February 20, 2013

What is writing?

Writing is a magical thing. It's both telepathy—transmission of ideas, thoughts, and images, from my mind to yours—and a form of time travel, as I am transmitting those ideas, thoughts, and images to you through time. Of course, any art form could be described this way—but I feel that the written word is the purest example. Perhaps I'm biased, but as a writer I'd like to focus on writing.

My name is Brad Merrill. I'm writing this at the desk in my bedroom on a cold night in February of 2013. You're reading this not only in a different location, but somewhere down the timeline from me as well. Hence, you and I are about to engage in telepathic time travel. Pay close attention, and notice I have nothing hidden up my sleeves.

Look—here's a wide open field on a warm June evening. Each blade of grass is as green as the next, all extending infinitely into the lowering sun, which has just met the horizon. The clouds, darkening in the sunset, join perfectly in the sky to form the numeral 4.

Did we see the same thing? We'd have to discuss and compare notes to be sure, but I think we did. You may have seen a bright yellow sunset, while I imagined an orange one. The grass, to you, may have appeared lime, though I intended on olive drab (the color blind, of course, would have seen shades of light-gray). Perhaps you populated the field with a rabbit or some birds, and that's fine—my field is your field, so knock yourself out.

What about the number in the sky? There's no misinterpretation here—it's not a seven, not a three. It's a four. I didn't tell you that, and you didn't have to ask. My lips never moved. Neither, most likely, did yours. We're not even in the same time together, let alone the same room. Except we are together. We're very close.

I sent you a sunset, a grassy field, and clouds forming a four. You got all of those things, especially the four. The two of us just performed telepathy—I was the transmitter, and you were the receiver. No mythological shit—real telepathy, and time travel too. That, my friend, is the art of writing.

February 19, 2013


Imagine being completely illiterate. The words on your computer screen are incomprehensible squiggles. Not understanding words is difficult to fathom for those of us who've been reading for a long time. Many of us think of not being able to read books or magazines—but it goes a bit further than that.

If you've ever traveled to a foreign country, you know that illiteracy is a much bigger problem when you're walking around in public. Even if you study the native language to prepare for your trip, there are bound to be phrases, slogans, or other pieces of text that you don't understand. I can't imagine traveling to places like China and Japan, where the characters themselves are very far from what I know.

This photo, for example, proves that words are a lot more prevalent in our society than we usually notice:

All text has been removed from the photo at the left, and placed on the right in the same general location and font as in the photo.

February 15, 2013

Dirty laundry

I've been listening to this quite a bit lately—it's "Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley, the lead singer of the Eagles (interestingly, it took me a long time to make that connection). The song definitely supports how I feel about mainstream news.

February 13, 2013

So long, fast food

As human beings, we are plagued by our desire to eat for pleasure, rather than just to nourish our bodies. Just because something is toxic doesn't mean it's not tasty. After pondering my dietary habits, I've come to the obvious conclusion that fast food really does have the ability to kill me in a hurried, greasy way. And when it's time for me to go, I don't want my death to be associated with grease—which is why I am neither Ronald McDonald nor John Travolta.

I don't want any traffic jams in my arteries, and it is for that reason that I've decided to stop frequenting fast food restaurants indefinitely.

There aren't many things in life that you can give up permanently. I'm not sure if fast food fits into that category for me or not, but I'm going to cut it out of my diet altogether to allow myself to create the habit of eating better. Maybe someday fast food may become "real food," but that's doubtful from where I'm sitting. For now, removing it from my life entirely seems to be the best option.

My decision to stop eating fast food consists of three main aspects:

  • Health: First and foremost, I want to stay healthy. Fast food is almost never "real food." It is industrially produced using steroids and genetic manipulation to make animals grow unnaturally fast and to unnaturally large sizes, antibiotics and pasteurization to make up for the lack of sanitary conditions, and nearly every unsavory part of the animal is used, all for a single purpose: to keep prices low. Fast food is not designed for good health—it is designed to make money for corporations.
  • Money: I don't care what anyone says—fast food is not the cheapest way to eat. If you want cheap food, make some time in your schedule to cook. And when you cook, make enough food for leftovers for lunch the next day. Think about it: if you buy a $7 fast food meal three times a week, that adds up to $1,092 a year, and nearly $11,000 in a decade. That's a lot of money to pay for a heart attack.
  • Ethics: How you spend your money affects a lot of other people. Somewhere, someone is spraying toxic chemicals that we would be very afraid of all over that Whopper's lettuce to kill some things and make other things grow faster. Every year the fast food industry produces millions of tons of waste worldwide. I don't want to contribute to that. Not to mention the animals' harsh living conditions.
This decision, for me, is completely personal. I'm not imposing this rule on my friends or family—I'm doing what is right for me, and only me. I've decided that eating poorly, and fast food in particular, would hinder what I want out of life. I want to live a long, healthy life, and my diet is not supporting that desire.

I've educated myself, come to some personal conclusions, and decided to make serious changes. I picture myself living happily and healthily for a long time. Fast food does not complement that picture.

February 12, 2013

United State of Pop 2012

This is something I look forward to every year. Anyone who still doubts that mashups are a form of art needs to give it a listen.

February 8, 2013

I write because I have to

“Writers will happen in the best of families.” ~Rita Mae Brown
For over three years now, I've been writing and editing VentureBreak. Before that, I wrote a blog on WordPress.com. Before that, I had a Blogger blog. And I have this blog, too. I'm also always writing short stories and starting novels I know I'll never finish. I've also written an ebook. Why the hell would someone write that much?

See that quote up there? Rita is saying that a true writer has to write. Born that way. No choice.

I write because I have to. I write to stay sane, or, sometimes, to get sane. It's a creative outlet. It's a hobby. It's a job. But the obsession to communicate through the written word is also a disease. It's like diabetes—maybe you can't cure it, but you can certainly treat it. For a writer, the only treatment is submission. Giving into the urge makes it go away, for a while.

I love it, though. It's one of my passions. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and I don't think I'll be quitting anytime soon.

So, if I'm gonna write, I might as well let people read the stuff, right? That's one of the cool things about blogs, and the Internet in general. As soon as I write something, all I have to do is click one button to share it with the world. Anyone can read it, even if no one does. Within minutes, I can get comments telling me how much the piece sucked, or how good it was. Pretty cool, if you ask me.

“One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds.” ~Alfred Kazin

Around You

I'm really digging this song by Verona. It's available for free download on their Facebook page.

February 6, 2013

Gangnam Style acoustic cover

Such an impressive rendition. Just as I'm starting to get sick of this song, this comes along.

February 5, 2013

Good advice

A burglar describes the best places to hide money in your house. Key takeaway: leave some money in an obvious hiding place (underwear drawer) and most burglars will take it and get out—leaving the rest of your cash and valuables untouched.