Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Lessons from Super Mario World

Tonight, while playing/watching others play Super Mario World on Supernintendo last night with Walter, Alecia, Leslie, Chris and Jeanne, we realized that there are quite a number of valuable life lessons to be gleaned while braving the tricky, tempestuous, two dimensional world that is Super Mario.

Lesson # 1 - Embrace the mantra of "Duck and Run!" Sometimes, the best thing to do is just duck and run, and leave those silly, basically worthless gold coins behind so you can avoid the flaming flowers of death or pesky ninja turtles. Leslie claims this theory enabled her to survive and hold her own as the youngest child, as she elbowed her way past older brothers who made fun of her for not being able to keep up while playing Mario.

Lesson # 2- Kind of goes a long with Lesson #1: "Don't get greedy." When you chase after falling stars when you should really just cut and run and finish off the level, sometimes such rash, greedy behavior makes you fall right into a boiling pit of lava. Pick your battles, child. It ain't worth it.

Lesson # 3- For Mario 1, "You are nothing without Flower Power." Without Flower Power, you're just a miniature bug waiting to be squashed. Flower Power is key. You can shoot everything that moves. 'Nuff said.

Lesson # 4- "Watch out for the teeth. And killer fish." They're tricksy and they'll get ya every time. Literally.

Lesson # 5- "Sometimes your best friend will ditch you, leaving you to fend for yourself. And make you go into the creepy ghost house all by yourself." Man, when Yoshi's around, everything's great! You can hop around higher, have him eat every enemy in sight and you can generally rock at the game. He is, however, as fickle a friend as they come and will turn tail and run as soon as you fall off. It might be a friendship of convenience, but hey, sometimes it happens. People (as well as the race of Yoshi) are flawed. Disappointment will come. You'll just have to learn to deal.

Lesson # 6- "Patience. A solution will present itself." When you are navigating through the scary, never ending tower of ever-changing walls and it seems like there's no way up or out, a solution will come. Everything you need you have. Just be patient.

I think that's it. Even if it's not, my brain is way too overloaded from the juxtaposition of C.S. Lewis and SuperNintendo to think anymore...

Good night, friends:)

Friday, August 22, 2008

on Facebook, Art and the "law of delicacy"

The phenomenon of Facebook notes intrigues me. And allow me to perpetuate the vicious circle by sharing my views vis a vis a blog entry.

I guess the reason for this recent fascination was brought to my attention for a couple of reasons:

1) I believe one of the benefits of Facebook notes is this window it gives into the mind, psyche, opinions, etc. of our friends that we typically wouldn’t glimpse in such an instant, streamlined manner. Many times, I’ve been inspired, challenged, spurred on, entertained, or helped on to internalize some truth or consider an opposing perspective as a result of reading the often brilliant and sometimes random musings and creations of my fellow facebookers and bloggers.

2) My friend Jeanne recently brought to my attention Kierkegaard’s “law of delicacy” in regard to artistic expression, in which “an author has a right to use what he himself has experienced, is that he is never able to utter verity but is to keep verity for himself and only let it be refracted in various ways." More on this in a bit…

In regard to Facebook, I suppose it is here that the thin line is drawn, between being an open forum of opinion for social commentary, political debate, pop culture love fests or simple informational exchange on one hand, and on the other, being a platform for artistic expression.

I believe the hodgepodge nature of Facebook notes causes a thin line to be drawn between art and life. The beauty of facebook notes for poets and writers out there is that there is an immediate audience and immediate feedback. The downside, however, is that when poetry and creative writing intermingle with social commentary and personal opinions in Facebook notes, a type of illusion is created: that the poem or short story is, down to every last iota and brush stroke, an exact transposition of the artist’s personal truth.

I love this idea of the “law of delicacy” because it frees the artist to avoid being bound to whatever actual reality in which the art is based. Under the law of delicacy, the aspiring artist takes a step beyond mere “personal expression” into the actual realm of ART.

As a dabbling songwriter and writer, I find that it is often multiple emotional, inspirational threads in my life that coalesce to form the Vision. It is not any one incident or relationship or person that “inspires.” It’s countless impressions, perceptions and experiences that every once in awhile beautifully collide, giving us eyes to see the Vision, and the tangible means to free that Vision into pen and paper or lyric and melody via the tools of hyperbole or metaphor or meter or structure or narrative, much like Michelangelo sitting for days upon days in front of a plain slab of marble before he finally “saw” the angel within that must simply be freed and chiseled out.

And because of its inherent complexity, the source of inspiration may be analyzed and conjectured, but never quantified or settled upon.

After watching Finding Neverland (one of my favorite movies) the other night, this was made even more obvious to me. Whether or not the scenes portrayed in the film are based on actual experiences that J.M. Barrie had, it is interesting to see the translation of stark, tragic but poignant reality into the whimsical and imaginative world of Peter Pan.

It became glaringly obvious to me, that there IS an imaginative leap that occurs. Though we may never precisely know the "verity" of Barrie's emotional and psychological landscape, he nevertheless allowed that landscape to be refracted through the beautiful, timeless lens of Neverland.

And it is this “law of delicacy” that helps the artist walk the thin line between self-indulgent honesty and false contrivances, making that imaginative leap from inspiration into art.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the Abyss

I am tumbling.

Down, down, down.
The sensation is pleasant at first.
The feeling of weightlessness seems euphoric.
Then, suddenly, Terror grips me
I feel my windpipe constrict
Reeling and flailing
I kick and struggle and resist
but to no avail.
Jagged rock and clods of dirt grasp and cling
Bite and scratch unrelentingly
I feel my bones crack and wail
I taste warm blood upon my lips
And I cry out
But produce no sound strong enough
to carry toward the light that has long since receded above
The pit in my stomach yawns in enormous dread
Like a giant chasm


And so I,
I succumb
to Gravity.


I wake. At least, I think I do.
Unconsciousness slips away, then returns
like a lingering wave upon the sand.

It's so hard to tell.

I know something's broken.
My jaw? My ribs? My arm?
But the panic has seared all pain
And coalesced into a numbness
My eyes strain, willing to see some form or shadow.
But, perceiving nothing,
I quickly lose heart.

The same old Terror seizes me.

I stumble, hands outstretched
Scrambling, clamoring for the edge, a wall, a stone
Where are my bearings?
What are bearings?
There is no north or south, nor east, nor west
Words lose their meaning down here.

The falling has warped all sense of space and time
I blink.
The fluttering of my own eyelids is the only sensation and signal I can perceive
There is no light down here.

Day 14.
I have memorized the walls.
Some of them, anyway.
They stretch before me, these alien cavernous canyons
Taunting me, evading me.
I struggle to climb and grip the sides
But I know better by now.
I have fallen too many times to count.
Convex, concave
The sheer height and angles prevents me from what I desire.

Day 21.
My eyes have not adjusted.
In fact, they're probably useless by now
but I have learned not to need them.
The walls that I have loathed
Have become familiar.
I know their grooves, their nuances.
I dare to explore
Creeping along, sometimes sprinting ahead
around corners and nooks and quarries.
I am in uncharted territory, but it matters not.
By now,
I can anticipate their turnings, their leanings.

Day 39.
The loathing has passed.
It is Loneliness, and not Terror that grasps for my attention
But I pay her no heed.

I recall days up Above
The smell of new shoes
and of filet mignon
The soft murmur of in low-lit rooms
The thrill of new conversation
and uncovering the mystery of Another
Navigating through
Insecurities and quirks
Phobias and defense mechanisms
and being bound by memories
by obligation
by preconception
and self-consciousness.

And I recall
the pain of learning to unveil myself
in the presence of Another
unlearning Fear.

I fight exhaustion
drift to sleep...

I am stunned to wake and realize one morning--
if it can be called that down here--

That this Abyss
has always been part of my world.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

split second view


as when the clouds roll back,
revealing for an instant
a mountain's snow-capped splendor
and majestic charm
in momentary clarity

'til a mere twist and tilt of the earth
by mist and meteorological certainty
by the whim of a delicate wind
it is shrouded again


yet burned
upon memory
and longing

these days
the glint of the horizon
gleams sharper, purer
and catches the pink-tipped sunrise
with ease
and casual resolve

an imperceptible smile
plays upon its lips


Friday, August 15, 2008

My Summer of Movies

I just went back and tried to think of every single movie I've seen in the theater since May. It's certainly been a crazy summer for movies.

Prince Caspian (2x)
Indiana Jones 4 (2x)
Iron Man
Sex and the City
Kung Fu Panda
The Happening
Get Smart
The Dark Knight (1 in IMAX, 1 in regular)
The X-Files Movie
Pineapple Express
The Incredible Hulk

This seriously has to be my own personal record for movies seen in one summer.

And I haven't even seen Wall-E yet!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Way Down in Po-Dunk Town

So in preparation for my upcoming Perseids meteor shower watching party (keeping my fingers crossed for clear skies...), I was hunting for a fire pit or fire bowl to purchase or borrow for the evening. I mean, what's a night under the stars without a fire and some s'mores, right?

I initially contacted my friend Rick from church. I vaguely remember that he and his wife had some kind of brazier/fire bowl on their back porch, but could not recall exactly how portable it was. I emailed him, asking him if it would be possible to borrow. He kindly informed me that their fire bowl weighs a good 300 lbs, so unless I enlisted the help of a small construction crew and a light crane, I probably would not be able to use that one.

Slightly bummed at that closed door, and even more disconcerted that my observational powers/memory had failed to recall that their fire bowl was even that large, I turned to Google.
After a bit of Googling, I realized that a standard fire bowl purchased through a store like Outdoor World easily costs $99. The cheapest one I found through an online store was $69 and would have to pay for shipping. No Sirree.

As a last resort, I decided to delve into the sketchy world of craigslist. I have only purchased used books through craigslist before, and this was through someone who works at my office, so it wasn't totally unknown.

Much to my delight, I found a used fire bowl, slightly charred but decent enough looking for $15. I saw the charring and a bit of dirt inside, but I realized that such blemishes were acceptable since I would be building a fire in it, not serving punch. I contacted the seller, saying I was interested in buying, and she immediately proceeded to give me directions. She said the place was located in "Bithlo."

I had never heard of Bithlo, but I immediately scrambled for pen and paper and tried to jot down the directions as she gave them to me. In the back of my mind, I was slightly curious why she didn't simply give me an address so I could mapquest the directions myself.

Then she said "Make a left on Sixth Street and go past Belvedere and we're the second trailer on the right."

Oh. That's why she didn't just give me an address. Sketch.

However, I was overjoyed with this little bargain, that I decided that a little foray into the sketchy side of town would be worth it. So I told the nice lady on the phone that I would come pick it up Saturday. She said, "Great, we're having a yard sale on Saturday anyway, so there will be people coming through." Wonderful.

Last night, I was relaying this story to Courtney and Oscar, the full weight of the sketchiness overtook me and I realized it would probably be wise to bring someone along on this little adventure. Oscar informed me that Bithlo was basically four junkyards and a bunch of trailer parks and he kindly offered to accompany me (especially after I mentioned the yard sale) to be my protector should something go awry in Sketchy City, so we planned on an early morning.

The next morning, we were driving east on Colonial, I began to feel like I was less in Orlando and more in the bayou. We followed the directions and ended up at the trailer. The yard was covered (littered?) with exercising equipment, rocking horses, appliances, toys, knickknacks, paddywhacks, and all manner of odds and ends. It really looked more like they had this stuff randomly strewn across their lawn and just decided to post a sign (white letters painted on plywood).


Also, there wasn't anybody out and about, only one guy who kept coming in and out of the front door. I told him I was there to pick up the fire bowl. I really wasn't sure how big it was, or if it would even fit in my trunk, but it was the perfect size and it fit right in my trunk. Oscar said I could light the fire in my trunk if I wanted to. I told him that was a good idea, but I'll pass;)

Anyway, sucker for yard sales that he is, Oscar wondered if we could stop by another yard sale that we had seen coming in, so I thought, sure why not. So we did. I didn't think there would be a whole lot there, because I mostly saw little kid's clothes and My Little Pony and Polly Pocket ware.

They did have a litter of 8 week old puppies that they were giving away for free. They were so cute... I definitely would have taken one, but Miriam would probably kick me out of the house. I did play with them for a good 10 minutes though.

I ended up finding and buying a breadmaker for $7. So hopefully I will use it. hehe;)

In the end, my foray into Sketchy City/Po-Dunk Town a.k.a. Bithlo turned out to be quite enjoyable.

Now I just hope the rain holds up and the skies are clear to make this whole adventure worthwhile;)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dex and Icey: mimetic rivalry?

Preface: Again this is one of those blogs, where if you haven't seen Season 1 of Dexter, you really shouldn't read this anyway. I mean you should... but only AFTER you watch Season 1.

Seriously, go away. Go watch it right now. And then you can earn the right to read this blog.

I mean, I really tried to word this so I wouldn't give anything away, but you never know...

Okay, here goes...

Last week, I finished reading Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. This is Book One from the book series upon which the television show was based. The book was well-written, but I much prefer the television show. I felt like the television show had more leeway to breathe and develop interesting character arcs. It really capitalized on the emotional and dramatic potential of the book. The show goes places the book doesn't.

Thanks to Jonathan's blog entry on The Dark Knight and Rene Girard's theory of mimetic rivalry as well as Jeanne's astute observations during TDK, I realized that this could possibly be yet another example of mimetic rivalry woven all throughout Dexter, although perhaps on a microcosmic and not a macrocosmic scale, the way it seems to be in Dark Knight.

"Mimesis" means, quite simply, "imitation." Girard's theory is that rivalry develops when we mimic or imitate other people's desires. Like Jonathan summarized, "This naturally creates ever-building conflicts (which he calls scandals), and these scandals mount and mount until a moment when there is so much intrasocietal tension that people come to the verge of the "war of all-against-all", since the only logical conclusion of "mimetic rivalry" is murder."

Dexter is fascinated by the work of the mysterious Ice Truck Killer (whom I've affectionately dubbed "Icey"… Yes, I've affectionately dubbed a serial killer. Pray for my soul). Dexter admires Icey and is enthralled by the possibility of someone just like him out there, an elegant, more refined, "playful" and daring version of overly-cautious self. In a sense, Icey also is fascinated by Dexter. I found it interesting that in the book, Icey is described as actually looking exactly like Dexter. There's definitely a theme of dualistic rivalry throughout, although not quite of the epic proportions in TDK. Both Icey and Dex desire the same "object," which is to find validation for their twisted nature. The desire to be "free" to embrace their true selves.

I don't think the rest of Girard's theory perfectly meshes with Dexter, but it certainly is interesting to think of how their mirrored desires makes them enemies in the end, rather than allies. They are the same, whereas one has a code and the other one doesn't. Like the Joker, Icey sees Dexter as bound by the rules of society. In the jail scene, Joker tells Batman that he doesn't need to live by the code or the rules he's made for himself and that he shouldn't have rules. Joker also tells Batman that they are alike and that Batman is not like the cops and shouldn't talk like them. In a way, Joker and Batman have more in common that Bman would like to admit. But the thing that separates them is the code.

Same as in Dexter.

Anyway, reading the book made me want to rewatch the last couple episodes of Season 1 and I found myself having way more sympathy for Icey this time around. I think the first time I watched it, I was so disturbed and disconcerted by his kidnapping of Deb (which, granted, is call to be disturbed and disconcerted) but I feel like I kind of missed the other narrative thread running through the story...

...Which was this idea that Icey and Dex found both identity and isolation in their roles as serial killers. Icey was only being "playful" with Dex in the way he was kind of "courting" him throughout Season 1. But it was the only kind of playful that can possibly exist for a 4 year old boy, traumatized by seeing someone slaughtered before his eyes and carrying the bloodbath around with him for the rest of his life.

I think it was interesting because as twisted and distorted as this might seem from our perspective, Icey's desire to be validated by Dex (and vice versa) is really not any different than the fundamental human desire: which is to be seen and known as we truly are and not rejected. And more than that... to embrace who we really are in light of that acceptance.

Some might call experiencing that sort of relationship "love" although I don't know if love as we understand it necessarily translates into serial killer lingo.

But in the end, that's all that Icey wanted. That's all Dex wanted.

So yeah... definitely felt more sympathy for Icey this time around. Weird.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scrabulous: say farewell to an era

So last week, I was dismayed to discover that Scrabulous had been disabled on facebook until further notice. When I logged in to Scrabulous, I was greeted by this little harbinger of depression:

Granted, I haven't been obsessively playing this game as much as I had in the past, but there was certainly a time where I had 10 games going at once with different people. I had a list of about 20 bingos I had gotten since joining November 2007. I was proud of my 40-8 record, dang it.

The Scrabble-beta application--backed legitimately by Hasbro--is cutesy and takes some getting used to. Not that I want to get used to it anyway. And even though I added application, I'm probably not going to use it.

My friend Matt termed this not-so-smart business move by Hasbro as "lame." According to Matt, this term is broken down in the following manner:

Lame: "Someone makes a better product and instead of paying them for it, you issue an injunction and then make everyone use your crappy version of it." And you inevitably frustrate Scrabulous' 500,000 loyal, daily users .

And I reiterate: it's true I haven't been using Scrabulous so much nowadays. But there are things I will miss about this online Scrabble experience, which could continue with Scrabble-beta, but will never retain the former glory that is and was Scrabulous:
  • whining with Becca about how the Scrabble fates continually insist on doling out to us either all consonants or all vowels
  • threatening use AEON on Becca for the umpteenth time
  • feeling like I'm playing with Carrie Bradshaw and Jimmy Fallon when I play Carrie B and Jimmy F
  • teaming up with Carrie to defeat Jimmy
  • defeating Jeanne my Nemesis, even though she knows many more obscure 3 letter words than I do
  • yes, even never ever beating Ellie. Not once. Guess they make them smarter in Australia...?
  • seeing this little bit of happiness during my work break:

Yes, I am saying farewell to the golden era of Scrabulous.

But look at the bright side, Corporate America. By giving Scrabulous the axe, Hasbro singlehandedly boosted your workers' productivity in one fell swoop.