Wednesday, April 02, 2014

That Was Yesterday



 There was nothing left but sawdust and some glitter...


I’ve been staring at this blank page for three weeks now. My fingers work perfectly (that is, as perfectly as they can for a life lived ramming my knuckles into things that didn’t bear ramming into), and my command of the English language is adequate for the task at hand. Computer’s running fine. I have a 32 inch monitor. Just gotta put that flow through the old digits.

Nothing wants to come out.  Dry as a bone over here. For three weeks straight.

Ack-chully, that’s not 100% accurate. There’s a LOT of stuff that WANTS to come out, but I’m seriously trying to refrain from using “Fuck” more than I use “The”. It’s harder than you think.

Do you know what’s so difficult about evolving? I’m speaking of emotional evolution here, the kind of personal growth that happens so rarely under pleasant circumstances.  You really WANT to hang on to that simpler form, that limp skin you just shed. It was a comfortable coat when you needed it, and if this is your first evolution (the saying is that we change at least five times in life – on average. Some more, some less. Some not at all.), then you’ll be much more inclined to try to hang on to that older form. It still kinda fits. It’s warm, and familiar. It’s what everyone knows and loves.

It has memories, dammit.

Yeah, well – it’s still an outgrown coat. You can keep the memories, but trying to actually wear the coat will do nothing to warm or protect you, and it will make you look ridiculous. Evolving out of trauma seems to lend itself to a harshness of existence as well – ask any rape victim. We so rarely learn life lessons under blue skies and sunny days. There is so much I just don’t find funny anymore.

Alternatively, it’s the captain who’s lived through a typhoon at sea you want piloting your yacht. That salty, bitter bastard might not be pleasant company in a tearoom, but he’ll be the one who handles the lines when the wind kicks up. 

I remember the months leading up to my surgery in India, I thought once I could walk again, everything else would just fall into place. I’d get up, start working out, and be the old Bobbe again. The first two happened in one month, that last one...I was going to say the jury's still out, but that's not really true. I'm starting to think I need a new set of personality by-laws, my previous set doesn't seem to apply anymore. I'm just not me anymore.

Every day for the past year, I’ve gotten up and looked in the mirror for that goofy, wise-assed Robin Goodfellow with the acerbic tongue…and every day, he’s not there. I'm starting to think he’s never coming back. Remember that guy who wrote the classic treatise on “Catcher in the Rye”, which has been taught (with edits) in high schools and used (with permission) by seniors in their dissertations? Remember my rant on nuking the moon, or the Unreality shows? Or how about that review of Ghost Rider? All the racist jokes, flaunted so unabashedly? Good times, good times.

Thing is, I just can’t write like that anymore, try as I might. And believe me, I have tried.
I’m still working out what it is I became after crawling out of the cocoon. I mean, I don’t feel some socio/psychopathic need to start pulling the wings off flies, or walking into a McDonald’s and spraying some pimply-faced kid’s brains all over the McFlurries Machine. Well – not more than usual, anyway.

There’s a lot to be said for growth, change and evolution in a person. Lotta “yea” arguments out there, but I think it should come with a caveat as well; Fools rush in. If you haven’t ever considered what life would be like if you chose to suddenly live contrary to how you’ve always lived in the past (as I write it, I realize just how impossible it is to even fathom such a thing), you will find yourself lost and grasping and mist for a while.

It’s a bewildering time until you get your bearings. In trying to grasp at the familiar, you also tend to make familiar mistakes, because that’s what you *know*.  See, it’s no longer about “thinking” outside the box – you, my friend, are indeed isolated outside the damn thing, and the door only swings one-way.

750 words in the above post, and I still have nothing to write. Anyone want to get a beer this Friday? I’m sick of staying in the house, my writers’ block isn’t going anywhere, and I could really use a drink.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Trolling Level: Magnificent!

It's The Fifth One Down...

There's a snarky joke about my reputation, that if you type "Bobbe Edmonds" into Google...you will break Google. Ironically, this seems to be spreading into areas other than cooking, martial arts or Asian midget porn. 

I was looking for something related to Atheism today, and typed in the word "Atheist" in Google...and there it was.

On behalf of myself, and about a bazillion irritated Christians, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics and whatnot, I accept your award for "World's Most Insufferable Atheist". Thank you, thank you all.






Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Coconut Curry Beef Tapenade!



...With toast points! (Try not to drool all over your keyboards, dear readers).

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's Official: I Hate Google

 

...Aaaaannnd, looking around the internet...I can see I'm not alone.

What the fuck IS Google-Plus, anyway? Google, plus I get to go insane salvaging my youtube account? Google, plus a bunch of friend circles I don't give two shits about? Google plus that warm, special feeling you get when someone's just shoved a rabid ass weasel directly into your poo-chute with a caulk gun?

Great...now I have to use a fucking Gmail account for my youtube site. And I have to be a member of Google-plus. Also, I must sacrifice my firstborn child to Zul the Destroyer, and have sex with a goat. A dead goat. Google demands it. Lately, they've been insisting the neuron-attachments will only be used to monitor my cerebral browsing preferences, not download my memories into the Mother-System, overseen by a robot Raul Julia.

Orwell had it wrong...it happened in 2014, not 1984.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moonshiners


"Let me tell the story,

I can tell it all

About the mountain boy

Who ran illegal alcohol"

Robert Mitchum, "The Ballad of Thunder Road"


I love watching "Moonshiners". It's my version of Real Housewives, Survivor, or whatever reality-bullshit programming everyone else is into. Every episode is like "There, but for the grace of God, go I".

I knock South Carolina quite a bit, but to be honest, there was a lot more good than bad…the bad times were just much more in-your-face, I guess. But I knew many of these people ('shiners, not the stars of the program!), grew up around it, and drank some shine when I was too young to be anywhere near it. I have to admit, watching this show – and hearing that southern drawl, with the long-stretched syllables and every sentence ending in a question mark – reminds me an awful lot of where home used to be.

I can never tell if the people running the 'shine are actually in the business of liquor production, or some arcane attempt to out-stupid each other. No, seriously, they seem to be deadlocked in a desperate race to see who can do the absolute dumbest move first, and get arrested for it. Season one ended with two of the most ignorant 'shiners losing thousands of dollars to a poorly-devised underground still, and a couple more were arrested right off the road – having been stalked by the Sheriff's Dept. for the better part of a month, and not suspecting it.

When I worked in a pizza parlor, one of the most annoying customer calls we would get usually went along these lines;

"Hello, Soni's Pizza, can I help you?"

"Hey, yeah! We want to order a pizza!"

"Okay, what would you like on that?"

*pause*

"Umm…hang on a sec" *off-side yell* "Hey! What do you guys want on that?!?"

"Moonshiners" is a lot like that…every three minutes. It's a repeating formula of Idea-Action-Plan-Consequences. They're the absolute kings of never thinking a plan through, and (from the comfort and safety of my couch across the country in Seattle), it's quite hilarious to see.

A typical season runs like this: When the 'shiners decide to start brewing, they look for a good hiding place near a brook or stream to supply the water. Never on their own land, and always in a well-hidden spot…No matter whose land they actually happen to be producing illegal liquor on. Then they have to procure tons of corn, sugar and a few other ingredients without arousing suspicion. And lastly…they have to construct an all-copper (or mostly-copper) still, which they'll have to destroy in a matter of days. Building is cheaper than buying, but build it too cheaply, or miss a step…and it could easily explode, taking you with it. (This is more common than you may think, as several episodes begin with a news report of someone's house going up in flames, or an entire family dying because the neglected still  in their garage went up like a time bomb.)

That's just the beginning – few 'shiners actually do their own running as well, they get a middle man for that, and that usually means cutting in an outsider on the action. And after all that, there's still the chance that someone's been tracking, tailing or waiting for you, watching for the moment to steal your 'shine, hijack your deal or lock you up. This happens about every three episodes. Moonshining is, if nothing else, a cutthroat business from the first minute you begin gathering materials until the last drop is sold. You're never safe, you're never clear, and every day is spent looking over your shoulder.

This seems like a hell of a lot of work for a couple thousand dollars per month (what could easily be attained working the fry station at the local Burger King), but when you realize that the majority of these people don't live off much more than $500 a month…it adds up. Two weeks worth of work, and you can stay stoned for the rest of the month.


 One of the people on the show who really rings true, above all the rednecky ding dongs, is Jim Tom. I watch Moonshiners solely because of this man. He's a walking encyclopedia of distillery, smuggling, construction and wisdom…which has helped many a 'shiner on the show. I love listening to his folksy wisdom at the start of each program, "A bushel 'a roastin ears'll feed a family of five with 'taters fer a munth or longer" (Translation: A single run of corn mash liquor will pay for your families' groceries for a few weeks.)

Jim Tom's custom made stills are highly sought-after, and looking at one makes me almost wish I was running 'shine as well.

Almost.

Between still construction, mash fermentation, bootleggin' & law-duckin', it just seems too much  like work for me.

The Child of Ichabod

Francis Fong Academy, 1990

I'm still struggling over the question of re-opening my school. I love teaching, but I love training even more, and I'm sick to death of martial arts debutantes, time-wasters and the idly curious. If I do decide to teach again, the filter/vetting policy will be much more stringent. And I was difficult before my back went out.

In the 13 years I have been a teacher, there is one constant that I've discovered to be true, beyond all others: Not everyone is worth teaching. Not everyone deserves knowledge. A popular Martial Arts myth is that "One in one hundred students will actual achieve black belt".

That is NOT an encouraging thought.

I never wanted to be a teacher. Not once. I started training Martial Arts to be good at fighting, and then as I progressed, to impress girls. I wanted to be the best in any school I went to, and my natural drive coupled with youth and ability largely accomplished this for me. But to teach it...no, never.

As I look into my own past and see various methods of teaching in the many schools I have attended, I can grasp now why some teachers made attaining the knowledge more difficult than it had to be. When I was younger, I thought they were being petty, or arrogant. Something like "Let me see how many hoops I can make you jump through until you get it". Now I see it as more like; "How badly do you want the knowledge? How hard are you willing to work for it?"

Not many of these teachers are still around (several have died since I began teaching) and I wish I could go back in time and tell them I get it now. I see why they made it so hard, and forced me to work my ass off for every answer I got...they wanted me to appreciate, and value the information - and what it cost them to find it, as well.



There are teachers, and there are teachers. Many people are teaching the martial arts these days, and at least half of these people should be doing something else. In my own experience, I've always striven to be as honest and sincere as possible with my students, and I've never denied any one of them due shrift. I've been accused of being "hard" on students - to this, I offer no regret, or remorse. I don't believe in shortcuts. Either put in the work, or get the fuck out of my way. None of my students have ever heard me say "That's enough, you don't need to do anymore. You can stop there. You have all you need."

Doing a thing with minimal effort often produces substandard results, and I see evidence of this everywhere; Cooking, education, I.T., and especially martial arts. I don't believe you can streamline your training to avoid "time in grade" work on the floor, and even if it were possible, I would reject such training out of hand. I don't honestly believe anyone really "masters" a thing at all, but you have to take various levels of competence to new heights. You must ask yourself; "What level of incompetence am I willing to settle for"?

The only way to learn how to fight - is to fight. Anything less, and you are wasting your time. Added to that, the competency with which you teach anything is directly related to how well you understand that thing, and the understanding is braced with experience and practical application.

Teaching unto itself is also a critical part of the equation. Some people are naturally gifted at getting their point across, and others can do so because what they are speaking of usually speaks for itself. In other cases, a person who is particularly skilled at something but not very good at verbalizing it can utilize a kind of “monkey see-monkey do” approach, repeating the action time and time again until the student gets close enough to what the teacher is doing to figure the rest out himself.

In the martial arts, being a teacher is much more nebulous than teaching math, or reading. A math teacher can add 2 + 2 and arrive at 4 every time, no matter what kind of pen he uses, or if he does it on a chalkboard or paper. He is in no danger of 2 + 2 ever equaling 5, 3, or anything other than 4. Ergo, the math teacher has only to apply his skill in a one-dimensional teaching model. Since the result will be identical every time when correctly figured, much less effort is needed to teach something as linear as mathematics in contrast to martial arts.


(It should be mentioned here that the math teacher is also in no danger of the equation jumping off the page and beating the hell out of him, should he somehow get the answer wrong.)

So, to come back around full circle to my point - EMAA. The Edmonds Martial Arts Academy. Do I really need to pass on what I've learned? Equally important question - does the general populace really deserve it? Gaining this knowledge was almost the death of me, why should I hand it out like candy?

I just re-upped my website for another three years (Hah! There is no website, just that stupid placemarker!) I have a list of people wanting to train with me as long as my arm. I've turned down the THIRD seminar offer this month just yesterday.

I just don't know. We'll see, I suppose.

*************************************************************

I want to dedicate this editorial to Shihan Ridgely Abele, Pendekar Herman Suwanda and Sifu Lan Tse. Teachers who made me work for what I have, and are gone now.

I didn't understand it then.

I get it now.

Thank you.