Oh Valley o’ Plenty! OooOOOOooh!

If the title reeled you in, there’s a 50% chance that we’re kin – in the same tribe of mindset, reverence for the world of the Continent, Northern Kingdoms, and Nilfgaardian Empire, and someone with the time to read a seven-book series (eight, if you also went through Season of Storms, but that’s more for funsies anyway) not affiliated with a magical boy named after a fuzzy plant-keeper.

That said, that means there’s also a 50% chance that you’re going to stop reading after the next two sentences, because you’ve had enough “the books were better blah blah bibbity blah” talk in your life. And that’s okay.

But I’m finally finding myself on the other side of that line.

For all the ignorance this statement may thickly paint me with: I made it through Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings all on the movies or episodes alone. I, like many of you (probably) endured the same, “Ah, but the books were better!” talk, and like many of you (probably; I include you so I don’t die on this hill totally alone), gave it the same, “Ah, let it go! They did what they had to for an adaptation!”

But…this time, I can’t.

I played The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (twice, actually; 100% completion both times, and rp-walked the whole time like some sicko) when it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, heard it was a series of books, and voraciously tore through them twice. Two collections of short stories, a standalone novel, and a saga of five more. Their spines are lovingly bent, pages affectionately coffee-stained. And in the case of a house fire, they’re on my short list of “will suffer major burns to retrieve” possessions.

So when Netflix announced a Witcher television series, I was cautiously optimistic suuuuper guarded. And when it came out and everybody started raving about how it was the greatest thing since soy sauce on mashed potatoes (not a widely popular thing, but a friend of mine turned me onto it eight years ago, and I’ve NEVER looked back; gravy can suck it on a 8-hour shift – soy sauce is where it’s at), I was worried.

What if it’s nothing like the books, and so everyone’s falling in love with a false prophet?

What if, worse, it takes direct inspiration and then turns it, further lying to the people??

What??? Andrezej Sapkowski saw the first two episodes and LOVED it? But he a CD Projekt Red had such issues. What could that mean???

So I watched the first episode, and I’ve never been more distracted in my life. Remember way back when we went over the Art of Being an Audience? Well, I sure-as-shit did not practice what I preached. But, it’s not a live performance, so I give myself some leeway.

The entire time, I wasn’t in the story, but floating above it. Watching an adaptation of a story I know so intimately (as much as is humanly possible, given how complex and long it is), every scene I was just distracted by being able to see the scissor marks and tape-job that they’d done with the original story.

For the uninitiated, the world of the Witcher is shared through two collections of short stories that serve both to offer little one-off, character-building adventures as well as do some world-building and establish canonical history for the groundwork/foundation of the five novels, which tell the story.

And so, knowing that, I couldn’t help but fixate on every stitch I saw on what was essentially The Blood of Elves (the first book) interlaced with stories out of The Last Wish (the first the short story collections), plus the new characters the show fabricated all on its own.

That, and – without even getting to the disservice done to the dryads of Brokilon – the stories they did take from The Last Wish were super diluted compared to their literary counterparts. Stregobor’s reveal had more impact than just turning the townspeople on a mutant. The adventure in Dol Blathanna hinted at the elves’ history with humans in a much shallower way than original tale. And Pavetta and Duny’s wedding ceremony was super turned into a comedy of coincidences with a forced fight scene rather than a cunning orchestration devised by Calanthe. Don’t like Dara, don’t like what they did with Foltest, and don’t know what-the-fuck was up with that psycho-doppler “we like children best” ass-hat. Aaaaaaaaaugh-

Phew.

Now…that’s enough of The Bad. We’ll say that the Dryads of Brokilon stuff was The Ugly all unto themselves. But, The Good…?

Dude, even in this super distracted first viewing of the season, even I couldn’t help but love the music. That, they nailed without question. Plus, I loved coming in on the joke that was all the buzz surrounding “Toss a coin to yer Witcher!”

For all the shit I could scrounge up for the Blavikin story, that fight scene made my nipples hard.

And for the wedding stuff with Pavetta, for the crap I could give that part of the adaptation, that fight also hardened these- okay, enough with nipples. It was good. Very good.

Some of the references were taken straight off the page. Like when Geralt’s fist-fighting with Torque in the field, that whole “I’m a sylvan! | You’re a dick!” conversation is basically verbatim, and I love it!

Also, the show captures the sense of humor found in the books and games with unreal accuracy. It’s that dark humor, sort of dry-and-sardonic flavor of giggles that serve to remind you that, while it’s telling a bit of a gritty/gory tale, we’re here to have fun. The humor is the wink to let you know that we’re enjoying this together and to not be too serious with it.

I wanted a more faithful recreation of Villentretenmerth, but every second he was on screen being a telepathic golden dragon was a goddamn treasure.

While they could have done better with the Foltest storyline, that striga was so phenomenally well-made and deliiiiciously creepy! Oh. My. God.

And, not least of all by any means, Henry Cavill is…he’s just…he’s such a darling. I heard from friends and saw in interviews that he played the games, devoured the books, and was a super-fan in his own right, and Jesus Christ does that ever show in his performance. He captures Geralt’s angsty curmudgeon attitude so well, especially since he himself is such a charismatic and seemingly-cheerful man. He plays the annoyance true to character, and has perfect comedic timing whenever he delivers his classic:

*sigh*
“…fuck.”

One of the best services my experience was done with regards to the show was actually a comment by my buddy Chris. He said that it has the feel of a passion-project. Sort of like one of those old Sci-Fi channel productions that didn’t have the biggest budget, but made up for it with heart and authenticity.

That…was absolutely true. And it’s what carried me through seeing it the first time. Because whenever I got distracted by a “What the-?”, “Who the fu-?”, or “Why the fu-?” question when the show deviated from or adapted the lore, that un-quantifiable feeling kept bringing me back to it. I kept feeling like I was watching a production made by and starring people who were as big of fans of the original works as I was – and THAT made me feel like we were all in it together.

So, I played my part as an appreciative viewer.

‘Kay. That’s not entirely true. It took about six total hours of raving conversations with friends and now an overly-long, ranty, raving blog post to get it out of my system.

Changes have to be made to suit the medium. Liberties have to be taken. Taken straight as it is from the page, the show either wouldn’t work, or would be 1,000,000,000 hours long and cost the GDP of Canada (1.653 trillion USD as of 2017, for those wondering). Eventually, I re-watched the first episode.

The verdict? How had the opinion changed with a less distracted and more forgiving, compromising Evan…?

Well, I cried twice in tender joy, so I guess we could call that a good thing.

All in all, if the show brings a wider audience to appreciate the world so many of us have already come to love, the better.

Also, word on the street is that Sapkowski and CD Projekt Red have kissed and made up, so we’ll call that our story book happy ending. And if the show was in any way a part of that, all the more reason to love it.

Live. Love. Accept change. All rather than being an obstinate butthole about it like I was.

Hasta, y’all.

You are a Human Being

And isn’t that awesome? That should be awesome, and it is. You get to pilot a vehicle made of muscle and sinew and bone and skin, and use that biological mech-suit to walk around a gigantic ball of rock in an infinite plane of space. You get to use it to see trees and clouds and mountains and ocean waves. You can use it to listen to the whistling wind, barking squirrels, crunching leaves, and singing birds. You get to take big, deep breaths with it and smell cold morning air, salty sea breeze, autumn spices. You can bite through the tart skin of a plum to the sweet fruit underneath, chow down on fresh baked bread, hot cooked fish, or the spice of a pepper.

But probably best of all, with this awesome body, you can feel things. You can brush your hand over down grass, knead your fingers into fur, feel the warmth of sunshine against your cheek, or someone else’s skin against your own. You can feel the bubbly cauldron in your stomach that’s giddy joy, or the furnace that’s drive or rage. You can feel the warm knot of togetherness with a loved one, and the unbearable, chewing-on-tin-foil sensation of loss when they’re gone. You can feel disappointment, and triumph. Be wrapped up in a memory so warm, or lost in a regret so cold. You get to feel foolish at a mistake, or proud at an accomplishment.

On top of all that, you’re part of a big group of other humans. We’re kind and creative. Smart, talented, generous, caring, full of ingenuity, and also kind of dumb, sort of dicks sometimes, scared, scary, and selfish. Some of us have titles and positions, egos and attitudes, biases and histories. You don’t have to go out of your way to meet someone that reminds you of yourself in some way, or in a position you’ve been in, or could be, if the circumstances were right.

Someone made a dumb decision or mistake? Remember a time you did. Someone’s being pissy in traffic? There has to be a time you’ve wanted to be. Seeing someone being judgemental (especially online – like, damn)? We’ve all let our ego take the wheel a time or two.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to try and impress that we’re people, and there’s such a privilege in that. We have problems, imbalance, fucked up situations daily, sickness, scarcity, reasons to be scared, pissed, jealous, or otherwise. But there are so many more reasons to laugh, do a little jig, hug someone, let loose, be grateful, sing even if you positively suck at it, or wear those comfortable pants even if your girlfriend says they clash with your shirt or whatever.

We have bodies. Art. Music. Food. Friends. Homes. Jokes. Cars. Sushi. Movies. Bonfires. Crayons. Flowers. Photography. Dancing. Booze. Secondhand puzzles that still somehow have all 500 pieces. That last bit of milk that’s just enough for that bowl of cereal. Serendipitous moments where a song comes on the radio and it’s your fucking anthem. A colorful history that’s awesome, terrible, miraculous, disgusting, and just as varied as people are, probably have always been, and will likely always be. We’re not perfect, but that’s cool. Sometimes we’re stronger than we think we are, and other times we need the help of others – and that’s the awesome thing: help is always there, even if it doesn’t look like it. Ask, reach out, go looking, or keep trying until it gets there.

I’m going to start the next sentence in a certain way, and I want you to know that it’s on purpose to emphasize its importance…

Bruh…the next time you feel like crying, no matter how horrible or however little the reason is, enjoy it.

Anyway, I think what started all this was my fervent holding that Thanksgiving is an viciously underappreciated holiday that gets skipped over for Christmas while the body of Halloween hasn’t even cooled yet. So this is my little rebellion. Everyone starts as a baby and gets their own story, cherish your own and cut others some slack. “What is the meaning of life?” is an overrated question because it doesn’t inheirantly have one, so you get to decide. And never say you’re bored when there’s so much to think about, try, and appreciate.

Or…I learned all this from the ghost of an ancient wise man and had to spend last week learning ancient Greek or whatever, so that’s why I didn’t post Thursday. Whichever you want to believe. The world’s your oyster.

Alright, that’s enough. Take it easy, everybody. Catch you Tuesday. Ciao.

Always Say ‘Yes’ to Pills (and Don’t Trust Pink Duct Tape)

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

For starters, duh, there’s an obvious caveat to the title – you could always say “yeah,” or “uh-huh,” or something else to accept medication.

But for real, I don’t know what brought this to mind, but I was thinking today about the one and only time I’ve ever broken a body part, and the lesson that came along with that experience. Mm, and while I think on it, I’ve technically also had Osgood Schlatter Disease (which is weird to call it a ‘disease’ when it’s a…like a…more of a ‘boo-boo’) when I was a kid. And even though the little bit of homework I did says it’s an “inflammation,” I heard a loud goddamn snap when it happened to me – BOTH TIMES. So, it’s “inflammation” in the same way swallowing a grenade leads to a “bit of bloating.”

Anyway, I’m talkin’ about my toe, today. Which between breaking the (tendon/cartilage/whatever) entailed with OSD as a kid, and this, I haven’t actually broken a bone, just always something near or connected to one. With my toe, it was the ligament on the right side of my right big toe; but, like, a full snap. Do me a favor. Hold out a thumb’s up with your right hand, turn it towards yourself so your palm is parallel with your chest, now bend your thumb at about a forty-five degree angle. Boom. Same angle my toe was at. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that I used to do parkour and make artsy-fartsy videos about it. As you’d expect, injuries were pretty common, but usually outdoors, not in the gym – except this time. The gymnastics center I took classes at (stay in school, fool!) had their spring floor marked out with colored duct tapes to measure distances. At the end of one of these classes, the coaches set up stations for that night’s work out. One of these was an area on the marked spring floor for running suicides (we all did them in middle school basketball – or these if you were home-schooled or something).

Well, at the first pivot, I hear a loud SNAP! and instinctively, instantly think, “Oo, that didn’t sound good,” and start limping off the floor, with my right toes raised when I step with that foot. My coach calls out, “Evan! You’re getting blood on my floor!” I still haven’t looked down yet, think he’s joking, and give him the ol’ ‘ha-ha-you-so-funny’ wave. Until I sit down, see it (cue thumb’s up exercise), with a pool of red starting to spread under my toes, and the trail of AB Positive breadcrumbs I’d left behind.

(That was also when I learned what almost passing out feels like – and it was NOTHING like what I expected. I thought it was this “you watch the circle of black close in over your vision” sort of thing. Instead, I just suddenly, even though I was all adrenaline-y, got very, very, very sleepy.)

Anyway, longer story short-ish, I got to the hospital, got cleaned out, sewn up, put in a bootie, and given pain meds. This was all when I was maybe nineteen, so when I got home, my mom said, “Hey, here, take a Norco before you go to bed.”

Now, to this point, besides the shock and the almost-fainting, I haven’t felt a thing. My toe was about ripped from my body – oh yeah, by the way, this all happened because one of the tape markers was slightly lifted up and caught my toe when I slid into my pivot – and I’ve felt next to Absolute Zero pain thanks to adrenaline followed by on-site injections of anesthetic before that wore off. So, when she offers the Norco before bed, my cocky dumbass ego says, “Haha, nah, mom. I’m fine. Maybe in the morning.”

Y’all…

Y’all, it was truly one of the most painful experiences of my life.

I’m a stomach sleeper, I’m 6′ 4″, and at the time, was sleeping on a twin mattress (a thing we’ll discuss later). So, even with my feet hanging well off the edge of the bed, I woke up at 2:00 am, and felt like my foot had been thrust up to the knee in a bucket of hot coals. I quickly went up in sweats that drenched the sheets, but I couldn’t move because every small shift was like an Iron Maiden biting into my leg.

Have you ever had a painful experience that, for some reason, sent tingles along the flanks of your neck? Or literally put a bad taste in your mouth? Or just made you laugh? Even if not, imagine everything in these past two paragraphs, in the silent dark, sleep elusively dancing just out of reach, unable to move, for six hours.

So, yeah. That’s why you should always say yes to pills and never trust pink duct tape.

I hope we all learned something.

Catch y’all Thursday, you beautiful folks.

Ciao.

Wisdom from a Vampire Hunter

Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Busily Usain Bolt-ing towards the finish line on this house selling/buying thing, so today I figured I would dive into one of my old notebooks and go quote-hunting for some wisdom of the ancients (I like to picture it like truffle-hunting and I’m the hog – *sniff sniff* *sniff sniff*). I utilized the delicate technique of flipping to a random page and turned up a bit of a gem on the first go.

If you’ve never read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” I’d SUPER recommend it. I went on a kick of reading old classics a few years ago – Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, etc. – and gained a lot from it.

A lot, like this…

“You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men’s eyes, because they know – or think they know – some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new ideas, beliefs, which think themselves new, and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young – like the fine ladies of the opera…

“My thesis is this: I want you to believe…To believe in things that you cannot. Let me illustrate. I heard once of an American who so defined faith: ‘that which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue.’ For one, I follow that man. He meant that we shall have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of a big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him; but all the same must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe.”

-Van Helsing

The Take: First off, I saw the Van Helsing movie with my Lord and Savior Hugh Jackman before ever reading Dracula, and I was COMPLETELY THROWN when instead of a chiseled Wolverine in a trench coat, he was described as a barrel-chested, red-haired Dutchman. Confused. As. Fuck. But eventually, I embraced him.
Secondly (and arguably more important, but pfft), this was the scene where Helsing is prepping Jonathan Harker to accept the idea of vampires, and the idea of one being at the root of their troubles. And I love the lessons herein – about keeping an open mind and not thinking so rigidly you’re not able to learn.

If you’re a fan of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Farenghar Secret-Fire puts it a bit more succintly:

“A sure mark of a fool is to dismiss anything that lies outside his experience as impossible.”

Van Helsing puts it a bit more diplomatically, but the lesson, I think, is in the same spirit. It doesn’t mean “believe everything you hear” (heh-heh, the Internet, am I right?), but it does mean not to write off new ideas simply because they conflict with a previously held idea; judge it upon its own merits. Cognitive dissonance (SMART WORDS) might be uncomfortable, but it makes room for growth.

Anyway, take it easy, everybody. Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

A Moment of Rambling Reflection…and then some Nonsense (feat. Ron Perlman)

Happy Thursday, everyone! What’s good? What’s new?

I’ve managed to make it a little more than a year since leaving my full-time job. Would likely have been longer, but life never goes as planned and that’s alright. But over the past twelve months, I was able to sell two whole stories, start this lovable pet project, treat my better half to a memorable anniversary, and handle (mostly) the maelstrom that was my mother’s sickness – got her house sold and she moves in a few weeks.

So, while certainly different from the Hakuna Matata, coffee house Bohemia I’d imagined, it’s been several times more rewarding; especially when I think of where things might be if they happened after my year was up. It is funny to think, though, that after 163 submissions to date, two have landed (of course not counting those which are still pending; full of my hopes, dreams, and sweet kisses). But from what I’ve been told, that’s a more common story than one might think. One might think, as I have, rightly so, I’d imagine, that if you attempted something 163 times and only succeeded twice – swung at bat, shot a basketball, threw a pass, baked a pie – you pretty objectively suck at baseball, basketball, football, baking, whatever. But that’s just…not quite the case with writing. In fact, two hits inside those first hundred attempts is a deceptively fast start; especially when done independently, outside of any organizations, clubs, or associations.
It…can be hard to keep that in view, however.
In the same way, in the day and age of Instagram or Twitter followers only ever mattering when counting by the million, every time I punch a key (like right now), I imagine the sizable crowd of 40 brave souls that clicked the Follow button on this humble blog out in my front yard.
I’ll bring the sappiness to an end by saying that you guys make me feel like a king.

So thank you for listening to a poor sap ramble and spin stories about made up things.

So…the other night, I had a dream that Ron Perlman beat up my problems for me.

It was great. Not like I just went around town pointing at things I didn’t like and The Ron would strafe over and hit it with a straight right. We were in a Coliseum like the Roman times, dressed in modern day attired and without weapons. The gates lifted and out walked these monsters, all shadowy and black, but with labels in white lettering on their chests.

One, a hulking minotaur-looking thing with wriggly squid arms, runs up and tries to th’wack me. It’s labeled ‘Credit-Card-Debt,’ and Ron Perlman dives out of nowhere and plants his boots on its cheek, putting it in the dirt. Next up comes ‘Phone-Calls-from-the-Hospital,’ and it resembles a sumo wrestler with a jackal’s head. It charges, but doesn’t get very far before The Ron gives it a step-in elbow followed by an uppercut that puts it in the stands. “Ron! Help!” I shout, as ‘Check-Engine-Light-that’s-been-on-Forever’ grabs me around the neck. In a flash, Ron Perlman is by my side and he flying-armbar’s the sonuvabitch.

Soon, after dozens more heel hooks, tornado kicks, and left crosses, the army of shadowy demons lie defeated, squirming, and for some reason steaming in the dust of the arena. Then The Ron and I do a freeze-frame high five sweet custom handshake and I rouse to consciousness.

The point is, life will get tough if you live it, and that’s the point. If there’s something you want to do or need to do (sometimes they’re the same thing), then do it. You’ll have to persevere, stick with it, and endure, even if it doesn’t always seem promising. But stick with it long enough, there’s a success story in it somewhere.

Find your Subconscious Ron Perlman.

Fantasy Dim Sum: Ainsley and Stella

What’s up, everybody. Happy Thursday!

Today we’re at it again: serving up a couple short scenes that wind up tying together in the end. Rather than overdoing the intro, I’m just going to let them speak for themselves.

Without further adieu…

Part 1: ‘Ainsley, Justicar of Taldastius

Ainsley stood still at the edge of the forest glade, loosing the deep breath with the slow, practiced control her work demanded. Her eyes took in the scene with that same calm measure as her plated boots clinked their tread through the soft grass. A gentle wind danced through the muted green, brushed her cheeks, tossed her hair, and carried the scent of blood – the scent of a haunting life she’d left behind.

While her task required attention, Ainsley’s focused mind would not carry the nightmares of that life. For a time, she would not be molested by thoughts of the clans her brother-and-sisters-in-arms had scattered; she would not burden herself with the memories of their screams; she would not shudder at the knowledge she held of that which corroded the earth, shattered rock, and sundered the skies. A “dishonorable discharge” it had been called, but a system of mock honor that burns and destroys the undeserving to protect its own interests held no place to judge her. No longer holding station among the zealous Elves of the Iron Fang, she had found the freedom to wander. Unwelcome by many, hated by some, Ainsley turned Nameless – finding work and a place in the darkest recesses of Mundas, thanklessly facing the nightmares that plagued its people.

And this way she lived for many years until came such a time as any for those that live the Nameless way, and she found herself ready to die as such. She had stood in a moonlit glade then as well, slowly kneeling ready to dash the lunar-gray grasses with the crimson of her life’s blood. As she had held the blade high and saw in its reflection the pale of the moon, the sight of it filled her mind and heart with a vision:

We that follow are the light that stands amid the dark and guides the helpless through its shroud.”

The Oath and its Moon Strictures now decorating the flesh of her back, her life as a Justicar of Taldastius had begun only weeks later; her stride now set with a righteous purpose beyond murky survival.

As her footfalls strode quietly through the glade, shield at her side and sword gleaming brightly in the moonlight, Ainsley heard the choking, strained gasps more clearly the nearer she drew. The girl was young, no more than twenty winters behind her, with raven black hair and eyes with blue that pierced the pallid night. The acrid smell in the air, the jagged, raking marks down the girl’s arms, and the thick, speckled quills that perforated her petite form told Ainsley more than enough: Howlers.

Normally cowardly, netherplane-dwelling beasts, something had brought them here. The girl looked up at Ainsley, lips quivering, dark trails streaking from the corners of her mouth, and unable to speak. The Justicar held the young girls gaze for a time before turning her own to a rustling in the encompassing treeline.

They were coming.

END

The Take: So, there are a couple of lore points from the larger world at work here to address that might help, might not.
Ainsley is a Justicar (or paladin-variant, basically) of Taldastius, Steward of the Moon, Keeper of the Scales, Lord of Justice, n’ all else. The Moon is the Order’s totem and it represents them in the way Ainsley’s vision outlines: they fight against the dark by living in it, but without becoming it (if that makes sense). I could go on for pages, but that’s the gist and we have more to get to (this is supposed to be bite-sized, after all).
The Iron Fang are essentially a state-funded volunteer corps of defense against the dragon nests north of the Continent. They’re comprised of zealots, desperate sods, religious nutters, social outcasts – anyone and everyone. It’s members are highly revered, though, normally only after they’ve died – being criticized and berated in life by society at large. They’re organized strictly, and when one falls out of their ranks (is insubordinate, flees, or otherwise shows cowardice), they become “Nameless,” the world’s equivalent to Witchers, basically; only finding work as mercenaries and monster-hunters.

On to the next!

Part 2: Stella Fairbay, Heiress of Shale

Stella watched the diminutive ceramic dancer slowly twirl in its place within the open music box. A slight smile spread across her narrow lips as she listened to the soft chiming sung by the inner springs and coils. She watched the last of the day’s warm sunlight glimmer and reflect off its polished curves, and these feelings left her mind awash in memories – though they now seemed so distant.

The years of her youth were of gilded halls and ballrooms, long hours in formal court, and a deep-rooted yearning to part with it all, though never once betraying her family’s storied lineage. As with many of the women in her ancestry, Stella held a particularly strong sway over the magical forces of Mundas, and nothing interfered with that secret more greatly than the life of royalty. Her potential was held captive by the very privilege which provided for her, so she stole away one night to walk the wanderer’s path and develop her talents. Her only farewell: a letter addressed to her grandmother, the ruling Duchess of Shale, mentor to Stella in her youngest years, and, moreover, only living family-by-blood left in the Duchy.

Stella fluttered her eyelids to blink the memories away and she found her vision focusing beyond the now silent toy dancer to the reflection of her own eyes in the mirror of the box’s lid. She held the sight for a breath then looked up to behold the moon, feeling now that it was almost time. It had taken many months to find this place and Stella would be damned if she’d spent that time tracking down the proper charts, conferring with members of the Channelers’ Fold, and preparing the necessary charms only to miss her window distracted by nostalgia.

The young witch carefully closed the music box and stowed it within her black, silver-laced robes. She stood sharply and grasped the spear-staff at her side, an heirloom from her late grandfather. Stella marched with conviction to the edge of a summoner’s circle she’d constructed when the sun had been high, looked up to see the moon nearing its zenith, and an eager laugh escape her lips as she began her incantation, ready to open the way. Her eyes whited over with a milky paleness to mimic the moon and the ground beneath her feet felt as if to hum in harmony with her low tone.

Slowly, like fireflies drifting in the veil of night, glowing sigils began to form out of the cold air and weave together in the bounds of her circle. A complete silence took the glade before a loud snap broke the air and a bright font of light burst forth from the ground. In a matter of moments, Stella knew, if she had done her work correctly, she would be face-to-face with an angelic archon.

As the last of the arcane light faded from the circle, an unexpected darkness shrouded the glade. Stella rubbed her eyes so they might adjust and whispered a word to her staff for light. As she did so, a horrible sense of dread fell upon her like a cloak and she heard a clicking, guttural snarl. The moments of Stella’s life to follow would be remembered only as a panicked blur.

A haunting, shrieking howl pierced the still quiet.

Her chest and arms pained by slashes of unseen claws.

She was knocked breathless against the cool, damp grass.

Stella awaited the death knell from whatever infernal creatures her tragic mistake had summoned, though it never came. She could hear them, feel them encircling her, as her vision slowly darkened until a vibrant silver light beamed from the edge of the glade and the creatures retreated from it. A woman in silver and blue plate armor stood over her, beautiful and scarred, she peered down at Stella with a look of sympathy. A noise from the glade’s edge stole the woman’s attention for a moment, and when her gaze returned to the young witch her eyes burned a brilliant silver that shone against the dark backdrop of the stars.

The woman whispered a soft, chiming tone and Stella coughed. While still in great pain, she could feel a relieving warmth spread across her body where there had been agony moments before. Seeing the young woman stable, the paladin dashed across the muted gray forest floor, her blade shining white with fire. Stella craned her neck to watch as her savior cleaved down the first two beasts in a matter of moments and briefly wrestled with a third, a terrible fray of shouts and visceral crunches, while the remaining pack closed in around. With a desperate, heaving breath, Stella sat up and looked on as long, sharp quills like those that had pierced her struck the paladin between areas of her plate. Focusing through the tormenting pain and hurried anxiety of her circumstance, Stella forced herself into trance.

The paladin fought from her back, swinging this way and that to ward away the encroaching pack, when she felt the ground beneath her shake. The howlers seized the moment of her hesitation and moved to leap upon their meal, but could not feel the ground beneath their gnarled paws. She watched as the remaining pack was lifted above the grass and pulled, flailing viciously, over to the girl in black robes, now standing with spear in one hand and the other extended towards the creatures. Quills were shaken and shot forth in Stella’s direction, though they splintered to harmless flakes in the air around her. The howlers were forced to the grass, dragged by an invisible hand to the circle from which they’d emerged and, like water through cloth, disappeared beneath the ground.

From across the moonlit glade, the two women locked eyes for the second time and together shared a well-earned sigh of relief.

END

The Take: There you have it, a bad-ass, scarred up warrior lady and a reckless, mystical witch woman ruining a gaggle of otherworldly beasties. Always fun. I always liked Stella’s half for tying in and really showing off Ainsley’s badassery, plus alluding to some other world-bits we’ll explore a bit more deeply later.

Probably put up the others of this little “mini-series” tomorrow rather than waiting until Tuesday. Til then, you take it easy and stay beautiful, you.

Ciao.

Did You Know Flooring is Hard?

(If the title didn’t give it away, I’m redoing the floors in my mom’s house today! Turns out, it’s difficult and labor-intensive as shit. So just know that while you’re soaking up these sweet, sweet words, I’m likely covered in dust and choking on asbestos. But we’re doing a re-post because I love y’all. I love y’all AND actually like what this post had to say, so, in case you missed it…)

Where Does Personality Come From? / Who Are You?

Hey! Happy Tues…day…every…

Is today Tuesday…?

F*ck it, sure. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

If you can’t tell, ye olde headspace is a bit frazzled this fine Tues- weekday. So, the way I figure it, it’s the perfect time for a (Oh, yeah, and I didn’t have anything prepared for today because of work on the house. Anyway!) healthy freestyle rant essay!

I’m still pretty hung up on the topics in last week’s post, so I’m just gonna wax pseudo-philosophical and armchair Bro-Brain it up with some questions I had when I was eight. Sound good? Sweet.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade class room staring at a cow brain in a jar (for real, I was stoked when she said we were getting one) and the thought crossed my mind: “Where do our personalities come from?” You could probably see the pretty straightforward line of thinkin here, yeah? Our brains hold most of our thinky-stuff – memories, facts, jokes, emotions, lies we told our parents so we wouldn’t get in trouble – and so if that cow’s brain was in that jar, looking exactly as you’d expect from cartoons and old timey movies, then am I looking at that cow’s personality, too?

Like, obviously not the cow’s personality being expressed (uless that cow was lazy and really liked to swim but go nowhere), but looking at the vessel for its…well, its everything. And then I turned the question inward: “Where does personality come from?”

Now, clearly, this is a deep-as-fuck kind of question, and we could spend an actual book here (like the many that already populate the shelves of Barnes and Nobles nationwide) if we wanted to. But I gots shit to do and can’t mentally spelunk that deeply with what time I’ve got. But, I remember the timeline of that thought process as I’ve grown went roughly like this…

Personalities are held in the brain. Well, I mean, they are…aren’t they? But…is it…well, is it a thing that can be…held? That can be contained in that squishy little sponge of gray matter? And why are some people funny, others are serious, and why do I like Gundam figures, but not tomatoes (so on and so forth)? And if you had twins that were born at the exact same time, to the exact same parents, and lived in the exact same house, going to the exact same places, and knowing the exact same people…how and why would they ever be different?

Clearly, this is the point where you shoehorn in the age-old “Nature vs Nurture” debate, right? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that that question is entirely just a thought experiment or thought provocateur (if we’re feeling fancy) than an actual question. Because, and yeah, opinions will differ on this I guess, but, it’s obviously a mix of both. I guess the point of the question is just to determine where you personally place your line as to the ratio.

Because, yeah, Nature definitely has its part, undoubtedly. Some people just straight up have certain predalictions and preferences, personality traits and characteristics. But you don’t just go through life, having experiences and encounters without ever changing and altering on some scale (Enter: the debate over Dany’s decisions in the GoT finale – bring it, nerds! This is a hill I will die on. She had every reason IN THE WORLD TO- nevermind. Another time. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Anyway…).

But then, went my twelve-year-old brainy brainy after watching Fight Club, who are you? Or, who am I?

“You are not your job.” – Totally. Your job is just what you do, it’s how you contribute to the tribe. And that might change any number of times for any number of reasons.

“You are not your bank account.” – Well shit, I would hope not. Because that’s never been mighty impressive. But still, yeah, of course. This one’s silly.

But then, expand it a little…”You are not your name.” – Hey, Robert, Wallace, Sarah, etc! These things are just… the sounds we make or the squiggles we draw to express who we mean or who we’re addressing. But there are a million John’s, Tessa’s, Fred’s, and Abigail’s. It’s just…a label. It’s handy, you can like yours (I like mine), but it isn’t you.

During a religious studies course from years ago, I remember my professor mentioned how Plato felt about just existing in a body (and if I’m wrong, blame either my memory or Mr. Thompson – I know, another “Thompson”). Apparently, he likened it to a cage. A cage you, the mind, were just occupying until it died. A cage that could and would occasionally break down. And that got me thinking: “Yeah, you can’t be your body, either. If you break your arm, for example, it’s not like you lose part of you. Even if you’re an athlete and that means you can’t play your sport anymore, you aren’t any different, just your capability.”

That’s where Identity enters the mix. “Who am I?” Not “what,” or “how,” or any other of the five question types. “Who” in a way that isn’t answered with your name, or your job, or your sex, or your relationship to family members. Your personality. Who. Are. You?

Maybe if playing football is part of your identity, or you’re the “tennis guy”, and you suddenly sustain an injury that keeps you from doing that, then yeah, you lose that part of yourself. (For example, I used to do parkour but after a few injuries and “life thangs” eventually stopped. And it was weird, because to a fair number of people, I was “the parkour guy” or the “dude that can flip,” and when that was gone, there was an adjustment period, I won’t lie.) So, you lose that part of yourself, kind of…

But…do you really?

No.

Like, yes. But no.

See what I mean?

Anyway, the closest thing I’ve come to that’s an acceptable “answer” (in quotes because, ah, well you get it by now), are best illustrated by the two following sources:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I mean, spoilers if you have any interest in the game and haven’t ever played it, but that’s about all the warning I’m gonna give for an eight year old video game in an overdone seri- anyway!
At the end of the game, Number 16 (I think was his ID) has this big heart-to-heart with Desmond, and, with arms outstretched and his face to the sky, he drops the line, “What are we but memories? Huh!? The stories we tell ourselves!”
Think on that shit…

Set it? Cool.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might remember the short I put up with the same name. And I always liked it, and it’s stuck with me, because there’s something about it that resonates. It checks a lot of boxes. “You are not your job.” Check. “You are not your bank account.” Check. “You are not your name.” Check.
We’re just…that. We are our life’s story. What’s the one thing you leave behind after you die? Your legacy. Your memory. People’s memory of what you did or how you impacted them or others. You are the things you do, the places you go, the stories you tell, the people you take care of, the hand you hold out to help, etc etc.

Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time Yeah, I get it, less of a catchy title. We could always call it, “Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time: Reloaded” or something, but anyway…
In it, and I think I’m going to butcher the quote since I’m just spit-ballin’ here, some unnamed older gentleman says something like the following:

We all go through up’s and down’s. And once, when I was on one of those down’s, I kept having a thought. It was the same, persistent thought. ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ And when I realized that I had that thought before, something occurred to me. I am not the thought. This thought is not me. And I wondered, how many thoughts, and how many people everywhere each day, have thoughts like this, thoughts that are not them? And it occurred to me… I am not the thought, I am the awareness.”

Okay, if I had you take a moment to let the first one sink in… Absorb that. “I am not the thought, I am the awareness.” Speaking of parkour (from earlier), one of my coaches, Brett, made a deceptively insightful comment one day that I overheard: “You know, you can’t control your mood, but you can control your attitude.”
Now, marry the two thoughts. You’re not the thought, you are the awareness. You are the consciousness, the phenomenal, inchoate, ethereal experience behind your eyes, behind your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you, they occur to you. Your mood/emotions aren’t you, they influence you – you, the one behind them.

So, I don’t know, in conclusion…take the above and just…mill on it. Like Izzy from Gray’s Anatomy once said: “My mom always said, ‘Trust the man who claims to seek the truth, but doubt the man who claims to have found it.’”
And I need to maintain my credibility ’round here.

Anyway, thanks for brain-wrestling with me.

Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

Who Are You? / Where Does Personality Come From?

Hey! Happy Tues…day…every…

Is today Tuesday…?

F*ck it, sure. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

If you can’t tell, ye olde headspace is a bit frazzled this fine Tues- weekday. So, the way I figure it, it’s the perfect time for a (Oh, yeah, and I didn’t have anything prepared for today because of work on the house. Anyway!) healthy freestyle rant essay!

I’m still pretty hung up on the topics in last week’s post, so I’m just gonna wax pseudo-philosophical and armchair Bro-Brain it up with some questions I had when I was eight. Sound good? Sweet.

I remember sitting in Mrs. Thompson’s third grade class room staring at a cow brain in a jar (for real, I was stoked when she said we were getting one) and the thought crossed my mind: “Where do our personalities come from?” You could probably see the pretty straightforward line of thinkin here, yeah? Our brains hold most of our thinky-stuff – memories, facts, jokes, emotions, lies we told our parents so we wouldn’t get in trouble – and so if that cow’s brain was in that jar, looking exactly as you’d expect from cartoons and old timey movies, then am I looking at that cow’s personality, too?

Like, obviously not the cow’s personality being expressed (uless that cow was lazy and really liked to swim but go nowhere), but looking at the vessel for its…well, its everything. And then I turned the question inward: “Where does personality come from?”

Now, clearly, this is a deep-as-fuck kind of question, and we could spend an actual book here (like the many that already populate the shelves of Barnes and Nobles nationwide) if we wanted to. But I gots shit to do and can’t mentally spelunk that deeply with what time I’ve got. But, I remember the timeline of that thought process as I’ve grown went roughly like this…

Personalities are held in the brain. Well, I mean, they are…aren’t they? But…is it…well, is it a thing that can be…held? That can be contained in that squishy little sponge of gray matter? And why are some people funny, others are serious, and why do I like Gundam figures, but not tomatoes (so on and so forth)? And if you had twins that were born at the exact same time, to the exact same parents, and lived in the exact same house, going to the exact same places, and knowing the exact same people…how and why would they ever be different?

Clearly, this is the point where you shoehorn in the age-old “Nature vs Nurture” debate, right? I think I’ve come to the conclusion that that question is entirely just a thought experiment or thought provocateur (if we’re feeling fancy) than an actual question. Because, and yeah, opinions will differ on this I guess, but, it’s obviously a mix of both. I guess the point of the question is just to determine where you personally place your line as to the ratio.

Because, yeah, Nature definitely has its part, undoubtedly. Some people just straight up have certain predalictions and preferences, personality traits and characteristics. But you don’t just go through life, having experiences and encounters without ever changing and altering on some scale (Enter: the debate over Dany’s decisions in the GoT finale – bring it, nerds! This is a hill I will die on. She had every reason IN THE WORLD TO- nevermind. Another time. Maybe. Or not. I don’t know. Anyway…).

But then, went my twelve-year-old brainy brainy after watching Fight Club, who are you? Or, who am I?

“You are not your job.” – Totally. Your job is just what you do, it’s how you contribute to the tribe. And that might change any number of times for any number of reasons.

“You are not your bank account.” – Well shit, I would hope not. Because that’s never been mighty impressive. But still, yeah, of course. This one’s silly.

But then, expand it a little…”You are not your name.” – Hey, Robert, Wallace, Sarah, etc! These things are just… the sounds we make or the squiggles we draw to express who we mean or who we’re addressing. But there are a million John’s, Tessa’s, Fred’s, and Abigail’s. It’s just…a label. It’s handy, you can like yours (I like mine), but it isn’t you.

During a religious studies course from years ago, I remember my professor mentioned how Plato felt about just existing in a body (and if I’m wrong, blame either my memory or Mr. Thompson – I know, another “Thompson”). Apparently, he likened it to a cage. A cage you, the mind, were just occupying until it died. A cage that could and would occasionally break down. And that got me thinking: “Yeah, you can’t be your body, either. If you break your arm, for example, it’s not like you lose part of you. Even if you’re an athlete and that means you can’t play your sport anymore, you aren’t any different, just your capability.”

That’s where Identity enters the mix. “Who am I?” Not “what,” or “how,” or any other of the five question types. “Who” in a way that isn’t answered with your name, or your job, or your sex, or your relationship to family members. Your personality. Who. Are. You?

Maybe if playing football is part of your identity, or you’re the “tennis guy”, and you suddenly sustain an injury that keeps you from doing that, then yeah, you lose that part of yourself. (For example, I used to do parkour but after a few injuries and “life thangs” eventually stopped. And it was weird, because to a fair number of people, I was “the parkour guy” or the “dude that can flip,” and when that was gone, there was an adjustment period, I won’t lie.) So, you lose that part of yourself, kind of…

But…do you really?

No.

Like, yes. But no.

See what I mean?

Anyway, the closest thing I’ve come to that’s an acceptable “answer” (in quotes because, ah, well you get it by now), are best illustrated by the two following sources:

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
I mean, spoilers if you have any interest in the game and haven’t ever played it, but that’s about all the warning I’m gonna give for an eight year old video game in an overdone seri- anyway!
At the end of the game, Number 16 (I think was his ID) has this big heart-to-heart with Desmond, and, with arms outstretched and his face to the sky, he drops the line, “What are we but memories? Huh!? The stories we tell ourselves!”
Think on that shit…

Set it? Cool.
If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might remember the short I put up with the same name. And I always liked it, and it’s stuck with me, because there’s something about it that resonates. It checks a lot of boxes. “You are not your job.” Check. “You are not your bank account.” Check. “You are not your name.” Check.
We’re just…that. We are our life’s story. What’s the one thing you leave behind after you die? Your legacy. Your memory. People’s memory of what you did or how you impacted them or others. You are the things you do, the places you go, the stories you tell, the people you take care of, the hand you hold out to help, etc etc.

Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time Yeah, I get it, less of a catchy title. We could always call it, “Some Philosopher’s Playlist I Listened To That One Time: Reloaded” or something, but anyway…
In it, and I think I’m going to butcher the quote since I’m just spit-ballin’ here, some unnamed older gentleman says something like the following:

We all go through up’s and down’s. And once, when I was on one of those down’s, I kept having a thought. It was the same, persistent thought. ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ And when I realized that I had that thought before, something occurred to me. I am not the thought. This thought is not me. And I wondered, how many thoughts, and how many people everywhere each day, have thoughts like this, thoughts that are not them? And it occurred to me… I am not the thought, I am the awareness.”

Okay, if I had you take a moment to let the first one sink in… Absorb that. “I am not the thought, I am the awareness.” Speaking of parkour (from earlier), one of my coaches, Brett, made a deceptively insightful comment one day that I overheard: “You know, you can’t control your mood, but you can control your attitude.”
Now, marry the two thoughts. You’re not the thought, you are the awareness. You are the consciousness, the phenomenal, inchoate, ethereal experience behind your eyes, behind your thoughts. Your thoughts aren’t you, they occur to you. Your mood/emotions aren’t you, they influence you – you, the one behind them.

So, I don’t know, in conclusion…take the above and just…mill on it. Like Izzy from Gray’s Anatomy once said: “My mom always said, ‘Trust the man who claims to seek the truth, but doubt the man who claims to have found it.’”
And I need to maintain my credibility ’round here.

Anyway, thanks for brain-wrestling with me.

Catch you Thursday.

Ciao.

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.