Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Fashion

I used to, as a teen, somewhat thumb my nose at those who seem preoccupied with what to wear. Granted, growing up in a strict household, all my clothing was picked out and approved by my parents - mostly my mother - in order to be professional/dressy enough and non-threatening. I was never afforded the opportunity to wear something "trendy" or "stylish." As I grew older, moved out, and found myself with the ability to purchase my own clothes, I started to realize the opportunity I now had in creating or fostering my own identity by way of the image I projected. Now, I can get clothes just because I think they "look cool" or are something I'd like to wear. The freedom, even as a mid 20-something, is rather exciting! I relish the opportunity to go out in public actually wearing what I want, wearing what I like, and projecting an image of my choosing. Doing so has really struck the final nail in the coffin for me in terms of school uniforms. Especially as teens, who are going through that tough period of life where they are expected to act like adults but aren't treated like them, I think being able to express yourself how you want in any ways possible is vitally important. I'm not suggesting that, if I had been able to wear what I wanted in high school, things would have gone differently, but considering how often my formal wear got me made fun of, if nothing else, wearing something I was more comfortable in would have been nice.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Today, I was Asked the Most Frightful of Questions

The teller at the bank has asked it before, and I am never prepared.

"Did you have a good weekend?" she said to me, as she brushed her blond bangs aside and punched in my account number.

Of course, when someone at a business asks this, they are not truly asking if you had a good weekend. The assumption is that the weekend was good, and that the reply you give is merely a curt, courteous entreating of small talk, an affirmative, a habitual response. My weekend was bad, in many ways, but that would have made things awkward. She was just a bank teller, not a friend. What would have happened if I said "not really"?

"It was alright."

"What did you do?"

Of course, at this point, having already traversed down a dishonest path, I wasn't about to admit to the truth of the matter - that I slept a lot and listened to sad music, while questioning the meaninglessness of my existence. So I simply said "not much," which, in hindsight, was rather true. Little to nothing was accomplished - I spent most of it fretting - and that was about the extent of my weekend.

"A relaxing weekend is nice," she replied, and then handed me my slip, and told me to have a nice day. I replied the same, and walked into the world wishing to poke with a sharp object whoever invented small talk.

Chasers

Chase the pills down with water. Chase the liquor down... actually don't, it's better to just drink the liquor straight, who needs a chaser anyways? Chase the feelings away with sleep. Chase the boredom away with music. Chase the aimlessness away with travel. Chase the money away with meaningless purchases. Chase the loneliness away with dopamine. Chase the teacher away with honesty. Chase the classmates away with dullness. Chase your parents away with aloofness. Chase your roommate away with quietness. Chase time away with laziness. Chase confidence away with repeated failure. Chase your solitude away with video games. Chase the questions your mother asks about life and relationships away with silence. Chase your doctor away with lies. Chase your doctor back with truths. Chase your co-workers away with rolled eyes. Chase it all away because the chase is more fun, you think, and you don't want to deal with it all, anyways.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Six Word Stories

I've always been a fan of short writings, short stories, and, perhaps most basically, six word stories. Ernest Hemingway's "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn," is a classic. I figured that, foolish as it is, I would try my hand at my own.

Call from the future. They're drowning?

Mom, Sam crashed the drone again!

iPod. iPad. iPhone. iTunes. I broke.

Dreamers are elsewhere. Better than here.

Time flows like a river... Dam.

Location, location, location... where are we?

Woke up. Rolled over. Slept more.

Stare at screen, eyes don't blink.

We said "hi;" 0s and 1s.

I knew her years without meeting.

Garage sale? Where is the garage?

Vintage footage of Great Barrier Reef.

Life is such a clique fest.

Love bites. She's a vampire. Figures.

And... action! CUT! No, no, no!

She broke the ice. He fell.

Deadline day?! But I just started!

I am your father. Oops, spoilers!

Over the river. Lost in woods.

myspacebarisbroken,shit.

Fresh new batch of caffeine injectors!

American president declares War on Wars.

Hit it. Twist it. Bop it.

She whipped me. I liked it.

Followed the directions. Still blew up.

What a dinosaur, he still drives!

Bored. Refreshed again. Still no change.

Don't leave! Think about friend count!

Wait, we're finished already? So fast!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Travelogue

A man stands on the stage, comfortable in his white, middle class upbringing, unperturbed by the diversity of the world around him. He tells you to sell your stuff, really, it just owns you, and go travel, do something more valuable than keep up with the Jones'. The stuff is temporary, he says. Then again so is travel, we all come back to our jobs, unless you can manage to quit and travel forever, but who can afford that? Who can afford a vacation in the first place? Who has accumulated enough stuff to sell it? He's comfortably making assumptions about our financial wellbeing. Like nothing more than a month of nothing but travel, but I get two weeks, and that's it, then it's back to work. I can't afford to take a year off and just go to every continent, can't leave my sister behind like that, or my parents, I mean maybe I could, but where would it leave me? What are our responsibilities?

The man gets a round of applause and everyone walks away thinking how they'd love to travel, how the stuff does own them - hasn't everyone seen Fight Club? - and that if only they could afford the money and time it takes. Perhaps another day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Today

Rainy, cold, grey today. Cold today. Tired today. Didn't want to get out of bed today. Made coffee today because the office was cold when I got there today. Had oatmeal again today. Splashed water on face to clear off dry skin today. Hands are unresponsive today. Remembered to wear a belt today. Spent extra time ironing my clothes today to make sure they were warm when I put them on. Used my windshield wipers today. Listened to a new album today. Cursed my akathisia today. Didn't have messy hair today. Straightened out my desk today. Said "good morning" to a co-worker who didn't respond today. Saw a car accident today. Hummed a tune today.

Wrote this post today.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Growing Older

I can remember sitting in the theatre thinking that the movie just wasn't doing it for me. There was too much violence. Too much simple bloodshed.

The movie was "Casino Royale," and while I think it's a pretty good Bond film, all things considered, my days of enjoying Bond films were gone. I looked at these movies and saw a culture that idolized and fetishized violence, guns, death, power, and didn't really like what I saw. I can't say for certain when it all happened, but it did. I had grown tired of "middle-aged men doing violent things" as a movie genre.

That's not to say I can't enjoy violent movies, but I find myself increasingly perturbed at movies that toss around mass casualties like a feather. Movies and media don't inherently make people violent, but we do know that kids have a higher propensity to, say, drink or smoke, if they get to consume media in which people do regularly.

I still don't know what it says about us all that all of our most popular movies involves explosions, guns, and death. I realize the power fantasies some have, even if I don't really understand them. What I don't get is how this kind of thing is "cool" or "sexy." There's nothing cool about lots and lots of violence and death.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stuff

Not sure what to do about it, maybe none of us are. We collect it and sometimes pile it. I still have a moving box of stuff in my bedroom, haven't touched it in years, it's all junk, can't even really resell it, should just donate it or pitch it but it's heavy.

Stuff. So much of it, yet sit Sunday night idly wondering what to do, nothing seems entertaining at all. Spent so much money on the stuff, the usual short-lived dopamine rushes of feeling the accumulation, or the arrival of the brown box.

Stuff. I've read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, played a lot of games. But if I am not going to go back to some, why not sell? It's work though. Have to take the pictures, make the online listing, catalogue and price it all. Rather spend weekends being lazy, which I do on weekdays too, so what's the point, really? More money, I guess. More money I could use to buy more stuff.

So many choices yet nothing sounds fun, maybe that's what it's like when we stare at the fridge and there's too much food but nothing sounds good, analysis paralysis, we all struggle when we have more than a few choices, and I do, although I certainly don't deserve it, this stuff.

Crawl into bed instead. No stuff there. Just a warm blanket.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Showers in the Hospital

Never forget. Not sure how to feel, really. Years ago, I found myself in a hospital, medium-risk patient, had to have someone in the bathroom with me while I showered, just incase I did something radical or dangerous. Bathroom shaped like a U, with the shower in the top left corner, a wall running down the middle, and the sink and toilet in the top right corner. Grimy place, tile floors, several light bulbs in the ceiling. Taking a shower one evening, usual guy is there, he's sitting in a chair on the other side of the wall, back to me, I'm rinsing off, still find the whole ordeal awkward but what can I do? Suddenly, the room gets darker. Don't chalk it up to much at first, figure maybe a light bulb has burnt out, the usual. Continue to rinse my hair. Turn around to wash off my back, see the staff member who is supposed to be sitting on the other side of the wall instead staring at me, it got darker because he was blocking the light, he darts out of sight so fast I swear he was a blur.

Didn't take a shower when he was around again. He was twice my size and taller than me. Intimidating. Some nights, I just washed off in my bedroom and bathroom with the sink as best I could. Wonder if he's spied on other vulnerable young men. Wonder if I should have said something. Wonder if it would have mattered.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On my Experience with Kratom

I remember receiving the bag in the mail much faster than I expected it. I had never done any kind of drug other than what you get at Walgreens or what you get at a bar. Inside the small white post box was a bag about 1-2 inches wide and 1-2 inches long containing a very fine grass green powder. Grass green in colour, and in smell.

Probably the trickiest part of the whole experience was deciding how to ingest it. I had a capsule machine, a pill maker that could make about 60 at once. I decided on a dose of kratom on the lower end of the recommended scales I found, and made some 20-25 pills full of the stuff. Swallowing them was annoying. I have no problem with swallowing pills, I've been taking some pill for the last 12 years of my life, which is just shy of half of it, but once you get to about pill 15-20, the constant swallowing of the pills and the water to wash it down gets a bit tiring. I went through one a half bottles of water just to help get them all down.

I had an idea of how long it would take, but after about 45-50 minutes without a scant feeling of change, I had all but given up. Maybe it just doesn't do much to me, like caffeine, or the fact that I don't get side effects from non-prescription drugs, like, ever.

But it was only a few minutes later when the drugs hit. It's hard to explain. There was a warm fuzziness to my brain, and I felt overwhelmingly content with things. Not euphoric, just content. The world, and all the people who inhabited it, seemed flawlessly wonderful. I sent a friend several emails about how lovely this planet is. The warm fuzzy and tingly sensation was soothing and comforting, almost like ASMR or something, but noticeably more potent. I had on some of my favourite music and greatly enjoyed it.

The high didn't last too terribly long, maybe about 30-45 minutes before it had all but warn out. I don't recall any aftereffects - no drowsiness, headaches, or anything else.

The biggest problem is that, since then, I've taken kratom probably about 4 times over the last couple years, and I've never managed that same result. I had one time where I felt moderately calm and happy, but that first high was undoubtedly the best and most pleasant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tired

Tired in the mornings too often, have been battling it for years, annoying side-effect of some of the medicine I take, 4 different kinds, all can cause drowsiness and fatigue. Some days are better than others. Yesterday, wasn't tired at all; today, I'm really drowsy and my eyes are darting in and out of focus. Chow down on coffee even though caffeine has never affected me and seemingly never will, load up on sugar from sweet granola bars and treats, keep my mind active, get up and walk every so often. Office is quiet, just the slow droning of the furnace punctuated by an occasional phone call, the chatty lady is here again but even she seems resigned to her desk for now, which is good, she likes to hear herself talk all the time and nobody else.

Make it to lunch and I should be ok, watch the time slowly tick by, focus, keep jittering, akathisia at least comes with the perk of always wanting to be moving, and it's harder to fall asleep when you're moving, at least that's been my experience. I've always had trouble falling asleep in moving vehicles.

Try to find something intellectually stimulating, maybe if I can keep my brain active I can, well, keep it active, but this job is as stimulating as watching paint dry, at least then you might be watching pretty colours.

Tired this morning, my body longs for bed and I just long for alertness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rejection

Rejection comes in many flavours, usually bitter and hard to swallow. My favourite flavour is the bittersweet kind that you get when you've done something worthwhile, only to have it shut down, like a research piece, a story, a date, or life in general. Sometimes rejection can be physical, when you're literally pushed out or blocked out of space you wish to occupy. Sometimes it's mental. Sometimes societal.

Robots told me I was rejected, it's happened before, and it will happen again. The flavor wasn't bittersweet, though, it was more like... dried fruit. Apathetic. Not any shame in being rejected where 99% of people are. Long odds even for the best of us.

It's easy to deal with the rejection by either fighting or giving up, the former of which will lead to more rejection, the latter of which will never allow you to perhaps one day overcome it. But then again, the last thing we want is an unhealthy dose of optimism, which is about 1 PPM.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Make You Sick

Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. Haunting your stomach and rendering appetites meaningless, shake around, rock back and forth, lose sleep. Stomach is in knots and you make trips to the bathroom frequently while at work while hoping nobody notices. Worse is when shortness of breath, sweat, or panic sets in, then it's a lose cause, find a bathroom to sit in and just lean up against the wall and take deep breaths. Anxiety. Renders enjoyment lackluster, you spend so much time thinking about what's upcoming that you can't focus on something you're doing now you enjoy. Remind yourself that it's never as bad as you think, but you're mind is stubborn and this is what you've known.

It's the job, this week, events will be unfolding that is a referendum on you, and you've never been good at this, let's be honest. It was to start today, but it was delayed until tomorrow, so spend another night with anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, and look forward to Tuesday like you looked forward to today. Make sure you have water to wash the fix down with.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Salad's the same over and over. Lettuce is thin and crisp, green, bland, always has been. Tastes like a vegetable mated with water, dressed itself in some sort of texture designed to require just enough chewing to be solid but too little to be of substance. You can dress it up with cheese or croutons or dressing but then the caloric intake sort of defeats the purpose. So it's lettuce. Cheese. Chicken. That's it. Some fat free, low-cal dressing. Feels like something a Replicator would spit out after awhile, or some sort of food construct ejaculated out of a cyberpunk future in which we inject mush into our system for nutrients.

Oatmeal is the same but even more dystopian. It's slop. It can be thin and runny or thick and slow. Always the same colour. Dress it up with fruit or nuts, beware of sugar and milk, though, it's like the croutons and cheese. Eat it for breakfast, start the day with oatmeal and a coffee and you never have to chew a goddamn thing. Why use your teeth in this dystopia anyways, we can be better than that. Sometimes, the nuts are soft and chewy too, and it all just blends together. Sometimes you're lucky and the fruit is sweet and tastes like something that existed as a real plant part at some point, jacks up the flavor quotient so that you're not just sort of staring into the abyss. If you pour in enough milk it becomes bland and runny and looks like it's just curdled dairy product, tastes better in that at least it has no taste, this is the future, food is tasteless and formless, do it to chase an ideal body, do it to chase away the little bumps of flesh that line yourself in ways that embarrass you when you're shirtless, not that anyone would ever see you shirtless.

Used to love the two, still convince myself I do when I eat a really good batch of oatmeal that has just the right amount of water and sweetness, but the difference between having them occasionally and having them all the time is enough to drive the fatigue up, make you tired, even though you rarely use your teeth.

Salad for lunch today. Oatmeal for breakfast. For dinner, I can only imagine.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Spring comes with unbearable reward, bursting at the seams with pleasantries and manners, bending over backwards to please, rattles out cobwebs and dust. The air feels lighter. I'll be back to my walks again, walks where I try to portray an air of confidence and assuredness while also avoiding eye contact, wouldn't want anyone to say "hi" or nod or something, that'd be weird, just want to walk campus and here the snippets of conversation that float from young adult lips and swirls around in a ménage of rumours and "she did whats?!" and "did you do ok on the test?" They have to placate the stress of $30k in student debt somehow, might as well do it with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I've meandered from the path now, walking, or maybe talking, through spring, but the white and grey palette of winter is finally degrading, and I'm left with a sense of temporary enjoyment. Sunlight is allowed back into the world once more. There's a spring in my step, perhaps, don't push at puns too firmly, they might knock you out. I'll walk again, I'll see you there. Wednesday, March 11, 2015 On the Sobering Reality of Reality To make a long story short, I am not terribly fond of my hometown. There's nothing existentially wrong about it more than any other town of 75,000 people, but, being in the Midwest, being in a metropolitan area of only about 325,000 people, and being in a region of the world that sees regular cold and snow, I grow fond of the idea of moving to Florida or SoCal or another place where I can be reasonably expected to be able to go outside and feel actual reasonable temperatures on my skin. I also have always had an appreciable fondness for large cities. Their sights and sounds. The never-ending people watching. The feeling of there being something new to see every day. Alas, in order to own a house in my part of the country, you only need to make what is a relatively small amount of income. My sister and I combined make about 30-32,000 (we also have a roommate), and that is more than enough to afford a house, life expenses, and still bank some away. Such numbers, in, say, Miami, don't really fly, much less LA or San Diego. Alas, while corners can be cut - say, sharing an apartment with roommates, for example, - my lack of many references and a college degree severely hampers my pursuit of greater income. Where this leaves me, I do not know. Foggy Brain was foggy this morning, outside was, too, fog shielded eyes from glaring headlights of approaching cars, lingered around fields where the first tufts of green grass are escaping from months of imprisonment under snow. Can't shake out brain or the outside, can't clear up the fog, can't improve the vision, barely see a school bus as the fog light on top flashes garishly, approach street lights in nervous curiosity - if it turns red, will I be able to see it and stop in time? Fog washed out the colours, the white snow is grey, the sky is grey, everything is grey, or maybe that's my cloudy brain speaking again, really what's the difference? Both are foggy. Both are grey, matter of time before the fog clears, maybe it'll retreat into some lonely solace, or maybe it'll evaporate and relinquish its hold on the space, for light, for sun, for clarity, blue skies, so I can see colours. World is colourful, fog likes to drag itself across them and cover them, not let you see them. Maybe by the afternoon it'll be better. Tuesday, March 10, 2015 Life Goals Considering my aforementioned failings as a human being, that is, my failings in regards to accomplishments, success, networking, schooling, underwater basket-weaving, homemade alfredo sauce, and other assorted futilities, my life goals have drastically changed over the course of my tepid existence. Whereas, during my days of early elementary school, I dared to dream of things like "making video games" or "playing basketball," and even in high school, fashioned my future as one in which perhaps I was a journalist or author, reality has, alas, sapped me of continuing such delusions-of-grandeur (which, I might add, they always were, even if I failed to see it at the time). With that in mind, my current goals in life - which are substantiated almost entirely by the result of me being born into a middle-class, white, American household, with generous and supportive parents, and not at all the result of anything worthwhile of mention that I did - are simply to 1) Accumulate as much money as I can 2) Give it to a charity, upon my timely death, whose goal and pursuit of said goal is that of a particularly redeemable quality It is with that in mind that I perhaps give myself the greatest chance of imparting any sort of positive significance on this world, perhaps not coincidentally, upon my departure from said world. On the Sustainability of Self-Doubt When you are 26 years old, and have been, by an large, an abject failure - as demonstrated by truncated pursuits of all things educational, vocational, recreational, or anything in between - the natural inclination is towards self-doubt. Upon repeated instances, its efficacy becomes better, if nothing else, due to familiarity and comfort with consistent pursuit towards self-doubt and prolonged subjugation of self-deprecation. One finds that, whether or not such path is a self-fulfilling prophecy - that is to say, perpetual self-doubt leads to perpetual underwhelming results, thus creating more self-doubt - the end results confirm what one, or in this case, the present author, already know. To have such confirmation is indubitably a valuable experience, if one values repeated instances of disappointment, self-resentment, and underwhelming results from all things related to one's existence. So I say; here's to continued consistency in what I do not achieve, for perhaps in my failings, I have truly achieved something very few have. Whether that's actually a redeemable quality is not a question worth debating, for we all, including this hereto author, know the answer. Monday, March 9, 2015 Intelligence, Or a Lack Thereof The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines intelligence as: noun in·tel·li·gence \in-ˈte-lə-jən(t)s\ : the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations Concerning the author of this post's inability to deal with any new situations, or difficult situations, or new and difficult situations, it stands to reason that said author is lacking in such a quality. Perhaps, upon further practice, the author could overcome such inadequacies, but such hope is likely unnecessarily optimistic. The Intricacies of Communication as a Device in Which One Accumulates Friendship I am not an expert on the means in which one communicates, particularly vis-à-vis "new people," as in, people I have no wrote familiarity or understanding of, with, or to. Alas, I have found myself - at age 26, no less - in a situation in which I have, again, no familiarity of note of which occurred in my 20s (or, indeed, any decade of my life), and that is, communicating with a woman via the auspices of a "dating site," presumably a site in which people look to advance the state of their "relationships" with other people. What a strange world! Having gone into this with the primary motivating factor being "to acquire friends," the sudden dynamic of messaging someone and then moving onto a point in which one would "hang out" with said someone is rather challenging; not challenging in the way, say, Moby Dick might be to a high school student, but challenging in the way that a totally new thing with limited social cues and little understanding of how to proceed is. In other words, Moby Dick to a 3rd grade student, for a poor comparison that is actually rendered meaningless by having almost nothing in common. To wit, after a period of over 24 hours in which me and the other party involved exchanged messages ranging from how Amazing The Phantom of the Opera is, to how Amazing pizza is, to how shitty homework is, I ventured forth in a way the youth of today's age might sardonically refer to as containing a set of two vowels, repeated, separated by a consonant as the third letter and opening with a consonant as the first letter (one that can, if needed, double as a vowel), with the anxious existential dread of "was that too soon or too forward?" to which I have nothing to calm myself but the hope of a reply, or a "what the fuck, that was too soon," which would at least impart upon me knowledge for future endeavors in this realm. In the meantime, I sit and wait, for my phone to buzz with a message, for the day to get warmer, and for someone, somewhere, to invent a cure for cancer. I bid you adieu, fair reader. Friday, March 6, 2015 The Cold Cruelty of Winter Slip getting out of car, yell "shit," drop keys, land on hand, scrapes from ice, get up, time to go. Snow has sheen like someone covered it in clear nail polish, firm crisp sound when you step on it, loud, loud, loud, wake up the neighbors, but you just want to make it to the car safely this time. Breath coalesces in front of you, but its formless, shapeless existence doesn't leave you an appreciation of anything other than the warm interior, get the heat going, get the ice off, get your hands moving again, feel the blood flow, not literally, of course, you don't actually feel your blood inside you, engine creaks and whimpers to a start, protests the fact that it had to sleep overnight in sub-zero temperatures. Daggers hang from gutters as gravity teases them towards the ground, water drip, drip, drip when the sun manages to cast light upon them, hear it outside the window, it's a good sign but the last thing you want is for them to fall on you when you step out the door, jump and try to knock them down, but be careful about landing on ice. Sunlight has extended its stay, it now waits around for you to finish dinner, letting you know this too shall pass soon. You get a t-shirt out of your drawer in anticipation. Thursday, March 5, 2015 Writing Reading may never come and go, but writing sure seems to, for reasons that I can not explain nor comprehend. In the past 48 hours, I've written and submitted 4 works of flash fiction, and now, 3 blog posts. Upon observation, little has changed in my day to day activity to suggest why such an uptake in productivity has occurred. But why question it, in the end? Perhaps when I get a fresh new wave of "not accepted" (most literature contests and journals have acceptance rates ranging from about 0.2% to 3%), I'll be dissuaded from writing for a time. The average writer, as in, anyone who is pursuing writing for the purposes of main or augmenting income, statistically speaking, makes less than$5 a year.  To wit, I have yet to make anything from any of my writing in years, with my last source of cash being a \$250 prize split between me and two friends for writing and acting in a short film.

I was in high school then.

So I'll press on, for now, and see where the writing takes me, and if I get stumped again, I'll simply try to bury my head in a book.

I hope you all had a wonderful World Book Day. Read what you love.

Being White

Being white means never getting stopped in the hallways of high school by security during class.
Being white means never hearing car doors lock as I walk down the sidewalk.
Being white means I can wear a hoodie safely.
Being white means I'll never have to worry about a woman whose parents told her not to date "my people."
Being white means my "culture" will never be to blame.
Being white means the beauty products in the aisle call me "normal" and "healthy."
Being white means I will get the most responses on dating sites.
Being white means I will be everywhere in the media, everywhere in government, everywhere in corporate.
Being white means everything will be marketed to me.
Being white means if I am caught with drugs, I will not go to jail like others, and if I do, it will be for less time.
Being white means police and security will not profile me.
Being white means I can sit in a parked car, or at a park, without being arrested at gunpoint.
Being white means the news will use my good photos.
Being white means people will be more likely to assume I am safe and intelligent.
Being white means I can post this blog entry without fear of being called racist.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

On Peculiarities in the Cereal Aisle

I was in my early teens. Thirteen perhaps, or there about. We - that is, my dad and I - were in the cereal aisle at the local supermarket. To my teenage horror, he began "dancing." I say dancing, because sticking your arms out and rotating them as if stirring a large pot, while simultaneously thrusting out one's butt, is no dancing move that I have heard of. I turned around, blushing, and pretended he was not a friend, family member, or associate of any kind.

In retrospect, one finds that, as one gets older, dancing and singing in public is something people should do more of. We all work so hard to shield ourselves and hide ourselves, and our spontaneity, that we lose part of ourselves. Dance in public, if you want. Dance like nobody is watching.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Cafe of Words

A napkin rustles up against my fingers, slick from the toasted Panini, forcefully removing any impurities that may infringe upon the perfection of a new book. A kid somewhere behind me begs for his mother to buy him a double chocolate brownie. She says no. He begs for the rice krispies bar. She says no again.

Later, as I sip my cappuccino, I begin to review the stories. The first one is good, the second one is bad, the third one is fantastic. It's a collection. Sci-fi written by women, many of them women of color.

Somewhere behind me, a baby cries. I want to tell them it'll be alright. It usually is. Perhaps a double chocolate brownie would help, but I doubt they're old enough. Perhaps their parents are trying to ingratiate them to books as soon as possible. That would be a good thing.

Because that's what this place is, as I sit in the far corner of a counter up against a stack of free-to-use board games, feet idly sliding across the legs of the stool I sit on. A café, tucked into the dying embers of brick-and-mortar book stores. They will fade away, as they have been for years, to tablets and e-books and free 2 day shipping. I will miss it. There's something inviting, comforting, even the sound of the baby crying is not what it might be on a plane or at work.

Throughout the store, books have been replaced. Toys, figurines, board games, DVDs, vinyls, a dying chain reaches out to grab hold of anything, everything, in an attempt to stay relevant. The entrance of the store is a grand shrine to the new, to the screen, to the tablets. A man who looks pleasantly generic stands behind them, ready to guide you through why this 7" screen is better than the rest; and look, how shiny it is under the carefully placed lights and tactfully bright shelving display units. This is the future, we sell the thing that will destroy us, because that is what we know, because the system demands so.

The cappuccino has cooled off enough for my sips to become faster and fuller. The café is still busy. People type away on laptops, or talk away on phones. I am the only one reading. Perhaps that says it all, perhaps that says nothing. Even in the last vestiges of a dying medium, nobody else has the courtesy to extend a helping hand.

Behind me, a man packs up his laptop, and pulls out his smartphone. He leaves the café. There are no books that follow.

Morrowind, Where I Left My Heart

2002 was probably a year of some of the most substantive bridges in game design between the old 90s RPGs and the modern first-person sandbox ones, or at least, RPGs that told you where to go more than they simply told you what to do. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was released. Neverwinter Nights was released. Deus Ex saw a more approachable version made for the PS2. The days of quest logs and hints were around, but map markers and location guides were still in their infancy. Morrowind teases you with general locational hints, but rarely points you to the specific house in town, or the specific floor of a 3 story canton.

I've found myself playing Morrowind a lot, recently, having reached into my ever established fondness for The Elder Scrolls series, and I find that the game still is just a remarkable feat of alien settings, weird characters, and excellent character building. Stilt Striders howl and stand like creatures out of some amalgamation of Lovecraft and sci-fi. Dunmer, the elves who are the natural population of the area in which the game takes place, sometimes accost my character, an Imperial, with suspicion and arrogance. I have stepped into their land, and their land is not the generic Roman-inspired high-fantasy, but something wholly different, a weird mix of appendages, psychedelics, the Middle East, and more.

I love Oblivion, and between the two, picking a favourite is like picking a favourite pizza. But it's clear that the series has lost something. Particularly by Skyrim, whose console friendly menu system of endless scrolling frustrates, whose opening sequence featured more gore than any in the series, with a beheading on camera, who embraced dragons as an antagonist and not mad gods, and who delineated skills to a more streamlined, and admittedly more balanced form, the future of Elder Scrolls seems less "weird" and more in your face. More hemmed in by a desire for violence and simplified skill trees that allows you to jump back in to whatever fight beckons. Exploring is rewarded, but all exploring now must have a carrot. I don't deny that carrots are useful design tools, but sometimes I wonder why Skyrim has only grabbed me for about 55 hours, according to Steam, while my years of Morrowind and Oblivion has gone on for hundreds, and I find myself going back to them instead of the former when I went a TES fix. Perhaps there's value in not knowing quite precisely where to go, of not always having your build formulated by the third level, of not having dragons and elves slowly morph into something that feels Tokien-esque. There's beauty in the bizarre, and TES has shown that. I just hope that it can continue to do so.