What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Words and their meaning. I’m all for healthy political discourse and debate, but for the love of little baby Jesus I need right wingers who want sound edgy and disdainful to stop saying “Democrat” Party when they mean the Democratic Party. It makes them sound like a particularly asinine flavor of fucking idiot. Organizations have proper names. People have proper names. Unless we’re all going to start calling ourselves members of the “Republic” Party we should go ahead and start using thoughtful discussion rather than schoolroom sophistry to make our points.

2. Extreme selfie-ing. If you jump a fence and try to pose for a selfie with a jaguar and get yourself a little bit mauled, I have no sympathy. In fact, if I were an onlooker at such an event, I would gleefully stand aside and cheer on the jaguar – looking on in joy as the penalty for stupidity was extracted with immediate violence.

3. Being oblivious and preoccupied. I was too occupied at the office to even notice that Facebook had collapsed on Wednesday and taken a large portion of the social media universe with it. I don’t mean that to imply that I wish I had been able to spend all day surfing Facebook on Instagram, though. The real reason that I’m both surprised and annoyed that this kind of major media happening passed unnoticed is that it means dumb work stuff has monopolized every fraction of available brainpower… and that’s clearly no way to spend your life.

The wee small hours of the morning, or Fueling the beast…

Something strange happened in the wee small hours of the morning today. Just after 2AM I found myself inexplicably awake, in the company of the whirr of the overhead fan and two snoring dogs. It was as peaceful a nighttime scene as one could hope to find, but my subconscious was clearly in an uproar, awake, and was rather insistent that we were going to be awake for a while.

I’m used to having ideas for the blog come at me before drifting off to sleep or maybe as I’m waking up. I make a habit of catching those ideas on my phone’s note pad. It’s jammed full of half formed ideas and concepts I may or may not ever get around to dealing with. Mostly those come in the form of a sentence or phrase I can use later, but last night came at me in a torrent of words. Judging by a daylight look, the grammar, punctuation, stray words, and general tone I can say that my subconscious isn’t much for exerting editorial control on the fly. In a few places things are so jumbled that awake me can’t even deciphered what asleep me might have been going after. Most of the rest, though, is clear enough in its intent.

It seems my subconscious wanted to wait until the dead of night to walk me through the outline of what I’ll only call the most dark, disturbingly introspective assessments of self I’ve ever experienced. I don’t suppose it should be surprising that such a thing would find outlet as one of my old fashioned blog outlines. It’s the method I use most often to give complex ideas form and structure before going on to put them down in the more narrative long form.

What I was left with early this morning was a laundry list of a sort. A list of the accumulated slights, grudges, broken hearts, and disappointments. A list of the battles lost, and lost causes yet to come, and standing stubborn against the running tide. A list of the moments of vanity, and pride, and ego stretching out further than grasp. A list of the times I’ve retreated behind my own battlements, inside myself, and what that’s cost me.

It was an all access pass to the oddities of mind that drive the fusion reactor deep at my core, that piles action upon action, cycle upon cycle, loss upon loss, victory upon victory and the hundred different dreams and fears that make me and that make me question who “me” really is at the heart of things. Is there more? Is this enough?

I’m left today finding the whole thing exhilarating, unsettling, fascinating, and horrifying in turn. Maybe that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when we get an unexpected look at what fuels the beast within… or maybe it’s just a sign of my impending mid-life crisis. If that’s the case, leaving off the heavy handedness and filling my dreams with visions of a new Corvette would have been message enough.

Incantation…

My entire life, I’ve been searching for just the right combination of words. I’ve always been convinced that words are important. They have meaning. I’m convinced that the right word and the right time can save your soul. In the right hands, words are a real thing of beauty. In the wrong ones you wonder if we all weren’t better off huddled around a paleolithic fire grunting and pointing to make our will known.

Maybe I’m biased because words are the gift I got. Other people got chiseled good looks and a full head of hair. I got words. That’s not a complaint. If I had to pick, I wouldn’t have had it differently. Words are my big gun. They’re the thing in my arsenal that make me think if I look just hard enough, put them in the right order, speak the incantation just so, I can turn the tide. It might not always seem this way, but when the moment calls for it I can be one seriously articulate sonofabitch.

I can count the times words let me down on one hand – maybe two if I really stretch way back. Those moments stand out mostly because they’ve almost always come as a complete shock. Words move people when you get them in the proper order and everything is supposed to follow from there. Except sometimes they don’t follow. Much to my chagrin I’ve had to learn repeatedly that you hit every syllable dead on and still fail to make a mark or carry your point. They’re not moments I like to dwell on, even though I’ve been doing that quite a bit these last few days.

It’s one of those unfortunate instances when best effort doesn’t stack up to good enough. It’s humbling and paves the way to all manner of self-doubt. It’s a bad head space to be in, but you can’t fight it – not directly, anyway. The best I’ve ever been able to manage is to drop my shoulder and shove through while hoping it doesn’t take too long to blunder through to a point where the world feels normally again.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Semantics. Listening to the news over the last few days, I’ve been surprised (shocked and appalled), to hear the talking heads from the party of fiscal responsibility saying that even if the debt ceiling is not raised, the US Government won’t technically be in “default” as long as it continues to pay the interest and principle on the existing national debt. And while it’s true that in that sense, the government won’t default on its sovereign debt, it would absolutely default on a host of other payments – to include veteran’s benefits, Social Security, salaries, and contracts for goods and services. I’m the first to admit that words and their meaning are important, but to say that the government will not be in a state of de facto default if the debt ceiling is not raised is a little like making a differentiation between dying of dysentery and dying of the dehydration caused by having dysentery. Either way you shit yourself to death, the rest is just semantics.

2. Obamacare. I’ve never pretended to be a fan of this first step in the headlong rush towards nationalized healthcare. While having access to affordable medical care is definitely a good thing, I’ve always been of the opinion having the federal government step into the fray adds nothing more than unnecessary layers of bureaucracy between a person and their doctor. Despite the best efforts of the right wing nutjobs, we’ve got it now, so c’est la vie. What really annoys me more than having this program foisted on the taxpayer is the fact that they had three years to design a website and couldn’t manage to do that correctly. If I were launching the capstone initiative of my administration, you can be damned sure I’d make sure it worked properly before it saw the light of day. The fact that the average guy with a “Websites for Dummies” book, a DSL line, and rented space on a server can set up and host their own website and my kindly old Uncle Sam can’t does not fill me with an abundance of confidence when it comes to letting him help me make decisions about my health. I’m screwing that one up just fine on my own, thank you very much.

3. Sports talk. I don’t know quite how to phrase this other than being blunt. If you come at me talking about last night’s baseball game or this weekend’s football lineup, you’re going to be met with a blank stare and a fairly blunt, “I don’t follow sports.” Then I’m going to disengage from the conversation. I’ve tried being a good trooper and faking my way through these conversations, feigning an interest, but I think I’m over that now. If you want to have a conversation about technology, science, history, current events, or occasionally the foibles of pop culture icons, I’m your huckleberry. You want to talk batting average and passing yards, you’ll need to look elsewhere. In this one, small segment of life, I’m just tired of pretending to care which group of millionaires are better than which other group of millionaires.

My God… It’s full of stars…

Note: This post was lifted directly from my notes on Saturday, March 31st. It is complete and unabridged.

It’s Saturday afternoon now and I am taking lunch on the Piazza della Signoria. Michelangelo walked here in this square. So did Galileo. So did Machiavelli. The Medici rose to power on the business flowing through this square. The Renaissance was born and flourished in these walls. This is the cradle of what is good and right about Western civilization… Of art, of science, of understanding what it means to be men. Someone wiser than I once said “If I see further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” It is how I feel here in this place. My own learning, my curiosity, and the desire for improve constantly find their own root here. In coming Florence and seeing these things and walking in the steps of the ponderously brilliant minds who lived and worked here I have a deeper understanding of myself and a far more humble perspective of my own meager talents.