writing shit

So, this is a shameless plug for my boyfriend. :D

If any of you are interested in the guitar, or just interested in a grassroots movement to get a musician's work out there, you should take a gander at this site: www.MichaelTillman.com

Take a listen to the first clip of music he has on the homepage there, and join the forums or subscribe for three bucks a month to get his MP3s sent to you as he writes and arranges more music. There's also a great, GREAT arrangement of "Hey Jude" that's available in the forum. :D

But what the hell, I'll link you now so you can hear:

He does everything, from Elizabethan/Renaissance style classical guitar, to writing his own stuff, to arranging jazz and flamenco standards.

You can also join his Facebook fanpage here, if you wish: I created it for him to surprise him. ;)
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    Michael Tillman - "Hey Jude"
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writing shit

LJ Idol - Week 5 - The Phoenix and the Falcon

Once, there was a great dark bird, and he was the only bird like him in the world. He had winged his way across the seas and back many times. He was wise, but he was very lonely, for in his freewheeling travels, he had seen much of pain and suffering, but very little of beauty. He did not recognize he was lonely, for this was the only existence he had ever known. He had never seen another creature like him, who could tell him who he was. But something in him desired to learn. Whenever something caught his eye from high above, he grew hopeful. "This looks interesting," he would say to himself. "I wonder if they can tell me things." So he would dive down and alight.

"Hello," he would say, "Who are you, and why do you exist?"

They would look at the great bird, with his wind-tattered wings and his battle scars, and shake their heads. "We are who we are. And you are strange."

"Who am I?" he would ask, and they would shake their heads again.

"We do not know. You are strange to us, and we do not understand you." And they would leave him. He would fly off again with only the solitude of his existence as his guide.

This he repeated many times, with many creatures. Each time brought him the same result.

You are strange to us, and we do not understand you.

Eventually, the bird lost hope. It was too painful to be reminded of how alone he was, how alien and strange. And, he assumed, ugly. For no creature ever stayed. No creature ever understood.

One day, long after he had quietly accepted he would always be alone, the bird spied something below. He did not think he would find answers, but still, it was curious to him. It was a bright spot, brighter than anything he had seen before. Even the sun in the sky above and the sharp diamonds of tossing waves were not as brilliant.

He flew closer and landed. In front of him was a creature he had never seen the likes of before. She was standing in the middle of a flame, the brightest thing he had ever seen, but she did not show pain. Instead, as he watched, she smiled, spread her wings, and burned up.

The huge bird was horrified. She was there one moment, and then she was gone. The bird ran to the spot, and saw nothing but golden ashes. And he surprised himself then, for he realized he was sad. He bowed his noble, scarred head. The first tear had fallen when he noticed something stirring in the ashes. As he watched, a shape grew and grew, and as it grew, he realized it was her, the creature he had seen, rising from the ashes.

He had seen much in his life, but this astonished him.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I am Phoenix," she replied.

"Why do you exist, Phoenix?"

"I exist to burn."

"But why?"

"Because it is in my nature."

"And who am I?" he cried out in misery.

She touched his face gently.

"You are Falcon, of course."

"Falcon? I am Falcon? But how do you know?"

"Because it is simply who you are and who I understand you to be. It is you. It has always been who you are."

And just like that, Falcon knew who he was. He had been named, and recognized. He had been instinctively understood. He was home. For the first time in his life, he did not have the urge to immediately take to the sky again to find another adventure or battle, but to say with this strange, gentle creature.

"I will stay with you now," said Falcon.

"Yes. You will. We are each made for the other. I have been waiting for you," said Phoenix. But Falcon sensed a sadness in her, and asked why this was.

"Because it is in my nature to burn."

"I do not understand," said Falcon.

"My love," she said, touching his face again, "You will. And the pain will be unbearable."

"You will never hurt me, Phoenix," he said. "I know it is not in your nature to hurt."

"No," she said simply. "But it is to burn. You will understand."

"I am not afraid," he said.

"You are not afraid of anything. That is your nature. And I love you for it."

She paused.

"But I will burn."

So the Falcon settled down with the Phoenix and for quite some time, they were very happy together. They learned, and they talked, and they grew together. The Falcon thought this would never change, and he was at peace. He was so overjoyed to have found his companion. Every night, he would wrap his wing tightly around Phoenix and pull her against him. And every morning, he would let her go only after she had said she loved him. They both found joy and solace in having found the other. But still, Falcon would sometimes sense an undercurrent of sadness from Phoenix that scared him, he who had never been afraid.

"You hold me so tightly," she said to him, "Sometimes I can not breathe."

"I do it because I love you and I always want you close," Falcon said, smiling at her.

"But I want to be close."

"I know." He smiled again.

"No, you don't. And it will cost you your heart." She gave him a look of such love and pain that something in him quailed in terror. And he pushed her words-I will burn-out of his mind.

One morning, he woke up and found her already awake, and looking at him sadly.

"Good morning, my love," he said. "What is troubling you?"

But she was restless in his wings and would not be still.

"Are you not going to tell me you love me? As you always do?" he asked. The fear sparked, and grew.

"Yes, I love you," she said quickly, growing more agitated. As she struggled to pull away and free her wings, so he wrapped his own wings more tightly around her in his panic and his fear and his love. Tendrils of smoke started to curl up around her and he tried to fan them out, brushed his feathers over his beloved's face, as he could see she was as scared as he was. This unnerved Falcon. She had not been scared to burn before, it had never caused her pain.

"Please," she panted, "Please let me go."

"No!" he cried. "I can not. I love you too much to let you go." And he held her more tightly.

"You must," she said, struggling more wildly. Tiny sparks were starting to jump from between her feathers, and the tendrils of smoke were growing. "Please," she begged.


Little licks of flame were starting to pop up in spots between her feathers. The smell of scorching was in the air. She was trying her best to hide the tiny cries of pain as the flames ate at her.

"I must burn."

"I can not let go."

"Then I will take you with me, my love. I am so sorry, so sorry."

And with that, she burned.

She burned up in his wings, blazed forward in a apocalyptic fireball that blinded him. Burned until there was nothing left but ashes. Because he could not let go, the blast of fire and flame engulfed him, and he burned, too.

Time passed.

Falcon awoke some time later. He was in the most unimaginable pain, the worst pain he had ever borne. He had had many injuries, had bled many times. But nothing compared to this. His feathers crumbled off in black bits. He oozed blood and matter from charred spots on his body. He turned his head, weeping in agony, and saw the pile of golden ashes in his wings. It was too much to bear. Too much.

He closed his eyes and went away again.

It was a long time before he came back.

When he came to again, the physical healing had begun. But his heart. Oh, Falcon's noble heart. It was naught but ash and cinder.

Carefully, he placed his pile of golden ashes in a safe place. Made sure they were protected from the wind that might try to take her away. From the rain that might try to wash her from his view. From the sun that might dare to think it could beat her for beauty.

Still, he was in agony. He thought about leaving. About taking to his wings again and this time, never coming back. Never alighting again in the world, but flying forever, alone, ungrounded. Once or twice he even took to the sky, once his wings had healed, determined to go away forever. He returned every time. For no matter how far he flew, she was still there. And so too, was his heart. That was the only thing he knew.

So Falcon returned for the last time. He knelt down by the pile of beloved golden ash and bowed his scarred, beautiful head.

"I will wait for you, Phoenix," he said. "I would rather wait a thousand years for you than fly alone. I will wait for you. And if you never come back, I will still wait for you. Because that is in my nature."

And so he waited.

Time passed.

Still, he waited.

One day, something happened.

One of the golden ashes moved. Falcon whipped his head around, staring intently at the spot. Another ash moved.



And as Falcon watched, as his heart leapt into his throat and beat wildly with hope and panic, she grew from the ashes again. His beloved. His Phoenix. And as she grew and reshaped herself, so too did his heart.

Within moments, she had risen from the golden ashes and was standing before him again, looking at him in love and sorrow.

Falcon could not speak for joy, but knelt in supplication. She knelt down, too, and studied him. Silently, she touched the burn scars all over his body, the spots where his beautiful feathers had charred and not grown back properly. Tears dripped from her eyes, and still, he could not speak for joy. He kept running his wingtips over her, making sure she was there, making sure she was real. Making sure he was no longer alone.

Finally, he spoke.

"You came back to me," he said.

"Of course I did." Her voice was tired and desperately sad.

"Why did you leave me?" he demanded.

"As I have always told you-because it was in my nature to burn."

"I have been waiting for you," he said.

"I know." She looked at his scars. "I am so sorry we have caused one another this pain."

"We?" he asked incredulously, angrily. "I did nothing but love you."

"But you did not love unconditionally. You set conditions on the love, for, though you did not see it, you demanded the same of me in return. You were too blinded by love for it to be unconditional."

He was silent for a moment.

"I never understood the nature of unconditional love until now. And we both had to burn in the process to see that and change our natures. I see that now."

He bowed his head again, and finally wept.

"I am sorry, Phoenix. I will ask you this, because I love you still. But I have learned. You can fly where you'd like, and burn how you like, and I will not bind you. I ask you now with an open palm: Will you stay with me from now on?"

And she smiled then, blazing forth with joy.

"What you never understood was that just as it was in my nature to burn, so too was it in my nature to love you. Do you know why I burned so brightly the first time you saw me? It was because I burned for you and you alone. You never had to bind me to you, for you see, I never would have left in the first place."

She touched his face.

"And so I never shall."

They flew off, side by side, into the great blue sky.

And so they remain to this day, the Phoenix and the Falcon, streaking like twin comets across the heavens.
writing shit

Life's Little Failblog

Adult-sized fail: While at work the other day, Savanna and I were happily passing the time by ganging up on Collin, and mercilessly teasing the crap out of him. At one point, I was in his way and he asked me to move. I continued to tart off to him and without warning, he calmly picked me up like a rag doll, moved me over about three feet, set me down, and kept walking. There really is no snappy comeback for that.

Non-slip surface fail: Also while at work, my good friend was nervous as his girlfriend was due to go into the hospital later that night and have labor induced. Being a jackass and wanting to make him laugh, I skipped down the hallway singing, "You're gonna be a DAD pretty soon!" About half a dozen skips in, I hit a wet patch on the floor, slid, and did a face-plant into the wall.

Dodging a kitten fail: It's all fun and games, taunting your kitten with a toy, until his little paw flashes out much more quickly than you expected, and punches you in the face.
writing shit

Good and Bad

THE BAD: I am DEFINITELY way behind on NaNoWriMo and it's starting to appear as if I may not hit the goal this month. But that's alright. It's disappointing, but I have started my novel and have a real direction with it now and will continue to work on it at my own pace. I am determined to finish it, even if I don't get it done in a month like I originally wanted to. I'm still going to try my damnedest to hit that 50,000 word mark by midnight on November 30th, but if I can only get to half that, then it's still one hell of a start. That I am determined to write it at all and focused for the first time in my life is nothing but good, as far as I'm concerned.

THE GOOD: I am so far behind on NaNoWriMo because I am in the process of trying to start up a business for myself. I decided I was sick of my situation and money always being tight, so I was determined to make a change. I had been approached by a recruiter for Nu Skin who encouraged me to try the company out, and I liked what I saw. I am now a distributor and recruiter and will slowly build my business by a straightforward selling of products and also recruiting people to be distributors and build their own business, as well. It's right up my alley as it's all beauty and skincare products (incredible, INCREDIBLE products), and I really enjoy the idea of taking something from scratch and building it up into something great for myself. A lot of people who have done this started out doing it part time and now do it full time and have done extremely well for themselves. I really like the encouragement and training they provide, and the company is poised to blow up in a way that is unprecedented. If I work hard and if I am aggressive and positive, this will be like catching the perfect wave at exactly the right moment to ride it all the way into the shore.

I am excited about the future that is unfolding in front of me right now, I really am. I have drive and focus (with the help of Adderall I was recently prescribed) and am formulating a plan. Hopefully I'll be able to get on my feet and do what I must to have the freedom I want to do anything I want.
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writing shit

"My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one

that ever was put into a body too small for it." -letter to Fanny Brawne, his fiancée, March 1820

There is a reason that I chose John Keats above all other poets to focus on during my graduate studies. Simply put, something in his words, in his mind, resonated within me in a way nothing else I read did. This is not to say that words of others don't move me: I was simply drawn to the Romantics first and foremost because I'd lived their philosophy from the time I was too young to know there was once a group of men and women who once viewed the world as I do now. I am constantly being swayed by words and emotions like shallow waters stirred by wind. I have often been accused of being mercurial, transient, fickle, impulsive, indecisive, and restless to the core. And all of these things have been true in the past and still hold true now. But, like the oft-maligned Romantic poets and writers of yore, there is an underground flow of quiet certainty in me that anchors me. Even when it seems my mind and actions are a riot of contradiction and fecklessness, there is a iron bedrock within.

"Give me this credit - Do you not think I strive - to know myself?" -letter to George and Georgiana Keats brother and sister-in-law, February 14th, 1819

I read Keats' poetry and admired the complex beauty of his words, particularly because I was first introduced to him through the rich lushness and dark strains of "The Eve of St. Agnes" and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci". For all the beautiful turns of phrase in Keats' writing, the fanciful flights of imagery, there was always a detected current of something gray, deep purple, black, that hinted at a tendency for his mind to wander to...dark places. I could empathize. I knew of no one who spent as much time within her or his head as I did, and despite my happy nature, I always suspected there was something more to all of this. To me. I read his letters and the strains of frustration with himself were the same that were wired within me. He knew-knew-that there was that within him that could set minds on fire and through those minds, the world, if only he could figure out the key to unlocking that vault within his mind from where all these ideas flowed.

"Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water." - epitaph on his gravestone, Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

Like me, he feared that he would never make an impact upon the world. And the way he viewed the world was incredible. Keats often gets slapped with a misleading character: That he was weak, effeminate, languishing and tortured. And he certainly was tortured at the end, but his friends described him as being full of energy and wit, and the first they turned to for advice as he was level-headed and wise in a way that belied the fact he was a very, very young man. There was a core of practicality that often clashed with his poetic aspirations, and more than once did he berate himself for not having made anything of himself, for not being "successful". He started off as a surgeon's apprentice and could have been quite good, but abandoned that life when he realized it was not for him. He could not stop thinking while he did surgery, and could not stop focusing on all the ways in which something could go wrong. His mind, like mine, never shut off and went to that necessary blank place that surgeons must have: "My last operation," he once wrote to a friend, "was the opening of a man's temporal artery. I did it with the utmost nicety, but reflecting on what passed through my mind at the time, my dexterity seemed a miracle, and I never took up the lancet again." And Keats' medical background and practicality served to make him very matter-of-fact in regard to the tuberculosis that would finally kill him at age 25. One night, he came home to the home of his friend, Charles Brown, and was fevered and ill. He went directly to bed, and Brown recounted him coughing, then calling for a candle. Brown went into the room to find Keats in bed, examining a spot of blood on his pillow. "I know the color of this blood," he said calmly. "It is arterial blood...that drop of blood is my death-warrant."

Poet/Keats: "Thou spakest of my tribe:/ What tribe?"
Goddess: "Art thou not of the dreamer tribe?/The poet and the dreamer are distinct/...The one pours out a balm upon the world,/ The other vexes it."
Poet/Keats: "Then shouted I/ Spite of myself, and with a Pythia's spleen..." -"The Fall of Hyperion - A Dream"

Even in poetry, he could not shake the idea that the world did not see him, understand him, as he knew and understood it so well. And it angered him. Frustrated him. Downright pissed him off when he knew he was dying. He continues in that poem to mention other contemporary poets, and in a moment of uncharacteristic vehemence, labels them "mock lyrists, large self worshipers, and careless Hectorers in proud bad verse." It angered him when he saw the accolades getting heaped upon other poets (Byron especially) while he was inundated with bad reviews simply because he came from a lower class. He knew he had that within him that could surpass them all if he had the chance. And he was right.

"And is this not extraordinary talk for the writer of Endymion, whose mind was like a pack of scattered cards?" - letter to Percy Shelley, August 16th, 1820

To read Keats' letters is to watch the growth of a young man's mind, one incredibly observant and thoughtful, and deeply philosophical. But there were flaws littering the pages, as well, a human element of a very young man struggling to find himself. Particularly in his letters back and forth to Fanny, his fiancée. He may have been in control of his poetry, but his struggles to understand Fanny as a woman were ever the struggles every young man has had when in love for the first time, and largely clueless about the opposite sex. His letters paint a picture of who he was. There were complex thoughts about poetry and philosophy, sent to his friends and other poets, such as Shelley. He tended to write in a very stream-of-consciousness manner, so one reads these letters and can see how he thought through these enormous, intangible ideas as he wrote. There were breezy, cheerful letters written to his brother and sister, often filled with flippant humor and humorous anecdotes, such as the time he lamented being clocked in the face with a cricket bat and getting a black eye. And the letters to Fanny, alternately beautiful in their simple love for her, and frustrated with her fickle nature. Insecurity litters these letters back and forth, the maddening state of being uncertain of her feelings for him: "If you should ever feel for a Man at the first sight what I did for you, I am lost...Perhaps I am too vehement, then fancy me on my knees, especially when I mention a part of your Letter which hurt me..." Fascinating to see the growth of his genius, particularly to see how his genius struggled within him.

"I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment - upon no person but you." -letter to Fanny, March 1820

In Keats, I felt a kindred spirit and felt myself lamenting the fact he died almost 200 years ago, because the first time I discovered his letters, all I really wanted to do was sit down and pick his brain. It was a revelation to have so many intangible thoughts inside and to read them from his own hand, putting them into the words that I had always searched for but never knew how to articulate. He hated the public, but loved people, and his thoughts and poetry were filled with nobler ideas about the human condition, and his deep understanding of the complexities of human emotion and action was evident in the pages. He did not have much time nor sympathy for the meaningless social niceties and the shallowness that ruled social engagements of the day. As I am now, he was all about jumping straight to the heart of the person--trivial details did not interest him much. Intensity was his tool. He loved the world and wanted to save it, change it, better it through his words. I could empathize with this. I embraced it. And I find myself wishing that there is a Heaven, thinking there damn well better be an afterlife, because it would be such a shame, such a shame that two people with like minds can not sit down and share ideas simply because they had the misfortune of being born in two different eras.

I've traveled pretty much the known world, I've met thousands and thousands of souls...not one, not a single one has the humanity I see in you. -Adam
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