David Bowie: Earthling, Kind Of

January 14, 2016
David Bowie Earthling in memoriam tribute

There have been a ton of tributes to David Bowie since his death last Sunday. Here’s another small one.

It’s Not Really Work, It’s Just the Power to Charm

In 1997, the movie Seven Years in Tibet was released. Starring Brad Pitt, it was based on the book of the same name written by Heinrich Harrer about his time in Tibet between 1944 and 1951. I never saw it, but I was aware of its existence.

Earlier that same year, David Bowie released a record titled Earthling that contained a song also called “Seven Years in Tibet.” That song and a handful of others ended up on a limited edition EP distributed by GQ Magazine called Earthling in the City

I no longer remember how, but I came into possession of that random EP that probably almost no one remembers existed. I suppose I bought the magazine it came with or maybe someone gave it to me, but who knows? I do remember believing there must be some connection between the movie and the song, though that turns out not to be the case at all. Still, I listened to the song almost exclusively because of a vague awareness of a Brad Pitt movie I wasn’t even that interested in.

Earthling is not remembered as one of Bowie’s best albums, though I’d wager it has a few champions. One of the amazing things about David Bowie’s music career is that he did so many different things, they probably all resonated with a handful of people. Still, I’d guess that Seven Years in Tibet” doesn’t make many Bowie top 10 lists. But it’s on there for me because of how it completely changed my understanding of, and relationship to, David Bowie.

Continue Reading…

Something Old Is Something New

January 7, 2016

On September 27, 2012, I attended an event at the offices of the McKnight Foundation, a massive family foundation worth over $2 billion based in Minneapolis. Based on the popular Inside the Actors Studio, the event was called Inside the Leadership Studio and the subject of the interview was Omar Ansari.

Here in Minneapolis, Omar’s pretty well-known as the founder and owner of Surly Brewing Company, and the company had announced it was going to build a “destination brewery,” the first of its kind in Minnesota and a really interesting project. It necessitated a change to Minnesota‘s laws, acquisition of a brownfield site, and a massive construction undertaking.

It, uh…it turned out pretty cool.

Continue Reading…

Happy New Year! A Fresh Start in 2016

December 31, 2015

Hey, so it’s 2016 tomorrow. Cool, I guess?

So, back at the beginning of December I teased that changes might be in order for how I use Lost Caws in the new year. At the time that was little more than an inkling that I ought to reevaluate things as part of the natural course of business, not as a result of any outside impetus. I have since decided that, at least for the foreseeable future, I’ll be reducing my output to one blog post a week instead of the two I’ve done for over a year.

That change begins next week. The once-per-week post will either go up on Wednesday afternoons/evenings or Thursday mornings. We’ll see. To commemorate that change, I’ll devote that first 2016 post to explaining why that change is both necessary and the result of a good thing. I’m not just getting lazy, I promise.

Dry your eyes, friends! It’ll be okay, I swear. If you need something to get you through the long, cold nights of winter, consider reading some of the stories I’ve shared over the last year. Some of them are not even terrible, probably.

In the meantime, happy New Year everyone! May your 2016 resolutions be easily forgotten once you fail to achieve them and not linger around with stench of failure and regret! Er–or, on the other hand, may you achieve them easily, with grace and aplomb! Either way’s cool.

Later, kids.

The Winter King

December 28, 2015

Wake. Now.

And so he did.

Caleb jolted upright to the sound of nothing at all. Nothing, that is, save the call of an alarm clock hardwired into his brain letting him know it was time. A strong dose of laudanum could not have kept him in bed a moment longer than mandated by the supreme and absolute Grand Law of Parental Requirement That We Not Get up until at Least Six on Christmas Morning, for Pete’s Sake.

His eyes sprung open, wide and alert, with not a hint of lingering drowsiness, and his body sprung from his bed as though bitten from underneath. A creature of the forest–the kind more likely to be prey than predator, that is–could not have achieved full wakefulness faster.

Caleb darted from his bedroom with fantastic force. Had the proper scientific instruments been present, they might have detected a brief tremble in that barrier that separates how fast a thing moves from how fast a sound can travel. A moment later, he burst into the bedroom where his parents lay sleeping, though that would soon change.

It should be noted they did not achieve full wakefulness as easily as their dear Caleb.

When at last he had stirred them from their slumber, Caleb’s mother and father allowed that he might lead them downstairs to the bounty he imagined lay beneath the balsam fir in front of the bay window. Caleb did not know the word, but he would have chosen “resplendent” to describe the tree if he did. Glass bulbs of red and silver and blue, intricately carved wooden birds of bright yellows, oranges, and purples and a twinkling golden star at its top made the tree a magnificent sight as the first predawn light snuck in through the window behind it.

And there, decorating the tree’s circumference, were the only objects in the universe that mattered–a menagerie of gifts just waiting to be revealed. He had imagined this moment for what he could only assume had been 75% of his entire life, though he understood it must be less. Somewhere in the distant recesses of his memory, he remembered a time called Thanksgiving. His grandparents had asked him then what he might want for Christmas, and his imagination could scarcely bear the weight of all the possibilities. Caleb looked up at his mother and father asking permission with his eyes. His mother gave him a nod, and his father tottered off to the kitchen to fix some coffee while Caleb dove into presents.

The moments that followed unfolded in a blur. Caleb found toys and games and chocolates and treats, more of everything than he dared expect. When his father reentered the scene with two mugs casting off wisps of steam, he noted that Santa had considered this a bountiful year, more so than most. When it was done, he thanked his parents with hugs as strong as he could muster, so grateful was he for what he had been given.

But then, an odd thing happened. The excitement of the morning faded, and it began to feel like just any other day. Caleb found himself with a feeling he could not explain, a nagging anxiousness that was all wrong. He had looked forward to this morning for weeks and weeks, which for the scope of his tiny life was little different than waiting decades. Why, now, did he feel so let down? So…disappointed? It made no sense.

So he asked his parents, and his mother, her eyes patient and kind, explained something to him.

“Sometimes wanting something is better than getting it. After you have it, what is there to look forward to?” she said.

Caleb was unimpressed at this, but his father nodded, his nose peeking over the mug of coffee as he finished a sip and explained further. “When I was a boy, only a year or two older than you, I wanted a bicycle for Christmas. I imagined all the adventures I would have on it, all the places I would go and people I would see. And when Christmas came, I got it, the exact one I wanted. But it turned out it was only a bicycle.”

“You never had adventures on it?” Caleb asked.

“I had adventures on it, even some great ones. But they could never match the ones I imagined.”

Caleb frowned. “That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? You got just what you wanted, and it still wasn’t enough.”

Caleb’s mother pulled him in, and set him on her knee.

“That is one way to look at it, but it’s not the only one.”

The boy squinted in consternation, unsure what his mother could mean.

She continued. “I see two other choices for you. First, you can decide not to be excited at all, to not even let the anticipation matter so that when you get something, it cannot possibly disappoint you. If you expect nothing, than you can’t be let down.”

Caleb made his face into the one he used to communicate how he felt about broccoli. He did not like broccoli, and he did not like this idea of never being excited about something. It seemed dreadfully boring.

“What’s the other choice?” he asked.

“I thought you might not like that one,” she said. “Here’s the other. You can choose to be excited, to imagine all the possibilities that ever were or could ever be, but then you have to remember that the excitement is the best part.”

His father chimed in again as well. “Haven’t you been happy these last few weeks? Ever since we put up the tree after Thanksgiving?”

The boy considered that. “I guess,” he said, but he was not yet convinced.

“You’ll decide in time, Caleb,” his mother said.

At that point his mother got up and began to fix breakfast. His father helped her prep and then was released to read the newspaper. Meanwhile, Caleb was left to his own devices and set about rediscovering some of the magic he had felt when he woke and had lost after opening his gifts. Surely playing with his new gifts would restore everything to order.

But he looked through the bay window and saw the world outside looked nothing at all like Christmas ought to. The ground was brown and trampled, the trees bare and lonely. It looked like he felt, and that, in turn, made him feel worse.

And then he had an idea. Maybe he could fix it. If he tried really hard, maybe he could make it look like Christmas.

So Caleb stood at the window, closed his eyes and stretched out his arms, reaching them high and wide over his head. He whispered something to himself and then looked out at the hazy sky. Using all the power he could summon, every ounce of magic and dream, Caleb called snow down from the heavens.

And it so it was that billowing cotton ball clouds, congealing where only gray expanse had been a moment earlier, drew close in clusters around Caleb’s house. They collided into each other and snowflakes burst from them like sparkling, crystalline firecrackers. The storm whirled and blew under the sway of Caleb’s powers, and he felt a rush of excitement as he commanded the elements like a wizard from some great tale.

Everywhere–the ground, the forests, and the rooftops was soon covered in soft blanket of white. Tree branches struggled under their fresh burden, and neighbors emerged from their homes to behold the sight, staring in wonderment at the boy who could summon winter. Christmas morning was once more as it should be, and Caleb took for himself a new title. Henceforth, he would be known as the Winter King, Liege and Commander of the Squalls.

From then on, Caleb sat atop his throne, clearing the skies when he wished and filling them with snow when his mood changed. His mother and father were his trusted aides and confidants, providing counsel and wisdom when he needed it. The people of the surrounding village, once only his friends and neighbors, were now his loyal subjects. They came to pay him tribute and to marvel at the magic he commanded. He was good and just, the Winter King, and his reign was long and prosperous.

Or, at the very least, that’s what Caleb imagined.

The Night before Christmas

December 24, 2015

Tomorrow’s Christmas, which means…


Continue Reading…

To Buy or Not to Buy: Wanting and Wastefulness

December 21, 2015

I am facing a dilemma, and it’s kind of a dumb one. Here it is:

I have a perfectly adequate smartphone. It’s an iPhone 5s, and it does absolutely all the things I needed it to do and most of the things I want it to. There is no way I can make the case that I need a new phone. It’s not true. My phone is still in good condition. The battery life has not diminished in any appreciable way. It’s fine.

It’s fine.

But I want a new phone. Like, a lot. Waaaaay too much. In the past couple of weeks I’ve watched for deals and scheming the best way to maximize discounts for everything from the new Nexus 5x and 6p, Moto X Pure to the iPhone 6s. Maybe I want to experiment a bit with the OnePlus 2?  I’ve tried to decide whether I’d be okay with an iPhone 6-a one model year upgrade-or whether it makes more sense to have the newest since it’ll (theoretically) last longer.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine that’ll matter since I’ll probably be doing this again before any of those devices needs replacing.

Continue Reading…

Studying Storytelling: Star Wars

December 17, 2015
star wars movie storytelling

This is Volume 10 in an ongoing series called Studying Storytelling where I look at HOW stories are told, not the stories themselves. For more on the inspiration for this series, start here. For an index of previous entries, go here

I wasn’t gonna do it. I swear. The post on Monday was meant to be my only reference to Star Wars this week, but I couldn’t help myself. Because the new movie opens widely tomorrow and because it seems like the whole world is caught in the inertia of this beloved franchise, I found myself thinking about the previous six movies in the context of my Studying Storytelling series.

Writing this is almost certainly a bad idea. For one, I’m going to try to keep it brief despite the fact that world of storytelling in Star Wars is enormous–six (now seven!) feature films, animated shows, books, comics, games and more. I can’t do it all justice in a single blog post, and I don’t intend to try.* It is its own sort of cottage industry within the larger media landscape at this point. There’s even a highly rated, 200 page book just about what you’d need to know to be ready for The Force Awakens. The stories in the movies have already been analyzed so much it’s hard to know whether there’s anything worth saying about them, and I’m not nearly as well versed in the fandom as so many others out there.

Continue Reading…

Have You Heard about This “Star Wars” Thing?

December 14, 2015

On Friday of this week, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will open to North American audiences after premiering in Hollywood TONIGHT! (OMG OMG OMG). This is officially Episode VII in George Lucas’ ongoing epic space opera, and people are…a bit excited about it. I have done some calculations, and I have determined it will make ALL THE MONEY. There will be no more money left to make after Friday, so you might want to hurry if you’d like to make some more money real quick.

Continue Reading…

Here’s What I’ve Read This Year (and What It Means)

December 10, 2015

Early in 2015, I logged onto Goodreads and noticed that they had a “Reading Challenge.” It was very simple. Set a goal for how many books you want to read and as you mark them complete, they populate your list. Goodreads then keeps you posted on your progress toward your goal. For those who just want to get to the goods, here’s my list as it stands on December 10th, though I’ll note there’s a handful of things missing as of the moment this post is going up. Will I get around to adding them? Maybe!

Continue Reading…

Status Check: Where I Stand on My Goals from October

December 7, 2015

Back in October, I decided I needed to be more ambitious with my writing. Doing NaNoWriMo for a second time did not feel like enough, and I thought I could push myself to do more. In that post linked above, I laid out five specific goals that would comprise the focus of my writing through at least November. In my head, that was always going to extend through the end of 2015. This is partly because some of them were by their nature going to extend beyond November and because I wasn’t sure it was realistic to get them all done in 30 days.

But why not see where they stand today? Here’s each goal with a brief description of how it’s gone since October.

Continue Reading…