There is a word out there, at this very moment, that is probably being misused somewhere in this country.
A wonderful, wash-over-you sort of word. It always conjures for me the images of freshly tilled Earth and that wonderful smell you get when standing in the middle of a heavily forested area; the fresh air, a hint of moss covering fallen tree trunks, and the satisfying crunch of browned leaves under your feet. It might have this effect because I’ve taken one too many hiking trips in my earlier years through the woods and in the mountains of British Columbia.
The word I’m talking about?
The sights, sounds, and smells this word brings up in my mind are now heavily glazed with a coat of annoyance due to the sheer amount I see it used as some synonym for “new, insightful, or fresh”.
Either that, or some marketing buzzword; but to be quite honest, I don’t really mind it being used in such a manner. If your vegetables, coffee, and various department store merchandise are all being sold to you as “organic” products, then sure. Usually it just means that it was grown without “chemicals” (I never really hear which ones, just that they are harmful) and that’s all well and good if you feel like paying an extra buck or two. I don’t care for organic products myself, but I don’t really mind that they exist either. They have a market, and they cater to it. It’s no different than advertisers putting “home-style” or “fresh” or “fat free” or whatever strikes a chord with consumers. “Home-style” does not mean it was cooked in a home, by a loving, doting mother who hands it down to you with a pat on the head and a kiss, which is clearly the nostalgic image of times past that they are trying to evoke with such a phrase. Likewise, “fresh” is rather ambiguous, and doesn’t really mean anything when placed on a product. Regardless of how sealed the package of that box of cookies you just bought is, it doesn’t stop the march of time. Fresh means “newly made or obtained; recently arrived; just come” (according to the dictionary, anyway) and that does not apply to cookies sitting on a supermarket shelf for days on end.
What I’m getting at is this; using words to evoke emotions that makes us wish to buy certain products is a cornerstone of the marketing empire. The word is not misused in this context, it is merely a tool in the arsenal of those who wish to promote their product to a certain audience.
Marketing is one thing, but general conversation is another.
Here is why this word is truly misused, and what has caused my loathing:
“That idea you had was very organic.”
“I love that book. It’s so introspective and organic.”
Okay, okay, I get it. I realize that the word in this context usually refers to something that seemed to have a life of it’s own, that grew and developed absent of structure or (sometimes) intentional thought. A mere colloquialism we have adopted.
The problem is the elitism we have prescribed it. It seems to hold some special meaning these days that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning of the word. As though the thing described (usually being a work of art; movies, books, paintings, etc) is more “deep” or thought-provoking by being “organic”.
This, ladies and gentlemen, does not make any sense. Organic, as a base word, means, in essence, “something that is living”, and eventually became a colloquialism, “something that developed naturally, as though it were living” and then developed into the ridiculous “something that is (seemingly) more profound and fresh than other things out there.”
“Organic” is not a synonym for “original”.
That’s just being pretentious.
Brendon “organically produced” Regier
It’s been a slow week. Mostly spent watching movies and pacing back and forth while music plays in the background, attempting to dream up story ideas.
I finally got around to watching American Beauty, and loved it. I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed well done visual metaphors; especially when the movie isn’t ALL visual metaphors. I am referring of course to the red rose petals that appear in the fantasy sequences during the film, which (I can only assume) symbolized sexual desire. And let us not forget the quirky characters; there is no substitute for a expertly written one. I really am a sucker for characters like that, which might also explain my love of Breaking Bad, Sleepy Hollow, and House (sure, Sleepy Hollow’s characters may not be “quirky” in the traditional sense, but they DO have a certain flair to them that I love).
I also ended up watching Zero Dark Thirty. I’ll say this for it; at least it didn’t portray every soldier as Captain America. You know, the sort of upstanding, patriotic hero that many people would have you believe soldiers are. That first scene had some good weight to it, and assuming you view the Americans as “the good guys” and everyone else as “the bad guys”, it gives a refreshing release from stereotypes. Hey, it’s not just the bad guys that do terrible things like torture.
Aside from that, however, Zero Dark Thirty sort of fell flat on its face for me. The main character felt like a cartoon, especially when she gets incredibly “hero on a quest” about one-third through the movie, making passionate speeches about how they need to be going after Bin Laden when everyone else has given up. I got this vibe that she was some hero from a small village who had risen up to battle the giant evil dark lord in his castle of doom, and it was hard to take the movie seriously after that. And honestly, whoever this person ACTUALLY was, I’m sure she had a bit more on her mind than Bin Laden 24/7. That was the entirety of her character. There’s a scene where she goes out to a restaurant with a co-worker (who felt like a stereotypical “girl” character, which was a bit annoying) who tells her to relax a bit and asks “do you have any friends at all?” And what does she do? She stares downward and doesn’t answer till the phone rings. If she was an introverted loner, that would be one thing, but this character didn’t seem that way at all. She was just far too single-minded.
In short, she felt more like a plot device than an actual character.
But enough of that. As far as dreaming up story ideas goes, I have accomplished a bit this week. Nothing too extravagant. I’ve been working on plotting a novel I’m writing, and have been occasionally writing bits of short fiction which were discarded very quickly after their creation. I’m horrible at sticking to stuff like that.
To give a few examples, let me show you a piece.
This is something I wrote late one night, not entirely sure what on Earth I was trying to achieve:
Is everyone like me?
Sam’s thoughts were often plagued with such frivolities. For it was frivolous to reflect on such things. It was the sort of statement pretentious morons thought up when they were being “deep”.
Deep into shit, maybe.
But he always did end up reflecting on that ever-persistent question, standing idly in his uniform with that one inconveniently placed mustard stain on his groin, the headset that didn’t work very well affixed to his head, the plastic so warm from the insufferable sun shining in through the drive-thru window that it stuck to his cheek, the microphone always seeming to tilt upward in just the right way so as to obscure his vision. Not to mention the way the headset seemed to turn people’s voices into unintelligible crackles.
Sam took another look around the restaurant, wondering if these people did the same things he did. Spend their whole day with this indifferent, superfluous attitude, then going home to turn on music really loud, dancing around their living rooms pretending they were the star of their own music video, imagining for a moment that they could actually sing, and didn’t look just a little too fat for television. Dreaming of a life where you were always happy and everyone respected you just for the sole reason that you were something good to look at. You’d stand out. You wouldn’t be a drone.
Sam hated being associated with these people. The ordinary, everyday street people. He’d had this moment, all the way back in elementary school, where he realized he was special. A cut above the rest. They were all going to be accountants and engineers and doctors. He, on the other hand, was going to be famous. He was going to make it big. He would prove all the others wrong when they doubted him. Even when they encouraged him, but sarcastically. Everyone was so very sarcastic. Sam could see right through them. They didn’t think he was hard-working enough to make it big in Hollywood, or publish some overnight success novel. He’d make it to stardom, and they’d all look at him and say “well, I have to admit it Sam, you were right all along!”
Sometimes I’ll start with a single line I want to include, or a feeling, a mood, even a title, but often I won’t know where I want to end up, and I’ll leave it partway through. Most of that last piece was taken from my previous experiences with working in fast-food, my high-school-era attitude toward life, and that feeling I actually had when I was younger, the idea that “I’m special, and destined for great things”.
I think I’m one of those people that needs to know the ending before I can begin to create the beginning and middle. I need a direction to head.
For now, I want to continue work on my novel, as I would love to have a completed manuscript on my hands instead of half-fleshed out scraps.
Brendon “occasional cinephile” Regier
I find I get all my best writing done between the hours of one and four in the morning.
My “best writing” being writing which flows most naturally from the confusing recesses of my brain to the page, feeling the most inspired and making correct use of my diction without sounding horribly pretentious.
And I suppose I should clarify:
I am not an insomniac.
For a long time I called myself one, but insomnia is an inability to fall or stay asleep. I sleep fine, most nights. The issue for me is that I hate the daytime.
I feel so exhausted and lethargic during the day. It requires quite a bit of effort to do anything.
Once about ten’o’clock or so hits, however… that’s a different story.
The atmosphere is absolutely wonderful at night. If I go on a walk, I usually wait until it’s dark out. Maybe it’s the lack of people, of car noises, of disturbance in general. The knowledge that most others will be asleep means I may tread uninhibited through the streets, Coconut (my adorable dog) pulling on the leash a little as she scampers about, carefully avoiding patches of snow at all costs.
And yes, there is still a lot of snow where I live. Even though it’s almost May.
I think the fact that I know I won’t be disturbed while I write at night or walk outside is comforting. I’m just a person who enjoys the cool evening breeze, the moon and stars glowing softly above, beautiful shadows dancing across the pathway, encapsulated in solitude. It’s magic. Pure, natural magic.
Now then, on to other news:
I have finally got another short story on the go, which I am most excited about, and yet also apprehensive over.
I always feel like I’m cheating when I write short stories; as though I should probably be concentrating on my novel, but I suppose short fiction is helpful to build up my skills.
I once heard that you should concentrate on one or the other, novels or short fiction, as starting out in short fiction doesn’t always lead to a novel. This makes sense to me, but honestly, I’m not sure where my strength lies writing-wise. I suppose I’ll stick to both for now, and just see how my abilities develop.
Regardless of what I prove to be good at, my dream is still to see a novel published one day.
I gave up too many dreams from my childhood. I realized I probably couldn’t make it in the movie business, I’ll never be good at drawing or sketching, I’m not a particularly good actor, and I’ll never have superpowers.
I’m sticking to this one!
Keep an eye on those bookshelves, because one day my novel will help adorn them!
Brendon “is trying to shorten his posts so he doesn’t ramble so much” Regier
Alas, sloth has taken hold of me once more!
Today is a day I feel like doing absolutely nothing at all. Just lazing about and watching movies. I’m sure every person on the planet has days like this, but I regret to say that I feel it far too often for my own liking.
I also feel quite hungry. If I had some cash in hand and was next to a burger joint, without hesitation I would stuff myself full of delicious food.
I feel very “seven-deadly-sins-ish” today, I suppose.
Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Envy, Wrath.
Honestly, the only one of those I can attest to NOT feeling that much recently is greed. But then again, it’s hard to be greedy when you are at a point of having very little to begin with.
Not that I’m saying I’m a particularly bad person. Everyone, if being honest with themselves, would find that they tend to feel many of these seven deadly sins every single day, to some extent or another.
I’ve always found it so fascinating that in Christianity, one is punished not just for one’s actions, but one’s malicious feelings. Something I’ve always tended to agree with.
I have a motto, one I used to use a lot: “Intent is everything”.
Allow me to explain.
Imagine these situations:
A person (let’s call him “John”) is very angry at another person (we’ll call him “Jack”) and comes after him with a knife. John realizes before doing anything harmful, however, that he is clearly going too far, and stops.
Alright, situation two:
John is angry at Jack, and comes after him with a knife. In the heat of passion, John stabs Jack to death.
If I was to ask, “in which of these scenarios is John guilty”, you would probably answer “both” because you knew it was a loaded question, you smarty-pants. BUT the answer I was driving you towards was “the second situation”.
Clearly, if both these situations were to play out, the second situation would be one where John was sentenced “guilty” for murder, because he did, in fact, kill someone; whereas in the first situation he would probably be innocent of murder, only guilty of assault or some such crime. Obviously, the prison sentence for murder is a lot longer than one for a simple assault. In fact, if Jack wasn’t hurt in the first scenario, then I have doubts it would even make it to court. One threat is a little flimsy to send someone to jail for, considering you cannot know whether this person would actually have gone through with what they were threatening to do.
This is where I applied my statement “intent is everything”.
Regardless of what actually happened, in both scenarios John came after Jack with the intent to kill him. He wanted Jack to feel pain because of something Jack had done. This intention, when you boil it down, was the cause of the murder that happened in the second situation. John’s action was merely a result of his intent. Therefore, should he not be held accountable for that, instead of his actions?
Cause and Effect.
John’s anger and intent was the cause, and (in the second scenario) the effect was murder. So, to sum up, he was in fact guilty in both situations because even though he did not physically commit murder in the first scenario, he still wanted to. If you throw a lit match towards a pool of gasoline, and someone swats it away in mid-air, no one would deny that you tried to light it, even though it didn’t actually happen. The same principle applies here.
One more thing I should mention about this “intent is everything” statement:
You’ll notice I didn’t mention what it was that made John so angry he came after Jack with a knife. I could have said “Jack was having an affair with John’s wife” or “Jack had just stolen several thousand dollars from John” or even “Jack had just brutally assaulted John, beating him and breaking several bones”. But that would have given John a rationalization for murder. Let us say that that last example was the thing that made John angry. Jack had brutally beat John. Most people, upon reading that, would have considered the stabbing “fair payback”. An eye for an eye, as it were. Hell, you could even argue in a court that it was “self-defense” to stab Jack.
But the reason John is angry isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that he is angry. He wanted to murder Jack, and THAT was the wrong part. Not that Jack didn’t deserve it. But John was no person to deal out death and punishment.
Most of us (me included) want a reason for John to be excused for his anger and murderous intent because, well, let’s be honest, we ALL feel like that at some point. But that doesn’t mean all of us are innocent.
It means we are all guilty.
Rationalizing anger is easy.
Dealing with guilt is the hard part.
Not that I think we should change the judicial system or anything as extreme as that. It is near impossible for us as humans to uncover someone’s intentions. Until we gain the ability to read minds, I’m afraid we are stuck with the rule of law based almost entirely on action.
And so, I come back again to the seven deadly sins. It doesn’t really matter whether you are religious or not, I think all of us can agree that nothing good can really come from any of those seven feelings.
Yes, we humans can be ugly creatures at times.
Just remember, the seeds of every crime are planted in the mind, not the body. All we can hope to do is attempt to understand one another. I firmly believe that if we just tried to gain some perspective on why other people felt the way they did we’d all be better off, and we would get less caught up in the heat of passion that leads to things like murder.
Brendon “feels like he’s preaching too much” Regier
P.S. The painting I used for this post is called “The Seven Deadly Sins And The Four Last Things”, by Hieronymus Bosch. I can’t say I know all that much about art, but I do enjoy it, and this painting was of particular interest to this post.
I have returned home.
By that, I do not mean the blog. When I say “home” I am referring to the metaphorical house of writing; the one thing I have lacked in the past few months, and the one thing I desperately need to get back to.
Writing, once left alone for a while, has a very strong allure to it. You can attempt to stay away, but it will always draw one back to itself.
So there it is. I’m home.
It’s a comfortable, familiar home.
When I first looked back on this site after my several months abroad, I was surprised to find most my old posts and reread them. Often I have wondered if people change over periods of time. Before I would have said no, that people are immutable. They can pretend to change, but they never really do.
Well, now I’d say that I was right before, but that I was also lacking perspective. Our experiences shape us, and through that, we become new versions of ourselves. When I said that people don’t change, I referred to deep-rooted mannerisms and character quirks. The little bits of ourselves that make us who we are. What I didn’t realize before was that once we gain new perspectives on things, we change in our grander outlook and become wiser.
So how have I changed?
Honestly, I’m not really sure how to begin to describe it. Over the past eight months, I’ve haven’t been doing anything amazing. Nothing most would consider noteworthy, anyway. I spend an incredible amount of time simply thinking about things far beyond my natural ability to comprehend. I tell you truly, it gives one headaches.
“Why are we here?”
“What is the purpose of life?”
“Is there really a God?”
Such is a sampling of my cognitive process of late. And I think about these sorts of things ALL the time. I’m in the middle of looking for a job, so a lot of my day ends up being looking through job listings, watching movies and TV shows, and gaming. I walk my dog a lot, and striding through the slush of melting snow, my mind tends to stray a lot. That, combined with the aforementioned watching of media and gaming, tends to merit me a lot of thinking time. Perhaps too much.
Let it be said that thinking too much leads to over-thinking and over-analyzing things, and over-thinking is the bane of many a good soul!
I suppose I could have tried to put down some of those thoughts on this blog. But when pressed, I just couldn’t think of what to say. I created this blog to post my musings and I have generally failed at that in recent times.
Now that I am at least declaring myself back, my plan for going forward is this:
1. Get a job (I feel very lazy every day I don’t have one, and let’s face it, money helps things.)
2. Write on this blog at least once a week (I used to do once a day, and burnt myself out faster than… um… something that moves really fast. Let’s not try that again for a bit!)
3. Plan some reviews (I have been thinking it’d be interesting to try my hand at video reviews of some movie I saw and enjoyed, or some TV show I like. So if this takes off, I’ll toss it on my youtube channel and link it here)
4. WRITE (This is the important one. I really, really need to write more!)
And there you have it.
I should probably clarify that by “write” I mean my novel, but I would like to get some more short fiction done as well. It’s fun to write a short story, and it gives me good practice.
Well anyway, if anyone on this website still remembers who on Earth I am, I have returned! Sound the trumpets and send the heralds forth across the land!
…actually, just a cake would be fine. Even a cupcake. A chocolate one. With some icing and sprinkles.
I just realized I’m starving; time to procure food!
Brendon “Prodigal Son” Regier
Chances are a popular conversation starter these days is, “so, are you watching the Olympics?”
At least, that’s how a lot of my conversations seem to be starting. And it’s annoying.
I never watch regular sporting events, much less a large international gathering of them. I just find it boring.
I’ve sometimes tried to get into it. I’ll think about what people enjoy about watching sports. The anticipation of a point scored, the athletes giving their all, driving forward in a desperate attempt to surpass their adversaries. Tactical plays, fanciful teamwork. But it never clicks for me. I think it is a hazard of spending so much time immersed in fiction that I end up finding real events mundane.
And speaking of fiction…
I’ve been working on revisions to my novel recently. A lot less has been progressed upon than I’d hoped as I try to get my story straight. Ever since that epiphany a while back, I’ve been forced to rethink a lot of the future events in my character’s respective arcs. It’s a good thing; the original plans were laid, but the foundation was shaky. I don’t think it would have turned out nearly as strong as I had envisioned.
I’m just not used to reworking something I have already thought up. It’s tough. In the past, when I wrote a story, that was it; there was no room for change. I hated hearing how something wasn’t quite right with it, or having any criticism given. I felt like I had failed, because the one thing I refused to do was change what I already had; it felt like my original wasn’t good enough, that I was terrible at ideas.
I was very black-and-white like that.
Luckily, with this story, I’ve overcome a few hurdles of the past. I’ve built a greater focus on characterization, so my characters (hopefully) won’t be as one dimensional as they usually tend to be for me, and I’ve realized that going back and improving upon a previous idea is a good thing, not a bad one. Not an admission of failure, but a sincere desire to make this work the best it can be. I hope once this story is done I learn even more to make my next better, and so on and so forth.
It’s a learning process.
Onward, pen! Let us join together and conceive legends, that they may enthrall people for generations to come!
Brendon “doubts his novels will actually do that well” Regier