Friday, April 13, 2012

Minecraft Diaries

Day One,

Woke up in a heavily wooded area. Played in the dirt until dark, then switched to peaceful mode. Dug a fortress in what I thought was a hill, but turned out to be a small bump of land hiding a canyon, so my fortress was more like a linen closet. No sign of linen. Turned off peaceful mode for two minutes. Thought I was so clever making a tiny doorway in my house, but soon a creeper tried to get inside and while I was stuck figuring out how to cobblestone him out, he exploded my front doorstep and created a massive chasm in my lawn.

Day Two,

Tried to label my territory by constructing a giant cobblestone stairway to heaven. Failed at geometry instead. Made a stove and a chest and a table. Thank God for torches! Dug a spiral staircase in the back of my linen closet. Got ten feet underground when I discovered a cave. The cave led to a valley which led to outside, so it wasn't so much underground as slightly lower overground. But hey, now I have a basement and a backyard grotto.

Day Three,

Computer overheated, so I had to set up an elaborate box fan system on my floor and grip the laptop with my knees. Still lags terribly after a few minutes. Finally explored above ground, found some sheep to kill for wool to hopefully make a bed and spawn in my fortress (yes, I read a walkthrough). Discovered a creepy village, which I didn't know was a thing, and it had actual people and farms in it. I even found a few cows sunbathing by a lava pond. Maybe instead of building my own house I can just kill all the villagers and live here.

Oh, and also I tripped over some kind of glitch which caused my game to constantly chunk save and now I'm stuck.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Last Four Books I've Read

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
                This is a brilliantly narrated tale of discovery and hardship told through the perspective of Christopher, a boy with an unnamed mental disorder, as a mysterious death and sudden disconnection from his father send his carefully ordered world into interesting turmoil. The language is beautifully constructed with one of the best narrative voices I've read in a long time, keeping the reader at the perfect distance in the protagonist's head. It feels like a vividly imagined case study or a children's adventure tale. You will see the events of this novel through a lens in your mind that points exactly where it should. Every detail is perfectly synced with the mindset of the narrator, even down to the very physical construction of the text. And above all, it is a good story. If this was a movie, it would be Amelie if it was made by Pixar.

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
                      I first encountered this author when I read The Dogs of Babel, which was brilliant. This book I liked a little less because I feel it tried to do too much. It is a multi-narrator story following a troupe of people filming an Amazing Race-esque reality show as they deal with the drama of their relationships and the odd tasks they must complete. Parkhurst links the stories and the voices together quite well, never confusing one for the other, and it all ends up more or less balanced. There is the sense of rushed consumption, however, and I feel that my emotional connection to the characters was lost in the attempt to swallow all of them at once. It reminded me of books written for a younger audience, because the need for succinctness watered down the descriptive potential and very much had to be told rather than shown. Parkhurst showed me she could illustrate two characters brilliantly in Babel, and though I was very wrapped up in the story and enjoyed her second novel, I did not feel the same electric spark between my flesh and the flesh of her characters. If this was a movie, it would be Love Actually if it was directed by the Olson twins.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields
                     Brilliant author, brilliant book. I hate the title, but I love the text. This follows the late-in-life romance between two characters who seem like they will never be happy. A split narration in the first half of the story follows their history and daily lives through a rich and tangible town, coming and going between their heads until we are sure they are perfect for each other before they even meet. It is agonizing, as it should be, and when the union finally happens it is a Darcy-and-Elizabeth style crescendo of happiness. Shields has an addictive application of language, one of those authors that seems like she has shimmering paragraphs and savory metaphors just springing out of her head every morning. She takes a while to get to the point sometimes, but it is well worth the journey. If this was a movie it would be Pride and Prejudice if it starred Emily Blunt and Viggo Mortensen.

Misadventures in the (213) by Dennis Hensley
                        This is a disjointed, slightly ridiculous Hollywood satire about shit happening to quirky people. It's romantic in a sad, unreachable sense, and it's almost as funny as it thinks it is. The main character is bland and insecure in a necessary way, and his crazy TV-star friend is a flash of adventure and destruction. It is episodic and gives colorful tastes here and there, name dropping and referencing in a very disorienting yet captivating swirl. If you're in the mood for realism and deep immersion, however, this is not the book for you. It's campy, it's touching, it's a feverish jaunt through some of the most creatively absurd situations you never would have imagined. If this was a movie it would be Mulholland Drive if it was written by Tina Fey.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why are they following me???

Do you ever get the strange feeling that you are surrounded by idiots? No, not the one where it seems like everyone and their mother is auditioning for MTV "reality", the one where you feel as if stupid people purposefully befriend you and follow you around. Are the stray cats of failed education drawn to your intellectual meat dumpster? Did you mistakenly set a bowl of Knowledge Milk out on the Porch of Conversation?

Well, you are not alone. I am developing a theory for this phenomenon. I call it, "The Jealous Moth Postulation." No, I did not steal that from CBS.

As years of exposure to cliche, owning outdoor incandescence, and Wikipedia have taught me: moths are attracted to lights. "By maintaining a constant angular relationship to a bright celestial light, such as the Moon, they can fly in a straight line." This means that light is a sort of compass for the moth, and without bright guidance he can become confused and useless.

If we follow this logic, we can assume that Stupid People have some sort of inner instinct telling them to seek guidance, or to straighten themselves out. This Jiminy Cricket causes the Stupid People to bind themselves to more intelligent life forms, and perhaps learn something useful. This explains why they ask dumb questions, copy our behavior, and follow us around. The instinctual voice also has a defense mechanism which literally turns off the parts of the brain that are capable of detecting sarcasm, condescension, and annoyance - explaining why Stupid People with seemingly normal social skills are incapable of receiving these signals. This keeps the invisible leash between Stupid Person and Smart Person well maintained.

Romantics, however, might insist that the moth is drawn to the flame because of its profound beauty. Wings of gray - dull and powdered with that gross moth dust, this unattractive beast is cosmically pulled towards the thing it desires most: to feel pretty. This also seems applicable, as subconsciously (providing there is a conscious of which to be sub), Stupid People must know that they are lacking. They are not devoid of feeling. They, too, must occasionally feel a tug of envy - but perhaps mistake it for indigestion. At any rate, for whatever reason, consequently, they follow.

So what is our best countermeasure? Obviously, verbal abuse (however satisfying) is ineffective against the advanced anti-scorn defenses of the Inner Insect. We could also try to teach these lost souls: answer their questions and respond to their advances with kindness - but that often leads to insanity and/or homicide. Depending on how well known the subject is, there is a limit to our influence over their cognitive! it can't be!

Yes. Yes, I'm afraid so. The scientists working night and day on the Jealous Moth Postulation have only one successful defense (not including hermitage, surrender, and genetic engineering), and it is utterly sad. You must earn the scorn of the Dumb.

However you do this is up to you. Pretend to be a fan of the rival team that they so viciously and unreasonably hate. Claim to be a member of whatever creed/orientation/race they ignorantly despise. Or, if you have the time, commit yourself to being Too Smart. This is my favorite method. When they approach you, immediately jump to closing phrases like "Wow, that's a good point, this was such a good talk!" and try to convince them that they already had a conversation with you. Speak only in Latin riddles. Change your name to an equation with a lot of parentheses. These techniques are highly advanced, but highly effective. Even the dumbest moths will not fly all the way to the sun.

Either way, if you're sick of making really awesomely subtle puns and being met with blank stares, if you've run out of ways to explain the spelling of "their," and if you no longer want to hear every single detail of THEIR inane lives, you must find away to seem unattractive. I know, I know, it will be difficult. But I believe in you and your superior brain. Godspeed, good flame!


Le Manuel

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Everyone is tired of hearing about weight loss. Watch any channel after 11 p.m., read literally ANY magazine. Apparently, the swiftly bloating American culture of limitless consumer appetites is also obsessed with getting rid of the consequences. But no one really talks about what actually happens when you lose weight. Perhaps since it's all an ocean of starry-eyed "someday" motivational bullcrap, you're never supposed to know what goes on beyond the magical threshold. As soon as you see what actually happens, good and bad, your brain no longer fantasizes. And a fat, fantasizing brain at 1 a.m. is a diet pill marketers primary

So I'm here to burst a few bubbles, and maybe blow some new ones. Mainly, I want to talk about what goes on in your brain when you lose weight, and why it is a constantly frustrating mindfuck.

First of all, weight loss is not something that just HAPPENS to you. It's not like getting pregnant or hit by a bus. Barring health problems or desert islands, weight loss is an active choice. This is the trap that all fat people dig themselves into, thinking one day they will just get thinner. We live our lives constantly repeating "I'll do that when I'm skinny," and "that will be awesome to try when I'm smaller." Not "I should get thinner so that I can start doing that," or even "there's really nothing stopping me from doing that except my own insecurity." Weight loss isn't puberty. It doesn't come upon you suddenly in the middle of gym class. It is a grueling, relentless, sweaty uphill battle that will immediately unravel if you neglect it for even one minute. And  there will be MANY false starts before it even begins.

Being thinner feels weird. Depending on how quickly you lose weight, your body will feel unfamiliar for a while, and your self image will fluctuate according to how you feel on a momentary basis. There are bits of your emotional structure that will always be fat. This is sometimes entertaining, because you may find yourself groping random body parts in public and thinking "was that always so firm?" But it can also be frustrating, because at your most vulnerable and insecure moments you will revert back to the same person you were when you were fat.

Paranoia and/or vanity may ensue. This is why so many former fatties turn into sluts. When you are fat, you are protected by a thick layer of invisibility that normal people are not allowed. After you lose weight, the shield disintegrates, you realize how much eye contact strangers make, and it either gets creepy or encouraging. This is why I wear more makeup now. Before, leaving the house was a simple task - no pressure. After, it suddenly became a full-fledged performance! It takes a long time to choose an outfit if you assume that 300 people will be analyzing it throughout your day.

Everyone has their own definition of FAT and NOT FAT, the invisible line they draw. For a lot of people, that line is way too unforgiving. Most importantly, it is different for everyone. The way I picture myself at my ideal weight is probably equivalent to a size 2's ultimate nightmare. When I was at my heaviest, I kept thinking "I would be THRILLED to be a size 14 again." Now I'm below 14, and I'm still not satisfied. Why does this happen? Well, the brunettes want to be blonde, that's all I can say. It's important to be able to recognize this flaw in our own perceptions. Think about how much your self image fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. In the space of a week, I whip back and forth from feeling like a freight train to feeling like Kiera Knightley. Sometimes this flips in the space of five minutes. But when I think about people I know - my friends and family - my image of them never changes. I have to constantly remind myself to astral project out of my body and judge it as if I was my best friend.

In a way, this explains one of the biggest fatty frustrations: skinny people complaining about how fat they are. Some do it to fish for compliments, some do it because they can't be happy unless they are miserable, but most do it because body image is NOT a reflection of their actual body. Body image is a (mental) visual representation of security, confidence, adherence to personal rules and standards, and what you imagine other people are thinking about you (and how much you care). Each one of these measurements is changing FAR more frequently than any actual part of your body. But the change in these mental levels manifests as a perceived physical difference.

I don't know anything about actual psychology of weight loss, so don't take any of this for scientific fact. This is merely my own personal analysis of my own personal experience. If you really want to know what it feels like to lose weight, then do it. And newsflash: there isn't one special way. Find your own solution, don't wait to read it in a blog. For me, it was vegetarianism, a job with extreme physical labor, and calorie counting. Why? Because I have control issues, and each one of these things involves following a higher authority/rule that outweighs (pun intended) my temptations. Maybe you are super competitive, so your weight loss solution is something like the Biggest Loser. Personally, I would get kicked off of that show for revenge-bludgeoning the trainers with dumbbells in their sleep.


Friday, October 7, 2011

A Bunch of Reasons Why Living With Animals is Weird

When we were kids, literally every children's story and TV show was about talking animals. Which seemed like the coolest thing ever, plus pets are fun to play with and represent maturity in the "responsibility" aspect. So we all begged our parents for animals, and they caved, most likely because they did the same thing to their parents and were therefore already brainwashed.

Yes, brainwashed. Don't get me wrong, I love my beasts. But WHY do I love my beasts? Is it because we have a genuine bond of friendship and mutual dependence, or is it because I have been programmed by generations of evolution to bring these creatures their food?

I've been mind-bossed by someone that eats their own feces. Great.

Living with animals my whole life has deadened me to how weird it is that I live with animals. I barely notice the bizarre shit that happens around here because of them. But now I'm going to attempt to shake off the hypnosis and remember some of the strangeness. These are things that I've been taught by my pets.

Because of the Dog:
- We both sleep much more comfortably if I'm curled up in a ball on the bed.
- There are tennis balls in the randomest, ankle-breakingest places, and if I'm going to pick them up I must be prepared for Fetch Time.
- I put my shoes on in secret.
- The crust, rind, shell, and dropped casualty of every food item is obviously his property. It's the Cuteness Tax.
- That might be vomit.
- I need candles. Many candles. For the antifart.
- Walking around in public with grocery bags full of excrement is expected.
- That is definitely vomit.

Because of the Cats:
- Hanging laundry is a party activity.
- It is dangerous to walk around corners.
- Any beverage must be immediately finished. Coke-fried electronics are entirely my fault.
- Curtains are evil?
- That might be poo.
- Sometimes it's just fun to meow.
- Windowsill time is do-not-disturb time.
- Tassels, necklaces, shoelaces, drawstrings, earrings, purse straps, and fingers are all actually malicious attack worms from the devil.
- That is definitely poo.

Because of the Rats:
- The word "vermin" is inappropriate.
- Plastic bags are terrifying objects.
- Treats must be divided equally and fairly, unless one of them doesn't get there fast enough.
- Everything must be crawled in, around, and up.
- Mascara is delicious.
- The two most comfortable beds in the world are hammocks and cleavage.

So yeah, pets are awesome. They make you feel like a slave/zookeeper/prison warden, and they sprinkle tiny hairs on EVERYTHING, but they are love that doesn't talk back. So it's really worth it in the long run. We live our lives waiting for them to do something cute so we can just barely miss capturing it on film, and we constantly fear finding something gross with our feet in the dark. They even help us get along with each other - they are the perfect smalltalk, the party-pleasers, the rapist-biters, and the cancer-sniffers.

I just really wish they would keep their fluids to themselves.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Bit More Seriouser, Now

It's four in the morning and I work in seven hours, but it's vitally important to toss something of myself into the abyss of the internet, lest my fragile ego starve to death.

So I decided to post my list of Remembers. Recently I was sitting in a restaurant, waiting for my waitressy sister to get off work, and all I had for entertainment was a notebook. So I wrote a long, sentimental list of reminders for myself, to keep me going and otherwise define my priorities.

I considered posting this to Effbook in note format, but that's just a bit too public and also kind of a dramatic thing to do. So I shall burden this blog with it, because that is a much smaller audience with much less "liking" potential.

It is a personal list that applies to me specifically, but I feel that a lot of the items could be good for anyone to consider. Here we go:

1. Life is short and fast
2. You don't really find permanence appealing
3. Good writing takes daily exercise
4. The internet is usually a waste of time
5. Don't value the opinions of dumb people
6. Act and dress cooler than you are
7. The useless crap in your room was once the only thing you wanted
8. Cooking makes you happy, never stop
9. Tragedy shouldn't be romantic
10. Keep your 12-year-old self proud
11. It IS important to feel thin and beautiful
12. Your happiness does not depend on anyone's unhappiness
13. An even temper is a gift
14. Criticize privately, praise openly
15. Money should never be your sole motivation
16. Obsession causes aging
17. Find another reason besides "because he likes me"
18. Wilderness reboots the soul
19. Avoid ruts
20. Educate yourself before declaring an opinion
21. Never remain in something unhappy out of fear
22. No one has time to be coy
23. Everything is uncertain, unstable, and temporary
24. Don't dwell on the obvious or irrelevant
25. The first mark of sophistication is good hygiene
26. Worth is subjective
27. Do not confuse femininity and weakness

There ya have it. Inspirations from a Perkins booth. Take it or leave it. I have to pee.

Ciao, bella!~ Ugh Stephenie Meyer ruined that phrase.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lucky Things Happen to Dumb People

It is a warm September night. Our heroine, a mysterious brunette, pulls her sister's Ford Taurus into the neighborhood Mobile station for some much-needed petroleum. Alone and vulnerable, she distracts herself from the surrounding darkness by squeegeeing the gnat corpses off of the windshield. The pump finally pops off, and she pulls away from the station, full of pride in her generous spirit.

But alas! What is this? She has driven away from the station with her wallet sitting on the roof of the car! How could she be so thoughtless!

But she does not notice. She drives a few miles due west, into the cold remains of a long-dead sunset, without a care in the world. She makes a few break-neck turns that will cause much grief later. She picks up her sister, drives home, then drives into the next county to visit the farm. It is now midnight.

Finally home, nearly thirty minutes later, she places her treasured belongings on the kitchen table. She pulls some money out of her pocket to transfer to her wallet.

Her wallet! Blast! Where is her wallet? It isn't here, not in the giant purse, not on the table! She remembers, with pain, the moment that she placed her wallet on the roof of the car. She knows that is the only way it was lost. She knows she must backtrack and search.

And search she does. For more than an hour she scours her course, driving slowly through town, eyes strained to the dirty curbs and cobblestones. There are several cops parked, some pulled over and flashing already. Normally she would not worry, but she is driving suspiciously, circling slowly and methodically, and she does not have a driver's license with her.

The track seems endless. Back and forth, turn and check, cursing and lamenting. She calls two different police departments, considers calling the credit card company, all the while her gaze glued to the side of the road. She knows that any turn or bump could have jostled the wallet in any direction. Luckily she knows it could only be between the gas station and her sister's friend's house, so there is not much ground to cover.

And cover it she does. Occasionally, a lump of tar or a mangled jock strap will cause a leap of hope in her heart, but upon second perusal she is always disappointed. The night seems endless. She is beginning to think about the process of freezing accounts, reapplying for a license, acquiring a new social security card. She is suddenly very, very tired.

But then...
a glimmer...
a shadow...
something from the darkness reaches out and speaks to her. It might be nothing.
It might be a sock.
But something on the side of the road causes her to wonder...She cannot stop now. There is a car behind her. But she can turn and circle back around the block. This is too important to overlook.

She makes it around again and parks her car on a side road, door blatantly ajar and engine running. She trots to the curb. It seems so far away. She tries to look sober, sane, and unhookerish. She must only get to the curb.

There it is! Oh frabjous day! Forlornly propped on the cold concrete, there lies her black-and-white $10 clutch. It seems too good to be true.

But it is. Unsquashed, unlooted, and only 1/4 mile from the gas station, her wallet has been patiently waiting. A needle in a haystack, a dark smudge in a dark smudge.

She returns home, relieved and exhausted, and confident. She is confident that with obsession, diligent naivete, and sheer luck, even the biggest moron in the world can recover from the stupidest of blunders.