Sunday, July 22, 2018

Naked Sunday: The Making of a Man

What makes a man?

There’s much philosophical debate on this subject. I’m not going to explore these thoughts today. I feel the subject matter is moot. There’s no alchemical exchange for it. There’s no measurement in philosophy.

Instead, I offer the following:

43 Kilograms of Oxygen
16 Kilograms of Carbon
7 Kilograms of Hydrogen
1.8 Kilograms of Nitrogen
1 Kilograms of Calcium
780 Grams of Phosphorus
140 Grams of Potassium
140 Grams of Sulfur
100 Grams of Sodium
95 Grams of Chlorine
19 Grams of Magnesium
4.2 Grams of Iron
2.6 Grams of Fluorine
2.3 Grams of Zinc
1 Gram of Silicon
680 Milligrams of Rubidium
320 Milligrams of Strontium
260 Milligrams of Bromine
120 Milligrams of Lead
72 Milligrams of Copper
60 Milligrams of Aluminium
50 Milligrams of Cadmium
40 Milligrams of Cerium
22 Milligrams of Barium
20 Milligrams of Tin
20 Milligrams of Iodine
20 Milligrams of Titanium
18 Milligrams of Boron
15 Milligrams of Selenium
15 Milligrams of Nickel
14 Milligrams of Chromium
12 Milligrams of Manganese
7 Milligrams of Arsenic
7 Milligrams of Lithium
6 Milligrams of Mercury
6 Milligrams of Caesium
5 Milligrams of Molybdenum
5 Milligrams of Germanium
3 Milligrams of Cobalt
2 Milligrams of Antimony
2 Milligrams of Silver
1.5 Milligrams of Niobium
1 Milligram of Zirconium
800 Micrograms of Lanthanum
700 Micrograms of Tellurium
700 Micrograms of Gallium
600 Micrograms of Yttrium
500 Micrograms of Bismuth
500 Micrograms of Thallium
400 Micrograms of Indium
200 Micrograms of Gold
200 Micrograms of Scandium
200 Micrograms of Tantalum
110 Micrograms of Vanadium
100 Micrograms of Thorium
100 Micrograms of Uranium
50 Micrograms of Samarium
36 Micrograms of Beryllium
20 Micrograms of Tungsten
300 Femtograms of Radium

And here we are.

So, work the alchemy and make a man.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Naked Sunday: Good Days

I was going to put more into my study of branding and how to create what I want to put out there. I’m not really in the mindset to absorb the information. I’m not in the mindset to do much of anything.

It’s a rare rainy morning where I live. I’m enjoying the coolness of the morning. I think I may go for a walk before my wife gets home and the heat of the day rushes in. I am at peace for the moment.

I have coffee on my right and the cats are active. They want to go outside, but it is foot-waggling wet there. They have no interest in being that uncomfortable.

There are words percolating on another project deep in my mind. I’ve a hint of guilt because I’m not pushing those out. I’ve enough of a storyline in my head to let these thoughts and the words simmer on the back burner. They cannot wait too long though, the project is from a request feeler I put out on Twitter.

With the day starting as it did, I keep going back to a memory of my childhood. It was another rainy day. It was wetter than this one. Drops were falling from the sky and water was sluicing down the gutters to the central drains.

I was under 10 and full of that exuberant energy that children have at that age. I was at one with myself and had not yet developed my mental and emotional flaws. Memory being imperfect, I don’t really recall the exact details of how or why I had found a plastic straw, but that was the vehicle for my adventure in the rain.

The water in the gutter reminded me of raging rapids. The straw, bent and folded into itself, was the racing boat that held my focus. After I found the shape, I dropped it into the water. It took off immediately!

I raced after it, a smile plastered on my face. I felt each bump and twist that my tiny straw boat took. I rocked and swayed with it in the water. Sometimes there were doldrums where the stream was blocked. A twig or tree branch fell into the gutter and slowed the water. Frustration built up in me when that happened. I knew the race wasn’t over. I squatted down and picked up the floating straw construction and moved it past the blockage.

It was a good day. I say that because I don’t remember the moments that led up to the rain or after. All I remember is the feeling at that moment in time. I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to describe all that I feel in reminiscing about it.

I had purpose — singular and focused. I was connected to the sky, the streets, the rain, and the path that the straw took. I was about in the rain not caring about whether or not I was wet. I was just a kid with a piece of plastic doing what kids do.

As an adult, I miss that feeling. I miss the act of playfulness and being at one with my surroundings. I struggle to find it in these dwindling days I have left.

Responsibility weighs us all down. There are bills to pay, both literally and metaphorically. There are times we cannot take the time to play. We have to be the arduous ones who push against the grindstone. Others rely upon us.

Through these lenses, everything is colored in grey or beige. We lose ourselves in that place of responsibility and sacrifice. We twist our philanthropy into rage. We transform our altruism into jealousy. We cannot see the path we are walking because we are warped by self-pity.

Perhaps that’s the reason I stare out the window so much. Not daydreaming. Not fantasizing. Just staring. I don’t want to be outside, I just want to be doing something else. Not because the task is particularly hard. Not because it’s something that I cannot do. I’m just bored with the task and need some sort of respite.

Today, I’m going to go beyond staring out of my window. I’m going to go out into the stillness that the overcast day brings and be one with it. I’m going to let it absorb my chaos.

It’s going to be a good day.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Punchline

Before, I was petty, less of a man
Roaming around in a hood, with a gun.
It was all about money and my wealth.
The acid changed me, molded by Batman.

Destiny came as my body healed up.
My mind, though, never the same. I began
To understand my new transformation.

I am the light to his dark bogeyman.
My ugliness is not a hidden pun
Behind a mask that's not good for my health.
No, because now I am the laughing man.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Naked Sunday: Branding Myself, Part 3

Here we are continuing through the minefield of what others think I am based on what I can and have produced. Getting my brand and voice out there for others to see and hear. We're also trying to figure out just how far the Rabbit Hole goes when it comes to self-promotion.

6. Form your brand voice.

According to some sources, a ‘brand voice’ should be:

  • Professional
  • Friendly
  • Service-oriented
  • Authoritative
  • Technical
  • Promotional
  • Conversational
  • Informative

But is that what I’m really trying to do? I’m going to tell stories from my own experiences or the ones I pull out of thin air.

Sure folks want professionalism and friendly. I can’t see them being really interested in the promotional attributes though. I cannot tell you how many accounts I’ve blocked on Twitter because I see nothing but ads to buy books. There’s got to be more than that. There has to be some substance.

So, the voice has to fit me. The voice has to let them know that I’m not another bullshit artist out there trying to hustle a dollar to go get a Spicy Tostada from Taco Bell.

My voice has to be charismatic. My voice has to be mine. Wait, it my voice, isn’t it?

I would like to think that I have a unique voice and vision when I post things. I may be ruminating on similar subject matter as others, but the thoughts and the tuning of these ideas to my situation has got to be mine or it won’t work for me.

After all, it’s my looking glass. Having someone else in it just wouldn’t do.

7. Build a brand message and elevator pitch.

Egad, a brand message. What exactly is my message?

Going back to my card:

Writer of Things
Sky Knocker

and NOT wrangling your monkeys.

My ideas may not align with your ideas, but they may provide insight. They may not be what you had thought of, but it will be entertaining. It may be following a line that is easy to see and then take a hard left.

Many of my stories do not have a happy ending. It’s not that I don’t like stories like that. Some of the best have a denouement sliding into the proverbial home plate for the winning run. Cheers and rounds of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” reverberate throughout the park as the setting sun fades.

That’s not the kind of mark I want to make with my stories.

I want to write the ones that you’ll remember in the pitch black. When your nerves are raw. When the spooks come out of the shadows to remind you that no one is in control, least of all, yourself. I want you to remember the various shades of chromatic lip gloss that covered full lips whispering your name. I want you to remember the smell of gunpowder and the cacophony of tinkling brass as everything goes into bullet time.

It may not be the place you’re expecting to go, but you’ll enjoy the ride!
Sit down and get ready. Mindwarp in 3, 2, 1...
If you think you know where this story is going, well, you’re wrong.

The problem with maintaining that kind of branding is that it will not appeal to everyone. Some may say, ‘screw that, Gary, stick to your guns.’ Well, constantly throwing a reader sideways is a good way to lose your way.

Customers want their expectations fulfilled. Sometimes they want to be surprised, but overall, they want the story finished in a somewhat logical conclusion.

I want my message to be simple, “I want to entertain you in new an unusual ways.” Or even more succinctly, “Let me show you what I see.”

The stories I tell are not always bleak. They may be unusual and strange. They may be horrific. They may even be sorrowful. But this is the world as I see it. There is always something around the corner waiting. There is always another shoe to be dropped.

This is the way I see life. I still need to couple that with meeting my customer’s expectations.

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

The pitch?

That’s another ball of wax. This is the part where I have to sell myself and my skills. I can’t just hand over scribbles on pieces of paper to someone in an elevator and say, ‘Here, read this!’

I have to be confident and accurate as to what I can do and what I’m offering. I have to be on stage with that someone and draw them in. I have to tell the story of my storytelling. It is about me.

Jack Burton: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.

Wang Chi: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.

Jack Burton: Good, me too.

Wang Chi: Yeah!


Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

But, Egg didn’t give me a potion. I’m here all by my lonesome trying to be the invincible hero of my own story. I can show you a thousand different worlds, but if you don’t care to read about them, I’m sunk.

The pitch has to be strong and intriguing. It has to have the lure that my readers are after. It has to be all-encompassing. Drawing them closer. My readers need to see what I’m describing as we’re heading down the floors. They need to understand what I can do.

Underneath my trench coat, I have the cure for the doldrums. I can snip pieces of adventure and intrigue and tie them up. I can mix it together in a powerful potion.

All they have to do is drink it up.

Take a chance.

Let it soak in.

Moving from this world to the stage I’ve set.


Then, I’ve got them.

Let me help you be where I have been, let me help you feel what I feel, join me on this path for a time and you will be witness to my visions.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Shay the Traveler

Most everyone thinks it’s about beginnings and ends. It’s not. It’s about what was learned and how well you lived. It’s about understanding the flower’s struggle in searching for the sun. It’s about the microscopic piece of dust that’s ionized high above to shoot down as chilled rain in a monsoon. It’s not a time line, you see. It’s a Möbius strip. We keep going until we learn what we’re supposed to learn.

It’s about the continuation of learning until we have reached nirvana. Until then, we keep serving the constant battle between our suffering, ignorance, and desire. We keep the lessons. They are imprinted on our anatta.

The process can take lifetimes upon lifetimes as we cycle upon the samsāra trying to get to that place where our anatta is clearly moved off of the wheel. It is then that we are beyond the suffering, ignorance, and desire. We stop paying karma because we have put everything in place within ourselves.

We then exist as pure energy, away from the six realms of the wheel. We are one with the perceived emptiness that others can only try to understand as stillness and contentment. There is no attachment. There is no dhukka. There is no desire. There is no ignorance.

We exist in all and nothing. We are all and nothing.

The anatta is at it’s peak as we attain nirvana. There, we are one with ourselves and the inordinate amount of energies across the multiverse. We obtain the formless beauty of the architecture of everything and nothing. The microcosms are not too small for us. The macrocosms are not too big for us.

We are there and not there. We are the Tao. We are the Magick. We are Kismet. We are the Saints. We are the Trinity. We are the Mystic. We are the Revered. We are the Forgotten. We are the Firmament. We are the Earth. We are the Elemental. We are all this and much more. Still we are also nothing.

The wheel itself, the samsāra, exist for us negligent and weak beings much like a washing machine. We live, succumb to our desires and ignorance, live in our suffering, grow and hopefully learn, pay back past karmic debts earned in this life or a past one, and die only to be reborn. Wash, rinse, repeat.

The idea, of course, is to go through the process in order to strip away the attachments that lead us down the paths of temptation. To be wise enough to understand that these desires lead to suffering. To be strong enough to follow the Noble Eightfold Path that is made of moral virtue, meditation, and insight in order to move onward towards nirvana.

The Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, asked of his monks, “When will it discern the escape from this stress, from this aging and death?” This lead to the revelation of many things. Mainly the pathway towards enlightenment and the creation of the Noble Eightfold Path.

The path itself is ancient and worn. It is stable. I’ve seen it, but have not traveled as far as the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama. He has said that it was traversed by the self-awakened ones of times long-past. It is composed of the right speech, action, and livelihood (or moral virtue), the right effort, mindfulness, and concentration (or meditation), and the right view and resolve (or insight).

It is not a pathway for the weak. There is a great deal of self-sacrifice and disconnection. It is a pathway to a higher state of being. The pathway enriches the anatta. The goal is to be better than what one was before. To join the majestic architecture and achieve nirvana. To remove oneself (of no self) from the samsāra.

The Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama followed this path to fruition.

He attained direct knowledge of the cycle of the samsāra and the the machinations of the wheel. He saw the six realms and how they interacted to dissipate the ignorance and attachments that we hold onto.

It is said that he found the knowledge of the origination and cessation of aging and death on this ancient pathway. In truth, anyone who has been tangled up on the samsāra for a few lifetimes have already discovered this. Our anatta continues onward.

Like the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama, we know of birth and becoming. We are aware of the cravings and desires that come with our new flesh. We scream out into the world in order to fulfill these hungers and satiate our feelings. We develop our name and forms from this seemingly endless wont of need. It is here that we develop our consciousness that is separate from our anatta.

The cessation of need, want, desire is tricky. This is why the path is not for the weak. Living a life that has built no negative karma is an auspicious thing. It is for those beyond god-status. It is impossible for demons.

The Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama told us that he had direct knowledge of the path and revealed it to devas and human beings, as he was inhabiting flesh of the Human Realm at the time. He revealed his knowledge to the monks and nuns and people of all types that were not ordained.

I still wonder if it was a desire and attachment of the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama to spread this knowledge freely to the various groups he contacted. Was this his last karmic duty? Was this where the Buddha, Siddhārtha Gautama finally stepped off of the samsāra to the state of nirvana?

He told his followers in the city of Sāvatthī, “I followed that path.”

And so, I cannot help but notice the sheer amount of need an want in the world. I cannot help but notice the suffering and pain. I cannot help but notice the greed and manipulations.

Devas and Demons seem to sit back and watch as the interplay between all six realms of the samsāra are being set into the Human Realm. The only reason I seem to understand this new reality is that I was born into the Tiryag after my time in the bardo.

In this new combined realm, my name and form is Jackanape Furfoot Billings, I am a Tuxedo Cat. My anatta is known as Shay. Ironic, I know. Anatta should have no names, no sense of self, but here we are.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Naked Sunday: Branding Myself, Part 2

Working through the doughy middle of the process of my trying to find out who I am and what I represent. Figuring out looks and voices of my own work. Methodology and delivery. Am I more like Roxette or Prince?

5. Develop a logo and a tagline.

Some time ago, I had a DBA. I let it lapse because, gee, there was no content to publish under that name. It was clever enough and simple.

It was different from what others had and could not be tied back to the original picture due to some clever digital manipulation on my part.

The tagline? Oh yes, I had a tagline. “Gaming with BAT-titude.” 

You see, the idea was to write gaming supplements. It was during the whole D20 bit where everyone and their brother was flooding the market because of the Open Gaming License. My dream was no different from thousands of others.

They followed through. I did not.

All in all, I think I may have made my money back from the $100 I spent at Legal Zoom for the DBA, but not much more than that. I have no royalties and my name is a footnote in some licensing text.

So be it.

I’ve got no worries about logos and taglines. I currently make my own graphics for the blog here and can hammer out a decent tagline. 

All I have to do is knock on the sky and listen for the response.

As far as iconography and other web elements, well, they come and go. I suppose the graphics depend upon the story I’m telling and what the work is related to. I’m rather proud that I can do that with my meager digital art skills.

I even designed the card I spoke about last time.

I find it fun. The Om symbol with a cubic pattern around it. It conveys a thoughtful and somewhat humorous attitude. 

The tagline? Oh yes, I have a tagline. I’m not your monkey wrangler. I may have an idea on how to help you wrangle your own monkeys, but I’m not going to do it for you. I can’t. I’ve got my own barrel of monkeys to deal with on a daily basis.

But we carry on, right?


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ersatz Parenthood

I’ve never felt as if I were an adequate father figure. I didn’t start out with the children being the Alpha and Omega of my life. Sure, I was there and they were there and I tried to teach them what I could from right and wrong. Sometimes it stuck, sometimes it didn’t. In the end, the children will be who they are. They will find out who they will be on their own despite (or in some cases because) of my interactions with them.

When I speak of my children and discuss their ages, I am often heard saying, ‘Mine came preassembled.’ My boys are not from my genetic line. I was a stepfather of sorts to them for many years before I married their mother.

I look back on the 20 or so years and can’t help but to single out the mistakes that I’ve made with helping to raise them. It is a curse, I think, combined with the way my brain is wired, to always see the things I could have done better for them.

It is fallacy, of course. I am bombarded by my visions of them from the past two decades. I see the seeds of their childhood traits in both of them that have come to bloom. Mistakes were made on my part. Mistakes were made on their part. Still the relationship between myself and the boys have seemed to come around to some sort of stability.

I feel I am tolerated, at least.

Such is the relationship I’ve built with my boys. Frankly, I wish I could have been better while they were growing. I know that I didn’t foster the best of relationships with either of them during these last 20 years, but I know there were some good times to be had along the way.

Hopefully, there will still be more to come.