Saturday, January 29, 2011


All quotes picked for the passage, save the second last, which inspired the passage.

I recently asked for a suggestion for a blog post--real life, don't go looking for the post where I asked. Though do feel free to leave any requests in the comments section.

The response I got was a tentative, "...Mu...sic?" followed by another person saying it would be interesting to see where I would go off only that starting point. And here we are.
“Music is my religion.”
--Jimi Hendrix
I have occasionally said, in response to a question about my religion, that I am a practicing musician. Some people I've said that to took it as a joke, either a clever evasion of the question or a way of declaring myself non-religious. No. In the idealistic sense that religion is a way to become closer to the divine spark, I am a musician. In the cynical sense that religion is a way to meet people, I am a musician. In the sense that I feel a calling to music to and from my soul, the essence of my being, I am a musician. I am not shy about it. I only want to make sure people either let the topic alone or understand. A concert hall is consecrated. Singing is sacred, and I use that word in the way I know it. Song is not to be set up on an altar and treated with reverence from a distance. Song has the aura about it that a counselor who has been working in street grime, and beaming because he is helping people who need it. Singing in any style, playing any instrument. It is not the style, it is the feeling.

I do have...issues with people who intentionally destroy musical instruments. Yes, including the guitar smashes. In fact, because people tend think about those the least, especially the guitar smashes.
“Music, the greatest good that mortals know and all of heaven we have hear below.”
--Joseph Addison
There's a band called Nine Days. You probably think you've never heard one of their songs, and also have probably heard exactly one, titled "Absolutely": "This is the story of a girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world, but though she looks so sad in photographs, I absolutely love her--when she smiles." I bring this up both because I think they have some other music which is genuinely worth listening to, and because there are way too many people who seem to think that the band who sings that song is Blink182 or 3 Doors Down. Because...they all have numbers in their names. I guess. It isn't the people's fault, from what I can see, some of the music systems genuinely have their algorithms messed up. Which is worse, really.
“Find people who think like you and stick with them. Make only music you are passionate about. Work only with people you like and trust. Don't sign anything.”
--Steve Albini
I went to a music-focused day in the city recently, held at SF State. The specific workshop I went to was a DIY workshop, with DIT (do it together) focus. They noted that we probably won't get a steady cash flow, and we might not even want one. Art suffers if you have to get something out by X date, because then inspiration can't strike whenever and then polish until it's done. They focused very much on spreading art, on keeping your day job, and on making friends. They also taught us how to make origami CD cases, because screen printing and folding is much cheaper than a CD case.

When they noted that it wasn't likely that any given person would make a lot of money at this, a bunch of people were disappointed. I almost felt elated. I think I figured out why: I don't have to land a music job to keep spreading my music. My choice is not A) get a well-paying music job, B) sing only to family and friends, or C) starve. I can do both. I still want a music job, but I have the choice.
“As a musician usually music is your way out.”
--Damon Albarn
When I was younger, I didn't feel I had very many close friends. I realize this was mostly because I had unrealistic expectations: I wanted one person who completely understood me and almost always understood everything I said. My communication simply isn't that good. What I would give, to have it so...

I sang a bit, when I was very young. I thought it was fun. It was something to do, and I didn't have to rely on any other single person, because I could sing solo. Even when I got into choir, that stayed to a certain extent because our choir was gigantic, and people tended to either be committed or simply mouth without singing--mandatory class.

Then came third grade. I hadn't really thought about music during the summer, but when I came back to school the first time I sang I remember stopping in my tracks because I sounded so different. And then...compliments started.

"You have a lovely voice." "[genuine surprise] My goodness, I thought a high schooler was here."

As a young child who had found no talent of her own, suddenly being able to sing, to do something I'd always liked, something I loved, was amazing. I had not thought anything about me was special; I thought everyone had some special talent and I was the one exception, and then I was wrong. If you have ever truly believed something bad of yourself and then had something prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn't so, I think you understand.

I was good.

Nothing bad mattered as much, once I could believe, "I'm good."
“There's so much excellent new music around that I can't afford to buy it all and I haven't the time to review as much as I'd like. I can't remember a better time to be a musician or to listen to music!”
--Malcolm Wilson

Saturday, January 22, 2011


A story is a story is a story.

It is rather difficult to describe the events that took place, because they took place outside time, and so not in anything we would call space. It's also difficult to explain the idea of coming up with an idea in terms outside of time, or creating something for that matter. Translated into our language--which is based around time, like it or not--here is how the conversation went.

There were problems. Beings wanted to be different, or should be something they weren't. In this place outside time, without time, "change" was not an idea yet. But, because they had infinite minds, which is almost the same as having infinite time, one came up with an idea.

"What about a place that allows change? A place with time." You would think this would be nigh impossible to communicate. In a world that lacked those terms and had time, that might have been true.

And so it was. And so the first were put through what might be a test, and left. It was an odd feeling. They genuinely left. And more were placed, at different places and times, which were close enough to be indistinguishable to any who had no memories from the place. Even those, when they came back, felt the lack of barrier was more correct. They simply remembered making the difference.

And so we sit and swim, moving on a line with branches and seen as goldfish in a sphere.

Internal Evil Mentor

Inspired by something I do, named by this trope.

In order to make the proper choice, all options must be conceivable. If something is impossible, that is one thing, but convincing oneself it is impossible because it is immoral despite being the best option is something else entirely.

Simply giving oneself permission to think these thoughts can seem too far to go. After all, if you can think these things, you might do them! Despite the fact that I disagree, I understand the sentiment. So here's a workaround: Set aside a part of your mental processing to argue the evil side. You can make that anything, e.g. just giving yourself permission to think the thoughts--probably one of the best options--or creating a character to argue the side. Remember those shoulder devils from cartoons? Those work. I personally prefer a femme fatale, her male counterpart, or someone else who's going to be wearing a lot of immaculate black and have that aura of deft intelligence.

Discussing this feels weird. What I am describing is sitting down, seeing the little devil complete with pitchfork and smile pop up on my left shoulder, and then listening. If seeking some solace, one may look for an angel and completely miss the point when finding none. If there are only two of you, and you can't see the angel from a first-person perspective, who do you think you are? The point of creating this mental construct and listening to him/her/it in the first place is to allow thoughts to go into places they wouldn't go before. And even with the adviser in place, that is not the part with the final say. The composite gets the final say. A common trope about evil's weakness is that it cannot comprehend good. The strongest good mind is that because of an ability to entertain evil or "evil" thoughts, and then choose good anyway.

I'm not claiming to be the strongest good mind; I've never been in that extreme a situation. But I do not believe truly good people have been good out of ignorance.

"I'd do anything!"

Breaking it down literally.

First: "Anything" has no constraints. It is like infinity; it means everything from every place and then some. We live in a finite universe, at least for the moment. Even if the universe is infinite, in the absence of an ability to prove that, our universe as defined by "do" is finite. Minuscule, even. Put simply: This statement cannot possibly be true, unless you are omnipotent.

Second: From the first we have gotten, "I would do anything I am capable of." Would you? Would you really? Even setting aside the vagueness inherent in what you can and cannot do--at the present time or ever?--how many people are honestly promising to do anything they can, without heed to any other promise, any other moral or physical obligation?

Third: So you've decided you do mean you will do anything within your power, and that the person you're speaking to recognizes that stuff you literally cannot do is excluded. Having come to that conclusion, I must give you a warning: you only get to make this offer once. If you would do anything, the being may ask you something that will take the rest of your life, or will have ramifications you cannot foresee. And you will have promised. You must say yes. If you make this promise twice, it is a lie. If anything conflicts with fulfilling this promise, you must drop it, so making it twice means that if they ever come into conflict, you are screwed. And this is true for everything. For the rest of your existence. And choosing to end your existence is also a violation. You might be needed, and are avoiding your obligation.

Of course, that doesn't mean you can't make the offer. It just means that you don't want to have this on your list of things to blurt out, and that if you do blurt it out, you should be wary about taking it from offer to promise. In other words, backpedal fast and hope.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Serial: Identity

So scary I will never see
As the little piece of me
That to all challenge did freeze and pale
Because I saw chance to fail

Once upon a time there was a young man--call him George, if only because I know no Georges. He was gifted. He knew he was smart, and would be perfectly aware of that fact regardless of if anyone told him. It wasn't just getting good grades--he's paid enough attention to the right things to notice that average children who work hard also get exceptional grades. But stuff comes easily for him. He picked up reading in a day. Prime factors make perfect sense to him, and fractions were easy.

George, one day, runs into a new subject, and the few students in the class who read ahead were quite confused, and asked him for help. George had shaken his head, because class was about to start and he didn't feel like being caught talking in class. Again.

The teacher starts into the topic at hand. It happens to be some quadratics, and he sees some students starting to get it, most of the others not. He turns back to the teacher and forgets about that.

George shifts uncomfortably.

He's looking at this, and there are too many things he doesn't understand. He couldn't even put his finger on what, so he couldn't ask, and it wasn't clicking.

George stayed in a few moments past the bell, trying to get it, trying to figure it out, but it just wouldn't stick. There was some number...and...and...

Some students who'd gotten in the habit of talking to each other for help started walking over, because none of them had understood. George got great grades, so they asked him.

The world slowed as they walked to him. Were he a different child, he might plan to say, 'Can't you figure it out on your own?' or, 'I don't know how to explain it,' or simply, 'I don't understand either.' But the problem was that George had set himself up around being The Smart Kid. So George knows exactly what they're coming over for--for that matter, he would know even if they were walking over for the dictionaries a few feet from his desk.

He bolts.

He knows what the adults think of him. He's stuck up; he doesn't get along with the other children; he's insufferable. And the kids think he's lording it over them, he knows the study group are the only ones who even talk to him anymore without insulting him, and no one, no one will help him.

George tends to think in words only when something really important comes up, but he's doing it now, because he is so entirely focused on the idea.

I can't fail.

It isn't a statement of physical impossibility. It isn't supposed to be railing against the universe, saying it's wrong.

I don't fail.

He's a teenager now. At some point this question flashes through a lot of teenage heads, though not always with the statement in front of it.

I can't fail. So who am I?
Suggested Reading:
How Not to Talk to Your Kids

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Honesty Is the Best Policy

I sat down to think about the title aphorism when I was younger.

I came to the conclusion that I agreed with the statement as written, and disliked how it seemed some teachers were using it. "Honesty is the best policy," does not mean "Always tell the truth."

There are two values of always that I heard used for this interpretation. One: whenever you think of something that is true, you should communicate it to the best of your ability. This may include insults that are untrue, as it is true you have thought them. This is rude. Two: Everything you say should be true. This is unhelpful.*

So I chose to follow what I believe the statement means, rather than how I have heard it used by people trying to get me to be a good girl, because that way is useful and the other is not. I had trouble communicating this for a while because it seemed so obvious to me that that is what a policy is: Something you need a good reason to move away from.
"When in doubt, tell the truth."
--Mark Twain
I hesitate. Nothing has given me any useful information about this, but everyone is so scared; it must be important. I may not pull the trigger, but I'm directing. Whatever happens, I'm responsible.

"Red or blue!" a voice barks over crackly transmitter.

It's hitting me. Everything. I'm certain, for once I can't hide behind error, because I know what button he wants to hit. He wants blue. But is it right? Is that what I should do?


I don't know I don't know I don't know. There's no help I can see from picking one or the other, It's a coin flip, no matter what I do, no matter whether I choose red or blue.

So I assume the worst. I assume that I'm going to choose wrongly, I'm destined.

Do I want look back, years from now, and realize that I destroyed my life because I chose to lie?

I hit the orange button on the side of the communicator and shout, "Blue!"
Or, if you prefer to see how my mind worked through it:

Situation: Someone asks you, "T or F?" This is all the information you have. You know that T is the true answer, and F is false, but you have no idea which will benefit you, anyone you care about, etc., etc. But you do know that one of them will cause a clearly positive outcome. So you make your choice.

The chart that appears in my head:
Going by the T or F choices gives you coin flips, so your choice doesn't matter. So let's look at the +/- rows. The universe is secretly trying to screw you over, and you will lose no matter what. This isn't necessarily true; it's just how you're putting your mind together to limit yourself to that row. All things considered, I'll look back mournfully on the truth easier than a lie.
* e.g. "Do you think I can do well enough to get the part?" asked right before an audition. The true answer is 'I'm not sure,' and silence will communicate 'No.' So you lie, at the very least in the moment, because it is what a good friend does.


These are the posts that make me wish for a larger reader base. In light of that--and I promise I will ask this very rarely, if ever again--if you could link this post, if it interests you, or you know some person/group it might interest.

Inspiration is a slippery thing. It appears to occur entirely within the mind, and at the same time comes from outside ideas bouncing onto and into us.

What I call the inspiration stage of art is where everything comes easily. I may not be able to write a passage perfectly the first time, but I write something, and what happens is what I want to happen. I have rarely had this continue for more than a few scenes. The time that works best for me is, annoyingly enough, also when people become the most concerned. Sometimes people stay still when they meditate, sometimes spar, and sometimes write. So that distant, "I am not connected to the world" look means I am where I want to be.

I, apparently, look depressed. Someone who doesn't know me well enough--or maybe doesn't know this sort of artist well enough--will peer and hover and ask, "Are you alright?" Others will pick up on what's happening and ask to see the work. I'm still meditating and the idea of saying "no" doesn't enter my thoughts. I want to say yes to my inspiration, and everything inspires. By the time I realize what I've done, something that can recognize it is there enough for me to feel more like I'm trying to meditate than meditating. For instance, right now, I'm trying to keep up the flow I had in the beginning of my post, but some distractions are settling in. There's a skype conversation with a friend, which can be helpful; I dive into this but I need air. It's more than an hour past normal dinner time. I'm not quite hungry, but my body is a focus; the first notes of wanting something in my stomach are there. There's homework I should be working on. There's always something.

There's a chart I saw a while back that put words to various actions along two axes. High skill had and high skill needed was flow. The moment when I need all I have, when my entire being is my work.

Here, now. Don't go thinking it's all dandelion fluff and sunset roses. After the flow comes, I don't have the whole story. How'd I get here? Where was I going? Where am I going? How do I get there? Even the finished story isn't all. I'll go back and edit this post. There will be a certain amount of calculation there that the absolute golden flow of inspiration didn't have, just as the editing is not the story. And everything, every creation on this world as I know it, needs both.

I am a being of curves and artistry, and I love math. Those go together better than any who deny themselves the pleasure of both shall ever know. Look at yourself. You are made for distance running, but also swimming, also throwing, also thinking, also figuring out what you can do. We are tool-users, and everything can be a tool. Music inspires, a joke, an odd conversation. And odd state of mind. The Less Wrong blog got me thinking about this, but not because I read a post obviously similar to it. Because it wakes my brain up, in a way I still don't understand.

I'd like to emphasize that this is not a rhetorical question: What's in your toolbox? What inspires you? I've never found anything more interesting, yet all I can write on is what I found in myself.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


I wonder, if I could go back with today's knowledge...

What if I had a little more?

I wish there were a word for this.

One of the most fascinating moments I've ever seen in my life is mild surprise. When there's shock, or terror, that overrides the person--and anyway, if the other person is that far for long enough to see well, there's probably reason for me to be focusing on something else.

But that moment where you see them go, "Oh. The world is not as I thought it was." Not getting the rug pulled out from under them. Just watching it move a little.

And one of the ways I see that, in myself, is finding that someone has had the same thought I have. In the abstract, I recognize that this is probably happening--there are probably some thoughts that many people have. Yet, somehow, it's odd to fall into the statistics.

One of the times I remember that clearly happening has to do with the first line. The idea of going back to the beginning of my life, with the understanding I have gained. Sarcasm isn't something the average six- or seven-year-old understands; adults treat children as less and this is incredibly useful for eavesdropping and getting honest answers about some topics. I remember watching two adults gossip about me when I was very little, and being fascinated with how completely honest they were being. I mistook thoughtlessness for bravery in honesty, but it was still helpful.

And then there's, I wish there were a word for this, which is not only something that I see or hear other people thinking, but realize people must have thought for the longest time. This is how languages form. This started with a Socrates quote, which, translated, reads: "I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world." I remember reading it in my history book with a partial translation, the ancestor word of "cosmopolitan" was still in place. And it occurred to me that, yes, there's probably a word for what I want, however, creating words for an unfulfilled need is an art.

And yet. Even with these thoughts that almost everyone has thought, we still have such wide gulfs. Not even between cultures, just between two kids who grew up in the same town and went to the same school can simply not understand what the other is thinking. Even if I try my best to explain, and the other tries to understand, there are simply places it won't make sense. Even if someone knows me better than anyone does, better than I know myself.

Halfway across the world, someone else already understands, but here and next to my heart, this person doesn't.

Walks off, singing, "You say po-tay-to, and I say po-tah-to...

Saturday, January 1, 2011


A/N: Between the last post and this one, I hit 1,000 page views. Yay!

EDIT: Because I can say this better than I can write this, I edited this to try and make it closer to how I say it. Then it didn't work. I revamped, and here you go. Still not as good as I can say it. *mutters*

Brief & even more confusing than normal: People normalize to people like them, so average people end up normalizing and other people end up with more time before they find anyone with the same amount and type of pull.

I think about this occasionally. If someone is a genius, that person is going to be weird. Really, being notably smart is probably going to make one weird.

The obvious way to explain that is that "weird" just means "not in the middle of the bell curve", so smart people are weird by the definition of the adjectives. That's probably true sometimes.

I have another idea: People at varying points on a given bell curve gravitate toward each other. Someone exactly at the peak will like people who are somewhere around the peak. People at one edge or the other will be incomprehensible to and will not comprehend those in the middle, or those on the opposite side. If people devote the energy to it, they can skip around--especially if the person isn't in the middle of some other bell curve--but the point remains that that takes energy. The default is among one's similars.

This means that, in elementary school, when social groups are forming, one of a few things happens to people far East or West of the peak: 1)the edgers do not interact with the middlers much because they stick to their own groups, creating parallel but slightly separate cultures, 2)the middlers do not interact with the edgers because they are weird--same basic thing as one, but with a little more ostracizing because individual middlers can genuinely decide to avoid the edgers most of the time, while the opposite is difficult to impossible, or 3)the edgers do not normalize to anything, because 2 is present but other edgers (on the viable side) are not.

Even in option 3, edgers will still develop patterns of behavior and ways of seeing the world; the patterns will just end up alien. They started out significantly more/less X than everyone else, and then were pushed even farther. I'd like to point out what that means to me in light of previous posts: patterns, the basis of any action a human makes, end up being alien and/or incomprehensible.

So smart people are visibly weird because they don't start out at the same baseline, and then that fact pushes them farther unless they decide to expend energy in avoiding that, and even then. People who are willing to expend that energy probably want to be able to talk to everyone. Someone who flows everywhere doesn't completely belong anywhere. The island is not the ocean, the continent not the sea.
© 2009-2013 Taylor Hobart