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The moment a price is to be had for a luxury, it acquires exchange value, and labor is employed to produce it. A New York lady, for instance, having a nature of exquisite sensibility, orders an elegant rosewood and silver coffin, upholstered in pink satin, for
her dead dog. It is made; and meanwhile a live child is prowling barefooted and hunger-stunted in the frozen gutter outside. The exchange-value of the coffin is counted as part of the national wealth; but a nation which cannot afford food and clothing for its children cannot be allowed to pass as wealthy because it has provided a pretty coffin for a dead dog.

Shaw, p. 22 (1889)

People have been thinking about how immensely screwed up our economy is for a long time.

pretty sure this week i reached my recovery limit. I failed my 3 sets of 190x5 on the bench Monday (I did 190x4/190x4/185x4) and then proceeded to fail my 115 seated strict press on wednesday, and have now failed a 185 bench today.

wednesday I had some really weird cramping in my left shoulder on both sets of 115 press (i didn't fail the reps, the cramping stopped me from doing a third set, though.) haven't had any pain or discomfort since, so no injury apparently.

so i guess my plan of attack is to drop the weight by 20lbs on all of my lifts and switch to a 4x6-8 set and rep range, with shorter rest periods. I'll increase the lifts 5 lbs every session until I get back to my current sticking point. This should give me some active recovery, and the extra volume should help with form issues and make the 5 rep max lifts easier when I get back to them.

going to do some assistance work (rotator cuff PT exercises and my hamstring exercises) and stretching on off days as well. Hopefully in a few weeks I'm back to pushing for new records, at least for a little while.

PRs and other stuff
Right now my lifts are at:

Bench Press: 180lbs 3 sets of 5 reps
Seated Overhead Press (strict, no back support): 110lbs 3 sets of 5 reps.
Low Bar Back Squat: 200-205lbs 3 sets of 5 reps
Deadlift: 210lbs 1 set of 5 reps

My body weight is right around 190lbs. Only +10lbs from around 3-4 months ago. I am back to overeating again, so I expect to hit 200lbs sometime in the next two months. Not really sure where I want to end up - but I don't really like dealing with a waist size that makes my pants uncomfortable, so about that time is when I'll start cutting again (and stop progression on lifts for awhile.)

Very close to a body weight bench press which makes me happy. But the real goal would be a body weight overhead press (and around a 300 1RM bench) and I'm sure those are at least a year or two away. Squats continue to be something I feel like I should be much stronger at than I am - 205lbs isn't as nearly as respectable at my bodyweight for a squat as a 180lb bench is. Have always been bad at them, for whatever reason.

I don't struggle with deadlifts at all. I feel like I could pull much more weight than I am (especially fresh) but with the program it's difficult. The lumbar feels like it's about to fail by the time I get to deads, and that one set is enough to finish me off. Do wonder what my 1RM would truly be if I tried it fresh, though.

On music:
Has been some more activity here, I may have mentioned it in a previous post. The person who commissioned me for his game finally received word from the label he wanted to get sync rights from for a few songs, and apparently dropped them my soundcloud and email. He thinks really highly of my work - I think the label would probably just laugh it off. I find it so hard to believe anyone thinks highly of what I do. But, I guess, some do - or they're really good at faking it, anyway.

I did a really dark, industrial piece at the end of last week for a friend who sent me cover vocals. That's almost up to 200 plays now on soundcloud, and without any advertising to speak of. In my view, that's actually pretty good, given I don't exactly have a lot of people following me and getting updates on new uploads. Those people are coming organically from word of mouth or by accident.

Still haven't sold anything though, and that's a bummer. Taking a little week hiatus from music right now - maybe by the weekend I'll feel more inspired, or maybe I won't. I should probably take this time where I'm *not* being asked to do work for others (and am refusing to *be inspired* because I wrote non-stop 12+hrs a day for about two weeks) to learn another song or two.

For Every Action
I often find myself wondering if Newton's Third Law applies in many more ways than merely just the physical.

When I was a testosterone poisoned teenager, I often swung wildly between degrees of bliss and long periods of depression. As I aged, that effect has been heavily blunted - I still experience it, but not nearly to the same level, and not nearly as often. I am smooth sailing at most times.

However, recently - the past month or so - I've noticed that any sort of strong creative inspiration that I act on (ones that, inevitably, include high degrees of flow) tends to lead to the exact opposite at its completion. All three of my most recent compositions have put me in the dumps, for no particular reason I can identify - all of the works are much higher quality than what I'm used to (though I did recently go back and look over Until Never and most of it is, honestly, a lot higher quality than I felt it was at completion.) In fact, they might be some of my best works yet, and unlike usual, I don't *want* to really change them. They may not be perfect (nothing in this world is, unless we're lying to ourselves) but they're exactly what they need to be.

I don't know if I have spontaneously developed this relationship with my creative work, or if there has always been a kind of up and down relationship with it I never noticed before. It's not predictable in the same sense as my bouts in youth - normally the 'dumps' end the moment I push through a tough strength training section and get my mind focused elsewhere - but they're still there, in the background noise, until enough time as passed, or I start another inspired composition.

I wonder - do the highs that the writing process some of these songs produce in me (and the flow) result in a sort of violent feedback on my psychological-emotional systems? I mean, I'm familiar enough with hangovers or other drug induced backlashes, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to draw a parallel here. One wonders the sort and amount of neurotransmitters that get released when I'm working on this extremely emotional music, and if there isn't a burnout period afterwords.

I gave up on reading the Drizzt novels at The Crystal Shard. Simply lost interest. TCS was the *first* novel Salvatore wrote, with the "Homeland" trilogy coming after the TCS trilogy, and it was not very good. This doesn't mean his works don't get better *after* the TCS trilogy, but I just know...the damn series is too long. He milked it for everything it was worth.

One can only read so many fight scenes before one thirsts for a more meaty story and character development, and some sort of overarching story line that drives one to keep flipping pages.

So, this post is a reminder to me to look into getting my hands on the Harry Potter books (I've caught the cinema series in piecemeal over the years, finally finishing it up this week thanks to SciFi - and I think it's time I read a series so popular) as well as the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin, yet another series I was made aware of by SciFi channel (but many years ago.)

And I thought some of my pieces were hare-brained

This is a fairly famous piece - Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain - and I will premise this short post by saying that I actually do like a lot of this.

But around 5:12 I came to the sudden realization that...this work is *refusing* to complete a particular phrase or section and instead is quite happy to abruptly switch to different themes with wanton abandon. I find my favorite sections of this work are the ones that are longer - and more well developed.

I've done some quick reading to see what his intentions were, and it seems like what *we're* getting was edited and published by another man - how much of this Mussorgsky intended, it appears, we simply don't know (or, if we do, I can't be bothered to dig for it.) The editor and publisher was Rimsky-Korsakov, and *his* version - the one that's linked and is famous - was a smash hit in St. Petersburg at its debut. However, Mussorgsky was already dead at this point, and never even saw his own work performed. Quite sad.

(no subject)
This is a somber piece that I've been trying to put together for a really long time - close to a year. I never could get it off of the ground. The temp track for it was "Fortress of Regrets" from the Planescape Torment soundtrack, and it's meant to be a gift for an old friend of mine who has developed and ran a high-fantasy MUD game (the only game I still frequent) for two decades.

Whether I just lacked inspiration or couldn't quite make the very minor, regretful sensation work, I'm not sure. Seems to have worked this time, though. I feel like the brightness of the strings in the second section could be turned down a notch, but besides that, I'm fairly happy with it.


I would like to be more in line with this in the future in my own works, but trying to do chord substitutions and accidentals all the time while making it sound good is a pretty high difficulty task. I do think it's something which separates men from boys, though.

the egret
The past two days my father and I have noticed a white egret (not sure of the specific type - it's not a large variety, with a smaller beak that has no black tip, and dark legs) hanging around the house - which is fairly odd, given the time of year. I've been doing some reading, and as it turns out, they *will* rarely weather winters in Pennsylvania - but I'm not sure why it would've chosen our house (besides the fact we provide ample seed on a daily basis in a large feeder.) We're nowhere near a lake here, though the river is about a half mile as the crow flies down the hill.

Tonight I stepped out on the porch for some fresh air in the brisk 28 degree weather, and as I was standing on the edge looking around, I noticed in the darkness a white, ball shaped thing next to the edge of the porch. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was - I spent a good 30 seconds considering the possibilities when it dawned on me - could it be the egret? And I swear the moment that thought crossed my mind the thing sprang up and made me jump about foot backwards. I startled it, too, because it turned around and ran out a good 20 feet out before spreading its huge wings wide.

I am a bit concerned about its ability to survive if it sticks around here long. We've some warmer temperatures coming next week but I doubt they will last.

(no subject)
I voted today, though it's mostly pointless - our districts were redrawn this year by the PA supreme court (which should be, in the big picture, beneficial for most of the state - republicans had been gerrymandering these districts for a long time) so my current district has a battle that can't be won by anyone left of the right (this district is now something like 60-70% red.) Our district used to contain Erie, which made it a bit more contested. However, this is better for Erie so I can live with it - I guess.

My vote for PA governor and senator is all that really has a chance of mattering. As far as presidential elections go, my vote will no longer matter - I highly doubt this district will ever go blue. The house election is unlikely - the democratic candidate for my district is a sociology professor (you know, one of those 'useless degrees' according to the new right wing) which, I'm sure, will make Rs come out in droves to ensure the incumbent survives.

The local paper ran a half page 'our opinion' editorial yesterday, telling people to go out and vote Republican. There hasn't been a single ad in it for a democratic candidate that I've seen for the past few weeks. The Sunday guide ran a full front page entirely dedicated to Republicans last week. That should tell you everything you need to know about this region.

As for Kathy Rapp, she once again is running uncontested for this district. She has ran uncontested every election for my entire adult life (if memory serves.) I wrote in "NOT KATHY RAPP" though I know it doesn't matter. (This woman's deceased husband was an IBEW worker his entire life, and half of his pension now goes to her. She's all for "right-to-work" anti-union laws...isn't that funny?)

When I was a teenager, I bought (well, had bought for me) and read through every Drizzt novel by R.A. Salvatore from Homeland up until The Thousand Orcs or so. Back then, for whatever reason, I always had a very hard time recalling books, even ones I had *just read* - I might've been able to pull a detail here or there out of memory, but the rest of it was basically haze. Reading for me was like watching a movie - I didn't read as fast then as I do now, but I usually became so absorbed in the process (flow) that time was lost.

I haven't read fiction since then, save a handful of books or shorts. I guess I convinced myself it was stupid/pointless, or that I was no longer interested - whatever the reason, I had resigned myself to never reading it again.

After having eaten through second in the first trilogy "Exile" (I'm missing the first novel - an old friend of mine has both my copy and his, and when I do see him, I never feel it appropriate to ask for it) in about a day, I'm changing that, for a number of reasons.

It's proven to me by virtue of how quickly and *well* I read Exile, that my inability to *focus* whilst reading certain works is not from a decrease in my own attention span or mental faculties. The reason I thought such a thing possible is because of the difficulty I have reading Plato's collective works or Heidegger (or some other philosophers) without my mind wandering every couple paragraphs. Maybe my brain just needs to adapt again to reading solid, lengthy blocks of text - that is one possibility, and fiction will help that - but it's also possible that it has nothing to do with my own comprehension/focus - rather, it's simply that dry philosophical texts are boring. We'll see, after I eat through a few more of these books - I'll give the 'hard' philosophy another shot later.

Now, save for "Salem's Lot" (I don't read much King...simply don't care for him all that much - The Talisman series was good, Salem's Lot was okay, and The Gunslinger universe is also okay) I've really never read a work of fiction twice - and I did Salem's Lot multiple times as a teenager, never as an adult. So reading "Exile" for the second time in my life, well over a decade later, was a *very* interesting experience!

In the first few chapters I remembered reading a handful of important details from before - but I found as I progressed further in the novel, more and more details started coming back to me, at times before the events themselves occurred in the novel. Drizzt's stay in the svirfneblin city of Blingdenstone, the wizard in the Underdark, meeting the polymorphed hook-horror pech they named "Clacker", how the "zin-carla" of Zaknafein dies. Gwenwhyvar's astral world (Gwenwhyvar is maybe my favorite character - a black panther that Drizzt can only summon once a day or two. Salvatore does such a *good* job providing life and personality to her, even though she has no words to speak.)

I was surprised *so much* was locked away in my mind - locked away so tight, I couldn't even remember it under my own power before I had started reading the book. (Almost as if I had repressed it - probably along with 95% of my memories of high school, truth be told.)

"Exile" is a great novel on the whole. There's a lot of parallels that I see in Drizzt's struggles with my own (wouldn't you know, I've got my own "Menzoberranzan", or maybe two, that I had to escape from and leave behind, physically or mentally) that I didn't see when I was younger and less experienced.

The only gripe I have - and it's one I didn't have as a teen - is that Salvatore spends too much time and detail on the fight scenes. He's not bad at writing them - it creates plenty of suspense - but I really am not a huge fan of detailing gore/violent acts. It doesn't matter that it's a fantasy universe - when one sentient thing kills another, it's extremely troubling to me. Of course, it's *supposed to be* - but there sure is an awful lot in these novels, and I had forgotten all about that part of it.