Categotry Archives: Metablogging

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Bridge to the Fall

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Quick Updates, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , , , ,

Quick update here to observe the passing of the theme here at StoreyTelling as this incarnation of the blog steams toward its fourth anniversary to be achieved in October. I’m going to more or less let this theme speak for itself, though the color scheme is full of the kind of bold dark warm colors that I really most enjoy. It’s almost nifty enough that I might ride out the October change this year, especially since there was no pumpkin-carving party last year from which to draw thematic imagery.

Facebook’s been obsessed with telling me that it’s two years to the day since Emily and I arrived in Jersey after our summer roadtrip in 2009. My update recounting the stats there (39 days, 6,200 miles, 16 states) has eerily reminded me how similar said sojourn was to the roadtrip I just wrapped (34 days, 5,800 miles, 25 states). And putting everything in context that no matter how much progress I’m making a building a new life, there are shadows and echoes in my even being here that will be challenging to transcend in daily existence.

My apartment is almost where I want it to be, though, and I’m hoping to have some pictures up on Facebook (and maybe here as well) soon that document the place as one remade in my own efforts as much as possible. The new couch and armchair have already been put to good reading use and while I’m probably going to cancel Netflix, I don’t know if I’m quite going to take the step of taking the TV down altogether. A few things yet to determine, as there always will be – a place one lives in tends to be a living place. And before I know it, I’ll have the whole debate building to decorate as well, or at least my office therein. We’re still on pace for a 1 September opening, but I’m expecting it’ll actually be closer to the 8th or the 15th given how these things tend to run. Still exciting stuff all around.

About to be hurtling headlong into one of the busiest phases of my life. Teaching a class will be an exciting new challenge and the current projections for the size and scope of the debate team are going to test the limits of my capacity and the entire team’s. If last year was our breakout, this year will be the growth spurt, and hopefully we’ll blossom into one of those precociously mature adolescents who everyone’s dazzled by instead of the gangly awkward kid who has more limbs than they know what to do with. Stay tuned.

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Dis Content

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , ,

The creation of some sort of winter theme has become almost as much of a staple on my blogs as the annual takeover by the ghosts and squash of Halloween. I like its colors, I like its feel and texture, I like having something that matches the exterior display of snow and now sleety slush that has been collected on my front yard just outside the office window.

I particularly like this year’s entry: that the titles are foggy and almost hard to discern against the backdrop of leafless trees and oversnowed shrubbery. The centerpiece here is Old Queen’s, the revered elder statesbuilding on campus that we’ve scored as the epicenter of our tournament in somewhat of coup that, once again, reflects Rutgers acknowledging debate as perhaps its foremost intercollegiate team. The tournament’s just over a month away already, a more valued spot on the schedule reflecting APDA’s recognition of our improved place in the world.

I toyed with the idea of trying to jumble together all the possible imagery of this time on a muddled canvas that might wholly embody the tangle of my mental frame at this juncture. A tunnel, a stack of books (both mine and others), a rising blue pyramid in the distance. But I like the simplicity of this more, the cold starkness of the reality. It is not a time, for better or worse, for collecting various possibilities and pulling them in. It is a time for breathing icy gusts of harsh air in, swallowing, and finding the strength to gulp again.

Bundle up!

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Other People’s Words

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

The sidebar on this blog looks a little different now – I’ve manually added a bunch of links to the only active blogs I know of that my friends are keeping. If I overlooked yours, let me know and I’ll add it. And if for some reason you want your link taken down, we can do that too.

I’ve tried to just use titles and not identify anyone this time around, since it seems that a lot of people are into the relative anonymity thing. Looking over the previous rendition of my links to others’ blogs, it’s kind of remarkable how many people seem to have gone through blogging as a “phase”. But at least a handful are still into it at some level or another, so bully for that. One of these is also seeming to hope for anonymity, so I won’t identify who summed up my political thoughts better than I could just yesterday. Good reading, though.

I’m also not convinced that the whole Blue Pyramid Stories thing is working out. Frankly, no one seems that into it, given the view numbers. A lot of people have said they think it’s a little weird, especially with the candles and my somewhat toned-down demeanor. It’s an experiment, and one that I will probably continue to dabble in a little (I still have to finish the Scotland story, after all), but I’m not sure it’s going to be the multi-day-a-week thing I initially envisioned it as. Then again, once I actually revamp the sidebar to the BP page and have a featured landing page for the Stories, maybe people who haven’t heard them from knowing me will take an interest. Or maybe it’s all just too strange.

It’s been raining all day in Highland Park and it’s been a particularly daunting storm. The mood seems to be affecting everyone, especially those at the Cafe today, who were subdued amongst the quiet reclusion indicated by the absence of patrons. This storm seems to be winter’s declaration of arrival, the calling card of a season that may menace us with the portend of bundled coats and zipped up faces. I may have to drive to debate, not even to keep dry so much as to stay focused on not getting swept, like so many drenched leaves, down the road and into the river.

Might be working on a quiz at some point too. I know I’ve long promised the Song Quiz, but I’ve also been thinking about going with something really zany to mix things up. I need a focus, something lighter and more fun than I’ve been investing in. I feel heavy with the weight of reality. Maybe I should just join a bowling league or something, though that also puts a weight on one’s shoulders. Or at least one’s wrists.

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Emptiness

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , ,

It is hard to write about depression. It is a cloying, unpleasant feeling and it swallows up most things that are interesting or productive or of the kind that people want to read about. All writing is for an audience and the point of living in public is, in part to have a public out there to hold one accountable to one’s own standards. It is much more interesting to write about such meta things.

Lisha, for example, wrote recently about the nature of personal blogging in public and its balance between furthering communication with objects of conflict or difficulty as opposed to being a tool in some sort of arsenal of self-defense. No doubt both of these are interesting aspects of a personal blog and both have been employed here at times, though I would hope I have leaned far more to the furthering of communication. It is important here to note that sometimes that which furthers communication is not always the friendliest of least provocative statement, however. Often people need to read or see jarring or even accusatory things to be alerted to the fact that communication is necessary, that passive or passive-aggressive acceptance of the status quo is insufficient. Time may have mellowed my approach to such things, but has not reduced my faith in that general methodology.

Which makes Lisha’s own insight about “friend of the project” distinctions so important, I think. Because if one has faith that someone else truly has one’s best interests in mind, it’s a lot easier to hear their feedback. Which is why, for example, feedback delivered in a marriage should be a lot easier to hear than that from someone who is of uncertain status, or has just betrayed one, or what have you. Which makes my own ability to take feedback basically impossible at this point, because betrayal in a marriage creates the certain belief that betrayal is possible, probable, or even certain in every personal interaction and connection. Which leads to unending humiliation, depression, and suicidalism.

It’s not fun or easy to write about these feelings, because they just are what they are. They don’t improve or change. I break down crying in the middle of a walk or almost during a volunteer shift or while reading or watching a movie in my lonely cluttered apartment. This just happens. I stare off into space amongst friends or at a meeting and I’m just a hair’s breadth away from losing it. All the time. Talking about it does little, because everyone’s aware of the situation and everyone has either tried and failed to make me feel better or not tried at all. There is no solution. There is no answer someone’s going to come up with, even me. There is only the steady drone of life unending and uninteresting, punctuated by occasional bright spots that seem shallow and hollow in the context of a failed life. And the buildup of still unpacked boxes, undone dishes, undone laundry, unbought furniture, unsorted papers. It is hard enough for me to motivate myself to set about sifting through these mundanities in the best of times – completely unthinkable in the worst.

Yesterday at the Cafe, the main staff who has been reaching out to me asked me what my deal was now that I’d been there for a few weeks and been coming in once each week. She asked me how I was settling down and how things were going in life as well as the volunteering in that context. And suddenly I just poured it all out, laid it on the line, told her everything that’s happened in my life in these three-plus horrific months, told her what I’m facing and dealing with. She proved that my estimations of other people’s ability to help is a little unfair. Just as Russ had some insight about whatever ridiculous-seeming relationship future I might theoretically muster, she had a way of articulating the concept I’ve been trying to explain about moving parts in a brilliant and obvious way. “It’s like you’re a Rubik’s Cube,” she said. And it was so obvious and so true. One that doesn’t seem to have a solution at all. But this explains how burdened I feel. I can’t contact one of the people on my online dating site till I have furniture and I can’t get furniture till I find something cheap and comfortable and haulable and I can’t do that anyway till I clear out the living room of stuff and I can’t do that till I do the laundry and the dishes and I can’t do that till I care about anything and I can’t do that till I have a reason to care, like a possible online date. Oh boy.

As I told her, as I’ve told all of you, some days are okay and some aren’t. But most days seem a tiny bit okay while they sit on the precipice of the abyss. I am always a half-inch away from disaster. And the cumulative effect of being in that state is, itself, a larger disaster. This isn’t necessarily a cry for help, because that would imply a feeling that there was help. Everyone’s helped as much as they can, but there are limits on all of this. There are limits on everything.

Last night before bowling with the debate kids, which was fun and a good distraction for a while, the power went out while I was watching a movie at home. It was terrible enough, but the worst part was that an insidious beeping of two hallway smoke alarms began. They were each on their own pace, so the irregularity of the smoke alarms’ beeping created a piercing and unpredictable cacophony that conspired to ensure maximum annoyance. I sat there, trying to lie down and maybe nap or zone out, while the beeping went off in the background. And it hit me, after about an hour of torturous terrible thoughts and memories, that this was a metaphor for everything I’m going through right now. I am sitting in the dark with nothing to do, no power, no light, and every effort to do something else distracting (I could have possibly read or maybe talked on the phone) is derailed by an incessant and unpredictable beeping in the background, which is of course the feeling of self-loathing, anger, and pain that has arisen from my betrayal. Being able to exist in that state for an hour or two was massive evidence to me that I have a stubborn will that is the only reason I’m still alive. But every minute was torture.

Seemingly obvious solutions at the time might have included going for a walk, though it was rainy and I had absolutely nowhere to go, which also enhances the metaphor I think. And I could have destroyed the smoke alarms, or at least unplugged them, but there’s no way to do that in the metaphor without chemical shortcuts that will probably do more harm than anything else. And even then, probably the beeping is just dulled, not eradicated.

I am going to the Cafe again today, having booked a regular gig for this month before I go home to New Mexico for most of December. I am going to debate practice. I am maintaining my various online projects. I am going to a tournament this weekend, where I get to be in a tab room. All distractions, all good choices, all the union of my stubborn will and my best efforts and the best suggestions of my friends. Unfortunately, it’s all belied by an underlying truth that is omnipresent and devastating…

I am not okay. I am not okay. I am not okay.

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Vulnerability

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , ,

One of the driving fears of having a website like this is that it paints a huge target on my back. Really, on my front. It reminds me of the old “frontstabbing” technique that Schneider & Gris used to use in Diplomacy in those early years in New Mexico. It was so predictable and obvious what was coming that they didn’t even need to backstab other of Europe’s great leaders (our friends) when it came time to dispose of them. They could inform them the turn that they were going to do them in and by that time, the victim would be haplessly powerless to stop it and half the time make the job easier in exchange for the dignity of knowing it was coming.

That’s a bit of a digression, but one that I think illustrates the profound vulnerability I subject myself to by putting myself out there this much. And yet it’s been my insistent reaction to experiences that have dictated that I either give up essential parts of myself and my being or simply find a way to not care about the vulnerability that remaining myself engenders. It’s easy, in some ways, to not care about being vulnerable, especially in times like the last few months, when I am newly liberated by the idea that I’ve hit rock-bottom and have nowhere to go but up. Or at least sideways. But it also makes me wonder at what cost I might be able to dig myself out. There is a fear, for example, that someone could contact me through the site and claim a connection of one or another kind with me of incredible depth that was the product not of sincerity but of research. And I am particularly susceptible to such claims of connection at the best of times, let alone in this desperate madness of profoundest rejection. And yet, it all seems worth it anyhow.

It’s worth it for a couple reasons. One came in tonight, not long ago, a detailed and thoughtful communique from an anonymous person who may have known me long ago. Experiences like that alone are worth the price of admission on this blog, worth the tormented risks of returning to the mill each night to pour my soul out in measured vials of linguistic distillation. But of course, there are larger issues to discuss when one talks of vulnerability, of the original sources of that vulnerability, of the whole historical reason that drove me to be so passionately committed to living in public, in truth, in the first place.

The artist, if you will, formerly known as PLB. Formerly? I’m trying here. We met, yesterday, Friday night that is, for a four-hour coffee split amongst two places in my new hometown. Her former hometown. You know, where she lived for years before going to Princeton. Because that’s reasonable. Insert repeated platitudes here about my writing fiction so I have something believable in my life.

Of course, there are those among you who’d be forgiven for finding a more nefarious explanation for her life path. That was always the trouble with her – it was never clear whether she was the Black Magic Manipulator or the Helpless Reckless Confused Child. There were always clues in each direction, plenty of fodder for speculation and further ambiguity. The fact that one among my friends actually went so far as to say she placed herself in Princeton in the anticipation that Emily would someday return is a testament less to the paranoia of my friends than the powerful example set by a person who convinced an entire elite school she’d penned a 900+ page book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict slated for publication by Harvard University Press.

The coffee itself was remarkable. Here I do not refer to the liquid proffered by Highland Park’s various caffeine dispensaries. It was remarkable for its strangeness, its ease and comfort, its ability to take assumptions and narratives about life and turn them sideways like a coin on its thin end, then give them a good spin till everything was blurred. It felt, ultimately, like a timeout from life. Perhaps I’d spent too many years imagining the fateful meeting, imagining replacing her final phoned reassurances before she flew to Scotland with language that wasn’t about our permanent future. None of them, of course, looked like this. This felt more like a discussion out of the bounds of reality, out of the bounds of life, maybe at a crossroads in some post-mortem purgatory or dreamlike missive dispatched after a spirit quest. Not a mundane overlit table at a Dunkin’ Donuts where not 24 hours earlier I’d joked and chewed with my debate team a few blocks from my new house.

We talked about most everything. She apologized, profusely and with apparent sincerity. She acknowledged, fully for once, all the things she’d done and, far more importantly, the real significance of the emotions we shared. She cried a lot. I cried some too. She had not drawn up this meeting to come at a time of profound imbalance in our relative romantic lives, but rather as a meeting of two people ensconced in loving and permanent marriages. But a funny thing happened on the way to this year, and the rest is history. Emily asked me, when we spoke about it this morning, whether I’d discussed with her how much of her shadow cast darkness on aspects of our marriage. I realized that this was something we’d talked about almost the least, for while I found it difficult to trust Emily in the wake of what – gulp – Gwendolyn had done to me, it’s a pretty sorry excuse Emily’s trying to use that this contributed to her need to betray me and disappear on me. The fact is that Emily was just mean and thoughtless sometimes. Did I react to this worse than most people would have because of my history? Of course. Should Emily have still not been mean and thoughtless, even if I’d never had an issue with trust in my life? You betchya.

This little vignette and my mildly wounded declaration of dignity illustrates one of the most darkly upsetting aspects of the whole meeting with Gwendolyn and its historical conflict. As I told her, crying, toward the end of our hours together, I’d spent time in May discussing with Emily what she was thinking and whether she was crazy. And now, that night, I’d spent time discussing with Gwendolyn what Emily was thinking and whether she was crazy. I don’t know what it says about me that these people who I have loved so deeply have found such deplorably massive ways to hurt me and have been so uncaring about their decisions to do so in the moment they did them. Both, now, have spoken about the nature of assumption in play. Gwendolyn assumed I had no idea she was lying about anything and that I would correspondingly be unable to forgive the lies, when in truth I’d spent almost two months trying to figure out a way to confront her about what I knew without chasing her away or putting her on the defensive. Emily contrived a way to assume that I would leave her someday, convincing herself that the dissolution of our marriage was not only inevitable but that I knew it to be so, thus making her actions somehow excusable or unsurprising to me. What both of these speak to, more than anything, is a lack of confidence so deep it can override any and all evidence of love, affection, hope, or solace, no matter how much I was willing and able to offer it in both cases.

Which is not to draw too many parallels. While the emotional depth reached is at least similar, a one-year relationship does not measure to a seven-year marriage. Which helps explain Fish’s remarkably callous comments as he was falling asleep last night that nothing I could get from talking to Gwendolyn matters much because I “have bigger fish to fry.” Which, ultimately, is probably about a lot of things, ranging from her doing a good job convincing everyone that ours was just a trivial high school relationship devoid of serious meaning, all the way to the fact that I just have a more thorough emotional memory than most people seem to care to. But to not see this point in my life as a time to examine all relationships and all love I’ve experienced, to reweigh and take stock, to examine on a plane of new perspective, seems foolhardy at best. After all, Emily herself tried to convince me that there was something about the way I communicate with people that just makes people want to betray me. That I am at fault for being left overnight, twice, by the two people I’ve thought I’d be with forever.

Which I guess gets us back to vulnerability. No doubt Emily will be upset for me baring so much here, will try to take things away. I told Russ a long story a couple nights back in an ultimately revelatory conversation about my parents taking things away to protect me in my upbringing and the fiercely resistant attitude which ultimately culminated in utter disaster at a place called Broadway Middle School. Now my parents will be upset with me about this post. And Fish too, for he’ll probably say I mischaracterized his comments. He was pretty tired, after all. Why do I write all this about people again? Why do I live so openly when it only seems to provide opportunities for alienation and discord?

Because you all know that I feel and think these things. All of you. And I can’t live any other way. I don’t want to live at all, really, but I really don’t want to live with the feeling that I can’t tell you what I’m thinking. And I do this in the hopes that it becomes a two-way street. A seven-way street. That everyone opens up to this extent, fully and without reserve. If everyone had in my life, I would never have been betrayed. Maybe, at worst, I would have been frontstabbed. But even that seems unlikely. I’m with Kant and the categorical imperative on this one. There may be some extra bumps and bruises upfront, but they’re so much less significant, hurtful, and deep than the wounds we carry from the secrets others hide from us.

I am perhaps too fragile and weary and uncaring about my fate to close this ramble with a message of “Bring it!” to the universe. Perhaps too superstitious, too, or at least wanting to refrain from being wanton. The real message, the real pulsing mantra I would broadcast from my own personal SETI dishes, is more that I don’t care what the cost is. That seems inane, crazy, totally bizarre in the wake of losing a marriage and confronting the prior ex whose psychic impact was so damaging. But it’s true. I’m not going to live starting to care what people think of me, or how they could use me against myself. I’m going to live the way that I feel is necessary, would stand up to the categorical imperative, would give this species the best chance of living, loving, and somehow not destroying itself. Even if it destroys me. Damn the torpedoes.

It doesn’t look pretty most of the time. I can be as defiant as I want, but the truth is that I didn’t leave the house today and didn’t answer most of the phone calls that came in. I didn’t have anything to say, anyone to see, anything to do. I didn’t bathe, didn’t change clothes, didn’t do a single thing that could be labeled as productive. I wasn’t even spending a lot of mental energy processing things, so much as just defaulting. I was, in all ways, a wreck today. Not a crying-on-the-floor-in-a-heap wreck. More the depressive numb wreck akin to my sophomore year in college self who didn’t leave bed for days at a time.

Maybe it’s good that tomorrow I’m planning on leaving New Jersey for a bit, on staying with friends for the first time since the worst of the early days of this now fully three-month-old crisis. I’ve lived alone a lot. It feels like years already.

There is no final summarative conclusion, still. Not for a meeting that broke a thirteen-year audio silence. Not for a crisis that continues to unpack itself to me in new stripes of denial, bargaining, anger, fear, and resignation. Not for the commitment to be vulnerable in the wake of continual battering. Not for me. Not for you. Not for any of us.

There is only today, the way that I feel, and the probability that there will be a tomorrow. And for all the days I can imagine ahead, that’s all there will be. And the pale numbness of that low ceiling, that probably makes me feel the most vulnerable of all.

Postscript: It is worth noting that I was almost killed one year ago today. I was so happy to live through that experience, so grateful and full of hope. Many times since this crisis began, I have told people, including Emily, that I wish that car had hit us more directly, had knocked me into the next world. It would have spared me so much, would have ended our marriage in a way that both of us could feel infinitely better about. But, believing what I do, there has to be a reason that is not how things happened. Maybe it is merely to provide this realization of how quickly and vastly things can change. I hear you in the back there, what you’re saying. It could change back just as easily. Maybe. Who can say? I look forward to the day when I can once again relate to the jubilant relief that my year-ago self wrote about early in the morning of last October 24th.

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Summer Chill

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Read it and Weep, Telling Stories, Tags: , , , , ,

It’s amazing how important titles are to my work. I have almost never written a post for this blog without knowing the title in advance of laying down a single word. One of the very few counterexamples was my last post, in which I wrote the title between the last words and the hitting of the slightly pretentious “Publish” button at the bottom of the screen. I didn’t know what the theme was for that post until I finished it. Ironically, the theme was themes themselves, or “threads”.

The theme for this post is “Summer Chill”. There are many possible interpretations of that phrase and I would hazard that all of them are relevant to the intended scope of this post. Read closely, pay attention. You may be surprised what you see. Or you may find the theme trite and blase, which it probably is in some ways, and go off to read about Lady Gaga.

I have discerned that Americans very much don’t like to be hot. This is probably because Americans, as a rule and general practice, are overweight. The precise coordination between weight and heat aversion took me a long time to figure out, but has become in the last few years one of those obvious and universal truths, like “donuts are tasty” or “parents have a lot of both direct and indirect influence on their offspring”. It took me longer to figure out this particular truth because it is generally considered impolite in this society to discuss the weight of other people. Thus conversations like this are unwelcome:

“I’m hot.”
“Really? I think it’s rather pleasant.”
“Well I think it’s too hot.”
“Hm. I guess you are a little pudgy.”

Comments on weight are especially unwelcome from people like me who, despite a two-year period of being somewhat overweight in the middle part of this decade, have otherwise been rail-thin. Since I rekindled my metabolism after its premature death at 27, I’ve gone back to being cold everywhere relative to every other human being, including even those who normally serve the role of being the coldest person they know. Ha ha!

Never is this phenomenon more apparent or frustrating than eating out during the summer in the United States. A phenomenon that I swear was predominantly limited to Florida during my youth has since gone nationwide, and now I must never leave my house without a jacket in summer if there’s even the slightest chance I will be asked to dine somewhere before returning home. In LA, in Albuquerque, in Philadelphia, I relied on my Mariners jacket to save me from hypothermic expiration in the bitterly frigid confines of restaurant after restaurant. After the third one, I stopped asking if I needed to bring my jacket. I would hit the swinging-door threshold, feel the blood harden in my veins, and suit up.

What’s ridiculous about the whole thing is that people keep restaurants at temperatures that no one would enjoy at any other time of year. Two in particular, Waffle House in Albuquerque and Los Segundos in Philadelphia, had the thermostat well below 68 degrees. Imagine going from a crisp November night into a restaurant kept in that meteorological condition. There would be literally no business. No one would go. So why does it being summer make it more acceptable? Why does everyone get to presume that all patrons have just run a marathon in their fat suits before entering their building?

Yes, this is part of an absurd class of things rapidly becoming known as “First World Problems” – the complaints only the spoiled of our species could possibly imagine worrying about, the offshoot of a pampered instant-gratification culture centered on the self. A waste of time, probably, but one that is both alienating to experience and hopefully a bit humorous to relate. And also, perhaps, emblematic of that selfsame pampered spoiled society itself, that we have created expensive, energy-wasting cultural standards and practices designed to cater further to our own self-centered obesity. It’s like the whole thing spirals on itself into the stratosphere to the point where to even observe or complain about our society’s missteps has itself become a misstep that presumes caring about the fate of that society. Paragraph summary: we’re in a fine mess indeed.

I’m reading Don DeLillo’s White Noise and it’s done something that Golding, Tolstoy, Foucault, and Calvino have failed to do in the last month or so: hold my attention. Granted that Tolstoy held my attention about four times as long as DeLillo’s even trying to, so maybe it’s a weak comparison. But he’s also done something else that the other four never approached: scare me. Not because his 1985 vision of the present or the future comes across much like all those movies I’ve seen lately (“Koyaanisqatsi”, “My Dinner with Andre”, “Dial H-i-s-t-o-r-y”, “Double Take”) in its prescient understanding of the incredibly insular self-absorption and chaos to come (it does), but because it reminds me of my own book just finished and nearly fully edited, The Best of All Possible Worlds. Not in whole, not overall (yet), but in certain scenes and themes and focal points. And it not only predates the book by 25 years, but I had never read one word or heard one thing about it before finishing my own tome.

This is at once highly problematic and a little relieving. It’s the former for obvious reasons – on a planet of seven-billion willed agents, I constantly fear accidentally rewriting another person’s book that I’ve never had contact with, just because there are only so many ideas or thoughts out there. As a writer whose greatest asset is originality of ideas, this could lead to unmitigated disaster. At the same time, it’s relieving because the publishing world seems very focused on “comps” – equivalent books to the one being pitched to them that they can in turn use to pitch to potential readers, writing such ridiculous drivel on the back of books as “…with the rich landscape of John Steinbeck, the emotional insight of Sigmund Freud, and the quick-paced action of Dashiell Hammett…” I made that up, but you get the point. No one is allowed to be themselves, at least not at first. Everything has to be derivative. And since I’ve never read anything remotely like The Best of All Possible Worlds, it’s encouraging to run across DeLillo just in time to be able to put a comp in my cover letter.

But also scary. Really, really scary, depending on where it all ends up.

I’m back in Tiny House, by the way, mostly just to block everything else out and finish editing before departing again for roadtrips that will lead up to my series of flights to Africa. The editing is about 70% complete, though there’s the second round of it that comes when I transcribe my red-lined notes into the electronic file that contains the work. It’ll take a while, maybe up to five days. But as an only child, I sometimes just need to be alone, especially to buckle down and do work. Once the work is done, really done, I’ll be sending it out to friends and the one agent who wanted first crack at it, then probably hit the road once more.

So, uh, public service announcement: This is your open call to let me know if you want to read The Best of All Possible Worlds. Your odds are better if you’ve already read and commented on American Dream On, though it would be absurdly self-indulgent of me to require this. Honestly, if you’re my friend and want to see it, that’s enough. Send me an e-mail.

And to leave you on a fun fact for the day, so that we can all laugh about the past and be awed by the present, here’s your news: The girl who said she couldn’t be friends with someone who had a blog had a blog. Far more fascinating than that is what she’s spent the last nine years doing, forsaking some of the first-world concerns she seemed to have in 2001 for time in the Peace Corps in Mauritania and working in Sri Lanka before coming back stateside to work for a really cool organization. I would say I’m proud of her, but that sounds really weird and probably obnoxious since I may have had nothing at all to do with it, especially given the way things ended. So, uh, I don’t have anything to say. Yeah.

I’ve summed up homecomings of all sorts with the following lyrical quotation throughout much of my life. It always has this way of being more transcendentally accurate and true than even all the times I’ve utilized it before. Guess what, “Awareness is Never Enough – It Must Always Be Wonder”? You just got to be the sixth category for this post!

“Looking all around the room
I see the clutter and the gloom
I’m not only back
I’m not only numb”
-Gin Blossoms, “Not Only Numb”

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Thursday Round-Up

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , , , ,

From time to time, I feel the need to post a rambly cattle-call of happenings in my life and links around the web. I should start designating a day to do this and making it something like a regular feature, but that would probably require me approaching this blog with the discipline of a professional columnist.

  • It seems I don’t write much about politics here anymore, largely because of the twin forces of Duck and Cover and TMR getting first crack at my political musings. I almost cross-posted this commentary on Obama’s lack of Socialism here, but instead I’m just linking it. Enjoy.
  • As promised yesterday, I recently put up the APDA Nats brackets for 2010, complete with results of submitted brackets from current APDAites. (Those distant from debate should note that this is not how APDA Nats is actually structured, but a hypothetical based on the NCAA basketball tourney.) This hasn’t generated as much discussion that’s gotten back to me as I expected, but I’ve heard rumors that people are still enjoying it from afar. Given that I’m on a bid to become Tab Director of Nats 2011, this will probably be the last of these I do for a while… it seems a little weird for people involved in the Nats tab staff to publish a ranking of debaters partaking at that tournament, which is why I didn’t do one in 2007.
  • The last two M’s games have been amazing. I missed the Tuesday game because I was doing prep work with the Rutgers team for Nats, but yesterday’s was a real gem. I am a huge fan of the new additions to the team, including the fact that Milton Bradley seems to be happy and ready to produce for this team. But Chone Figgins is threatening to become my favorite Mariner. Between the steals and the walks, he reminds me of Rickey Henderson so much it’s ridiculous. And I loved Rickey Henderson. But he seems to have even less of an ego than Rickey, which was the latter’s one annoying trait. Then again, Chone isn’t exactly contending for the all-time steals title.
  • Did, in fact, get our taxes in on-time, yesterday. We do owe both states a little money, and TaxAct scammed us out of more money than they should have. But it’s done and the Feds owe us a lot.
  • I wonder if the West will characterize this bombing as “freedom fighting” while everyone else utilizing these methods are “terrorists”.
  • My mental state and health have continued to be somewhat subpar in recent weeks. The main issues seem to be a general feeling of dissociative malaise and surreality that may just be endemic to April, and also migraines. I’ve been averaging about 4 migraines a week, an astounding spike in frequency that seems inexplicable when observing normal triggers and factors. This combines uncomfortably with this dreamlike sense of reality that’s overtaken much of my last 2-3 weeks, which may partially be related to the subject matter of the current novel I’m working on. (Though I haven’t been working nearly as much as I’d like, but I’m mostly doing plot work to enable really cramming on output in the next month or so.) I feel largely like I’ve been looking at my life from 30,000 feet, or at least 30 feet, watching myself live instead of actually being in a first-person view. It’s strange and makes me sound completely nuts. I’m not completely nuts. I just feel more like I’m living through a filter than that I’m actually fully here. I sort of feel that this reality is all illusory anyway and that life’s core realities are a little like our souls playing a video game (but with meaningful consequences) on this planet, so maybe I’m just more aware of that reality.
  • The other explanation for the above issues, of course, may be that there’s something seriously wrong with my brain. I’m inclined to think otherwise, but it’s good to keep all the possibilities in mind. I’ve told Emily to keep an eye out for me behaving really erratically or out of character, which would be indicative of a possible brain tumor. I’m not actually that worried, though, because the migraine symptoms have been so classic. (Though such symptoms also mirror those of tumors and aneurysms somewhat.) The other factor that I entertained was that I was somehow drinking decaf coffee – that the batch of Folgers I’m working through is either mislabeled or contaminated somehow. Because honestly, foggy worldview, increased tiredness, and more migraines could all be explained by caffeine deficiency too.
  • Debate Nationals this weekend – always one of the most exciting times of the year. I’ve attended 7 of the last 11 nationals prior to this one and this weekend will make 8 of 12. For all that I probably should feel a little strange about being so old and having seen so much on APDA, I really feel nothing of the sort. I think I’ve been in the work world long enough to understand just how meaningful and valuable I find the APDA community to be, to treasure how rare its intellectuality is. I’ve been thinking a little about how much work I’ve put in to the Rutgers team, all unpaid, and realizing that I don’t see any of it as a chore. I think this is what it would be like to really love one’s job, because I do it all voluntarily. I’ve worked for organizations I truly love before, but never felt this way about the actual work. If the writing doesn’t work out, I need to figure out a way to swing professional debate coaching. Possibly in Africa.

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April Come She Will

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , , ,

New image up top. Refresh the page if you can’t see it. If you still can’t see it, well, here it is below:

One of the subtler overall changes on the page, going with a relative simplicity that reflects my effort to refind some focus. I’m not that far off, not all over the place, but still not quite as centered as I’d like to be. Ever since I got back from Virginia (all of 48 hours ago), I’ve felt a bit foggy, rather dissociative. As though this is all a big dream I’m about to snap awake from. Not all of it, as in the last 30 years, but all of it, maybe most of the last 48 hours. It’s odd.

Of course, in part, it’s April. Every April, I get to thinking and hoping that maybe it won’t be so bad, so strange, so despondent. Most Aprils, I have to remember that there’s a reason I have this whole time-is-a-place theory going. This time round, at least, I have two insanely busy debate weeks back-to-back to keep me distracted. And then it’ll be time to enter the home stretch of a book that feels like it’s not quite off the ground yet. This month may yet prove to me that two books a year is a more reasonable expectation than three.

But I’m still hoping otherwise.

This past weekend was pretty debate-heavy as well, if only because it takes about 13 hours to drive round-trip to and from Charlottesville, home of one of the better campuses in its absolute peak time. Arriving in Virginia under an 88-degree sky was pretty much just what I needed at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed the tournament there, in no small part because of Rutgers’ great successes. Not only did Dave break for the second straight weekend and the third in the last six, but our newest novices were second novice team and both made the top ten novice speakers. And Dave & Chris managed to establish that they own 7th place, having finished exactly 7th all three tournaments they attended together. One could do a lot worse, especially for a junior-freshman duo. The tournament also just managed to be a bunch of fun, I got to judge many good rounds, and everyone was generally in high spirits. Although the less said about Friday night the better – suffice it to say that it’s easy to block out the worse parts of college over time and thus even harder to when they’re re-presented to you.

The only good thing about April, consistently, other than debate Nats I guess, is the start of baseball season. And what a great start it was today, with the M’s almost coughing up a win only to demonstrate they might have enough offense this year after all. Watching Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman come through so consistently was great. I am going to have a lot of fun watching this team run this year. It was all almost enough to make up for the heartbreaking NCAA Finals, though that itself was such a great game. And both of these were big uppers compared to the amazing but horrifying video that Russ has up on TMR.

That video was on its way to sending me into quite the tailspin. If you don’t want to make the jump or want to know what you’re getting into first, it’s basically 40 minutes of American military chatter about 11 unarmed civilians that were slaughtered in a 2007 incident the US denied knowledge of until very recently. This is followed toward the end by a triple-missile attack on a building that also seems filled with civilians. It’s perhaps the most chilling piece of video I’ve ever seen in my life. As bad as it is to watch 11 people killed (and trust me, one sees them shot and killed), it’s probably worse to hear the live reaction from the people committing the murders. In some ways it feels like a vindication of all the things I say about people in that situation, but I’d really rather just be wrong. Perhaps most compelling of all is the vision of the blurry lines between video games and reality for a whole generation of American soldiers. The whole situation, from the dialogue to the monochrome target-screen, has the look and feel of a sophisticated first-person shooter (I mean, think about that phrase as a genre of video game on face there for a second) and one gets the sense that the people killing can’t quite get over the psychic break between the surrealistic setting and the fact that what they’re doing is all too real. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking; maybe they know full well and are just that awful and/or manipulated.

In any event, I’m still struggling with it. It’ll be with me for a long time. It’s encouraging to know that there are people who would post it, who would make it available, who would spread it around, though part of me almost feels like it’s an Orwellian exemplification of how much can be gotten away with. Still mulling.

The cat’s sick and we took her to the vet, who knew no more about why she was sneezing and wheezing than they do about my migraines. But they gave her some medication, just like me, and wished her the best. There was a lot else on my list to do today, but I only did about three other things. My brain refuses to be still and yet won’t move quickly either. It’s pickling in a jar, just for a time, letting itself soak up the brine between the folds like some grimy spa catharsis. As though to gird itself for April and all it entails. As though to make the push into the depth of where I need to go to really fulfill The Best of All Possible Worlds.

I don’t like pickles.

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Pumpkins Out, Snowflakes In

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Just a quick note to observe the passage of pumpkins into snow. Sadly not yet in real life (the ninja-squirrels on our porch are still munching pumpkins while we wait for the first snowstorm of the year), but up top and all around this page.

Let me know if the font contrast is too low to make reading functional. I think it’s readable, but my view of the Internet is not equal to everyone’s.

That’s about all to report for now – new D&C below, was able to write last night, everything’s coming up more or less roses. Trying to keep my freaking out about my deadline to a minimum – it’s looking like a real photo-finish is coming up with less than a month to go. But I have to take these things seriously or nothing will work.

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Words, Words, Words

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Metablogging, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

So, there’s this thing called Wordle that I just discovered on Facebook, which allows you to analyze any piece of writing or webpage for commonly occurring words. Then it spits out something like this:

Pretty neat stuff. My big complaint is that it doesn’t draw on the whole history of the blog, but only the very recent history, which is why this thing reads mostly like a schizophrenic recap of my last substantive post.

I am wholly torn between my temptation to plug in the entirety of American Dream On and the concern that it would somehow find a way to capture it or just fail to function under the weight of 76,000+ words.

Maybe trying Loosely Based would be a good compromise…

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Streak On!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , ,

The streak didn’t end tonight after all (as I just just alluded – in fact, I had one of my most productive writing sessions of the whole week. And the word count was higher than it would have been had I been watching the count the whole time in some silly tracker.

Moreover, I just noticed that the URL assigner is all messed up in this format, somehow skipping numbers. All my posts are numbered and there have been a couple discards, but generally the number of the URL of the post aligns with a straight count of the number of total posts I’ve written. But since I installed the beloved “upgrade”, posts 656 and now 659 have followed 653. I guess it counts by 3’s. Hooray.

You know what other number has 6’s and 3’s in it? 63,315. I like that number best of all. At least for tonight.

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Planned Obsolescence

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Metablogging, Tags: , ,

DOS and Windows 3.1 were great operating systems. DOS was possibly the best, since everything was intuitive and everything was in its place, but if you really require a visual setup, then I guess Windows 3.1 was the answer. It was organized and manageable without being cartoony or impossible to follow.

Windows XP… it’s fine. But it’s got nothing on those older systems and is demonstrably worse in all ways not relating to processor speed or some underlying aspect of the hardware running it (which, frankly, has nothing to do with operating system). But you can’t run Windows 3.1 or DOS on a modern machine and expect it to run today’s software. Because instead of making sure Windows 3.1 was compatible with web browsing, they just replaced it with lousier versions of the system, so-called “upgrades”, culminating in the colossal disaster known as Vista.

I have often railed against CD’s, which are infinitely inferior to tapes. While CD’s are pretty much falling by the wayside in the face of pocket-sized infinite MP3 players, I maintain that the loss of sides of an album is one of the great failings of our modern musical world. It’s hard to argue with the infinite-players, I guess, but it certainly seems like a mix loses even more luster than it did when it became sideless by being marginalized to a “playlist”. It just doesn’t reflect the same craftsmanship.

Microsoft Works was always better than Microsoft Word – the view of the screen made infinitely more sense and a work one was writing could actually fill the whole screen. The toolbar was more intuitive. And I could go on and on. (Don’t even get me started on cell phones vs. landlines and the collapse of the telephone conversation – that’s a whole dissertation topic in itself and of course something with which I do not play ball.) The larger point is that in feeling a need to “upgrade” things, people most often screw them up. Whether they are too beholden to overpaid consultants or just feel like something isn’t fresh enough unless they keep tweaking it, they just futz with things until the charm that made them enjoyable in the first place is wholly eradicated.

If you’re wondering what all this is really about, I “upgraded” my WordPress account today. While the needling little exhortation to upgrade had been gracing my screen from about the third week after my initial installation (October 2007, as you may recall – hard to believe it’s only been two years in this format), I had found nothing compelling about the request until I read a nasty little article about worms today. WP basically tried to make the case that my blog would be overrun with malware and garbage if I failed to upgrade, then drew all these weird analogies to vitamins and surgery. It being almost 3 in the morning and me not having yet settled into my writing groove (I have a streak of over a week going, but tonight may break it), I was particularly susceptible to the idea of not having to mortgage days of my writing life salvaging 800 days worth of posts. I gave in.

I was an idiot. I should have known how much I would hate the new WP “upgrade” system, because I’ve already seen it at The Mep Report, the other place I blog from time to time. The look and feel of the interface is all wrong, too antiseptic, too institutional. It’s like blogging on a hospital wall. And now it’s what I’m doing. Right now. Blech.

I mean, it’s not like the old WP system was the greatest thing ever, but it at least had some color and contrast and an intuitive layout. This looks like an unending billboard for the random people who design add-ons to WordPress. In a hospital. A poorly designed hospital.

And there’s a running word count. Not a fan. I make a point of only checking my word counts on fiction after I’ve wrapped up for the night. The running count is like being forced to look at one’s watch every second of a passing class. It’s just too much awareness of exactly what’s going on. It breeds self-consciousness and competitiveness and even potentially bad writing because one is focused on the number and not the content. Yargh.

I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, all of it, even the stupid word counter. But it’s a bad sign when all I want to do with the rest of my waking overnight hours is figure out how to find a theme editor for the freaking blog-posting format of the blog. That’s not only a bad sign, it’s a meta-bad-sign. In a poorly designed hospital with billboards.

It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to manually editing my blog in Notepad. Almost.

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Lights, Pumpkins, Action

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Tags: , , ,

In October 2002, back in the relatively early days of Introspection, I first came up with the idea of altering the whole theme of the blog site to celebrate Halloween. In 2004, after two years of just changing the color scheme, I actually overhauled the graphic header as well. The rest has been history. As you can see (if you can’t see, hit refresh!), it’s another October season today.

The rains have been sweeping through, often hightailing it on the back of even stronger winds. Today is the first really chilly seeming day and I can already envision the crispness of my breath emerging as the barracks become even more depressing and the walls seem even thinner. Already I’m starting to wonder when we should start moving stuff away from the heater so we can be prepared.

And yet there’s the anticipation of October that seems even more exciting on the East Coast, what with the promise of leaves changing and falling and eventual snow. This is what I’ve missed so dearly, the real seasonal change that is present in most of the world but sorely lacking in the Bay Area. A change in the surroundings that matches the internal perceptual change of the time. People do better with external confirmations of their internal understanding.

Which, I guess, is why I revel in the visualization present on the page. So there you go.

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Keep Theming

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Tags: ,

Don’t worry, it’s still Sundown in America.

But my own filter for this reality will be dominated in the coming weeks by Emily’s and my upcoming cross-country odyssey. Hence the new accoutrements around here.

But it also seems like a good time to take stock of the past. So here is the collection of past headers on this page (admittedly without the complete color scheme and background images, where applicable). From the most recent to the most distant:





I guess this is my first header without a face.

In other news, it sort of surprises me that we’re only going through a third of the states in the union. I guess they’re all (save the destination) pretty big states.

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Midweek Roundup

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Read it and Weep, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

Periodically, I’ll get to the point where I’m almost incapable of writing new posts because every post idea I have is an old half-cooked one from two and a half weeks ago. And at the point at which there are twelve of these or so, it’s time to clean out the closet and just put the leftovers on the table for consideration. Could I mix my metaphors any more? Could I care any less?

Think of this like your Lewis Black interlude in The Daily Show, only way less painful and with punchlines that, where applicable, are capable of inducing at least a chuckle. On second thought, please consider nothing that I do remotely akin to Lewis Black in any way.

Stocks are the New Fantasy Football or It Takes a Distraction
If I’ve learned anything about trying to live life while somehow enmeshed in the trash compactor known as an American Day Job, it’s that one must find things one looks forward to doing at, around, or directly after work or one will spend far too much of one’s energy contemplating different ways to throw oneself in front of the train (or swerve the car off the road, etc.). I wish I were less serious.

The difference that having this (or these) upside distraction(s) make(s) cannot be underestimated. Simply cannot. It makes the difference between a spring in one’s step as one whistles on the way to the next lobotomizing task and being so overwhelmingly Eeyorishly depressed that one cannot hide it from one’s supervisor. (At least for me. Your possibly more emotionally flatline results may vary.)

When I worked at Seneca, I had to pull 16-hour shifts on Sundays with no breaks or lunches. This is legal, they told us, because we were technically in medical care, where apparently rules about taking care of people do not apply to employees. I think some people were told they could have breaks if they really raised a stink, but it was on them that the ratio dial was being turned from “Absolute Minimum Containment” down to “Life-Threatening”. And who wants that on a Sunday morning?

Nevertheless, there were natural downtimes in the rhythms, such as “Quiet Time” (less of a misnomer than the “Quiet Room”, I can tell you), where the kids played in their rooms for 15-20 minutes and staff got to be on the computer. Theoretically we were supposed to work on mental health notes during this time, but anyone who could write even such rote stuff in the midst of a 16-hour shift was differently constructed than I. I checked Fantasy Football.

It was perfect. I don’t even like football that much, but Sunday is devoted to football in America and the scores would roll in over the course of the day. Looking for opportunities to check football stats was the highlight of every Sunday, to the point where half the year was considerably more dreary because there was no football. But I started the job in August and that’s right when football gets going, so it acclimated me to 16-hour shifts as much as imaginable. And I wouldn’t have been able to get into it without Fantasy Football as a reason to care about so many different games and players. This whole association may actually be a big reason that I can’t play Fantasy Football any more – the associations are too strong.

Anyway, reading books on the train is definitely a big help in the current compactor, but that becomes inconsistent. Especially when I’m still immersed in The Idiot, which is really starting to show why it’s not discussed in the same breath as C&P and Brothers K, at least by most people. Basically, it seems there are about 40 pages of scattered brilliance that mostly consists of asides and non sequitirs sprinkled across a rather unremarkable story. Though I can sort of see why this book would’ve shaken up Russia’s society at the time it was written. Big D still has about 50 pages to salvage a message, though, so I’m holding out. Anyway, the point is that books help, especially if they are engaging and thus give me a reason to want to ride the train to work.

But stocks – stocks are the biggest help. Starting to play the stock market (I’ve basically broken even so far over 9 months, which I’m guessing is beating the average experience) has been my recent salvation from eight unending hours of drudgery. There’s always plenty of five-minute spurts in which I can take a break and get the rundown, and being on a computer all day makes it easy to keep in the background and monitor live-update sites. It’s gotten to the point where there’s a little pang of sadness in part of me every weekend because there are no exciting stock movements to keep an eye on. Which is perfect – if one’s resigned to not resigning a day job for a certain period, one wants a distraction so great that one misses it (just a little) during the weekend. (Please note that if this is making you want to stay at a job you should be leaving, you’ve gone too far. Use this method only in moderation to stay at jobs you have to for brief to middling periods of time.)

Huh. I guess that was plenty of post by itself after all. But wait, there’s more….

Time is Just a Bit Outside or Calendary Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day
It occurred to me walking home from work in early January (maybe the first day back after all the breaks) that our calendar almost makes sense. I noticed that the days were getting longer again, as they say, and it was a new year. But these events are not quite aligned. Winter Solstice is 9-10 days before year’s end, when really it makes perfect sense to have it right at the end of the year. The shortest day of the year should always be the last, with the longest at mid-year. Doesn’t that just make obvious intuitive sense?

The only complication of this I can really see is that, for some reason, the Solstices and Equinoxes don’t always fall on the exact same calendar day. Which, if you think about it, seems to indicate that our calendar is off. Shouldn’t those always come around at the exact same time if a year is really what we say it is? But, of course, there are complications like the quarter-day (leap year every four) and the skipping of leap year every few leap years and the extra second and such. Years don’t comport with days perfectly, so there must be a little flexibility. However, I don’t think it would be too much trouble to alter our year length to ensure, at least, that the last day of the year is always Winter Solstice.

Anyway, this got me thinking about calendars and time and whether our current incarnation of a year really makes the most sense. Without going all Robespierre on you, I was going to present the case for a new 8-month calendar of evenly-sized 45-day months, punctuated by a brief universal holiday period of 5-6 days each year. But I wasn’t sure that was right – I was then thinking about changing the lengths of weeks to align more exactly and then maybe going back to 30-day months… it all got jumbled to the point where I decided I couldn’t post on it, pending further study.

So I’ll get back to you on the full-scale new calendar proposal, replete with equivalences of every current day to the newly proposed day. That might take a while. But I’m convinced that we should end each year with Winter Solstice. It’s just sort of obvious.

Analyze This or I Miss Debate
I’ve been dreaming a lot about debate lately. A lot. Sometimes the dreams make sense and sometimes they don’t, but it’s sort of reaching a critical mass.

This is not particularly new, though this recent wave is above average. For a long time, especially when I was still debating, I had debate anxiety dreams that closely mirror very common school anxiety dreams. I had a round about which I was uninformed, I was ironmanning (no partner), I didn’t have a case, I couldn’t find the room, I was late, etc. etc. (Sometimes, I swear, every single one of these would happen in one dream about one round.) Those have thankfully faded over time, though they still crop up every once in a while.

The last few years have graced me with many more painful dreams about debating in important rounds, often finals or at least outrounds, and realizing very sharply that I need to savor and enjoy this round because I will miss debate terribly painfully when it’s over and there will be no more chances to be part of a debate league and I don’t want to feel like I’ve left something on the table. The crippling disappointment that comes from waking up from these dreams long since retired from the debate circuit is indescribable. Especially since, in almost all of these dreams, the round never really got going. I just sort of lived in the milieu of the round without actually kicking off the debate.

(Which is a fairly typical thing in dreams for me – for the first fifteen years of my life, I could never eat anything in a dream. I would have dreams in the middle of grocery stores or restaurants and be unable to consume anything. Attempts to do so would either magically be rendered impossible or directly wake me up. This prohibition was actually lifted right around the time I became a vegetarian and started having accidental meat-eating anxiety dreams. Of course, I’ve always been able to die or splat on the ground or what have you in dreams, which is supposed to be impossible – or at least rare.)

It’s gotten to the point where I can actually identify and describe a place that is a frequent setting for my dreams that doesn’t seem to exist in real life. There are only about four such places I can think of, whose recurrence is so strong that they have become real places in my mind despite not tying to any real locale during waking hours. In the dreams, it’s always called “Dartmouth” but is absolutely nothing like any venues actually on the Dartmouth College campus. I think a subconscious association of that school’s tournament and my success is in play here, even though my sophomore year there was my only final. It was my first varsity victory, after all. It’s (the dream venue) a relatively modest GA/final round lecture hall – modest in size, I should say, but pretty grand in decor. It’s aligned a certain way, with the lectern raised about half a person’s height atop ascending stairs on the right side and the colors are vaguely red and gold, but faded in the way of day-to-day college campuses.

There are more details, but I won’t bore you. The point is that this place has become real and I think about it often, even though it doesn’t exist. A place hasn’t ensconced itself this substantially in my mind since the aquarium room with the shark tank and the holes in the glass and the paralyzing dilemma about drowning vs. death by shark tooth. Which still pops up from time to time, but has mercifully receded from the fever-pitch of a decade ago.

I was going to talk about a specific debate dream I had just two nights ago, but maybe another time. It’s getting late and this Roundup has become more of a Cattle Drive.

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Busy Misery

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

There’s a lot going on in the new theme here at StoreyTelling (hit refresh if you’re not sure of what I write). This one might last a while, maybe all the way till next October or whenever something else seems more relevant. You may remember my “Stop the War” theme from Introspection back in the day (Spring 2003). As you can see on the old Past Graphics Archive for Introspection, it only lasted till May, when it seemed clear that the war wouldn’t be stopped.

It’s been five and a half years.

I don’t have a past graphics archive for StoreyTelling yet, but I should have one. I should make one soon. I should do a lot of things… small productive things or big productive things or just things in general. But I don’t want to. I’m miserable most of the time, it seems, set off by the smallest and the largest. It’s easy to be intractably busy and intractably miserable these days (it seems, for me). One would think these things might somehow rotate against each other, but they truly feed each other in some sort of ever-descending spiral. Even in the middle of Saturday afternoon, the threat of busy and the truly deep-seeded misery is rattling my cage. And hey, how did I get in this cage?

People in food lines are both busy and miserable. How can you be busy when you have that long to wait? It’s kind of like being busy in a job in America in the first decade of the third millennium. Everything is waiting and watching and shoving off for later, sandbagging and timing out. And yet it feels so busy.

How can you be busy when you have that long to wait? You’ll find out.

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Thematic

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

Even though I’ve been feeling Octobery for a full week, culminating in yesterday’s trip to a pumpkin patch in Petaluma for Emily’s 29th birthday, I officially am declaring the October Season open today. (Hit Refresh if you don’t see why.)

It’s also the last day of the baseball season and I’m going to try to bring myself to watch some of the M’s game as they try to avoid losing their 102nd of the year. Meanwhile, I have to admit finding myself more interested in the fate of the Twins and Brewers, the last two teams I’m rooting to get into the playoffs. While I feel a pull toward both the Cubs’ breaking their curse and Lou Piniella, I think I’m cheering for a Twins-Phillies World Series, assuming the former can get there. October baseball always finds a way of drawing me in.

The BP is coming off its two lowest traffic days since I instituted advertising on the site three years ago. It rapidly seems to be forcing the issue of me making a concerted effort to re-bolster traffic effort and content or just letting the site hibernate till I have more time to maintain it.

Many decisions and changes seem to be afoot, taking shape and finding form in the darkness of an uncertain future. For now, I’m just trying to take each hour as it comes, savor the joys of uncertainty and possibility, and hope against hope for decent outcomes.

Finally getting over being sick. Finally thinking about tackling some big stuff. Too jumbled to find real focus; too energized to not comment on almost everything.

Happy October.

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Searching for Direction

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , ,

I’ve been playing the stock market for about four months now. On days like most of the ones this past week, they say that the market is searching for direction. As though the market, each day, were a living entity that was trying to feel out whether things would be up or down for that day. And that the inability to choose one, to be definitively up or down, would be somehow consternating to the market itself. That there would be mild frustration, even disgruntle at the middle ground, at (heaven forbid!) finishing the day unchanged.

No matter how weird this may be for a characterization of a collective group of gambling agencies called a “stock market”, I think I know how this anthropomorphized market feels. I am searching for direction.

Much of this is the direct result of the post-completion hangover that usually accompanies any major project, especially one that has dominated the horizon for a good bit of time. The project in question at this stage is, of course, the just-released Women World Leaders Quiz. There is always a mad rush of euphoria upon completing a major web project and especially a quiz. Such euphoria usually quickly is dashed upon the rocks of reality as I realize that the first few weeks rarely bring the bulk of the visitors, and that it will take months and sometimes years to build up the kind of visitor base and feedback loop that I’ve been dreaming of for any given quiz. This isn’t always the case, but I’m able to block it out in the mad rush of motivation that rolls toward quiz-completion as I grind out the last few answers. And then the rocky reality crash is replaced by a calm that slowly fades into malaise. As though to inquire so now whatchya gonna do?

Indeed. Now what?

Lord knows there are plenty of projects pending at the BP. A Facebook app that really got me going in late June, if you can believe it. A just pre-announced eleventh quiz that I’m already promising sooner than is probably reasonable. And no shortage of projects in various states of neglect and disrepair, summarily abandoned along the trail like only the web (or a very large closet) allows one to do. Unlike the closet, though, one leaves all the laundry piled about unless one actively tries to go back and retrieve, hide, and clean everything up. And that’s never really been my style. In part because I like history, the layers of sediment, and the snapshots of abandoned pages at their last moment of maintenance. Unlike the closet, or ruins of a civilization, there’s no innate decay in bytes. No real cobwebs on the interwebs. The ‘net preserves better than mummification.

So I have almost too many things I could be working on, but so much leftover void of having the one big bogeyman (shouldn’t there be two o’s in “bo(o)geyman”?… it’s not fear of being one over par, after all) project finally completed. Projects for others (the quiz is for my friends at Camp Kupugani) always carry more weight and onus than projects for oneself. Even if the projects for oneself involve countless others (e.g. the currently suspended-animation OMBFP). This is why having a day job manages to debilitate and undermine all the countless projects (including 3 books, a novella, and unending short stories) that I really should be working on. My Dad always said that half the trick in life was to be able to work as hard for oneself as one did for others. My Dad is smart.

And yet today is a lousy day to start a project, really. I mean, sure, they all feel like that sometimes, but really today. September is going to mark a highly volatile month. And not just for the world – I’ve got trips to Colorado (Will’s wedding) and Nuevo (10-year HS reunion) in the next two weekends after this. There’s a Counting Crows show in there somewhere, to match the Jakob Dylan show we just saw on Wednesday. (First concerts since last October, and it was probably 6 months before that to the last one.) I’m taking serious time off work for the above trips for the first time since coming back from India (oh, there’s a dormant project for you – remember when I was going to put all my India/Nepal trip pics online? Yeah. You’ll note I haven’t even managed to change the theme of this blog from last winter.). And then it’s Em’s birthday and baseball season ends and holy goodness it’s October. And we all know about October. (Hey, at least I’ll have to change the theme then.)

This is the point in our program where I try to draw my own personal failings, struggles, and queries into a larger point about where we all are heading at this moment in history. The obvious segue available is the election – what better way to capture a gigantic search for direction than a bi-polar election season with two divisive candidates vying for the allegedly most influential job in the world for the next four years?

And yet it seems off. It doesn’t quite draw the right note, does it? Oh, trust me, I see enough of your Facebook updates to know that a whole lot of you really believe in this stuff, have been swept away by another series of fanfare and speeches. (Who says the conventions don’t matter anymore?) It’s a culture war, a clash of civilizations, a knock-down drag-out for the hearts and minds. What could be more relevant? Right? But it doesn’t feel relevant, does it? It doesn’t really feel like it’s going to make a difference, does it? I dunno. Maybe it does to you. But I’m not seeing it.

Of course part of this must be because I see it as a foregone conclusion. Don’t listen to me too closely – I put money on Hillary being in the White House, too (though I still wouldn’t rule that out quite yet). But unless they cancel all the debates and/or there’s a major “terrorist attack” on US soil between now and 4 November, it’s Obama big-time. He may just win half the South while he’s at it. If you really think that the Southern Baptist Republican base is going to turn out to vote for two self-described independents from the far West, I think you’re in for quite a surprise. And if Obama keeps compromising, talking about how badly Afghanistan is going to get bombed under his watch, and keeps picking old Washington insiders to help him “change”, the base isn’t exactly going to go gangbusters for him either. 2 votes to 1 is a landslide by percentage, but it says something larger about what’s going on in the country generally.

This wasn’t intended to be a political post and now I’ve got myself all fired up. The point is simpler, perhaps larger. There is an undercurrent, some other sort of direction being sought, decided, flipped on a coin at present. It’s irksome and irritating, it makes me feel all discombobulated. Mood swings that are a way of life go from bobbing waves to richter-scale disruptions. (Though I can’t feel the actual richter-scale disruptions alleged in the region.) They say that April flowers bring May showers, but I might posit that September decisions bring October consequences. And while we won’t watch the ripples run away just yet, the pebble is going in the brook as we speak. You can just feel it.

It feels, well, much like getting pegged with a rock.

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Errata

Categories: A Day in the Life, Metablogging, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Fish has been great lately about being my fact-checker. For example, I must’ve had Janice Mirikitani on the brain when I wrote “Janice Joplin” instead of “Janis Joplin” back in early July.

Later, he pointed out that Evan Bayh is from Indiana, not Iowa. Which really, I should’ve known (and did), but I managed to confuse him with Vilsack, whose name will never be on a nationally distributed bumper sticker. (Unless it’s of the ilk of “sh*t happens”.)

Speaking of bumper stickers, I’ve been thinking lately that bad drivers really shouldn’t put bumper stickers on their car. Or if they do, they should have bumper stickers that represent the opposite of what they believe. Nothing makes you want to vote for Obama less than being cut off and nearly hit by someone with three Obama bumper stickers on the rear of their car. Nothing makes you more tempted to set fire to a cetacean than being tailgated by and then swerve-rev-around-passed by someone advocating salvation for the whales. (I use these examples not because liberal bumper-sticker proponents are more likely to drive like feces so much as because that’s what’s around in my neighborhood. Also, because I couldn’t be less likely to vote for McCain or defend my right to own firearms, no matter what.)

But back to errors. I don’t correct things for the most part on this blog. I guess a legitimate typo that creates potential confusion where such should not have been may be fair game. I’ve corrected a couple of those. But by and large, I think there’s something interesting to be seen in the raw errata that come up in the course of spilling my thoughts on the page. In no way is this blog or its predecessor intended to be a refined product. I’m not trying to be particularly persuasive. I’m just trying to scrape little litmus bits of my perspective and what it’s like to be me at this moment in history and spread them on a screen. That sounds gross, but there’s something about the visceral feel for that description that perfectly reflects what I’m getting at. And why I don’t edit.

For some reason, I’d really love to see Janice Mirikitani sing “Piece of My Heart”. I bet she’d tear that up.

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3,991 and Counting

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Quick Updates, Tags: , , , ,

Like high inflation, everyone’s proclivity toward debt, and the Iraq War, StoreyTelling being inundated with a deluge of spam comments is looking like part of the reality I’m just going to have to adjust to.

The one spam comment per minute rate looks pretty consistent, so I think that’s what it’s going to be.

Meanwhile, the general barometer of how things stand based on the people on the streets of the Tenderloin says outlook not good. The theory about the end of the month causing the trouble seemed to be dented yesterday. But who knows at this point.

And if the Mariners lose one more exciting one-run game, I think they’re going to set some kind of record for fan frustration. They’re 1-8 in one-run games. 1-8! And they’re 12-8 (.600) in the rest of the games. .600 happens to be the winning percentage of the top two teams in the AL. The only good thing about this is that they can’t possibly keep up that kind of record in one-runners, so as that progresses to .500, the M’s will go on a tear. Right?

The cable may get fixed today and we’ll have some sort of explanation. It’s Comcastic!

Work’s been better; everything else has been crazier. The rate of change is looking pretty spiky as we settle into May. I’ve surrounded myself with distraction bolsters: the APDA Forum game, playing baseball on Sunday, and so on. But the world is there whether one’s distracted or not. Does anyone really think Bush is going to take record disapproval lying down?

Happy Friday.

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