Happy New Years Eve…eve! (comic)

Happy Friday Folks!

Oh boy it’s here guys, the long awaited end of 2016 and what a fucking strange year it’s been.  There are already plenty of articles talking about how many people we lost year, the implications of a Trump presidency and how relations between the US and Cuba will change with the death of Castro, and if the Cubs can take the World Series is that a good omen for the Blues in the Stanley Cup? (like did you even SEE the hat trick the other night?!)

However here I want to just reflect a little bit about my personal year (don’t worry, there is a comic this week) because as you can probably guess it has been a big year for me.

  • I got accepted into Lancaster as an exchange student in March
  • I got sober 25 April 2016
  • I started Offbeat On point in May
  • I got to live in one of my “Dream Neighborhoods” over the summer(1) (June – September)
  • I ran my first half marathon (110 minutes) in July
  • I moved to a new country (October)
  • I got to meet my musical hero MC Chris (November)
  • I got accepted into Lancaster as a degree seeking student (December)
  • I celebrated my first Xmas away from home

Overall it’s been a good year but it hasn’t been with out struggle.  Most of this year I’ve spent in one form or another of extreme isolation.

Before getting sober, this was my life:

Monday – Thrusday: School (12 credit hours), work (30 hours), drink alone at home until I couldn’t remember passing out(2).

Friday – Sunday: Friday I would work then go home and drink.  Saturday and Sunday I would do 12 hours of homework each day then come home and drink.

I had no friends left and I sort of tried to make friends at work and school fell kinda flat for numerous reasons. After getting sober, school was out and I started working a lot more, got promoted to manager at the sandwich shop and got back an old job I had in light construction. Between the two jobs I was working 80-100 hour weeks, which has never never really been a problem for me because ever since high school I’ve kept a kinda manic schedule where I would be “on” for a few months to a year and “off” for a few months to a year (“on” = working and/or in school; “off” = unemployed and not in school or unemployed and in school) which is partly why I’m 28 and still working towards a bachelor’s degree. All of this considered, you can probably start to see why I didn’t have friends.

When I got here, I knew from pretty early on that I was going to spend winter holiday alone on campus and that isolation kind of scared me a lot.  Like a lot a lot.  The week before xmas was my first week alone here and I might have been alone but I felt so so loved because every single day I would wake up to a phone full of messages from friends who lived in my block and others from school (and the odd person from the states) texting me “Hey how’s Lancaster?” “How are you doing?” “What’s the weather like there?” and it would literally take me about an hour every day to respond to everyone(3).  I’ve mentioned before that I feel the warmth of community here and that sense of community has really changed me.  Not dramatically but it’s helped me heal quite a bit.  It’s been a hard year for everyone but let’s not forget to take stock of the beautiful little moments that we’ve enjoyed this year.

Have a happy and safe New Years Eve, folks.

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Footnotes:

  1. I mentioned in a previous article about the Webster Groves area but basically it’s one giant botanical neighborhood just on the county/city line where people who make much more money than I ever hope to live but what gives me (a little) hope is the guy I was living with was the original editor and chief of a few small local news papers and he had a nice place. If that writer could make a good living, I can too (maybe).
  2. I could hold my own when in company, as in I could drink upwards of 30 drinks in a night and not vomit, but when you develop a long term drinking habit you start to experiment and see if you can get that nail that precise amount of alcohol to time ratio for the “daily ritual”.  Mine was a 6 pack of beer, 3 nips (this is what we called airplane bottle shots, usually 1.5 floz/50mL), in the space of 3 hours.  I had it down to a science because when you’re a functional alcoholic, having “leftovers” is a really bad idea because when you wake up: you already have booze and because of that I found it very very hard to get my day started.  I needed to not have booze in the house so I could be motivated to get some work done and then walk to the shop for my “reward”.  Also if you don’t have enough booze, woah that is like seriously the worst.  Like you drink and drink then if you’re still awake and booze free then you’re at a conundrum: walk to the store and pray it’s not too late to buy booze (legal limit was 3am in St Louis but frequently grocery stores, they had the best prices, would shut down their booze isle by 1 or 1.30am) or try to tough it out.  Guess what won most times.  This set amount played deeply into the psychology of being in control. See I knew even if I ate, I’d pass out; I knew if I got this much, it would be enough and if I wanted leftovers I knew that I would need more; I also knew when to start drinking to be in bed by a certain time, I could even tell by texts and other time stamps precisely when I would black out and just about how long I was conscious before I actually fell asleep.  All these things are important in the addict’s mind when trying to maintain the illusion of control because as long as you’re in control, you don’t have a problem.
  3. Taking so long is probably mostly my fault because I like to talk and my average text is probably 160-300 characters.

Lunar (band)

Happy Wednesday!

In last week’s Music Wednesday post I briefly mentioned in footnote 2 about this band and I all of a sudden remembered why I started this music series in the first place, which was to raise awareness about bands I like that aren’t getting enough attention or that I just cannot shut up about (usually a little of both) and this is one that fits both categories.

Way back in 2007 before I discovered the wonders of weed, I was a pretty studious scholar.  I graduated high school early, with a 4.0 (on a 4.0/4.0 grading system), and my first year of university I was enrolled in 18 credit hours(1) and getting all As.  Basically I kicked ass in the scholastic ring. In the social ring, it was a different story.  Being this scholastic gave me lots of time to surf the internet because I didn’t have the social tempering to navigate university life (or really life at large) nor did I have time to kill and entire evening getting drunk and dancing (or so I thought(2)).

Late one night, on a Friday I believe, I was browsing the internet via the “stumble upon” I had installed on firefox, which when clicked took you to some seemingly random place on the internet(3) and one time I landed on www.lunarmuisc.net.  Back then it only had two albums and the newest one was the second album Wall of Sound (released in December 2007) and it’s cover art covered the page with a black background.

lunar-wall

I listened to it and the first album, Hybrid Awaken (released mid 2006). lunar

 

Then I replayed them. Again. Again. And again.  I hadn’t listened to ANYTHING on repeat for like 6 years prior but then Lunar got in my earballs and would not get out.

Years later they came out with a third album, Complexity Kills (released February 2010)

lunar-complex

Lunar is a strange mix of instruments from piano and drums to organ and strings with a splash of glitch and some other things I don’t know.  Results may vary but here’s some of my favourite tracks:

Hybrid Awakens:

Lazy Dog Funk – it has kind of a jazzy piano and tip tapping high high hat sound that stays pretty steady.  This song kind of reminds me of a lazy summer afternoon in St Louis when I was a kid when it was too hot to go play but it was summer and there wasn’t anything to do inside so I would just kinda wonder around looking at things, all of which were familiar but warranted a second look just in case something changed.

Voyage of the Mercantoli – the song sounds as big and profound as it’s boisterously ambitious title, lots of big drums and quivering strings reminding me of a voyage at sea in some rough waters, getting patches of clear skies but ultimately the ending sounds as ominous as the beginning of the song not promising a peaceful resolution.

Wall of Sound:

Overall the dude uses less piano on this album, which is nice because it sounds like he is being over all more expressive and experimental on this album but where he does use it, it works really well (like in Highest Limits)

Chaos Light – this song has one of my favourite build-ups in his modest discography at 2m10s coming to full fruition at 2m20s.

The Unknown (THW remix) – this is a remix of a song from the first album which articulates really well where the first album was lacking.  The remix makes uses much less of the same sounds, mostly piano, but also builds up faster coming to its first climax at 1m22s where as the original was building the entire song but never felt like it came to a properly interesting plateaux.  The remix turns up the background noises and varies the tempo keeping for a more engaging pace.

Complexity Kills:

Melt – dude is using more guitar on this album and in this song he uses it particularly interestingly off setting grungy power cords with ting of plucked strings particularly around 2m5s

Nine Lives – this strong has a strong strange introduction that has a upbeat synth but then works into a strange techno carnival type sound at 1m10s however it works for me.

This is a person whom I’m not sure how much longer em’s going to be out there or if he’s still producing or what he’s up to(4) however if you like em’s music go buy his albums, they’re starting at the low low price of FREE(5).  Give his page a like, go listen to em’s music on youtube and boost em’s ratings, basically if you like em go show him that some support.

I’ll see you Friday for the last post of 2016.

 

Footnotes:

  1. For my not American university students let me try to simplify.  Most classes are 2-3 credit hours, each credit hour corresponding to 1 hour in class per week.  Minimum full time is defined as 12 credit hours, the mean being 15 credit hours (they recommend to figure 3 hours studying per credit hour, eg 12 credit hours = 48 hours of class and study time a week, 15 credit hours = 60 total work hours; however for me I’ve found it more realistic to figure about 1-2 hours study per credit hour) so taking 18 credit hours  worked out to taking 6 classes a week or 72 total work hours.
  2. I had not yet learned the magical motivation of a game I like to call “running with the deadlines” which is kind of like running with the bulls if deadlines could trample your body to death rather than your sense of accomplishment.
  3. After extensive stumbling I learned that there was a sort of canned set of places it would take you, mind you it was a big can of places, but it did repeat occasionally to my disillusionment.
  4. There is no wiki page, his facebook page (@lunarmusic.net) hasn’t been posted to in about 3 years, and his search-ability on google and you tube is kind of awful.
  5. Literally, go check his site, the prices of his albums are “name a price”.  You can pay as much or as little as you want, it does appear to accept $0.00 as payment.

My First English Xmas Dinner.

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned last week, I’ve decide to deem Mondays “Mystery Monday”(1) and way back three days ago on Friday I already had an idea of what I was going to write about(2) but as reliable as clichés are life happened and now have quite a different thing to write about.

Xmas is just another day to me however my flatmates and friends here at uni all love xmas and many were gutted when they found out that I’m not going home or going to spend the holiday with anyone, to the point where a friend gifted me a chicken to roast for xmas dinner.

I’m not much of a cook but I can read directions.  I thought.

Four hours after putting my chicken in the oven, this is what I pull out.

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Xmas Dinner 2016: Briqued(3) Chicken

Looking at my blackened bird, I couldn’t figure whether I wanted more to laugh or cry(4) but either way I do what any sensible person would do: take a picture and send it to all my friends.

Everyone asked basically the same thing but my friend Nat phrased it best: ‘One question: how?’

Good question, because at that point I still didn’t have an answer until my other friend accused “did you read the directions?!” to which I replied “Of course I did, it read cook at 280* for 4 hours”, if you’re English and/or remember that I’m an American in England, you can probably see where this is going.   After a apéritif of ego, I dug out the package out of the trash, to prove to my friend that the directions were misprinted when I saw that it read 280F/137C.

Oh the joys of being a foreigner.

Happy Boxing days, folks.

If you have an embarrassing or funny holiday story, feel free to share in the comments below.

Footnotes:

  1. As a note from behind the scenes, I like alliterations and Friday being comic day lent it self to ‘Funny Friday’ and in the beginning I did memoir bits on Mondays but not exclusively, as it was originally my only day but once I started doing Fridays also it kept oscillating between book review and memoir and then sometimes it was just something else completely so I decided to make Monday more interesting by leaving it to be the wild card day or ‘Mystery Monday’.
  2. Don’t worry, I’m coming back to the Bubbles.
  3. I’m proposing that we make ‘brique’ a verb ‘to make into or like a briquette’ for my fellow Microwave Chef types.
  4. Not because I botched up xmas dinner, whatever, no I feel guilty about throwing out an animal food stuffs.  I’m not a ideological eater but I try to be mindful and I figure that if an animal has gone through the life of being raised to be food that the best way I can respect it’s former existence is to not let it’s nourishment go to waste because just to throw it away at this point seems kind of like insult on top of injury like “your existence was to be raised and killed and made into food but now you’re going to waste because you’re not even being appreciated as food.  I know there’s lots of logical holes and squishy bits in there but it’s why I felt guilty.

Meet the Cast (comic)

Happy Friday!

As I mentioned in my post Tuesday-Turnaround I have fried my laptop and I don’t have access to my favourite (or really any to speak of) vector program, Inkscape, and I still have plenty of web comic ideas however drawing them by hand and then just taking a picture of them seems a bit cheap so at least this week I’m trying something slightly different.

So I keep a regular journal and the other day before starting to write I had a thing at the back of my throat and coughed.  Out came what is known as a “tonsil stone” (NSFL, seriously there’s a picture on the front page and it’s gross, click at your digression and only google image it if you’re feeling particularly brave(1)) which, for those of you not willing to follow the link, are “…clusters of calcified material that form in the crevices of the tonsils (tonsillar crypts).” (2)   They’re gross but everyone gets them however most of the time they go unnoticed because they are coughed up (and go missing, so so gross, let that be a lesson to cover your mouth when you cough) or they are swallowed.  This was one in particular landed right in the middle of my journal page.

When things like that happen (3) I like to make an outline of the wet footprint before it dries up (4) and then just write around it.  However sometimes, also while journaling, I will make a box around a paragraph of an idea that I feel needs closure or separation.  This was a time for a box.  Then I kinda looked at the box and thought about Fin and Louie and this is what happened:

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I cleaned it up, and drew a second draft:

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And there you have it folks: I got the whole cast together just in time for xmas eve eve!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little insight into how my mind works and that this is as okay as a normal web comic posting.

I’ll see you Monday for what I’m now calling “Mystery Monday”. Who knows what I’ll write about? Nobody because it’s a mystery to everyone. Though I promise it won’t be as gross.

 

Footnotes:

  1. I did google image search it on accident the other night, while trying to figure out how to spell “tonsil stone”, by reflex I clicked on the “Images” tab (I use google image a ridiculous amount) and I saw things that I can not un-see.
  2. For more information with out being subjected to very gross images, check out the channel Today I Found Out video “What Those Nasty White Chunks That Sometimes Come From Your Throat Are”.
  3. tears, sweat, water whatever
  4. I couldn’t tell you why I do this, I just started doing it one day and it was kind of interesting looking so I kept on.

The Algorithm (band)

Happy Wednesday!

Folks, I got something strange and wonderful for you today.  As a kid I was big time into old school metal(1) then something happened and I just kind of fell out of not only metal but like all music for years(2).  It wouldn’t be until 2013 when I moved into a house with 5 other guys in South City St Louis when I would rediscover some of the joys of what I had been missing in the metal world and The Algorithm is a big player in that scene for me.

I was first introduced to them via their concept album, an album that seeks to serve a bigger purpose or tell a story, think Ziggy Stardust or Joe’s Garage, Polymorphic Code is a mathcore album that has a unifying theme of a hacker or virus getting access to a system, causing some chaos, then the ensuing panic.  Some of my favourite tracks include tracks: 2. Bouncing Dot, 3. Trojans, and 4. Access Granted.

They have a couple more albums out now, Octopus4 and Brute Force, and are going on tour in Thursday 06 July 2017 at Newark, UK with The Black Dahlia Murder, Obscura, Aborted, Hacktivist,  and Ingested.  Tickets start at £10.00.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica were my four go to bands.
  2. Age 15 – 19, not particularly sure why or what caused the shift however thanks to the firefox stumble upon addon button, a mild internet addiction, and a seriously lacking social life while at my first University, I found Lunar and rekindled was my love for music.

Tuesday Turn-around

Happy Tuesday!

tech-difficulties

Okay folks, it’s been a tough last few weeks and I apologize for not posting sooner/more regularly but here’s a (very) brief rundown of what’s gotten me down:

  1. November: it’s my least favourite month (lots of reasons, but it’s never good and never ends well).
  2. Being a stranger in a strange land is jarring on many levels and results in lots of paperwork, anxiety, international calls, waiting on documents, pushing deadlines, and that’s just on the academic side.  Personally and spiritually it has been as rewarding as punishing but most of all it’s been exhausting.
  3. “Project: Transfer to Lancaster as a full time student” has been an on going source of stress and paperwork and an additional reason to focus on my school work and start the prep work for next year (whether I end up here or back in St Louis, there will be a lot of things I’m going to have to organize and arrange).
  4. English Universities grade much more harshly than American Universities.
  5. My computer has drowned in irreparable damage both effecting my school work and my ability to produce excellent content on the side (such as this stuff).
  6. Black mold poisoning.

However now that I’m on winter break, I have less work(1) and I should be able to get the train rolling again.  I have some interviews coming up for the Music Wednesdays and some new books I read over break for Literary Review Monday however for the comics, I’m going to try and hand draw pictures and take pictures of them until I can find a vector program that I can use with out a personal computer(2).  Starting tomorrow, I will be back on a regular program for as long as I can go, though if things get heavy again, I may drop back down to two days(3).

With that, I’ll be back tomorrow.

Footnotes:

  1. Banter.  I don’t have any lectures or anyone around to distract me, I’m staying on campus over the holidays, but I have like 4 papers or about 8000 words to write over break which is like more than I have had to do all term combine thus far.
  2. This might take a while since finding a new program is fairly low on my list of priorities, just above purchasing a new laptop and below getting a job in the UK.
  3. If I am accepted into Lancaster, the remainder of this year will be a “qualifying year” meaning that as long as I do well, I’m in for next year and beyond but it’s not a 100% guarantee that I’m in, so if I am accepted I may take myself down to two days to help keep balance however if I’m not accepted then I will likely keep with three days and let things be as they will.