The Name of the Wind: One Year Later

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just great storytelling… It takes fantasy and magic and makes them both new.

ONE YEAR LATER (almost to the day)…

I can’t believe my review of this book was so short! The reason for this update is to say that I still think about this book all the time and recommend it to everyone who is a Reader. I’m reading Game of Thrones right now and I’ve made note of some similarities in the tone of the two novels.

The major point that the first two books of the Kingkiller Chronicle have going for them over this first book of the Song of Ice and Fire, I think, is that Rothfuss’s tale is told from a single point of view. So it’s scope is much narrower, but the experience is richer. I fell under the spell of Kvothe’s story immediately.

And so will you.

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What Should I Do?

In the sort of epilogue to my October 2011 post from a couple days ago, I noted that Danielle had mentioned in an email that I should blog more. What’s interesting about that–and perhaps is the reason I am actually trying to write more rather than just feeling sorry myself and getting defensive–is that earlier that same day I had written the following list:

Here’s the list, in the order in which it was written:

  • Housekeeping
  • Cooking
  • Daddying
  • Playtime for Sean
  • Writing
  • Exercise
  • Reading
  • Sleeping
  • Caring for Cats
  • Playtime for Me
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Making Things

Is it absurd that I feel like I need to make a list of the things that are important in my life? It may seem that way, at first, but writing things down, even simple things, gives you a remarkable sense of clarity. As the productivity guru David Allen says, your brain is the worst possible place to try to store information. The brain is remarkably good at processing things at the subconscious level, at finding patterns, but it sucks as a hard drive.

I found that I’d gone into simple Reaction Mode. This is the opposite of what might be called ‘living mindfully’ or ‘living intentionally.’ My wife Danielle is in the Navy and she refers to this as ‘putting out fires.’ Because if you’re constantly reacting to some minor (or major) crisis, you can’t make any actual progress. How are you going to cook dinner if all your dishes are dirty? You’re not. You’re going to order a pizza.

Reaction mode feels like a sort of default setting in the human brain. Hungry? Find food. Tired? Sleep. Horny? Have sex. Need to club Ned for taking your meat? Find a big stick. In danger? RUN!

But eventually, after many thousands of years, somebody decided to build a house, and then a village, and then a city. And then we had to figure out a whole new way to live, a higher setting. The default imperative (Don’t die) was no longer enough.

And yet Reaction Mode remains attractive to a certain old part of our brains. Or my brain, at least. Especially when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life. It’s easy to just react. But I’m trying to break out of this mode. And part of that process is going to be writing about it here.

I hope.

October 2011

Well, that worked out great! As you can see from the almost ten months that have passed since my last post, life for me did not become any more accommodating with regard to the writing habit. It was all I could do just to keep up with my monthly six hundred words for Military Spouse Magazine (my frequent lateness in delivering those words is probably the reason they’ve decided to run me every other month in 2012).

Something very bad happened to me over the course of the past two years, and something very wonderful. First, because I believe in always hearing the good news first so that it won’t be tainted by the bad, the wonderful: I got to spend every day with Sean. I got hugs and kisses. I got the thumbs up sign when he liked something I made for dinner. And I got to learn how to be a dad.

There’s a part of becoming a parent that’s all instinct, what some refer to as ‘lizard brain stuff.’ That’s the part of us that wants to protect our children from All Bad Things. But the lizard brain is also the part that carries the programming for how we react to what I call Seananigans: the boundary-testing, the games. For me, the result of too many Seananigans in any one day is that I become The Bear. At a certain point, I just start roaring and throwing my weight around. (I feel it’s important to clarify here that I’m using metaphor.) This is usually when Sean does what Danielle refers to as ‘Poking the Bear.’ His reaction is not to become docile and eager to please; his reaction is to see if he can find a sharper stick. It usually ends with Sean in timeout—crying loudly enough for the neighbors to hear—and me exhausted in every possible way.

But I’m getting into the bad news part of this. Let me just finish the good news. The really good news is that I’ve gotten better at taming the bear.

I wrote the above last October, and it sat there untouched for eight months. Then Danielle reminded me that if I’m going to keep my website in my email signature, I probably ought to post something on it once in a while. So here we go.

The D-Word

As you can probably tell by how quiet it’s been around here, the past year has been … difficult. This year is perhaps going to be “difficulter,” but in a different way.

2011 is a Deployment Year, which means about half of my year is going to suck. The good news is, the best way for me to deal with all that suck is to write about it.

WordPress Automatic Update and 1&1 Hosting

Cup number three.

It’s nearly eleven o’clock, and I’m still in my pajamas, so it feels like a lazy Saturday morning, but I’ve actually gotten some quite significant things done: I played catch with Sean, and I finally hacked my WordPress install into compliance. (I use the word ‘hacked’ in an ever-so-loose way; any minor accomplishment that has anything to do with website stuff feels to me like a major hack.)

Anyway, I use 1&1 as my web host, and they’re mostly fine, but they do some quirky things, or, rather, don’t do them. I’ve had issues with some of the backend software stuff that I don’t really understand (PHP, MYSQL, stuff like that), and 1&1 basically leaves us poor users to figure it out ourselves.

So, for anyone else out there on 1&1 who can’t figure out why the WordPress automatic update feature gets hung up on the downloading screen, read this.

It’s a fairly simple fix that involves adding a line of text to your .htaccess file. I did it and it fixed the update problem for WordPress, and a problem I was having updating my Google sitemaps plugin.

Via Out of Control

James Murphy: a love letter

Tawny port before bed.

Here’s something great.

A while ago, I was listening to Fresh Air and heard a remarkable interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

And I sort of fell in love with him.

In the interview, he presents the most down-to-earth philosophy of making music I think I’ve ever heard. I almost hate to use this word, but it sounded authentic. It sounded real. Sans bullshit. So I immediately went out in search of his latest record, ‘This Is Happening.’ I didn’t want to download it. I wanted to own the physical disc, which is a quirk of mine, or perhaps my generation, but I wanted to hold it in my hand, even if it was destined to slide into the computer and get ripped to iTunes, like everything else. When I’m buying music that I hope will have substance, I want that substance to be more than 0s and 1s on a hard drive. (And, yes, I know that a cd is just 0s and 1s on a compact disc, but a cd also has artwork and a nice little booklet, most of the time.)

I quickly fell in love with ‘This Is Happening,’ from the way the opener—’Dance Yrself Clean’—begins with a long and quiet intro that forces you to turn the volume up only to blast you in the face with a great synth riff at three minutes in, to the self-aware ‘You Wanted a Hit’ and ‘Pow Pow,’ to the sad and melodic and great closer ‘Home.’

In fact, if I could really nail it down, why I was so impressed by what Mr. Murphy had to say, I’d say that the way he talked about music reminded me of the way David Foster Wallace talked about writing. There just are not enough artists out there who are able to transcend the hype. Artists are almost always one of two things: cripplingly unconfident and embarrassed to talk about what they do in a knowing and interesting way, or embarrassingly over-condident in what they do so that they sound like douche bags when they talk about what they do, and come across as boring and self-involved (like those DVD ‘making-of’ featurettes that consist of everyone yammering on about how great the director is).

And perhaps the best part of it all is, he’s been saying all over the place that LCD Soundsystem is done. As a band that puts out albums every couple years and tours and does loads of interviews, it’s done. ‘This Is Happening’ is a great album, and it’s really satisfying when somebody bows out gracefully, rather than pushing their rockstar cred to its absolute breaking point (Tom Petty, anyone?).

So there you go. Favorite discovery of a band in maybe 10 years.

And One More Thing…

I’ve been complaining a lot about feeling creatively ‘wiped out’—that is, having no energy or ambition to make something. It felt like everything was going to the son, the wife, the house, the garden. I know: completely self-indulgent. It was a feeling, and feelings have a reality-distorting gravitational pull that can be difficult to escape, like a black hole’s.

And then the other day Danielle and I were having a recurring conversation that snapped me awake, so to speak. She wanted to know if I had a ‘roadmap’ (I think that’s the word she used) for how I was going to handle the application process for my MFA. I admitted I had none. I had set it aside as an impossibility. I had a whole list of excuses: Sean is too demanding. When on earth am I going to find time to go to class? to do the reading? to do the writing? The program at Old Dominion University (the only one in the area) is a three-year program. We’re only guaranteed to be here through 2012!

Danielle picked off my excuses one by one, pegged them for exactly what they were: stealth procrastination. Sean will be pre-school-age by next fall. I can make time to do the work. Babysitters. We can do a shore tour in Norfolk. All of my roadblocks had easy detours, if my eyes had just been open to them.

So I unshelved the Kaplan GRE study guides I bought six months ago when this conversation first came up, pulled up the ODU MFA website, and started organizing.CIMG0052

The whole thing is rather daunting, especially on mornings like this when I’m tired and Sean, like a predator who can smell fear, seems to sense it. But we need to do this. It cements my usefulness in the post-daddying future.