Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Monthly Archives: August 2019

Billy’s Bad Day

Billy had a bad day
Went home and got his gun
The whole world was laughing
Time for Billy to have some fun

Shoot out all the street lights
Shoot at all the cars
Shoot at all the people
Through their cold, cold hearts

Don’t want no mean old friends
In this dirty old town
This boy is real unhappy
He’s a killing clown

Big bloated raisins
Drying in the sun
Some happy damn people
Havin’ all the fun

Time to play with baby
Time to take out all the trash
Time for daddy to get his gun now
And make a big red splash

Billy made a boo boo
Made a big fuckin’ mess
But don’t be mad at Billy
He’s just trying to do his best

So look out all you bad boys
All you bad girls watch it too
’Cuz Billy’s had a bad day
And he’s comin’ after you

From “Darkness in the Heart of Your Soul,” ©1999 David Thomas Peacock


I have known, for a long time, that this blog is essentially for a readership of one: me. Oh sure, I put it up here in public because it’s my oblique way of putting myself out there in the world – but I don’t actually tell anyone about it. I just do it.

In my own mind, it has become primarily about three things:

  1. Discipline. It’s no small feat to write something and make it public every day. I’m now approaching 1000 of these posts (930 to be exact), so I am confident I can go on forever if I so choose. This does not mean, however, that they are all good. When you are cranking out something everyday, they can’t all be winners – but you’ve got to be willing to fail in order to win.
  2. Achieving clarity of thinking. Trust me, nothing makes muddled thinking more glaringly obvious than writing it down and making it public. It forces me to solidify my ideas and hopefully express them with clarity.
  3. Becoming comfortable expressing myself with language. This one was unforeseen, and quite frankly may have been the ultimate purpose of starting this almost three years ago – even though I didn’t understand it at the time. It is certainly why I spontaneously began writing fiction last year – something I had never planned to do. It’s weird how these things happen…

But make no mistake, this isn’t easy to do everyday. Some days I just feel like I’ve got nothing, and I’m sure it sounds like it. But because discipline is one of my directives, I cannot waiver. I have to write something, so I give it my best, and hope that tomorrows post will be better.

The nice thing about writing and not being concerned about anyone else reading it is the freedom it gives you to fail. So what if they’re not all great? When I am dead, this thing will be up here on the web ready for the inevitable wandering and perhaps lost AI to gobble up in an effort to better understand what makes humans human.

So to whoever or whatever may or may not stumble across this thing, I say this: I hope you enjoy any of this half as much as I did writing it.

Be safe out there.


I’m not sure there’s a captain on this ship…

But if there is, could somebody please tell me where we’re going?

At What Point does Age Become a Liability?

Clearly there is a lot of variability here – e.g. what profession are we talking about? What kind of physical and mental shape is the subject in? What exactly are they bringing to the table? Are they an asset to the workplace or have they become an anachronism? Are they bringing value or just bringing everyone down?

There is only one real protection from becoming a liability and ironically it’s the same thing for young people.

Your value must be undeniable.

On Being a Champion

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, things just don’t work out the way you hoped. It’s just the way life works, and you have to be able to roll with the punches. This is one of the reasons I’ve always loved boxing (a passion I’ve struggled with as I have gotten older).

Here’s the analogy: To me, a fighter with a perfect record is just that – an incredibly skilled boxer who has never been beaten.

But this fighter is not necessarily a champion.

Let me explain. In order to be a champion, IMHO, you first must have been knocked down and seriously hurt, then either gotten back up to win, or, if the fighter lost, take their defeat graciously and learn from it – ultimately coming back to win again.

In other words – you are measured by your ability to be knocked down and get back up. It is only then that you may be called a champion.

You must show yourself and others what you are made of. If you have never been beaten, then you’ve never been tested.

Remember that when things go wrong.

We Are All Wounded

The trick is not to be blinded by the scar tissue that’s built up over our wounds. In other words, don’t ever allow yourself to become fully hardened. Somehow, no matter how many times life has smacked you down, you must retain the purity and innocence that you once had as a child.


Well, for one thing, once you become hardened it gets more difficult to open yourself up to learning new things – you become rigid in your thinking.

The other, perhaps more fundamental issue is this: It’s only by looking at the world with innocence that we really get to see it’s beauty.

So there’s that.

Sad but True

The worst idea with full support will always beat the best idea with no support.”

– Del Close

Psychic Load

Anybody who works in a profession caring for those in need knows what I’m talking about: it’s impossible not to be affected by the pain, suffering, and mortality of other humans when you are there to help them. We are deliverers of the hard truth – if the patient is conscious and not obtunded, you might be surprised to know that they often seem to be relieved that we are honest.

Palliative care for patients who won’t accept their mortality is especially difficult in the ER. At the risk of stating the obvious, we are not a hospice. We can can treat emergent pain (to the best of our ability), but we are set up for emergencies with the goal of resuscitation, not to provide end-of-life care. Having said that, we still do our best to meet their needs with empathy and respect.

But at the end of the day, every shift has some amount of existential sadness to process for the docs, nurses, and techs. How we process it is a statement of who we are.

It’s a precarious balancing act to find the space between empathy and over identification with the sick and dying. If you don’t get it right it you’ll end up carrying a toxic psychic load. We all know where that leads and it’s not anywhere good.

1, 2, 3 – Go!

Sometimes (not always – I’m not a masochist), I like seeing how fast and efficiently I can work in impossibly accelerated situations in the ER. Mind you, you’re always working quickly and efficiently – but I’m talking about handling crushing amounts of patients in a short period of time.

The situations where you’re juggling so many tasks at once, while examining and assessing multiple patients at the same time, tests your ability to churn through medical care and still remain safe. This shit isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s definitely not for neophytes.

Although these scenarios often happen in the lower acuity areas – the ones whose sole purpose is to treat as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time, in order to keep things flowing – it’s still plenty dangerous. You’re dealing with people’s lives here – mistakes can have extremely negative repercussions, and people can get hurt very quickly.

Still, it’s nice to know you can do it. When things start to get brutal, don’t complain and fold – rise to the demand and show you’re in your element.

Yeah, it was that kind of day.

Closed For Business

Last night I had a dream that I went to work and found my ER locked and shuttered. “Closed for Business” said the sign pasted to the front door. Underneath this declaration was the explanation: “Due to lack of staff.”

WTF!? I thought as I woke up in a cold sweat.

Whatever that means, it doesn’t sound good.

The Past

The past creates a filter through which all life passes. It frames the boundaries of what seems possible, creating this disconnect where what seems normal to one person is unthinkable to another.

It’s part of our job in life to peel back the layers, no matter how uncomfortable, so that we may somehow understand how we got here.

If you haven’t done this work before you die, you never really lived.

Final First Draft

I just finished my newest short story as a final first draft – in other words, it’s an edited and proofed complete version with the caveat that I may edit it further – I just need some time away so I can come back and read it fresh later. I’m posting it as a record of where it stands at this point in time.

This one was harder than my previous stories for several reasons. First, it involves children, and I am not an expert in childhood developmental stages. When you are writing from the viewpoint of a child, it can be hard to pin down how complex their thinking is at any given age simply because some kids are going to be much smarter than others. There is also the issue that life will sometimes force them to know things that they shouldn’t know at their age.

Another issue I struggled with, and will probably require revision, is that I had a hard time keeping the word count down to what’s acceptable for a short story. I’m already at 9,300 words – which is pushing it for length – and it really needs more exposition for character development. The timeline may also need to be expanded… I’m not yet sure.

Regardless, I love it. It’s a really cool story that developed in unexpected ways. If anyone reads it, I hope they enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

My wife, who proofs my stuff, always says I shouldn’t be concerned with length, that it should just be as long as needed to tell the story. Intuitively this makes perfect sense, the problem is that many publications won’t accept short stories over a certain length.

Then there is also the issue with writing content that will be difficult for some readers to process (i.e. make them want to tune out). I have pretty specific thoughts about that, but again, I need to give it some time before I decide whether to change anything. I have already had an essay turned down for publication for content that was too hard-hitting and graphic. The thing is – life is hard-hitting and graphic. I understand that for many people some topics are just too uncomfortable, but hey – life doesn’t give a shit whether you’re uncomfortable or not. And here’s another news flash: You can’t fix a problem if you won’t fully acknowledge it.

The essay that was rejected for publication was about death, and this story involves child abuse – obviously both difficult topics – which of course is the very thing that makes them interesting to write about. In the case of the latter, I feel like skirting around the specific abuse is not really acknowledging what the victim went through – it’s not honoring their pain, if that makes any sense. I think it sends the wrong message, as if what happened to them was so wrong it should remain unnameable, which would only seem to reinforce their shame.

In reality, I believe that by failing to frankly acknowledge the specific acts of abuse, you are not “protecting the child,” because the child has already gone through this horror. No, what really appears to be happening is that adults are trying to protect themselves from having to acknowledge what human beings are capable of inflicting on children. And let’s be clear: I’m an ER nurse – I can tell you from experience that this shit goes on all the time.

Anyway, enough of my rambling – let’s get on with the show!


This is the metric by which we measure what is important to us.

Where will we choose to focus it?

When Things Get Shitty

  1. Ask yourself how can I provide the maximum value in whatever situation is causing you discomfort.
  2. Remind yourself it’s not always about you.
  3. Detach yourself personally from the shitstorm and just try to help someone else.
  4. Keep doing this until things get better.
  5. Wait for things to get shitty again.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

Quentin Tarantino (Part 1)

Lessons learned from QT:

  1. Wear your influences proudly – in fact, create your own style based on using your influences in the most obvious way possible. Do this as a way to celebrate their work and expose a new audience to the artists you love.
  2. Use your love for the art that excites you to inspire you to create something that will give your audience the same thrill you felt when you saw this cool shit the first time.
  3. Don’t ever, ever, ever be ashamed of what you love. On the contrary, put a spotlight on it so it’s as obvious as possible.
  4. Make art that obviously turns you on.
  5. Be excited about what you create, and don’t be afraid to tell the world how cool it is.
  6. Hire talented people AND LET THEM DO THEIR THING.
  7. And finally, don’t just draw from one art form – watch for the cool shit in life and find some use for all of it.

Whoo Hoo!

Just finished my fifth short story! OMG – does that feel good:)

This one really could be a novel, but I’m not quite ready to write one yet. I feel like I need to get a few more short stories under my belt – I’m definitely getting better with each one.

There’s a lot of elements at play when you’re writing – the story of course is the main thing. But I love learning how to tell it through the mechanics of language – first, second or third person? Sentence structure? Dialog? Linear or nonlinear use of time? Hyphen, comma, or perhaps semicolon? Character development? Finding a voice for each character?

Here’s another cool thing I’ve discovered: Sometimes the story isn’t about what you originally thought it was about. Like in this one, I started out thinking the focus would be on one thing, but by the time I was through it turned out to be something else entirely. The characters kind of showed me what it was really about as I wrote it.

It turns out that it’s about children, something I know fuck-all about. I just listened to what they told me – seriously, I’m not kidding.

David Bowie: Finding Fame

This is an interesting documentary on Bowie’s fledgling career between 1965 and 1971 – when he was 18 to 24 years old. What’s fascinating about it is this: He failed in every way possible until the single Space Oddity succeeded in 1969 (the album it was on, however, sunk without a trace). I’m not just talking about a lack of sales – I mean really failed, as in the songs sucked (sorry, just my opinion), his image was completely ill-defined, and he was this kind of marginal character on the London scene that was completely second rate and totally inconsequential. WTF! But he kept plugging away – even if no one else did, he believed in himself.

It’s really astonishing – for the most part, the film doesn’t try to portray his struggles as anything other than what they were – a young artist trying to find himself in the most public way possible. It’s a messy business…

Finally, in 1971, he recorded his fourth album “Hunky Dory,” and the rest, as they say, is history. “Changes” and “Life on Mars” certainly saw to that. The album might not have been a huge hit, but those songs made people stand up and take notice. What happened? Artistic growth, that’s what.

1972 saw the release of Ziggy Stardust and he more or less achieved world domination at the age of 25. I thought I knew quite a bit about Bowie’s career, but this documentary showed me how little I really did know.

It can be hard to differentiate self-belief from delusion, especially when you’re failing. But sometimes the artist is right, even if everyone else disagrees. It’s just that there are very few artists who can take this kind of rejection for years without giving up. Bowie eventually proved himself right, but recognition doesn’t come for every artist. This begs the question:

Where does all the great art go to die when no one hears or sees it?

Making Connections: Ray Harryhausen (Part 2)

I’ve been thinking about Ray Harryhausen and the way he created his art, which was highly unusual at the time. Film by nature is a collaborative medium – the idea of creating most of a motion picture in your workshop essentially by yourself just makes no sense – especially in the 1950’s-60’s before computers. On top of that, he wasn’t just creating special FX, he was creating whole worlds and inventing creatures who lived in them. If you read much about him, two things quickly become apparent.

  1. That he worked alone.
  2. That what he created had no corollary in the real world.

This has some obvious parallels to making music today. For the sake of argument, let’s say that there are essentially two ways to make and record music (in reality they often blend together, but not always). The first is that you get a group of musicians in a room and record them. Until the 1980’s, this is how all music was made (notwithstanding a few very rare outliers).

With the advent of computer technology in the late 1980’s, artists began to assemble records by programming, often working alone. This has only become more pronounced as time went on. But these two approaches obviously yield very different results.

Early on, musician/programmers sought to make sequenced music sound like real players (a generalization, but bear with me). The thought was that “real” music was made by humans playing live, together and in real time, in a room somewhere. But I would argue that’s false, and Ray Harryhausen‘s work provides a useful metaphor.

He didn’t attempt to make stop-motion animation look real, it would have been impossible anyway. So instead he simply used it as a tool to create things that never could have existed in reality, adding to their otherworldly power.

I think this is the clue to creating music with computer technology – not to try and recreate reality, rather, to invent a new reality.

No Second Guessing

Ok – so I’m finishing a short story I’ve been working on and today I actually thought “I can’t wait to sit down and write – I want to see how this thing ends.”

It’s such a weird process – I usually have a basic idea for a story, but as I’m writing it the characters just kind of appear and start doing things. I’m not really giving too much thought to it when I’m writing – sometimes it actually feels like I’m just watching what’s going on and writing it down.

Mind you, I’m not saying it’s any good. It’s just pretty cool to tap into something you’re not really controlling.