Category: Journal

Master

A Wonderful Realization

This coming spring I will turn 37 years old. Maybe it’s the age or the end of the decade, maybe it’s the splash of gray in my hair that I just noticed or recently becoming a father, but I’ve been thinking a lot about where I am in life and where I want to find myself tomorrow or next decade.


I recently had a wonderful realization, a liberating realization. I’m not going to become an astronaut. Nope, it’s never going to happen. Not only that, but I’m not going to become a star athlete, millionaire record-producer, venture-capitalist, scientist inventor of the cure for whatever, or any other dream and expectation that one has growing up. Nope, none of that is going to happen. What I am is a husband, father, brother, writer, dog-owner, and a few other mundane things that I love and enjoy.


One of the benefits of giving up on high expectations is that I can focus and enjoy life and hobbies on a micro-level. I can pick up guitar playing without hoping to become the next Jimmy Page. I can lift weights without the desire to compete and rate myself against professional bodybuilders. When I jog it’s because I enjoy it not because I’m training for the Boston Marathon.

There is a poisonous mindset in our culture that takes every hobby and activity and hyper-professionalizes it. Even video games are professional, you can’t just play a game, you have to be on-line, have to rate on seasonal ranking boards, have to compete and practice for hours, everyone has to stream. Tabletop RPGs are going the same way. You can’t just play with your friends, you have to blog about it, stream your games, monetize monetize monetize.

I fell into this mindset when I was young and gave up two activities I really enjoyed for stupid reasons. In high school and a bit after I used to play guitar. I really enjoyed being in a band, playing gigs, hanging out with friends, but most of all I enjoyed playing the guitar, writing music, learning riffs, and experimenting with equipment. For whatever reason, life, bands breaking up due to school and relationships, the usual, I gave up on playing guitar. I told myself that if I wasn’t going to make money on it I should stop wasting my time. Around that time I did the same thing with art. I used to paint, all the time, every day. Large oil and acrylic paintings. I loved art, but I knew that I would never become an artist, whatever that means, so I quit. I gave up art and music because of the sick mindset in which you don’t engage in activities for pleasure but only for professional profit.

Around the time my wife became pregnant I made a resolution to pick up cooking. Since then I’ve become a somewhat competent amateur cook. I can knock out a few dishes confidently and I’ve taken up summertime grilling where I’ve kicked up some delicious burgers, hot-dogs, chicken, and ribs. Most of all I’ve realized that one can enjoy a hobby without obsessing about being the best. I can cook and grill for myself and my own pleasure.

The realization that I’m not going to be the next top chef, that I don’t want to be discovered and open my own restaurant, that I don’t want to own a food truck and a Netflix show. I just want to cook great food for my family and friends. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. It’s a great feeling and makes the enjoyment of the activity so much more pleasant, a truly relaxing hobby.

This year I’m going to continue cooking. I’m going to up my game and have a lot of fun with it. I’m also going to apply the same mindset to other hobbies. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up a paintbrush.

Resolutions, writing, and all of that sort of thing..

I woke up this morning. Correction, I was woken up this morning by my child. Ate waffles, drank coffee, played, then went to the park while my wife hit up Costco for necessary stuff. Costco is one of those places that gives me hives so I like staying home with the kid and letting my wife handle that madness. Now it’s afternoon, wife and kid are napping, Costco imitation LaCroix is in the fridge, coffee is made, so I figured I would knock out a bit of blogging and maybe some reading.

Even with the hectic holiday schedule sucking my life away I’ve made it a point to write a bit every day. Mostly in my pen and paper journal, but even put down some words towards my 2020 project. My daily journaling and idea writing has become important to me and I enjoy going back through old notebooks and re-discovering thoughts and ideas.

One of the obvious topics around this time of year is resolutions. What will I do this year. I’m big on planning and aiming for goals. I like to set one big goal and break it down into smaller ones in order to track progress. David Steward has a great series of videos on goal setting and accomplishment, his playlist called Keys to Prolific Creation is worth any creative persons time.

So, my main goal for 2020 is to complete my pivot away from short story writing into full-length novels and publish my first independent novel. A challenge due to the fact that I will be somewhere in the South Pacific working, for the majority of the year.

In other news, the recent topic of discussion has been the re-focus on blogs. Jon mentions it here and I’ve seen others bring this up. I’m an advocate of this idea and will do my part towards switching the focus away from Twitter, a platform that is horrible for discourse and community. I’m going to aim for a minimum of two posts a week and aim to refocus my commenting here instead of elsewhere.

I think multi-blog discussions like The Pre-Tolkien Challenge I ran in 2018 is a great way to build up blogging communities with discussion that goes much deeper than anything you can generate on Twitter. Personally I discovered a lot of great fiction due to that challenge. Let’s do some more in 2020.

Happy New Year 2020!

Happy New Year from the West Coast. It’s been a crazy one. Moved to California from Japan, only to go back to Okinawa for a bit, so I could go adventure through Malaysia before coming back to California.

Most importantly, and the best thing about 2019, was all the wonderful moments I shared with my wife and daughter. I look forward to a lot more in 2020.

Barbarian Book Club: 27 December 2019, Best of the Year Edition!

It’s that time of year again, that weird, awkward few days in between Christmas and New Years Day, when all the cat-lady book bloggers put out their best of the year lists.

I’m not a cat-lady, I’m actually allergic to cats, or a book blogger, but I read a lot. Especially considering the amount of travel, deployment, and child-raising, I do each year. Not only that, but I happen to have impeccable taste.

So I’m going to list a few books I read this year that I think are worth your time. For the sake of the list I’m going to exclude my re-read of The Brothers Karamazov, which is the greatest novel ever written, and if you consider yourself a peer or even an aspirant to my level of discourse you must read it several times.

FANTASY:

My favorite fantasy novel this year was Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest A Brightness Long Ago. Kay writes adult fantasy with impeccable style. He is one of two writers of fantasy that I list as a favorite, the other being Robin Hobb. A Brightness Long Ago is a fantastic bit of fantasy set in an alternate Renaissance Italy, that is character driven and thematically deep. A must read.

HISTORY:

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Anthony Beevor was an excellent overview of one of the most interesting and often overlooked bits of 20th Century conflict. The Spanish Civil War is chilling, especially when one looks at the cultural events going on around us.

INDY SFF:

The Last Ancestor by Alexander Hellene is a fantastic piece of science fiction adventure that reads like a throwback to a better time, a time where novels were action packed, heroic, and fun, instead of ironic and nihilistic. I look forward to reading the follow up that is being written as we speak. I have a feeling Alexander has a lot of good stuff in store for the new pulp indy crowd. Read his stuff.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. I just finished this one and loved it. An action packed adventure set during the early days of the French Revolution. The novel is not only fast paced and exciting but also intellectually and philosophically satisfying in its discussion of class, privileged, duty, and political responsibility. Scaramouche has one of my favorite villains and does the famous surprise reveal about sixty years ahead of its time.

Captain Alatriste by Artura Perez-Reverte. This is actually book #1 in The Adventures of Captain Alatriste. I read this and the follow up and I highly recommend the series. A swashbuckling tale set in 17th century Spain that follows a soldier and sword for hire who get’s himself entangled in court politics and mischief. Sword duels, prostitutes, evil consorts, corrupt inquisitors, massive pike and shot battles during the 30 years war, and basically everything you ever wanted out of a modern Three Musketeers. Historical action pulp at its best.

There you have it, my best of the year cat-lady book list. Do yourself a favor, click on the links above and bask in the glory of my fantastic taste.