In order to gain expertise in a discipline, you must practice “deliberately,” which means to practice in a way that expands the limit of your talents, in a repeatable manner, often under the watch of an unsentimental, expert mentor. Deliberate practice is NOT fun by definition: it challenges yourself to borderline frustration, demands constant evaluation of your shortcomings, and there is never an end to how much practice you can perform. Sometimes, people tell me “your don’t sound like you’re having a lot of fun” when I prepare for various competitions. No, practice isn’t fun. But the price is worth it: performing to your peak potential improves every aspect of your life; reaching the heights of international competition makes you cherish the blood, sweat, and tears invested into activities you love; playing games of incredible depths against other passionate experts builds life-long friendships; having great control of your craft gives you the confidence and ability to experiment and explore your discipline to its very limits. Some people want “ease” and “fun,” but I want “greatness.” I know that path is often difficult and lonely. It has to be. If it wasn’t, then everyone would be great, and that would defeat the point.
“English” or “For the Arizona State Legislature”
From the first round of finals at the Individual World Poetry Slam 2011.
Taken from an Australian newspaper:
“Detectives are investigating claims that after the two men argued over loud music and reckless driving, Mr Thornton went to Mr Jorgenson’s house with the chain saw. Mr Jorgenson grabbed the Japanese sword and the bloody battle began.”
When your hour-long nemesis from the Victoria Boulevard cul-de-sac crashes through your front door, his face a red star of madness, chainsaw smoke fanning behind him like tentacles trailing the octopus of doom, you do what any reasonable person would do: you reach for your katana. Finally the chance to live out one of history’s most pressing hypotheticals: samurai v lumberjack. Focus. Ignore the weight difference between weapons. Ignore the possible embarrassment of losing to a chainsaw, the Adam Sandler of the weaponing world. Your enemy could vivisect you with a glancing blow but you show no fear. Your nerves are a monument of ice. Your blood type is Quentin Tarantino. The only instrument in the soundtrack of your mind is a Gong. The only thing between you and your destiny is a terribly upholstered loveseat. As you leap into the air, your battle cry is “SWEDISH FURNITURE IS CHEAP BULLSHIT!!!” It all flashes before your eyes Living room blood feuds! Lenscrafter Battle Royales! You’ve wanted this ever since you could pair together the words BOSS and FIGHT. And here he is, the Demon Warlord of West Brisbane, your roaring annihilation held over his head like a hockey trophy. There is no retreat from destiny like there is no reasoning with an Australian. Do not fear defeat. You will not regret your fallen limbs, merely limp sacks of pulp and pain. You will lay your dismembers on the altar of greatness and toss the match like an emptied champagne flute. Bon voyage, hands! Au revoir, rings, yo-yo’s, and reasonable typing speed! After all, isn’t severance another word for freedom? Where others will see a swollen stump you will see your unflinching courage. When they wave at you where their full suite of fingers and articulated wrists, you’ll wave back with 100% pure FUCK YEAH! And won’t that be worth it? To trade in such a small fraction of your body to be so much bigger than yourself? Hey. Look at me. I’m the man who shook Death’s hand and ripped away from his grip at the elbow. Isn’t that so much more exciting than being the guy who ran out the back door?
When you love someone who suffers from the disease of addiction you await the phone call. There will be a phone call. The sincere hope is that the call will be from the addict themselves, telling you they’ve had enough, that they’re ready to stop, ready to try something new. Of course though, you fear the other call, the sad nocturnal chime from a friend or relative telling you it’s too late, she’s gone.
Frustratingly it’s not a call you can ever make it must be received. It is impossible to intervene.
I’ve known Amy Winehouse for years. When I first met her around Camden she was just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars with mutual friends, most of whom were in cool Indie bands or peripheral Camden figures Withnail-ing their way through life on impotent charisma. Carl Barrat told me that “Winehouse” (which I usually called her and got a kick out of cos it’s kind of funny to call a girl by her surname) was a jazz singer, which struck me as a bizarrely anomalous in that crowd. To me with my limited musical knowledge this information placed Amy beyond an invisible boundary of relevance; “Jazz singer? She must be some kind of eccentric” I thought. I chatted to her anyway though, she was after all, a girl, and she was sweet and peculiar but most of all vulnerable.
I was myself at that time barely out of rehab and was thirstily seeking less complicated women so I barely reflected on the now glaringly obvious fact that Winehouse and I shared an affliction, the disease of addiction. All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but un-ignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his “speedboat” there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.
From time to time I’d bump into Amy she had good banter so we could chat a bit and have a laugh, she was “a character” but that world was riddled with half cut, doped up chancers, I was one of them, even in early recovery I was kept afloat only by clinging to the bodies of strangers so Winehouse, but for her gentle quirks didn’t especially register.
Then she became massively famous and I was pleased to see her acknowledged but mostly baffled because I’d not experienced her work and this not being the 1950’s I wondered how a “jazz singer” had achieved such cultural prominence. I wasn’t curious enough to do anything so extreme as listen to her music or go to one of her gigs, I was becoming famous myself at the time and that was an all consuming experience. It was only by chance that I attended a Paul Weller gig at the Roundhouse that I ever saw her live.
I arrived late and as I made my way to the audience through the plastic smiles and plastic cups I heard the rolling, wondrous resonance of a female vocal. Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound. So now I knew. She wasn’t just some hapless wannabe, yet another pissed up nit who was never gonna make it, nor was she even a ten-a-penny-chanteuse enjoying her fifteen minutes. She was a fucking genius.
Shallow fool that I am I now regarded her in a different light, the light that blazed down from heaven when she sang. That lit her up now and a new phase in our friendship began. She came on a few of my TV and radio shows, I still saw her about but now attended to her with a little more interest. Publicly though, Amy increasingly became defined by her addiction. Our media though is more interested in tragedy than talent, so the ink began to defect from praising her gift to chronicling her downfall. The destructive personal relationships, the blood soaked ballet slippers, the aborted shows, that youtube madness with the baby mice. In the public perception this ephemeral tittle-tattle replaced her timeless talent. This and her manner in our occasional meetings brought home to me the severity of her condition. Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. I was 27 years old when through the friendship and help of Chip Somers of the treatment centre, Focus12 I found recovery, through Focus I was introduced to support fellowships for alcoholics and drug addicts which are very easy to find and open to anybody with a desire to stop drinking and without which I would not be alive.
Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill. We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense. Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not. Either way, there will be a phone call.
(Source: , via tracysoren)
The twins who found the dead body in the river
stopped coming to school for the last weeks of 5th grade.
We rode our bicycles to the pay phone, dialed
their number, swore we smelled their father’s cigar smoke
through the receiver. They never came out. By July,
they became a ghost story we told the younger children;
how the river swallowed their voices, dulled
their eyes into two dry stones. All summer,
we swam in pools, reveled in the clear chlorine.
The twins returned for the first day of sixth grade
as if back from the dead. Their breasts had unwrapped
themselves from under their skin. Their legs: no longer
childish planks. We tried not to stare, to whisper.
They sat alone at lunch and we gossiped of what happens
to girls who looked like women. That night, one by one,
we snuck out of our homes, unplanned, to swim naked
in the river, to baptize the closed rosebuds of our nipples,
to float amongst corpses, to drown the child in us.
- Sierra DeMulder
I fall for you like a tightrope walker into his next life.
“cunt,” a poem by kate brady.
SEVEN HAPPY ENDINGS
Love, Love, Love, where are we now?
Where did we begin?
one of us wanted to name this,
wanted to call it something!
Shadows on the Garden Wall.
A Man Rowing Alone Out to Sea.
A Song in Search of a Singer.
I think that was me, I wanted to call it something.
And you? You were happy
with a room, two rooms, and a door to divide them.
And daylight on either side of the door.
Borrowed music from an upstairs room.
And bells. Bells from down the street .
Bells to urge our salty hearts.
But I wanted to call it something.
I needed to know what we meant
when we said we, when we said
us, when we said this.
So call it Seven Happy Endings.
That would have been enough.
You see, I woke up one night
and realized I was falling.
I turned on the lamp and the lamp was falling.
And the hand that turned on the lamp was falling.
And the light was falling, and everything the light touched
falling. And you were falling
asleep beside me.
And that was the first happy ending.
And the last one?
it went something like this:
A child sat down, opened a book,
and began to read. And what he read out loud
came to pass. And what he kept to himself
stayed on the other side of the mountains.
But I promised seven happy endings.
I who know nothing about endings.
I who am always at the beginning of everything.
Even as our being together
always feels like beginning.
Not just the beginning of our knowing each other,
but the beginning of reality itself.
See how you and I
make this room so quiet with our presence.
With every word we say
the room grows quieter.
With every word we keep ourselves
from speaking, even quieter.
And now I don’t know where we are.
Still needing to call it something:
A clock the bees unearth,
gathering the over-spilled minutes.