Late March Freewrite

Let’s get this party started. I’m currently listening to Dntel, the name of the band that the mixer from Postal Service uses for his personal stuff. It’s moody and atmospheric and simply awesome to listen to. I’m on track two, which has the repeated lyric, “How can I love you if you don’t love yourself” followed by “How can you love me if I don’t love myself” followed by “We’re not going anywhere, the sun is bright we’re standing still and it’s alright.” And it all just fits. While I first heard the song on my computer, in my office in the apartment in Bellevue, the song has become inextricably linked to a compilation I put it on. The song automagically conjures up exact mood I feel when driving through the city late, late at night, when the traffic is non-existent, and you’re just cruising, it rained earlier in the day and the pavement still has moisture around the edges, but the road itself is dry, the rain wrung from the asphalt by countless tires rolling over it. It should be dark and you shouldn’t be able to see anything, but it’s the city, with concrete canyons towering around you eternally lit in a tungsten vigil. And that’s okay, somehow, and you just cruise, like an outsider in his little rocket ship, listening to a song that says it’s alright. And it is.

The album has continued; it took me longer to write that paragraph that the song itself continues, but that doesn’t really matter. Moods and feelings can linger for far longer than the cause of those moods or feelings. We can be bitter a year later, and then look back to a lazy summer afternoon three years past and decide that it’s alright. There’s a reason for that, and I shan’t go into it. It’s unnecessary. The more times I tread on that, the more of a rut I get into, and ruts are only good for getting you mired in the muck and

It’s raining outside, with a strong wind dictating the direction each droplet falls with surprising similarity. The trees, leaves open to the air in spring green ferocity sway in the gusts, as the rain falls abruptly from the sky, then stops. From a steady, soul soothing rainfall, giant drops plummeting from clouds above, it just stops, completely. Just the wind is left, and across the road out my office window (Federal Way, this time), some of the larger leaves have flipped over to show their silver bellies to the sky, something I used to always delight in seeing as a child, because it meant a big storm was coming and soon, not more than a few hours away. The storm would bring rain and wind and sometimes lightning and thunder and would sweep everything away. Giant rivulets of rainwater would gush down the driveway, pulling the gravel with it, leaving giant ravines in the road that we would have to avoid when driving. And now it’s raining
again. A finer rain this time, more gentle.

I remember when I was seven, a huge windstorm came through town during the summer evening, and we all rushed outside. It was only 5 or 6 in the evening, but it was dark, the clouds like a ceiling blocking out sunlight. The wind was everywhere, and we scrambled to pick up various outdoor implements and put them away before the rains came, or before they were blown away. Leaves were ripped from the trees, and spun around in swirls of whirlygigs, and one got in my eye, which put me out of commission for the evening. I spent the next hour inside, blinking and running water over my eye to get the dirt out of it, but I can’t help but wonder if there was something more outside then that if I’d only stayed, would have happened. Pretentious, perhaps, but I never said I wasn’t.

There is something in those woods, the woods I grew up in. The hill is old, very old, and was at one point nearly clearcut to make way for sheep farmers. A few trees remained, however, and naturally they are the largest in the forest. They are also the most gnarled and twisted trees in the forest, and there is an absolute silence that exists near them. There is a perfect space for deer to sleep beneath one, but I’ve never seen any deersign there, in 18 years of exploring those woods. There is a cave on the edge of the property that we were told to stay away from, because my parents suspected a skunk lived inside. I’ve never approached the cave, even now, years and years later: some places are meant to be left alone. The thought of going inside that hill unnerves me. Mind you, I’ve explored caves before, gone into mines and caverns and quarries, without qualm. It’s that place, that hill that unsettles. The hill cries in several places, water oozing from exposed bedrock in the middle of the forest, even in the middle of droughts and the heat of summer, even when the frog pond at the top of the hill is nothing but clay and a puddle.

The trees grow tall by that pond, plenty of water and nutrients to nourish, obviously, but I can’t help but feel that there is something more to it than that. I’ve walked through old growth forests that felt younger than those woods. It’s like the land itself trends towards the ancient, no matter what happens on the surface. I remember walking through the woods with a walking stick, and planting it in the ground as you do with walking sticks, and hearing a hollow sound, an echoing deep hollow sound, like the entire hill was hollow. I went home and collected a shovel, but I could never find that place again. I wonder what would have happened if I had. When I was in my early teens, 12 or 13, I stayed up late to watch a concert on television, the inauguration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a concert that started out somewhat disappointingly, but became much better as it went along and the musicians and technicians got more comfortable. It finished around 4:30 in the morning, and I crept up to bed, stopping to go pee, but not bothering to turn on a light. As I stood there, I looked out the window towards the backyard, and there in the middle of it, maybe a dozen feet from the swingset, was something. Like a woman but not. She glowed phosphorescently, and the image of her wafted, like a piece of cloth in front of a fan, except it was the entire image, the entire person who shifted so. I went to my room and looked out my bedroom window, but there was nothing there. It was already gone, in the 10 seconds it took me to walk from the bathroom to my bed, and I still wonder some evenings what would have happened if I’d walked out to it. Yes, there is definitely something in those woods. As for whether it is good, or evil, both completely useless terms in their binary exclusionism, is anyone’s guess. My father, is inclined to feel that it is evil, or at the very least “ungood”, but I lean more towards neutral or at least moderately benevolent. We agree completely, however that it is ancient, and is beyond mankind’s current idea of reality. Shakespeare had it right: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

As for why I think it’s benevolent or neutral, the simple matter of it is that I have done some incredibly stupid things in those woods, jumping off ledges, sprinting through dense thickets of trees with no idea what was coming up, barefoot, just things that probably should have had repercussions, but didn’t. The extent of injuries I ever received in those woods were grime in the eyes and a goose egg on my forehead from breaking branches with a metal pipe and having the pipe rebound on me one time. I mean hell, I used to push dead trees over, and then run out of the way in case they started to fall in a different direction. My brother and I used to hide under the ledge that the snowplow would push the snowbanks over, and then struggle to climb out. These are not things that smart people do. But we were kids, and thus immortal in our own minds. All the same, I do think there was something watching out for us.

Returning to the rain, there are flecks of sunlight hitting the trees across the road, and I see flecks of blue among the clouds. All the same, I suspect it will be raining again before too long. This is fine with me. There is something really rewarding about these days, the days where it rains and yet is sunny, and the wind blows and it’s 50 degrees and that’s okay because you’re in a jacket or sweater and simply appreciate the wind and the rain and the sun and the visceral experience of weather. The sudden glowing radiance of light when the sun peeks between the clouds and illuminates the tree whose leaves were barely buds a week prior, glowing this lime emerald green.

I just got back inside from puppy wrangling and eating some goldfish (cheddar flavor, we buy it in a vast carton that lasts for weeks). Freya peed outside, and came trotting inside, so I fed her, then fixed myself the snack of goldfish, and ate them while chatting with my brother and both of my parents. Dad sent me a link to a humorous 404 File Not Found page, which treats the Apache server as a variant of Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Definitely cute. With mom, I chatted about getting distracted by looking up a court case for someone, involving a lawsuit between Sony and Immersion. You see back in 1998-1999, Sony came out with their “Dual Shock” controllers, which have two analog control sticks and a force feedback system using tiny motors inside the controller. The problem here is that Immersion patented that exact technology back in 1995. They sued, and the case has finally completed, in favor of Immersion. Sony has to pay 86 million to Immersion in damages, and will be hard pressed to convince Immersion to let them use the technology for the upcoming Playstation 3. ($14 million in legal fees will do that.) The forums and geek sites are of course in an uproar, mostly involving blithering idiots screaming “I’m gonna burn Immersion’s offices down if I can’t use dualshock on the PS3!!!!111!!1” followed by a smaller minority of at least moderately intelligent responders saying “Dude, it’s called Intellectual Property. They were well within their rights. Read the fucking documents.” I err on the side of the IP people. Big companies are not inherently evil, but they’re big enough that the little evil shit people do adds up. Even if they get called on it, they’ll tie up the court case in an attempt to drain the legal funds of the opposition dry: not hard when your a multinational multibillion dollar company. Winning through outlasting instead of through being right. And that’s just plain WRONG. So, fuck Sony. For that matter, fuck Nintendo and Microsoft too, for their bullshit new next-generation systems that by their own admission is going to completely strangle any sort of innovation in video games that is left. As recently as 5 years ago, a high end AAA game cost roughly $200,000 to make. Currently, the average budget is over a million dollars, and some are creeping into the 10s and 20s. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all stated at the 2005 GDC proceedings that their new systems will likely require teams and budgets triple OR MORE than what they are now. The only people with the money to develop in that arena are the publishers, but is simultaneously a large enough amount of money that they will maintain strict control over what is made, leaving the developers themselves as essentially automatons, drones doing what the masters say. Which is an absurd situation for the industry to be in, if you think about it. The gaming industry more than any other that immediately comes to mind is populated by people who do it for a genuine love of games. It’s virtually a requirement to get into the industry; if you’re in it for the money, you won’t last long, statistically speaking. Suddenly, we are no longer able to exert any creative control over what we create, we’re no longer truly creating games. Love of games no longer enters into it, and the only way to survive in that sort of situation is to hide yourself in the paycheck. Anything else is simply heartbreaking. And yet, a paycheck isn’t enough for the hours the game industry currently demands. You don’t work a 70 hour week for a 40 hour a week paycheck without any compensation if you don’t LOVE WHAT YOU DO. The industry is shooting itself in the foot, and several designers are abundantly aware of it. We need a new distribution model, and we need to start thinking of methods to continue to push things forward without breaking the budget. There are some good ideas being tossed around, but there’s no real solution yet.

We need to rethink the gaming paradigm. The design principles of the first computer game (Spacewar, on a PDP1 back in the 60s) were threefold:
1) It should demonstrate as many of the computer’s resources as possible, and tax those resources to the limit;
2) Within a consistent framework, it should be interesting, which means every run should be different;
3) It should involve the onlooker in a pleasurable and active way — it short, it should be a game.
If you think about these basic design principles, they are the basis for the entire game industry to date. It is an automatic assumption that the game must continue to evolve visually, to push the limits of the system it is placed on. This first principle has become so much a part of the game design philosophy that it has reversed the development cycle: hardware now plays catchup to the games. We talk about the need for innovation in games lest we stagnate and die, and but I think the problem is much larger and more fundamental than the way we PLAY games. We need to innovate the way that we THINK about games. We need to examine whether that first design principle is truly necessary, or perhaps even detrimental to the advancement of the industry. We’ve grown exponentially, we’ve become bloated, and now it is time to go back and get fit. There are more ways to enhance and advance than just the content. We need easier methods to create that content, and we need to spend less time worrying about maximizing the hardware capabilities. Does it really matter? Will anyone really care if an RPG on the PS3 looks no better than Tekken Tag Tournament on the PS2? That’s well within reasonable expectations, and frankly, it’s enough. With movies and music successfully presenting a minimalist presentation (hand-held camerawork, less polished and more raw work, ala White Stripes, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), is it really that alien a concept to apply those principles to games? How is it that so many companies are putting out collections of their “classics” in order to cash in on the retro gaming movement, and yet they completely miss the point that there is more to the interest in retro gaming than just wanting to play games from their childhood? While that certainly is an element, there is a whole other aspect to this: games were simpler then, in every way. That does not mean they were easier (far from it, many older games are harder than their modern counterparts). It means there was a fundamental simplicity to the interface (both visual interface and game interface), regardless of the reasons for it (limited technology for instance). How novel it would be to have a minimalist interface in a modern game! A situation where everything is easily readable and abundantly clear, and where within 30 seconds of picking up a controller and trying out buttons, you know what everything does. This is feasible: modern systems have MORE functionality than the older systems, not less, and as such, it stands to reason that what worked before could work now. Advancement does not equal complication, damnit.

Listening to the Eels at the moment. “Write ‘I am okay’ one hundred times, the doctors say. I am okay. I am okay. I am okay. I’m not okay.” It’s a great album, a great band for that matter, but kind of depressing. They’re what Emo would be if the fuckers were ACTUALLY depressed, and not just angsting. Even their upbeat songs (“Last Stop this Town”, “Goddamn Right it’s a beautiful day”) are fucking depressing if you actually listen to the lyrics. But that’s okay. It’s kind of nice to deposit your depression into a song and sing along with it and appreciate it. It lets you grok the depression, and yourself, and come out of it all in a sort of catharsis, a connection (real or imaginary) with someone else, the person who wrote it, the people who performed it, the other people who listen to it and appreciate and grok it. Shared pain is lessened, after all. (And shared joy is increased.)

I just watched the new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trailer, the third trailer for it if you include the original teaser trailer. It was delightful fun, done in a style as if the trailer was in fact an entry in the Guide, under “movie trailers”. It was very tongue in cheek, and I’m actually beginning to really look forward to seeing the movie. I’d previously been dreading it a bit, especially after the complete lack of actual footage for so long. It didn’t bode well, to say the least. But now that I’ve seen actual footage, I think it really could be a good deal of fun.

Listening to Fatboy Slim at the moment. I dunno why I decided to go with Fatboy Slim, it’s quite a bit unlike what I’ve been listening to up to now, but whatever. Fatboy Slim is good. It’s currently playing “Better Living Through Chemistry” (the album), which I picked up from Pelsor when he was living with us in Bellevue. From there, it will be migrating to Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, followed by You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, despite the fact that those two should probably be reversed if I wanted to get a feel for the evolution of the music. Honestly, I don’t really care. They’re both good albums, and I actually picked up Halfway well before I picked up You’ve Come. His style is very mainstream/tradition techno, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is interesting to return to after listening to mostly trance, ambient, and triphop. I think of the styles I just listed, I’d say I prefer triphop. Portishead, Tricky, Massive Attack, stuff like that. I also enjoy tossing in Moby every once in a while. I used to listen to Moby far more often before my music collection really grew… I guess I just don’t get to the Ms very often anymore. It’s kind of too bad, I have a lot of good memories of listening to Play while driving across the country (I bought Play when it first came out, so we’re talking 1998-99), and a lot of the good times with Alison (I’ll admit it, there were good times), because we both liked it. And then when 18 came out, I picked that up, and met Mickey shortly after. 18 was playing in my Legacy as I was driving around in Pennsylvania with her at Ethan and Cortney’s wedding. So I suppose there is an emotional connection with these albums in addition to simple appreciation. All the more curious that I haven’t listened to either in so long.

What have I been listening to instead? Compilations, almost entirely. ADP volume 1, Uri volume 3, both excellent compilations in my opinion, with a good breadth of music on them that I’m glad I selected. But there is so much more in my music collection that I haven’t listened to in ages. When was the last time I listened to Smashing Pumpkins? Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a fucking brilliant album, and I don’t think I’ve listened to it more than once in the past year, possibly longer. As I said before, Moby. Portishead. Oysterhead I lost two moves ago. Even my massive collection of King Crimson doesn’t get listened to all that often, and I think they’re the cat’s meow. I don’t even know what I have anymore; I think I would be honestly surprised to browse through my music collection at this point. The physical one, the shelves of CDs downstairs in the den, beneath the DVDs. So much I just don’t listen to not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t remember that I have it. It has passed outside the purview of my attention so much that even if it’s precisely the music I may be craving, it doesn’t occur to me. That sucks. And just listening through my iTunes library doesn’t do it. 37 days of music simply takes too long, that’s 3 months listening 8 hours a day to get through the collection, and covers too many styles and songs to have any cohesive feeling for what song is which, or even which artist is which.

I think it’s time to start repopulating my cd case with albums, and listening to complete albums again when driving around. I drive north to Seattle often enough (usually twice a week, sometimes more, sometimes less) that I have time to get through a complete 40-60 minute album in the course of the drive. Assuming it’s just an errand, there and back, that’s two full listens to an album in any given day, and that’s not even including any driving I might do while up there. I really am starting to realize that I miss hearing full albums, and my older music. There’s a lot to be said for it, as much as I appreciate and enjoy the newer additions to my collection. But just the simple meditation of me, my car, and an album for extended periods is something I really really enjoy, it’s like a spiritual recharge, and I end up appreciating what I’m listening to more that way than simply listening to it at home or on the computer. It becomes peripheral there instead of the central role it plays in the car, like another person. That may be something I picked up when I started going on long drives, driving 4 hours to Rhode Island, driving 2 hours to visit my cousins, driving an hour and a quarter to Squam for the hell of it and then back, driving an hour and a half to visit Uri and Eli and Dave and the frat up in Burlington, spending 3 months alone, driving across the country with no goal other than to explore and appreciate the world around me (and thus, explore and appreciate myself). 6 to 12 hours a day with nothing but myself and my music, in a late 80s minivan. You do a hell of a lot of thinking in that situation, for better or worse. I drove to the Florida Keys, twice, in about two days each time. You just sort of GO. The first time, we didn’t even have music; Uri and Eli and myself, in that same van, whose radio/tape player had broken in such a fashion that we couldn’t listen to anything. We talked for part of it, and after a while, Uri just started breaking into song and dancing around in his seat, and we realized that we were all going a little starkers, and prayed to god that we’d get the radio working in time for the return trip. Eli got a speeding ticket that trip, in Pennsylvania, after we stopped and stayed with Tim in western Virginia (Eastern Mennonite University), coming back north after camping in Bahia Honda Key just north of Key West (and just south of Marathon). The second trip included Dave, and we took two cars, since both Eli and I had upgraded our vehicles in the intervening year to Subarus. It was also a good trip, though a bit more disjointed than before, and included possibly the fastest trip through North Carolina I’d ever done. Eli decided to pace this tricked out Camero that was doing 120 up the interstate, and I sped up to around 110 to follow suit (this isn’t fear of tickets, this is knowing your limits as a driver. I don’t feel comfortable driving over 100mph). I think we did the entire state in about an hour. It’s not something I would do again, nor do I think Eli would be quite so insane to do that again either; we’ve both matured and stabilized at least a little bit.

So, believe it or not, the rain appears to have cleared out for now. It will probably be back tomorrow, but for now, there’s just a few tufts of cloud in the sky, and the trees out the window are bathed in golden afternoon sun. It’s quite lovely and vibrant and alive, and that’s a great experience. I’ve wrangled the puppy several times since I started writing this, which has definitely eaten into my time. Also, I’ve done a load of dishes and brought in the trash and recycling bins, along with the mail. I need to unload the dishwasher and start another load (it’s been a while) shortly, but we’ll see how much more writing I get done before that happens. For the record, I started writing around noon, and it is currently 5:25pm, same day. I’ve also taken an hour and a half to eat, and many many 15 minute breaks to take the dog out or get chores done. So that in mind, despite this really just being a running commentary of my mind and my thoughts on things both esoteric and scattered, I’m feeling pretty good for being on page 16. I have no idea what I’ll be writing about the next few days, though. It’s quite a hurdle to write 20 pages A DAY, if you think about it. It’s a workout, and that’s good. It’s something that needs to happen if I ever plan to write professionally, I need to get the writing muscles, mostly mental, ready for that process. And fast. I’m sick of feeling like I’m up against a wall, and in six short months, I have to enter the working world and all the bullshit that accompanies it. I’m sick of feeling like if I don’t get my act together in the next six months, I’m going to end up in a shit job and be miserable for the rest of my life. It’s all true, mind you, but it’s still a pretty shitty and counterproductive feeling to have. I should instead focus on enjoying these six months and really diving into my subject wholeheartedly. Stop worrying about the future and start living in the present, damnit.

Which brings about the question of what I want to do. I’m so scattered that I’m not sure if I can honestly answer that question. I love games, and want to create games. MY games. Story driven turn based games. To do this, I need to get a smattering of understanding of design principles, art, writing, and probably some programming. I then need to likely start my own development company, which involves capital I don’t have, which means getting a job elsewhere and doing something else for a while until I’m in a position I can do that. Take two: I love writing, and want to write stories and articles. I want to write comics and movies and novels and short stories, and be published and do that as my full time job. To do this, I need to start writing at least 10 if not these 20 pages every day, and SIGNIFICANTLY refine my writing ability, because right now I still write in sketches rather than full images. This involves finding a different job and working there while writing in the evenings for several years, until my abilities are at a point I can get published consistently. Take three: I love art, and would love to create art in various forms, paintings, sculpture, photography, fine art work. To do this I need to find a different job and start drawing for several hours a day, every day, plus possibly extra coursework, until I’m at a point that I can adequately depict what I want to depict, in an aesthetically pleasing and salable fashion.

So, the top three things I want to do for a living are all outside my reach. It’s a pretty upsetting realization, partly because it makes me feel like I just wasted 5 years and $150,000 of my life. At the end of it all, I’ll have a piece of paper that won’t mean squat to the jobs I’m trying to get. Unless I really bust some shit out in the next six months, it won’t mean anything to ME, either, and that’s a pretty shitty feeling.

I’m on the last song of Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars by Fatboy Slim at the moment, which is called Song for Shelter. It’s a great song. I really really dig it, and have since I first heard it. It’s a raver anthem. It talks about things like: “How on earth are you supposed to vibe around the fake ones, the ones who say they know what is what, but don’t know what is what, what the fuck” “I just get deeper and deeper and deeper into this vibe and pretend that they’re not there.” I think the reason I like the song so much is the pure passion in it. This isn’t the most well spoken person, far from it, but they are PASSIONATE about what they’re doing. They love to dance, they love house parties, and the experience redeems any negatives that might occur. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s this purity there, no bullshit. It’s you and the music and others and the music, and this glorious universal sharing, this communication on a cosmic physical level, the whole room jumping at once and smiling and laughing and it’s just beautiful. I’ve been to two raves in my life, and while the second one had some politics, the first one was just that, a beautiful thing, dancing the entire night through, until 6am, your feet sore and loving every fucking second of that pain, and at the end, the end of dancing until your lungs are on fire and your legs are coated in acid and cheering when that song you love comes on and you dance again even when you thought you had nothing left to give, when that’s all over, and the morning air hits your lungs for the first time, you go to some diner, or Denny’s, or hell, even McDonalds, and you order food and take a bite into it and nothing has tasted so good in your whole life. THAT is beautiful. That’s why I like Song for Shelter.

And now it’s a new album. Well, an old album, older in fact than the album I just listened to, but newer to me, and occurring in the immediacy of this moment and thus, new. Reborn every second of our lives.

On the subject of beauty. There’s a lot to it, a lot more than traditional or nontraditional beauty, there’s more to it than simply aesthetics and traits, visual or internal. There is the pure visceral EXPERIENCE of beauty. The first day in fall when the sun is shining and the leaves are falling and the wind blows steadily from the west, sending wind elementals skittering across the street, tossing dried leaves between them, an elaborate game of catch. The scene is beautiful, but can just as easily be seen as a blustery windy day in autumn, best be careful on the interstate, wind gusts are supposed to get up to 50. It’s not the scene, it’s the experience of the scene that is beautiful. It is the act of existing within the universe and appreciating that specific moment, grokking the connection between the viewer and the viewed, appreciating your role with every fiber of your being. The experience of beauty. Plucking an apple from a tree in the morning, and climbing a mountain, pulling it out of your knapsack at the summit, the world spreading out in every direction and taking a bite, the juices inside exploding in your mouth. The flavors are richer, the nuances more subtle, there is nothing that tastes quite like it. It’s all in your head, of course; the change in elevation is not significant enough to actually have a measurable impact on the apple’s composition, but that doesn’t matter. The experience of bringing that apple to what is, in essence, the top of the world, and taking that first bite, it’s beautiful. Made up of many worthwhile parts, nothing is as beautiful as the experience. Sitting on the dock at Squam, eating extra rich blueberry pie as a light breeze wafts across the water. It’s noon, and you’ve already been swimming once that day, and will be swimming again shortly after finishing that slice of pie, and the day is just about as idyllic as is possible, and you remember browsing over the point for blueberries, and collecting enough to make that pie, and when it’s done, it’s rich and delicious and exactly what a blueberry pie should be. It is a quintessential blueberry pie, unrepeatable and enjoyed with every bite. The components are beautiful, but the experience outstrips it easily.

It was a sobering and depressing realization when I was younger that others don’t feel that way. I would feel so endeared to people when I was able to share these beautiful moments with them, these treasures. I was so quick to love, through sharing these moments, and that love was never returned, and that was isolating. No one “got it”. Shel Silverstein got it though. He wrote a poem called Hector the Collector, about a boy who collected little doodads and bits of trash and called out to people to share his treasure and they looked it and called it junk. That pretty much sums up how I felt and feel about my younger years, and to a lesser extent now. The difference now is 3 years old, on a summer afternoon, a cousin playing banjo in the background and sharing the beauty of an experience with a girl, and having her share that experience. I can’t quantify how important that is to me, I can’t explain that connection, and frankly I don’t want to. It simply IS, and that’s that. Things get rough, and trust is broken and rebuilt, over time, and we’re still going strong. I suppose that’s what love is, to some extent: the willingness to share the experience with someone else. Hah, getting all mushy, in my final few lines. Ah well, page 20, I’ll pick up again tomorrow.

I was going to write about other things, but at the moment, I’m listening to a conversation on the other side of the coffee house about how we’ve fucked over Mexicans and the complete stupidity of people. It’s interesting, because they’re hardcore urbanite liberals. Nothing wrong with that; I’m pretty liberal myself. It’s just funny, because they speaking liberally, their opinions are generally attached to the liberal viewpoint, but they’re acting just as judgemental as the conservative assholes they decry. I suppose I should expect it, people are people after all, but it’s just sort of disappointing.

Uri is reading about witchcraft next to me, and the conversation on the other end has just wound down, one guy finally heading out and a new person now standing at the counter, simply ordering, no extra conversation. The sky outside is a mosaic of blue and clouds, and the sun blurs the edges between the two in glowing light. There’s a tree outside that has white blossoms hanging heavily from the branches, mixed with green leaves. I don’t know what kind of tree it actually is, and I don’t care. It’s beautiful and shimmers as the light shines through it and the leaves blow in the breeze. It’s a lotus tree, even if it isn’t really. The essence is there, the idea of sitting beneath it in a bucolic other world, reading a book as sheep graze in the fields further down the hill. Achievement of nirvana (though that would be a Boddah Tree, technically; the tree under which the Buddha achieved enlightenment). If you really think about it, nirvana and enlightenment is, ultimately, learning to truly let go and be at peace with yourself and the universe.

Cafe Coccinella, which is the name of this coffee house that I tend to come to and am at now, is an interesting space. It was originally much smaller (well before I began coming), and has expanded into a sideways ‘h’ of sorts; Uri and I are sitting at the top of the h, on a leather couch that faces the bottom of the h, where the counter is. If I stood up and walked towards the counter and then took a right, it would open out into the “leg” of the h, where there are more chairs and tables and couches. The coffee house is an afterthought to the building, the pet project of the dentist office next door, from what I understand (I may be wrong). It’s run by Baha’is, which doesn’t really have any relation to why I come here, at least consciously. I’m just comfortable here, moreso than other places I’ve gone which tend to have a more commercial feel to them. Those other places are less welcoming. Here, they honestly don’t mind if I sit and order a coffee and nurse it for hours while I write and take up space. I’ve spoken with the owner, and know this is true, not just an assumption. They have free wireless access, and want to encourage the atmosphere of it being a place you can hang out or get work done. He started it because he and his friends realized that there weren’t really any “cool” coffee houses like it on the Eastside, which I can corroborate from my time living here. That’s all, that’s the reason for it: to be a cool place to hang out without having to haul ass to Seattle. That’s a pretty awesome reason, in my opinion, and I hope that sentiment proves to be successful. It’s the sort of thing that needs to be successful. Any example of business being successful without succumbing to corporate mentality is good, and worth supporting. That’s still not why I come here with the regularity I do, even now that I live an hour away. It’s all about comfort. It’s all about the lack of presumption and pretension, you do what you do and no one is going to give you shit about it.

Soul sickness. I don’t really know why I wrote that, but I felt it was important, those two words. We keep on looking at physical or mental illness, we look at the physical effects of disease and disorder. It’s Lyme Disease. It’s a bad heart. It’s depression. These are quantifiable things, these are observable and declarative, definable. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a sickness that isn’t definable, that doesn’t declare itself in the observable world, but it’s there. The soul, the spirit that defines us as individuals, that is what gets sick in this case. It hinders our energy, our motivation, our imagination, our self worth. It manifests itself in the real world as other problems, which can be treated, but it doesn’t treat the soul. Science brushes it off as the purview of religion, and yet we are disillusioned with religion. The soul remains sick. That’s what needs fixing. That is what needs help. By we, of course, I mean I. My soul isn’t lost, it’s just not well.

What happens when a God’s soul becomes ill? Are we not like Gods ourselves? I talked about that with Uri over AIM a while ago, that I genuinely feel that we have within ourselves a Godlike self, one that has become trapped and blocked by our bodies and the world around us. We have untapped and untold potential within us, and every once in a while it exerts itself and the truth becomes apparent, and then our self image and our confidence and our fears re-exert themselves, and we become locked away again. This needs to change. We need to reconnect with the world, and our inner selves, our inner Gods, and become who we should be. Face our destiny, our fate, and become our true selves. Bounding through the forest, leaping up mountainsides, these are things that we CAN do, if we just allow ourselves to do so.

A Novel Concept

I finished my annotations today, which is really only noteworthy in that they’re not due until next week. Also, I’ve written a damned respectable amount in my stories that I’m pretty pleased with, so I feel like I’m finishing the semester pretty strongly. It’s a good feeling to have. I still have a few finishing touches I need to do (process essay, self evaluation, stuff like that), but the semester is largely done; as far as I’m concerned, anything I write past this is gravy.

Of course, I happen to be a big fan of gravy, so it sort of fits that now that my semester on writing is largely finished, Uri and I have decided to undertake a personal challenge: 80 pages in 5 days. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be cohesive or connected or on topic, it just needs to be 80 pages. In 5 days. 20 pages a day (yeah, technically 80 pages in 5 days is actually 16 pages a day, shh). I think it’s doable. I’m not going to post it, of course (I suspect a lot of it will be cruft and freewriting), but I’ll try and post any nuggets I happen to pull out. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. We start tomorrow, and are going to run til Saturday. The rules are: 12 point font, double spaced, normal page size and margins, and you can’t count prior writing, even if you’re continuing from something else.

Anyone who wants to join us is welcome to. Just post your page count in the comments.

[Page Count: 24]

Apple Store Followup

The interview went really well (I DO know my shit, after all), up until we started talking availability. The position they were looking for is an immediate opening, and I won’t be able to start until May, when I get back from my residency. He did say that I should give him a call in May, though, if I’m still interested. We’ll see if I am; my concerns about time management with my schoolwork are still very real. (To reiterate; major time intensive semester coming up, do I really want to tack on 40ish hours a week of work to that.)

The benefits are pretty damn sweet, I must say. Everyone is given an iPod (they all got shuffles when it came out), extensive job training, various gifts throughout the year, and a major discount on a system per year (full system, machine, monitor, ipod, et cetera), plus a slightly smaller discount for 3 more systems for friends and family. That would certainly help solve the laptop concern (namely that it’s falling apart… I won’t be able to get it fixed until after I get back from residency, because I need it while there).

Anyway, just thought I’d share, for those keeping score.

Writing Insanity

Two days ago, my Nanomage draft was four pages long. This afternoon, it’s 12.5 pages long. I think that’s pretty damn good progress, and I’m really happy with how it is going. There is still room for growth and fleshing out, but I think the story is really solid. From the original draft that I wrote in October, I’ve retained the general world, and that’s it. The character names are different, the pacing is different, it just still involves nanotechnology of a similar sort.

It feels unimaginably good to “feel good” about a story again. Seriously, it’s been years since I’ve been happy with one of my fictions. The story thus far: he’s been experimented upon, and just escaped onto a train heading west from just north of Chicago. That’s probably where I’ll end chapter 1, and then I’ll go on from there. Seems like a good break in the action, a good initial arc. I suppose I could technically drag out the events of chapter 1 into two chapters, but I don’t really want to… I think it works better with a faster pacing.

Anyway, I just wanted to share, because right now I’m twitched on writing anything further for a little bit.

Happy Naw Ruz

Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, which means it’s also Naw Ruz, the Baha’i New Year (doesn’t that make more sense than some arbitrary day in the middle of Winter?). Just wanted to wish everyone a happy day, and hope it’s as lovely there as it is here.

Now, back to writing.

The Apple Store… Again

Last year, I submitted my resume with Apple’s retail outlets in Bellevue and Seattle. I got an interview at the Bellevue store, which proved to be a mess (I was supposed to head over after my game testing job, but I hit nasty traffic and missed the appointment, the reschedule was a mess, et cetera). I didn’t get the job, and dropped the matter. The game testing gig paid nearly as well, and was more flexible.

This morning, (about 10 minutes ago), I got a call from the Apple Store in Bellevue, wondering if I’d like to come in to interview for a part time Specialist position (Retail). Hours would be flexible (could just work afternoons, for instance), and the game testing job hasn’t really been going anywhere lately. They don’t even have my updated resume, so I’m a little surprised. I’ve scheduled an appointment for next Wednesday at 3pm, and we’ll see how it goes.

Here’s the thing: I’m not really sure I WANT to work for them anymore. The consistent money would be nice, the discounts would be nice, the commute would not be nice, being in retaili again would not be nice. The big one: I’ve got a fucking huge workload coming up with this semester, and I’m not sure if I want to have to worry about hauling ass up to Bellevue 4 days a week when I’m trying to finish my degree. I realize people work during their degree programs all the time, that doesn’t mean they would if they had the choice not to. School comes first. It should make for an interesting interview, and I’m actually looking forward to that.

Fresh Start

I was trying to think about how I would go about reorganizing my previous blog entries, and decided there wasn’t really a good answer. So much of the information there is outdated (dead links, outdated technical status, et cetera) that I chose to move it all to a category called “Site Archives”, and start fresh. I’ve migrated the past half dozen posts into the new categories, and the rest have gone into Site Archives (for posterity).

I’m a big fan of not getting RID of information, but sometimes it is necessary to move it around a little.

The Maynard Brothers Are Coming to Town

Just to let it be known: as has been mentioned before, our school residency is quickly approaching. This means that Uri and I will be heading back east in April for a week or two. This means we’ll be around to hang out, and would like to, damnit. Drop me an IM or a comment or an email if you want to set something up (my birthday will be right around then, so maybe a Koto dinner?)

I’m giving everyone plenty of lead time on this, so there shall be NO excuses of not enough advance warning!

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again, in case you couldn’t tell.

One Packet to Go

I’ve been in school for most of my life. Pre-school, then Kindergarten, then first through twelfth, a few months off, then a semester, a few months off again, then my current stint at Vermont College. For various reasons, many of which tied to depression, college has taken me a bit more than the stereotypical four years. I started in October of 2000, and God willing, I’ll finally be graduating in October 2005. That’s fully 7 months away and an entire semester, but even so, I’m a little startled by its approach. I’m left taking stock in the work I’ve done, in the topics I’ve studied, and wonder if I’ve actually learned enough to go DO something with it. And if I haven’t, why the hell did I spend so much money for a piece of paper that doesn’t mean anything?

I’m trying not to think about it too much, no point psyching myself out when I’m in the home stretch. It’s definitely in the back of my mind, though.

My current semester has been about writing, though mostly I’ve been doing a lot of reading, as usual. I’ve got a few stories right now that I like, and I’m going to see how far I can take them in this coming month, at which point my last packet will be due. Then I head back east for my residency, and begin my Culminating Semester. The format is a little different than previous semesters, and the final body of work will be bound and placed in the university’s library. This makes me nervous. No matter how good people say my work is, no matter whether others find it acceptable, a part of me is afraid that when the work is actually weighed and measured, I’ll be found like how I feel: a fake. The work is my own, don’t get me wrong, and the amount of fluffing I do is the occasional digression; I don’t even mess with the margins or font size (the favorite length extender of students everywhere). But I don’t feel like the work I did contributes to a greater understanding for the reader or myself. So regardless of whether the essay or annotation succeeds academically, I feel it was a failure.

I’m hoping to change that with my final study. At least a little bit. I plan to focus on game design, which is a daunting enough topic that the only way I’ll complete it is if I take the bull by the horns and aggressively pursue it for the entire semester. But if I do that, then I’ll really have something to be proud of coming out of my degree. I’m down to the wire (I can’t afford another semester, if I screw my culminating one up, my education fund is about depleted), so perhaps it would make sense for me to do a lighter study for my final semester. I’m not going to, though. I want my degree to be something I’m proud of.