Debt and Texas

That’s a pun, get it?  Anybody?  Ok, I’ll explain.  There are two things that keep showing up in my life and this blog: debt and Texas.  I’ve lived at least briefly in almost every major city in America (except Chicago and Miami, but I’m not fully convinced Chicago exists and Miami has too many alligators/Floridians).  Somehow I always end up in Texas.  My flightplan of life so far has been Texas > Oklahoma > Texas > Jersey > Texas > Michigan > Texas > California > New York > Oklahoma >  Texas.  Noticing a pattern?  I can’t escape this state.  Maybe I don’t need to.  Austin and Houston are honestly some of my favorite cities in the U.S.  I’m in no hurry to leave anymore, and if my track record is any indication, I wouldn’t be gone long before the big T-dash-X snares me again.

On a more frustrating note, the other constant in this adventure is Debt.  Did you know the German word for debt is “schuld”, which means “guilt”?  Debt is supposed to be a shameful thing.  The only reason it isn’t is because everybody has it here in the States (also Greece, but that’s another story).  Whoever owns your debt owns your future.  I never realized this when I was a teenager, just like I never realized that parking a car with wheels turned sideways is a chump move.  My parents never prepared me for the concept of money.  As per their religious, I never was allowed to buy anything or even leave the farm to swing by a corner store.  My first experience with money was debt, in the form of a sudden fistful of hundreds arriving in the form of my first student loan.  As stupid as it seems now, I didn’t think I had to pay that back.  I assumed it just arrived, got spent, and disappeared until I was an “adult”.

I didn’t have a job in college, except for some actually-decent income from making celebrity news videos on Youtube.  I didn’t know how much jobs paid people without high school diplomas or previous experience.  I didn’t know about interest rates, or how high they could be for people with no credit.  I didn’t know that, once the loans stopped coming, there might be periods without enough money to pay rent or buy food.  I was wholly, entirely , inexcusably ignorant, and so afraid, because I knew deep in my melon heart that someday the chickens were coming to roost.

The most painful words come from those you love, and these came from someone very close: “You squandered all the money you had.”  I can’t think of anything that ever hurt as bad as that, but now I realize that those words weren’t even half true.  Squandering is what happens in Katy Perry songs.  I didn’t live lavishly, even while I dug myself into this debt.  I never went to clubs.  I ate ramen and popcorn like it was a New Years Resolution.  I drove a 2002 Ford Taurus in 2010, until it caught on fire.  But nonetheless the money was always gone.  I didn’t squander it, but I sure as hell wasted it, and when the debt came, I came back to Texas.

For the last few years, I’ve existed in a constant state of lockjaw anxiety that only Americans with haunting credit scores can know.  I didn’t know, or want to know, how much I owed.  My previous tactic for survival was to open new debit cards in moments of panic, and overdraft them almost immediately to buy food.  Then I’d abandon the account and go someplace else.  Even after cleaning the harmful chemicals from my life, I still carried that teenage recklessness everywhere.  I was stupid enough to brag that if I kept moving around “they’ll never find me”.  Allow me to emphasize: that was bullshit.  Bullshit of the sort that rednecks cultivate for explosive methane gas.    Not only did “they” find me, they never even had to look for me.

Oh, here’s some more words that stung.  During a brief stint cleaning pus-thick macaroni slime at a dying buffet, I joked to a coworker that I had made a career of spending money I didn’t own.  She replied: “And this is where it got you?”

Every debt eventually has to be paid, and my student loans came to their inevitable crash-landing last year.  In an astounding stroke of luck, two months before D-Day, I landed the best job I’ve ever had.  I could finally start payments and get them out of default.  All I had to do was work an extra 10 hours a week (on top of full time), and the $900 monthly student loan payments were covered.  Small victories, right?  Well it turns out that once word gets out that you can pay some debts, every other debt wants your attention.  And until they’re fat and happy again, you can’t make any progress in your financial life.

In the past month, I’ve compiled a list of all the banks, gyms and hospitals who want my money.  A few hundred here, a few thousand here, maybe one or two negotiation blowjobs and then (boom!) I’m a free man.  Well mostly.  The student loans are going to follow me until I’m in the ground, unless the exciting cloning experiment Obamatimus Prime gets elected and makes that debt disappear faster than the oxycontin in Rush Limbaugh’s cookie jar.  (Help me, Obami-Wan, you’re my only hope!)

Researching your own debt is like getting punched in the chest repeatedly, and then billed for the service, but what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.  Knowledge is power.  I no longer have a shadowy cloud hovering at throat-height, and I feel… free.  Which is funny because now I realize exactly just how much of a slave I am until these get paid.

New tactic: instead of just paying my debts, I’m shelling out money for other people to fight those debts. This might be the most American thing I’ve ever done.

Here’s a bit of adderall-fueled advice for anybody younger than me: college loan and credit card debt does not disappear on its own.  It actually gets worse.  It’s so easy to sign on the dotted line, shake hands and hit the ATM, but unless that money is being immediately applied to create more money, you are digging a big hole that gets bigger and bigger each year. Four years after taking out my last college loan, I’ve finally gotten past paying the interest and onto actually paying the principle. Debt is not something you have to just worry about years down the road. It smacks you in the face real, real quick.


JadenDebt and Texas


That’s a fun word.

Learning new things is probably the only constant in my life.  Lately that constant has been iOS programming, because not only is it a burgeoning industry (albeit one that already hit its boomtown), it’s directly connected to my work and the work I’d like to do in the near future.  I started out using but I’m starting to realize that the level of education they offer might not be worth $25 a month.  Enter

Well don’t enter yet.  Still making up my mind on whether or not they have the content I need.  But I figure if you really want to learn something, put money into it.  iOS programming seems like a whole ‘nother animal from the scripting I’m used to.

In other news, I get paid tomorrow.  Started on the loan rehab program for my last defaulted student loan, so they’ll take that out.  Paying off a few more loans (bank accounts overdrawn, old gym memberships, credit cards), so hopefully that will help get me closer to that bike.


Tension is a passing note

I saw something on facebook today that said “Optimism is realizing that taking one step forward and one step back isn’t failure, it’s a cha-cha.”  I really needed to read that I guess, as I’ve fallen once again into that strange murky gray sea that isn’t quite depression but teeters eerily close to apathy.  Most people around me know that I’ve been working super-overtime since about November to buy a my second motorcycle.  My first motorcycle was to me what first girlfriends are to most people.  It was freedom and danger and just all around cool.  I spent more time with it than anything else, until I had to sell it years ago.

So, with the string of things going right lately, I thought I might have crested over a hill in my life, and started working hard, saving pennies to get another one.  I renewed my class-M license, saved paychecks, took all the required courses, saved paychecks, worked more and more, and saved more and more of my paychecks.  In the end it didn’t change much.  My credit is still too low for even the minimum amount available for a bank loan.  Not a defeat, but certainly a setback.

Anyways, for the past two days I’ve slipped back into the fog.  You know the one, because everybody does.  That settled, razor-focused mood of wanting to just keep busy so you don’t think about all the things you had planned which are now even further away than before.  It feels like the world is laughing at you, and you don’t want to think about the things you wanted because surely you must be the reason you can’t have them.  It could be worse.  I mean at least nothing blew up this time, but that’s just because you couldn’t even make a spark.

I’ve been through this a lot in my life, and the good news is that it’s a short-lived feeling.  I’m going through my list of debts today, calling every company that wants my money and paying them in full.  So far we’re looking at just a few thousand, but if I had just a few thousand to easily give away I’d much rather spend it on buying that bike in cash.  That’s the nature of being an adult I guess.

Final thought: I want to blog every day again, like everybody else says they will and almost nobody does.  I think it’s healthy to get out of my head for at least a half hour daily.  Google Calendar is going to shout at me at 3:30 central every day until I write something.

Anyways, back to work.


JadenTension is a passing note
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Rituals for the Restless Persistent (or: On Creativity, pt 1)

CAUTION: This is a post about creativity and organization, so expect neither.  I’ve never been an organized person, at least by my own standards.  Sure, I can keep my house clean and my dishes stacked, but those are just maintenance work.  True organization evades me, and nowhere is this more pronounced than in my writing.  Want an example?  I’ve written over 150,000 words on two stories since I left Oklahoma three years ago.  I have written exactly zero stories, though, because although flinging my ideas onto paper is nearly effortless, straightening their corners and stretching their edges into shape is… impossible.

Maybe it’s the ADHD.  Honestly, I’ve started so many creative projects and left so many unfinished, orphaned drafts that I’ve developed a tactile fear of even trying.  Its the fear that the Wright Brothers must have faced after each crashed prototype that left them with only wreckage and pissed investors.  The fear that no one takes me seriously because (lets face it) they can smell the futility on my breath, the panting desperation to turn out just one finished project.  I’ve stopped telling most people that I even write, and instead focus on my music when people ask what I do for fun.  At least with music, all you need is two choruses, two verses, a bridge and 16 bars front and back for people to be impressed.  Writing fiction is (excuse the pun) another story entirely.

When I sit down to write, the biggest distractions that set my ADHD on fire are Social Media and a brash beast called the Blank.  Social media is easy enough to ignore if you have the right tools. A quick search of the app store, play store, or just Google will find you a fistful of productivity apps subtly designed to lock your brain in a box for an hour of typing.  If you’re physically unable to visit Facebook until a timer runs out, it’s much easier to keep your fingers on the keyboard.

The Blank, however, is more sinister.  To anyone who has ever created anything: I know you’ve experienced it at least once.  That damp, futile hush that falls when you simply can’t care anymore about anything you worked so hard to get on paper.  That moment when you need to see your story, to cry with your characters and speak in their voices, and suddenly words fail you.  The keyboard clicks slow down, the clock in the upper corner seems to pulsate, and you don’t care about your characters.  The networks and neuron pathways are suddenly empty.  Your attention is caught by nothing.  Focus becomes a conscious action, paddling rudderless and spinning through a stagnant pond.  If you’re smart, you’ve been taking notes so the only loss is your chance of writing more until the Blank is gone.  That might take an hour, but it will probably take twelve.

The Blank is my biggest enemy.  It strikes every time I get about 100 pages into writing a book.  Heck, it strikes when I’m reading a book.  After a set amount of time, the fuse runs out in my brain, and I just don’t care anymore.  The Blank is the reason I own a PS4 that gets played twice a month, because after a short while that game I just had to own has lost my interest, and I’d rather go run or listen to music.

Because this is getting long, I’ll get to the point.  For people like me, you’ll never beat the Blank.  It’s going to come back over and over, even if you power through most of the time.  I won’t say I’ve found a solution (not yet), but I have found some tricks that help me and hopefully might help you when your brain can’t stay in place.

The Green Light

Long, long ago, I knew the nickname of man who owned an illegal speakeasy in the warehouse district of Houston.  The house hunched over, bruised like Sylvester Stallone after his title fight in Rocky.  During the day, armed thugs posted around the gate, and I know they were armed because two of them pulled guns on me once for being too determined to get in before opening.  This was a place where you did what you were told, or they stopped talking and started doing.

Inside the speakeasy, the only light came from swaying green light bulbs, their patchy glow casting everything in mellow, acutely turmoiled shades of flickering emerald.  This place was a mosque of creativity and depravity.  Little piles of white and beige powder blew off tabletops whenever a breeze crept in, and sometimes bands would stop by unannounced to play impromptu rock shows for the underaged punk crowd of 3rd Ward.  People sat in corners drinking coffee, and people sat in corners smoking dope.  It was lawless and quiet, as if (despite the criminal activity inside), the inhabitants respected the atmosphere.  When the green lights were on, you didn’t cause trouble.

I know what I’ve described sounds like a bourgeois crack den.  Maybe it was.  I only visited on occasion to hear live music and smoke unfiltered cigarettes in a kitchen where the stovetop had been replaced by a waist-tall Buddha statue.  I found that place oddly serene.  The green lighting stuck with me when I went home to Oklahoma.  I bought a green bulb (#bigpimpin) and have replaced it for four years now.  The idea is simple: when the green light is on, I create things or have sex.  All other tasks are for the normal lights, and normal thoughts.

Your light might be blue, or red (if you’re the devil), but the point remains: lighting changes everything, and the right light can help lock you into a useful state of mind.

Theme Songs

I’ve pimped out Spotify for years now.  I sell so many subscriptions to Spotify Premium that (har har) I ought to be on the payroll.  You should really check it out.  It’s best feature is the ability to create playlists from virtually any song in wide circulation, and sync that across all your devices so that, whether at home or abroad, I can get myself right into the headspace that I need for each scene.  I have playlists for each character (a work in constant progress), playlists for each book, even playlists for individual moods I want to visit.  As someone who can’t write without music (who am I kidding, I can’t breathe without music), Spotify is the absolute best resource for quickly finding the tune to even out your scattered thoughts.


I’m far from alone with these.  I think every creative person has a specific ritual that must take place before the magic comes out.  Like dance, the value is in the rhythm, not the moves, so I won’t tell you what to include in your rituals.  But as for me, I can’t write without a brief toke, a change into my “writing pants”, and the sound of running water either natural or recorded in my ears.  Because of trying to maintain all three in order, I’ve nearly been arrested at more than a few public fountains in Oklahoma.

Running Start

I really can’t read books like I used to.  The Blank hits halfway through Act Two and I start thinking of how many insignificant things are bawling for my attention, and my eyes start (literally) bouncing away from the page.  This was actually what first clued me in to my ADHD: I lost the ability to read.  I went from reading John Grisham and Terry Brooks at 12 years old to reading one book a year at 21, and failing a humbling number of classes in college due to the fact that I simply couldn’t keep my eyes on the page.  My brain acts on its own when its bored, which if you think about it is truly frightening.  Welcome to my life.

I have no remedy for ADHD, but I’ve found that (even if I can’t read a whole chapter), I can make myself read eight or nine pages of a book that sounds good, and then forcibly tear myself away before the Blank sets in, switching from Kindle to Microsoft Word with an alt-tab so that I land breathless in the middle of my creative endeavor.  The same works for songs: I’ll listen to half a Dillon Francis track before whipping over into Ableton and working while the adrenaline is fresh in my veins.  Then when I begin to slip, I return to the original book/song, rinse and repeat.

So there you go.  Three quick tips from the undisputed featherweight champion of procrastination.  I don’t know why I’m writing all this, or why I’m maintaining a blog that I don’t advertise or (really) expect to be read.  All of this is just a sort of chronicle of my thoughts, a familiar desperate attempt to line up the highways in my head.  I think I wrote this today just to prove that I could write something more than 400 characters.  Anyways, thanks for reading.




JadenRituals for the Restless Persistent (or: On Creativity, pt 1)

Going in Cold

Here’s something short to get you thinking.

Last night I watched the movie Frank on Netflix.  I won’t tell you what it’s about.  Why?  Because in an absolutely unprecedented move on my part, I refused to look it up on IMDB, read any sort of synopsis or discussion, and didn’t mention it on Twitter till I was done.  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen.

I didn’t even know the genre.  All I’ll tell you about Frank is that (from the start) I got a real impending-doom, horror-movie feeling.  (Hint: it’s not a horror movie at all).

This experience was so much more intense than I expected.  The sheer temptation to rush to IMDB or even Wikipedia made my skin crawl.  I had to know what this weird, wonderful film was about.  Twice, twice, I started typing the title into Google before catching myself.  No, I thought, you’re stronger than this.  I was nearly at the point of tying my hands together by the time the credits rolled.

What I discovered is what people have told me for years: we’re just too connected.  We have too much information thrust at our eyes without enough time to soak it in, so we cut corners by figuring out the plot twists based on other people’s opinions and reviews.  We can’t take the suspense so we read spoilers and then feel a bit cheated when they don’t live up to our expectations.  But when you watch a movie with no expectations, no clue about which famous actor is going to cameo, no thought of “ah, I know he’s lying because he’s the villain”… it changes everything.  You enjoy the movie like you enjoyed the movies of your childhood.

Also, I recommend you watch the movie Frank.  It’s quite good.  Don’t ask me what it’s about, though.




JadenGoing in Cold

This Too Shall Pass

So it’s a new year.  I’m not capitalizing that because I’m not talking about the holiday.  It’s just literally a new year, a time when everyone you know is coming up with resolutions that they hope against hope they won’t have to tell, and are pretty darn sure (like everyone else) that they won’t keep.  It’s a brief eon where we’re supposed to believe that things can be different, can become different, within this current red-eye around the sun.

I hope things don’t change this year.  I’m where I want to be for 2015.  Four inches from my hands are a Traktor S2 and a Traktor X1.  Across the room there sits a pretty much brand new iMac.  Each of my bank accounts have four digits.  The house is warm.  My car is working.

I’m not really writing a blog about that, though.  Those things can be gotten, and lots of people have them.  What makes them unique is their unlikelihood, and the speed with which they came center-stage.

Almost exactly one year ago, I was in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, staring up at the side of a blue shack.  Coffee shops have become synonymous with sterile, mewling decor and placid vanilla colors.  This one was a garish mobile unit, selling overpriced mugs to a population that had never broken more than  20,000.  It was cold outside, cold inside, cold everywhere.  Wooden planks lay halfheartedly stacked at my feet.  My last wearable shirt was covered in putrid yellow paint.  Flies, defiant against the murderous cold, were using my nose as a landing strip.

But I had a bill with my name on it, and a check that I couldn’t sign.  One hundred dollars.  The coffee shop owner said I could build his shack a wooden overhang for one hundred dollars.  Then I could pay the bill, and find a job, and start heading upwards.

Note: I didn’t know this guy.  I was staying with my dad, and he worked out the details.  Had it not been for him, I would have been stuck in a dead town with a dead car.

At one point during my stay, when I was stretching my brain trying to think of any possible way to come up with $100.  My dad said something that will always stick with me.  He said: “One year from today, you’re never going to believe how hard you worked for $100.”

So I got to work.  My dad did most of it, because even at nearly 23 I was clueless about to keep eight planks and a sheet of tin together in a cohesive shape.

It’s a weird feeling working when you know that everything you own already belongs to someone else.  But I got that $100 and I paid that bill and I got a job and I sold a bunch of Chevy’s and I left town.  Then I lived with my grandmother and I got a better job, and then a better job, and I left town again.  And now it’s 2015 and everything is ok.

One year.  It took one year for things to go from total despondency to ok.  It’s humbling.

Not sure where I was going with this story.  I don’t really speak with my dad anymore.  I kind of wish he knew that he was right, but I feel like he probably does.

I guess the point of this post isn’t for me, but for anyone who might stumble across it who is going through a long, dark teatime of the soul.  Things can surprise you, as much with their generosity as with their sudden reveal.  2015 is going to be the best year of your life.


JadenThis Too Shall Pass

Easier Living Through Half-Assed Code

So a large part of my job is mediating things.  Yes, technically I do tech support, but since I was promoted (Senior Technical Advisor, check it!), the focus has switched quite dramatically from solving just technical problems to solving people problems.  Not necessarily people that are problems, of course.  More like people who have encountered problems, and then been misinformed, mishandled or simply mistreated, either in reality or perception (which, we all know, is reality).  As a result, my new job relies a lot on calling people at home, apologizing for somebody else’s mess, and trying to repack Vesuvius in under 20 minutes.

I’ve come to realize that just a single call-back isn’t always enough, especially when a case ends up lasting a week before being closed.  My morning list usually starts at about 8-10 callbacks, and after those are done, about 10 more arrive before the end of the day.  Some of those get resolved immediately (about 30%).  Another 50% I place in a file for scheduled callbacks.  But that remaining 20% is the group that seems content, but could very likely have a better experience with The Company if I gave them a courtesy call within about 3-4 days.

From the surface, this seems simple.  It’s not.  With calls coming in every 7 seconds (no joke!), and each call averaging at 17 minutes, it’s extremely hard to keep track of everything.  Simply putting it into Pages isn’t enough anymore.  Plus, what if the person I call doesn’t pick up?  Their name remains on the list, and it gets bigger and bigger, until it’s a massive pile of bloat.

So today’s project is to write a program that allows you to quite effortlessly drop in numbers of people to courtesy call, rank them according to most/least crucial, give a bit of background information, and access a quick person to call based on how much time you think the call will last (for example: a call to check up on an iCloud restore is potentially going to be much longer than a call to see if a particular app has finished downloading).

Anyone who has worked in a call center knows that call lengths are impossible to fully predict, which becomes a problem when you have lunch in 10 minutes, are just about to take a new call, and will get negative attention if your lunch isn’t almost perfectly on the dot in regards to the assigned time.  So here’s the solution: fire up my program, sort by outbound calls you think will last less than 15 minutes, and pick up the phone.

The aim of this isn’t to make life easier (despite this post’s sneaky title).  It’s based on pure selfishness.  I want to write something that all my coworkers can use, and my boss might just accidentally happen to notice.  I desperately want to transition from tech support to a development role with The Company.  I’ve heard several success stories of people in my exact position striking it big within The Company doing exactly this, so it’s worth a shot.  At the very least I’ll have a slight technological edge over my peers.


JadenEasier Living Through Half-Assed Code

Cribs: Jaden Edition

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 8.39.26 AM

That’s my old house. No, not the brick houses behind the fence. I mean that exact spot where the pewter SUV is sitting. Two years ago, I parked in that spot every night, and went to sleep.  It got so hot in McKinney, TX that one night I nearly drowned in my own sweat.  I was sleeping in the backseat at a weird angle, and the sweat just rolled down my throat until I woke up choking and heaving, half-naked in the back of a 2002 Ford Taurus, at 3 am.  The next morning I had to catch a plane to New Jersey, so I headed to:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 8.41.52 AM

That’s my old gym. Every morning I drove two miles from “home”, took a piss, showered and shaved, lifted for a bit, and chatted with the owner, who was an absolute saint. He also had a super cool name like “Titan” or “Ernesto” which I can’t remember. I’m pretty sure he knew I used his gym as a bathroom, but he was cool with it. When I couldn’t pay, he never complained.

Next door (out of frame) is a dry cleaner.  One time I had to catch a flight to Pittsburgh and I locked my keys in my car, with all my belongings.  The owner of that dry cleaner (without even knowing me) paid for a service to come unlock my doors.  Moving on:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 8.47.44 AM


This is Coffee Squared, the coolest little corner of Texas.  I lived here more than that Wal-Mart parking lot.  The owner told me “good morning” by name every single day.  I bought an English muffin and a cup of coffee religiously.  I made house music with Ableton 8 after work every day.  I met a talent scout who wanted to represent that music.  I met all the cool hardcore bands that the owner let play in his shop on Friday nights.

Why the pictures?  I’m just reminiscing, I guess, and thinking about happiness, and change.  Some people think being happy is a sign that you live an easy life, and I disagree.  All of these places made me happy during the second-most miserable time of my life.  When I lived on the streets, I met a lot of people who were not only unhappy, but hell-bent on remaining so.  I wasn’t interested in that, so I wandered and wandered until I found people who thought I was interesting, and thought I had potential.

But something made me happier than even those wonderful people.  When I left Oklahoma it was finally me calling the shots.  I was no longer forced to live with an AK-47-wielding heroin addict, or pay for my boba tea (a necessity!) with nickels scrounged from the couch cushions.  I got a job within two weeks that put me on airplanes to every corner of the U.S.  It was an adventure.  Even being dirt poor and suffocating on my own sweat was suddenly wonderful.

My dad once told me that the great thing about rock bottom is that there’s nowhere to go but up, and (like usual) he was very right.  I told him once when I was homeless that I was the happiest I’d ever been, because literally every day was better than the one before.  Logically, it had to be.

Oh, hey, I think I found a reason for why I’m thinking these thoughts.  I have an opportunity to maybe change big things in my life again, and I’m a bit scared.  I think it’s a healthy fear, but it still irks me because I don’t like being scared.  Things are comfortable now, and shaking them up seems foolish.  Things are going well.  I was just promoted.  I’ve tripled my salary and my boss likes me.  I have an apartment and friends and new shoes and air conditioning.

But shaking things up is oh-so-tempting, and that’s a wild part of me that the Adderall can’t level out.  I want to throw caution to the wind again.  I want to convince myself that I’m smart enough to make things work.

Final thought: my “two-week experiment” with coding in Ruby has turned into an obsession.  I’ll love Python till the day I die, but Ruby has reached official side-ho status.


JadenCribs: Jaden Edition

Gone Girl Should Have Stayed Gone

So today I have an excessively important Skype conversation which I’ve spent the entire last week studying for, despite feeling so ill that I wondered if Ebola had become airborne. This call will test a whole bunch of skills that I have acquired in (no joke) the past 10 years. A nagging part of me keeps saying that I haven’t hone thosed skills into anywhere within the vicinity of sharp enough, so last night to calm down I went to see Gone Girl.

I was disappointed.

Now take note: the movie was outstanding. My only real complaint about the film (from a purely production angle) was that Trent Reznor’s soundtrack seemed hardly there most of the time, and when it was there, it felt as bland as the Amazing Amy books were supposed to be. Unlike in The Social Network and the Girl w/the Dragon Tattoo, that grumpy Nine Inch Nails sound stayed so far from “in your face” that it might as well have been playing softly in a Yankee Candle shop.

But besides that, the movie was also disappointing, and I think it’s because it was too faithful to the book. Books are slower mediums, so I can accept the fact that Nick Dunn does LITERALLY NOTHING to influence the book’s outcome. Wait- ok, he said “woodshed” on tv, after pretty much stumbling into the earth-shaking discovery that his sister’s woodshed is full of toys. That’s it.

At every turn, Nick does nothing to legitimately strike back at Amy. He barely even solves her riddles. It takes him nearly the entire movie to do stuff that most movie characters would do within the first act. He holds his head in his hands a lot, and we’re supposed to see him as a challenging character because he does bad stuff. But it’s not a challenge, really, because he never does anything good, or even that bad! He just mopes around like Harry Potter on summer break.

Somehow I didn’t notice in the book that Nick was entirely pointless, but in the book this was ok. Trying to watch Ben Affleck do absolutely nothing but get frustrated for nearly 3 hours was not. In the movie it was more painful than getting your throat slit with a box cutter. Even at the end, when Amy reveals her final cinematic master plan, he doesn’t do much of anything except get mad. That’s a natural response, and Nick could be forgiven for being useless if he was a human, but he’s the lead character in a thriller.

If you completely remove Nick from the movie, you have a story about a woman who runs away, gets robbed almost immediately, cries to her ex-boyfriend, murders said boyfriend, and then comes home. If you remove Amy, you have a movie about a man who is briefly harassed by Nancy Grace. If you remove both of them, you have an independent story about a woman coping with her brother’s trial. NONE of these stories intertwine at any point. I can’t even remember a single scene with more than two of Margot, Amy, Desi or Nick in the same shot.

Oh, and another thing: if you’re going to make a movie *painfully* faithful to the source material, why only mention Amy’s quizzes once? That was the whole spin of her character in the novel. She couldn’t get through a single journal entry without some sort of passive-aggressive quiz.

On the plus side, Gone Girl did a fair job of making me angry at America’s knee-jerk jump to judgement, and the industry of spectacle vs justice. And I guess being too true to the book is better than just stealing the name and writing a new story. But after waiting more than a year to see my favorite book of 2013 turned into film (and then being stoked at the mastermind behind the soundtrack), I felt like I could have gotten more enjoyment just re-reading the novel.

JadenGone Girl Should Have Stayed Gone

Fighting Gravity

I think I can officially admit now that the original concept sketch of RackStax (as seen on this site) would be a bad idea to create. When I made that sketch, I hadn’t yet realized a few very important details about weight racks, primarily the absolute tiniest measurable modicum of space that they generally provide between the weight and the bar. Also, my design would have resulted in a tremendous amount of downwards pressure placed entirely on a backbone of plastic, which as we all know is a notorious wimp.

Now that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on RackStax. Quite the opposite. Finding that my original concept was (let’s admit it) just plain silly has really got me excited to finish up the next design, because now I know that I can critically examine my work and point out design flaws. Any by discovering the major flaws with version 1.0, I also encountered the primary foe of RackStax: gravity. Also: angry gym patrons, but those won’t exist because RackStax will make them all happy customers, right? Right?

Since I found out that Version 1.0 was standing square in the path of the earth’s gravitational force, the concept of ‘fighting gravity’ has stuck with me. If you think about it, we fight and win against gravity all the time, every day of our lives, but it would be crazy to suggest that you’ve overcome gravity. Instead, we just find ways to subvert and redirect it as we grow up, until we don’t even think about it anymore. We learn to walk without falling, then we learn to balance on a wobbling bicycle by keeping in motion, then we learn how to swim, and so on. The unstoppable force of gravity is simply diverted.

So that’s the current goal with RackStax. I need to think of the design in the same way as I first looked at a bicycle. If I jump on immediately, I can either fight against gravity and bite the concrete, or figure out some way to build momentum (push the pedals) and look really cool. Because just like when I learned to ride my bike, the primary motivation for making Rackstax is just to look really cool. Money and all that is secondary.

JadenFighting Gravity