There are a few impressions that I want to share with respect to the report.

On the vulgarity:

The scope of vulgarity is eye-opening and cringe-worthy. Abuse ranged from race-baiting to disgusting taunts about having sex with Martin’s mother and/or sister (and explicit comments about their genitals), as well as implied sexual preferences of the victims. Other transgressions included aggressive, inappropriate touching, particularly in the case of the lineman who took a great deal of abuse about his supposed sexuality.

I am being general here; the report is full of specific examples of violent verbal abuse along with physical and mental abuse.

On being trapped:

Wells consulted a psychologist, William H. Berman, Ph.D., who is “an expert in matters relating to workplace dynamics, interaction and culture and interpersonal dysfunction within workplace relationships,” who concluded that what happened in the case of Jonathan Martin was consistent with an abusive workplace relationship.

Martin was drafted by Miami in 2012, made the team, and started all 16 regular season games on the offensive line for the Dolphins that season, along with the first seven of the 2013 season before he hit his boiling point and left the team. He was obviously valuable to the team – and he obviously wanted to be there, to play football, and to contribute – but he did not have a chance to choose his team or his teammates. As such, in such an abusive environment, he made attempts to alleviate the situation by attempting to befriend his abusers/fellow line-mates, in a manner that is described in the report as a classic response to one who is victimized this way and for whom it is not within his nature to simply retaliate with violence.

Without physical “eye-for-an-eye” retaliation, Martin used what he had in his personal repertoire, which ranged from attempted friendship to responses of “fuck you,” to deal with the constant abuse. Like many victims of bullying, he had little other recourse that made sense in order for him to remain playing football for the Dolphins. He didn’t feel that he could report the abuse – evident in the pressure put on him by his o-line teammates to not be a “Judas” or a snitch – nor could he just quit the team. It was not a part of his nature to fight his persecutor whenever he reached a boiling point. It’s apparent from the report that he tried to fit in several times, which often backfired on him.

He was trapped. He couldn’t “break the code” and talk to someone in authority. He couldn’t simply go to a different team, because the Dolphins own his rights (and he is under contract). He couldn’t be like the others. He couldn’t reason with his abusers. He considered suicide. Something had to give, and since the torrent of abuse did not abate, it ended up being Martin leaving the team.

On how this reflects on certain people:

What this report means for Jonathan Martin’s future in the NFL remains to be seen. I have a bad feeling that this will be another of those situations where nobody – not even his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh (49ers), who testified that Martin was a tough, prepared, and sound player at Stanford who fit in just fine in the locker room – will give him another chance to play in the NFL. I hope this isn’t the case; in any event, we’ll see.

One thing the report does is expose the questionable mindsets and deplorable actions of several people on the team and in the organization, including:

  1. Richie Incognito – to quote Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk: “That sound you hear in the distance could be the evaporation of any team’s potential interest in Richie Incognito.”
  2. Mike Pouncey and John Jerry (fellow linemen) – both come out of this looking like total assholes. If you need more evidence, read the report.
  3. Jim Turner (Dolphins offensive line coach) – according to the investigation, Turner was aware of the constant homophobic taunts made to the young lineman mentioned above: for Christmas 2012, he gave all of the linemen gift bags, which included a female blowup doll; except for the young lineman, to whom he gave a male blowup doll. Upon being questioned, he “couldn’t remember” it happening, which the investigators found was not credible. His repeated attempts to get Martin to lie about Incognito’s behavior shortly after the scandal surfaced were also certainly not commendable.
  4. Kevin O’Neill (Dolphins head trainer) – laughed at several of the racist insults thrown at the assistant trainer mentioned above, did not intervene or defend his subordinate, and grew hostile (and apparently terminated the conversation) when he was interviewed for the investigation.

Closing

I was appalled reading the report. It would be virtually impossible (without drastic, demonstrable personal changes on their parts) for me to ever be a Richie Incognito, Mike Pouncey, or John Jerry fan after doing so.

However, I’m curious to see how the NFL, the Dolphins, and other teams respond to the report, and how (if at all) things change in NFL locker rooms. Hopefully, positive changes will be made toward making the league more accommodating to players (and employees) of different races, cultures, sexual orientation, and personalities, providing them with a reasonably safer working environment.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome.


Not a real review: Homefront (PS3)

I recently picked up a used copy of Homefront (2011, PS3). Since the game is more than two years old, and was neither critically acclaimed nor a blockbuster, I got it at a fairly rock-bottom price. This is especially good: I am not a big fan of first person shooter (FPS) games, and consequently, I’m not a very skilled shooter. Thus, I usually pass on such games, even when they’re in the bargain bin.

While there’s almost always a “fun” factor with video games, there was one specific reason that I wanted to try this particular game: the setting. To summarize:

Kim Jong-Un, leader of North Korea since 2011, unifies Korea in 2013 to form the Greater Korean Republic (GKR), which becomes a world power. Iran and Saudi Arabia wage war with one another, driving U.S. gas prices to $19.99/gallon. Economic unrest and hysteria ensue; the U.S. calls much of its military home. The GKR annexes several weakened Asian territories, including Japan. Eventually the U.S. dollar collapses. Avian bird flue kills 6 million people, forcing Mexico to close its borders to Americans. In 2025, the GKR detonates a high-altitude nuclear satellite above the U.S. and invades Hawaii and the west coast. At the time the game begins (2027), GKR occupies and controls virtually everything west of the Mississippi River (which is irradiated).  

(Watch the video of the opening sequence above for more detail.)

Ever since I first heard about the game, I’ve wanted to see this vision and story for myself. And so, it was into this world that I stepped when I fired up Homefront for the first time on Tuesday.

After the opening cinematic (see top), which set the tone for Homefront by getting the player up to speed, I assumed the character of Jacobs, a former Marine chopper pilot. I was captured, and was being transported to a re-patriation camp, when suddenly the bus I was on was attacked, and I was rescued by American resistance fighters Connor and Rianna. From there, I was running through abandoned streets and houses, shooting at GKR gunman, and… dying. A lot.

I played the game for almost an hour before I remembered that I had a scope. A scope! which I could use to train on enemies and actually kill them with some consistency, rather than waving my crosshairs around like I was in the color guard! I wanted to be angry at myself, but I had to smile instead. It’s been so long (years…) since I’ve played an FPS that I forgot about the scope. For an hour. Nice.

Anyway, once I remembered that I could use my scope, I started making some actual headway in the game.

One poignant event in Homefront came when, after killing a ton of enemies (and acquiring some beacons for a future mission) at the local detention center, we (Connor, Hopper and I) came to an abandoned baseball field, where the GKR was in the process of dumping American corpses into mass graves with a front-end loader.

Upon witnessing this unspeakable outrage, Connor lost his sanity for a minute, and with a stream of obscenities, started firing madly at the GKR – who outnumbered us quite thoroughly. Fortunately, Hopper kept his head and led us around the perimeter of the field/grave, where we managed to kill every soldier in the area and destroy two sentry towers, only to be approached by Korean choppers as we surveyed the mass grave. Connor’s solution? Well, we stepped down into the grave and pulled bodies over ourselves until the coast was clear.

That was a powerful experience: to see, to “participate in,” and to think about later.

At that point, I was about a quarter of the way through the game. I finished it on Wednesday, but nobody wants me to walk through them through the whole game here. Suffice to say that I enjoyed the sniping missions, stunk badly at the helicopter mission (it was probably the only really frustrating part of my game-play experience – being a noob and all), and thought that everything from that point through the Golden Gate Bridge gauntlet was pretty fun. The game ended abruptly, and I was left feeling like it wasn’t supposed to be over; like there should be more there, but there wasn’t – it was just over.

* * *

I wanted to play Homefront because I wanted to see the developers’ vision of America in such a dire circumstance. Obviously, I hope that such an event never happens, but my interest in alternate history scenarios was what drove my desire to try out this game.

Ultimately, while I wasn’t blown away by Homefront, I’m glad I took the time to play through it and experience the story for myself. The story wasn’t terribly long, and the graphics, music, and voice acting weren’t anything to write home about, but I still had fun playing it. I probably won’t ever play it again, but it was definitely worth the $5 to satisfy my curiosity.

* * *

My experience with Homefront:

  • Previous FPS experience: not much (“noob”).
  • Single-player thoughts: a very short, good-but-not-great game; interesting story premise (which felt unfinished); conventional FPS gameplay.
  • Multi-player thoughts: none.
  • Graphics: unimpressive, but serviceable.
  • System/game performance: no freezing or game-breaking issues.
  • Music: not a standout feature; typical, but still fit well with the game by my meager standards.

Note: Not a real review is a new series here at Dischordant Forms, where I write about my experiences playing through various video games – usually older games that I can get at bargain bin prices. Since I’m simply terrible at most video games, these posts should not be considered actual reviews, which are usually written by people who are both competent gamers and decent writers. These are simply my impressions, and the context in which those are formed may be vastly different from that of most other players/readers. 

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


Life upon discovery: Cynic’s “Kindly Bent To Free Us”

* * *

On last week’s episode of the Metal Sucks Podcast, Chuck and Godless talked with Paul Masvidal, guitarist/vocalist/co-mastermind of the band Cynic. Cynic has a new album coming out on February 14th, Kindly Bent To Free Us. The title track – which is awesome! – is presented in a lyric video at the top of this post (the track is also played at the end of their interview).

I had heard of Masvidal before – he played on Death’s 1991 album Human, and toured in support of it – but for some reason I had never taken the time to seek out any of Cynic’s music. That was an error on my part.

However, thanks to Chuck and Godless playing “Kindly Bent To Free Us” on the podcast, I am no longer oblivious. And I’m extremely happy, because I now have a new, genre-defying album to look forward to. And beyond that, there’s the rest of their catalog (yes!).

I like listening to the interviews on the podcast. A lot of listeners have negative things to say on the weekly podcast notes at Metal Sucks, but I don’t mind the hosts. For the most part, their conversations with musicians are entertaining and enlightening. The interview with Paul Masvidal made that episode a highlight of the series thus far, as he spoke quite a bit about his personal philosophy, the work he does in service to others, his “day job” writing and recording music for TV (and so on), and some of his thought processes with respect to his band and music. The interview was one of the longest they’ve done, stretching the episode to about twenty minutes longer than usual. It’s definitely worth the time to listen to it.

One thing that has me excited is that Cynic’s music alters my personal perception, yet again, of what both “metal” and music can be – and this will influence how I think about creativity as I work on writing my own music. It’s similar in this way to bands that I’ve discovered in the past that have blown my mind; Opeth comes to mind, and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt has himself cited Cynic as being an inspiration in the past. It’s awesome that I’m finally making that connection, even belatedly.

* * *

Chuck and Godless obviously love the album and the band. After the interview, they wrapped up the show with a short discussion about whether the album is going to garner any new fans for Cynic, and if that even really matters to the guys in the band anyway. Here’s an excerpt:

Chuck: That album is pretty amazing. It really is.

Godless: I hope lots of people pick this thing up.

Chuck: (. . .) It’s so not metal, though. It is just not… metal!

Godless: (. . .) but that’s OK!

Chuck: It’s noodle-y and awesome and like… yes! But, what were you saying about (it)? Like, you’re not sure if it has legs – I kind of agree with that. I don’t know, but I think, as a fan of Cynic, I’m in. 100% in.

Godless: Exactly.

Chuck: Just… is it gonna get new fans? I dunno. I don’t think so.

Godless: Yeah, I don’t know.

Well, it has one brand new fan here, and from comments I’ve read around the internet, there are several others like me. I’m very excited for Kindly Bent To Free Us, and looking forward to picking this up in a couple of weeks.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


Fable Anniversary is around the corner!

I first became aware of Fable when it was released in September of 2004 for the original XBox. However, I didn’t start playing it until March of 2006; in fact, it was the first RPG-classified game that I completed.

I can remember the first day I played it. I had bought it (Fable: The Lost Chapters) on a Sunday, and had that Monday off. I started playing at around 11 AM, and with the exception of meal and bathroom breaks, I played until past 2 AM that first evening. The soundtrack is amazing, and the game was beautiful and immersive in a way that I had never experienced before. As such, it was my first experience with putting that much time into one session of a game (but hardly my last).

Much has been written about the first Fable game, so I won’t go into an explanation. Suffice to say that the information is out there if you aren’t familiar, and also that I played through it several times. I also played Fable II several times, although it took me a few years to get around to it – and felt that it was also a great game, although not quite as awesome as the first – and Fable III once. I wasn’t as into Fable III, having had some serious issues with the user interface, which I felt went several steps in the wrong direction (I loathed the Sanctuary – which I found highly inconvenient and cumbersome as a substitute for the menu system – although I know people who loved it). Beyond those, I haven’t played the other entries in the series – Fable: The Journey for XBox/Kinect and Fable Heroes on XBLA. That doesn’t diminish the love or the high hopes I have for the series.

Last year, Lionhead Studios announced Fable Anniversary for XBox 360, an HD remake of Fable including the The Lost Chapters bonus content, as a celebration of the ten year anniversary of that first game. From what I’ve read, the game will have not only improved graphics, but also a remastered soundtrack (which is awesome, and I seriously want to buy that soundtrack if it ever becomes available…) and even a couple of new achievements. At $39.99, the game is a bargain, although at $34.99, its accompanying strategy guide is not. (Note: I’m poor.)

I played through Fable II as recently as last year, because I do love that game, but I haven’t played through the first game in several years. I was toying with the idea of playing the original again before the remake arrived, but ultimately I decided not to, mainly because of a desire to have the game be relatively fresh for me when I do play Anniversary: had I played it in mid-January, it might not have had the same impact that it will have when I put the disc in, create my character and play through it for the first time in a long time. I want to savor the experience. I know that since I’ve already played it (and the other games), there will be some familiarity, but I’ve decided that this will nonetheless be the path to my best experience.

I don’t know my work schedule for next week as I write this, but I’m sure that I will be able to put some hours into Fable Anniversary once it arrives on Tuesday. It’s safe to say that I’m excited!

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


Epiphany: I will expand my musical vocabulary

While playing guitar the other night, I had an epiphany.

* * *

I’ve been “playing” guitar for twenty years now. I never had any formal lessons. I remember sitting in the living room in our old house as a teenager, picking up my mother’s acoustic guitar, and fretting the low E string the first time. The pain in my finger tip was a major deterrent. A couple of months later, I tried again, and stuck with it.

In the beginning, I learned chords from a chart my mother had on the piano. I could do E minor okay, but C chords always sounded like crap, and F was a disaster. G major was nice, once I could manage to fret the G on the high E string. E major and A minor came next, and sounded all right. It was slow going.

Eventually, I learned about barre chords, and was banging out terrible versions of Nirvana songs. And breaking strings left and right. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine those days, but they happened, and we all start somewhere. We learn…

* * *

About fourteen years ago, by which point I had progressed past banging away at simple three- and four-chord strummers to playing with a little more finesse and skill, I reached a self-induced crossroads. I became sort of paranoid, feeling that everything that I created was derivative. At that point, I decided not to learn any more songs that were relatively close in style to the things I was writing.

I can remember a pivotal point in that thought process. I was fiddling around on my acoustic one day, and I accidentally stumbled on Mike McCready’s opening/verse lick to “Given To Fly” by Pearl Jam. My initial reaction was “oh… cool!” – followed immediately by a weird feeling of guilt. The self-censor won – I never played that lick again, and never forgot that moment.

From that time on, I’ve maintained a strict “I will not learn other people’s songs” method. Which isn’t much of a method, in reality.

This is not to say that I’ve not learned any guitar licks since then. For example, I’ve spent hours working on songs like “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” (Megadeth), along with riffs from songs by Pantera, Metallica, and other metal bands, because I don’t “create” metal songs, so they were in what I considered “fair territory.” And I’ve certainly benefited musically and technically from those experiences. But there is a lot that I’ve shut out, and since my goal has never been to become a competent metal guitarist, those experiences have only taken me so far.

Instead of learning other people’s songs, I found that I enjoyed writing my own songs. At the time, I got a lot of fulfillment from writing guitar parts that were slightly above my current skill level – and then learning how to play those songs. In this way, I improved as a guitarist, and came up with some pretty good songs… but I also ran into a lot of brick walls. Over time, those walls got higher, and my interest ultimately diminished.

Over the past ten years, the volume of creativity has decreased, and the amount of recording that I’ve done – even just riff demos – has slowed to an occasional drip. I basically trained myself to hold my playing within that holy grail of originality when composing music, so that, if I was not playing something that I’d already established, my censor-alarms would go off more and more urgently. Occasionally, I would have some small burst of creation, but for the most part, songwriting / guitar playing have generally been at odds with me for a while now.

This has, very likely, contributed to the long musical droughts I have experienced over the years.

* * *

However, my philosophy on originality has changed.

I mentioned before that I had an epiphany the other night, which is this: I have been stunting my musical ability, technical skill, and creative palette by not learning how to play more songs.

As we learn to play various songs, we build our musical vocabulary: the individual notes – the musical alphabet – are there; we can use those letters to create words or phrases, and we can make them our own by accenting them in the way we choose. Furthermore, learning via songs gives those notes and phrases context, which helps us understand how they work within the music, with the added benefit of being fun (rather than just a pure exercise). As I was playing that night, I realized that I’ve limited my musical options by refusing to learn how to play a wide variety of songs, missing out on opportunities to expand my vocabulary. Building a working vocabulary simply gives me more tools to use in the creative process, just as the practice of reading and writing hones a person’s ability to learn, comprehend, and write.

I realized that, since I am not a savant who is destined to rediscover everything that has already been discovered on the guitar, it can’t hurt me to learn more of what’s already there. In some way, I think that I wanted to repeatedly experience the joy of discovery, but, while it was a well-intentioned ideal to hold myself to, in reality I slid so far into my own little hole on the guitar that I painted myself into a corner of ignorance – and, in turn, frustration. The cost has been great: I was stunting my language skills by not playing new things, or things that are uncomfortable or difficult to play – or even familiar things that I enjoy listening to or singing along with. While I have limited skill and am closer to middle age than to childhood, I can still learn a great deal from developing new skills and applying them in different ways as I try to create songs.

In retrospect, I think that what I’ve done to myself as a musician over the past couple of decades has shown a severe lack of trust in my own ability to use established musical language to create something new. I know now that the result was that the holy grail of originality – an ideal that I clung ferociously to, to my detriment – ended up inhibiting my songwriting process a great deal.

* * *

I need to not be afraid to learn how to play music of any style that I enjoy. Doing so will open up a world of possibilities by expanding my musical vocabulary, giving me (relatively) more mastery over the instrument and removing some of the barriers to creation that I’ve experienced.

Recently, I’ve begun to try to figure out the horn melody to “Godchild” by Miles Davis, from his classic 1949 album Birth Of The Cool (in the video above). While it’s currently not exactly the style of music that I would typically write, I’m also looking at expanding the boundaries of the kind of music I create (which in itself is a post for another day), and is also a song that I’ve enjoyed for a long time.

The important thing for me is to play, and to learn, with a “no rules” attitude as opposed to a restrictive code like I did for so many years. This is probably a many-layered concept that will hopefully reveal itself further as I continue my musical journey. For now, I’m simply happy to have broken the dam.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


“This thing between me and my notebook”

The notebook

For several days, the single-subject, college-ruled notebook that I bought back in September has been whispering my name. I bought it at Target before a trip to visit my parents, wrote in it a few times while I was there, and brought it back with me. Since then, it has been neglected; covered by an increasingly precarious stack of CDs.

For a while, I didn’t even know where it was, but at some point along the way it revealed itself to me, and started catching my eye. From time to time, I would return its stare for a moment, but I generally ignored its attempts at attention.

I don’t have anything against that notebook. However, it was buried under a bunch of CDs, and it was something that I would have to leave my chair to retrieve. I didn’t feel like getting up, or moving all of those the CDs.

After a while, I began to wonder why I didn’t just get up and get it. It began to be a “thing” between myself and this notebook. It wanted me to uncover it, open it, write in it. I resisted the urge for a while… but for what reason? The contents therein will never be published, nobody will see it. Nobody cares what I write in it. So why was this such a difficult thing for me?

I think the answers to this question are many, but the two main ones that come to mind are 1) some embarrassment about – and frustration with – my own penmanship and 2) my misplaced belief that most of what I write will be of no consequence.

These aren’t rational ideas to cling to, but they’re a part of my personality, and always have been.

Penmanship

My mom has beautiful penmanship. I’ve always admired her handwriting, which is easy to read and very consistent. None of my siblings can write as neatly as she does, but I’ve seen her sisters’ handwriting in greeting cards, and one or two of them have a similar quality and style. I’ve always wished that I could write like they do, but I simply can’t.

My handwriting is not pure cursive, but a combination of cursive and single letters. I mix cursive letters with certain printed letters, such as ‘k’ and ‘b’ at the beginnings of words, and capital letters like ‘Q’ and ‘L’ and ‘I’ (among others). However, sometimes I use a cursive capital ‘I,’ although I tend to try to avoid doing so, because my upper-case ‘I’ ends up looking like a lower-case cursive ‘L.’ I’ve never been truly consistent; I think that what I use depends on my mood and the situation.

Regardless, if I sit down to write – a letter, for instance, or a journal entry – I can start out with decent penmanship, but that has a tendency to disintegrate into slurred words as my hand struggles with the task of keeping up with my brain. Of course, when I go back later to read what I wrote, I find myself faced with the prospect of figuring out which words and sentences I had intended to write, but which came out as mostly illegible waste. This has been discouraging for me, and in these instances I’ve generally tended to retreat back to the comfort of typing.

And the notebook has fallen by the wayside for an indefinite period of time, again and again.

Journal content

As for the issue of content… this may sound stupid, but I feel as if there is a significant portion of my brain that has no idea how to journal. I have all these hangups about whether I’m journaling properly, whether what I’m writing is boring or pathetic, how it looks when I correct a mistake, and how much more difficult it is to write clearly and fluidly by hand when you’re a) out of practice and b) used to the instant-edit lifestyle that is blogging (and typing in general).

Looking at that last paragraph, these ideas seem mostly irrational. Regardless, they’re real hangups that I’ve always struggled with. Fortunately, they haven’t managed to permanently kill my desire to journal: it lies in wait, in some part of my brain, waiting for me to feel that itch again.

Getting back into it

On Thursday night at 11:55pm, after several staredowns between this notebook and me, I relented. I stood up, extracted the notebook from beneath the stack of CDs and whatnot, and covered the front and back of a page with my increasingly erratic handwriting. I wrote about my struggles with journaling and penmanship, and made note of some things that I can do to improve my experience, such as making some writing space for myself. I have this slight hope that writing more frequently will result in better handwriting quality if I make that a priority.

I used to write a lot of letters. In the age of blogs and email and mobile phones and social media, the letter is a somewhat rare and ancient phenomenon, and I’m amazed when I think about how often I used to churn out pages upon pages worth of letters every month, and how long ago it was that I stopped doing that regularly. But the letter doesn’t have to die out, and neither does the journal. There are millions of people who still journal and/or write letters, and that includes my mother*, so I’m not revolutionizing anything by doing this, other than a part of my own lifestyle. I just know that, over the past several years, my habits have changed with technology, for better or for worse**.

*By the way, her handwriting is still consistently high-quality. I find her ability to journal and to write so well and so consistently to be inspirational, and am glad to have that inspiration in my life.

**Blogging has been a major “for better” part of this equation, of course.

Closing

This notebook is, as I said at the top, a single subject notebook. It has 70 pages, several of which are already used. But that’s okay. As I contemplated my inner desire to get more involved in hand-writing on a more regular basis, I made plans to buy a larger notebook. However, I’ve decided not to waste this one. If I can fill the remaining 60-odd pages in this notebook, I will buy myself another one, along with a better pen. Those will be my material rewards for doing something that is almost certain to have, more importantly, mental and spiritual benefits.

It’s a good time to start – or revive – a good habit or two. Hopefully, I can make this one of them.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post. In addition to the internal “urge to write” and the external “notebook staring me down” influences, this post was inspired in part by the following article:

Snapshots from the writing desk by Andrea Badgley at Butterfly Mind… a great post by a great blogger! Thanks Andrea.

* * *

Posted by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!


Peace (a belated wish)

Hello, friends. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I work retail, and so this holiday season has been like any other: hectic, stressful, and generally tiring. It has come with its share of trials, but also many blessings. The season has gone approximately how I had envisioned, with unexpected issues here and there, but we are resilient, are we not?

Anyway, as such, I’ve been slow to post – both here and at my other blog – but that’s par for the course for me during the holidays; fortunately, I’ve come to accept it over the years. There are occasionally times in life where we don’t feel the passion or energy that we normally feel for our hobbies, and I used to despair over that. And even now, there are times when I feel small bits of guilt for not “keeping up” with the blog, but they are weaker and less overbearing than they have been in years past. We do what we can – and what we have to – in order to get by and stay healthy, and I’m happy to have come to terms with that reality.

It’s difficult to believe, in some ways, that the craziness is almost over for us. Amid the busy-ness at work, we got to spend time with, and talk with, family. We suffered through the death of a pet. We experienced the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts. We battled sleep deficits. We decorated our small Christmas tree. We listened to Christmas carols and watched Christmas specials. We fought off sickness. And we’re coming out okay on the other side of it all.

Working retail at the holidays is something of a marathon, a two-month test of endurance and patience. The time for unwinding comes after the holiday season is over, when folks are back at work and children are back in school. Once these things happen and work slows down a tad, I start getting back into my groove a bit, spending more time playing guitar, getting outside regularly for walks, writing posts, and getting projects and tasks completed (beyond the laundry / groceries / dishes / basics, etc.). I’m enjoying the holiday season, but I already find that I’m looking forward to getting back into that groove.

That said, I love the holidays. I’ve listened to a ton of Christmas music over the past couple of months, although I’ve found that I’m enjoying the more reverent, classical, and hymnal music more as I get older, as opposed to the more upbeat, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”/”Jingle Bells” types of music, in part because it’s generally more peaceful. Peace is a precious commodity amid the chaos of retail during the holidays.

Additionally, I’ve gotten to make some fun holiday treats on a tight budget, which has been gratifying. I’ve also managed to get through the season without adding the proverbial ten holiday pounds – I’ve maintained a weight that I had gotten down to in October, and which is within ten pounds or so of my goal. That puts me in good position to get to work on attaining that goal in the new year, rather than starting from way behind after the holidays (as has often been the case).

Overall, it has been a good year for me – it was certainly better overall than both 2012 and 2011. I’m looking forward to what 2014 brings, in terms of personal growth and progress. And more posts here on the blog!

* * *

Well, this post went where it went, as it had no outline… In short, I hope that you are enjoying the holiday season in whatever way makes you happy, and I wish you peace and success in the new year!

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Russ at Dischordant Forms. Follow me on Twitter at @DischordantRuss. Comments are welcome!