Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Unpredictability of Certain Changes and the Magic of Existence

found at: http://indiefixx.com/Feed_your_soul/downloads.html by Ashley Percival


Is the line between contentment and complacency indiscernibly fine?

I have tried and failed at so many things, and yet I'm happy that at least I tried.

As I mature, my ideology has changed for certain little things. For instance, I enjoy reading a book more than once, whereas when I was younger, that was an unpardonable waste of time that could be spent exploring something new.

Not believing in a natural law of science doesn't excuse you from the validity of it. I've tried. You see, I don't believe in aging.

When we are young we daydream of a time when we will be adults making all the decisions so that we can leave behind those unfair days of powerlessness. When we are adults, we cling to the nostalgia of our youth as though we spent it entirely carefree. Perhaps the problem lies in our definitions of freedom.

What most people don't realize, is that magic, like most things in life, is unpredictable.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

On the Move

It is amazing how three or four nights of truly restful sleep can change my outlook on life. I have energy. I feel engaged in life. I don't dread my responsibilities. Interestingly, I don't need a lot of sleep at night, I'm one of those that chugs along on 6 hours of sleep. But those 6 hours need to be good, restful sleep. I haven't had that kind of sleep in almost a year. But this week, oh the glory of great sleep.

Life is like a giant machine, rolling along. It can amble extremely slowly, or it can get stopped by potholes in the road. But when things align, it zips down a path and through obstacles like a tank. A nice tank. Sherlock may have his 'mind palace', but I think of my life like a big giant truck, but full of all kinds of oddities akin to Howl's Moving Castle.

My truck is on the move.

Monday, May 05, 2014

What .336986301 Means to Me

Somewhere in the Middle Year Resolutions.

It has come to my attention that I have certain egregious issues which need addressing. I will now do that. I have decided to make half year resolutions to eradicate these problems from my life. Given the fact that this is not June and therefore not the half year mark, this would technically really be the .41666667 resolutions. Actually, according to the precise date of this post, which is May 3rd, this would be the .336986301 mark. Man, when you think about it, that's a big difference, which makes sense since months are whole chunks of 30 or 31 days, sometimes 28 but who really cares about February, I mean honestly it can't even make up its mind. It's 28 this year, it's 29, it's 28, come on.


These are my .336986301 Year resolutions:

1. Stop rambling. Does this really require explanation? In fact, if I did give explanation that would just lead to rambling and then I'd have broken my first .336986301 resolution right away.

2. Use fewer adverbs. Stephen King abhors adverbs and I tend to agree with him. Whole-heartedly.

3. Drink more coffee.

4. Here's the most important one. Never, ever, ever read comments under news articles on the internet again. Ever. They are the car crash on the side of the road, drawing my gaze, sucking me toward their vortex of horror. I look, I peer deeper and I argue with my screen about the sheer lack of brain weight behind each one. I even try to philosophize rationally, but hey, rational went out the door when I decided to even read the comments of the perennially inflammatory. Internet news articles need serious doses of internet antibiotics.

5. Damn I seriously need to work on this adverb thing.

6. And maybe, you know, write another book.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Trouble with the Curve

I've been contemplating character a lot lately. I've noticed in movies and books the way characters affect me and how that transforms my opinion of the story being told. I'd like to compare House of Cards with Toy Story. Seems like apples and oranges I know, but bear with me.

Woody starts out as a character we can like, he's a leader, shows a level of compassion and intelligence that immediately draws us in. However, it does not take long before he starts acting like a jerk. When he does this, we cringe but we sympathise with his plight. The poor guy lost his standing. This push pull on our emotions works to solidify our need to cheer for the guy in spite of ourselves and it makes for interesting story. I think underneath it all, we're hoping that he will stop being a jerk and things will work out. Which is exactly what happens and thus we have character curve - the path a character takes to become a different person, or toy in this instance. We are rewarded for our emotional investment.

In House of Cards we meet Francis Underwood and right away we get the feeling he's not such a great guy. We are nevertheless, drawn into his character because he's smart, calculating and we think there's so much more going on with this guy. Plus, he talks directly to us, making us his accomplices, which makes us feel 'in the know'. As the story progresses, we find ourselves hoping he will have a curve toward being a better person. We think he could be doing all this chess playing for something better, to become better. I have not finished watching the series because his character plummets so far into darkness I just couldn't like him or hope for him anymore, especially since that darkness seems to be where he intended to go in the first place. In other words, he doesn't seem to have a curve, he started evil, he remains evil. I'm not saying I want Pollyana characters. However, if the characters I care about either die too early or become unbearably evil, I lose interest. My emotional investment didn't pay off and it drains me of my will to watch.

In these two examples, the path of the characters appear to be paths thought out from the beginning. What I find worse than drawing me into a character that I'm going to hate, is drawing me into a character, making me love that character and then without warning changing who that character is, making him unwatchable. Cue West Wing. I started watching West Wing. I love this show - for the first three seasons. These were smart, savvy characters with a desire to do good things. They faltered at times, they fought difficult odds, but they always rallied around each other and sought what means they could to do the right thing. Then season four comes along and suddenly, there are no good resolutions. Every fight ends in disaster or a turning away from doing what's right. By season five, they begin turning against each other. Now my emotional investment doesn't just become a loss, it has turned on me. I am now practically feeling complicit in the demise of these characters and disgusted with the show. But I kept watching thinking this will turn around. By the end of season five, I gave up. These were not characters I could get behind or hope for and without that, screw it.

There are characters we love to hate. Take Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He's despicable and always wreaking the worst kind of havoc, and yet we love his misbehaving because there's something about it that is so compelling, as though he were doing all the wrong things for a good reason even if we can't decipher it right away. This is great writing when you can do that and hold me in that state. However, it is rare. I watch entertainment for fun. If I wanted to be down or mad or frustrated I'd watch the news. If I wanted to see politicians being ruthless and political without regard for decency or trying to make this place a better world, I'd only have to turn to real politicians. So, if you want my investment in something that is difficult to root for, you'd have to convince me by some factor, characters I can love, a story so important or riveting I feel compelled to stay. But you set me up to love a character and then make that character a despicable person without any redemption or any draw to see what he'll do, I'm going to leave.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gamers Gateway

For years I've been a bystander when it came to video games. For years I shied away from board games. All of that has changed.

Board games were a frightening place of competitiveness and self-doubt which laid a landscape of rising tempers and misguided beliefs about fairness. I spent years refusing to play because when I did play, I quickly devolved into 'you no play fair' cavewoman. I have this habit in life which seems to bubble forth like a geyser when I play board games. It is this way of dealing with people. I treat them the way I want to be treated and in doing so, fall into the naive idea that I will get that type of treatment back. It rarely happens that way though. I'm not talking about the people I love, I'm talking about strangers. Having expectations of a stranger noticing that you've been exceptionally nice to them and then returning the favor is like smiling at the sun and expecting it to appreciate you and shine for you. It's silly. In any case, when playing board games I would often defer my own chances to win because I hadn't the heart to beat down another player. This is hardly constructive when playing a game, as you can imagine. When the other players subsequently beat me down, I would get my feelings hurt, then I would get mad and then I would decide I'll never play board games again. Add to that the fact that my idea of board games consisted mainly of Monopoly and Pictionary. I had no idea that there were so many fascinating games out there to play. Several years ago I read an article about playing to win and having fun while doing it. I thought I'd try it and see. It started with Settlers of Catan. I was hooked. Suddenly playing was fun, competitive and even cut throat, and best of all I could handle it.

Queue in video games. Where competitiveness is not an issue in video games, frustration is. Anytime I played video games I hated the construct of playing a character who has to perform certain actions in a particular sequence, just right, to achieve a goal. It requires the player, especially those of us who are not avidly honing skills in this, to play a scenario over and over and over. That gets monotonous and frustrating. So I gave up on video games because it seemed pointless. I certainly wasn't enjoying it. I did however enjoy watching other people play, especially if the game had exceptional graphics. Then my children started playing Minecraft. They begged my husband and I to try it. We dragged our feet for many months because it seemed like a 'kids' game. Boy were we wrong. As soon as we entered the world of Minecraft we had a dickens of a time finding our way out. And then my friend, Elyse introduced me to World of Warcraft. I fell down that rabbit hole and still haven't come out and don't plan on re-emerging anytime. It's just too much fun.

Why? Why are these video games more fun than any I previously played? I think they draw me in and hold me because they are free-will games. Minecraft is a giant sandbox in which you can build pretty much anything you want. Dream it, build it. I love that. I love gathering the supplies to build, laying out a design to build, building and then tweaking the details and building more and when a project is done, you can just find a new spot and build something else. World of Warcraft has a bit more direction to it, sending you on quests. However, no quest requires you to approach it by learning a complicated series of movements which need to be repeated multiple times before you can perfect it. You go, you often have to figure out the puzzle of the quest, as in where you need to go, who you are looking for. Sometimes it's hardly worth calling it a puzzle and other times it can take some deduction work. Then you execute the quest and here, you can decide how you want to do it with the exception of a few mechanics in the game. Add into that mix that World of Warcraft actually doesn't require you to do quests at all.  You could wander around in the world fishing and cooking if you want. You could plant yourself in a city and stay there forever. You could do things just about any way you want. You might die if you get yourself in an area where the game characters (NPC's) are too strong for you, but other than that, you get to be the arbiter of your adventure. That's why I love World of Warcraft.
That's me!

The take away from all of this in the end is: Settlers of Catan is the gateway drug to World of Warcraft.