Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Impending retirement of this blog

The time is fast approaching to retire this blog. I haven't exactly relegated it to the scrap heap, but I still feel it's gone from the back burner to the bottom shelf to the back of a stack of boxes in the basement. It's still there for anyone's perusal. But I just feel like it isn't adding much value. Not that anything I wrote would actually add much value to anyone's experiences, but I just want to make sure the blog is pulling its weight.

Why have I felt ambivalent about keeping this blog going? Well, several reasons. First, I'm not sure what it's really for, except me ranting from time to time. And if you know me, you know that ranting on a blog would be a good reason to keep it going because it would keep me from ranting aloud, which nobody really wants to hear anymore. However, it's also a bad reason because it means I'm taking up cyberspace with long streams of consciousness that would do better to be set down in a journal or something of that nature. Sometimes doing it the old-fashioned way has its advantages, and this could be one of them. One person even told me the other day that she felt like she was reading diary entries as she pored over some of my earlier blog entries. That really told me it was time to change the style of this thing.

Second, the blog has a boring interface and I haven't had much motivation to do anything to it to make it more attractive. These days, it's so difficult to grab attention on the Internet that you have to come up with something really jumpy, with something new and interesting going on, to hold anyone's interest for too long. The words probably don't cut it as much as they used to unless you're a pop luminary or similar larger-than-life figure, which I am definitely not! So I feel like the interface has just stagnated and that, even if I put a little effort into it, it still might not turn out quite right.

Finally, and most importantly, I don't like the name of the blog. I love my own name, but naming a blog after myself seems a little pretentious to me. I could be way off-base, but I almost feel like I'm not worthy of putting my name into the URL of a blog. I made that the name because I wasn't sure of a good nickname at the time, so I sort of did it in the same fashion I would create an email address if I were momentarily starved for a nickname. I feel like it's time for a change to something a little catchier. chrisdrake.blogspot.com almost assumes people would want to know what I was writing about, but then again this thing isn't read all that often anyway, I can tell, so I might be sort of out of my league on that one. That's alright, though, because better things are yet to come.

We're about to hit spring in the Northern Hemisphere, I'm about to turn 25 (just over a month from now - scary!), and I'm about to turn over a new blogging leaf. After 18 1/2 months, it's time for something new. I think I might take some old entries and incorporate them into a new blog, but otherwise there will be something that hopefully will raise a few eyebrows on the superficial and deep levels alike!

One thing I'm sure of, though, is how nice it is to have this blog sitting here, whenever I feel the urge to pour my guts out into cyberspace for a few moments. It's definitely comforting.

Only a matter of time now before this thing shifts into overdrive and, hopefully, accelerates into the distance, down the long, straight highway in the middle of the desert, with craggy hills and scrub brush all around, and the setting sun flanked by low-hanging clouds, blazing ahead into the future...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Return of Winter

Winter is back with a vengeance. Not that it hasn't been plenty cold the past few days.. no doubt that's associated with winter just about anywhere.. but with no snow on the ground, no slush to trudge through, no ice glazing smooth surfaces and beading on tree branches, etc., it just didn't quite feel like winter. All that changed overnight. A Nor'easter is now churning its way along the Eastern Seaboard, and the snow is pouring from the sky. It's interesting to watch as it gets caught in little mini-vortices and swirls up, sideways, then back down, then diagonally upward, sometimes calmer and sometimes more energized, sort of like a conductor's baton at different moments in a symphony. Some people think it's boring. I almost never have. Could be because I come from a climate where it has only snowed once during my entire life thus far (December 20, 1998, for about 15 minutes, just a light coating that quickly melted away). I guess it's all relative and all depends on one's unique perspective.

Just to share an embarrassing story, for no particular reason - I have what you might call a cooking injury that has nothing to do with burns or dropping anything on my foot or anything like that. It's a sprained thumb. The incident actually happened a few weeks ago, but it was more chronic than sudden. I didn't really notice it until the following day, and at first I almost laughed at myself but also hoped it wasn't more serious than it seemed. I sprained it stirring the batter for chocolate chip cookies, which turned out to be much thicker than I'd anticipated. I don't know if that means I was doing it wrong or didn't add enough liquid to it or what happened, but the end result was a sprained thumb! If I do say so myself, though, the cookies were pretty good. I'm tempted to make some more one of these days.. maybe when the sprain gets better..

Today would be a good day to make more cookies, since with this much snow on the ground I'm not going anywhere fast. Problem is I don't have any chocolate chips. Maybe I'll try another kind of cookie?

Then again, maybe my thumb is telling me not to go through with it. Once was enough.. for now, anyway.

So I still have this concern about making the most of "it," whatever "it" really is. I guess it would help to figure that out first and then evaluate whether or not I'm actually working well with "it." Could this concern possibly mean that I'm almost never completely satisfied because I always feel like there's more to do? Does it mean there are some things I should really just try to give a rest?

Who am I even asking?

Looks like the snow is starting to calm down.. I think I'll try to calm down with her.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Trying to get back in the habit

OK, so I've almost hit the one-year anniversary of the day I wrote my last blog entry for about six and a half months. Can't believe I let all that time lapse. No blogging during the last half of the winter, nor the entire spring, nor more than two months of the entire summer. And a lot went on during that whole time. And I had plenty of time to spend blogging, but didn't do it. So let me see if I can change that this time. I sure hope I can. But does it matter to anyone, besides me, the one who's trying to do more writing instead of 90% emails, which comprises most of my writing at the moment??

Who am I even asking?

Who am I even kidding?

January was the warmest month on record in the United States, yet for some reason I remember this January as one that was colder than last January around here, even though last January was among the nastiest in years, with bitter cold, a major blizzard, gray days, strong winds, etc. You name it. It was Winter with a capital W. This year, though, I think I got a little cocky. I went out without as many warm clothes, whereas last year I really bundled up against the cold and worked on my layering, which I'd only had to do once before for any extended period of time, and even then it wasn't regularly below freezing (as opposed to last year, when the temperature didn't rise above freezing for two weeks in January). So I left myself more exposed to the elements. I got sick. I was more tired. I tried to change my habits, but for some reason I just ended up making things tougher on myself. I think I should try to settle myself down a little bit. Just because it was the warmest month doesn't mean it was warm! Well, OK, it was for a few days, but it was also mighty cold for a few of those days! Yes, indeed.

Yeah, so anyway, even if I haven't been quite myself recently, I will definitely be back. It's only a matter of time before I can recuperate. The blogging could be part of that.. who knows?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Well, I thought I was going to get to blog a little in between classes, but it looks like another class is coming in here as soon as the last class (Local Government Law, which looks to be a good one) leaves.. and it looks to be this way every Monday. So I have to put off blogging for just a bit, but I will be back.. of this there is almost no doubt

Sunday, February 05, 2006

You want wildly unpredictable?? You got it!

Sounds like a good day to practice flute. Someone is practicing his or her flute downstairs. I can't tell exactly where it's coming from, much less who lives there, much less who actually plays the flute (or even whether s/he lives there or is a guest), but I've heard the flute being practiced for the past few days. The first time I heard it was when I was leaving to go out and heard these sweet sounds floating up the stairs and down the hall. I thought it was a creative alarm clock because I heard the same pattern repeatedly, and then, when it stopped abruptly and repeated, I realized that it was someone practicing. I think it's great that people still play. I should play more. I mean, I could - I have this thing sitting over in the corner, and even though I planned to play it every day when I got it not too long ago, I haven't exactly made good on that plan. Sigh.

This is the day I started learning how to play the "Maple Leaf Rag" four years ago. I remember it so clearly because I had to learn it without the aid of a piano. My host family had a piano downstairs, but I didn't want to disturb them by practicing on it after hours. I wasn't even there all that often, anyway, since I was at school all day. But I'd brought the score along with me, so I tried to learn it by doing the finger movements on the surface of my desk. Victor Lin had taught me that technique, and I hadn't used it all that often until then, mostly out of laziness. But I was determined to learn the thing, since it was so much fun to listen to and since it seemed within reach at that time even though I hadn't been playing for a while. Eventually, I got the finger movements down well enough that I tried it out on the piano when my host family was away. By the end of the month I'd made real progress on it. I never got to play it for them, but hey, maybe one of these days I'll see if I get another chance.

Shifting into overdrive now.. just a quick word on the caricatures of Muhammad that first appeared in Danish newspapers and now have been popping up in periodicals all around Europe in a show of solidarity. I'm all for freedom of speech, but I'm also for sensitivity. The press must know that publishing caricatures of Muhammad - in fact, publishing drawings of the Prophet in any form - is beyond blasphemous. It seems like one of the most injurious things you can do, very much like flying the Stars and Bars on a Black family's lawn or the Nazi swastika on a Jewish family's lawn. And yet they do it anyway, citing freedom of speech. At some point, that freedom goes a little bit too far and boils over into reckless irresponsibility. I think that's what we're seeing. It's pretty shocking to me that a newspaper would do something like this, knowing that it's like opening up a wound for all followers of the world's largest religion and then pouring salt on it, and then defend their actions based on freedom of speech concerns. Needless to say, I'm frustrated and disappointed. I'm not sure I'm so angry, or even sad. I think people have a right to their own feelings and opinions, as well as, to some extent (differing depending on which society you're talking about, as we're seeing right now), the right to express them. This is coming from someone who has been called just about everything from "dork" to "nigger," to his face. What's most dismaying is that there's such a callous lack of compassion and lack of sensitivity, particularly given the undeniable tension we're all facing now, particularly between followers of Islam and followers of "Western" traditions.

One good result of the controversy that has eruped into violence is that we're seeing some of the tension released and exposed. This reminds me of the riots in Los Angeles 14 years ago after the acquittal of the officers who beat Rodney King. The acquittal was the spark that lit fires of rage against the L.A.P.D., against a society that systematically marginalized Black people while paying lip service to their civil rights, etc. The Islamic rage and violence is not a good thing in and of itself - far from it - but it shows the depth of the anger many Muslims feel toward the West. Just as one example, even though the U.S. government came out against the European press and its publication of the caricatures, an American flag was burned during violent protests in Beirut. There are obviously a lot of reasons to do that. Muslims have plenty of reasons to be furious at the West, and the most extreme Muslims have made good on their anger in the most horrific of ways, particularly during the past 30 years. Part of this anger might come from internal frustration which finds a target in the West when it is expressed. But it's unfortunate that the Danish press and many of its European counterparts have now given Muslims everywhere another reason to hate the West in general. It's like depicting Jesus or the Buddha shamefully. Think of what that would do to Christian and Buddhist sensibilities. Or don't even think about it - look at it happening right now, in the context of the world's largest religion.

Now I'm rambling and ranting, but I promise I'll stop in a second.

Isn't it way past time to really try to resolve the tension, to find the sources of the anger and try to smooth them out - not the anger, but the reasons behind the anger? Isn't that an unbelievably rhetorical question? My only point is that mutual respect is lacking (notice that I did NOT say "tolerance." I actually hate that word with a passion). As long as the lack of respect persists, there will be conflict. When the lack of respect is addressed, with the goal of elimination, then we'll be on the path to actual peace - not the ionic kind, but the covalent kind.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Midwinter Daydream

So I think it's now safe to call myself a lazy bum, at least in some ways. I'm really slow with the blogigng. It was right around this time last year that I quit, cold turkey and for no apparent reason, not to return to the blogosphere until I caught a spark of inspiration in August when I found out that at least one person was reading it. That spark kindled a little fire that lasted for a few months but slowly faded, and now I'm trying to resurrect the embers. Kind of like when you see just the last few glowing embers in the fireplace and then you shove a piece of newspaper in there to try to get the thing going again. It might start to flare up, and a piece of charred wood might momentarily catch on fire, but the key is in the placement of the newspaper and the flammable materials above them that you hope will catch and restart the whole fire. Not that I know much about this since I don't have a fireplace and was only a cub scout for two years.. but still, if that metaphor is at all applicable to what I'm trying to do with this blog, well, then that's at least a little bit satisfying.

Something else that's bugging me. I'm trying to write a play. I got started on it a week ago Thursday, but I haven't touched it since then, and I haven't really felt the inspiration. Audre Lorde, of course, wouldn't like that. Whenever I feel a lack of writing spark, aside from writer's block, I always hear Audre Lorde scolding me for not just going forward with it and letting the inspiration develop itself. I have a feeling that would happen. I'm just trying to explain it without getting tied up in what someone once called "analysis paralysis." Is it that I think I don't have enough time? Am I too worried about what's going on later in the day or the evening, or even the next day or the next week, to concentrate on just churning out a few more blog entries? I think that's the most likely candidate - time anxiety. I just wish there were more time, or that I could do things faster, or more efficiently, or that I could do more, or sometimes even that I could do less and not feel bad about cutting back.

The good thing, though, is that on here I can ramble however much I want. Strangely enough, I feel my readership declining from almost-nil to just a smidgen above nil as I ramble more and more.

So maybe it's a good thing I haven't been on here all that often? I mean, I can't even take too much of my own rambling! I have to give it a rest sometimes...

Yeah, so anyway, Spring semester just started. I'm pretty interested in my courses this time around. I'm also nervous about the future. What will it be like this upcoming summer? Will I move in the right direction? Of course I have the fear of failure, the fear of making mistakes, and (most of all) the fear of repeating mistakes, all hanging over my head. For those who talk about the "even bigger fear of success," I have no idea what they're talking about - I have choice words for it that also describe bovine waste. And you know something? I think I finally realize where this comes from..

I don't consider myself all that competitive, except with myself (those who know me know that I am relentlessly self-critical), but I understand now that I hate to lose.

There. I said it.

Now, of course, in life you're going to win some, and then you're going to lose some. So my fears could be chalked up to the fear of losing, and the even greater fear of going on a losing streak.

I'm amazed how personal this can get when I take extended hiatuses, but there you have it. It's almost like I'm using the blog to bring out some of my deepest secrets and release them into the public domain so that they're not really secrets any longer. Kind of like aged cheese.

Aged cheese? Where did THAT come from, I ask you?

I ask who?

OK, maybe it's time for me to give it a rest again? Not for so long, but for enough time so that I can recover from what looks like another rambling spree, which I am really going to try to avoid. But the blog must go on! The blog must go on!

Friday, January 27, 2006

A great day in Salzburg

And on this date in 1756, my man Mozart made his way into the world. There's no denying the guy was a genius, creative and otherwise. That he could do it so easily is so fascinating, and that he was only around to do it for just under 36 years. But hey, even 250 years later, we still have a lot to learn from this guy.

My parents played a variety of music for me when I was a toddler, and I always remember Mozart's music being among my favorites. I don't know if it's that I liked saying his name, or if they just happened to play Mozart more than any other European composer, or what it was. But I had a few real favorites. I always liked James Taylor. I always liked Sting and The Police. And when it came to classical composers, I had a special attachment to Tchaikovsky, Bach, and Mozart. Over the years, I've never really lost interest in Tchaikovsky and Bach, but I didn't focus as much on Mozart. I used to play a little of Mozart's piano music, but it's almost all out of my fingers now (I just have to point out that I'm listening to the BBC right now, and they're running a story on Mozart's birth that just came on). I can't really give a good explanation for why that happened. You'd think it shouldn't take a quarter-millennium birthday for me to regain interest.. but hey, it can only help...

I have a little break this week, but strangely enough I haven't really been resting up as much as I planned because I feel like there's still so much to do. And I feel I have to cram it all into my assignment-less days. Maybe I just don't feel comfortable without any assignments? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? By the time I have a straight answer I'll have another assignment

Yeah, so anyway, I have to get back into this. I don't want it to be a repeat of last year, with no blogging from February to August. A lot happens between February and August, at least most of the time