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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Presents / Self Defense

Channukah is called the festival of lights. Light has always symbolized good; darkness has always symbolized evil.

It's not really so clear cut, you know. Too much light can blind. Light in the wrong place can distract. I hate it when someone turns on a light in the computer room- suddenly there's a glare on the screen, and I can't make out the pictures as easily. Or some Shabbats I might be trying to read a book while lying on the couch as the lights on the ceiling shine right into my eyes. Light can be bad.

And I don't know about you, but I love a good amount of darkness. Shadows add mystery and atmosphere; uncertainty inspires the mind. Back when I used to play on an electronic piano in an empty room as a matter of routine, I loved to shut the lights off altogether, to free myself from any distractions, to focus on the sounds. In the dark, one can appreciate the fine nuances of color and movement and sound. The light is empty by comparison.

You might try to be more specific: Light makes information visible- the light of truth. But that's still oversimplifying. If you want to see the bigger picture, to see the stars far away and understand how we fit in with them, you need darkness. Light may give knowledge, but only darkness gives wisdom.

And then we get presents. Where does this fit in? Well, I'm quite sure I don't know. As far as I can tell, the only connection to the Light/Darkness theme is that when the present is wrapped, the inside is dark, and when it's unwrapped, the... oh, never mind.

The presents I've gotten so far this year have shed a lot of light on my parents. On the first night I was graciously given the Star Wars: Episode III DVD. Excellent movie, best of the series, in fact. Only problem is the acting and the dialogue and- what's that? Oh, you're right- this has nothing at all to do with what I was saying. In any case, you can see that this is a most agreeable tradition.

So what was I saying again?- Oh, right!- the presents I hadn't specifically asked my parents for. The first was a wallet. I didn't know quite what to make of that. I already have a wallet, and I'm rather fond of it. Why would my parents demand that I change wallets? Are they really so desparate to feel like they're doing something to change me? Of course not, of course not. It was a mix-up, nothing more. I shouldn't read too much into it.

Then I opened a pair of slippers. My father hates it when I come to the dinner table on Friday night barefoot, and I love to go barefoot. They actually got me a pair of slippers last Channukah. I never wore those because they were uncomfortable, because I preferred to go barefoot, and because the backs were open, which led to them constantly falling off. Well, they got me another pair, as I said. Guess what!- It's almost exactly the same as the old pair! Just as uncomfortable, and these too have open backs. I was annoyed, and didn't do a very good job of containing it, but at the same time I felt sorry. Obviously my parents had looked hard for something they could get me, and they didn't remember that I had no desire for slippers, least of all those kind of slippers. They made a simple mistake, right? No need to punish them for it.

Today my father came home with a dresser. My parents both hate the way I throw my clean clothes into a giant pile where they're all easily retrievable. My father's been looking into getting me a dresser for a long time now. For every time over the past few months he's asked me what kind of dresser I'd like I told him three times that I would like no dresser. I hate that kind of trick question, don't you? Anyhow, he brings home this dresser and proceeds to assemble it in my room. My mother explained that it's not really a dresser because it's ridiculously high, and because it looks so hideous it demands the attention of everyone in the room, and because it has open baskets with bars which remind me not so pleasantly of the bars of an elementary school window. Actually, I added in those reasons myself just to give some hint of a valid theoretical excuse for not calling it a dresser. It is a dresser. And I really don't want it. And my father's already moved all my clothes into this monstrosity.


But why should I care about all that? I'm the only one in the house at the moment. The wallet will stay out of my pocket. The slippers will stay off my feet. And the dresser will stay out of my room. My parents are out right now. For the moment, darkness prevails!


Let's talk about something more important- I have an idea for a game that I could conceivably pull off! I'll call it "Smilie", because it'll be a virtual character which is a smilie! Sounds cool, right? The trouble before was I was looking for possible games from the enlightened perspective of the current Industrial philosophy of gamism, but those aren't really worth making unless they have some deeper artistic purpose- you know, some hidden meaning or something. Something to subvert the light of others to reflect my own inner darkness. But why bother trying? I don't need their Forms and their approaches- I can do my own things! If I can pull this off (and I think I can!), "Smilie" will be completely unmarketable, completely unorthodox, very short, and will impress no one. No deeper meaning here- just an adorable character given life.

It'll be a completely innocent character- like kittens! It won't understand, for instance, that the cursor is not something to be eaten. And it won't care what you want from it- it'll do its own thing. That kind of innocence is the ideal, no? Now all I need to develop is a language of interactivity to express this ideal. I'm starting on that now. I think if I were to look up into the dark sky right now, I'd see my smilie winking at me.




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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I'm not.

"How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life"
-Ludwig Wittgenstein

If I had gotten far enough to worry about coming up with a title, I might have called it "Ode to School". The sole line of music I wrote could just as easily have been composed by a primitive computer program. It followed basic music theory to a Z: no moving fifths, no moving octaves, precise four part harmony. It refused to show the slightest hint of ambition, moving those voices no more than absolutely necessary. It had no melody, and a plodding pace. It felt like it would go on forever, and in those six bars of music was packed an eternity of misery. No, that's not really accurate- an eternity was packed into each note. By the third note, any listener would be in agony. ---------------
I . . . V65 . . . I . . .
There were no surprises, no emotion but the bottled kind, no enthusiasm.

It must have been about a year ago when I sat down to calculate out a tune to provide the optimal amount of misery. It was a perfect musical representation of what I felt about my life at the time. I had a plan for the piece, a good one: I would drone on for much too much time, and then introduce some more interesting elements slowly, as if the character is trying to escape his fate. By the end of the piece, there would be no hint left of the dreary existence at the beginning. Nice message, don't you think? But there was no motion, and I had to sustain the beginning for at least a minute or two without any acceleration, or else the ending would mean nothing. I gave up after six measly bars of stillness and misery, rather than following through to the end of a satisfying masterpiece of destruction and happiness.

I can vividly recall running around the track in gym class with the rest of my grade. There was a clear goal, and we all did it together. The goal was to run until we reached the same point we had come from, then do the whole thing again. And again. There was an eternity in every lap- no, every step. After three steps, I was in agony. ----------
Left . . . Right . . . Left . . .
We did this routine every week.

It was so mindless, so tedious. I had to think of something -anything- to preserve my sanity.

I can't do this.
Yes you can!
No, my legs are aching so much...
Stop thinking about your legs! Think of games!
Games... Maybe "Preparation for the Real World" could have a little minigame representing the brutality of gym classes....
None of that! Try thinking of... of...
Of what? You know, I think I'm just going to faint. A faint would be nice- it would get me out of having to keep running. How do I faint? Is there a particular method?
I don't think so.
Faint... faint... please faint.... This isn't working.
A blog! You know, you said that might be a good idea. Think of that!
They're all running in the same direction. It doesn't actually get anywhere; it just goes right back where it started. They're just following what the teacher said- there's no room for any personality.
No, the blog! Get back to the blog!
Oh, yeah. I could just write whatever I like. That would be nice. I think I'll stop running now.
No, keep going! Keep going! You can do it!
Why should I? Why should I do what everyone else does?
The blog. I need a title. Something that reflects me. Who am I, really?

Who am I, really?

When I'm next to a pessimist, I'm cheerful.
When I'm next to an optimist, I'm depressed.
When I'm next to someone serious, I'm a complete nutcase.
When I'm next to someone nutty, I'm calm and controlled.
I love to argue.
I hate to agree.
If there are two sides to any argument, I'll find a third.
When faced with no opportunity for change, I love change.
When faced with every opportunity for change, I fear it.
When with adults I aim to act like I'm seven and a half.
When with children I aim to act like I'm seventy-four.
Who am I?

I'm not.
I'm driven by the conflicts between adulthood and childhood, rationality and human nature, art and rules, but most of all (as corny as it sounds) by the conflict between the Real World and my imagination.
By stifling imagination, there was no conflict with which to drive my composition. Without conflict, I will never move.

But who am I? Why do I need conflict?

Well, I don't really know, to tell the truth. Maybe it's just my nature. Maybe I'm just too lazy to care about anything else. Maybe it's my way of being different from all the people I've hated over the years who only know how to follow others. Or maybe I'm just a little kid, and this is how I get attention. I like that explanation best. :)

Hello. This is my blog. I don't actually expect anyone to read this, but as long as you're here, I ought to get started. ----------
It's so cool to think someone might actually read this!
No one will bother to read it. Here, I'll write "Dear Imaginary Friends" at the top.
At least it's funny.
No, it's garbage. Maybe I should say it's supposed to be.
Hey, that would be funny.
I'm really going nowhere with this. Anyone reading this will die of boredom.
Hey, I just had an idea!
So, um, hello. As I said, this is my blog. And I, uh, didn't expect you to be here. Should I get started? Or maybe I should just ramble on a little longer, or-
It was so liberating, so random. So childish, so entertaining. So unconventional, so ignorable. It was a perfect counterpoint to what I really felt about my life. I instantly fell in love with the format, and to this day I've continued to shape the blog out of a feeling of obligation.

It seems like only yesterday I left school, and with it any connection to the dark side of the Real World. Since then, I've been playing games, reading comic books, improvising, arguing, and generally doing nothing in particular. It's pure bliss.

Sometimes I wonder if I've become a piece of furniture. ----------
"There's the computer room in there. There's our TV, which doesn't work very well. There's our three computers, which are constantly breaking down. There's Mory, who sits there by that computer; we're thinking about getting him replaced. There's a chair we've had for a long time, which is all ripped up now....
I'm constantly doing things, but I never really get anywhere. I show no more ambition than is absolutely necessary, moving only between the computer and the piano. It feels like eternity is passing by in an instant. It feels like I could sit in this chair forever.

But I can't. Not because I have any faith in reality, but because my subconscious is becoming restless with no conflict to drive me. When will this new conflict begin to manifest itself? Why, it already has. Without really meaning to, I've been working on the structure necessary to push my life in a new direction. I've been working on it for months, in fact. "But where is this structure?", you ask. (Okay, so you didn't, but let's say you did.) What can I possibly craft to force myself to start moving? And where could I have put it, without my lazier side jeopardizing its results?

My dear imaginary friend, you've just read it.




A few comments about this post, not because they're particularly interesting, but just because I imagine someday I might like to remember them:

I did not, in fact, expect this ending. Furthermore, it is completely truthful.

When I first started the blog, naturally I was not considering going into a structure like this. So the symbolism (Myst/V, Me/I) was originally a coincidence, although I did notice it soon after, and of course you can see how I made the most of it.

When I decided I would like an overall structure to the introduction, my intention was to end with "What do I want?", as a homage to Straczynski. I abandoned this idea only while writing the post, since it was very obvious that beyond the "cuteness" factor, there was no point. The question of identity the two questions imply isn't relevant to my story. If I had used the Shadow question, I certainly would have tried to cram the questions "Who do I serve?" and "Who do I trust?" in somewhere a few years down the road. But once I started writing, there was zero chance that I'd go with that title. It's just as well- the way the blog turned out is, I think, homage enough to Straczynski. (Again, no conscious effort on my part- it just turned out that way, and I noticed as it happened.)

While I'm talking about influences, there are two other names I should bring up. My style of switching between styles, which I use in music as much as I do here, is inspired by Michel Ancel, and specifically his masterpiece "Beyond Good & Evil". The dots in this last post are inspired by David Mack, and specifically the way he often writes little thematic phrases past the edges of the panels. They didn't work out quite as well as I had hoped, but I'll be using them in the future regardless.

Finally, at one point I meant to end after "Betrayal of Myst", and the idea I had come up with for the inappropriately titled "What do I want?" turned into "The Fundamental Interconnectedness Of All Things". It works much better like this, don't you think? Especially since Myst V turned out to not at all resolve the issue.

By the way, I only know the Wittgenstein quote because Steve Reich made a song out of it. I'm not the intelligent sort of person who studies philosophy.


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