I haven’t posted here for a while. Not for any particular reason, just haven’t been inspired enough (and had enough time to write something I would want to share). The past six months or so of my life have been really good, kinda sad, and sometimes quite disappointing to think about, so I’ve just kept most of them to myself.
But hell, to get myself writing in this little corner of the Internet again, I’ll open up just a little. It’s been busy.
When I was a teenager, like lots of other teens of my time (I was a teen from 1997-2004) I listened to a lot of hard rock and alternative stuff. My sister was a rock lover and metalhead, and she exposed me to plenty of new bands I wouldn’t have heard around my parents or even many of my friends – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Metallica, The Cramps, AC/DC, and plenty of others I’m sure I’m forgetting. She may have been the one to cause my first exposure to the ass-kickers that are/were Motorhead.
And the man that led Motorhead through its history in the 1970s until his death last month was Lemmy Kilmister. An odd-looking warted man with funny facial hair and a voice the consistency of a rockslide-affected road, the man known as Lemmy fronted and gave voice to some of the coolest rock tracks of all time… the most notable of them all was “Ace of Spades”, a fast and loud song about living life to the full and worrying only about not having a good time. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, both for its message and its simplicity, and his voice sounded like the most mature person that could give the message to a teenage me.
Some of those songs have bounced around my mind over the past few weeks, including a one-off track called “Shake Your Blood” that he performed with Dave Grohl (another of the best musicians writing and performing today). The more I listen to the stories of people who knew him, the more I view of his own words and speaking for himself, the more I admired just how nice a man he seemed. He was pretty soft-spoken, he would perform with everything he had (even after the brain cancer hampered his ability to speak he was still managing to get through concerts… somehow), and off-stage he just wanted a cigarette and a drink. And to read; turns out he was a voracious reader, and a history buff/historian. A smart, quiet fella, at home in the quiet corner of the bar as well as the stage. Maybe he preferred the corner to the stage.
After multiple interviews, this is what I’ve learned about David Bowie. The not-heterochromia-ed Bowie (he had a permanently-dilated left eye which gave him his distinct look, but both his eyes were otherwise blue) was, quite possibly, the most naturally handsome man in rock; a fashion icon and trend-setter; re-inventor extraordinaire; and yet, he was also very private with his personal life. He lived about as “normal” as he could, given that he was, indeed, David-fuckin’-Bowie. He would create a character, let them run to their highest point, then coldly and quickly cut them off and begin again.
Bowie was someone who didn’t simply make music, but simply made. He created music, played many instruments in his career, and generated characters that even I as an extremely casual fan recognized – the biggest two being, of course, Ziggy Stardust and… himself. Acting, writing, singing, performing, he was one of the few true renaissance artists of the 20th and early-21st century. He married a supermodel, genuinely one of the most gorgeous women in the world, he had children, effortlessly and publicly broke with the status quo more often possibly any other person in his industry or otherwise, and yet – somehow – still appeared down-to-earth (which, as Ziggy, completely broke character).
Oh, and I never heard an actually-negative thing about him. He was always just there, creating something new, asking his audience to come with him wherever he went. Always inviting, always daring, and yet never intimidating. And I respect the hell out of that.
These two men were very, very different, with very different ways of reaching their potential; both were, in multiple ways, geniuses that nobody really saw coming. They lived their lives on their own terms, yet stayed very kind in their journeys there. From what I can tell, they really only had about four things in common:
They were rock icons (Bowie for flexibility in presentation, Lemmy for steadfastness in rocking out).
They earned the respect of ALL of their peers, contemporaries, and the generation that followed them.
They ended their careers – and their lives – with new albums and performances until they were absolutely no longer able.
They both died from cancer.
Lemmy dressed in all black, Bowie in every color he could. Bowie with flexible vocals, Lemmy with a trademark gutteral growl. Bowie hitting every genre well, Lemmy driving hard rock harder than anyone else. Lemmy quiet in the corner playing his video game of choice and sharing a drink with fans, Bowie introvertedly developing new characters and creations for everyone to experience at home.
Is this an obituary for two great icons of music? Not really. I don’t like writing obituaries, though I’ve written a few. I much prefer writing a tribute and tipping my proverbial hat (and lifting my non-proverbial drink) to those who I can appreciate both as people and creators. And with both Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and David Bowie, we’ve lost two heroes in an incredibly short period of time. It’s easy to say “fuck cancer”, especially when two of our greatest just fell from its ravages, but the best way I know to react instead is to put on some face paint, make a Lemmy (Coke and Jack Daniel’s, in case you weren’t aware) and crack up the stereo to show appreciation.
If you don’t have any JD in the house – or you don’t drink – and you’re averse to wearing make-up, cranking up their tunes works just as well.
Lemmy had a bigger influence on me personally than Bowie, but the level of respect for both men is there. Both had long and powerful careers, ending with a crescendo for their respective audiences. They gave their all until the end, and they lived with both open and quiet dignity. And that’s what I celebrate tonight, and have celebrated in creating my own material improved by their influence. I looked up to them both not because they were famous, but because they kicked ass on their own terms. And, more importantly, as decent human beings.
Dang, as often as I’m not writing here I’m writing somewhere else. So far this month I’ve written six pieces for Game Revolution (three reviews, two previews, and a news piece), worked on the manuscript, done a few press events, read through a few books (the goal for the month was two, so far I’ve gone through this one and this one and this one), and with a regular work schedule that’s just enough to monopolize my time the past few weeks. Definitely distracted, but plenty of points in the Points System notebook.
But we’re starting to approach something close to my heart, something to which I owe a lot of my drive in writing… anything. Anything and everything. Because it was nearly eleven years ago that I started a yearly tradition, and I may be re-directing some of my efforts toward something else this year, but still in the spirit of the challenge.
I am, of course, talking about NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. (Yeah, don’t care too much about Halloween, the candy does more damage to me as an adult than it used to in my youth.)
Once in a blue moon I find myself stumbling through the rabbit hole that is YouTube and watching a smattering of videos on a particular topic, all in a row, sometimes for hours at a clip – professional wrestling matches, music videos, and most recently, videos of atheists/humanists debunking creationist videos. Usually having fun at their expense, but still pointing out my favorite method of debate: “you are wrong, and here is why”. I don’t do it to affirm my own lack of belief – I’ve been open enough throughout the years about my never actually being a believer – but as a reminder that bad arguments exist everywhere, and deserve to be approached.
Those videos can be highly entertaining, but this last go-round they actually have made me a bit sad as well. Not empathetic so much for the attempts at converting me or other non-believers (that still feels “dirty” to me, trying to “save” a person from themselves when they can be perfectly happy and healthy as they are) but disappointed at some of the ways even my fellow atheists approach the aggressive proselytizing of the faithful with a nearly-equal fervor. And it’s made me really try to break down, both for myself and for anyone who might not understand, why so many atheists can come off either angry or frustrated in the face of the one trying to convert them.
It’s a pretty simple, straight-forward answer even.
Of the many things I tend to keep “ordinary” in my life, one has always been my hair. Specifically my hair. From a young age I’ve generally had at least shaggy, if not long, locks. I remember as a kid that my dad would tease me for keeping long hair and offer me a buzz cut, to which I would politely, then loudly, decline. There were jokes that baldness ran in the family – my grandfather is pretty “light on top” – and that I should either shave my head and get it over with, or “enjoy it while I have it”. (I took the “enjoy it while I have it” approach.)
I’ve had hair that went down to about my shoulders after not cutting it for a year and a half, I’ve had fairly short on top but still long enough to blow it out of my eyes, and generally kept it just long enough to move whenever I moved my head. Simply put, I had the same general haircut for most of my 31 years. So basically, on a stray thought I couldn’t let go, I decided to do something about that.
And now, for the end of this summer, my head doesn’t need as much air conditioning.
As I write this, it’s the end of a day of work, and the second day in two months I’ve felt truly able to relax without the anxiety of something I “need” to work on (for financial gain, I mean). I worked today, I was offended today, and I calmed back down after light grocery shopping today. And as I stared at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, I started to really see myself as an “adult” – a moniker I’ve gone over thirty years trying to avoid.
I still prefer the term “grown-up”, personally. Think about it like this: when you were a kid dreaming of the things you could do when you got older, did you ever think of doing what adults did, or what grown-ups do? The difference is, “adult” is a word steeped in repetition and responsibility, while the term “grown-up” is what people were… people who rode the big roller coasters, who traveled all over the world. The people who could do anything they wanted at any time. Ice cream and cookies for dinner! Go to the arcade at the mall and just play games the whole time! No kid wants to be an adult, they don’t want that hassle!
But as I looked at myself, identifying the small scars on my face, the day’s accumulated stubble, and even the beginnings of the wrinkles at the corners of my eyes (that I’ve earned by smiling a lot, by the way), I saw myself as the rest of the world sees me: a thirty-year-old man, the kind of face that blends into a crowd, that isn’t so good at one particular thing as to earn fame from it.
Having reached this point, I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned adulthood – grown-up-hood – actually is. No more misconceptions, I think I’ve learned what being “all grown up” actually is.