Monday, December 31, 2012

December Mission: New Job and 2 Books

So, Matt got a new job! Which means things sort of got rearranged for our Not-Rot missions at the end of 2012. But we decided we would still blog about new things we did in December and the year in review.


We did it! An entire year of this grand experiment we call Not-Rot. For our December mission we had to deviate a little from the norm, and instead of an active mission, we chose to focus on some other ways we avoided rotting. Below are some things I did this year to better myself, benefit my family, and most of all stop the creeping rot. In some ways, this blog may have spurred me to try and better myself, pushing me to do things I otherwise wouldn't, by reminding me each month that I should be striving for more in my life. Because even though the blog was mostly a once a month event, it didn't mean that I was bummin it on the couch the rest of the time. Here are some things I did this year to be a better Not-Rotter:
  • Finished my degree. Since this happened more than 6 months ago, I almost forgot it happened this year. This was a major achievement for me, and I'm proud to say I'm finally a college graduate.
  • Got a new job. This was kind of a big deal, My old job was pretty stable, I made decent money for a entry-level position, and I was good at it. The new job is with a much smaller company, there's a huge learning curve, and I went from being in a lab all the time to being on the road all the time. That's a lot of changes all at once. But as Jack London said, "I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet." 
  • Joined a climbing gym and climbed 1-2 times per week, every week this year. For years I have wanted to be a climber, and climb regularly in a gym (and outside too). Since I finished up school this year, I was finally able to make this a reality. This was so important to me because it's something I really enjoy, and it is so good for me physically. 
What an amazing year! This post sort of became a shout-out to my own accomplishments, but I feel pretty good about this year, and these things above all reflect my desire to follow the philosophy of the blog, and NOT ROT. This year will be a tough act to follow! 

I made two books for my kids for Christmas. For my 6-year-old daughter I made a "Break-A-Book." I saw a book called Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith in a bookstore, and totally ganked some ideas. It is a book that you can tear up, draw in, and otherwise destroy piece by piece. I decided to buy a blank book and write my own challenges for Cesi in it. I came up with 115 challenges, including these:

  • Stand on this page and jump up and down. Now wipe your shoes on it.
  • Poke your pen/pencil through these holes.
  • Write really hard with a pencil. Now write hard with a pen, a marker, and then a crayon.
  • Go get your hands in the dirt. Now smear a picture with that dirt on this page.
  •  Draw a big head with a big face. Now draw so much hair on the head that it covers the entire pages!
  • Find a picture of a house. Put it in here. Now find pictures of little people and fill the house up with family!
  • Ask people to draw 5 beautiful faces on this page. Now draw mustaches on those faces and laugh!
  • Scratch using a sharp object
  • Color with crayons of all colors on this page. Now cover it all with black. Now, scratch pictures into it with a paperclip, penny, or your fingernail.
She loved it of course. We're still only halfway through the book. We complete missions together, and we have so much fun. It took me about 3 hours to complete, but she loves it.

For my 3-year-old boy, I made a book that basically is a bunch of shapes from page to page that change shapes, colors, and positions as you poke them and turn the page. I titled it "Poke It Sir!" (after Scrooge's famous line urging Bob Cratchet to poke the fire instead of buy more coal), and he loves saying "poke it sir" when it's time to influence the shapes. It is such a simple idea, based on a book we found in the library called Press Here by Herve Tullet, and only took me a blank book, a new set of markers, and a couple hours to make. Such fun projects that the kids loved and seemed to appreciate the time I put into them. Of course, I only have pictures of the Break-A-Book. My son must have eaten his book or something, because we can't find it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

November Mission: Burning Shtuff


So for our November mission, we burned stuff. Yep, we stoked the bonfire, got the flames licking the tree leaves above us, sat with beer and cigars, and burned crap we didn't need anymore. The goal was to throw in objects that had been lying around gathering dust, and yet needed to tell its story. So, we unloaded any sentiment associated with the object before we burned it to hell. The idea here, children, is that we all have things we're holding on to that have some memory or importance embedded in it which end up taking up space and stealing our oxygen. More the former than the latter, but the point is, if we don't share our memories and stories and invest in our collective memory banks, then really our memories remain buried in boxes and attics and closets full of other forgotten parts of our lives. Bring those babies out and release their souls while cremating the bodies that imprison them! Keep your memories, burn your stuff. You get it.

So we committed a few belongings to the ashes and shared a word or two. Among the possessions I relinquished:

1. A book that a friend gave me that served its purpose and is no longer useful apart from the association with that person.
2. A New Scientist magazine from days gone by when I was speed-learning some science to make up for lost time with my head buried in the Bible
3. Cards from a game a bought in college which I was no longer interested in anymore
4. A plastic-wrapped memorization card from my UPS days
5. Guitar pick
6. Magic trick cards
7. A shirt
8. A beer bottle we finished while burning stuff.

A moment of silence in honor of burning trash please. They're going to a better place. Today's mud is tomorrow's Bud.


As we approached the end of the year, this mission served as a nice way to relax, sit around a warm fire, and share some stories. It was one of our least active missions, but sometimes you don't have to go far to avoid rotting.The idea was pretty simple... find some items that we'd been holding onto for some reason, but maybe we forgot what that reason was, or maybe the reason wasn't so important after all. I didn't really have anything in mind when we planned this mission, but I was able to find a few things that fit our description. Here's what I brought to burn:
  1. A board game from the TV show "24". Awful, awful game. I really like games, and I really like 24, but this game I really didn't like. I chose to burn it as a reminder that it's okay to get rid of something you'll never use, even if you're supposed to like it.
  2. A couple of magazines I bought as a younger man, Sex sells, and in this case I guess that's what I was trying to buy. Easy to burn these when you realize you've been duped into a useless purchase.
  3. An action figure that I bought as an adult. We all try to recapture our childhood from time to time. The important part here is the assumption that you've moved on from your childhood before you try and recapture it. 
  4. T-shirt from when I worked at UPS. I have some fond memories of UPS; I worked there for 8 years. Part of this mission was to revisit those memories, but then disposing of the item(s) that we were holding onto to remember. The memories are still there, but I am free of one more raggedy shirt
I liked sharing the meaning behind each item, while drinking a beer and just chilling. This feels like something that should be done each year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

October Mission: Display Art and Perform Poetry at The Haunting Muse

Part 2 of our September-October Missions.


I submitted the following poems for the poetry slam (see September mission).  50 people from the church and the community showed up. My first poem, Halloween Lament, was literally one of the worst performances of anything in my life. It was supposed to have a fast rhythm, almost like a rap. I had a suspicion that I was going to have trouble with it during the actual performance, because every time I practiced I missed a word or a line. The moment of truth came. I started well enough, though I missed a couple words that I hadn’t missed yet in practice. Tip of the bloody iceberg. I totally blanked about three times. The last time I blanked, it was probably a solid 15 seconds of me standing up there trying for the life of me to think of anything but the bright lights (never noticed them before) and the confused looks that met my gaze in the audience.  I didn’t have my manuscript with me, so I was “S.O.-friggin’-L”. At the beginning I had dedicated the poem to myself as a joke, ‘cept now it wasn’t funny. I reached up to the mic and softly declared, “Now you see why I dedicated it to myself.” Made sense at the time. But it did the trick, and reset my thoughts long enough to remember my lines. I finished strong, but the poem was designed to end abruptly, and apparently many in the audience just thought I forgot the words again. Ah well…you win some, I lose some.

The second poem was a blast and was well liked. I introduced it by holding up my manuscript and saying, “This one is dedicated to my wife, who warned me that I needed to bring my script with me just in case I forgot the words. I love you honey!” That loosened people up, and everyone was laughing the rest of the time. I brought an old, gnarled stick up with me—the kind that you feel might give you a disease if someone hit you with it—and wielded it through the air as I read. Many compliments followed after the event. One guy said he was an artist and it inspired him to create again. Really? A zombie-killer poem? But art inspires art.

Overall, I had a great time and was glad I took the risk. Even the failure of the first poem is fun to look back on as horror-story to tell others (Matt gave me comfort by saying, “Don’t worry, we didn’t feel sorry for you”). The poems were fun to write, practice, and perform (mostly). I believe art is history in one of its most authentic and unfiltered forms. The art and the poems are now relics of ourselves that we can look back on and understand who we are at this time in our lives. And being forced to display and perform our creations helped us to take our projects seriously, because we knew that we would be judged by the display/performance of our art—ourselves—in the span of a few brief moments by our audience. It took courage and hard work, and it was worth it.

Halloween Lament
/Tell me that you’ve /seen it, /tell me that you /noticed.
It’s /following-you-a/round wrapping-you- /up in cold /mist.
Yeah /something in the /heavy air is /changing /quick
Dropping /down, moving /in, mantling /mortar and /brick.
See, I /know what this /is, I’ve /heard it be/fore
Sounds-like /moaning winds and /groaning limbs and /creaking of /doors.
It /smells like the /rain, the leaves, and /muggy /graveyards
And /wakes a thousand, /should-be-sleeping, /still-warm /war scars.
It’s that /autumn weather /air, those /Halloween /scares;
Makes you /want to howl at /moons, makes you /want to /dare.
But now /one thing’s /missing that I /can’t ig/nore
Nothing’s /haunting me like /yesterday; no /ghosts, no /more.
And /I can’t help but /feel the loss; no /ghosts, no /more.
And /maybe this might /be my cross; no /ghosts no /more.
I re/member when things /freaked me out, and it /didn’t take /much,
Stories /that my friends made /up…would /exorcise my /lunch,
/Stories ‘bout some /lost demon playing /tricks to pass his /time,
/Stories in mud, /dripping with blood, /crawling-all-over-with-/Devil-knows-what.
And I’d /always see these /monsters staring /back at /me
Safely /on the other /side of /my t/v,
From be/hind the /glass, they’re not /all that /bad;
Making /friendly with “what /lurks beneath” was /all I /had.
But /they’re not /here, those /spirits /legion,
And /wanting them more /here than there might /be my /sin.
‘Cause now-I-/know there’s nothing/ spiritual be/hind the/ door
And nothing /lives beneath the /floor; No /ghosts, no /more.
The /closet’s full of /empty-clothes; No /ghosts, no /more
Just-a-/hollow moon, and /quiet room; No /Ghosts, no /more.
You /know what’s /worse than /thinking you’re a/lone
And /finding out there’s /someone else be/hind you in your /home?--
It’s /thinking that a/nother soul is /so close /by
But /finding out there’s /nothing real but-the/ tears that you /cry.
And the /more you grow, the/ more you know, the /spells are /broke
Hallo/ween, Christmas/Easter and the /mirror become a /joke
‘Cause there’s /nothing hidden /there that can’t/ float in-a-bowl of /cereal
(They say your /stomach and the /food you eat are /build-a-god /material.)
Have you /ever wished for /something strange to /turn out /true
Even /though-it-was danger/ous and might end /turning on /you?
We /want a story that /thrills us, be it /fiction or /lore;
But /all we hear is /history; no /ghosts, no /more.
Our /own voices /echoing; no /ghosts, no /more.
Our /own breath is /smothering; no /ghosts no /more.
/All the smart /people, say they /don’t believe in /ghosts.
They bray, “I /don’t believe, I /don’t believe, I /don’t believe in /ghosts, I…
/Can’t believe, I /can’t believe, I /can’t believe in /jokes, (Be…
/Near me God, be /near me God, be /near me when I /croak.)”
So /bring it on, your /Christmas songs; /Bring it on, your /Easter throngs,
Bring on all the /faith-and-science that /proves your skeleton /wrong
But /all I see is /our great need that /more than us is /true
All your /“hows” are just /hoaxes, hiding /places for /you.
/Give-me an unknown /something… /next to your known /nothing.
Man, the /things we sell our /souls to!—We barter /blood for straw-/stuffing .
Hark, /who’s goes /there? Oh, /you’re just /me, …you’re
/Just my shadow, /just my shape; No /Ghosts, no /more             
Just /me the biggest /fake; No /Ghosts, no /more
Just my /own flimsy /life at stake; No /Ghosts, no /more.
And /I don’t think I /want to face…

Just Get a Stick
You know, I never really understood how a zombie epidemic could get started
Because the first converts would be summarily dispatched.
But let’s suppose their efforts at evangelizing
Were better than ours,
And the whole world became zombie-infested.
What would you do?
What would you do?
That was totally rhetorical.
Please don’t ruin my moment.
I’ll tell you what to do!
Get a stick.
Get a big stick.
That’s all you need.
I’m serious.
Just a stick.
Wipe that smirk off your face.
See, I don’t care if it’s just me
Against a whole gaggle of zombies.
‘Cause zombies are stupid, man.
As stupid as all-get-out.
They can barely walk—most of the time one foot is COMPLETELY worthless.
They can’t see very well because the cataracts are starting to set in.
And….they have terrible hygiene.
But that last one’s beside the point.
Just walk up to ‘em,
With that big stick firmly in both hands
and just kindly…
“Rest in pieces.”
Now, you’ll want to wrap some good padded tape around the handle of your stick.
Blisters are not a joke during a zomb-pocolypse.
Get something for comfort AND style.
You want a good grip.
Get some of that tennis racket tape.
It comes in a variety of colors.
Preferably pick a different color than your living allies
So you know which stick is yours.
Like those charms you put on wine glasses.
It’s just common courtesy.
One of those strings to loop from your stick to your wrist
Might also be nice
Just in case you go berserk and lose your grip.
See, if you drop it,
Just reach down,
Get a good hold of it again,
And get back to doing what you love most.
I mean, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
Back in the olden days,
I imagine people without this technology
Lost their weapons all the time.
That little loop…
A handy little invention
That takes just a second to put on,
And you’re saved
From having to go and pick up your stick.
I learned this from playing racquetball,
They have those little loops at the end of the racquets.
Saves lives.
Now, when you’re swinging that stick around
And the bodily fluids are flying everywhere
Do not, DO NOT
Get that stuff in your mouth.
I see this all the time in shows like The Walking Dead.
I’m going to be honest with you
…it’s disgusting.
There’s no sense in that.
Look, you have to retain some sense of dignity
In these turbulent times.
You can’t just splash around in another man’s bile!
Don’t do that.
Why would you do that?
You some kind of Philistine or something?
Please don’t do that.
So, when everyone’s found a stick
And bagged themselves a few zombies
Put ‘em up.
Put the sticks up.
Cause, man, we want to get things back to normal.
And I don’t care what you do with them.
Get a museum for the sticks with the most notches—
I mean, I don’t care what you do with them.
But, man, put ‘em up.
Cause the last thing we need is another war on our hands.


From the start of the show until it was my turn to read, I was on a roller coaster of emotion, nauseousness, and uncontrollably fast heart beats. I've read in public before and haven't been half as nervous. I can only guess that the extra pressure existed because I was revealing something that I created to a group of 99% strangers. 

I had decided before the night of the reading that the whole thing was really pretty silly... adults reading poetry to each other, and I had come up with a way to show that I wasn't taking the thing too seriously. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the seriousness of everyone else. So I started out by saying, "I'd like everyone to know, that before tonight... this poem... resided... in my soul." Feeling nervous didn't help me deliver this in a whimsical way... in fact, it was taken as though I truly believed what I just said. To my relief, my wife knows my humor and from the back of the audience gave a hearty laugh. For some reason, though, I responded with, "That wasn't a joke", even though it clearly was. Oh well, I went on to tell another joke, ("If you're not accustomed to pure... unadulterated... BEAUTIFUL poetry... then I suggest you cover you ears or leave the room") , that people got this time, and went on with my reading. 

I think the reading went well, as it was just a reading from my paper, and afterwards I got a few compliments on the poem. One of the readers came and told me that in my intro, he had believed me. That made me laugh. On a side note, I really wish Chris had done his "Big stick" poem first, because it turns out that laughing did a lot to loosen me up and make me less nervous. In the end it was a fun event, and what actually stuck with me the most was that many of the readers had taken it seriously, and had put their hearts into their works. It was a pretty moving experience at parts. Here is my poem, below, which I wrote over a couple of days. As you'll see, I did this sort of back and forth pattern, describing the actions of two children on the first line, and then alternating with a description of a ruined castle. Enjoy!

Ethereal Hide-and-Seek

Laughter off stone walls
A kingdom lost to countless years

Light footfalls on granite steps
A fortress once but now a playground

Smiles on bright young faces
This dilapidated keep sits almost alone

Vestments untouched by time
Long echoing corridors end in darkness

Siblings hard at play
Portals lined with crumbling arches

Stalking along the battlements
Hundreds of rooms left with no care

Brother knows she is near
Tables and chairs with no earthly keepers

Sister stays very quiet
Tall columns still bearing their weight

He sees a glowing foot
Ancient tapestries hang ruined and torn

She knows it’s soon
Moss creeps down the wasted dungeon’s walls

Brother jumps to her
Brick and mortar lose to time and weather

Sister shrieks with joy
The drawbridge has only its skeleton intact

The game starts anew
The sun falls behind old hills again and again and again

Monday, November 5, 2012

September Mission-- Creating 1 art, 1 poem For the Haunting Muse

The mission between September and October was a two-fer: create a piece of art to display at The Haunting Muse, and write a poem or two to perform as well.


I wanted to do a work of art that was easy, creative, and autumnal in some sense. I did a lot of research online to get some good ideas, and a finally decided on a project that involved cutting circular wood chips about (75) from tree branches, painting those 75 chips about 8 different colors, painting a canvas black, and then gluing those chips onto the canvas in some order tbd.

And that was my idea. In total.

I would say this project took me about 10 hours total, and cost around 15 bucks. I was very glad I did this. It reminded me that creating art requires not only a good imagination, but also diligence and hard work. I expected my creation to spring from my mind—much like the birth of Athena from the mind of Zeus— fully grown and clothed. Not so. In the end, my wife had to help me come up with some ideas to make it more interesting, and though I am happy with the result, I’m not sure it is, well, beautiful in any sense of the word. In my mind it’s representative of an autumnal landscape.

It looked better in person.

As far as poetry is concerned, I wrote two. One poem titled “Halloween Lament” I intended to be a strong performance piece, highly rhythmical in style, fast-paced and rap-like. It was supposed to be fun and profound. The other, “Just Get A Stick” is a poem about how one only needs a simple stick to kill a slow, stupid zombie.  It is a prop poem, and I planned on bringing a nasty, gnarled stick with me to demonstrate. Read the poems and find out what happened at the night of the performance of The Haunting Muse in the next post highlighting our October Mission.


When Chris and I were brainstorming for the art project, we looked at a bunch of Autumn-themed pictures online. The most promising ones to me were the big full harvest moons that our search pulled up. A bright orange moon we saw got us thinking about making something like that out of brightly colored fall leaves, and that's what I set out to do.

This part of the mission was really rewarding. I got up early on the day I had set aside to make some art, went to a local park, and scouted the area for leaves of many different colors. It felt good to be out in nature as a way to start this creative process. I had decided to make 3 different pieces or panels, and so I gathered up colors with this in mind.

Once back at home I sorted the leaves by color, spray-glued them to each panel, and spray painted over the stencils I had made, My project took 9+ hours, and I ended up with 2 panels instead of 3, because one stencil got stuck to the leaves and after painting I couldn't remove it in one piece. I was pretty happy with the result; one panel that was a decent match to the harvest moon from the pictures, and one panel of dark tree silhouettes. 

The poem didn't go as smoothly as the art piece, as my first attempt got shot down by Chris. In retrospect, I should have known that the subject, a zombie who tells the story of killing (and eating) his family, was a little too horrifying for a church audience. My retry ended up being about 2 kids (ghosts) playing hide-and-seek in an abandoned castle. Writing it wasn't so bad, but presenting it was a real challenge, which you can read about in the next mission. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

August Mission: Contemporary Art Museum Video Exhibition

Matt’s Version:

It wasn’t a very hairy ass, but it took damn near 10 minutes to shave it.

I watched it all. From the front row I had an intimate view of the projected image shot with Super 8mm film, and it was raw footage in every sense of the term. This was just part of one of the three “pieces” we watched at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) for this month’s mission.

Andrew Lampert was the filmmaker and projectionist, and he narrated the selected works. As you can see on the CAM website Andrew Lampert is a semi-famous artist that has done these types of shows all over the world. After sitting through three of his films, I can only offer see two options for his supposed celebrity: he rode to success on the coattails of a real artist, or he is very good at putting on big shows and I got jipped at the smallish CAM venue. 

Several times during the performance and afterwards during the FAQ Lampert told us that he has done big shows with a dozen or more projectors going at once, often with live musical accompaniment. He mentioned it so often that I was struck with the idea that perhaps he knew this event was pretty lame, and he wanted us to know that he was the real thing. Well, I wasn’t convinced. At least I wasn’t convinced that he would appeal to someone like me, who has only a casual interest in art. The evening wasn’t a total waste, however. As is the recurring theme here on Not-Rot, we still accomplished what we set out to do, which is try something new and different that would engage our brains. Plus it’s not everyday you get to watch a guy get his bum shaved.  

Chris’ Version:

For our August mission, we decided to check out the Contemporary Art Museum, and specifically a lecture/demonstration of a specific artist. I know that often modern art has the bad reputation of being kitsch—cheap and careless art that tries to pass itself off as genius—but Matt and I kind of wanted the chance to see for ourselves if it was true. To be sure, some people stereotype all modern art as kitsch, and, though I don’t believe all of it is, I was secretly hoping to have an experience with art that was borderline between kitsch and genius. It’s as fun to rant about bad art as it is to rave about great art. I think we got that opportunity which, in my inexpert opinion, might have been more rant than rave.

For what it’s worth, the clip that Lampert, the artist, had on loop on the big screen while people were taking their seats previous to the show, seemed very promising. It was a slo-mo video in negative of a Super Mario mascot, standing on a street corner while people passed by. It was accompanied by low base rumblings and high pitched sonar sounds which added to its eerie feel. I actually had a lot of interesting impressions tickle my brain as we waited and watched it. But thoughtful impressions faded quickly as the actual show started which included: random scenes from Lampert’s childhood movie-making blunders conveniently reinterpreted as precocious foreshadowing of his future success, a succession of takes in which two women in rustic clothing improvised a 19th century ‘yo-momma’ battle, and a video of random scenes from New York city which were force-narrated into a time-traveling story about Lampert’s family in the future.

Well, aside from my feelings of antipathy for the clips Lampert selected for the show, the Super Mario loop (what Lampert regrettably titled, “Super F*cked Up Mario”) was interesting to say the least, and may be indicative of Lampert’s potential.  He is a video archivist/preservationist, so he certainly has the technical skills to make good art, should he be so inspired. However, I truly wander if Lampert can tell the difference between his ‘great’ work, and…the rest. Being able to rightly evaluate your work might be what separates the good from the great. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

July Mission: Meditation

For our July Mission, we visited the Pure Mind Center in University City, and meditated. This was our first experience with this kind of a group session under the guidance of an authentic teacher of the art of meditation.

Matt's Experience:

Meditation has always appealed to me. I like the idea of reaching an altered state of mind by sheer willpower. The "temple" we visited was a small storefront-like building in a tiny strip mall. We arrived early in order to get some pointers from the facilitator there, a man who practices Buddhism and teaches others about the techniques of mediation.
Sitting on the floor with legs crossed, backs straight, and body relaxed, we listened to this guy with a classic Asian accent explain to us in simple terms some techniques of mediation. He also started to explain the concept of Self, and how I look at a cup of coffee differently from everyone else, even though the cup of coffee is always the same. I couldn't help but think of Bruce Lee's oft-quoted example of water into a cup (not at all the same thing other than it being someone with an Asian accent explaining something with deep meaning). I loved this part of of our trip. I felt like we were being let in on a really great secret. One that has meaning and could literally change our minds and our lives. I was ready to do this mediation thing if it was even remotely close to being what this guy described. Turns out, it wasn't. Not yet at least.
I hated the mediation. It's true, and it's sad but my experience was bad, almost intolerable. It was hot, my body and especially my back ached, at one point I was laboring to breathe, and the 30 minute session dragged on forever. If there is a degree of mind/body fitness in which meditation is practical and useful, I am as far away from it as you can get.
So, mediation is hard, which I think is what amazed me the most. I think that my preconceived notions about mediation really hurt me here. I was looking for a great experience and ended up in agony. You may think I'm exaggerating or being a baby, and you may be right about the baby part. BUT, now that I know it's hard, and that practice really means acclimating your mind AND body, now I want to do it. I was looking at instant rewards at first but now I see that it will take some real dedication to get there. That's why I've decided to take this month's mission further, and meditate for at least 10 minutes each day in August. My goal is to see some real progress in my technique and mind-state. Now knowing how hard it is, I want to give this a fair chance to impact me and I believe a month should accomplish this. At the very least I should see some type of improvement.

In the end this was a really meaningful mission that will hopefully lead to a different or even better state of mind. I have always been interested in training my mind but didn't know how to go about it. I want to give meditation a real shot because I think the rewards could be something incredible.

Chris' Experience:

I have been reading up a little on Buddhism and meditative practices, and it’s safe to say that I’m a bit enamored with what some call ‘pragmatic Buddhism’. This is an emphasis on the practical application of Buddhist concepts and meditation as opposed to an unqualified adherence to the religious and cultural roots of eastern Buddhism in all of its doctrinal minutia.

We chose the Pure Mind Center ( because it had weekly hours (Wednesdays 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm). It is a store-front on a busy street, but the noise from traffic and the next-door television that pierced the quiet mattered very little since meditation, we learned, is more discipline than relaxation. We were welcomed to come a half-hour early to speak with the session guide, or ‘master’, as I like to call him. That 30 minute block was great. We were given simple instructions on many subjects ranging from how to correctly place our ass on the cushions (it’s ass-ience), to how to make our mind a ‘mirror’ to reflect the world in awareness while allowing thoughts and feelings to pass on. The Taiwanese master was very kind and smiley, and spoke intelligently in a highly flavored accent. We found out later that he is a cardiologist, and he and his wife are volunteers at this center that is funded by donors in the community.

Meditation started with moving mediation, which was basically stretching and limbering up…a sped-up version of yoga. Then we sat on our cushions, and the master went to the back of the room and tapped on a hollow wood block three times to commence silent meditation. We sat facing the statue of Buddha with our eyes pointed toward the floor at a 45 degree angle. We did this for 30 minutes.

The ‘ting’ of the bell signaling the close of the session was a beautiful sound. We bowed to the statue of the Buddha as a "gesture of respect for the Teacher’s teachings”, and we bowed to our master and each other "as a gesture of respect to the spirit of Buddha [“enlightenment”]" in him and each other. Our joints and muscles were sore, and we were sweating. It was no joke. It was work. But I can’t tell you the last time I forced my mind to be ‘still’without going to sleep. To be awake but not rushing somewhere, nor living in the future or past, is a strange feeling, and probably that was the most agonizing part. I’m a bit horrified to think about how I sum up my life by some god-forsaken notion of pure activity being a virtue. I realize a lack of mental activity is death, but a placid and unfrenzied awareness without the addictive ‘pacing’of the mind is scarce in my mode of being.

I will do this again. I have to. It was a strange reclamation of self by a momentary forfeiture of passion. It reminds me of the words by Karl Jaspers, “If I will not put up with my solitude, if I will not overcome it again and again, I choose either a chaotic ego dissolution or a fixation in forms and tracks without selfhood.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April Mission: World Book Night giveaway at The Bridge

Matt: World Book Night was sort of… magical. I know that sounds lame but honestly for the first time I understood what people mean when they say that books are magic. We were at a free-meal cafeteria full of hungry, homeless people, and our table full of books was much more intriguing to them than the food line.  I was a bit skeptical and maybe even cynical at first. What were these homeless people going to do with books? I guess I thought that for someone who doesn’t have a lot, what difference is a book going to make? Why would they care about getting something that has no possibility of improving their situation?

Chris: Magical is a good way to explain it. So many things I didn't expect. I take a group to The Bridge cafeteria, a non-profit soup kitchen for the economically depressed in downtown St. Louis, once a month on the third Wednesday. It's a great place to serve, but it is work. I was expecting this night to feel like work. I was also expecting to watch hungry people behave the same around books that they do around food: a few thankful people, but mostly tired, care-worn stares.

Matt: I see now that was pretty short-sighted. I mean let’s face it, people like to get stuff. I think it was more than that though. Most of the people that walked by our table not only wanted one of the books, they wanted to know what it was about! Most of the night was actually spent vaguely explaining the plot to each visitor (none of us had read all three). And people listened to every detail. They made decisions based on what we told them. 

Chris: Their excitement was palpable. The place was transformed during those conversations. It was a dark cave still, but a light shone out of their eyes. Was it a thirst for knowledge? Thirst for 'something else'? Thirst for a connection to us, or the author, or for a peak out of their situations into a wider world of hope? The words of Henry Ward Beecher rung deep within me during those moments: "Books are the windows through which the soul looks out." 

Matt: Many of them became excited about the prospect of winning one of these books. As they walked to their seats, their longing gaze could be clearly interpreted: they were going to find a sticker! I think the whole night was a success. We lived up to the expectations of World Book Night by getting books to people who probably don’t read all that much. And we exceeded the expectations by getting them excited in the books. Not having enough to give to everyone made our books special prizes. 

Chris: Because we only had 60 books (20 of each bestselling title: The Book Thief, A Prayer For Own Meany, and Blood Work) for 200 people, we talked to the directors of the Bridge and came up with a plan to make it a game. We brought 250 pieces of candy and small packs of gum, placed a winning sticker on 60 of them, and handed them out to guests as they passed through the food line. Only about 20 stickers were claimed, and the rest of the books were given out to anyone who came to the table and wanted one. 

Matt: These people were accustomed to being treated the same as everyone else who came to the cafeteria. Each person gets the same portions, the same meal on their tray. We made quite a few people feel like they were getting something special, something that not everyone got that night. Sure there were a bunch that didn’t get anything, but since people shared stickers and books, I think just about everyone who really wanted a book got one. It felt pretty cool being a Book Giver. I felt really generous and was happy to see the appreciation on everyone’s faces, even though the books were not mine and didn’t cost anything. Overall, it was a great experience and I am officially a fan of World Book Night. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Geocaching pics

Pictures from Geocaching!

Latest update about the geocache we hid:

We finally got permission from Ellisville to hide a cache in Bluebird Park. Next thing we knew there was a problem, as indicated by a frustrated note on by a fellow geocacher:

Log Date: 4/13/2012
Found it, but theres SOOO many things about this that are completely against geocaching rules. Im requesting it be archived immediately and the contents removed from the location. Let me list the problems with this:

1. Its hidden literally ON TOP of the final for Bluebird Triangle, the best cache in the park. (which that alone should have been a red flag for the reviewer since caches must have a buffer zone of 528ft/0.1 miles from other caches)
2. Its not really a container, just a plastic bag filled with candy (which sooner or later will cause animals to eat the cache).
3. Theres no logbook, just a note from the cache owner that says "you dont know me!" which made me think this was cache was a joke but looking at the hint and looking around I realised this was the actual cache.

Thanks for your understanding, I'm just stating the facts. It needs to be removed from the website and the park, before other cachers get cheated out of the fun of Bluebird Triangle and before deer eat the Mike and Ikes in the cache.

The reviewer "Mongo" responded:

Log Date: 4/13/2012
Bluebird Triangle GC4E60 is a very old multi cache and there is no final on file for this cache. With no final there was no test to run against the cache to see that it was too close.

Mongo is sure the owner will see your note and will run out and place a nice container and a logbook. They are new to caching and it would have been nice to help someone out instead of "hammering them".

This cache was held up for a period of time while the owner sought and received the proper permission from the parks department.

As far as Mongo knows from the information received as is well with this cache at its present location.

Cache owner, we need a real container and a logbook. Mongo is sure you read the Guidelines and may have not understood this when you went over them.

Food in a baggie will not last and Mongo hopes that this cache will last a long time.

I responded: 

Log Date: 4/13/2012
I will check on the cache tomorrow. It was in a small Tupperware container clearly labeled "geocache" with a log book and small toys. No candy, no enigmatic note. It might have been tampered with and/ or replaced. Hopefully this is just a mistake and the geocache is still there intact. Standby.

Warlock rejoined:

Log Date: 4/13/2012
Hammering? I call it how I see it. Sorry if posted coords lead STRAIGHT TO A MULTI FINAL but I stand firmly on what I have said. If you break the laws, you are charged in real life. It doesn't matter how ignorant to the statutes of law the offender is. Placing a geocache requires a certain amount of responsibility, regardless of if the owner has 6 finds (in this case) or 60000. You can't just place the final coords to (in my opinion) one of the top multistage caches in the area and claim it as your own. I know many will agree with me on this. If my approach is unorthodox than there's nothing I can do for you. I'd be happy to show a new cacher how to properly place caches in conjunction with how the rules are laid out, but (as another supporting and experienced member of the local geocommunity said in an email sent to me tonight on this subject) if my great multi that this cache compromises was involved and gets miffed requiring archival, I'd be very upset. I am not trying to bully new cachers, and I would never deter anyone from the hobby, but this is the first time I have ever seen a situation like this and after reading several reviewer rules and cache requirement articles the opinion I have is that it's wrong. 

To which I replied:

Log Date: 4/13/2012
Way to freak out Warlock. Breathe. Take a tums. 

Look, Mongo, or whoever is reviewing this log, if geocachers are going to have a panic attack when they find out that this cache is relatively close to another (I can assure you it isn't 'on top' of it, or it wasn't when I placed it), then I will move it. I don't want to cause waves, or reflux. However, if the good people at don't mind an easy cache being relatively close to a final cache that not everyone finds, then I don't mind either. 

As I said before, I will check on the cache as soon as I get a chance to make sure it hasn't been tampered with. I'll remind you, what Warlock found is NOT what I placed. It remains to be seen if he looking in the right place or not. I hope this is a case of "the mistaken Warlock."

Hey, in the end, it's just a game of hide-and-seek for grown-ups. Don't want to spoil the fun.

I finally checked on the cache in the park the next day, and found it removed. I was honestly a bit relieved that I could put this hilarious adventure behind me. archived the cache (deleted it) with the following commment:

Log Date: 4/14/2012
It looks like someone has tampered with the cache. Replaced it altogether with trash. Since this appears to be the same coordinates as a final cache for the Bluebird Triangle, I am not replacing my cache and will be removing the Different Outlook cache altogether.

Hey, it's all part of the adventure, right? Makes me laugh just thinking about it. Seinfeld would have paid big money to make this an episode!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Mission: Couch Photos

Our February mission was taking an old couch around town and taking pictures with it. Yup. That's it. But, hey, it was no easy task. We remember the words of Jesus over 2,000 ago to a sick man on his portable sofa, "Pick up your couch and walk." (Close enough.) We still think it's a good idea. An old couch is a lazy man's best friend...the least we can do is take it with us to see what it has been missing all those years in front of the electric rot-box. For details of our day's adventure, see Matt's post below, 'We called her Ol' Blue.'