Dagdha's Blog

QotD XLV

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on September 25, 2013

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than for other people.”

Thomas Mann

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QotD XLIV

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on June 20, 2013

“Everyone tells you to write what you know. It’s the tried-and-true advice every writer hears at some point in her career. But to take my writing to a deeper level, I’ve found that a better practice is to simply write what frightens you, haunts you, even. … I now keep a sign on the bulletin board in my office that reads: “Write What Scares You.” I’ve learned that tapping into the hard stuff — whether it’s the fear of loss or a boogeyman lurking in childhood memories — is what ultimately gives a story the power to leap off the page and grab you by the collar.”

SARAH JIO

QotD XLIII

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on May 3, 2013

“Your voice is how you write when you’re not trying to find your voice. Your voice is the way you write, the way you talk. Your voice is who you are, what you believe, what themes you knowingly and unknowingly embrace.

Your voice is you.

Search for it and you won’t find it. Stop looking and it’ll find you.”

Chuck Wendig

Notebooks

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on February 7, 2013

If you’re looking for Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams, this is not that sort of post. Although I was once compared to Mr. Gosling, not even my puffed up ego will admit to being that good looking.

Today I want to discuss notebooks, and not the kind from school specifically labeled for each subject or decorated with glitter and unicorns and photo strips framed with gaudy Japanese cartoons. We’re talking proper notebooks with the chaos on the inside instead of vomited across the cover. The kind filled from cover to cover with spontaneous ideas, striking quotes, unknown vocabulary words, grocery lists, and scribbled thoughts written with the intent of returning later but ultimately forgotten. The content makes little sense to the author and less to everyone else.

If this sounds too much like a couple of my previous posts, then you’ll have to forgive me. In my mind, although related, this subject is completely different. I was trained as a Classicist, so I’m used to obsessing over minute nuances and beating dead subjects until they come alive again, even if it’s just a hallucination created by brain to give the logic centers some reprieve.

For me the habit of carrying a notebook began in college as a makeshift planner. I carried around a small Moleskine that I used to record homework assignments and to-do lists. There was no organization though. I simply turned to the nearest clean page and scribbled down what I needed to remember. With age, I started writing down more because I forgot more.

The reasons I keep a notebook:

To remember. It’s like a map for my brain – I don’t necessarily need all the details, it just helps me recall the relative/related/necessary information. It may not be an objective map, which is why it won’t work for others, but it works for me.

To organize and control my thoughts –  I write shit down to assert who I am – my thoughts and emotions – as truthfully as possible at any given time. Unafraid that they’ll be read by anyone without my permission, at least while I’m around to care.

To pass on – too many people squander their lives with little to show, physically speaking. A loyal career in accounting can earn someone friends, reputation, money to buy a house, food, and support a family, but when all is said and done, all that’s left is a reputation that will slowly change and fade away.

I don’t know if I will ever have kids. Even more uncertain is whether I’ll have anything of monetary value to leave them long after my corpse has released its final death fart and and there’s a maggot orgy partying in my thorax. But I’ll have my notebooks, hopefully filled with nuggets of insight littered among the cryptic chaos that hint at what I thought and how I felt at a particular point in time. What I was reading, what I learned, and how those things changed me. What I forgot and had to relearn (like a never ending list of vocab).

I try to give as much of myself as possible to those in need. I try to censor myself so I don’t offend or alienate people, using the good manners my mother beat into me with soap and Tabasco sauce. Notebooks allow me the pleasure of an uncensored refuge where I am free to be as passionate or neurotic as I wish, while still remaining a tool for personal growth and insight.

 

QotD XLII

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on February 7, 2013

“Why did you smile as we fought today?” Tempi would say.

“Because I was happy.”

Patrick Rothfuss

 

Graveyard Experiment

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 25, 2013

Since I started PEN DEMON this blog has been rather neglected. Aside from reposting my more edited pieces, the only new content on this site has been the occasional Quote of the Day.  So, in an effort to keep my firstborn on life support, I’m going to try feeding it the rough drafts and half-finished pieces I have lying around. At best, I’ll be inspired by comments or expressed interest to polish them up as fodder for the other site. At worst, I’ll have a cloud backup for my word orphans.

Here’s one to start:

Curiosity is the most vital quality a person can possess.

Love. Honesty. Kindness. Loyalty. And all those noble characteristics of fairy tale heros are admirable, but I believe curiosity is king. True curiosity breeds knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Without it, people are maliciously reprogrammed and lulled into egotistical complacency.

The rampant fear mongering on both sides of the recent gun debate is a good example of what I mean. Most of the arguments I hear are regurgitated sound bites that either rely on soft numbers or misdirect to unrelated issues. Worst of all is the argument for curbing First Amendment rights (e.g., the need to censor movies and video games) in favor of protecting the Second Ammendment. As much as I agree that we do need to have a discussion about guns, it should be driven by a desire to understand the underlying causes, not emotional reaction.

Before I become too political though, let me get back on topic-

It’s not hard to be curious. It’s human nature. It’s the reason Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Everest and Magellan circumnavigated the globe. It’s why Neil Armstrong stood on the moon and we have a rover on Mars. It’s the core of science and our modern age.

But somewhere along the way, society’s primary question became Who? instead of Why? and the celebrity culture was born, snuffing out its predecessor with a hazardous idiom of fear.

CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT. Maybe I don’t understand the expression because I’m don’t have a cat or never heard the right story. But it doesn’t make much sense, right? Other than to serve as a linguistically obscure caution for those who ask too many questions in the pursuit of knowledge, which I find nefariously misguided.

Obviously the wrong kind of knowledge in the wrong hands can be dangerous, but that’s only if one’s curiosity stops. If people stop asking why, they stop searching for truth and foolishly assert that they know something with absolute certainty, relative to all of time and space in all dimensions. And that kind of mentality leads to atrocities committed in the name of religious and political ideologies. Just ask the Doctor.

Take my rambling for what it is – the musings of a twenty-something religious apostate in a nation that’s fearfully tearing itself apart. I see the same fear being used in the debate about gun legislation that was used to pass the Patriot Act, the NDAA, etc etc…. And the fear frightens me.

I grew up getting into trouble for picking fights in the form of a question. I was raised largely by the Internet and its endless databases of knowledge buried under layers of misinformation. So I like to think I’ve learned to dig through the dross and distinguish between fact and fiction, even if it’s disguised in clever linguistics, and it isn’t hard. Tedious maybe, but simple.

Never stop asking, “Why?”

A Return to Fantasy

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 25, 2013

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” – Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

I’ve always been a fantasy geek: dragons, knights, orcs and elves, dungeons and magic.  The genre is enough to excite any child’s imagination and keep him enthralled until he wakes up at thirty, living in his mother’s basement with more friends in Azeroth than on Facebook.

That’s not me alluding to D&D stereotypes common in popular culture either. I would fit that description quite well if my parents hadn’t kicked me out of their house, twice, and if houses in Southern California had basements.

Alas I managed through college, despite a seesawing addiction to World of Warcraft, and live in my own superterranean abode. (Yes, I could have said I could have said “above ground apartment,” but this way I feel justified paying my exorbitant rent.) I still love fantasy, but age and responsibility have taken their toll on my imagination and made it increasingly difficult to lose myself in a fictional realm.

Three years ago I was half-way through the third book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series when I completely lost interest. The first book was phenomenal and I’d recommend it to most. The second was a decent sequel. Then I started the third.

It felt slow, forced, and improvised, with too much reflective or self-important detail. I was struggling through the twenty-something confusion of post-college life and became frustrated with characters with whom I could no longer relate. I put the book away and decided to leave literary Fantasy behind me.

Fast forward through three years of non-fiction and self-discovery, however, and I find myself once again lost in a world of magic and demons, happier than ever.

TNOTW

My brother, who is a Wikipedia cyborg of Fantasy, recommended I read Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind when I pitched him my idea for a novel involving demons and a distinctly non-Hogwartsian brand of magic. He didn’t let me down.

Rothfuss is an artist, able to convey genius with simplicity. Weaving through an ornate tapestry of memorable characters and immersive settings, he injects poignant lines of experience that strum the reader’s heartstrings like his protagonist playing the lute. His writing is as insightful as it is pleasurable to read, which brings me to the core of my praise-

Too many fiction writers, especially in the fantasy I’ve read, tend to focus on world building. And who can blame them? Playing god with one’s characters and the world in which they live is one of the best reasons to write, providing a sense of control in the senseless chaos of our own world. But sometimes characters rebel, and the discord is usually at the expense of either story or writing.

Rothfuss commands both, with the strength of Zeus and subtlety of Aphrodite. He understands the difference between words and meaning. He recognizes the imperfection of language, and the perfection of music, as mediums of communication.

Words seek to command ideas. Music guides them.

This understanding is what gives The Name of the Wind its lyrical quality. Rothfuss does not beat you over the head with his themes. He uses the subtler nuances of language to tickle your synapses and summon the emotions of past experience. His work is not an escape pod from the doldrums or our world, but a filter through which we see the magic of our own lives reflected in his characters.

If you have not read The Name of the Wind, you should. It’s a refreshing breeze in the stagnant atmosphere of a genre dominated by Young-Adult fiction.

(And check out his website, so you can see all the badass charity work he’s involved with as well.)

QotD XLII

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 17, 2013

“There are two quite different emotions: one that moves me supremely and I find small difficulty evoking: the heart-racking sense of the vanished past (best expressed by Gandalf’s words about the Palantir); and the other a more ‘ordinary’ emotion, triumph, pathos, tragedy of the characters.  That I am learning to do, as I get to know my people, but it is not really so near my heart, and is forced on me by the fundamental literary dilemma.  A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

Flashback 2012: Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on January 2, 2013

If first impressions hold up, 2013 and I are going to do just fine. The buckets of junk food I ate yesterday don’t count. Shut up, I can quit whenever I want! *EATSTUBOFRICEPUDDING*

The worst part of the new year is returning to work, which comes with the burden of wearing pants, the perfect matching shackles for a windowless dungeon cell of a cubicle. I want to start a cubicle company named CUBICELL – The brand you trust for all soul-sucking, peon-trapping needs. Fortunately the next few months should drastically change my professional landscape, and I can’t wait for the challenges and opportunities it brings. I’ll elaborate more as the gears of progress begin to wind.

On a related note –

Despite constantly sparring with my ego and sufferers of “green-belt syndrome,” I am still training in and teaching martial arts. The year started with the unfortunate passing of Jerry Poteet, one of Bruce Lee’s original students and a dearly missed mentor. The year improved from there, and I earned both a brown belt in JKD (technically Xuan Tan Gung Fu) and a Silver Glove (black belt equivalent) in Savate, but not before having my nose smashed and ass handed to me by a Savate fighter from Belgium. They consistently trade places with France as the best team in the world though, so it was a great – if humbling – experience. Maybe I should eat more chocolate before my next fight…

This year I plan to earn my JKD black belt and significantly improve my Jiu-Jitsu training. Translation: I want to effortlessly demean dangerous fuckers who use their weight  as a crutch against smaller fighters, like a landmine disguised as a brown recluse.

As with previous years, I’ll force feed you the rest of my personal minutiae with a short list of predigested bullet points:

  • Finally saw Brother Ali perform live
  • Attended a talk by KRS-ONE at the Last Bookstore about the history of hip hop
  • Avoided any serious vehicle issues – much appreciated after 2011
  • Converted back to the Cult of Mac
  • Played Diablo 3 and leveled a wizard to 57 before he perma-died of carpel tunnel and boredom
  • Played the Mists of Pandaria Warcraft expansion, leveling my warlock to 90 and gleefully melting panda faces with a new legion of demons
  • Only 2 camping trips in 2012 – Joshua Tree and Idyllwild; itching for many more in 2013
  • Continued refining my efforts as a minimalist, specifically with regard to mental clutter
  • Got braces for a second time, almost exactly 10 years after they were originally removed (despite wearing my retainer)
  • And, though not about me, 3 of my friends got engaged, which must be a sign that I’m getting old(er)

Oh, and I grew a personally epic beard this year with handlebar mustache and all. It was fun for a while, glorious even, but eventually it created more work than it saved from not shaving. In short, I earned a new appreciation for the hair problems of porn stars every time I sneezed.

With that visual, I say goodbye to a year of social frustration and slimy politics.

Bring on 2013.

I’m ready for the year with a flaming kick to the gonads.

Flashback 2012: Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on December 28, 2012

Trash bins bulging with shredded wrapping paper, shiny new toys, empty bank accounts, and the scattered remains of an evergreen rainforest means a new year is around the corner, waiting to stab 2012 with a shiv and bury its body in the mass grave of history.

As with every end world prophecy and Discovery Channel special, the Mayan apocalypse was a disappointment. So now you have to endure my traditional year-end retrospective, which is about as interesting as watching me shove pencils up my nose and dance in the mirror like a lascivious walrus. I already registered SEXYSEAL[DOT]COM for my webcam business, so don’t even try to corner that market.

It’s been a hell of a year. I’m not sure how much opium Chinese astrologers were smoking when they ordained 2012 “Year of the Water Dragon.” This angry fucker flew by in a flaming typhoon of social and natural destruction capable of reducing Tolkien’s Smaug to an angry kitten. Fortunately I’ve managed to forge a bit of armor in the smoldering embers and it’s time to plot my revenge.

At the end of last year’s post I made two goals 2012:

  • Learn Linux and migrate to open source
  • Develop my own style/voice by reading a lot and writing even more

So did I migrate to Linux? Not exactly. I worked on Xubuntu for a month but soon caved and sold my ideals like a dirty politician for chic GUIs and convenience. After 11 months of Windows, I’ve crawled back to my pimp, Grandmaster APPLE Sauce, and bought a new laptop. There’s no denying it. I’m whore for good design and experienced with turning tricks on a Mac.

As for the more important goal-

Between 2008 and 2010, I published 28 posts. In 2011 that nearly doubled, which catalyzed the goal above. Then 2012 arrived and elbowed my confidence in the teeth.

I subscribed to multiple subreddits on writing and began reading blogs like terribleminds, which encourages creativity with lethal directness and swearcraft strong enough to melt the face off a legion of trolls. It’s inspiring, but equally humbling.

At the same time my reading habit grew into an honest and sincere addiction. It started with the tongue tickling prose of Stephen Fry, who introduced me to Steven Pinker, Guy Deutcher, P.G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, and (most importantly) Christopher Hitchens.  Alongside these I freebased works by Hunter Thompson, David Sedaris, Chuck Palahniuk, Terence McKenna and drank in Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, and others. This year in total I read a somewhere between thirty and forty books.

BUT, I didn’t write nearly as often as I read. Overwhelmed by literary braingasms and stretched for time, I struggled  between inspiration and doubt. I’ve just finished a yearly audit of my work though, and the results are clear: investment equals return.

Despite my feelings of inadequacy, I published 56 posts in 2012, again doubling the corpus of my blog. That’s more than I thought, but I can do better.

In 2013, I will read 52 books and publish at least the same number of short stories and blog entries. That’s a minimum of 104 published posts. Should I fail, you can spam my inbox until my computer explodes and glass shards from the screen lacerate my retinas. Dual matching eye patches will make me think twice before failing again.

With a newly constructed platform and the creative fuel of collaboration, I plan on splattering the walls of 2013 with ink grenades and word tanks like a hypergraphic Jackson Pollock. Watch out for splash zones.

[To be continued in Part 2, where I discuss everything from beards and ninjas to pandas and demons.]