Monday, December 22

500 Word Day

Here's something I wrote this past semester, that I just found while cleaning up some files on my computer. The assignment was to describe a day in our lives using only one-word sentences. Most people I talk to have no frame of reference as to what living in a hospital in-patient facility can be like. Here's a one-worded memory of my life in an Atlanta hospital.

500 Word Day:
Hospital. Life.

Stir. Wince. Wake. Dilate. Scan. Unfamiliar. Confusion. Voices. Nurses. Doctors. Parents. Misunderstanding. Pills. Shots. Smiles. Telling. Uncertainty. Frowns. Frustration. Shepherded. Bathroom. Cramped. Sterile. Nurses. Undressed. Supervised. Washed. Degrading. Dried. Assurances. Orders. Confusion. Dressed. Wheel-chair. Defiance. Insistence. Rebellion. Firmness. Aggravation. Acceptance. Anguish.

Breakfast. Terrible. Bland. Mushy. Jell-O. Fruit. Tasteless. Bland. Emotions. Bland. Queasiness. Table. Cramped. Stomach. Cramped. Families. Assembling. Greetings. Exchanged. Courage. Mustered. Charade. Patients. Blank. Inert. Motionless. Expressionless. Eating. Forks. Tubes. Neck. Stomach. Mechanical. Processed. Inhuman. Empty. Stares. Broken. Minds. Shattered.

Plates. Cleared. Finished. Plates. Bussed. Whisked. Finally. Ugh. Gross. Nausea. Medicine. Anticipate. Water. Cups. Gulp. Pills. Pills. Pills. Cringe. Pills. Pills. Pills. Pills. Pills. Gasp. Pills. Pills. Pills. Pills. Grimace. Done. Stand. Attempt. Wobble. Collapse. Wheel-chair. Grasp. Handles. Push. Down. Halls. Corner. Room. Meeting. Therapists. Greetings. Smiles. Blank. Replies. Schedules. Reviewed. Therapy. Agenda. Physical. Speech. Lunch. Nap. Recreation. Done. Start. GO.

Wheeled. Doors. Opened. Therapist. Waiting. Smiling. Athletic. Attractive. Blond. Beams. Wheel-chair. Transferred. Rehab. Table. Padding. Sterile. Blue. Navy. Sickening. Legs. First. Guided. Coached. Rotations. Wincing. Assurances. Bending. Flexing. Turning. Balancing. Tipping. Falling. Frustration. Confusion. Assurances. Smiles. Annoyed. Feel. Disabled. Stand. Step. Lunge. Fall. Helped. Righted. Start-over. Stand. Step. Lunge. Arms. Extended. Straightened. Balanced. Push. Flex. Stand. Straighten. Repeat. Monotonous. Progress. Slow. Steady. Methodical. Mechanical. Acceptance.

Next. Speech. Therapist. Smiley. Round. Giggles. Enthusiastic. Work. Reviewed. Multiplication. Division. Vocabulary. Sigh. Unsure. Fine. Start. Questions. Question. Questions. Frustration. Seven. Times. Eight. Blank. Why? Confusion. Retry. New. Question. Twelve. Divided. Three. Uhmm. Uhmmmmm. Wait. Almost. Uhmmmmmmmmm. Four? Yes! Success. Relief. Life’s. Smallest. Victories. Realized. Progress. Noted. Charts. Everywhere. Questions. Irritation. Prying. Annoyance. Shut. Down. Counter-intuitive.

Lunch. More. Shitty. Food. Grumble. Remarks. Grumble. Stomach. Rush. Through. Finished. Finally. Tables. Cleared. Wheeled. Out. Rooms. Naptime. Struggle. Stand. Collapse. Bed. Clock. Reads. One. PM. Sleep.

Dreams. Absent. Just. Black. Void. Like. Space. Floating. Unconscious. Sensory. Deprivation. Free. Shaken. Woken. Times. Up. Return. Grindstone. Therapy. Endless. Seemingly. Unsure.

Recreational. Group. Therapy. Gathered. Briefed. Followed. Elevator. Down. New. Floor. Unfamiliar. More. Blank. Hallways. Maze-like. Double. Doors. Opened. Lockers. Swimsuits. Changed. Awkward. Modesty. Privacy. Craved. Doors. Atrium. Giant. Echoing. Pool. Complex. Olympic. Sized. Excited. Some. Degree. Normalcy. Reclaimed.

Climb. In. Some. Lowered. In. Mechanically. Chilly. Water. Weightless. Free. Foreign. Familiar. Comforting. Circle. Water. Exercises. Begin. Therapists. Move. We. Follow. Walk. Waist-deep. Turn. Straight. Line. Try. Hardest. Mild. Success. Regroup. Arms. Rotate. Underwater. Reverse. Tiring. Muscle. Tissue. Deteriorated. Frustrating. Breath. Close. Eyes. Focus. Try. Again. Push. Pain. Lactic. Acid. Building. Arms. Extremities. Burning. Gasp. Push. Wince. Exasperated. Collapse. Catch. Breath. Dunk. Under. Cool. Off. Hard. Days. Work.

Climb. Out. Towel. Off. Return. Back. Ward. Residence. Temporary. Sterile. Reality. Shower. Alone. Relief. Wash. Chlorine. Wash. Sweat. Wash. Desperation. Warm. Water. Warm. Muscles. Towel. Dressed. Dinner. One. Hour. Read. Cards. Letters. Mail.

Get. Well.
Miss. Lots.
Thinking. Always.
Praying. Incessantly.
Get. Well.

Dinner. Done. Visitors. Appreciated. Uncle. Aunt. Cousins. Warmth. Family. Encouragement. Night. Brush. Teeth. Under. Covers.

Thinking. Lingering. Doubt. Confusing. Foreboding. Tomorrow. Start. Over. Keep. Struggling. Keep. Working. Keep. Trying.



Saturday, December 20

Brief Thought

It's nice to be back in Charleston for an extended visit.

To all my friends and family in other places, I hope you're having a great holiday season.

Here's one of my favorite songs by Incubus. When I close my eyes, it brings my mind straight back to the Isle of Palms as a teenager, growing up on the beach, under the sun. These experiences have unquestionably affected my personality and possibly explains my relaxed, island-life way of existing. If we could peer into each other's Brains to see their recollection of their past, I wonder how that might change how we'd relate.

Saturday, December 13

5 Years

Today, I am the sum total.

I am the sum total of the trillion of cells in my body that work in beautiful harmony to enable my body to perform incredible feats. I just got off of another 5.5 hour, 82 mile, anything-but-flat ride to Point Reyes Station with some team mates. Today's ride was one of celebration, smiles, and gratitude. Today marks the 5 year anniversary of my close brush with death, and in a way, is kind of a re-birthday. I mostly rode quietly at the back, taking in the bubbling hills of Marin county, the sheer sand-colored rock faces, the electric blue sky spilling over the picturesque California coast. I rode today with a smile and a thankfulness to be able to trudge up the boundless mountains north of San Francisco. Today I could close my eyes and taste the effort it took to walk my first steps in the hospital. I thanked my legs for every revolution they turned, every switchback I cornered, every foot we ascended. When I start to suffer on the bike, I often grope in the dark deep of myself, looking for something, anything to get me over the next hill. Our subconscious is a mysterious place and some people spend their entire lives trying to find what they're made of. Today, I found an incredible mosaic when I looked within.

I am the sum total of the sacrifices and support that hundreds, if not thousands of people have donated on my behalf. Even if hindsight is 20-20, I still rub my eyes in disbelief at how perfectly things worked out. I had access to some of the nation's best facilities, medical minds, nutritionists, teachers, and specialists to give me the tools to piece myself back together after my fall. It's been an incredible experience to unknowingly be a conduit that brings out the best in the people around me and I've seen that my family and friends are capable of superhuman feats. I hope that my experience taught the people around me as much about themselves and their strengths as I learned about myself and mine. As I nod to the incredible amounts of fortune, good luck, and opportunity that's been dropped neatly in my lap, I feel a desire and moral obligation to pay it forward with interest.

I am the sum total of my accomplishments, my failures, my disposition, my outlooks. I hope that I can go on to create opportunities for people in the same way that I've been renewed my lease on life. To reference my Power of Sound theory, I hope that I can help people find the music within themselves, and hear their harmony of their own strengths.

To everyone that's ever taken the time to get involved in the Life of Gavin Shelton, today's for you.

How does that sound?

As we rolled into Nicasio, CA, this little outpost dropped in the middle of nowhere that serves as a pit stop/ bathroom stop/ and food stop for passing cyclists, I looked down at my cyclocomputer and noticed something that made me smile and shake my head. My life plays out like a movie sometimes and as we climbed off out bikes for a rest stop, my odometer just rolled over the 5000 mile mark. 5 years? 5000 miles? I couldn't have written a better script myself.

Friday, December 12

Truth in Advertising

Hilarious. Excuse the language.

Tuesday, December 9

The Power of Sound: Prelude

I'm in the process of making one of my most revolutionizing self-discoveries yet.

I can now say that through this theory I'm building, I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the way that I think and the way that I live. Gracelyn is a neuroscience aficionado and frequently grounds me in reality while giving me an objective, decidedly Left-Brain viewpoint. In our conversations, the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts and it's incredible to be privy to her flavor of thinking. In a way, it's like a Left Brain prosthetic sometimes, as my Left side has been tampered with via my TBI. Needless to say, it's always an interesting experience to think with 2 Minds.

She and I came to the discovery last night that the human Life Experience is entirely dependent on your individual Brain and how it handles stimulation. For this explanation, I'll define Life Experience as, "the events or experiences that leave an impression and shape how reality is viewed". In short, the way your brain works governs the way you live your life.

My Brain thinks in the language of Music and I look at the world through Sound-colored lenses. This highlights musical parallels all the time. For example:
~The experience of growing up is like changing musical keys

~The rhythms of our lives click in time like different time signatures

~The way we choose to express ourselves is like the different dynamic markings on musical compositions: telling us to accent some parts of ourselves, mute others; draw out and lengthen some ideas, abruptly cut others short.
We each have self-constructed systems on how we make sense of this insanely mysterious world and I easily grasp ideas when I find a way to describe them in Musical terms.

Thus, it's interesting to note that we all experience numerous key changes in our lives. If all the different kinds of experiences are personified as different notes in an octave, they either harmonize or sound out of place. Like people that sing off-pitch, any music that sounds "off" does so because it doesn't fit with the established musical key; its defined rules and systems. It can then be observed that when you experience something or meet someone whose actions don't fit with your own values, there's a similar kind of discord. You share things in common with your friends and family not because you're all exactly the same, but because you all make similar sounds. You all harmonize and belong in the same musical category: your Genre.

Thinking this way, it's cool to notice the shared characteristics of everyone in your respective social Genre. More often than not, you move in similar rhythms (time signatures) as the people around you. Most college kids stay up late and are on a similar night-owl schedule while most adults wake up early and scoff at the late-sleeping youth. Some could argue that it's because of the responsibilities that adults have and teenagers don't, but I'm more inclined to think it's because both groups march to different beats. How fast does your life's rhythm move?

Lastly, I don't always remember what people tell me. But, when I close my eyes and listen, I can remember the individual "timbre" of almost every person whom I've had a meaningful relationship with: the character or quality of their voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity. I can close my eyes and hear the voice of almost all my extended family members, my different friends, all the teachers I've ever had, and most of the people I've ever had regular conversations with. I remember how people sound when they express themselves over the details of what they're talking about. In my head, how you talk/ sound is what I'm going to eventually file away in the storage boxes of my Brain.

Thus, I can say with truthiness that I make sense of life through different musical colors; the different things that enter my brain are described and categorized in Musical terminology. When I view different people and different life experiences as different songs, life starts to sound more reasonable.

This is where I think we need to change how we work in the world. What's stopping you from accenting the commonalities that you share with different people, rather than what separates you? Jazz and Country music are completely different in so many ways and you could get hung up despising one or the other if you didn't acknowledge that they both often share stand-up basses and stories of everyday life. Focus on what you share in common with someone rather than what makes you different, and you'll discover a unique fusion of musical styles in the way that you interact together and listen to life.

How's that sound?

Monday, December 8

Build a Home Studio: Part 2

I rolled out of bed with music playing in my head and needed to get it out. Here is how I record songs with my apartment set-up:

1. Download a karaoke song off iTunes for $.99.
There are thousands of instrumental-only tracks on iTunes so find one you like and know the words to.

2. Record vocals
The mic on my iPhone is pretty good so that's what I use but feasibly, you could record using the mic that's built into your computer (assuming you have a Mac).

3. Arrange
Open GarageBand and drag the Karaoke MP3 into it's own track. Then find your vocal recording and drag into it's own separate track. Next, line up everything in time so it all sync's.

4. Mix
Play with volume, equalizers, filters, and effects to polish the vocals. These effects are largely why Live shows are frequently different from what you hear on any artist's album as they tweak, tone, and fine-tune the sound.

5. Export
In Garageband, go to Share-> Export Song to Disk... and choose where you want to send your new Grammy-winning tribute. I export in MP3 and turn my file up to "Higher Quality" as to preserve the sound of the song.

6. Share
Send to all your friends and family for them to see how much you love music and how much your should really be spending studying/ working on your finals...

If you want the whole version of my cover of Jamie Cullum's "Next Year, Baby" right click this link and choose "Save Link as..."

This is what GarageBand looked like after finishing recording, mixing, and mastering.

Saturday, December 6

Can No News be Good News?

Every time I think our attention can't get more distracted, I'm proven wrong.

With the insane rate of development in the realm of technology, it seems that new channels are being dreamed up and developed on a daily basis. After first having only telegrams to communicate with, society moved towards actual mail, then email, then instant messages, then text messages, and so on. This system has brought society tons of new discoveries and has opened up the global stage to anyone with a computer and an opinion to diffuse themselves to a massive audience in seconds. The internet has given us all a voice though it seems that the volume control has been broken for a while.

I was thinking about things while at a Wild Sweet Orange concert in Portland over Thanksgiving. I'd listened to the Georgia rock band on the way to the show at the Crystal Ballroom and was fairly excited to hear how their live sound measured up to their CD. However, the guy working the sound booth must have spent years at the mixing board and over time slowly waged battle on his auditory system. I remember the volume being so loud that when any of the musicians would hit a certain frequency (from a particular note or chord), my (already aching) eardrums would reverberate a certain way that would leave me cramming my fingers in my ears, doubling over in pain, and clearly distracting me from the show at hand. This is no way to enjoy a live performance

I feel like the culture of News is developing in a similar same way. Upon opening my RSS feeder alone, there are 126 new feeds to read/catch up on. This would lock me at my desk for hours and without even opening my Facebook or Email. With Twitter (that I dont use, thankfully) and other channels providing up-to-the-second news and opinions, I find myself sticking my fingers in my ears, wincing, and shutting out the news like at the Ballroom. Like TV Advertising, I've been bombarded by so many subversive "Status Updates" and "Away Messages" that I feel online interactions are getting more and more ineffective.

I propose a new kind of "Slow News" network. I think it'd be interesting to have some kind of online publication that publishes 3-5 longer stories per week that are relevant to your life, targeted community, or declared interests. In a depth vs. width paradigm, you can't truly learn a lot about what's going on in the world or even in your own community when you base your opinions off of a CNN Twitter update or a 2-paragraph blurb. How did the culture of self-proclaimed experts get to evolve, with only Wikipedia and a few short headlines to back up their claims of enlightenment?

I can imagine spending the quality of time and attention on a few stories per week like I do when I read books: focused, attentive, and reflective. My friend Gary Smith does this when he writes stories for Sports Illustrated. By writing only a few long-format, super deep and insightful articles per year, he's distinguished himself as the most decorated sports writer in America, while cultivating a community of die hard readers.

In the future, one of the new, true American freedoms might lie in what we choose to pay our undivided attention to and what we choose to mentally process. If not, I fear that we'll keep becoming more and more scattered and ADD with less and less to base credible thoughts and opinions on.

How's that sound?

Friday, December 5

Build a Home Studio using a computer and a cell phone

I just had the most fun with $1 that I've had in a long time.

In out Account Planning class, we've been talking a lot about collaboration and how things are shifting towards sharing and creating. As a die-hard music enthusiast, I can say that I've downloaded more than my fair share of music for free off of the web but this way, have discovered and become a big supporter of bands that I would have otherwise never heard. One of my favorite discoveries came during senior year of high school. When I was poking around the local music store (Millennium Music R.I.P.), I stumbled across Jamie Cullum: A young, short, British 20-something who had just made his US debut. Jamie started with a love of Jazz (like me) and has since branched out into different genres, creating his own sound by blending a few of my favorite styles together. After a few years of close following, I can say that I've listened to most all of his music that he's ever recorded.

However, now with iTunes people can take their enthusiasm with their favorite artists to a new level. iTunes offers tons of $0.99 Karaoke songs and after a day of running around and working on ads, I decided to air my head out and experiment with one. I bought the instrumental version of one of my Cullum favorites and tried my hand at covering it. With a Mac (excuse this for sounding like one of their ads), it's simple and with GarageBand I plugged the song right into it's own track.

Then using iTalk (a high quality recording program) on my iPhone, I tracked the vocals and imported them into GarageBand. This was done at 11:30pm in about 15 minutes so forgive me for sounding a bit tired but here's the end result for your listening pleasure. It seems like this is what the future of entertainment consumption could look like: giving people resources to play with their own music.

How's that sound?

Thursday, December 4

A look to the Future

This movie has touched a nerve with me.

If you've got 2 hours to set aside, I'd ask that you sit down, watch this movie, and comment with your thoughts. This raises some critical questions about the future of the world.

You can click the button in the corner to go full screen.

Wednesday, December 3

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

"The past is never dead, it is not even past." -William Faulkner

There is a large portion of my life that I don't remember. Though our memories are far from perfect, most people can summon a general recollection of their past: fabricated of conversations, mental pictures, smells, and sounds. I can say with a bizarre flavor of confidence that there is a 3-month chunk that's missing and that I only have a hazy recollection of. Not unlike the morning after a riotous party, I squeeze my eyes and rub my head, trying to massage the night's activities back into focus. It's a bizarre experience then, when a relic of your past comes bubbling up from the deep and finds you on Facebook.

Going through any kind of In-Patient recovery experience is harrowing. There's something about the sterile smell and beige walls that fumigates any kind of positive emotion and it's the people around you- family, friends, nurses, doctors, and fellow patients- that ultimately get you through to the other side. I just found and reconnected with one of my friends from my time in the purgatory of Brain Injury rehab in Atlanta.

As I was reeling from my rock climbing accident, my new friend had been involved in a hunting accident and was left with bird shot inside of his cranial tissue. After getting settled into my new life as a TBI patient and after exchanging stories, I was surprised to see him alive, much less scooting around in a wheel chair. Humans often bond through suffering and as we both struggled through therapy, our families forged a connection that's hard to replicate. When you're awkwardly trying to relearn how to walk or how to make a shopping list for the grocery store or remember your multiplication tables, it helps to have a friend to help celebrate the small daily victories.

I just found him on Facebook and can breathe a sigh of relief to see that he's doing so well. Another one of the most difficult things to grapple with when confronted with life in a hospital, is never knowing what ultimately happens to the people that are struggling around you. For confidentiality reasons, hospitals are forbidden from releasing the names or follow-up info of their patients to anyone and if you've not exchanged numbers or emails before discharge, you're left holding the phone. I often wonder about the hispanic priest, the young blond girl, the pair of Mexican construction workers, the Alabama highway patrol officer, and the others whom all sat wheel-chair to wheel-chair with me. I'm now riding my bike over huge mountains and am in a difficult Advertising program in college, and only hope that my fellow TBI survivors are doing as well. As the 5 year anniversary of my brush with mortality draws close, I'll feel extra lucky to be able to suit up and ride for life.

How's that sound?

Doing the newly-invented "Shepherd shake" and both missing some hair. I must have (prediactably) forgotten my hat.