12.31.2007

The best part of New Years' Day...

... You get to go to the gym and see all the newbie resolutioners try to maintain an aire of 'cool' after getting off the treadmill after 2 minutes on '12'.

Turning over a new leaf

Well, 2008 is almost here. And as is usually the case with incoming new years, thoughts have turned to New Years' resolutions and all the things I could be doing better (or, not at all) to improve the overall quality of my life.

Usually, these things are of the "lose weight / read more / hey, fuck you, I don't need to improve myself, how about everyone else improve themselves and leave me the hell alone" variety.

This year... This year is different. It's different in a way that last year should have been - I understand that, for most people, the year you turn 30, things change and one tends to reflect on life and make changes accordingly. Well, last year around the time of my birthday, I was too busy playing at being a tv producer to give a crap about any of that introspection stuff... I was sleeping about an hour a night and spending about 300% my allotted budget to try and make something out of nothing and all it got me was... Well... Nothing.

Wiser, maybe. And a tremendous amount of debt. But nothing much besides.

So this year, I've had a lot of reasons and a lot of time to think heavily about my life, all 30 years and 340 days of it - the people and events that have shaped it, the habits that combine to form the whole of it... What's positive, what's negative, and what's truly, honestly extraneous. And depending on the day, the time, what was playing on the music player and whether or not I'd just stubbed my toe, my opinions and thoughts on those things changed quite a bit. 2007 has been one of, if not THE most, turbulent years I've ever experienced - but it's brought me to now, a period of about two weeks with a bevy of experiences behind them and nothing but time to think about them.

And this is what I've come up with:

1) I have spent most of my life going too far out of my way to please people - especially those who don't deserve it.

2) I have spent most of my life going too far out of my way to seek information on current events simply because I have an addiction to information.

3) I have let a number of people down (slighty, but still) by not writing on a consistent basis.

4) I have let my body get to a point where there is actually a concept of "getting BACK into shape" - even after the football tryouts.

5) I care far too much about irrelevant things.

6) There are a small number of people in my life who have, without being asked to and without trumpeting the fact that they have, stood by my side during the most difficult periods of my life... Even when I tried to push them away.

7) I spend WAY too much time online.

8) If I have to multitask on more than two concurrent things, all items - regardless of number - that I multitask on, I fail at.


So. Having come to these conclusions, I've taken the following steps to lead a healthier, happier and overall more fulfilling life in 2008 and beyond:

1) I will be online when work or necessity dictate that I need to be online.

This is a HUGE step. In fact, it's so huge, I can't even quantify how huge it is. Up until about two weeks ago, roughly 14 - 18 hours a day, I had some form of internet connection with no fewer than 3 chat sessions (sometimes upwards of 10) and no fewer than 5 brower windows open at any given moment.

The past two weeks, I've removed my RSS feeds to Reddit, Fark, Digg, Slashdot, CNN, BBC, Reuters, AP and Wired. I've stopped signing into IM unless I have a need to communicate with someone specifically, for work-related items or otherwise. The only RSS feeds I now have active are XKCD, Seth Godin's blog and the Mentally Incontinent Forums, and while I still take time to send "P" via my phone to the folks on Facebook who poke me, I only SMS for conversation, and only during down momens. This alone has forced me to focus on the things I NEED to do, like fixing up my house, writing stories and novels, and working out.

2) I am going to the gym minimum 5 times a week.

There's one thing I've discovered about myself over the years - I'm a "bargainer." I'm the kind of guy who wakes up every single morning dreading the very thought of going and running or lifting weights - so I make a deal with myself. "Just get up and go to the gym. Go inside and lift a few times and leave. You can have a light day today."

When I get inside, I begin working out, and the entire time, I'm making these little bargains - if I do one more set of X, i can cut back on Y. And by the time I'm finished with X, I am in the mood to do Y - but I'll only do half of the Y that I usually do, and I'll only do half my session of Z. Of course, midway into my session with Y, I feel like doing the whole thing - and so, I tell myself "Ok, do the whole Y, and skip Z." And by the end of my day, I've done my full X, full Y, and double the Z I did last time.

I don't know why, but it works. And I feel great.

Adding to this, I've built in an irresistible incentive by entering into a challenge with my friend Jeremy to see who can lose the most body fat over a 15 week period. Every week, the person who loses more body fat that week gets to hit the loser in the arm - and they don't "cancel out" - if i win this week, and he wins next week, there are two hits that get delivered. At the end, we will weigh in in Las Vegas at the Mentally Incontinent Vegas party, with the winner getting $500 in chips.

3) I will write at least one new story for Mentally Incontinent every week, and regardless of my perception of quality, it will be posted on Monday of each week.

I already have a cache of work to choose from. I'm going to give myself a few hours today (December 31) to finish up the one I really want to post, but if it's not done, I'll just post one of the others I've written.

One of my personality quirks / qualities / whatever you want to call it - I've always been capable of making the people who manage me very, very happy with the work I do. And with Penguin Books, I've been doing some work on marketing for the It's Not News, It's Fark book and the new Truth about Chuck Norris book, and they've been very very happy with the stuff I've done - so happy, in fact, that they've given me some leeway on my deadline for the Mentally Incontinent book.

This is not a good thing.

With every reprieve in deadline they give me, I get more and more slack... Losing more and more readers - some of these readers are very, very valuable and wonderful folks who have been longtime presences in the MI Forums and on the site. And I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for having let them down.

And of course, there are other reasons I haven't written... With the exception of the 4-part story about a high school crush on a teacher, there hasn't been much new from me in 2007, and the reasons are... Irrelevant. Sure, they're powerful and meaningful and deep and all that gnarly shit when I, Joe Peacock, think about them - but the thing is, as a supposed "Writer", I'm not about that. I'm about producing writing. And without producing writing... How can I be a writer? I mean... Sure, all my reasons are valid and understandable... If only I could explain them to you in a way that you could feel exactly what I've felt and know exactly what I've known the past year.

At best, I could tell you some stories and share with you vast missives about pain and dispair and creative drought, and you could nod your head and say "yeah, that makes sense" and still, there'd be no stories and no book and no reason for you to actually read anything I write. Because I've not written anything.

This is unacceptable.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how I'm feeling or how sick I get or who hurts me or what conversation sparks what memory that locks me down for weeks at a time and makes me want to go run headfirst into a wall to make all the bad thoughts stop... If I want to be a writer, I have to write. If I want a reader-edited book to be edited by readers, I need to give readers something to read (and edit).

I get it now.

4) I've hired a manager.

It sounds odd... But I've gone and put someone on the payroll to manage me. I'm giving this person my current list of things I need to do, and my current schedule as it pertains to already-committed tasks. I'm going to allow this person to build my calendar and then KEEP ME COMMITTED TO IT.

He's a trusted friend who's been working with me for about half a year now, and he has no trouble kicking my ass into gear when it needs it. It's just that now, he gets paid for it.

One of his major responsibilities is to assess the weekly "hey, I have a new idea!" shit that I come up with and force me to come up with an honest schedule of when the hell it could fit into my current schedule. If it can't, then out it goes.

There will be a section on my newly redesigned site (coming soon) filled with these ideas. If I can't do them, I'm going to slap them into this section and let others have them. No sense in wasting them, you know.

5) I'm going to quit caring about anything and anyone that isn't directly related to me, my family or my friends.

This is probably the hardest of all the things I'm doing. I have to quit reading about, watching and having opinions about politicians, celebrities, rock bands, rap acts, video directors, television shows, movies and everything else that isn't honestly, truly important.

This does not mean that I will quit paying attention to all of these things. I will simply stop CARING about them. I've had an irrational concern about everything on this planet since the day I was born... And the natural consequence of that is that the entire world and its problems become my concern (and those of you who suffer the same affliction - and there are a LOT of you - know exactly what I'm talking about).

It's fun to be angsty about the fact that America knows more about the color of Brittany Spears' panties on a given day than they do about their elected Congressmen, but honestly... Who cares? I know what I know, I care about what I care about, and everything else outside of that is wasted effort.

The shorter version of this, as my wife put it, is that I'm going to stop trying to fix the world from the comfort of my recliner.

6) I'm going to update my journal every. single. day.

Yep. Go ahead and unsubscribe from the RSS feed now. You thought you got a lot of mindless drivel from this thing before? Prepare to drink from the firehose.

The theory here is that, so long as I'm writing - regardless of what it is I am writing - I will be compelled to write more. For about 15 years, I kept a notebook with me everywhere I went, and I could probably fill about 4 pages a day with just my observations and thoughts and the lyrics of whatever song might be playing my head. That's precisely the reason I was able to write about a story a week when I first started MI - the stuff just poured out of me, and it wasn't because it was spilling over the sides... It was because I'd been in the habit of WRITING. It is SO much easier to write something if you wrote something the day before.

On that.... The last honest journal entry I made was October 27, 2007. It was half a page long. Before that? July 5th. And before that? December 12, 2006.

Three entries in one year. Pathetic.

So, I've vowed to write in my notebook every single day. And I figure I might as well put something in this thing every day as well. Sure, you'll be getting sloppy seconds of filtered crap, but whatever... It's the internet, if you expected quality, you should have gone to the library.


So there you go. Welcome to the new Joe.

12.20.2007

OLPC

just got my One Laptop Per Child lappy... It's coooooool. Very neatly done.

12.17.2007

Wal-meh

In a good mood? Want to get rid of it?

Nothing works better than 20 minutes of waiting for people to figure out the self-service checkout at Wal-mart.


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(posted via mobile device. Please forgive any errors and/or pointlessness)

Espresso Beans

I've noticed that some people are uncomfortable when I've eaten chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Some People: "Hey, what's that delectable little treat you seem to be enjoying there?"

Me: "A chocolate covered espresso bean."

SP: *contorted face* "Eew."

Me: "Want one?"

SP: "No, thanks..."

But when they see me eating a nothing-covered espresso bean, it brings out the worst in them.

Some People: "Hey, what's that delectable little treat you seem to... Wait... I recognize that - is that... A coffee bean?!?"

Me: "Well... An espresso bean, yes."

SP: *contorted face* "Eew."

Me: "Want one?"

SP: "FUCK YOU! I hold you in ill regard for even considering that I would place that vile thing in my mouth!"

Me: "Uh... Okay..."

SP: "Seriously! You are the worst humanity has to offer! You disgust me, you... You coffee bean eater!"

Me: "It's an espresso b..."

SP: "I WILL RAPE YOUR MOTHER! YOU DON'T DESERVE TO LIVE! I HOPE YOU SPRAIN AN ANKLE! SO ON AND SO FORTH!"

Me: *leaves*

They see me munchin'... They hatin'...

12.14.2007

The last hour of my life...

...has looked pretty much like this. WHY THE HELL does everyone have to get on the road when I want to get somewhere?!?


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(posted via mobile device. Please forgive any errors and/or pointlessness)

12.13.2007

I Steal Music.

I steal music.

Kinda startling, huh? Possibly not... There are kids out there with that exact phrase written on t-shirts or hats. But for the most part, there’s a great amount of capitulation and justification coming from the general populace where music theft is concerned. “I just want to check out the CD, if I like it, I’ll go buy it...” No you won’t. You’ll do precisely what I (and almost everyone else) will do - you’ll put it on your music player, enjoy the hell out of it, and go on with life... Then go on to post about how you buy your music in the comments of websites and feel pretty good about taking the moral high ground.

At least I’m being honest. I steal music, and I’m not at all sorry about it.

The truth is, I’ve been a music thief for, oh, about 23 years now - ever since I got my first ever RCA cassette recorder for Christmas and a clock radio for my birthday. I’d record music off the radio and make my own mixtapes (to this day, I can’t hear “Rock me Amadeus” by Falco without hearing Power 99.7’s DJ yelling how great the song is right before it ends). No money changed hands for that music - I heard it, I wanted it, and I took it. No ifs, ands or buts.

I stole those songs much in the same way that I’ve stolen pears off of a tree at a park or muskadines off the vine in my grandfather’s neighbor’s back yard. I didn’t pay for those fruits - I wanted them, I took them, and I didn’t blink even once.

Now we, the generally law-abiding citizens of the world, would look at this situation and - for the most part - we’d say “Well, yes, technically that’s stealing - BUT...” and we’d follow it up with any number of justifications. Regardless, we’d all pretty much agree that if the owner of the property decided to press charges against me for plucking a fruit from a tree and eating it, that person would be legally right, but morally, they’d be an asshole.

That’s because we all innately understand the difference between laws and morals.

In high school, I started earning a little bit of money with after school and summer jobs, and I’d spend it on music whenever possible. I’d easily spend an entire week’s pay on CD’s and LP’s, acquiring music by what everyone would agree are legitimate means. But the twist is that I was in the vast minority of my friends, in the fact that I worked and had a few coins to spend on music, where they did not.

But I wanted to share these amazing discoveries I made in the record shops around Little Five Points and East Atlanta - so, I copied out mixtapes and handed them over. I loaned out CDs and let my friends listen as long as they wanted. I aided and I abetted. And what’s worse... I allowed friends to do the same for me. I borrowed records and tapes and CDs and became a fan of all sorts of bands, and I never actually traded dollars / hours of my life to have the privilege of doing so.

And every single time Helmet or The Rollins Band or Primus came to town, I had no fewer than 10 kids going with me to the show... Two of which actually legally owned the records. Hell, I spent 35 dollars to go and see No Doubt in 1996, one of the biggest mistakes of a concert I’ve ever attended - but nonetheless, I went, because the albums that had been shared with me enticed me to attend. All of us kids begged and borrowed to afford tickets to these shows, shirts and ballcaps from the merch stands... And to think, we were turned on to these bands because we were thieves, every single one of us.

I’m an adult now, and technology has advanced to the point where a song can be transferred across a broadband connection in somewhere under a minute (some connections faster, some slower, but nonetheless - it’s quicker than going to the store). I can explore vast catalogs of music in the blink of an eye, determining without spending a single dime the difference between fluff and fulfillment.

I don’t have to spend $9.95 on the new Puscifer record to determine that, while I admire and respect Maynard James Keenan’s other projects (Tool and A Perfect Circle), this one is utter dreck. I don’t have to buy a $7.00 CD-5 with four remixes of a single I don’t like to get the one Pearl Jam song I’ve been told about, but can’t hear on the radio. And to do it, I have to steal. I have to acquire the media without paying for it.

And so I do. And I don’t bat an eye when I do it.

Why?

Because it’s only theft in the eyes of an archaic law established to protect an industry built on enticing you to trade hours of your life (represented by dollars) to acquire the “artistic” visions in someone else’s head.

But here’s the thing - I’m not alone. In fact, I’m not even a representative minority - I’m a member of a growing majority of internet users who have learned that they have the ability to sample or own a song without spending money on it. And the behavior will not change - It’s only going to become more prevalent, because regardless of how badly lawmakers and profiteers want it to be wrong, it’s not. It’s a path to fulfillment that cannot be closed.

Just a few years ago, there was a choice to be made, and it was “be a law-abiding member of society and buy our record, or be a filthy criminal and steal it.” These days, however, the choice is no longer that of the user - it’s of the artist. It’s “keep whining about how things are, now, in the present and be impotent to change it” or “deal with it, adapt, and advance.”

I have a theory, and it’s not a very popular one with most artists I meet. The theory goes like this: The true artist - the person who has not only the ability, but the COMPULSION to create, will create regardless of what they are paid to do so. Now, this might not hit you hard, or even at all. But for creators who have earned a few bucks from their art, this is a HUGE issue - they hate this theory and they find it contemptible that I even pose it. But I do, because I feel that the true artist finds fulfillment in watching and feeling their audience respond to the creation, not in how much they’re paid for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong - I like getting paid for my books. I like getting paid when I design something for someone. I like getting paid for the work I do. But the honest truth is that if no one hired me to make a website, I’d make one anyway... Not for them, but for myself. And I’d put it out for public consumption, because what good is a performance without an audience?

My book is available for free on Google Books. This is not an accident - everything I’ve written to this date is available free of charge to anyone who wants to read it. I do have pay versions of my book available, because it costs money to print ink on paper and ship it to people. And I enjoy a tiny profit for each copy sold, which enables me to free up that amount of time to write more. But I’m not motivated by that profit - I’m motivated by the comments and reactions and responses I get from the work.

A painter paints a work - how do you charge for views? Well, you lock it behind closed doors at a gallery or museum... But then, when people visit and they look and they share that experience with someone else, how do you gauge the “damage” that has been done by the sharing of that experience? What if they took a picture with their cameraphone and sent it to a friend - is that some sort of violation? And if so, why? Isn’t the entire point of creating a work and sharing it outward to get more people interested in experiencing it?

The concept of copyright, if you boil it down to its pure essence, is the legal protection afforded a creator to own and control the works they create.

The modern use (and, in my opinion, abuse) of copyright is ensuring that the consumption of ideas which have been released from the cages of creators’ minds is controlled in a way that, honestly, is impossible to control. It’s not unlike releasing a hungry tiger in a zoo and instructing them to only eat the people you point at - once it’s free, it’s free, and all the laws in the world won’t stop it from going where it’s going to go... It’s just going to make it “illegal” for it to do so, which for all intents and purposes, is simply a tenet for punishing those who do what you don’t want them to do. It doesn’t stop a person from performing an act, it simply builds a case for whapping them on the nose with a cane when they do it.

Ultimately, laws are reflections of the will of the people. The vast majority of us believe that killing a person without just cause is wrong - so there are laws to reflect that moral stance in our society. And we all agree that if I purchase a lawn mower and leave it in my yard, and someone comes along and takes it, that’s theft. But there’s a huge difference if I build a sculpture in my front yard and people walk by and look upon it without paying some sort of tribute.

Art is concept. Concepts cannot be stolen, only shared. It’s really that simple - and if you consider yourself an artist, and this fact has not dawned upon you, you need to reflect upon the nature of your creation and your motives for creating it, because what you’re creating with your talent is not art - it’s product.

12.12.2007

Me be gone and back and gone

Hi again.

It's been a bit, and for that, I'm not too terribly sorry. I've been busy swooning over my new nephew and falling through bridges that I have to rebuild.

I just stopped by to say hi, and to show you the reason I'm about to get the flu and be gone for yet another 10 days:

12.10.2007

12.01.2007

My board is fast and danger!

It's bridge fix day! You may not be able to tell but these boards stick out 10ft. Past the end of the tailgate of the truck... Which is why I'm back here.

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(posted via mobile device. Please forgive any errors and/or pointlessness)