One Year of Failure

Oh my goodness I’ve been writing on this stupid blog for over a year.

My first post was published on May 14, 2016. So I missed the official one-year anniversary. So I failed at commemorating the occasion. Big deal.

Here’s how I opened that post:

Hello. My name is Alex, and I’m a failure.

And that’s okay.

If you’ve never failed at anything, that probably means that you haven’t tried anything.

So you see? I’m merely living up to expectations.

All kidding aside, it’s always cool to look back and see that you’ve been doing something consistently over a long period. I’m going to claim victory on this one, since it’s the longest I’ve ever kept a blog.

And you know something? I’ve actually learned a few things during this time. Things I’m gonna go share because this is a blog and pompous, long-winded explanations are what people do: Continue reading “One Year of Failure”

I Have Seen The Future, And It Sucks

The world is changing before our eyes. We see it being remade in real-time, and in many ways, these changes are for the worse.

Do you feel sick? I do. Last night in Manchester, England, evil Islamic murders deliberately targeted young kids, primarily girls, at an Ariana Grande concert. At last count, 22 are dead and dozens injured. 

These attacks are happening with increased frequency and brazenness. Whether it’s guns, bombs, trucks, or knives, we are told that this is the price to pay for living in our brave new world. 

It’s nonsense, of course. All of it. Many of these deaths are preventable. But short-sighted bureaucrats who care only for their own power have foisted these conditions upon us. 

Reality must conform to their vision of the world. And when it doesn’t, they double-down on the magical thinking and more people are sacrificed so that they can feel good about themselves. 

I’m pretty steamed, but I’ve calmed down since last night. Here’s where I am:

  • There will be no political solution. 
  • Things will get worse before they get better, if they get better. 
  • This will come to the U.S. if we don’t get serious about two things: Destroying ISIS and similar organizations wherever they pop up, and controlling our own borders and immigration policy. 

I don’t want to write about this. I really don’t. But jihad ruins everything.  

Want to know who else does? The elitist politicians and bureaucrats who insist on importing jihadists into our societies and telling us that it’s good for us. 

Instead, they have wrecked in only a generation or two societies and cultures that have taken centuries of blood and toil to build. 

To hell with all of them. 

I’m ready for our systems to be razed to the ground and be replaced with something that will at least act in service of the people who just want to mind their own business. 

Not with malice, but with the spirit of truth. 

But more than anything, I long for the day when calling something by its name isn’t seen as some dangerous, rebellious act. 

And I’m praying that some kind of peace can descend upon the world instead of all this chaos. 

Improve yourself. 

Improve your community. 

Take care of your family. 

Seek truth. 

And be careful. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters

So why go on about my trip? What purpose does this have beyond sharing some photos and stories of a voyage to one of the most interesting countries in the world?

I think travel is good. It’s beneficial to anywhere new to you. It is especially good to get off of Planet America once in a while, not to bash the USA, but just to get some perspective about how people in other parts of the world live, act, and think.

See, America is a huge country. Which is great! And while there are regional differences–think New Hampshire versus Kentucky versus California (in a three-way fist-fight, my money is on the Bluegrass State), there is much more similarity between the states than there is between the U.S. and other countries.

Okay, you can argue that Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia are all quite similar, but you get my point.

Spending a length of time in another country makes you think about your home. I had some particularly interesting thoughts and feelings, given that I and my entire family is Greek, and so is my wife’s. I’ve written about the changing nature of America and what being an “American” even means anymore, This was underscored in Greece, which has a cultural cohesion we just don’t have in the United States.

It’s interesting, because the United States has historically been billed as “A Nation of Immigrants.”

Or has it? This is actually more of a modern conception. The first few great waves of immigration, including the one my family came to these shores during a century ago, were actually tightly controlled affairs. And the integration was not as smooth as we’re lead to believe.

And of course you have the African-American population, who were brought here as slaves and then, even after the abolition of the slave trade and then, finally, the institution of slavery, had difficulty integrating into the wider white-dominated society. And they were here from the founding!

So going to any monoethnic, monocultural nation is a bit of an eye opener.

And it was kind of nice! Being Greek in America, you don’t exactly stick out like a sore thumb, at least from a visual standpoint (though most people guess my ethnicity on the first or second try). But there are only about a million of us here, we are a minority religious denomination, and not everybody understands the glory of moussaka, souvalki, roasting lamb, pig, or goat on a spin, spanakopitabalkava, or bougatsa.

People in America do get gyros. But I digress.

Anyway, I liked being around people who got the food, the music, the dancing, the religious traditions, and all of the other cultural touchstones.

And it got me thinking . . . it’s good to keep places what makes them unique, that keep Greece Greek, Japan Japanese, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Egyptian, Brazil Brazilian, and so on.

We see this sentiment to a degree here among the states as well. “Keep Austin Weird” comes to mind. Or how New Yorkers want to keen New York NEW YORK. The South doesn’t like the Damn Yankees moving there. Some in Oregon and Washington claim that Californians irrevocably changed their states. Hell, people in New Hampshire get pissy when Massachusetts residents pack up shop and move to the Granite State.

How do you preserve these state cultures then? Discourage people from moving there? How?

It’s a weird thing, but it really makes you wonder. We like to believe in freedom of movement, but there are also issues of national sovereignty. Obviously, nations can do things that U.S. states cannot. But do they? Should they?

Tough questions, and interesting ones. Do I have any answers. Absolutely not. But travel just makes a guy think about these things.

Anyway, that’s why this whole experience is important. Not my experience. Just travel in general. I highly recommend that if you have a chance to visit a foreign country, you take it.

In my life I have been to Canada, England, Greece, Austria, Germany, and South Africa. Each have offered insights into not only my life, but my homeland of the United States. Each have been worthy experiences. I only wish I had the time and the resources to travel more.

Where would I like to go next? That’s an interesting question. There are places in the U.S. I am yet to see. I’ve spent time in most of the coastal South and parts of the Midwest. But I’ve never been to California outside of L.A., never seen the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or the rest of the mountain west.

As far as other countries, I definitely have a bucket list: Italy, Hungary, France, China, Japan, Australia, India, Egypt, Israel, and Russia come to mind. As you can see, I’m into places that have a lot of ancient history. Maybe I’ll make it to these places someday. And maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

But what I do know is that I’d love to go back to Greece again, and soon.

So now a little fun: Some of my favorite things about Ellada–that’s Greece in Greek-talk–and some things that I find a little . . . less-than stellar. Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part III: Why It Matters”

The Rust Man: Chapter 1


Presented, without comment (save this one) is the first chapter in what I’ve been working on the past year or so. Enjoy!

Part I: Red Circle

Chapter 1

The boy ran through the forest, away from the horrible sound of those rattling bones. He was so frightened that, for a moment, he even forgot who he was.

Heinrich. My name is Heinrich. I am Heinrich von Eppanhof, son of Johannes von Eppanhof. I am from Vienna, capital of the most powerful empire on the continent.

And a skeleton is chasing me.

There should be no such thing, he knew. Skeletons were supposed to stay in the ground, notwithstanding what the Scriptures say. And he didn’t believe, couldn’t believe, that such a fate was what lay ahead in the resurrection.

At least the thing was away from Ilsa. But Ilsa, clinging to a rock in the Danube, was not out of trouble. Not yet. If he did not find help soon, she would learn that the depths of those normally placid waters could be just as deadly as any monster from the depths of her nightmares. But there would also danger in whatever help he may come across; anyone wandering in these woods at this late hour might be a worse kind of monster. The human kind.

He would have fought the skeleton, of course, but like a fool he had left his sword at home. I won’t need it, he had told himself. The Empire is safe. What danger could there be in spending a romantic night by the river with the one he loved?

Now he could see what a stupid, cosseted scion of nobility he truly was.

Soft. I am soft and I am paying the price. His father would be disappointed in him. As usual. Even now, racing for his life through the forest, he could hear his father’s stern words: “A man must always be prepared, Heinrich. What were you thinking?”

Right now, Father . . . right now all I am thinking about is how to stay alive.

The clattering grew closer, as did that chill, that icy blast of inhumanity emanating from the skeleton. It was like a smell; not aggressive scent of decay, not exactly. It was aggressive, yes, but aggressive in its complete emptiness, as though the skeleton inhabited a void that drew in the life and warmth surrounding it.

One slip, one loss of ground, and that emptiness would be upon him. And what then?

But the moon was his friend that night, her light filtering through the trees to guide him with a silvery finger. He always thought of the moon as a her, mysterious and seductive in the night sky, coyly revealing only one side of her face to her waiting earthbound suitors.

More flighty mooning, his thoughts yet again turning to tales of lords and ladies, love and adventure. No wonder both his father and Karl his sword instructor thought him an unserious boy.

He was a man, or would be soon. And he had to start acting like one.

He hopped the gnarled branch of an oak, hoping that the thing behind him would trip, falling to the ground in an explosion of lifeless bones.

But when he peeked over his shoulder the thing still followed, grinning malevolently and holding aloft a long, thick bone. Where that bone came from, Heinrich couldn’t say; the skeleton seemed to have all of its in place. But that was a mystery to ponder on another, safer day.

He turned back and found himself face-to-face with a tree that had seemed to leap into his path. With a grace he did not know he possessed he spun, skirting the tree and continuing his flight for at least a few moments more.

Suddenly he was out of the forest and onto the road, bursting from the wilderness in a spray of leaves and branches. The sight of that hard-packed dirt, so familiar to him, had never been so welcome. And there, a little further ahead, he saw the shadowy form of someone walking towards the city. A man. A large one.

The man carried no torch. Who wanders down the road without light? Heinrich thought, even with the moon so bright? But a drowning man did not scoff at the lifeline dangling before him, even if it lead up into the unknown.

“Help!” he screamed, panic giving his voice strength. “Over here, help!”

A strong wind blew towards the city, stray leaves swirling along the road. The man’s cloak fluttered around his legs like folded wings. He stopped moving and turned, but did not come running.

Heinrich opened his mouth to yell again, but something hard struck his head, cutting off his cry. He fell to his knees as though in prayer before toppling forward with his face in the dirt. Next to him, a long bone fell to the road with a heavy thump.

He lay, wondering what the skeleton would do to him and how much it would hurt. But before the panic overtook him he felt an odd calm envelop him like a warm blanket. Things will not be so bad on the other side, he thought. There would be no pain and no sorrow, no skeletons chasing him through dark forests. He would see his mother again . . . Continue reading “The Rust Man: Chapter 1”

Earning by Doing

Every parent has dreams for their kids: Success…health…happiness…fulfillment. 

We want these things not for our own benefit–I hope–but because we love them so damn much. 

And in trying to ensure that these things happen, we expose them to things that we hope enrich their lives. 

My son loves music, for instance–listening, singing, dancing. He’s fascinated by my guitars and drum set, and has expressed interest in learning something

So we signed him up for piano lessons. 

It went great! He really enjoyed his first lesson, and took to it readily and eagerly. My wife and I were thrilled, especially since we had just taken my mother’s piano off of her hands after my parents’ recent move. 

Of course, our son’s teacher wanted him to practice at home, ideally three times per week. Why wouldn’t she? And why wouldn’t my wife and I?

Simple, right?

Quiz time: In two months of taking lessons, guess how many times he practiced?

If you said “Zero,” consider yourself a winner. 

“It’s boring!” he’d say, finding something else to do. He also thinks most things are boring, including school (my son!), so we took this with a grain of salt. 

But you know what? Even with incentives from us and his teacher, he would not touch the damn keyboard to save his life. 

So here came a fatherly conundrum: Do I force him to stick with something he clearly doesn’t enjoy because I know it’s good for him, or do I seek other learning avenues that appeal to him?

My boy is what you’d call “strong-willed,” which research has taught me really means he’s big on independence, autonomy, and choices.

In other words, he doesn’t like being told what to do without a reason and a say in the matter

He also responds best to experiential learning.

Sounds familiar…

Mind you, he’s not quite five, so I’m not exactly having a structured debate with him. But I do try to listen to him and treat him like a human being. And I’d rather not create the association in him of “music” with “negativity.”


Enter Legos. 

He’s always been obsessed with them, which is a great thing. There was a particular set, a castle, he’s wanted for months. 

So my wife and I struck upon the idea, prior to canceling piano lessons, that if he did X amount of lessons, we’d get him the set.

Nope. 

And so, with heavy heart, we discontinued the lessons. 

I know I could have pushed him, and I know he not only could have gotten good at piano, but it would have benefited him immeasurably–music is wonderful like that. 
This would be a tougher nut to crack. How do I motivate him? He’s a really sharp kid (everyone thinks their kid is sharp), but he never seems to want to put in the reps. 

Yet like I said, I try to listen to him. 

Lately he tells us he wants to skip age five and go right to six.

“Okay,” I said. “Six-year-olds can read and write.”

This sounds odd, right? Like a non sequiter? And kind of mean? But listen: Ever since we moved, taking him out of the fantastic preschool he was attending, his writing and reading, as it is, has backslider dramatically. 

We’ve been trying to get him to practice on his own using some workbooks we’ve purchased, but to little avail.

“If you can do ten lesson,” I told him, “I’ll get you that Lego set.”

This he could get behind. So I whipped up a list and stuck it to the fridge, letting him check off each successful lesson. 

“You’re going to earn these Legos,” I told him. 

“Earning things is silly,” he said three lessons into our deal, frustrated and cranky. And of course, as he says, bored. 

See, the kid gets impatient when he can’t do something right away. Not surprising. I used to be the exact same way. 

So I leaned on him, explaining why but still being firm. I told him, “Do some now, do some later, do some tomorrow, but you don’t get the Legos until you do ten.” Hey, someone’s got to be the cranky guy at the head of the table

“You’re going to earn this,” I said, “and it’s going to feel so good when you get it.”

It only took the little son-of-a-gun a week to do all ten lessons. 

Now, is this bribery? Of course it’s bribery. But so is our modern economy, truthfully. Except that it’s voluntary. Everyone (theoretically) follows the same rules: Want something? Earn it!

His excitement was palpable as we drove to the toy store. He was so happy, so proud of himself. And I was proud of him. I hope that feeling lasts in him longer than the joy of having that Lego set. 

And I need to think of other incentives to keep him going. For little kids, the extrinsic motivations are more powerful. But I’m going to try to inculcate some intrinsic ones while I’m at it. 

After all, I can’t trust the schools to do this. 

Everybody gets a trophy? Not in my house. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

Travels in Greece, Part II: History Abounds

The Lion of Amphipolis.

When traveling, some people like to do nothing more than do nothing. 

I am not one of those people.

Yet despite my proclivities, the rather loose structure of our stay in Greece, coupled with the need to do things four-year-old appropriate, resulted in many days spent visiting, drinking coffee, and wandering around. 

Which, coupled with the lack of Internet during the duration of the trip, was kind of nice. 

But we did manage to sneak a few forays into some interesting parts of the old country. Here are a few of them. 

Amphipolis

Amphipolis is an ancient city in northern Greece, in the Macedonia and Thrace regions. The city played a pivotal role during the Peloponnesian War, acting as the center of the Athenian’s presence in Thrace. It’s strategic importance was due, in large part, to its position by the River Strymon, which opens up into the Strymonian Gulf and the Aegean Sea beyond.

And speaking of the Aegean Sea, did you know that its name comes from King Aegeus?  Father of the mythological hero Theseus, King Aegeas threw himself into the sea when Theseus failed to return from his quest to vanquish the Minotaur in the labyrinth of the Cretan king Minos. 

Oh wait! Theseus lived! So what happened?  Continue reading “Travels in Greece, Part II: History Abounds”

Delayed Gratification in Music

Music is the best. 

So is delayed-gratification. 

If you’re an adult–a successful one, I mean, regardless of what it is you have found success at–you are likely familiar with and practice the concept of delayed gratification, which is itself a function of self-control. 

By this, I mean the idea that you forego a short-term pleasure or gain now so that you can set yourself up for better, more lasting pleasure or gain in the future

This can also be thought of as long-term thinking (eternity sure is a long time, don’t you think?).

Or you can think of it as the future vale of something, such as money, the idea being that a dollar is worth more in the future than it is now, thanks to, let’s say, investing it. 

Or maybe delayed gratification can be seen as avoiding a Pyrrhic victory. See, in 280 and 279 B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus, a region of modern-day Greece, defeated the Romans in two battles. However, these battles inflicted such heavy losses on his own army that Pyrrhus is reported to have said that any more such victory would undo him. 

Pyrrhus later lost the war.  

So what does all this have to do with music?

A lot, really. The concept of delayed gratification can be applied to art in general in that it’s all about rhythm and timing–think set-up and payoff.

What better medium than music to discuss this? Continue reading “Delayed Gratification in Music”