Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween y'all! I've been so busy it's been hard to really get into the spirit of things so far, but today looks like it will be a fun day anyhow. I've got cool skull sneakers, a skull-covered button up shirt, a skull-and-crossbones stud, and a dangly bat earring on in recognition of the holiday. Later this afternoon my company is having a little costume contest/party thing which should be a good time, too. Unfortunately I don't have a "real" costume -- too much to do with the party coming up on Saturday so costume shopping time has been non-existent. I'll be hitting the Halloween store clearance sale tomorrow to try to score something cool-yet-cheap for this year's edition of the Halloween Hootenanny, but for today I'll just be ...

... a martial arts guy. I know, what a freakin' cop-out. I'm wearing my dobakh, a "costume" I already wear for at least 4-5 hours a week, every week. So, not really a costume at all.

So Damn Lame. But at least I'll look good.

At first I felt a little funny about wearing my dobakh to a costume party -- I wondered for a bit if it was disrespectful. But, you know, I'm not misrepresenting myself by wearing rank I haven't attained, and I'm not going to mock or make fun of my art or the things I (or others) have accomplished. Basically, I'm wearing jammies with red trim and a belt. While the uniform is a traditional garment, ultimately it's the behavior of the person wearing it that determines whether proper respect for our art is being shown. I've seen people do some pretty shabby things while wearing uniforms, and I've seen high-ranking martial artists behave in a way that shames themselves or their art while out of their dobakhs, which I would think is just as bad, if not worse. I'm just wearing something that identifies me as a "type" for a party. Most folks would consider it a costume, even if I know it isn't really one in this case.


So, yeah, party planning continues. The music mix is essentially complete -- this year's mix is heavy on 80's and 90's tunes with a lot of Halloween-style songs thrown in. Here's the list of artists:

A Perfect Circle - Adam Ant - Amy Winehouse - Annie Lennox - The Avalanches - B-52s - Bauhaus - The Beatles - Bjork - Blue Oyster Cult - Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Keepers - Bow Wow Wow - Bruce Springsteen - Camper van Beethoven - The Clash - Concrete Blonde - The Cramps - The Cure - David Bowie with Queen - The Dead Milkmen - Death Cab for Cutie - Depeche Mode - Echo and the Bunnymen - Eddie Vedder - Elbow - The Flaming Lips - Foo Fighters - General Public - Gorillaz - Grand Master Flash and Melle Mel - Grant Lee Buffalo - Guadalcanal Diary - The Hold Steady - House of Pain - The Jesus and Mary Chain - Julian Cope - Kernkraft 400 - Kirsty MacColl - Linkin Park - Liz Phair with Material Issue - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - Los Straitjackets - Maroon 5 - Matthew Sweet - The Mavericks - Muse - Nerf Herder - The New Pornographers - Oingo Boingo - Our Lady Peace - Peter Gabriel - The Police - The Pretenders - Queen - The Ramones - Raul Malo - Reel Big Fish - REM - Reverend Horton Heat - Rob Zombie - Robyn Hitchcok and the Egyptians - Santa Esmerelda - Screaming Blue Messiahs - Simple Minds - Siouxsie and the Banshees - Siouxsie Sioux - Sloan - Sponge - Stevie Nicks - Sublime - They Might Be Giants - The Shins - The Specials - Thomas Dolby - Timbaland - Tomoyasu Hotel - Tool - Tori Amos - Trio - VAST - The White Stripes

5 hours and 55 minutes of music, sound effects, and movie clips, mixed and crossfaded and all that happy crap into one monster MP3. Should be awesome. Now I just have to get the house decorated. We have a fairly decent display in the front yard -- nothing new this year aside from some lights, but our graveyard still looks better than any of the other yard displays in our neighborhood so yay us. I'll get home a bit early today and get sound effects, music and fog machines going before the trick or treaters come out, so all in all it'll be a good scene when it's ready.

The inside of the house, though, has a long way to go before Saturday night: we have lots of decor, but haven't put it out yet. I've done a bit of stuff with some cool dripping blood effects on various windows and mirrors, but otherwise the interior is unstarted. Lots of work to do. And with a minimum of 60-70 folks coming by for the party, it's gotta be tricked out and impressive or I'll feel like I blew it. Still, we have lots of creepy stuff, plus since the party is coming a few days after Halloween we get the benefit of the post-holiday clearance sales on all sorts of stuff and I can raid my brother's collection of stuff he puts out in his yard as well.

To top it off, I've volunteered to take down all the decorations at the dojang in exchange for getting to use them, and thsi iscludes a lot of that plastic "scene setter" stuff that goes up on the walls -- graveyards, wrought iron fences, spooky forests, and so forth. I think when I finish raiding everyone else's stuff we'll wind up with a pretty solid party scene.

Anyway, time to get some work done. Enjoy the day!

Mood: Upbeat
Now Playing: Halloween Hootenanny 2007 Mix

Monday, October 29, 2007

Party Planning; Sadness; An Exorcism

Well, this week marks the beginning of the run-up to our annual Halloween party. I have SO much I have to do between today and Saturday night that I'm feeling a bit paralyzed -- just don't know where to start. I mean it's a Halloween party and we don't even have our costumes yet! To say nothing of all of the decorating we have to take care of inside the house by then. I still need to get a bunch of stuff set up in the front yard for Halloween night, and that's only two days away. Ack. So much to do.

Happily, I managed to nail down this year's edition of the Halloween Hootenanny music mix/trivia game without too much trouble. In years past I've gotten incredibly obsessed with the music, spending hour upon hour sitting in front of the computer messing around in Mixmeister, getting things just right, and trying desperately to jam lots of different styles of music (everything from dace and electronica to current pop to classic rock to grunge and heavy metal, plus lots of Halloween-themed stuff jammed in there as well). This year I game myself a bit of a break and stuck to more familiar/less recent music for the vast majority of the mix -- it's heavily 80s/90s oriented this time around, with a real emphasis on fairly well known mid-late 90's alternative rock and very little in the way of "current hits." As a result the sequencing was way easier and the mix came together -- all 6 hours of it -- in just one night. Still want to jam a bunch of sound effects and stuff in there, but all in all it's complete. So that's one thing done.

And about a thousand left to do. Heh. Sigh.

But so far the party is looking to be a great success -- turnout looks to be good, although probably slightly smaller than last year (we had 96 last time, this year I'm betting we'll hit somewhere in the 70s...). Still, that's more than enough folks to ensure the evening will be a rockin' one. Now I just need the night to get here so I can stop sweating it.


The last few weeks have been a bit frustrating for me, training-wise. With all of the busy blur that my life has been in the past 2 months, I've been having a rough go of it making more than a couple of classes each week and finding additional training time outside of classes. Usually I devote a minimum of 4-6 hours of time outside of the dojang while also attending at least 3 classes each week. But, since I tested for 3rd gup I've been lucky to make it to the dojang two times a week, and if I managed to get more than an hour of extra practice in at the gym or at home it was a miracle. Happily, starting this week I think I'll be able to rectify that situation a bit.

I'm a very active gup in our dojang, doing a lot to try to help keep the place clean and running smoothly, assisting with designing marketing and promotional materials, and volunteering to help out with tournaments and other events whenever I can. One of the best fringe benefits of this has been being granted permission to use the dojang in off-hours and being given my own key. Previously I've used this privilege on Sunday afternoons to go in and train by myself or with one or two friends for a couple of hours before heading home to make dinner, which has always been great.

But this morning, I decided to head over to the dojang to train instead of heading to the gym. It's interesting: this wasn't so much because I felt I needed to be there to train. My gym has several studio areas with a nice mirrored wall where I can work forms and techniques, although not with the benefit of a nice cushioned mat. Mostly it was that I felt a need to get in the dojang by myself to reconnect with the dojang itself and with my own drive and desire to train, to remind myself of why I'm there.

Let me explain. The last couple of weeks have been a bit trying, personal-life wise, in relation to some of my friends. Not getting into details -- nothing to be gained by airing dirty laundry -- but suffice it to say that some things have been said and done which led to regrettable results. I wasn't directly involved in anything, but my wife and I are directly impacted by the end results, and it's left me with a sense of, well, loss. I've been feeling something akin to grief for about two weeks now due to this stuff. Swinging fairly regularly between anger, and sadness, and confusion, all to no real avail. And I've been carrying it onto the mat with me when I train, splitting my attention between what I'm there to do and this invisible lodestone I feel hanging from my neck. Which, obviously, exacerbates things, as my frustration at not being fully present for my training, at being distracted, turns into more anger, and frustration, and sadness. My training is not going well, and I'm losing sleep on top of it.

What a mess.

But this morning I decided I need to find a way to get past this crap. Over the past couple of years the dojang has become an extremely important place to me, perhaps never more so than in the past 6 months, when I was losing my job, then out of work and having some pretty serious trouble keeping my chin up while seeking a new position. Training has never been a simple matter of stress-release for me -- it's more like I train to channel negative feelings and impulses into positive goals. I am fairly certain that without training I would have been pretty self-destructive during the time I was out of work, but instead I stayed on a fairly even keel and just kept plugging away. It was a simple, but very clear, demonstration of the positive effects Tang Soo Do has had on my life. When I needed it most, and so many other things seemed to be unstable, my training was there, and it helped carry me forward. So I need to get past the negative stuff I'm feeling and get things right again, for my own well being. I need the dojang to feel like my home again, but right now it feels... well...


So, part of what I was doing this morning was performing an exorcism, of sorts. On myself, primarily, but in a sense on the dojang as well. Because I feel as if I've brought this negativity there and it's taken root, if only a bit, made itself at home there and as a result these negative things were the first things I'd think about when I walked in the door and bowed. I needed to get the bad feelings I had inside out, and to not make them a part of the dojang and my training anymore. I decided that I needed to be there and to think about what had gone on while I stretched and worked out and sweated doing one steps and forms for an hour. To wrestle with the crap in my head, try to sweat out this poison, push out this negativity and stop carrying it around with me.

So I busted my ass for an hour. Alone, in the early morning dusky darkenss as the sun slowly crept above the horizon, with my iPod playing the mix I put together for the party while I worked my way through a thorough stretch and warmup, a pile of one steps and then forms. First bassai, again and again and again. Eight times. Hard and fast, then slow and methodical, then experimenting with rhythm. Then chil sung ill rho, as slow as I could manage, five times, all the while thinking about and just trying to vent these feelings, bleed them out, let them go, stop carrying them with me. 8 and 5, 13 repetitions. 13, my lucky number and a step in the Fibonacci sequence. Order in seeming chaos, meaning in what appears to be random. Trying to sort this mess in my head.

Tears mixed with the sweat a bunch of times -- tears of sadness, of pain, of anger and frustration and disappointment and loss. I've needed to let this crap out, and just couldn't seem to do it. It was a tough hour, but when it was over I felt a lot better. Nothing has changed, really -- there's still stuff that's broken that probably cannot be fixed, and that all still sucks. I still want to push a cosmic rewind button and make the past few weeks go away, to get a gigantic do-over. Obviously that ain't gonna happen. And I still have a lot of sadness and frustration to cope with, but I felt a sizable piece of it fall away this morning.

This will pass. Things will be good again. It's okay to be sad, but I need to keep moving forward anyhow. And it's okay to be angry and disappointed in my friends, but that I need to forgive them, too.

So, some clarity.

Mood: Somber
Now Playing: Halloween Hootenanny 2007 Party Mix

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Recently, a friend of mine commented in passing that music is very important to me. Obviously that's true -- I have a fairly huge collection of music, a relatively large amount of popular music history knowledge, an interest in music theory, and very varied musical tastes (chamber music to death metal, and pretty much everything in between...). It's a rare time indeed when music doesn't accompany whatever activity I happen to be engaged in at any time.

It's not so much that I need noise around me as that I set my own moods, and perhaps also express my moods to others, by providing myself with a soundtrack. I have certain patterns: fast loud guitar rock when I'm driving in my Jeep during on sunny days, acoustic folk in the Jeep on rainy days, classical or new agey/celtic stuff when I'm driving at night, film scores or Dead Can Dance while I'm training in forms by myself, Tool/Rob Zombie or other fairly aggressive metal when I'm doing cardio, Ella Fitzgerald or Jane Monheit when I'm sipping coffee on a Sunday morning, etc.

Sometimes, though, I'll just throw on the satellite radio -- usually when I'm driving Christine's car -- and sort of "window shop," changing channels all over the place and seeing what's out there. And every now and then I stumble across a song that precisely defines how I'm feeling at a moment in time, and it's like magic. For a second I almost feel like I'm in a film and the soundtrack just kicked in. It may be something new, or something I haven't listened to or thought about in a very long time, but whatever it is when it happens it gives me chills.

The last few weeks have been an utter and complete blur. Lots going on -- nothing bad, happily, but just a lot of activity. And I' m not feeling stressed out, exactly: It's more like I just wish I had about 2 more hours in each day so I could get even more things stuffed into my schedule. I'm happy with all of the things I'm doing, and I just wish I could jam a couple of more things in as well. So when this song came on the radio the other day it was like I opened a fortune cookie and it told me something I knew in my heart was true:
Litany (I See Life) -- Guadalcanal Diary

I see life like a mirror
And I see life so much clearer

We move so quickly

Who knows where the time goes
Where does this road lead?

No one knows, no one knows

Listen to the single heart beating

Rhythm for an ever-changing song

I see life with surprise

And I see life, oh, in your eyes

Take all your troubles

Put them in a common file

Light a fire with reason

Watch it rise, watch it rise

Listen to the single voice singing

Lifted in an ever-growing song

I see life without anger

I see life all together

I see life go on forever

Life goes on forever

Life goes on
Mood: Pretty damn peppy, all in all
Now Playing: Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy, "Immortal Memory"