LOOKING FOR WORDS

I started out searching in regular places:

under the coffee table, between seat cushions;

I could always find a couple handy ones

hiding between the pages of the dictionary,

 

but like a pair of lost keys, the first few places

often yield unsatisfactory results—particularly

when one is in a crazed rush to find them. Then,

under the pressures to get going, I will begin looking

 

in stranger places—like underneath the sink,

inside the empty spaces of an egg carton, and

even within the frozen depths an ice tray,

like fossils hidden in the arctic that are needed

to complete the evolutionary chain

 

that is the last poem I need for my book.

But then it will happen, in a sinking sigh of relief,

that I will spot them sticking out on the counter

beneath that morning’s newspaper,

which sports a headline that always seems to read

that the world is coming to an end.
And now that the words have suddenly

put me in motion, I can’t help feeling silly

that I didn’t spot them lying there sooner.

——

 

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REVIEWING THE BOOK REVIEW

Book reviews always make me curious. I love them, but at the same time, I wonder why people read them. And people DO read them, The Los Angeles Review of Books (aka LARB), which is a lovely website, thrived when they filled a void that existed in the industry for book reviews—but I wanted to talk about the idea of a book review.

When I think of a book review, I think of some detailed discussion about a few things. 1) What the book was about, 2) the key elements of the plot, themes, and other motifs, and finally 3) how it all relates to the bigger picture of life. Which is certainly something that matters to the overall discourse of the world, isn’t it? It presents a different interpretation, as well as potentially missed aspects of a story someone read.

Yet papers often run book reviews concurrent to release dates. LARB does this sometimes, though they also do book reviews of things several years down the lines. The classic book review though, which is designed to boost the popularity of a book on release, comes out often the same day as the book. Which doesn’t make sense to me. What discourse can that add to the world? It will get lost in the paper. I’m not going to finish my brand new book, track down the now week-old paper, and reread a book review to really understand how it ties into the bigger picture of things. Not when Goodreads comments often add just as much value. No wonder that industry went through a pretty hard reset.

How would I improve this? Well, I mean it’s really just adjusting the dates of release. If a book releases Wednesday, and it takes two weeks for the average person to finish reading…well then they should publish the review two weeks later. It’s not like a superfan is going to be upset the review is a bit later, and people often rave about books the most right when they finish. Repetition and intensity are what make people remember a product.

What do you think? Would you rather read a review a few weeks later? Let me know in the comments!

——

 

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A WEEK INDOORS

Water ran down the window, as the pouring rain pattered lightly against the side of the house. It was another indoor day for Tim. Monday had been the first, which was exciting for him. It was rare that he got to watch so many movies in one evening. Tuesday was the second, at which point the novelty of a day inside began to wear off. His mother grew more impatient with him, because as he ran out of things to do, he began talking to her more. They didn’t talk often.

On Wednesday, Tim tried to take a walk outside. The rainfall had died down a bit, and he was hoping that he would be able to enjoy the cool air a short while. But as all good plans go, the second he shut the door behind him, the wind picked up, blowing frosted air and icy bullets of water into his face. It felt like an animal was tearing at his skin. That was the last time he would be doing that.

Thursday the power went out. Tim begged to light some candles—he had always like the fire, but when his mother obliged, neither of them could find the matches. His sadness turned to frustration when two in the afternoon rolled around. It looked like midnight outside; the clouds were an impenetrable wall of darkness. It was like the sun itself had been dampened by the rain.

But today was Friday. Fridays were usually spent taking a walk from school to the park, then off for ice cream on the way back home. Tim’s stomach growled as he fantasized about it. He could feel the threads of grass between his toes, and the grit of the soil under that. He could taste the vanilla cone, the sticky sweet sugars finding their way into the cracks of his skin. They would torment him later, but he didn’t care.

It was a lovely thought, but alas it was entirely fabricated. The evening Friday was short, and Tim found his way to bed in the early hours of the night.

——

 

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BEDTIME STORY

I used to tell my sister stories to help her go to sleep, back when she was little. One story I told her I remember like it was yesterday. The summer evenings back home were warm, but not hot like they are in California. Mom and dad were both out for the night, and Lizzie—that’s my sister’s name. Well, it’s actually Elizabeth, but that’s what I call her. Anyway, Lizzie was having trouble going to sleep as usual. I had tried music, I had tried lying down with her, I had tried making warm milk for her, I had even tried calling mom, though there was no answer, as I expected. So, now that all else had failed, I decided to tell her a story.

“Lizzie” I said, leaning against the doorframe of her room, “do you want to hear a story?” She turned to me with a huge smile on her face. Her eyes sparkled and her hands clenched together tight.

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” She said, bouncing with every cry to emphasize her excitement.

“Then you have to get in bed silly.” She hastily tossed her toys in a pile and jumped into bed. I grabbed the blue plastic chair from her drawing desk and pulled it over to her bed, then turned the lights out and took a seat. We sat there in silence for a few moments, while I gathered my thoughts. I could hear her short, excited breaths as she waited. In through her mouth, then out through her nose. I took a deep breath, and leaned forward, with my elbows on my knees. My hands hung together loosely between my legs.

“Ok, this story is one is about you, but it’s about a you that’s in a different universe, so you have to picture it for me, ok?”

“Ok,” she whispered.

“Ok, so picture yourself, in a boat on a river,” I must digress, I pulled the setting slightly from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, “the sky is a blistering orange color, because the sun is setting, the edges of the night are creeping in. The river you are running down is large and strong, but you aren’t worried. You lay back in your boat, which is really more of a kayak now that I think about it, and look up at the clouds above you. They look inviting and happy. You see hummingbirds fly over you and can hear the little tweets of some unknown birds in the trees.

“You take a deep breath and feel at peace, but instead of drifting off to sleep you are compelled to sit up, and smell the fresh watery air. You look down the river and see it is leading you into a cave inside a mountain, but there’s no need to fear—this is where you were headed all this time. As you grow closer, the river slows your course, and you see the gaping opening of the cave, like the mouth of some primordial beast, stuck in time the moment before it swallowed its prey.

“You cross into the darkness of the cave—your eyes take a moment to adjust before you can see clearly. You pull a lantern from your bag, and a small box of matches. Your first two strikes prove fruitless, but on the third the match erupts into flame. Using your other hand, you shield the match from them wind, then slip it inside the lantern. When the wick has been lit, you carefully extract the match, and wave it out in the air. The smoke of the match trails off into the darkness, and you toss the remains into the river. You—”

“But that’s littering!” Lizzie intervenes. The pout on her face is clear from the sound of her voice, though there’s a yawn in her voice. She was on her way out— her protest a last defiance before sleep overtakes her.

“Hold on, let me finish. Ok, so what I meant to say was you were about to throw the remains into the water, but then thought better of it. Instead, you ground the extinguished match out on the side of your boat. You raise the lantern onto the pole in your boat, to give a dim light to the cave. The river has slowed your boat to a crawl, and you can see that it seems to stop ahead of you. Strange. Where did the water go. Ahead, there is a shore, and when the water approaches ankle deep, you hop out and pull your boat to shore. The water is cool, but not cold. Your boots slosh in the water, and stick to the sandy floor with each step. Once your boat is secure, you pull out your bag and look at the floor. Fatigue pulls at your eyelids, and you decide to set up camp. You wave your lantern around, to observe the area around you. To your surprise, there’s a pile of wood, sitting as if for a campfire just for you. You set your things down, and light the fire. The wood takes to the fire immediately, and you are warmed. You lie down, and feel the weight of your day pass over your shoulders, the heat of the fire licking at your backside. You feel comfortable, despite your loneliness, and you drift off to sleep.”

I leaned back in my chair, and took another deep breath. The moment of truth. Was Lizzie asleep? I paused and waited. Silence. She was out cold.

——

 

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CANDICE

After, I began to do art.

I started with happy bushes

Then I moved to things more luscious,

But I was awful at the start.

 

Many nights I have felt phony

Like I didn’t deserve the chance

To draw the canon of romance

Because I myself was lonely.

 

But come the morning I have found

The entirety of my crowd

Cheering for me extremely loud

And that causes me to rebound.

 

To pick up the brush and splatter

Paint across a blank white canvas.

An abstract picture of Candice,

For whom my heart pitter-patters.

——

 

Hello there!

 

First things first, this picture was provided by my friend Van Spillman. His art is awesome, and you can check it out on his Instagram! (Seriously, go do that!)

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SAVING MONEY

Hello everyone,

 

Let’s talk about being broke. You’re broke, I’m broke. We’re all broke. Well, not all of us, but hey, this is the world we live in. If you’re reading this, you probably have some curiosities about financial aspects. First off, I’m not a banker. I don’t have any monetary ties, and these are just opinions. If you are in serious financial trouble, I recommend talking to a professional (though preferably someone you know, since my financial friends tell me that some people in the business like to “hustle” customers).

Now, if you have ever read the Penny Hoarder, you have a few cool ideas about saving money or earning more. And that’s fine—I mean, the reason I’m writing this is because I read a post on their website about saving money. Living paycheck to paycheck is hard. That’s pretty simple and if that’s your life, you know it. Solving that problem can be pretty hard. Some people can build budgets, and work within them, but often times that is difficult because we want to have luxuries, either for ourselves or for our family. This is a hard reality, but sometimes luxuries are just that—something extra that you can’t get. If you really want to save your money, you need to cut down on or completely remove the luxuries in your life right now, so that you can have more in the future.

Let me give you an example. You have a ritual of getting coffee every morning at McDonald’s, because Starbucks is too expensive, but you really need that cup of caffeine in the morning. This is a luxury. You don’t need that coffee, you just have lulled yourself into the idea that you need it. Many societies lived for years without it. But ok, maybe you need the caffeine and you won’t budge on that. Can you find an alternative? Buy bags of coffee and make it at home? Or maybe switch to a cheaper tea? Sure, it’s not as great, but if it get’s the job done, does it matter?

Of course, if you’ve been penny pinching already, then this might seem obvious. You probably are already pouring yourself half cups of coffee from the cheapest bag possible. But try to apply that to the rest of your life. Are you sure there’s nothing you could cut out or down on? Gym memberships are a big one I hear about people wasting. $20 per month. That’s nothing right? Wrong, that’s $240 a year. So many people have gym memberships for a treadmill and some dumbbells. If you are a legit bodybuilder person, this doesn’t apply to you, because you need those machines, but guess what everyone else! You can run at the park and you can do push up on any sidewalk. Do exercises right in your living room, and you have an extra $240 for your Christmas shopping. It doesn’t have to be a gym membership, but find the excess in life, and minimize it’s cost.

The Penny Hoarder does a good job at looking at new apps and things like sending your spam mail somewhere to be processed for a couple dollars, and that’s cool, but it can be a hassle and that’s really just a way for them to make money. And there’s nothing wrong with that—I mean, they have to make money like everyone else. But all these plans like “save $5 a month every month for a year, and you’ll have $60 extra in December” are no brainers. But you don’t need MORE money, you need to be more efficient with your money (ok, well, maybe you do need more money, but minimum wage is crap and you have to work with the money you currently have. You could probably be more efficient). For me, it’s easier. I’m not currently paying rent, I don’t have kids, and so on. BUT, that doesn’t mean I go out every weekend. In fact, I very rarely go out, and I very rigidly decide what I spend my money on. Why? Because going out every week can be expensive. You will regularly spend $12 or more a head on a meal if you go out. Don’t even factor in drinks.

The whole point of the Penny Hoarder, and other sites like it, are to give you tips on how to be more efficient with your money. But that’s the problem—it’s your money. You choose how you spend it. So stop making the choice that leaves you struggling. Or, if you have no good choices, make the choice that makes you struggle the least. And I don’t mean mental struggles—your well being is important, but if you can’t feed yourself or live with a roof over your head, you’re going to end up worse for ware. Take the 6 months of extra mental weight so that you have the security blanket to not have to have those mental struggles down the line. And to those of you that are already doing this and still struggling…I’m sorry. The truth is that sometimes you can only pinch yourself so dry before something breaks. The system is against you, and there isn’t much you can do. But, that doesn’t mean you should despair. Despair leads to mental paralysis, and you don’t have to have that. In that 20 minutes of free time you get, or 5 minutes, or whatever it is, look for a new job. Craft a way to ask for more money at the job you have. You deserve it. Don’t tell yourself you don’t. You really do.

GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!

Hello everyone,

 

It’s a tired morning—or rather, afternoon for all of you. How’s everyone doing? The world end yet? I mean, we just experienced the release of Pokemon Go!, which effectively blew up the internet. Seriously—my Facebook feed is utterly consumed. Which is part cool and part annoying. I’m stuck because I sort of want to participate in the fad—I mean, I certainly like Pokemon, but I don’t exactly have a ton of time for it.

Video games, as well as other hobbies that extend to this in similar ways, are the topic of today. I have a couple hobbies—one of which is writing this blog, the other is playing Magic: the Gathering, which is a card game. The latter of which gave me an avenue to a job, and the former of which will (hopefully) help me along the way in my career. Aside from that, I don’t really have many hobbies. This could be because I am a student that works 40 hours a week during the summer—so I really don’t get a break. At the same time, exactly what is the value of these hobbies?

Video games are something that people can obsess over. I know I certainly went through a phase where all I did was play video games. It was called the middle years of my childhood. Regardless, I am uncertain of if the continuation of this is a good idea. I have friends between 18 and 28 that are all checking out this game. On the one hand, it’s making people interact with one another more. Carpooling to find Pokemon in different areas, going on a hike together, and so on. That’s great, especially if it gets people out of the house that would normally just play a game like this for hours on the couch. I haven’t played it yet, but I assume there are Pokemon battles that are available to strangers somehow. In which case, it provides people an avenue to meet new people and make friends. That’s also great.

On the other hand, it is a distraction from real life. We aren’t taking hikes for the experience of the mountainside, instead we are trying to find the Tyranitar or Geodudes. We aren’t having meaningful conversations with our friends, we are discussing our next stopping point for a trip. The list goes on. So while I encourage you to experience this fad while it is popular, I hope you don’t let it consume your life entirely. It’s a game, but the reason I think they made Pokemon Go was to help bridge the gap between reality and gaming—because so many people have become incapable of basic interactions with others. It’s not too hard. Just look up, smile, and say hello.