Garages on Halloween

Garages on Halloween are a piece of Americana. Taking my kids out last night I saw all kinds of marvelous things in peoples’ garages. Most of them were decorated as haunted houses. One house we walked up to had a dad looking guy in a Jason mask handing out candy. He had implements in there reminiscent of a SAW scene. I must admit, even as a regular dad taking his kids around to trick or treat, that one kind of freaked me out. Overall it was an awesome night. There were not many people out though. I wonder if it had something to do with the recession. How was the Halloween traffic where you are?

You Can’t Go Home Again

slides (49)Once grown up, and having ventured out into the real world, “home” can never be the same again. The old place will never be “home” to you any more than any other place you live. Thomas Wolfe wrote about that in 1930 and it applies here in 2015, even to my blog. This domain has been my property since December of 2005, though I moved after a few years to DamienRiley.com and that has been where I have rolled in the mud with WordPress and online diary visions up to now. Riley Central has been a composite of feeds showcasing all my online projects from flickr to Tumblr.

After some issues with sites like WordPress.com not receiving my pingbacks, I decided the best way to fix it was to advance to the past, the domain that has been gathering dust for years. I tested pingbacks and they work without fail. I thought over switching my blog exploits here and immediately began to see all sorts of pre-existing benefits. The clearest benefit that you would understand is that all my online projects are already living here. I certainly will miss Damien at the Speed of Life but I always felt like the name was a little silly and self-aggrandizing. Riley Central sounds like a project page and also a blog. It’s a better banner to improve my writing under. To close this christening: I am Damien Riley and as always, thank you for being my reader. Below are some relevant links. You’ll get all new material here only. I don’t plan to migrate the old stuff to this blog. It will stay there for at least a year, maybe indefinitely.

Riley Central – blog and project site of Damien Riley – formerly “Damien at the Speed of Life”
Dear fans of Damien at the Speed of Life, please adjust your bookmarks. The new RSS feed is http://www.rileycentral.net/feed/

Plan to Do What You Can, and No More

As a blogger I have made many many “plans” and agendas to get through my work. I have found success in doing so at times as well as frustration and despair at other times when I have not lived up to my goals for myself. When you get around to wanting success with your blogging, I think the best thing you can do is create a “doable” daily grind list. Make sure it is “doable.” Currently I have been utilizing the Firefox toolbar feature to make shortcuts to the online work I hope to do. I give each planned daily task a time estimate and I force myself to do each item. I say “force myself” only because I know my tasks are worth something if done each day and I know they are well within my ability to perform. If you can’t meet your goals, don’t beat yourself up either. I once told someone n that sort of situation: “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.”

The Library – Browsing Humanity

libraryI went to the library yesterday. There is a book there called “The Writer’s Market” that I needed some info from. I wasn’t sure if it would be there since I live in a 1/2 rural area of California (compared to Orange County where I grew up). As I asked the librarian for help, I was struck by her eagerness to offer it. Not only did she find me the book I needed, but she recommended a book to me as well that I read while there and it was VERY helpful.

I’m working on a book. It’s non-fiction and I really think it has some potential. Unfortunately, the process of writing it is inevitably taking my perfect idea and ripping it to shreds. My goal is to hold some semblage of the idea together to the end of the journey!

While in the library I saw a heavy kid in a T-Shirt reading “The Big Money” and I was blown away. Here was a kid reading a book I read (and loved) in college. And in Hesperia of all places!!! It reminded me that the library is a place where we can tap into history and humanity. In the library we are all equals. My wife and kids were with me. there was a kids section where the two went and played/read. My wife looked at books she was interested in. I photocopied the pages of agents I needed for my ongoing project and marveled at the number of people around me seeking out knowledge, entertainment, inspiration. I thought about life as a very temporary thing, sometimes filled with pain, other times pleasure. The library gives us the tools to make it through both. Someone said no one should write their autobiography until she/he is dead . . . there may be some wisdom in that. Nonetheless, thank writers on every subject for sharing how they made it through to now so we can get our help along the way. This is whether it be for bucks at Barnes and Noble, or for free . . . browsing through this place

The Letter J Sesame Street Video

At the lake, I saw the family working all around me and recalled this old Sesame Street cartoon. It’s probably from around 1976 or so. It was really great finding it online. I typed this is Google: “stay outta their way” tv

Lo and behold, there it was from my childhood! I come from a long line of Arkansas farmers and before that Irish farmers. I am sure the scene of this video would be a mirror image to many scenes on past “Riley Farms.” It went from a time like the one in the video to farms I know of where they have Rimadyl for the old dogs with arthritis. Times change, times stay the same.

Another fave is the Daddy D Song!

Counter Culture Mindset

I was watching “Doomsday Preppers” on the History Channel the other day and it never occurred to me before but did at that moment that I have something in common with them. They are outside of culture and I strive to be, at least mentally anyway, outside as well. My remote-ness is different in kind but “apart is apart” I hope to be different from the propogandish life protrayed on television and elsewhere in modern culture. I should call that life a lie because it really is. Some channels are deeper lies than others. In “my book,” counter culture is cool because it sustains a purity, at least in theory. A primal urge to meet ones needs and live with as much excess as possible is the goal. Recently I noticed there were two new movies coming out about the Beats (AKA the “Beatniks,” “Beat Generation.”) This is exciting for me! To see Jack Kerouac, William Buuroughs, and Allen Ginsberg on screen would be a treat. They have been like mythical creatures for me most of my life. The Beats represented counter culture and apparently movie makers want to spread that message today.

We live in a time that is for all intents and purposes: “The Matrix.” All we lack are the plugs for the backs of our heads. I don’t find much contentment in the “Doomsday Preppers” since they say the world is going to be taken out. They may be right, but I don’t want to focus on that. I’d rather focus on the now and what I can get from it. It is really all we have. A life that works toward that is my brand of counter culture. To learn is to conquer and I want that in excess. To be made aware of ones shortcomings and suffering is along the path. To obey ones instincts and find happiness in a new and untrodden way is my life’s ambition. This is rarely touched on in modern media. If you don’t measure up to what they tell you, then you can never be happy. I’m out to destroy that cultural myth. Success is the best revenge. I hope I remain counter culture until my dying day. When we dare to break out of our societal constraints, we can see with CLARITY what we need to do for ourselves.

One way to gain clarity on the issues of ones life is via meditation. There are many great books and websites that have been published on the topic. My brand of counter culture seeks calm and clarity through meditation. It isn’t just trendy yoga either. The mere act of a sigh can trigger the relaxation response. When you pay attention to your own body and relax it, your body will take better care of you. While in those relaxing time, I often have realizations about what my life needs. I try to follow through on that. Notice that though I praise the Beats I do not require drugs in my brand of counter culture. I don’t think they required it either but they do carry that stigma so I’m providing a disclaimer. Counter culture is cool, in my opinion. I think the more counter culture movements that arise the better. Obviously the debt and unrest in this country is an indicator that the status quo life we are fed in the media isn’t working for the majority.

Stay Curious My Friends

imageI’ve always wanted to see Ireland. One day, I hope to. Other friends in my vicinity have more exotic wanderlusts, like China or Borneo for example. For me, those places are a little scary, not to mention quite costly. Still, I want to go “farther out” with my curiosity. Everything seems odd when it hasn’t been experienced. Conversely, when you are familiar wit the “other,” it can become a favorite of yours, a close companion, even a place where you belong. With all the hue and cry over illegal immigration lately, I find myself encountering more and more xenophobia all around me. Facebook messages show poor people being shipped back on trucks to Central America and the caption reads “Go Home!” I find this sickening. I don’t think you should be allowed to voice an opinion until you have seen the conditions in the country they are fleeing. To them it isn’t a preference or a wanderlust, they are fleeing for their very lives. It’s really a spoiled attitude some Americans have and I wish it would stop. But back to topic.

I remember tasting sushi for the first time, I loved it! Most people I know who haven’t tried the “raw fish” say it’s disgusting. I remember trying Kun Pao Chicken in the early 90’s and loving the flavor. Back then, a lot of people told me I was odd for liking Chinese food. Little by little, customs and food come into our country from “afar” and it is a wonderful thing. I think we are at a point in American culture where it is time to embrace as much of the world’s ideas as possible. Some of ours are fading and actually failing in many ways. The more we replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity, the better chance we have as a country to survive. Xenophobia is alive and well and ain’t that a shame. I’ll open the comments to you with this question but feel free to “wander:” What favorite foods or customs have you admired from other countries? What do you think of the quote? Did it have an entirely different meaning to you than what I wrote about? If you’re a blogger, You might write about it and pingback here so others can read it.

Rome Wasn't Built in a Day

That’s an old saying and it’s about having patience. What if you were Rome? Would you listen to that advice and have patience with your own growth? You ought to. We are all in process. I think we yearn for that feeling of completion when we try new projects or expectations of ourselves. The truth is however, we need time to complete most things we set out to do. For example, they don’t give High School graduates the high paying science jobs right?

Got a vision or desire to do something with your life? Congratulations … cherish it!

Relationships, college, reading a book, … these are just three things that take a while to complete. Other endeavors can take months or years longer at times, like adult acne, just to name one. Just because it takes a long time to treat, should a person not try? Patience here is the key. There can be great satisfaction in knowing where one wants to go. This is true despite the fact that things take time.

I think the best way to go through life is to learn to be thankful for goals and directions you make for yourself. They are really where accomplishment begins. If you can be “at peace” along the journey.

Bloggers from Whom I Learn the Most

Below is a post I wrote mid 2007.  It’s funny how I still agree with some of this and other stuff I once swore off I now tend to do.  This is a cool by-product of blogging, you get to go back and read your own hopes, dreams, and goals to see if they’ve changed or not.

A while back I blogged about the people from whom I learn the most. Tonight I want to talk a little bit about the bloggers from whom I learn the most. Blogging as a genre, hobby, art form, or medium, whatever you wish to call it, is an umbrella over a wide wide array of writing “types.” Which ones do you learn the most from?  I have my favorite “types” on my Google Reader.  I spend a lot of time (my wife often tells me too much and she’s probably right) trying play my part in the game. I think of it as my “contribution” and whatever I do in my life I always aim to do right by my contribution. Anyway, as I peruse blogs and read posts out there in the vast nothingness, I learn what I like and what I don’t. I thought I’d list 5 and 5: 5 blogger “types” (no need to name names, though names exist!) that I glean things from and then 5 types that teach me what NOT to do.

First, Bloggers from whom I learn the most:

  1. Writers of short posts. Long posts, unless they are very well constructed . . . bore the hell out of me and I rarely finish them. If the title isn’t “amazing” then I will prboably move on before I even reach the end, ergot the point, of the post.
  2. Writers with a “#### you” attitude. The rugged individualist has always been my arch-typical hero in modern culture. The day I lose my attitude, is the day they’ll be lowering my casket into the ground. I identify with other bloggers who share that perspective.
  3. Bloggers with original layouts.
  4. Bloggers who post often.
  5. Bloggers who comment on my site and re-comment when I visit their blogs. Also those who respond in the form of a comment to comments on their posts.

TIP: Usually you can go back to check replies to your comments on other blogs by checking their “subscribe to comments” box. Sometimes they don’t have that feature. In that case, I have a dedicated folder on my bookmarks list where I save links to posts I comment on. This makes going back much easier and much more probable.

Second, Bloggers from Whom I learn what generally NOT to Do:

  1. Any blog on monetization, seo, or “how to grow your traffic.”
  2. Angry bloggers that never come up for air.
  3. Pity party posters.
  4. Careful bloggers who explain too much.
  5. AND . . . (of course you had to know this was coming) OVER-THE-TOP AD WIDGET FOLKS. (sorry, just callin’ it like it is!!!)

*If anyone feels personally attacked by this post, please don’t. I write posts of all these types. None of us will ever be perfect at this but I’m aiming at perfection anyway!

Father Damien of Molokai

One character from history, biography, and film has always held my attention: Fr. Joseph Damien de Veuster.

Tell us about a favorite character from film, theater, or literature, with whom you’d like to have a heart-to-heart. What would you talk about?

Source: It Builds Character | The Daily Post

“Damien of Molokai” is a low budget movie about a real life priest who self-exiled himself to a leper colony to care for their souls. Lepersy was 100% deadly when diagnosed back then. To be sent to the island was to receive a death sentence. What’s more? No one could ever return to the mainland.

I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Damien. I’d love to meet with him and discuss what it was like finally choosing to go to the island and sealing his earthly fate. I’d ask him about experiences paying the sick visits. How horrible was it? How did he manage to encourage people in such a state? I know his stories or wisdom would help me be a better teacher and person in general.

Soap, Gum and Doing What You Love – The Story of Wrigley’s Gum

Keep doing those hobbies, topics, and pet projects that excite you, even if they bring in little or no money. If you’re a writer, write on that stuff you’re most passionate about, despite the popularity “ranking” of the subject matter. Even something as droll as chewing gum has produced rewards in due time.

I read about Wrigley, the famous gum mogul, tonight on a website. He started selling soap as his main source of income, but kept a secret hobby of making it in the chewing gum market began in his basement. He never thought chewing gum would bring in enough money to be a big business, so he poured himself into the soap as his career. After a time however, the soap didn’t sell as he had hoped. Before long, he would be in chewing gum orbit.

To better market the soap as a novelty, the family started adhering a small package of his tasty gum to each soapbox they sold. After a short time people were buying the soap just to get the gum. You know the rest of the story. Spearmint chewing gum and gum in general is synonymous with his name.

I think the energy in our jobs and in our writing, should not always be spent on what we think will sell, but rather on our pet projects we truly feel invigorated about. We may find, as Wrigley did, that other people like them as well and they may even end up paying us money to continue doing them! Thanks for the life lesson Mr. Wrigley and thank you for Wrigleys chewing gum.

Wrigley’s full history

Accentuate the Positive

Have you noticed in your life there are some people who are always happy? Nothing gets them down and they are just great to be around? That’s how I hope to be . . . I am sure I don’t always acheive it though.

There is a lot of negative energy in this world. I have learned through hard experience not to give it my energy or attention. The next time someone says something or you read something that tends to get your gander up, just breathe and say “That’s negative energy, I have no time for it.”

When you figure we all get “80 years with luck or even less” (Pink Floyd quote) it is a bad idea to accept energy into our lives that breaks down. We need stuff that builds up in everything we let in. If negative people claim you ignore them and their thoughts, just tell them a quote someone shared with me once: “Worse things have happened at sea.” Accentuate the positive, you won’t regret it.

13 Ways I Stay Positive:

  1. Positive self talk.
  2. Compliment people around me.
  3. Practice “Possibility” thinking.
  4. Take time to order my work and living areas
  5. Consciously smiling more
  6. Movement (exercise, for example)
  7. Having real expectations
  8. Practied thankfulness (attitude of grattitude)
  9. Saying “Whatever it is I have it is enough for today.”
  10. Swim (in the warmer months) Exercise etc.
  11. Roll on the carpet and play with my kids and dog physically.
  12. Play guitar
  13. Write

Over time, accentuating the positive will become a habit. People will pick up on it and you’ll have your own diligent effort to thank.

Sorting Navels from Valencias – A Case for College

Since I lived in Orange County until I was 33 years old, I am privy to what goes on in the subcultures therein. The OC is full of people: good and bad. The way they treat each other is often tacit, but the caste system is undeniable. Just like in the royal days of King Arthur, there are knights and there are peasants. Also just like I do about things in history, I question the fairness of these modern day class systems.

One thing is relatively sure in Orange County: educated people do better. If you choose college in Orange County, you can buy yourself a good 8-10 years going to school without really applying yourself to a career. Not that you would want to do that, but I find it incredibly shocking that an uneducated person can toil away for decades in a service job, a restaurant for example, and get nowhere . . . and I mean NOWHERE. I worked at a grocery store for 5 years and Pizza Hut for 10. I know the service industry well.

Just like when Orange County first began, there are still “pickers” and “growers” of metaphorical oranges. Can you see the poster printing services getting excited already? The growers have the land and the abstract dreams and the pickers have the ability to live anywhere just to make concrete survival money. Of course, many of these lower caste workers in Orange County are illegal immigrants from Mexico. We are just 2 hours away from the border and it is getting more and more common for me to come across people in my line of work (namely parents) who cannot produce a social security number. I do not judge them. I recently found out from my mother that 2 generations ago I had relatives that outstayed their visas from Germany and the rest is history. My great great grandfather is listed on his Visa as being an “itenerant peddlar.” I assume that meant he was sent out to beg for items. Far cry from any low-paying job I ever thought I suffered through. What separates me from the itenerant peddlar “O’Riley” who came over from Ireland? Education.

When in Orange County at a fancy restaurant like say, The Fisherman’s in San Clemente, I find myself asking the question: “Who is the busboy/girl? Where do they go to college? What do they want to be when they grow up?” The truth is, they are nobody in the eyes of most of the Orange County upper class. To suggest they go to school is almost an insult to them . . . in their eyes dooming them to inevitable failure. I see these folks as the little engine that could or the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare. College is one way they can win.

I’ve had a problem with this more than once . . . going through all the phone work and attempts to help someone from this realm into a college career only to find they took their free grants and went back to Mexico to aid an ailing relative or even to buy property down there. Of course this is not always the case, but I’ve seen it a few times.

In the final analysis, you are in a sense born into a caste in Orange County. Because of your raising, you know what is possible for you. You will see many in the upper caste fall and go to jail or succumb to drugs. I have known a handful of upper caste socialites who have fallen into trouble. Usually family money and housing will save these people. One aspect of the upper caste is that they take care of their own. Rarely will they fall to the lower caste. In much the same way the lower can’t function in the upper caste world, they must either get educated or find a way to toil and survive in the lower echelon.

I still say education is anyone’s best bet to having a good life. Whether you are lower or upper, legal or illegal, star-bellied sneetch or non, I say that broadening your mind in a classroom shows a lot toward one day earning a good living. All I can say is that I probably would have had a heart attack or something worse by now without college. The world is so unsure nowadays. Can you sort the Navels from Valencias in the denizens of your hometown? This is not about judging or having prejudices. How possible is it to change social class without college?