Friday, February 27, 2015

What's in a name?

I have artistic ambitions. I draw, paint, photograph and write. Not as much as I should but it is a way to reconnect with myself. It calms the voices in my head, you know, the voices that doubt. Every time I make time to write, draw, paint, or photograph, I immediately feel better and a little more in control. I feel confident and sometimes I even feel proud of something. For example, I drew a woman lying down based off a picture and I felt pretty good about the outcome. I felt like it was instantly recognizable and pretty similar to the picture. It is by no means perfect. Some lines are too long or too straight and the shading is terrible. The thing is I am self taught. My only class was an online perspectives course. I learned by reading and watching. I learned by constantly trying, erasing and trying again.

I am getting sidetracked. The point is my artistic side sometimes has incredible ego, where I imagine myself showing my work or doing a reading (unfortunately a lot of the time I feel super self conscious about my creations). During these times I imagine my work, whatever it is, up in a museum or on a bookshelf. This is where I start wondering about my very generic name and how it would fit in. Rembrandt, Picasso, Kahlo, Michael Williams..... it doesn't work. Don't get me wrong, I do not think I produce work anywhere on the caliber of these artists but please indulge in this fantasy with me. Can you imagine it?

I can't. I can't imagine my name being attached to something someone else finds extraordinary enough to put in a museum. Maybe this tells you too much about me and my demons. Oh well, the thing I am talking about here is the name (so stop delving below the surface). My name is pretty common here in the US. There are countless numbers of Michael Williams in the world. I know some have been star athletes, entrepreneurs and all sorts of things but the name seems a bit ordinary. A name lacking in the requisite shine to compete in the arts. So, as I was driving one day, I began to entertain the thoughts of changing my name. Something that would really shine. That would be intriguing and captivating. You know, something that would look okay in all those museums I was destined for....

Then I thought about the name again and I remembered a few things. Some things that point to my own duality. Perhaps the astrological sign I fall under is a little accurate after all. You see I love my name at the same time that I find it completely ordinary and a touch boring. Here are some stories about my relationship with my name.

One of my earliest memories of my name being cool is when my family called me "Michael Michael Motorcycle". Maybe that should be my new artist name.... Michael Motorcycle. Or Michael F'N Motorcycle. Sounds pretty good to me.

The first time I ever realized my name was not unique was a shock. I met a kid named Michael one day when I went to my cousin's house to play. I instantly hated him. How dare this kid usurp my name! That devious devil. I kept my eye on him from then on. Never really warming to him and not having any other reason to not like him than he had my name. In reality, he was a nice kid. After all I should have been pissed at his parents. In fact, I am pissed at every parent of a Michael. HOW DARE YOU???? IT IS MY NAME NOT YOUR PRECIOUS POOKIE'S NAME! EVEN IF YOU ARE OLDER THEN ME, YOUR PARENTS WERE WRONG! Maybe I have a few issues to work on.

It was a few years later and a parade of other people named Michael had come through my life. I was getting used to it. I think I was in 4th grade by this time and I had learned how to be friends with name thieves. My teacher was out, thank the lord because I hated my 4th grade teacher. Except that my substitute would almost unseat her as Queen of All Villainy. During roll call she mispronounced my name and asked for a "Michelle Williams". Michelle? It isn't even spelled close. If you think it is, you would be wrong! The other kids teased me until about lunch when they forgot about it but I never have. I probably never will. I hope that sub died in a fiery explosion.... maybe from an over abundance of gas caused by an unhealthy diet.

That mispronunciation prompts me to tell you something else, perhaps we should call it a public service announcement. The only way to spell Michael is M I C H A E L. It is not Micheal, stop screwing my name up! If you are somebody out there who had stupid parents that misspelled my name and gave it to you please alter your spelling or choose another name. In fact, knock it off with the multiple spellings of all names. Can't we choose one and stick with it? I mean aren't they all pronounced the same? That is all, now back to our regular random ravings of a slightly insane individual.

I was horrified when I went to college and found that on the same dorm floor as me another Michael Williams resided. I never met him because I moved out of that dorm shortly after but I am sure he was an upstanding citizen, that I probably should have shoved off a cliff..... name thief...

As I grew up I started to accumulate lazy friends who called me Mike and I allowed it; even embraced it. I also started a pen name in high school that some people know and other college friends know some variation of. I had a nickname that I was largely responsible for. It was not until recently that I have been introducing myself as Michael again. My new friends know me as Michael and probably think I prefer it because they apologize for calling me Mike. Which is unnecessary, I answer to old nicknames and Mike (As long as it isn't Michelle). I just kind of realized one day that I liked the sound of the whole name. Even if it is not exactly a unique name.

Speaking of not being unique... could all the other Michael Williams stop getting tickets and not paying them? Every time I get a new drivers license I have to go through a laundry list of offenses that I have never done. Especially a certain Michael Williams in New Jersey... cut it out man! Speaking of that, why the hell do they show up on my record check with the DMV? Shouldn't they research you by social security number or the driver's license number? What the holy heck do I have personal identification numbers for? PLEASE LEARN HOW TO DO YOUR JOBS PROPERLY!

So as much as I might wish for a more unique and individual name I still really want to keep my name. I also must accept that my name will always be given to other people and I will do so gracefully (ish). In order to cover the bases for my possible canonization after my death, I might be working on a few new pen names and artist monikers.

No matter how you know me feel free to use the name you have always used for me. Hey! That was rude! I do not need you cussing like that. I hope you don't cuss like that in front of your mother!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Give An Ear: My Recent Podcast Exploration

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts lately; more than I usually do. I have been a long time Adam Carolla listener. I have also listened to years of the Stuff You Should Know, Stuff They Don't Want You To Know and Stuff You Missed in History Class for just as long. I have become a big fan of the Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend podcast. I stopped looking for new stuff about the time ARIYNBF hit my iPod. I had a few other podcasts disappear on me or I lost interest in. I found that I love listening to things but I am not a talk radio guy because I have grown accustomed to the long form interview and discussion of podcasts. I have found that they can actually make you think about things you hadn't considered. They can push you to try something, learn something or to blaze your own path despite obstacles.

I was listening to Adam Carolla one day and I realized I knew the story he would tell and what direction the conversation would go. The show had changed over the years and a few things that drove me insane ended up sticking. I liked how he originally started where he dug into what made a person who they are now. He really went after the journey and that was what hooked me. I can't stand the live drunken crowds, questions from the audience or the call ins. It seems like most of the time the caller or live audience member is an idiot. The few times the person delivers is not worth the 97% of the callers who aren't smarter than a piece of cheese. I felt that he got away from the thing I found so unique and often did not really even interview the guests he brought in. So when that episode ended I decided to put the show on hiatus. I will come back more eventually but it was time to find something new.

One new podcast I have found and have dug most of is Creative Start. The podcast talks to artists about their journey to their current career. It is a new series and has like 6 episodes currently. I have listened to 5 of them and have learned something every time.

Another podcast I have found is Invisiblia. It is an NPR production. I am not entirely sure if that should matter but I am sure it does for some readers. Either way I have only heard one episode so far and I am excited to hear more. The episode I listened to was about fear. It talks about changes in how kids are parented, a person who actually has no fear, and ways to overcome fear. To be honest I still have about 10 minutes left but it is awesome and I wanted to mention it.

I am also listening to the recently relaunched Radio Free Burrito. It is helmed by Wil Wheaton and maybe his wife Anne. I am not sure because I am starting in early January and he is figuring it out. I find him to be pretty amusing and interesting. I am a huge fan of his web series Table Top and it seemed natural to try something else he is behind. He and his wife seem to have no filter and you learn things you might wish you hadn't but I can't get enough.

I mentioned it earlier but a podcast I have really fallen for is the Alison Rosen one. Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend is different. She has some amazing interviews with guests. In fact she was behind a lot of recent Marvel talk after her interview with James Gunn. This week her interview with Jennifer Lee, widow of Richard Pryor, is making headlines because of comments about Cosby. Her interviews are where it is at. She is all over the place when she interviews and it isn't a clear and distinct linear path but she digs where most don't. As a result she gets really interesting answers. She currently airs 3 times a week. One day is a one on one interview, the second is a group of friends and is usually super funny, the third is her and her husband Daniel. The third show is the newest and seems to be working on figuring itself out. My personal favorite 3rd show was the first where it was just Alison Rosen. Her husband was sick, ruining her plans, but she recorded anyway. I think it might have been my favorite episode ever. Especially when she called her husband on the cell phone to see if he was doing okay (and woke him up and he sounded like death) and when she made 3 failed "phone a fan" calls that went straight to voicemail (she rambled spectacularly for a message). I was in tears laughing. Good stuff.

I am also giving Jay Mohr, The Art of Charm, Book Lab, Coffee Break Spanish, Joe Rogan and The Writing Podcast a try.

One more thing, I am listening to a podcast about podcasting. It is called Free Podcast Course. Who knows maybe I will be writing things for my podcast as well as for this blog sometime in the future.

If you have suggestions or give any of my suggestions a try, share your experiences and feedback. I would love it.

Job Hunts and Soul Sucking Phenomenons

I have had a couple weeks of downtime since the last job ended. I am terrible with downtime. I am looking for work but there is not a lot of things happening currently. I have my application for teaching licensure sent in and it seems like I might not get that back in time to make use of it. Which is so..... you know? I have been a walking ball of stress.

My last episode of downtime pushed me creatively but I am having a hard time focusing enough to get anything much done. I have done a couple picture walks and I am writing but I hate pretty much all of it. I guess I am feeling a little negative about everything.

I have recently put in for positions that I think I would do really well at if they would take a chance. I have also applied overseas a little and to jobs that aren't the right fit. You know because I would like to work. I have a few ideas of things to do once I get a steady gig to turn things around but I can't start until I am no longer wallowing in job hunt mode.

I don't want to whine about my life when I put on a new blog. It was one of the reasons I stopped writing candidly in here. It was why I switched focus to stories. The teaching gig kind of tended to bump my momentum a lot. I would be excitedly writing and then I would stop to work on school and then a month would go by. So I decided I needed to share more then my writing here. Even if nobody pays attention it feels good to put it somewhere. So why exactly am I whining now? The reason I am whining is because I needed to post something and I apparently needed to get all this out and written. It helps, not  exactly sure why or how.

Thank you for letting me get this out.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Small Cans

I have not posted in a while and I was wondering why not. I seem to have gotten away from using this to talk about life. While I am not super eager to convert this back into a diary I feel that I need to have the variability to talk about daily life, frustrations, successes, challenges, achievements and just random crap. I will post my writing here as well, for a while. I am looking into moving my writing elsewhere. If I do I will make an announcement. Until then...

I came home and decided to have a snack. I grabbed some edamame and threw them in the micro. Then I grabbed a can of Coke. I became a huge fan of Coke and peanut butter during my year abroad. The Coke made a lot of sense because I would get an ice cold bottle of Coke and drink it as I walked home from the local tienda. It felt so good in contrast to the sweltering heat of the day. It made the walk worth it. The peanut butter ended up being a comfort food and I would eat it when I felt homesick.

The thing about having a Coke now is I am not walking a couple miles a day any longer. It is not a great choice or nearly as satisfying as it once was. The craving has not left though. I have a dilemma in front of me. I am not ready to give up on Coke again but I also found I do not need a 20 oz bottle or a 12 oz can. I don't want that much... thank goodness they make the little cans! 7.75 oz is just about perfect. I get done and wish I had another sip but I can live with not having one. It kills that desire when it crops up. I do try to avoid drinking one a day. I try to space them and I am usually successful. Thanks for the concern...

The little cans happen to have an even bigger benefit. You can pretend to be an abnormally large sized human. A giant of the Andre the Giant ilk. You can say silly things and rhyme other people's words. You can talk about your way not being very sportsmanlike. It is awesome! Everytime I grab a small can I pretend to be a giant in a world of tiny people. You know, instead of a large guy in a world of other large people.

Yes... I do still pretend. It is not my fault you chose to grow up.