0003 Lakera 12: Twenty-five

So, there's this "say twenty-five things about yourself meme" going around, and all the cool kids are doing it. Since the best way to be a non-conformist around here is to see what all the other non-conformists are doing these days, here's some thoughts on what goes on inside my head:
  1. My first real written fiction, Chuckles in the Wind, was a sixty-page horror novella that could be summed up in the following sentence: "when a young man discovers that his real mother is a witch bent on revenge from beyond the grave against her murderous husband and the rest of his line, he must learn magic to survive."
  2. I wrote Chuckles in the Wind when I was eight.
  3. I wore contact lenses before I had glasses; I got my first pair when I was nine, because my father feared that I'd be called "four-eyes." My opthamologist switched me to glasses when I was twenty, saying that my corneas looked "rumpled" and that he feared that I'd be blind in five years from the abuse through which I had put my eyes.
  4. In what should've been a warning sign for the future, my first two spoken words were "no" and "up", in that order.
  5. When I was three years old, before I knew the names of things, I invented a pair of words, "bushwog" and "dipschwong," which I used consistently to identify... something. By the time I my vocabulary was sufficient to explain to my mother what I meant when I used them, I had learned the standard names for whatever they were, and had forgotten the neologisms. To this day, the words remain a mystery.
  6. I've had so many cases of swimmer's ear, with the accompanying waxy build-up, that I have a doctor's permission to stick Q-Tips in my ears as temporary relief for excess wax. This also means that sometimes, loud noises literally turn into static in my right ear, because of the blockage.
  7. I used to love going to waterparks as a kid. I was never much of a swimmer-for-swimming's-sake, but I loved diving and waterslides.
  8. I have a head for languages, but not a muzzle. I almost minored in French in college, but then was forced to withdraw from Conversational French I when the professor quietly told me that despite my amazing grasp of vocabulary, grammar, and idiom, my accent meant that he could at best give me a D and that I might want to rethink my plans.
  9. In addition to five years of high school French, I dabbled in Welsh and Japanese before jumping to Esperanto and then branching into conlangs. In addition to Khonnen Simplex, I have an additional three "project" languages in various states of completion.
  10. Despite not having a job involving wearing a velvet cape and weeping in a Paris sewer tunnel or busking with dancing skeletons, I'm an oldschool fan of gothic music, style, and imagery. Related to this, it frustrates me to no end that the two typical approaches to the classic World of Darkness RPG setting in general and "Vampire: the Masquerade" in specific are "I outgrew that in high school" and "I drink blood martinis and sleep in the coffin that will one day serve as my eternal resting place."
  11. I'm emotionally and morally conflicted about the impact of postmodernist philosophy on art and artistry. When meaning is in the eye of the audience as much as in the eye of the artist and any interpretation that makes sense is a "right answer," what's the point of trying to deliberately encode ethical ideas into one's creations?
  12. For all that I excel at technology skills, I hate being a professional technologist. I went into computer science and software design in college not out of any love of the profession but because I knew that being a writer wouldn't put food on the table and wouldn't support a family.
  13. That said, I have a great love of gadgetry and miniaturization. I love the fact that my current phone has more memory than my first four computers combined.
  14. I believe that Sunday School and other efforts to teach the specifics of any given religion to children are tantamount to child abuse. Comparative religion and theology as introductions to metaphysics are fine, but specific instruction in the "right way" to "worship" "God" before they can hear the quotation marks should be treated as cruelty.
  15. I believe that the idea of "nation" is obsolete and should be scrapped as quickly as is feasible. "Nation" is a blunt instrument, a crude tool for mapping the unrelated concepts of "culture" and "geography." I'm convinced that the best way forward involves the establishment of a secular global caretaker government and the elimination of national boundaries, and I have hopes that the European Union will continue to evolve into such a structure. I hope that, as national boundaries collapse, factional identities with their own internal legal systems will rise to replace them.
  16. I believe that humanity has already passed the Malthusian crisis point, and that we've been delaying the inevitable by learning how to eat things that aren't food.
  17. I have two very bad habits that are going to get me in trouble one day: my own internal editorial commentary becomes part of any conversation whether I actually say it out loud or not, and I tend to exaggerate for emphasis. Given these working in conjunction with each other, it's a wonder I haven't claimed that the Pope is trying to get God to throw the moon at the Earth yet. I don't mean to cause drama when I do this, but often it's only upon additional reflection that I ever catch that I've done it, by which point it's often harder to fix than to simply let drop.
  18. In the same vein, I'm very bad about speaking as distinct from writing. I'm not an orator. I tend to say exactly what's going on in my head, even if it's unprocessed and unfit for public consumption. When I'm emotionally stressed, this tendency becomes even worse. Often, half an hour can make the difference between using the right word and using all the wrong ones, but I'm not always afforded those thirty minutes to sort out what's going on between my ears. I've deeply offended more than one person by answering a question while under pressure to provide an instant answer and while emotionally agitated.
  19. As a creator of narrative, both in my own life and in my characters' lives, I tend to judge others' creations by the near-impossible standard of "would I have done this the same way, and does that make me a better or worse storyteller than the person in question?" This makes watching most movies nigh-impossible, aside from the ones that absolutely blow me away. I don't mean to imply that anyone's enjoyment of any given media is wrong or misguided, but I have a difficult time enjoying stories when I find myself constantly saying things like, "it doesn't make sense for her to have done things like that" or "how could he have been so stupid?"
  20. I read and write everything for the characters. The larger plot is, by and large, just window-dressing to motivate characters to explore their thoughts and emotions, and perhaps even those of others. If the characters are obnoxious or difficult to appreciate, I'm probably not going to enjoy it, even if the rest of the film is right up my alley. I didn't enjoy Dr. Strangelove, for instance, and I came away from it with the same feeling that I had when I watched Being John Malkovich. Meanwhile, I fall all over Big Trouble in Little China, despite its goofy nature, because the characters are real people to me.
  21. In case it weren't glaringly obvious at this point, I'm highly sensitive to language in media, especially to what I consider unnecessary neologisms and what I can only describe as "silly-sounding" words. One might think, and quite rightfully so, that Harry Potter would be directly up my alley, but every time Rowling introduces a new word I want to climb up onto the back of my chair and scream. Now, I won't say I'm not hypocritical on this point, especially in light of my childhood bushwogs and dipschwongs, but in my defense I was three and for the most part I grew out of it.
  22. I have, or at least had, internalized the label of Objectivist so deeply that at one point during Greenspan's testimony before Congress on his shock at realizing that people hadn't acted in rational self-interest, that I actually thought, "Greenspan must not understand Objectivism." Then I remembered that he was one of Rand's direct disciples and probably one of her ex-lovers. This let me, for one shining second, to actually hold the thought that Ayn Rand didn't understand Objectivism before I suffered a massive synaptic misfire.
  23. After years of frustration and introspection, I've finally come to accept that I owe a larger spiritual debt to Malcolm X than I do to Martin Luther King Junior. I'm not interested in reconciliation with the mainstream, and I'm not interested in integration and understanding. Somebody else will need to be our community's voice to the outside world. Meanwhile, I'll be back here, speaking to my own and doing what I can to inspire them to build their own crazy worlds away from external criticism.
  24. I recognize that ghettoization is perhaps the worst and most dangerous thing that any majority can do to any minority population, but I also think that voluntary isolation and autonomy can do more to bolster a sense of worth and community than almost anything else. I'm not going to claim that reservations and internment camps are a good thing, but I will gladly point to the endless isolated monestaries, cloisters, convents, temples, and hermitages, as well as events like end of the U.S.S.R. and the creation of East Timor, as examples of my views.
  25. I harbor a secret fear that I'm more like Mason Lang than Queen Mab.
To those who understand, I extend my hand. To the doubtful, I demand, "take me as I am."


0003 Lakera 08: Medicinal

What started out last Kimya looking like a disaster of a weekend rapidly turned into something much more worthwhile.

About two weeks ago, I managed to fold, spindle, and/or mutilate my left shoulder in the process of stretching with Jessie during a bout of Wii Fit, and ever since I've had off-and-on cramps in that joint. Sometimes, it's just a low-grade ache; others, it's a raging fire like a sword wound gouging out chunks of buni-flesh. Tt's not constant, or consistent, so I don't think anything's seriously damaged to the point of needing medical intervention, but it's just painful enough at points to make me reach for the menthol cream and marinate myself.

Kimya morning, I was rudely awoken at about 06h00 by one of those bone-twisting pains, one of the worst I'd had in a while. I blearily snapped my head upwards, jerked to my right to feebly grab for the tube of ointment and... nothing. I had, in a fit of intelligence, apparently put it away. Half-awake and in a great deal of pain, I thrashed my way out of bed, staggered to the bathroom, fumbled around on the counter, grabbed the first tube, opened it, squeezed a length of goop onto my fingers... and proceeded to rub Listerine toothpaste on my shoulder for a few seconds before realizing it didn't stink in the right way.

After finding the right tube of stink and greasing up my aching joint, I returned to bed, only to wake up around 09h20. This is, at least for me, very late for work; apparently I had turned off the alarm when the pain dragged me out of sleep the first time. I also had a stinging pain in my right eye, accompanied by a peculiar numbness around the socket. It took me about a minute to realize that the source of the new disturbance to my corpus was, in fact, from my right paw, which I had, in my sleep-muddled mind, neglected to wash after annointing my shoulder earlier. As an encore to the toothpaste incident of earlier, I had mentholated my eye in my sleep.

I wasn't even really "up" yet, and my day already sucked.

Work was thankfully short, populated with a going-away luncheon for a coworker returning to India and several other meetings before coming home at 15h00 to pack, pick up Jessie and Winthrop, and then head down to Portland to hook up with Rowan and Cobaltie for the weekend. Aside from the absolutely atrocious traffic getting out of Seattle proper, the drive, while longish at just over three hours, wasn't bad at all and something I could easily see myself doing on a semi-regular basis. It's almost all highway, and well-marked at that, so the trip itself was less a hassle and more an empty space between places, a three-hour loading screen with some good music and conversation.

We arrived at Rowan's and Blue's house at just after 21h00, which given the late departure and the traffic still wasn't bad, and the weekend began to rapidly turn around. Jessie and I got to meet their friend Mitesh, who seems like someone I'd like to get to know better, and Elka was also present, which is good because I rarely get to see him. We chatted for a few minutes, caught up on current events, and then got down to the proverbial brass tacks.

As a warm-up for the evening, we watched Baraka, which lasts approximately three eternities when you dedicate all your attention to the events unfolding on the screen. I'm not sure that I could, in the space provided, adequately detail either the contents of the "film" or my emotional reactions to watching it. Suffice to say that it was the first time I'd ever seen it, and it blew me away. I suspect I still have memetic shrapnel from the experience that I'll be picking out for months, but that was, I think, the point of the exercise. In this case, it served as an excellent groundbreaker for the remainder of the evening.

Once we all regained control of both horizontal and vertical, I got the chance to do a bit of spiritwork. Before I get too deeply into that, though, I feel the need to take a moment and discuss what I mean when I say that. For anyone familiar with 12 Monkeys, consider the old man in the mental hospital that says, "just because it's a delusion doesn't mean it's not real," or words to that effect. I'm not saying here that I'm in contact with externalities who embody themselves to me via animal form. Really, when I talk of totems, I speak of those parts of my own head to which I have attached labels because of the symbol-sets that thirty-four years of being alive and experiencing the world through a particular set of filters has encoded in my subconscious. Why Bear? Why Rabbit? Why Coyote? Why not Wolf or Mouse or Raven? Why not Phoenix or Cat or Monkey? Why not even Magician or Fool or Tower? Because those weren't my symbols. The logos didn't take those shapes around me; it took the others. And so, when I tease loose a piece of my conscious mind, turn it inward, and stare at the rest of the mess that is my skull, these are the labels that I use to identify different parts of my own thought processes.

All that having been said, it's still damned freaky to realize that the closest thing you recognize to a goddess is taking the time to commune with you. It's not something that I can do at will, yet. It takes the right set and setting. It takes the right mood and drive. It's only happened three times in my life: when I first felt Bear's presence, when I felt Her leave, and when She brought Rabbit and Coyote to me in the depths of The Bad to keep me from taking The Easy Way Out. Always, under a time of great stress, and always at an emotional low point to help ricochet me back upwards.

Kimya evening, it happened again.

As with the first three, what happened wasn't an exchange of words; I don't even think my language centers were really engaged. If anything, spiritwork for me is about turning off the near-constant logorrhoea that runs through my head and occasionally externalizes as me talking to myself. It's about finding out what goes on when words cease being an option. I'm usually blind to anything beyond verbal communication, and so when I don't have that, everything else becomes larger-than-life.

The first time it happened, Bear's presence was more an announcement that She was there; there was no sense of information that needed to be imparted, merely a statement that I wasn't alone in my own head. The second time, it was... disappointment. Resignation. I had claimed to be something I wasn't for years, and the time for the charade was over. Rabbit found me later, but for a time I was without guidance, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my "adult" life. The third time, there was love, respect, and understanding. Rabbit reminded me that it was okay to be afraid. Coyote wanted to know if I'd gotten the joke.

Putting words to the gnosis this time, Bear reminded me, maternally and patiently, that I've taken real steps in the right direction, but that for a while now I've been confusing talking about progress and progressing. The mathematician cannot extinguish the fire by proving it can be done, and the plumber cannot repair the leaky faucet by showing off a certification. Understanding how to improve is important, but implementing that understanding is critical... and that's where I haven't been at my best.

So, what does this mean for the future? I don't want to go into great detail here, because I feel like saying too much before I've done anything will just perpetuate the talking-not-doing problem, but at the same time, I know the importance of feedbck in my own life, and I know the power of "say what you're going to do, do it, say what you did."

  • The ten-year-plan still marches apace. I remain vulnerable to losing my job, but I can take steps at work to minimize that risk. Pay off the car, pay off my father, get sixty-thousand dollars in savings so I have a year of liquid capital if I do lose my job, and then find land or a house sufficiently removed from Seattle that I can have space between me and my neighbors but not so removed that a day job's commute is unpleasant. Build a multi-family living space or renovate an existing one to LEED Platinum. Invite other like-minded individuals to join the commune and take up superintending.
  • I outright refuse to use the phrase, "I'm going vegetarian," because that's neither my plan nor my goal, but in the words of Michael Pollan, my intent is to "eat food, not too much, mostly plants." I don't care about the ethics of eating animals, and food with faces is still food, but my waistline and my planet will both benefit in the long run from dropping most of the meat from my diet. My budget will suffer, especially if I start shopping more often at Whole Paycheck.
  • In the vein of cutting back on the crap intake, my City of Heroes playtime is excessive and needs reduction. I've said it before in other places, but I think it's time I documented it for posterity. I want to be a writer, but getting feedback on my writing is nigh-impossible. I don't just mean "I like it; write more," or "you suck lol," but actual feedback about structure, style, narrative, characterization, et cetera. City of Heroes is an excellent multifaceted Skinner box, capable of providing immediate feedback on multiple channels, and logging in and roleplaying while I beat down bad guys generates instant feedback numerically and emotionally, just like hammering on that food-pellet bar. That's great, except the food pellets it provides taste like crap and can't be traded for better shinies outside the system. Meanwhile, writing gets me next to no response, but the rewards it produces when it does pay out are so much tastier and may ultimately yield positive results in other fields. I don't expect to quit the game, but it's got to go back to being a diversion, not a hobby.
  • I should start keeping an actual budget. Right now, I make sufficiently more than I need that I can afford to dump ten percent of my paycheck into savings as soon as it shows up, but I still have the occasional uncomfortable "hey, I'm going to have to put that on the credit card because the bank account is tapped until Kimya." Meanwhile, I've got a laundry list of things I'd like to be able to buy, as well as a small but growing list of medical purchases that would help with other goals, like the pedal exerciser and a fresh trip to the laser hair removal place for some touch-ups on my everywhere. Tracking what I spend as I spend it, rather than afterwards, should help with identifying places in which I could spend less.

Now, one would think that after a night loaded with such introspection and revelation, it would be hard to top it. Truth is, I don't think the rest of the Portland trip exceeded that point, but it definitely maintained the energy. Jugya morning, we finally got moving around 11h00 and headed out to a place called the Hotcake House, which served portions fit for any two ordinary people, but which was extremely tasty. We returned to the house for a few rounds of various games, while I nursed away a headache with some hot tea and ibuprofin. Then, that evening, we went to see Paul and Storm open for JoCo, which turned out to be approximately four hours of awesome. It was snowing when we left the concert, and we drove through big fluffy flakes to a parking lot, in which several food-stall trailers had been more-or-less permanently parked to form a little mini-food-court. There, we feasted upon poutine and crawfish etoufée and continued to talk about nothing in particular.

Pozya arrived slowly, but we watched Robert Newman's History of Oil on the XBox, which helped reinforce a lot of the ideas I'd had Kimya night. Then we headed collectively to downtown Portland and wandered around in the cold. We visited Everything Music, at which I replaced my missing Suzanne Vega 99.9F CD and discovered, quite by accident, that I very much enjoyed the musical stylings of a band by the name of Zombi; the shop was playing promo tracks from their as-yet-unreleased newest album when we arrived, and I liked the sound so much that I bought the one album of theirs in stock: Surface to Air. If you like orchestral electronic rock, you'll probably enjoy these guys. After this, we dropped around to Powell's, at which I didn't purchase anything but found a great many books that I could've gladly devoured. Then we visited Ground Kontrol, at which I fell in love with TRON all over again despite how bad I am at it, and I put the high score on the local Galaga88 machine. Finally, we ended up at Guardian Games, at which we all taught Jessie how to play Race for the Galaxy in such a way that she might even be interested in playing again some time, and then we all had fun re-enacting Reservoir Dogs. Finally, it was time to drop Rowan and Blue back at their place, and then we started home. The trip passed quickly, but we still didn't get back until close to 01h00 this morning.

I have the day off of work today, and I think my biggest priority right now after finishing this post is working out a menu with Jessie for the week, taking stock of the cans on the shelf, and then heading down to Whole Paycheck for fresh vegetables and other consumables. I think most of the cans are going to the local food bank, assuming we can find a place to drop them off that's not all the way downtown.