Why Does Anything Exist At All?

Happy Thursday, you cooky-nutters (trying something new, sue me).

It was my birthday yesterday. Not bragging, especially since 26 isn’t exactly a landmark birthday, just layin’ down some context. For more context: when I was sixteen, I went to go see ‘Inglorious Basterds‘ with my Jewish uncle (which was a pretty rad combo). Sometime around then, if not a little before, he had a birthday (I know, almost like we all get one) and I’d asked him how he spent it. “Oh, slept in a little,” he said, “picked up the house, took myself out to brunch, got a haircut, and went and saw a movie.”

“That’s it?” I asked, fifteen at the time.

He let out a big, happy sigh and just said, “Yup.”

And since then (since I was about nineteen, actually), that’s been the model birthday I’ve loved most. So yesterday, I slept in a little, took myself out to brunch, went to the library, worked on a story outline, and bought a book. The book in question: “Why Does the World Exist?” by Jim Holt. In short, so far it seems like an exploration of that at once utterly inchoate and distantly profound question. It brought me back to my own angsty wrestling matches with existentialism (the type I’m sure we’ve all either passed through or at least referee’d once or twice), and it made today’s post seem pretty appropriate.

This one started on the drive to work one fateful morning.

One thing that should be noted…well…like…have you seen ‘500 Days of Summer?’ You know how at the very beginning, the beautiful Joseph Gordon Levitt is all, “This is a love story, but they don’t end up together in the end” n’ stuff? (Fun fact: That’s the fifth ‘500 Days of Summer’ reference I’ve made this week.) Anyway, I say it because I want you to know something here at the top: this thing is unfinished. As in, truly. Does not have an end. It ends abruptly in the middle of conversation. I’d had plans a while ago to shape out an ending where Danny waxes about a dream he had wherein Milo Yannopolis chases him around one night, Terminator-style, and he uses a block party and a sympathetic sheriff to…y’know, we’ll just finish it up in a future post.

For now…

Oh! Actually, real quick, just as a note since they’re never described, I like to picture Danny as Liam O’Brien and Lloyd as Sam Riegel.

Okay. Cool. As you were. * ahem *

For now…

Little Lion Man

Danny sat in the pallid gray light that came through the cafe window that rainy September afternoon. They let him smoke so long as he left the window cracked and business was slow. He took a long drag and tapped out the ashes onto his napkin. As he let it out through the window, he ran his fingers through his thin hair, half-massaging his scalp while the nicotine coursed through his veins. He put the cigarette out in his napkin and held up a pausing finger while he took a deep drink of coffee, preparing to speak.

Lloyd sat patiently across the table from his brother, a slight irritated pursing of his lips while he waited for Danny to finish his cup. “You should have let me take the umbrella,” he said. “It wasn’t even raining when you left.” Lloyd motioned to his jacket which morosely hung dripping by the front door.

“I had a feeling it would.”

“Ah, well maybe that precognition could’a gone to buying two, or maybe calling me down here sooner. What’s this all about anyway?”

Danny laughed to himself and pointed across the table. “That’s the question, isn’t it?”

Lloyd’s face contorted with confusion at the statement. “The fuck does that mean?”

“I just don’t understand this.”

“What?” Lloyd muttered. “Understand what?”

“I don’t understand this,” Danny repeated, punctuating the statement with hands motioning to the surrounding air. “I don’t understand what this is all supposed to be or be for and I keep going back and forth on whether I’m okay with it or not.”

Lloyd readied a quip in reply to his brother’s nonsense, but on a second thought, left it unsaid.

“It used to be,” Danny continued, “I would just say I was feeling contemplative, right? Lately, lately it’s more like I’m coming up for air after being denied breath for a time, or like I’m finally waking up but I was never asleep.”

“Poetic,” Lloyd said simply.

Danny chuckled under his breath. “You remember that trip to Yosemite that Sam and I took?”

“Of course.”

“Well, in a lot of ways, it was the same when we went there. She’d tell the story a bit different, but when we made it to the top of the Upper Falls I went to look over the edge and she about lost her mind. You know, telling me to ‘back the hell up’ and ‘Jesus Christ Danny you’re gonna fall’ and stuff. She hated it but I shrugged her off and leaned to get a real look at the valley floor. The trees were so small they just looked like bristles on a brush. There’s no guard rail so I got to sit down and hang my feet over the end, lie back, and just feel the wind and sun. It was so beautiful to just kind of meditate and really feel where I was, y’know?”

“I’ve been before. It’s nice and high up for sure.”

“Exactly. When you look over the edge, it’s twenty-six hundred feet – that’s half a mile straight down. And maybe it should have, but it didn’t scare me. I told her then what I still believe now, which is that the full gravity of the height didn’t settle on me for some reason.”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

“Thanks.”

Lloyd motioned a bow with his head and hand.

“Not you. Thank you,” Danny said again, to the waitress refilling his coffee cup.

“Could I,” Lloyd ventured with an embarrassed smile, “perhaps get one of your lovely raspberry scones to go with my refill?”

“Of course,” the waitress replied sweetly.

“Thanks. Anyway,” he said returning to Danny, “you were saying?”

“Yeah. Looking down I guess I was more fascinated, really mesmerized, at the view of the valley than I was cautious. I just couldn’t grasp the idea of the sheer height I dangled my foot over and what a misstep would mean. I couldn’t fully grasp it. I was too focused on everything I was feeling.”

Lloyd ponderously chewed his freshly delivered scone as Danny continued.

“When I get in these moods now, it’s similar.”

“How so?”

“Like, as far as we know, this all exists. You and I exist. Can you really tell me that you understand that? That you have a fully realized, thorough underlying comprehension of that idea? Just physical existence in general. A comprehension so thorough that there are no further angles to explore.”

“I’d have to understand you first.”

“We have names for the things around us. We presume too much. Just look around as if you don’t have a name for it, as if you’ve never seen it before, like it’s completely alien to you – no attached association for function or purpose or origin, totally new.”

Lloyd finished another bite of scone and leaned back in his chair, examining the cafe space acutely. “I see,” he began, “several odd wooden arrangements, squares of stone laid out decoratively about the floor, and a lovely young female that…oh, clearly goes to Pilates.”

“You could almost take it serious,” Danny said, his expectant smile belied the tone of disappointment.

“I just don’t know what you want from me on this,” Lloyd said, laughing.

“Some company, I guess.”

“In this misery of yours? Would you shut that damn window!”

“More or less, yeah,” Danny answered, closing the window. The rain was starting to pick up again outside. “I’m just starting to feel these ideas beginning to strangle me a bit. It’s that squirming feeling you get when you can’t remember a song title or the name of an actress, the ones you can feel rip you apart until you have it. Except, I can’t just Google this. This is something there isn’t an answer for. Everyone has their explanations, for sure, but nobody has solid answers.”

“Huh,” sounded Lloyd through his last bite of scone. “This really has you turned around, doesn’t it? You been sleeping alright? Everything not okay at work or something?”

“Work’s been…interesting since about a week ago.”

“Oh God. What now?”

“It’s just something stupid.”

“Usually is. What happened?”

“I challenged a friend and coworker to out me.”

“To out you?”

Danny grunted a sigh while he searched for an explanation. “A few months ago, we got into a long, deep chat while trying to kill time during one of our shifts and-”

“This story have a point?” interrupted Lloyd.

“You’re the worst goddamned audience member, you know that?” Danny pitted his lips and held up a finger to preemptively silence his brother’s protest. “Anyway, we talked about evolution because I mentioned Darwin and it came out that I don’t quite believe the popular theory.”

“Told you that shit would get you in trouble, didn’t I?”

“But why should it?”

“It makes you too friggin’ contentious.”

“People could have and in fact did say the same thing about today’s world religions at their origins or Darwin in his day. Not that I’m at all a comparison, but why should it be wrong to not subscribe to something you don’t understand?”

Lloyd shook his head in confusion. “How do you not understand it? We started as soup, to fish, to monkeys, to folks.”

“A classmate said the same thing once. That he’d read the Origin of Species and that it was all plain as day.”

“It is!” exclaimed Lloyd with a laugh and a clap.

“Have you read it?” asked Danny flatly.

“Ah, come on, Danny.”

“Have you?”

“No,” Lloyd capitulated. “But the logic behind the theory is all there. The process makes sense.”

“Of course it does!” Danny shouted. The look from some members of the wait staff reminded him where he was. He collected himself and, in a quieter voice, continued. “Of course it makes sense, or else positively nobody would follow it. That doesn’t make it necessarily true. In the end, all thinking follows a path of logic. Scientific theories, mythologies of old, even observations of children all follow logical thinking.”

“You’re saying that the birth of Aphrodite and The Big Bang are on the same level?”

“What?” Danny scoffed. “Alright, yes and no. They’re both explanations for how things came to be, right? I just haven’t been convinced that either of them happened the way they were described. They totally could have been, fuck it, but I can’t say that I know that’s the case. Why is that so wrong?”

“It’s not wrong, really. Just weird. Makes you seem kind of…”

“Uneducated, right?”

“Well, uh…”

“And isn’t that part of the problem, too? For scientific communities boasting these reputations for being inclusive of new ideas, willing to contest and incorporate them – which, at large, they don’t, by the way. Just ask John Anthony Hopkins – why is it such a high social crime to say you’re not quite convinced?”

“It’s not criminal, Danny. I just don’t see how you can’t be persuaded to give it a second look, you know? Or if not that, then what happened?”

Danny rubbed his temples and ran fingers through his hair. “It isn’t about proposing an alternative. It’s about contesting what we have in front of us. You don’t need to propose another suspect just because the first guy has a solid alibi. Maybe, as the analogical police, you need to reshape your theory of what happened.”

“Kind of a weak analogy.”

“So long as it demonstrates my point, that’s fine. That being, why do we need an alternative? I’d rather live with the comfortable uncertainty of accepting that I don’t know what happened, than to agree to the popular theory in lieu of an alternative. Just, here-” Danny got up from the table and walked over the chalk board on which the available daily brews were written. Using his sleeve, he started erasing the list and picked up a piece of chalk from the rail.

“Hey!” shouted one of the baristas.

Danny quickly brandished his wallet and made a show of depositing a fifty dollar bill in the tip jar. “For the trouble of rewriting it,” he said.

The young man’s eyes widened as he gave a quick nod and went back to his work.

“Now,” Danny said as he addressed Lloyd with the chalk. “Humans have, for ages, used themselves to measure their surroundings. Mountains aren’t big, just as ants aren’t tiny. They just are the size they are. We only describe them and think of them as huge or minuscule because of their relation in size to us, right?”

“I suppose,” Lloyd agreed with a disgruntled sigh.

“Don’t be embarrassed, the shop’s pretty much empty, alright? Just suffer me this.”

Lloyd waved his hand for his brother to continue.

“Then,” Danny pressed on, “consider how goddamn immense the earth beneath your feet is. Try and wrap your head around how freaking gargantuan it is, yeah? Now, if we’re right about where we fit in relation to the other objects in our universe, this-” Danny paused to make a painstakingly small dot in the center of the large chalk board, “is still way too big of a representation of our planet compared to known, or rather visible, existence.”

END

The Take: Hmm, you know, reading this back for the first time in a few years, I still like it. I’d probably edit down some of the phrasing and workshop the flow a little bit, but I think this was one of my first exercises in a mundane, single-location, dialogue-heavy work. Not so much a story, but a think-piece. Anyway, food for thought, yeah?

Catch ya Tuesday, you beautiful bitches (and ladies).

Ciao.

RE: 5 Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

Hey all, happy Thursday. [For those that notice, this is a re-post. I’m caught up working on some pretty exciting stuff I hope to have news about soon AND I liked this lil’ list. So, in case you missed it, check it out. 🙂 ]

No fancy intro. Here goes. Get ready for a loosely-structured, mostly ranting sort-of-essay.

The Five Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

  1. Problem-Solving Nature
    Boiled down to its basics, employers want someone who can problem-solve; and, at its barest, that’s all games really offer (and fun doing it, duh). Being a gamer means understanding the problem you’re presented with and all its parameters – or even sometimes working with incomplete information and making the most of that. This is going to be a hilariously extreme example, but I once heard a nugget of wisdom that went something like this: “You can learn how to perform open-heart surgery in two weeks, but surgeons go to school for years to learn how to handle all the things that can go wrong.” Does…does that make sense, what I’m trying to say? When starting a new job, you’re trained how to perform a task or serve a particular function – and that’s robotic. But having the baseline to foresee, anticipate, and correct aberrations where they arise (ie problem-solving skills), is just as necessary. Whether that’s exploring a ghostly mansion, outmaneuvering enemy troops on an alien planet, or doing your day job, absolutely every angle involves observing an obstacle and calculating a way of overcoming it – which is the heart of gaming in a nutshell.
  2. Knack for Optimization
    Employers want optimization. Whether that means someone who can manage their time really, really efficiently, or someone who can enter a situation with fresh eyes and suggest an improvement others haven’t seen. How does gaming relate to this? Have you ever heard of “Power Gaming” or “Min-Maxing?”
    The entire point for some gamers is to take what they have, view the systems they’re told to operate within, and get the absolute, objectively best result that they can. That can mean working with the bare minimum to greatest effect (like a lvl 1 Pyromancer speed run of Dark Souls) or obtaining the objectively best sword/gun/armor/meta deck in the business (like in just about any JRPG that’s ever existed).
    You may have even heard some gamers in your own circle talk relentlessly about trying to “break the game” (lookin’ at you, Bryce). For the uninitiated, while that may sound like a bad thing or something harmful, what it translates to is “trying to become so overwhelmingly good at a particular thing that you reach as close to 100% efficiency as is humanly (or, in my cousin’s case, inhumanly) possible. This usually, in gaming terms, refers to a character’s Strength stat or skill in Stealth being so goddamned high that they can use that and that alone to achieve anything; but it can absolutely also refer to the way your work space is organized, your priorities are stacked for the day, the way your orders are processed, or the roles those in your team play out.
  3. Familiarity with Flow State
    Sometimes the word “gamer” conjures an image of an either lackadasical kid in a beanbag chair with a glazed expression or sometimes a zealous young woman with a headset tuned into a fast-paced and loud FPS (“first person shooter”, for the laymen) like DOOM. When imagined this way, a Suit-n’-Tie might wonder, “What good could that person be for what I need?” To them, I would offer two words: flow state.
    Also known as “being in the zone,” “zoned in,” or “getting tunnel-vision,” operating in flow state is a particular state of mind I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point or another in our lives. In it, you’re hyper aware, extraordinarily sharp and focused, make moves with dedicated efficiency, and even experience time differently.
    While it’s common enough with fast-paced video games, it’s not like it’s exclusive to that medium. I suck at it, but apparently it’s a common occurrence among chess players – being four, five steps ahead of your opponent (baker’s dozen if you’re playing against me), carrying contingencies, routes, and back-up plans in your noggin. Same thing goes for playing card games of all varieties. So of course it applies to the work place just as easily, and that makes for an incredibly handy state of mind to be well-practiced in, as many gamers are.
  4. “I just need this done.”
    Not all jobs are fun. In fact, if you listen to complaints around the watering hole or to your friends after they’re shift lets out, it’s not uncommon for people to complain about their jobs being boring or simple. I’m not disparaging shit, by the way, but be it flipping burgers, counting inventory, inspecting the same incoming products all day, or janitorial duties (all venerable trades), there’s yet another gaming mindset that ensures a dedicated performance…
    Have you ever heard of “grinding”…?
    Whether it’s defeating 500 of the same enemy type in a given region, saving the same generic peasant from the same generic wolves 100 times to become a legend, or collecting random bits and baubles of bullshit, it’s been a stable pillar of video games few would dispute. It’s pretty damn common in big RPG’s, World of Warcraft probably being the most notorious. “I need ten goat horns!” cries the farmer. “Come, bring me twenty bundles of molleybarrow weed!” shouts the alchemist. “Ah, the sword is yours, if you simply bring me thirty northern white rabbit anuses,” barters the eccentric merchant.
    The point simply being: menial, repetitive tasks done efficiently is just as within a gamer’s wheelhouse as everything else discussed so far.
  5. Crossover Skills
    This one is probably the least apparent, but the most important, and that’s the surprising infrastructure of crossover skills that video games can help develop. Best explained by example, I found that in my last job, XCOM 2 had weirdly prepared me rather well for what my job entailed. In brief, I was responsible for keeping a room stocked with necessary materials for the manufacturing process of the facility – making sure not to run out of particular substances, but also not to overstock as we didn’t have the space and that would result in a jam (essentially).
    For those not familiar, the XCOM games are centered around managing a para-military base tasked with fending off an extraterrestrial menace. This includes the well-being, training, equipment of a roster of soldiers, the layout of the base’s facilities, power consumption, queue of projects, so on and so forth, all while battling a computer-controlled alien force that wants to kill you and everything you stand for.
    It sounds a little funny, but the skills of resource and inventory management, logistics analysis, anticipation of needs, risk balancing, and orchestrating teammate synergy were all surprisingly appropriate skills developed by a video game and applied in a real world occupation.

And there you have it, a loosely-structured, mostly-ranting list of 5 Big-Ass Reasons for Employers to Hire Gamers. But one more point before we go and I do the whole “See ya Thursday!” thing: the ‘games as art’ argument.
It doesn’t really hold a place in the list of reasons games apply to work place efficiency, but it holds a place in my heart, as it should all of yours. Once upon a time, video games might have been all shoot-’em-up’s, Pong, and simple sports simulators, but nowadays the industry is transforming more and more into a place for pieces of interactive fiction with a driving focus and emphasis on the art of storytelling.
We still call them “games,” and they are as many include a failure state (Game Over screens and such), but to see works like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Detroit: Become Human, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, or the Last of Us and not see the creative beauty, energy, and genius that goes into those creations, then YOU CAN GO FU-
….

Sorry, that was going to be more aggressive that we really need here.
In a more measured sense, if we can take the traditional, romantic sentimentality we hold for curling up with a book on a rainy day and getting lost in the world between the pages and realize that other mediums hold the same capacity for imagination, empathy, and engagement…well, shit, I think the world would be better for it. Imagination’s part of the human experience, and one of the most beautiful privileges we enjoy as people. Why would you let a simple stigma close that door?

Anyway, yeah. Ciao for now, catch ya Tuesday.

5 Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

Hey all, happy Tuesday.

No fancy intro. Here goes. Get ready for a loosely-structured, mostly ranting sort-of-essay.

The Five Big Reasons Employers Should Hire Gamers (and other Awesome Points)

  1. Problem-Solving Nature
    Boiled down to its basics, employers want someone who can problem-solve; and, at its barest, that’s all games really offer (and fun doing it, duh). Being a gamer means understanding the problem you’re presented with and all its parameters – or even sometimes working with incomplete information and making the most of that. This is going to be a hilariously extreme example, but I once heard a nugget of wisdom that went something like this: “You can learn how to perform open-heart surgery in two weeks, but surgeons go to school for years to learn how to handle all the things that can go wrong.” Does…does that make sense, what I’m trying to say? When starting a new job, you’re trained how to perform a task or serve a particular function – and that’s robotic. But having the baseline to foresee, anticipate, and correct aberrations where they arise (ie problem-solving skills), is just as necessary. Whether that’s exploring a ghostly mansion, outmaneuvering enemy troops on an alien planet, or doing your day job, absolutely every angle involves observing an obstacle and calculating a way of overcoming it – which is the heart of gaming in a nutshell.
  2. Knack for Optimization
    Employers want optimization. Whether that means someone who can manage their time really, really efficiently, or someone who can enter a situation with fresh eyes and suggest an improvement others haven’t seen. How does gaming relate to this? Have you ever heard of “Power Gaming” or “Min-Maxing?”
    The entire point for some gamers is to take what they have, view the systems they’re told to operate within, and get the absolute, objectively best result that they can. That can mean working with the bare minimum to greatest effect (like a lvl 1 Pyromancer speed run of Dark Souls) or obtaining the objectively best sword/gun/armor/meta deck in the business (like in just about any JRPG that’s ever existed).
    You may have even heard some gamers in your own circle talk relentlessly about trying to “break the game” (lookin’ at you, Bryce). For the uninitiated, while that may sound like a bad thing or something harmful, what it translates to is “trying to become so overwhelmingly good at a particular thing that you reach as close to 100% efficiency as is humanly (or, in my cousin’s case, inhumanly) possible. This usually, in gaming terms, refers to a character’s Strength stat or skill in Stealth being so goddamned high that they can use that and that alone to achieve anything; but it can absolutely also refer to the way your work space is organized, your priorities are stacked for the day, the way your orders are processed, or the roles those in your team play out.
  3. Familiarity with Flow State
    Sometimes the word “gamer” conjures an image of an either lackadasical kid in a beanbag chair with a glazed expression or sometimes a zealous young woman with a headset tuned into a fast-paced and loud FPS (“first person shooter”, for the laymen) like DOOM. When imagined this way, a Suit-n’-Tie might wonder, “What good could that person be for what I need?” To them, I would offer two words: flow state.
    Also known as “being in the zone,” “zoned in,” or “getting tunnel-vision,” operating in flow state is a particular state of mind I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some point or another in our lives. In it, you’re hyper aware, extraordinarily sharp and focused, make moves with dedicated efficiency, and even experience time differently.
    While it’s common enough with fast-paced video games, it’s not like it’s exclusive to that medium. I suck at it, but apparently it’s a common occurrence among chess players – being four, five steps ahead of your opponent (baker’s dozen if you’re playing against me), carrying contingencies, routes, and back-up plans in your noggin. Same thing goes for playing card games of all varieties. So of course it applies to the work place just as easily, and that makes for an incredibly handy state of mind to be well-practiced in, as many gamers are.
  4. “I just need this done.”
    Not all jobs are fun. In fact, if you listen to complaints around the watering hole or to your friends after they’re shift lets out, it’s not uncommon for people to complain about their jobs being boring or simple. I’m not disparaging shit, by the way, but be it flipping burgers, counting inventory, inspecting the same incoming products all day, or janitorial duties (all venerable trades), there’s yet another gaming mindset that ensures a dedicated performance…
    Have you ever heard of “grinding”…?
    Whether it’s defeating 500 of the same enemy type in a given region, saving the same generic peasant from the same generic wolves 100 times to become a legend, or collecting random bits and baubles of bullshit, it’s been a stable pillar of video games few would dispute. It’s pretty damn common in big RPG’s, World of Warcraft probably being the most notorious. “I need ten goat horns!” cries the farmer. “Come, bring me twenty bundles of molleybarrow weed!” shouts the alchemist. “Ah, the sword is yours, if you simply bring me thirty northern white rabbit anuses,” barters the eccentric merchant.
    The point simply being: menial, repetitive tasks done efficiently is just as within a gamer’s wheelhouse as everything else discussed so far.
  5. Crossover Skills
    This one is probably the least apparent, but the most important, and that’s the surprising infrastructure of crossover skills that video games can help develop. Best explained by example, I found that in my last job, XCOM 2 had weirdly prepared me rather well for what my job entailed. In brief, I was responsible for keeping a room stocked with necessary materials for the manufacturing process of the facility – making sure not to run out of particular substances, but also not to overstock as we didn’t have the space and that would result in a jam (essentially).
    For those not familiar, the XCOM games are centered around managing a para-military base tasked with fending off an extraterrestrial menace. This includes the well-being, training, equipment of a roster of soldiers, the layout of the base’s facilities, power consumption, queue of projects, so on and so forth, all while battling a computer-controlled alien force that wants to kill you and everything you stand for.
    It sounds a little funny, but the skills of resource and inventory management, logistics analysis, anticipation of needs, risk balancing, and orchestrating teammate synergy were all surprisingly appropriate skills developed by a video game and applied in a real world occupation.

And there you have it, a loosely-structured, mostly-ranting list of 5 Big-Ass Reasons for Employers to Hire Gamers. But one more point before we go and I do the whole “See ya Thursday!” thing: the ‘games as art’ argument.
It doesn’t really hold a place in the list of reasons games apply to work place efficiency, but it holds a place in my heart, as it should all of yours. Once upon a time, video games might have been all shoot-’em-up’s, Pong, and simple sports simulators, but nowadays the industry is transforming more and more into a place for pieces of interactive fiction with a driving focus and emphasis on the art of storytelling.
We still call them “games,” and they are as many include a failure state (Game Over screens and such), but to see works like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last Guardian, Detroit: Become Human, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, or the Last of Us and not see the creative beauty, energy, and genius that goes into those creations, then YOU CAN GO FUCK YOURSE-
….

Sorry, that was going to be more aggressive that we really need here.
In a more measured sense, if we can take the traditional, romantic sentimentality we hold for curling up with a book on a rainy day and getting lost in the world between the pages and realize that other mediums hold the same capacity for imagination, empathy, and engagement…well, shit, I think the world would be better for it. Imagination’s part of the human experience, and one of the most beautiful privileges we enjoy as people. Why would you let a simple stigma close that door?

Anyway, yeah. Ciao for now, catch ya Thursday.

“If you look out the window to your left…”

Hey everybody, happy Tuesday.

A couple months ago, I swore to do a post every Tuesday and Thursday, and despite life’s hurdles, we’ve kept to that pretty well.

Won’t lie, though. Today is…ah, kinda comin’ up with zilch.

Nada.

Goose egg.

Nothin’.

Also, been busy as hell so I’m just now getting to it 10:00pm my time.

So this is a fly-over post. You know how you have fly-over states (here in the United States, anyway)? The places you fly over (ha-ha, like the name!), look out your window, and there’s nothing crazy to see?

I have another premise to work off of, but don’t have even thirty minutes to throw it together today, so that’s gonna be Thursday.

In lieu of that, I DID have a personal story I thought of that would fit this time slot. It’s good, quick, qwirky, and has a nice little lesson attached to it.

Problem is, I forgot it. I don’t remember which one it was.

So really, if you’ve made it this far, I guess I’m talking to you now. Yes, YOU! And just you, because I’m sure between the timing, the quality of my words thus far, and how long this has already gotten, you’re the only one who’s made it this far. So, congratulations, I guess. It’s actually sort of cool, if you think about it. You’re the only person ON THE PLANET (in all likelihood, don’t hold me to that entirely) who gets to read these specific words. So, enjoy this. You’re seeing a thing that you and only you will EVER see.

Because really, who would make it this far? In earnest, I’m surprised even I’m still going. This genuinely should have ended a few minutes ago. And boy, if you’re new, like, you’re not a follower yet (ha-ha, I said “yet”, like this is a good advertisement for what this blog is about)…I…just, sorry, I suppose. You deserve better.

So hit ‘Heed the Call’, and we’ll do better from here on out.

Damn. I really thought I would have remembered the story I’d meant to tell by now. I’ve just been shamelessly vomiting a stream of consciousness for, like, ten minutes, which should be enough time, but still – zilch, nada, etc etc.

Well. Okay. It’s time this shit comes to an end. Um, how about a preview? The prompt for Thursday: “You’re approached by a stranger on the street. He walks up to you briskly, hands you a package, and departs just as quickly. You open it to see an old fashioned pocket watch. The moment you touch it… [Must include magic.]”

Got a fun idea for this one, but like always, we’ll work on it in the moment. Again, if you’re the one person who’s actually made it, see what you can do with the prompt and come Thursday we’ll compare. And-

HOLY SHIT I JUST REMEMBERED THE STORY

Okay, so for context, I’m not generally a believer in so-called “hocus pocus” or “woo-woo” things like crystals in one’s pocket, psychic visions of the future, past, or other lives, so on and so forth. If you’re down with those things, I would also say that I’ve been wrong about a ton of shit and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was here again.

Anyway, a few years ago, Amanda and I went to a festival in San Francisco called “The How Weird Street Fair”. It was basically an outdoor rave in the city streets. That said, had a whole ton of experiences in the span of an hour or two. I:

-Saw a dude in roller skates wearing nothing but whitey-tighties, a luchador mask, and saran wrap from the neck down.
-Saw a lot of naked people, including two old dudes with light-up cock rings (that was a hell of a thing)
-Hugged a monk named “Storm” who gave me a copy of the Bhagavad Gita.
-Was given a small necklace with the word “Peace” written on it in Hindi.

The one I wanna focus on is that neckla- Oh! Also, my favorite part: We saw a turd on the sidewalk. RIGHT on the sidewalk. And the best part? Someone solved the problem by putting an orange traffic cone NEXT TO IT. Not over it. Not cleaning it up. They put a cone next to it, as if to say, “Hey, check it, but watch out, there’s a turd here.” Anyway – let’s focus on that necklace.

Have you ever had an experience wherein you remained calm despite reasons not to?

I’m gonna keep this brief because I’m getting sleepy.

When I was taking a few classes at the local junior college, I always parked in the campus garage. On this one particular day, I remember I backed into my parking spot perfectly. Like, it was flawless – perfectly straight, perfectly even. Anyway, after classes, I came back to my car real quick to change out some books and noticed something weird: my car was askew. Looking at it now, my car was diagonal in the lines, and my first thought was, “Huh, I wonder who hot-wired my car just to repark it weird.”

Then I noticed the front bumper was peeled clean off.

Long story short, my car had gotten hit by someone coming around the corner too close and too quick. They left their information and everything got sorted out. But the thing I always think back to and chuckle about is how calm I was through the whole thing. I even found it funny that my first thought was that it got hot-wired (heehee, that’s dumb). It was just so unexpected the only choice was to find it funny.

Anyway, if there’s a lesson here, it’s either: plan out your posts because otherwise you wind up with a disappointing, aimless rant, or just don’t sweat the small stuff, ie don’t cry over spilled milk, ie don’t make mountains out of molehills, etc etc.

See ya Thursday.

Fight Club! – Fringe League

Happy Tuesday, everybody. Wanted to post earlier, but got held up by errands and ran into a…well, an adventure.

Y’all, this one is fresh off the presses!

So, allow me to set the scene:

I’m with my mother at a local Grocery Outlet (one of those errands I mentioned and for previously stated reasons) doing what you might expect – grocery shopping. We’re browsing the produce and cold cuts, when a white chihuahua runs by without a leash. My mom sees it and laughs. She asks me where it could have come from, but I told her about the man I saw holding it a minute prior. He was a bigger dude (around, not tall), with stringy brown hair, and a white shirt – details that will come back later. Just picture a Brett Gelman with about fifty pounds and twenty years of heavy drug use on him.

We finish up her shopping and are heading up one of the aisles towards the checkout lanes when I see that same white chihuahua run passed up ahead. I hear a grumbled voice say…something, and then see the dog run back the way it came. What was a grumbled voice grows pretty suddenly into adversarial shouts.

My mom stops and I walk ahead to the cross-section of aisles where an older gentleman who looks exactly like Michael Harney (I’m serious, I almost stopped for an autograph) is shouting a good ol’ Mr. White Shirt.

I don’t quite hear what was said at the beginning, but the pretty unmistakable gist was that Grandpa Michael said something about Dirty Brett’s dog, and Dirty Brett wasn’t having it. A store manager walked up to the commotion and she started doing managerial things – asking what the problem was n’ so forth.

Dirty Brett, like a gentleman, starts raining F-bombs on her like it’s the Shelling of London and he’s psyched to play Germany. Grandpa Michael steps up, calling him an asshole, presumably to defend “the lady’s honour.” Dirty Brett decides he’s totally right and directs all his further barrage of cusses right at Grandpa Michael. Grandpa gives him the ‘put-up-your-dukes’ posture and Brett does the same.

A couple of things before we go on.

Firstly, I got to recognize, in the moments to follow, a particular privilege I enjoy in life. I’m 6’4″ (a question I get asked all the goddamn time by strangers) and float anywhere between 200 lbs and 245 lbs depending on motivation, the time of year, alignment of the stars (you get it). When it was “dunk a freshman in the garbage day” in highschool, I got passed right over on account of my height. For context, the only other fight I’ve been involved in or have had to break up since grade school was defending my girlfriend Amanda from a crazed neighbor (Short version: diagnosed schizophrenic off her meds, shouting “You bitch!”, charged Amanda in our apartment complex’s laundromat. I got in between them immediately and the imposing height was all I really needed to diffuse the situation – or at least keep Amanda safe.).

Secondly, in real life, people that think they’re so ready to fight do not know how to fight. This is coming from someone (me) who readily accepts that he’s utterly delusional in his martial prowess. Does the voice in my head tell me I could bite the ass off a bear and stop a charging leopard with a well-time front kick? Yes! And that’s the problem! But I accept that I’m probably incorrect here!

So Grandpa Mike takes his stance, Dirty Brett wastes no time in throwing a punch, and the two clash.

Now, when I say “clash,” I really mean- well…picture a fight between seven-year-old’s on the playground. Are you imagining how they throw “punches”? Do they have their heads way back, faces pointed away, throwing sideways hammerfists with their fingers half-curled? Then you got it. That’s precisely how the first and only “punches” of this Seniors’ League brawl were thrown.

That’s partly what made me feel safe jumping in between them to break it up. I sure as hell know I’m not trained in how to throw a well-executed punch, but now that I’m just as sure these yahoos don’t either, well…those are odds I’m happier with.

I stand between them with my back to Grandpa Mike looking at Dirty Brett. I found this moment fascinating for a couple reasons. For one, it was oddly reminiscent of the laundromat incident. Having about nine inches of height on Dirty Brett, his eyes never came near mine (I mean that in the way of eye contact, but I guess physically too- ah, you get it). Secondly, I shouldn’t be in between these two guys, but I was. Like, what the hell? I’m not the type at all to intervene in public brawls. I lay all the credit with them both being long in the tooth and little-kneed, respectively (and we’ll get to what I mean in a second).

Management and customers are around us now, and Dirty Brett tries to throw a kick passed me at Grandpa Mike and I slap it out of the way. His bones must be hollow like a bird’s, because even though he really put his body into it, there was zero power behind it (hence my theory about his little knees).

And it was at that moment that I felt my ego squirt itself into the situation. I’m not fucking kidding you when I say that Jason Stathem’s voice began narrating my thoughts. They went as follows:

“Okay, you son of a bitch. The punch was strike one. That kick? Strike two. Try something else, anything else, and I get violent.”

Now, that was about the end of the fight anyway. In total, you had some shouting, a failed punch from either side, a kick from Brittle-Bone that got swatted away, and that’s it. Management told both men they had to leave, we got in line, mom got her groceries, and we left.

The real point to this whoooooole thing, the real meat of it, was the examination of the immediate aftermath and the perceptions of the event, including my own.

Remember that Stathem soliloquy we had a few moments ago? Well, the way I figured it, I was serious. Now that I was between them, if he threw another aggressive action my way, intended for Michael Harney or not, I was going swing back. The way the mental movie played out in my head is that Dirty Brett moves forward, I plant, and front-kick him to his tummy; or the same, but I drop and take him down, swing to his back as he tries to stand, and I snatch his neck with a rear-naked choke.

“Evan,” I hear you begin with a questioning tone, “are you a fan of the UFC?”

“I follow combat sports, yeah,” I would say back. “MMA being the big one. And there are other promotions out there – Bellator, ONE Championship, Rizen, WSF, PFL, etc – but that’s besides the point. Yeah, that’s why I know some of these terms and think I could look-see-do recreate them in a street fight. But, I would also stress that earlier (and much more grounded) point of ‘I’m super goddamn delusional with regards to my martial capabilities!'”

That leopard example? That wasn’t a joke. That was a real-life reference. Coworkers and I had a MONTHS-LONG debate over whether or not I could physically fight off a mountain lion.

But back to the point at hand. Let’s examine any of the outcomes Jason Stathem’s voice told me to try:

  1. I take him down and choke him out.
    Likely ways that plays out: I grab his legs, he falls, and he cracks his head against the linoleum. Now I’m part of the police report this just turned into. Or he goes down, I take his back, but since I’ve never applied an RNC, I get over the face instead of under the chin, and he bites into my arm with his dirty-ass teeth.
  2. I front kick him as he charges in.
    Likely ways that plays out: It works. He comes at me now angry, but I channel my inner Darren Till, elbow him upside the head, and he drops. That’s bad because a) if we’ve forgotten, I have my mom with me, she doesn’t need to see her son like that; b) it’s another scenario where I become part of a police report; and c) I don’t need to know what that kind of deliciously terrible power feels like just yet.
    All of that, or, I go to kick him, I slip (because I’ve never fucking done it before), and Dirty Brett soccer-kicks me in the head. Again, my mom doesn’t need to see that, plus now my glasses are probably broken and I can’t drive us home.

Now, as I’m going over all these reasons in my head as to why I’m glad the fight didn’t escalate, we pass by a gentleman who saw the whole thing standing in the parking lot talking to management.

“And here’s the young man who got between them,” he says as we pass by. “Deflected that kick, too. Like some of that UFC, eh? Ha-ha-haaa!”

(Quick side note, here. While after he said that, I just laughed politely and nodded at his joke…y’all, I wanted to hug that man, take him to the side, and start asking, “Did it really look that cool?? Was it like this? Or like this? Do you think I could have taken him?” Probably one of the best compliments I’ve gotten in months.
Anyway…)

While we laugh, another older gentleman who saw things unfold came up. “Yeah,” he says, “I was just thinkin’ that if he tried anything else, I’d jump in there and knock him one.”

“Yeah?” I laugh with him, thinking he’s joking too.

“Oh, yep. And I’d ask him, ‘how’s it feel to get punched in the throat by an old man, huh? Haha! Punch him right in the throat, yep.”

I…I just…

I solidly learned a lesson today, and that lesson is this:

As people on the street, as a whole, we think fighting is way easier than it actually is. Just like Grandpa Michael Harney, most of us think we can just walk up with the option to kick someone’s ass. If you try that, that someone will probably kick your ass right back. I am supremely confident that Grandpa Harney thought he’d crack this disrespectful prick and that’d be the end of it. I’m just as supremely confident that, if left to their own devices with no intervention, Dirty Brett – even with his light-ass bird bones – would have set his chihuahua down and gorilla whomp’d on Old Man Harney until we needed all the king’s men to put him back together.

So, just, unless you’re actually trained in self-defense, be careful about your estimation of your abilities; and I’m guessing that if you’re a trained fighter in any capacity, you don’t need me telling you any of this.

Anyway, that was today’s adventure. Take it easy and we’ll be back Thursday!

Ciao!

Speed Essay: The Lost Art of Audience

Happy Thursday, y’all.

Question: When approaching a public restroom, be it at a restaurant or even at work, do you knock first? (For best results, be honest with yourself.)

Not trying to paint myself as the star of my own show here, but I have the habit of knocking no matter what (for motivation, see past experiences 1 and 2).

Also, at the top, originally, I planned this as a poor man’s essay, but I feel a loosely-structured rant coming on, so bear with me.

I think it stems back to my high school drama teacher (that’s right nerds, theater or bust), and her emphasis on our behavior as an audience member above most everything else. Sure, we learned tricks to remember our lines, how to take and even deliver stage direction, how to emote and express our characters’ stories, but what was always emphasized was how we minded our manners when we weren’t on stage.

You might think it’s as easy as, “Sit down, be quiet, and be attentive,” and a lot of it really does come down to those three little tenets. But there’s more to it than that, there’s a consideration that comes with applying those three rules. Stage performance isn’t like a TV show, wherein the interaction is one-way. You’re not supposed to say anything and the actors’ questions (if there are any) are rhetorical, true, but it’s kind of a two-way street.

If you’ve never been to a stand-up comedy show – first off, holy shit, you owe it to yourself not to be a humorless turd, but secondly – go to one. It’s a perfect parallel to what I’m trying to get to. There’s an interaction and a tacit social contract between the performer and the audience that roughly states, “I agree to be a part of this interaction, to remain quiet, attentive, and understanding of its context; but in being attentive, I know when and how to be considerate of the performer, giving my energy to the reactions being requested by the performer at given times.”

Now, that was a lot, but the TL;DR is: When they make a joke, I’ll laugh, because if I don’t, that ruins the flow and makes shit awkward.

If a stage performance of any kind is treated as a one-way interaction, it suddenly becomes bland and just…the air gets thick. Can you imagine going to a stage play and nobody claps? No one applauds? No one laughs at jokes?

Ew.

But the opposite is just as bad. To disregard the performer and be on your phone, speak to those next to you, get up and leave on your own time, or worst of all, interject yourself into the performance by heckling or answering rhetorical questions – God! (Sorry, getting heated – cooling jets in 3…2…1…)

The point is this: I think the same instinct or lack of restraint that leads to one behaving like the above-mentioned (completely hypothetical) butt-hole (even though we’ve all been witness to at least one) comes from the same place as approaching a bathroom and just trying the handle.

I don’t know. I might be off-base here, but to me trying the handle without knocking (whether it’s locked or not) is an extension of the thought: “The bathroom is locked,” rather than, “Ah, someone else is in there,” and there’s difference, albeit a fine one.

I think it comes from a lack of basic consideration (just objectively, not lecturing you – I’m not your mom) and is from a thought that focuses on “me and my needs” rather than one’s place amid others. From there, it’s a short jump to calling it a matter of empathy.

People like to think of themselves as good listeners, right? But that doesn’t mean just being quiet while the other person talks and/or occasionally nodding and going “Mmhm.” Just like being considerate of an actor on stage, it’s a matter of being receptive and then empathetic to who you’re listening to.

Final point and then I’ll let you go (Jesus, what am I doing? You can leave at any time, this is an in-person conversation where I can hold you hostage).

I don’t think I’m the only one on here who’s heard of Jocko Willink, but I discovered a trick while listening to an old clip of his. It kind of follows the same criticism of, “There’s no such thing as true altruism, because the good thing is being done to satisfy one’s own desire to be good; not for good’s own sake,” but what I did was this: As he spoke each word, I echoed it in my head as though I was the one saying it. But I found that by doing this, I could put myself in the place of the speaker waaaaaay more and could kind of feel where the advice was coming from. Sure, it sounds goofy and kind of like, “Well, I suddenly like what he’s saying a lot more if I’m the one saying it,” but for real, give it a try.

All of this even applies when critiquing someone else’s work of art, statement, film, book, what have you. Much like we saw with the season finale of Game of Thrones (Christ, don’t get me started), before you go on crying, “They got lazy!” or “So-and-So totally lost touch with [their own] characters,” maybe put yourself in the place of the creator; and though you might have done it differently, it goes a million miles to accept the thought process at work.

To wrap up, be it as an audience member at a performance, listening to a friend vent about something or other, or even knocking on an occupied bathroom’s door, they all come from a central skill set that I think we can all agree sort of seems to suffer at large.

So…just…be a good audience member (in life).

S’all for now. Rant’s over. Thanks for swinging by. Catch you Tuesday.

Today’s Hors-d’oeuvres (#foodforthought)

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

First off, if you’re having trouble (like I did) with the title today, that’s apparently how you spell the little munchies you have before dinner or in between courses (plain speak: “orderves”).

Second, I’m out there husslin’, so for today, you’re at a fancy dinner party. It’s a big ol’ Great Gatsby mansion with a courtyard, a fountain, waiters n’ shit. I’m the guy who walks up holding a tray and a towel over my arm (I assume for some reason) and offers you little worldly food items. Let’s say I have a curly string mustache, too.

I’ve always been a bit of a quote collector and I think we should all be. A few years ago, my girlfriend’s mom gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received when I said, “I like to consider wisdom where I find it, no matter the source,” and she replied, “That should be on a pillow or something.”

But that’s what today’s about, a few morsels here and there that resonated, and I’m gonna cross my fingers they do the same with you. Cheers.

#1

“If objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born – a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun? Or pour down the rain? Or fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe goes on.”
-Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

The Take: I would actually recommend reading all of ‘The Age of Reason’ by Paine- well, actually not. Part 1 is terrific. In (very) short, with Part 1 he basically outlines his views on religion at large, the idea of a Creator, existence, and his own personal form of deism (which I personally find beautiful). The above is a good foot in the door for what the rest of Part 1 is about. It doesn’t capture all of the wonderful ways he illustrates it and further fleshes it out, but it’s a pill if that’s all you want. An even more concise if less flavorful way to express what I think Paine tries to get across here is this: “The world is so much bigger than you and majestic beyond reasonable understanding. That alone is reason enough to appreciate life.”
(The second half, called “Part 2”, is basically a constructed essay-form breakdown on how the stories in the Bible don’t, in his view, conform to logical processes or, as the title goes, reason; and personally, I didn’t find I needed that, but if it’s your bag, go for it.)

#2

“Death by violence, death by cold, death by starvation – these are the normal ends of the stately and beautiful creatures of the wilderness. The sentimentalists who prattle about the peaceful life of nature do not understand its utter mercilessness; although all they would have to do would be to look at the birds in the winter woods, or even at the insects on a cold morning or cold evening. Life is hard and cruel for all lower creatures, and for man also, in what the sentimentalists call a ‘state of nature.'”
-Theodore Roosevelt

The Take: I think I feel good including this one here because I’ve noticed it comes up a lot in my fiction (nothing that’s made its way here yet). I hold that it’s a reasonably good theme to include or just understanding to utilize whether it be in fact, fiction, or real life, because it’s true. Life isn’t easy within civilization sometimes, much less without it. It can be a terrific reminder the next time you think you live in a shithole or boo-hoo about how nothing ever happens in your town. Just watch one episode of “Naked and Afraid” and you’ll realize even that’s wilderness survival set to Easy Mode.
[WOOP WOOP! WARNING! POLITICAL MOMENT AHEAD! 3…2…1…]
And whether you have a stance on hunting, you yourself are a hunter (I’m not), a vegan, vegetarian, or anything else, before you forsake friendships in arguments over these things: hunting isn’t the problem. Is trophy hunting pretty dicky? Yeah, absolutely. But an ethical hunter killing for food that isn’t wasted, while it isn’t utterly natural, it isn’t outside the norm; as it’s an unfortunate fact that that deer or elk wasn’t going to live happily ever after. So the next time you come across a headline that aims to criticize some aspect of hunting, do a liiiittle bit of homework before biting the hook.
[-jets powering down…cooling…cooling…cool-]
If I haven’t lost you yet, on a literary note, taking an understanding that nature in its raw form is exactly what Teddy calls it – “merciless” – and is still beautiful into writing can help bridge some schisms over seemingly conflicting themes. I hope I’ll be able to share some of my own works that attempt the same here one day.

#3

“You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen in your life so you just learn that now, okay?
Listen. The only time you should look into your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

-Louis C.K.

The Take: I think I first encountered this one while scrolling through Facebook yeeeeaaaars back. Originally, in the set he expressed this on, it was while he was discussing being a parent and some of the lessons one dishes out when they find themselves in that position (I also did a super fast google check to make sure he’d been quoted elsewhere too), but it came across as a good bit of personal advice.
It sort of pairs flows from the same perennial, ages-old proverb “Comparison breeds contempt,” and I think it puts a good cap on what we’ve covered. It’s good to expect nothing, yet appreciate everything (saw that on a bumper sticker once, holds up).

Anyway, I think that’s about it. Hope some of this rings with some of y’all.

See ya Thursday (or before, who knows anymore).

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!