The Ultimate Pillar of Success: Be an Existential DJ

Arts, Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

       Imagine the sheer astonishment of Leonardo Da Vinci if he were suddenly alive and flying in a 747 at 35,000 feet above the ground. Can you see his mind-body – all his senses – become arrested in a state of complete Nirvana? Can you see him gasping at the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that one of his wildest luminary visions is now a reality. The nature of humanity, however, suggests that the sublime bliss of this experience is likely to dissipate by more than half by the time he sets foot on his return flight. The emotional return on the experience will continue to diminish with each passing flight until one day he will get on the airplane, shut his window, shut his eyes, and hope for a new dream to entertain him during the hours that follow.

         What happened to his awe? What happened to the ecstasy? This diminished return on experience is known as, hedonic adaptation (def. the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life events or changes). It so happens that being awestruck is the key to being our best selves, the key to our inspiration, and the key to liberating our inner genius. When in a state of utter surprise, we are attentive, we learn more, we think and perform better. These behaviors define what it means to be in an ecstatic state of mind (aka – a “flow state” or “the zone”). Unfortunately, the more exposed we become to the goings-on of the world around us, the less surprised or compelled we are by anything that happens, and the less affected we are by the sheer magnificence that engulfs being a living, breathing human being.

          So how do we transcend the been-theres and done-thats of our adult minds – the banality of our everyday lives? Can we reverse-engineer the experiences that allow us to use our minds in the most optimal way and tap into our highest potential? Legendary observationist, Charles Darwin, said: “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates to surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.”

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           But how many of us today have the attention span of Charles Darwin? And how, in a world where the patience to pay attention to any one thing is so rapidly in decline, can we mindfully slow down and focus for long enough to become interested? Might this not explain why children seem less and less likely to sit through a full-length movie, but prefer instead to watch YouTube?

 

       We know that our minds and moods are dictated by neurochemistry. After years of examination, science seems to have become fairly accurate in identifying scenarios that trigger the chemicals which cause us to feel, think, and act in the various ways that we do. So, if scientists can predict which chemical will be released during a given situation, then we should be able to – using a variety of methods – author our own neurochemical Nirvana. Timothy Leery obviously believed so. And his “trippy” method, though highly controversial and ultimately unsuccessful, is still very much in use today. MDMA, for instance, is being prescribed to PTSD and OCD patients on a regular basis, and in many of these cases is being reported to have, in one afternoon, the same effect of 10 years of psychotherapy. (And yes, I did just use 3 acronyms in one sentence.) Using drugs as tools or loopholes to alter our state of consciousness in search of ecstasy is no doubt a controversial topic. But perhaps, through a delicate and mindful combination of psychology, technology, and pharmacology, the future will allow us to engineer our own paradise, offering us the proverbial “red pill”, a super-drug that has managed to dispense the bathwater and reprieve only the baby.

      Pharmaceuticals, however, are nowhere near our only hope. Neurochemicals, after all, are stimulated naturally and require no drug whatsoever if the human in question is disciplined enough to seek the proper experience and dedicate himself to the time and patience necessary to become submerged in said experience. For some, such ecstasy may be rendered through a specific artistic endeavor, or by spanning time in some natural or designed heterotopia; outer vastness reflects inner vastness, after all. Others might meet their hedonistic needs through meditation or Yoga, or maybe through an extreme sport where the risk of danger or injury is present. Personally, I haven’t found a high quite so exhilarating as that of leaping from the top of a tall cliff into a deep, glassy body of water. Though it is a very short rush, facing the fear of what I perceive in the moment (accurately or not) as falling to my death leaves me feeling completely alive.

 

       No matter the method, bliss and sublime well-being are consciously achievable and are not limited to fleeting moments which lie outside of our control. The final frontier has been said to be outer space, but I would contend that perhaps there is a final-final frontier, one which consists of our own inner space. You don’t need to be a “flow-junky” or a philosophical hedonist to aspire to have the key to your own happiness and your own gift of genius. As Brain Games host, Jason Silva, puts it, “Ask yourself: What makes me feel alive? What gives me the goosebumps? What makes me well up?” When you have the answer to these questions, make note of the surroundings – both those which lie without as well as those which lie within. Nail down the formula, and then, like a DJ with all the tools at your fingertips, tweak and tailor each component. Mix, match, and harmonize your own Nirvana.

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Imagine a 32-foot Christ Statue in Corpus Christi Bay

Arts, Corpus Christi, Local history
Gutzon Borglum

     With work continuing on Shoreline Boulevard for the next few months, readers might be interested in looking at past plans to beautify the bay front.  In January 1912, the city approved the purchase of 150 palm trees at a cost of $5.25 each to line Shoreline Drive and make it more attractive for visitors and locals.  That was the start.  From there, many plans have found their way to the council chambers but none quite like the one planned by a visionary sculptor and a Chamber of Commerce president.

     This January 22, 1928, news piece will certainly peak the interest of anyone interested in the history of Corpus Christi or the future of the bay front.  It seems that many plans have been developed over the years concerning what should happen at this site.  Even Gutzon Borglum, world-renowned sculptor and creator of Mt. Rushmore, the monumental sculpture of larger-than-life Americans, had a vision for Corpus Christi.  The article below ran in the Albuquerque Journal in 1928.

     The Abilene Reporter-News on June 24, 1928, declared that the improvements proposed by Borglum “will make Corpus Christi one of the most beautiful cities in America.  The article described how Borglum said that he had always had a dream to create a figure of Christ “along heroic proportions” and that “nothing could be more symbolical than the placing of such a statue in Corpus Christi which means Body of Christ.”  As modern-day Corpus Christians know, this plan never came to fruition.  Alan Lessoff, author of Where Corpus Christi Meets the Sea:  Corpus Christi and Its History, “After the artist died in 1941, his son Lincoln attempted without success to erect a version of the Christ colossus in Spearfish, South Dakota, home of a production of the Passion play.”

Postcard image of Borglum’s Christ Statue (Spearfish, South Dakota)

     It seems that the idea of a monumental Christ in the bay was very popular over the years and that the idea was presented to the city at least four times.  Lessoff relates that in 1953-1954, a group proposed a statue forty feet taller than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer.  He quotes one of the supporters of the project as saying, “The monument must be the tallest one in the world, for this is Texas.”

     Lessoff also makes mention of two Mexican artists who, in 1971, showed up in town with a model for a “sixteen-story steel-and-marble colossus, envisioned as a bicentennial gift from Mexico.”  There was a glitch in the arrangement of the reception, and they were left displaying the model at a local mall.

     This was closely followed in August 1979 by another rejected statue proposed by Sherman Coleman, a local surgeon and sculptor.  A lawsuit was threatened to prevent erection of the statue on a city-owned spoil island.  By 1995, the idea of a Christ statue overlooking Corpus Christi Bay came to fruition at the hands of a local, Swedish-born and internationally renowned sculptor, Kent Ullberg.  The First United Methodist Church commissioned Ullberg to create a  fifteen-and-a-half-foot bronze of Christ stilling the waters.  The statue stands in front of the church on Shoreline Boulevard.

     I can only imagine what Corpus Christi would be like now if Borglum’s plan had been carried out.  Artwork that would rival the Statue of Liberty itself would have certainly had an impact on the people who live here and those who would find their way here to see such a wondrous monument.

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Flour Fest Part III: The Celebrities

Arts, Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page

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     Dan Thornton, lifetime Flour Bluff resident and writer of the winning Flour Bluff song entitled “A Taste of Heaven” danced with Melanie Hambrick, President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, in celebration of what is now known as the “Official Song of Flour Bluff.”  Thornton, who has written poetry and songs most of his life and sang his own song, had this to say about the designation of his song, “Pretty cool.”  Dennis Gilley, local musician performed the instrumentals.

     Flour Fest goers were also treated to local musical talent, Michael Burtts, a guitarist and singer.

     “My style is influenced by the old and new genres of music. If you can think it, I can play it,” Burtts states  on his website.  He proved this to be a true statement as he showed off his musical and vocal talents by performing popular hits from  George Strait, Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, Lynard Skynard, and many more rock and country artists.

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     Following Burtts was Corpus Christi blues, rock and roll band, Cathouse.  They delivered or their claim of being “reminiscent to the likings of Cream, Deep Purple, Jeff Beck, and others” in the genre.  They have opened for Dick Dale, Pat Travers, Chris Duarte, Ian Moore, and Eric Gales along with Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, and Foghat.   They rocked the park for nearly two hours and drew in young and old alike.

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     Headliner, Jimmy Spacek and his band, took the stage at 4:30 p.m. and finished the event out right.  Spacek, known as the “Godfather of San Antonio Blues,” and his band know how to make the crowd break into dance, sway with the rhythm, and wish they could play rhythm and blues.  Local attorney, Jeff Rank, did just that when he was invited to jam on stage with the band.

 

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     “A big thanks to the good folks in Flour Bluff and the FBBA for inviting us out to the 1st Annual Flour Fest.  What a great time playing down on the Texas Coast!” posted Spacek on his Facebook page after the event.”

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     Vendors and Civic Groups

     Of course, the event could not have even come to be without the many vendors, volunteers, and people who attended.  The FBBA Board of Directors wants to thank everyone who came out to help, to sell their wares, to entertain, to have fun, and to be with fellow community members.  Next year will be bigger and better yet!

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Dignitaries, Candidates, Volunteers, and Festival Goers

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Living la Vida Bluff Style!

Arts, Business, Education, Flour Bluff, Food and Drink, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors, Religion, Sports, Travel
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Sunset on Cayo del Oso in Flour Bluff

     I guess taking part in my 40th class reunion made me a bit nostalgic concerning my hometown, Flour Bluff.  It is a little community of about 20,000 fiercely independent people that sits on the Encinal Peninsula between Cayo del Oso and Laguna Madre.  On Aug. 5, 1961, the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, voted to annex Flour Bluff while Flour Bluff voted to incorporate as a separate city.  The Corpus Christi City Council passed an annexation ordinance, and city police began patrolling in Flour Bluff.  Suits filed by Flour Bluff residents to block annexation were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter.  Even though Flour Bluff officially became part of Corpus Christi, the people don’t really seem to know it.  That’s why most Flour Bluffians say they are “going to town,” when in actuality they are simply crossing one of the two Oso bridges into Corpus Christi proper.

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     Once known as the “Gateway to Padre Island,” Flour Bluff is home to the award-winning Flour Bluff Independent School District and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the two largest employers in the community.  These two entities have supported each other since World War II when the Navy commissioned the base in 1941.  Flour Bluff, like many Texas towns, was influenced by ranching and oil and gas.  Add to that tourism, highlighted by fishing, boating, birding, and water sports, the diverse nature of the community starts to take shape.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
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The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff.
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Kite surfing, boating, fishing, and great meals at Laguna Reef in Flour Bluff
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Flour Bluff is home to countless species of birds.

    It is possible to live and work in Flour Bluff and never leave except to visit a major hospital, which is just five minutes away.  Flour Bluff has its very own HEB Plus and Super Walmart along with a host of unique shops and businesses that meet the everyday needs of the people.  It has an active business association, three fire stations (federal, county, and city), a police substation, various banking institutions, eateries of all types, and even a brewery!  Add to this three quick-care clinics, local dentists, a vet clinic serving large animals and small pets, accommodations for out-of-town guests, a twenty-four hour gym, multiple auto mechanic shops, storage facilities, car washes, insurance companies, attorneys-at-law, and a host of other businesses that offer the citizens of Flour Bluff basic amenities of life. Of course, churches of all denominations and community organizations enrich the lives of the people, too. If a person wants something more, indoor and outdoor malls are within a ten-minute drive east while the Gulf of Mexico is ten minutes the other direction. Padre Island sports the longest stretch of undeveloped, drivable beach in America (60 miles).  Del Mar College, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and the Craft Training Center provide educational opportunities beyond high school and are all under a 20-minute drive from Flour Bluff.

    

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     Living in Flour Bluff comes in all shapes and sizes.  The community offers many housing choices – including affordable housing, and multiple realtors in the area are available to assist newcomers in finding the perfect home.  Some residents in Flour Bluff enjoy the rancher’s life and own large pieces of property with room for horses and cows.  Others love living on the water.  Waterfront properties are available along Oso Bay, Laguna Madre, and parts in between where ponds and canals exist.  Many people prefer little or no yard maintenance and live in single or multi-level apartments or condominiums.  Flour Bluff welcomes its friends from the colder parts of the country in the many RV parks in the community.  Most residents, however, live in quiet neighborhoods filled with the whir of lawnmowers and the laughter of children.  Yes, there is indeed something for everyone!

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     Flour Bluff offers many outlets for family fun.  The community has a public and school pool, little league softball, baseball, and kickball fields, youth football organizations, activities at Flour Bluff Schools (i.e. basketball, football, volleyball, softball, academics, arts, music, NJROTC), a skateboard park, a disc golf park, multiple playgrounds, and other facilities for activities such as martial arts, soccer, tennis, rugby, and horseback riding.

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          Seasonal events give everyone something to anticipate.  Whether it’s the Navy hosting the Blue Angels, the Flour Bluff Homecoming Parade, the Flour Bluff Business Association Community Christmas, the Flour Bluff Fire Department Santa float, or the Flour Bluff 8th-Grade trip to HEB Camp in the Hill Country, those who know Flour Bluff, know it has a host of unique offerings for the community.  Maybe it’s a school that’s excels in everything.  Maybe it’s the year-round great weather conducive to outdoor activities like fishing, boating, swimming, and surfing.  Maybe it’s the tight-knit community that welcomes people from all over the world to be a part of what is happening here.  Maybe it’s the rich history or unique geographical location. Maybe it’s the class reunions, Friday-night football, or visiting with old friends in the grocery line. Whatever it is, Flour Bluff is a great place to live, visit, play, raise a family, and take part in a community that is like no other.

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Santa float

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     Spending the weekend with childhood friends (Flour Bluff Class of ’76), driving the Bluff in search of what is new or changed, writing this article, and gathering pictures for it takes me to the heart of a place I have called home for nearly 50 years.  Even those who have moved away still feel her tugging at their heartstrings. She definitely leaves an impression.  Flour Bluff, like every little “town”, has its problems, but that which is good outweighs them all.  I just wish more people could experience living la vida Bluff style!

 

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Short Films: Release

Arts, Corpus Christi, Short Film

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     The editors of the Paper Trail News have decided to add a Short Film section to our online news site.  Our goal is to give filmmakers an opportunity to share their work and get some feedback from viewers.  To see how this idea catches on, we are starting with our a short film we made, one that earned Matthew Thornton the Best Actor Award, Taylor Zamora the Best Supporting Actress Award, and Robert Thornton a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the local CC7D Film Festival.  The film presented here is the editor’s cut, which is twice as long as the 8-minute version submitted to the festival.

     “Release” is the story of a washed-up baseball player caring for his invalid father and battling the demons in his life.  Just when all seems lost, he is saved by two neighborhood kids tired of hanging out with their grandmother all summer.  (Note:  This film is suitable for all ages.)

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Click on the title to watch:

“Release.”

 

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Time and Work: According to Dad, the Builder

Around the State, Arts, Education, Opinion/Editorial, Personal History
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Dad, the Builder

     Sometimes I feel like an escaped convict being chased by time:  ever-long to-do lists and never-long to finish them. Plans for plans of plans to accomplish things which need only be accomplished in order to accomplish other things. And then comes the rising, surging impatience as one menial task seemingly steals time from a larger, more important task. “It’s all work; it all takes time; and it’s all necessary,” my dad would tell me. “You can lug and stack 6 pallets of brick for the bricklayer who stands in wait atop the scaffold, all the while wishing you had his job instead of yours, but you will have forgotten that he is about to move all the same bricks, setting and leveling each one by one as his two hands build a wall.”

     Without time, there may be no depth. All too often, we waste time and effort by spending time and effort trying to save time and effort. Short cuts, loopholes, and corner-cutting may be useful in a pinch, but real progress cannot be achieved unless you are willing to “walk the path” in its entirety. Our sweeping mentality of always wishing to find a tool that will give us more and faster typically results only in superficial levels of quality and knowledge which deliver neither more nor fast. Worse yet, cramming with shortcuts to learn quickly a little about everything ultimately means that you’ll only ever know a little about anything.

     The frustrating truth is that there is no cure for time. Be it spent or wasted, nothing passes more steadily than the tick of the clock. All we have are the choices we make about how to pass with it. The good times move with the speed at which we wish the bad times could, and the bad times linger in ways that only good times should. In the end, our only real solution is mindful, steady work. Couple this with a specific objective, and we may rest assured that the amount of time it takes to complete any task will be exactly equal to the amount of time it should take to complete the task, no more, no less. Only with years of repetition does the length of time needed to complete our work begin to shorten, a frustrating fact of life that is otherwise known as patience.

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Confidence, Fear, and Patience: “A General Theory of Creativity”

Arts, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial
Original artwork © Matthew Thornton
Original artwork © Matthew Thornton

     Ever been so sure of an idea that you rushed through it on impulse, overlooked something small (or big), and proceeded to watch your idea come crashing to the ground? Worse yet, ever wanted to create something that you were afraid might not amount to much if seen by other people, so you decided never to begin? Or what about that time you knew exactly what you wanted to produce, took all the necessary steps, and then watched in surprise with everyone around you as your idea came full circle from concept to reality? If the answer is no, stop reading here and go to a library or a museum, or anyplace at all that might fill your soul with a whisper of a thrill or a spark of inspiration. If, on the other hand, the answer is yes to any or all of the preceding questions, then I have one more question for you: Have you ever wondered why your creative undertakings succeed or fail, and how you can ensure that your next idea will come to fruition?

     Creativity exists in the narrow fracture between confidence and fear, a place where patience holds the reins and gives us the courage not only to forge ahead, but also the acute awareness of when to slow down. Mindful rousing and taming of your creative inner giant is developed through artistic patience – a skill requiring a conscious awareness of purpose, a self-reflection of habit, and the most recalcitrant element of all: time.

Original artwork © Matthew Thornton
Original artwork © Matthew Thornton

     Confidence, though wildly desirable, has the nagging ability to produce a self-righteous voice in our heads: gas-pedal to the floor, eyes on the horizon, all the while neglecting the side and rearview mirrors. Anyone who has felt it is sure to be addicted to the high of feeling unbridled certainty. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. Without the lows, after all, highs would be indistinguishable. Pure confidence, therefore, rarely produces our most creative selves.

Original Artwork © Matthew Thornton
Original Artwork © Matthew Thornton

     Fear, on the other hand, produces nothing short of a well-armored fortress of excuses, telling us we should wait for ideas to strike, for resources to appear, and for acceptance by the masses. Worse yet, fear not only cripples creative impulse, but it also has the sneaky ability to transform in such a way that falsely spins our angst into the image of patience. Fright tricks us into telling ourselves, “It’s okay… Take your time… Don’t act too fast.”  Make no mistake; this is not real patience.  It is the proliferation and paralysis of fear.

Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton
Sun Worshiper © Matthew Thornton

     Unlike the extremes of confidence and fear, creative patience settles our minds in such a way that not only fuels confidence but also seeks and destroys fear; it pushes us forward without allowing us to act in haste. Ironically, it is the moments during which we feel the most sure that we might need to slow the cart, and the moments during which we feel the most fearful that we should forge ahead.  More time and more tools do not equal more freedom, more productivity, or necessarily even better quality. In fact, real freedom is found in limitation, which means that with the correct mindset, having access to fewer resources and less time can often lead to both more and better results. Creative patience spurs us into taking the time to figure out why and how we should create something, and then, without rushing or skipping steps, creating it.

     Don’t wait to start until the ideas strike; strike until the ideas start. Don’t wait until you have the tools to build; build with whatever tools you have. And above all – don’t fall slave to trends of the majority. Go the other way. Be a misfit, make your own rules, and remember that creativity is a result of lifestyle and habits. So shape your thoughts and actions accordingly and make your ideas become reality.

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