Yesterday the wife and I took a day trip to Hakone, a small town on the shore of Lake Ashi. Our schedule is completely packed for the foreseeable future, filled with baby events, work obligations, celebrations, and of course culminating with the arrival of the baby. So, it was nice to get to go on a little trip on our own.
The day started off with heavy rain and exploring the famous Hakone Shrine was a wet yet interesting experience. Initially, we were bummed that the rain obscured the majestic view of Mt. Fuji, but the gloom and mist had a surreal magical quality that I really enjoyed.
Eventually, the sun came out and we spent a few hours exploring the Hakone Open Air Museum which occupies acres of beautiful landscape, sadly littered with modern art. The museum’s centerpiece is a decent sized Picasso collection whos infantile scribbles left me underwhelmed. I yearn for the day that adult men and women stop pretending that mentally deranged garbage created by alcoholic sexual deviants gets relegated to the trash pile of history where it belongs. I do not believe that any man can gaze upon the garbage output of Picasso and feel any tingling of inspiration, wonder, or anything other than bewilderment at the joke that is so-called 20th-century art.
It was nice spending all day exploring new places, trying out food, and just hanging out. Not to mention that we ended our adventure with a stop at the specialty liquor store where I bought myself some Stouts.
In four days it will be 2018, a whole new year of adventure and excitement. With the dawning of the new year, many of us will take the time to reflect on the past and plan for the future by making traditional New Year’s Resolutions. According to some random internet poll, that I found on Wikipedia, 50% of Americans make resolutions. Unfortunately, 88% of people fail, with men having a 22% success rate and women only 10%.
I like goals so I make resolutions every year. Not only do I make them, I make sure that I put my plans down in writing and make a digital copy that I keep on my phone that I use to motivate and keep myself on track. I believe in the power of goal setting and the concrete permanence of physically writing them down allows me to conceptualize and solidify the ideas.
Last year I made three resolutions. Unfortunately, all three were rather vague and didn’t specify concrete milestones or achievements. Looking back I genuinely succeeded on one goal, but the other two are somewhat up for debate. So this year I decided to take a systematic approach and use a rule of three style setup. Three general resolutions or visions with three specific milestones each.
Using sets of threes imbues the process with a mythological magic, three is a powerful number. Three witches, three wise men, three sisters, three little pigs, three Christmas ghosts, three Musketeers (ok ok four technically), three Brothers Karamazov(spoiler… ) on and on. Three is magical.
So this year I picked three areas of life that I wanted to focus on, improve, and advance in. Physical health, writing, and family life. For each one, I wrote a one to two paragraph vision on what I want to achieve this coming year. These paragraphs I scribbled on the left side of my journal. Then, on the right side of the page, for each of the three, I chose three concrete and attainable goals pertaining to the overall theme.
Resolution: One or two paragraphs.
Resolution: One or two paragraphs.
Resolution: One or two paragraphs.
For example, my first Resolution is as follows:
PHYSICAL HEALTH & FITNESS: 2018 will be a year where I will seriously focus on health and fitness. With the implicit goal of drastically improving my strength, endurance, and overall well being. I will completely eliminate horrible vices such as smoking and binge drinking, two behaviors that I significantly decreased in 2017 but still indulged occasionally to my detriment. My goal for 2018 is to become the strongest I’ve ever been for my own benefit, made more important by my upcoming fatherhood.
Quit Smoking completely.
Meet strength goals using my ongoing Linear Progression program.*
Eat 80% Primal/Paleo avoiding sugar and junk.
*I will outline actual numbers in a future post.
So I have three Resolutions following the above format, each has a written blurb followed by three concrete goals. I made sure that each one of the bullets is reasonable and achievable within the next twelve months. This is all written in my journal where I keep story ideas, interesting lines, sketches, and all sorts of crazy stuff. I also took a picture of the outline that I saved on my Evernote app so I can look it over anytime on my phone.
I think that short-term goal setting, specifically when put down on paper, is a fantastic way to focus one’s mind and cut through the mental and emotional clutter that plagues so many of us, especially us writers. I highly recommend using a system like the one above or even just free writing ideas down in your journal or on your blog.
Happy New Year and may all your upcoming goals be achieved!
July turned out to be a month of minimal reading and writing. I only read one book worth mentioning here and my fiction writing was almost non-existent. Reading time was spent on physical fitness books and philosophy centered on masculinity, finance, and lifestyle. In the near future, I’m going to write about my workout regimen and recommend some great books on fitness, but that topic deserves its own post and dedicated discussion.
Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose, was the one book I managed to read for pleasure. A fascinating and detailed look at Benjamin Tallmadge’s Culper Ring, a Patriot spy network working out of British occupied New York during the American Revolution. The young officer Tallmadge became the spymaster and handler for a group of The young officer Tallmadge became the spymaster and handler for a group of fascinating individuals and the book takes an in depth look at their communications, mostly done through letters using invisible ink, and the trial and error methods they used to set up an effective chain of communication between themselves and General Washington.
The early modern era from about the Reformation up tends to be my favorite when it comes to history and I especially love the Revolutionary War. I also enjoy history focused on day to day life away from the military and battles, so this book was perfect. Reading through letters between the Culpers gave me a better understanding of life during the Revolution. For example, there was a good amount of discussion about raids between non-regular Royalists and Patriots, who often attacked civilians indiscriminately and were more concerned with loot than with the principles of war. Not to mention the fascinating look into life in occupied New York and the massive black market, red light districts, and illegal activity that sprung up out of vice and necessity.
Revolutions: A Weekly Podcast. On the topic of history, I wanted to mention this podcast, which has been part of my daily life for the last few months. I listen to it every morning on the way to work and every afternoon on the way home. I catch myself looking forward to driving just so I can do some listening. Right now the I’m getting towards the end of the French Revolution. Robespierre is no more, the Thermadorians are in charge, and well-dressed Dandies are roaming the streets beating their opponents with large sticks. The French Revolution is terrifying, a well-intentioned start that spiraled into terror and mass murder. Contrasting the philosophy and personalities of this revolution with the American one is interesting. What kept the American Patriots from slipping into the same insanity that engulfed the Jacobins? What kept strong personalities like Adams, Washington, and Hamilton from becoming tyrants and murderers like Robespierre and Saint-Just?
Reading a book about spies put me in the mood for some modern day espionage so I bought some Le Carre to scratch that itch. I also need to find a few good books about the French Revolution and maybe do a bit of reading about that famous Corsican, a personality I don’t know much about outside of popular culture. So any recommendations are welcome.
April was a slow month for reading. I turned 34 in the middle of another beautiful Japanese Spring. When your whole world explodes with beautiful cherry blossoms, light rains, amazing greenery, the last thing you do is sit around and read all day.
Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I discovered Mark Lawrence through one of his short stories in Grimdark #1. It was a raw, brutal tale about a farmer who avenges himself on a band of thugs that murdered his family. On the strength of that story, I bought his entire Broken Empire trilogy and continued to read all the way through the Red Queen’s War series. So when Red Sister, a brand new standalone was announced, I was excited and preordered. Sadly it was a total let down; stupid, silly, filled with cliche, and downright boring. Lawrence stuffed everything I hate about modern fantasy into one book. It was such a boring chore to get through that I would make excuses to myself and ended up taking over two weeks to read a novel that I would usually finish in a day or two.
The Green Pearl by Jack Vance. To get the bad taste out of my mouth and break my reading slump that started to overtake me I went back to a master. The Green Pearl is the second book in the Lyonesse Trilogy. Wow… I loved Suldrun’s Garden but this one solidifies Lyonesse as one of my favorite fantasy series ever. This novel is pure fantasy, beauty, and magic mixed with sorrow and darkness. The story continues where the last one left off and it is full of battles, truly magical magicians, multiple worlds, sinister creatures, and everything that is missing from modern fantasy. Vance is a master and this trilogy has to be one of the most underappreciated pieces of fantasy written in the last thirty years. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.
Soto recap, a disappointing attempt at reading modern Fantasy left me dejected so I turned to a classic master to rejuvenate me. I enjoyed The Green Pearl so much that I jumped right into the final book in the series, Maudoc and looking forward to finishing it as soon as I publish this post.
It’s Sunday here in Japan and the first week of the new year is coming to a close. I went back to work, caught up with my massive pile of tasks, and got assigned a few new projects.
On the physical fitness front, I kicked ass. I made sure to make time for plenty of lifting and running. I even went on a great morning hike with my wife yesterday. Unfortunately, my writing did not start off with the same level of enthusiastic success.
When I get home from work, I have dinner, then I try to sit down and write for at least one hour. This whole week I pushed myself to write. I was mentally exhausted from work but I wrote and wrote, and managed to complete a 5,000-word short story. But, upon reading the thing I realized it was a complete turd. I was actually bored of it by the third paragraph. The first scene was basically three people riding horses through a forest and an exposition dump. No action, no drama, nothing. Right into the recycle bin!
So yesterday I decided to clear my head and go on a hike. My wife motivated me like she always does to get up out of bed. I swear if I didn’t have her I would be a 500 pound Baron Harkonnen living in my own filth. We hiked our favorite local trail and due to the crisp weather got gifted with a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji in the distance.
Spending time with my wife and being surrounded by such awesome beauty makes it hard even for a morose bastard like me to stay negative. So here I am back to writing. Smacking away at the damn keyboard. I reviewed the story I wrote and realized I completely ignored every piece of advice from Swain. So, time to go back and rewrite the damn thing.
In other news, I have been following a lot of great discussion on the pulp revival and the state of SFF in general. One of my favorite bloggers of late is Rawle Nyanzi, his latest post Modern Action’s Fundamental Problem, is spot on and a good example of his style of commentary.