Archive for the ‘Introspective’ Category

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  I hope everyone is having a great day and that everyone has a great evening as well!  I, myself, will be celebrating my second birthday today!

Artwork designed by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS) for a Grace at Arms t-shirt commemorating Bastion's and Chrysalis' birthday ("B-Day)".  All art, design, logos, "I CAME HERE TO ROCK", @LIVE 2012, and B-DAY are copyright 2012 by Grace at Arms, Bastion Crider, Greg Crider LLC.

Wait… second birthday?

I refuse to go too far into detail (GRACE@ARMS has entire albums ready to record about growing up), but I’ll offer a brief (or as brief as it can get) explanation of what I mean.

Fight Club was right!

Three movie quotations which I always thought were obtuse, over-generalized, poorly worded, or just plain wrong (but later learned that they were EXACTLY right) are as follows:

There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

– Morpheus, The Matrix

This always felt half obvious and half wrong.  Doing and talking are obviously not the same, but isn’t the difference just a matter of decision?  As it turns out, it’s a lot bigger than that.  Not only do we learn through doing, but we feel and experience our decision and its consequences.  As anyone who’s ever stepped outside of their comfort zone will tell you, “it’s not how you think it is.”

If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.

– Count Rugen, The Princess Bride

I ripped a hamstring in a soccer game and stopped two of my opponents before going off the field.  I used to look forward to getting strep throat so I could spend a day on the couch.  Pain?  I’ll just play through.
Enter: two back surgeries.  As it turns out, you SHOULD listen to your body (specifically your back, neck, brain, and nervous system).  If you lose your mobility or even limit it, you are dead until it heals.  Don’t learn this the hard way.  Protect yourself.

It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.

– Tyler Durden, Fight Club

I used to think that this was obtuse.  I thought that the writers were trying to find a way to sum up the whole mentality of the movie into a single sentence and that they trimmed it just a little too much.

…and then, shortly after completing law school and becoming an attorney, just as I was purchasing  my first home and preparing not to settle down, but to begin a post-school life of doing the things I want to do, rather than doing the things that would build a good future, my reason for doing it all–my whole heart–disappeared.

Again, I’m not going to get into details since they’ll be outlined in song, which I find less whiny and more relatable, but suffice it to say that I found myself standing in a big empty castle, the construction of which I had devoted my whole life to, perfectly designed for a life I was no longer able to live.

You either get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.

– Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
(Don’t worry–I always knew this quote was good.)

I found myself lost, confused, and caught for the first time in my life in a daily struggle against thoughts of suicide.  Fortunately, almost immediately after deciding to stick around a few more years, I realized just how true that Fight Club quote was.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything” doesn’t mean that if you make stupid choices, you’ll feel better.  Nor does it mean that throwing all your belongings away will lead to a happier life.

It means, at least to me, that if you lose your means to live but not your reason, that you are free to choose any means that will support that reason. If you lose your reason to live, but not your means, you are free to create any reason your means will support.  If you lose both, then you are free to create a new life.

Motivation > Decisions

When there’s no road forward, no road backward, and you refuse to fall to the side, I see no choice but to climb straight up.  “Perfect” was gone in my mind so I had no option but to create something better.

As I surveyed my obliterated heart, I expected to find rot and scars.  What I found instead was love and ambition pouring out of me.  Pure hope, like I hadn’t felt since I was an ignorant little child was gushing out of my gaping chest.

I thought back on everything I’d ever wanted to change about myself but had never had the strength to fix.  Finally, I had the motivation to do it.  Finally, I had lost everything except the ferocity with which I was going to fight.

Designing a New Life

I made a list of everything I was never strong enough to change and demon that had haunted me since I was little.  I had great ideas but I was too lazy to follow through on them.  I had struggled and fought against pornography addiction since I was in fifth grade.  I had deep-seeded rage that never seemed to escape.  I had written dozens of songs–more so, I had a dream–that I had never made real.  I had dozens of problems, big and small.

Rather than tying my pain and frustration to the past, to that which couldn’t be fixed, I instead tied it to the present.  I didn’t lie to myself or pat myself on the back.  I simply looked at what I was and what I wanted to be, and made them the same.  I taught myself how to think, how to feel, how to self-motivate, and how to conquer.  Every time I became upset and every time I relaxed, I felt that pain and I fought improve.  Every time I felt like fighting and every time I was too tired and broken to stand, I felt that pain and I fought to improve.  Every time I felt proud and every time I lost faith in myself, I felt that pain and I fought to improve.

Within six months (by my next birthday), I had lost thirty-five pounds, kicked addictions that had plagued me for years, developed a social confidence I had lacked my entire life, redeveloped my faith system, re-established myself as a bastion of hope and inspiration, wrote almost two dozen new songs (each of which were better than any I’d written previously), stopped the suicidal urges, started finalizing the recording of Chrysalis, replaced my crippling laziness with an unrelenting work ethic, improved my performance at my job drastically, shed fears and scars that I had carried since youth, and even released the rage that had shaken me for as long as I can remember.

When my birthday rolled around in 2010, I was a new life.  My smile, my interests, and my sense of humor didn’t change, but everything else had become what I had always wanted it to be.  I declared March 17, 2010 my re-birth day.  Within my first year as whom I am, I achieved what I never could have before; I completed and released the Chrysalis of Grace at Arms.

The present and the future.

I’m not yet happy with where I am, but this year, I’ve finally been happy with whom I am.  My ancient, ignorant hope has been replaced with two years of ferocious, defiant hope.  My pre-natal rage has been replaced with two years of unyielding ambition.  My old willingness to agree with all of the fools who believe in the “impossible” has been replaced with two years of exceeded expectations, conquered odds, and, for the first time in my life, success on my own terms.

This coming year is filled with difficult choices and ugly ultimatums in my career, my life, and my band.  If this were my 12th, 18th, 22nd, 30th, or 50th birthday, I wouldn’t be ready to face them.  If I were a victim of consequence or a product of real life, I would be too fearful to commit this to writing, let alone publish it to the world.  Today, though, on my second birthday, I am as I have designed myself; able, willing, ready, strong, hopeful, graceful, and of course, always at arms.

Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS)' logo alongside the @LIVE 2012 "I CAME HERE TO ROCK" slogan in an image designed by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms in February 2012.  All art, design, logos, @LIVE 2012, and "I CAME HERE TO ROCK" are copyright Grace at Arms, Bastion Crider, and Greg Crider LLC.

If you’re unfamiliar with GRACE@ARMS, you can find us on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and at our homepage, graceatarms.com (you can also find us just about everywhere else–just search for Grace@Arms or BastionAtArms). You can also keep up to date with my blog, my art projects, my music, and my madness at my Facebook, Twitter, and my original blog at graceatarms.com/bastion.

Thanks and thanks again. Keep rocking with all that you’ve got.
– Bastion, of Grace at Arms

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The short version: the movie tells (or rather, includes) the complete and unadulterated story of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax in a fun, funny, beautiful, and generally unoffensive way.

A screen capture from the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax cropped by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

The long version:

First of all, it’s obvious that the minds behind this movie loved The Lorax the way I did growing up.  From the first line of the movie (“I am the Lorax.  I speak for the trees.”) to the quote printed on the screen before the credits scroll over beautifully Seussy artwork (“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”), Dr. Seuss’ work is not only preserved, but respected and praised.

A Movie Within A Movie

Dr. Seuss book is too short and too simple to be made into a movie without adding a lot of material.  Fortunately, The Lorax, in it’s paper form, is about the Once-ler telling the story of the Lorax to a child.  Instead of trying to chop that story up, the movie-makers simply told a larger story around the original one.

The movie takes place in Thneedville, where everything is plastic and everyone is, generally, happy.  One boy, Ted Wiggins, through a series of events short enough not to be boring, finds his way to the Once-ler’s to hear the tale of the Lorax–which is punctuated by a few of Ted’s short adventures (also short enough not to be distracting)–before returning to Thneedville with the knowledge he’s gained in what almost felt like a “thank you” to Dr. Seuss for the impact his book clearly had on the writers.

Highlights (Essentially, the most Seussy parts!)

The movie is packed with Dr. Suess’ original language (Betty White’s description of the The Street of the Lifted Lorax is almost word for word with the book), as well as homages to other Seuss tales like Yertle the Turtle and his various books about Whoville.

The mix of “original Lorax” and “the movie around it” allowed the writers to do a very cool thing by making the little boy who hears the Once-ler’s story (they named him Ted Wiggins) take an active role in the movie.  As a person who’s felt the impact of my childhood love for The Lorax echo in my actions throughout the years, it was exciting to see the characters and the in-movie world change as a result of the lessons taught by the story–it also saves the movie from being forced into an “all hope is lost” style ending.

One last thing I loved about the movie, which I’ll discuss more in the next section, is that both the Lorax and the Once-ler were made far more compassionate and human without sacrificing their original characters.

The Lorax and the Once-ler, arm in arm in a screen capture from the movie adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, cropped by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

Industry/Environmentalist Controversy

Obviously, a review of The Lorax would be incomplete without addressing the light in which each side of this debate is portrayed.  This movie, like a fair and even divorce, should leave both sides satisfactorily unhappy and begrudgingly satisfied.

Both sides are depicted as hard-lined, but with the capacity (though not always the desire) to see each other’s sides.  They each use both noble and questionable tactics to get their way and, appropriately, a large portion of their disagreements are the result of misunderstanding each other’s tactics rather than hatred for each other.  Here’s a breakdown of the sides as they are portrayed:

ENVIRONMENT: 

The Lorax is just as shortish and oldish and brownish and mossy as in the original story and still speaks in a voice that is sharpish and bossy.  Pleasantly, though, he’s warmer to the Once-ler, urging “you’re better than this” rather than simply attacking him.  The Lorax’s real warning to the Once-ler, after the Once-ler has promised not to cut down any more trees but is suddenly faced with the opportunity to see everything he’s worked for become real, is that “a tree falls the way it leans.”  Worded for those who haven’t seen the movie yet; the danger isn’t in a single action (which often can’t be avoided), but rather in allowing yourself to ignore the impact of that action (and as a result, to perform that action again and again without thinking about it).
The trees, Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish and Bar-ba-loots behave pretty much as nature does in real life–they interact with the Once-ler, at times fearful and at times appreciative, until they are destroyed.  They don’t fight.  They don’t shout their warnings over and over.  They don’t provide that “one last warning” before they’re gone.

INDUSTRY: 

The Once-ler, whose movie character stole my heart, is effectively trapped between own compassion and the demands of society and success.  As an aspiring artist with a dream I’m trying to sell, I really felt the Once-ler’s frustration as his thneed (for which he had worked so hard even though nobody believed was worthwhile) became popular and he was faced with the disgusting choice of “sacrifice your integrity to see your dream made real or throw away your life’s work for because you used to tell yourself you wouldn’t go that far to succeed.”
The Once-ler’s family, as well as the Once-ler (post-promise-breaking and rich-getting) are colder towards the environment, but are depicted as ignorant rather than evil.  Further, the consumers (the people of Thneedville) are kept ignorant to the amount of pollution that their consumerism is causing.  Pleasantly, their minds are changeable, though they require more than a simple, “change your ways!”

The Lorax and the Once-ler in the movie adaptation of The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, cropped by bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).

Other nice things:

The voice actors were great.  The movie was visually stunning and payed homage to Dr. Seuss original artwork.  The movie-in-a-movie aspect also gave kind of a past (original story) – present (Thneedville and it’s hard-to-break consumerism) – future (the opening of the consumer’s eyes to the lesson of the Lorax and the effort not to stop either side, but rather to compromise) aspect to the movie that provided a strong feeling of hope to the film.

Downsides:

I really have very little to say about the movie that’s negative.  The animation style caused me to feel at first like the character’s mouth-movements didn’t line up with their words as well as I’d like, but that either became less noticeable as the movie continued or I just got used to it.  Also, the songs at the beginning and end felt borderline preachy–an obvious danger in any message movie but one which the rest of the movie did a good job of avoiding.

Conclusion and recommendation:

I loved this movie.  As a from-the-time-I-could-read fan of the Lorax who can recite pages of the book from memory, I can say that I’m not only impressed by the movie-maker’s preservation of Dr. Seuss’ work, but I enjoyed the vast majority of their additions.  I would recommend this movie to anyone who has or has not read the book.

My only warning would be that the movie is fair and definitely paints a thorough picture of each side.  If you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, you’re going to be offended by something (because you’ve got a chip on your shoulder–not because the movie was obtuse).  If you don’t, though, then get ready for an exciting, moving, funny, and fun movie!

A Facebook page picture for Grace at Arms designed by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS).  All art, design, logos, and "I CAME HERE TO ROCK" are copyright Bastion Crider, Greg Crider LLC, and Grace at Arms.
If you’re unfamiliar with GRACE@ARMS, you can find us on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and at our homepage, graceatarms.com (you can also find us just about everywhere else–just search for Grace@Arms or BastionAtArms). You can also keep up to date with my blog, my art projects, my music, and my madness at my Facebook, Twitter, and my original blog at graceatarms.com/bastion.

Thanks and thanks again. Keep rocking with all that you’ve got.
– Bastion, of Grace at Arms

If you missed Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, I’ve been battling the shards of an exploding disc in my spine.  When we left off, I was awaiting surgery and trying to survive a “no ibuprofen” mandate from my surgeon.

If you can’t sleep, just re-define “sleep.”

After two days of raging, spastic agony, I was too afraid to go to bed.  This turned out to be fortunate, though.  I resumed sleeping* against my pillow stack on my couch, which, combined with a steroid that was riding the needle the doctors had plunged into my spine a few days prior, got me back into a quasi-mobile state!

Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS) pretending to sleep in the position in which he has had to sleep for several weeks on account of a back injury in February 2012.

I sit, I lean, I sit, I sleep*, I sit, I sleep*, I wake.

* “Sleeping” in this context means “sitting still for a long enough time that it’s safe to assume that I was unconscious for some period of time.”

If ignorance is bliss, distraction is at least peaceful.

Fortunately, I had plenty of friends and family visiting me over the week before surgery and, among other things, I was able to construct my chocolate piano!

Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS) sitting behind the chocolate piano he built out of white, dark, and milk chocolate candy bars including Kit Kat bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Minis, Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream bars, and Hershey's Chocolate Bars in February 2012.

Okay, so you haven't seen this picture, but you HAVE seen the rest of them (if you haven't, just click on the picture).

Seriously, if you’ve found a way to this article but haven’t seen my chocolate piano, then you’re missing the good stuff!  For your sake, please go to facebook.com/graceatarmsbastion and become a fan.

Hack!  Hack that back!

Friday, February 24 finally rolled around and the story gets short from there:
1.  Dr. Jean-Pierre Mobasser, MD has Jesus-hands.
2.  He removed some scar tissue, disc fragments, and other junk and patched me up in under an hour.

Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS) lying on his bed in the Naab Road Surgery Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, following his back sugery performed by Dr. Jean-Pierre Mobasser, MD.

Me, still drugged, making myself comfortable post-surgery.

An hour and a half later, I was sitting in my mom’s car eating a Qdoba burrito and sending doped up texts to the handful of people whose names I could remember despite the anesthetics.

…and now… and more now… and more now…

So now, I’m healing.  Not only am I healing, but with a Tylenol and two ibuprofen, I feel closer to “painless” than I have in years.  The only battle I have left ahead of me (barring the unexpected) is patience.  I have to wait until I have healed completely before I go off and do anything stupid, no matter how stir crazy I get.

An image of Bastion Crider's head with his memories on fire designed, photographed, and edited by Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (GRACE@ARMS) in December 2011.

This seemed like an appropriate time to bust out the image of my mind ablaze again.

Fortunately, madness is a good substitute for creativity!  Maybe Grace@Arms will see some new material as a result of this!  Thanks for the hopes and the prayers!  Hopefully, there will only be one more chapter in this story: my return to life as I knew it.

T-shirt update:

One benefit of the boredom and unusual schedule just manifested itself in that I woke after only a few hours of sleep, grabbed up an old photo of me, and fixed it so you can see what the new shirts will look like (note: this shirt doesn’t exist yet–I’m kind of proud of those Photoshop skills)! The pre-order ends on Sunday, so if you want this shirt, click the picture or just go to graceatarms.com/alive2012 and order it now!

Bastion Crider of Grace at Arms (Grace@Arms) wearing one of the new "baseball style" t-shirts for GRACE@ARMS' @LIVE 2012.  All photos, art, and logos copyright Bastion Crider, Greg Crider LLC, and Grace at Arms 2012.

The back says, "I CAME HERE TO ROCK"

At last night’s concert (thanks to everyone who made it out!), I recited a new poem to musical accompaniment.  It’s called “A Love Poem For Ghosts” and, while some of you have seen it on my Facebook page or our YouTube page, I wanted to provide you with the back-story and the lyrics!

What if we never fell in love?

I was thinking about that question that couples always seem to ask each other a year or two into the relationship.  “If things had been different, would we have ever known what we were missing?  What if so-and-so hadn’t introduced us?  What if you had been born three years earlier?  Would we still have this connection?”

What if we fell in love?

I was thinking about this from the other direction, though.  How many people in my life might I have connected with if some slight circumstance (distance, age, past decisions, present circumstances, etc.) had been different?  Might there have been love between any of us, had it ever had the chance to be activated?

What if we we can find love without falling in?

Then I realized that this wasn’t necessarily a “what if” question.  In so many cases, that love already exists–just not in the romantic sense which we normally picture. Maybe it’s a common interest, a kiss, a conversation, or just a passing glance, but sometimes, I think you can detect that connection.  Even though two people might be separated by miles or years or circumstances or decisions, their hearts might not be that far apart.

I started collecting “love fragments” from throughout my life.  I gathered everything that never amounted to a love song, but that I had wanted to say or meant to say to people but had failed to articulate. What I’ve enjoyed about this poem is that when I put all the disjoint pieces together, they actually form a story that isn’t only coherent, but is actually familiar–maybe it’s the story of each of those diverse little shards of love.

In another life, this would be so many “I love you”‘s, but for now, it’s my love poem for ghosts.

“A Love Poem For Ghosts”

I wish I had the words
That could make you understand.
I wish you could look at me
And see a better man.
Sometimes at night I wake
And lift up my arms,
Singing songs about your grace
To the beat of my heart.
When I hear your voice again,
My darkest days are saved
’cause every time you say my name,
You make me feel brave.
It’s been so long since I
Have watched the stars collide
Because the heavens could never dance
Like you did in my eyes.
There’re worlds between our lives
But lying here on the floor,
The distances between;
They don’t matter anymore.
There’re miles between our homes,
But if you pull me close,
Only inches between our hearts…
And our lips can bridge those.