Saturday, October 10, 2009

Step by Step [UPDATED]

A small lurch forward.

1728 / 50000 words. 3% done!

UPDATE: 7% is way better than 3%:

3691 / 50000 words. 7% done!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Novella of 50,000 Words...

Begins with the first thousand.

1056 / 50000 words. 2% done!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where I've Been

Lots of red on these maps.

visited 45 states (90%)

visited 13 states (5.77%)

The world map will have more red on it by the end of the year.

Interesting thing about the 50 states map: you can tell that my family liked to take road trips for vacations when I was young. I've somehow missed Mississippi and Alabama, and despite living in Washington never saw Montana.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excerpt from Planets by Kate Rusby

On nights like these
I could fly up to the sky above me.
Like Superman
I would change the course of earth below me.

Through the world I am wandering, wandering,
A soft breeze blowing, I am wandering now.
Through this world I am wandering, wandering.
These are the days I live now.

I can see
The planets are aligning for me.
And I dare not breathe for then
The clouds will come and then deny me.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Game That Matters

One of the members of the Alliterates pointed me towards this great editorial on The Escapist: How A Board Game Can Make You Cry. It's a really great look at what Brenda Brathwaite has been doing recently in terms of designing games that make you think - starting with a game about the Middle Passage she made to illustrate how horrific the slave trade was, so that her ten-year-old daughter could make an emotional (and logical) connection to the facts taught in her school.

The article then cites a game called Train:

    The object of Train is to get a collection of people from Point A to Point B by placing them in a boxcar and sending them on their merry way. Played among a group of three people, players draw cards from a pile that can impede other players or free them from existing obstacles. The first player to reach the end of the line wins.

    The destination? Auschwitz.

    The "game" didn't stop there, however. The game board ... is an allusion to Kristallnacht - Brathwaite explained that she needed to break a fresh piece of glass each time she "installed" her work in a new location to properly evoke the violence of the experience. She even typed the game's instructions on an actual SS typewriter, which she purchased solely for that purpose.
Nazis have featured prominently in games for a long time, typically as the enemy, whether it was Wolfenstein's chaingun-wielding Hitler or the recent flood of World War II shooters on the market. Nazis are kind of like zombies in that they've become sort of an abstract enemy, relentlessly evil and fodder for headshots.

Very few, if any, games featuring Nazis ever touch on the Holocaust, and if they do it's usually some muscle-bound mook with guns liberating a death camp where you don't actually see the victims.

What makes Train - and, I would argue, any game whose mechanics make the audience think (Braid, I'm looking at you) - so interesting is that the connection it creates to its subject matter is both rawly emotional and rationally engaging. In the example about the African slave trade, a game mechanic involves the players arranging groups of slaves by tribe and family, and then picking up slaves by the fistful, so that the full impact of separation is both observed and felt. All that hard work - to work of building a life and a family - is laid to waste, and then the true 'game' begins.

There is an argument about whether games can be art. Things like Train and designers like Brenda Brathwaite prove beyond a doubt they can.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Curtains Up

Performances of the Subversive Puppet Show will resume shortly, albeit at a reduced schedule. Thank you for bearing with the Management during these past few months.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sonnet 138

I realize this is just something I could share in RSS, but it's so beautiful I can't not post it here. Dave McKean imagines Shakepspeare's Sonnet 138 as an animated film.

    WHEN my love swears that she is made of truth
    I do believe her, though I know she lies,
    That she might think me some untutor’d youth,
    Unlearned in the world’s false subtleties.
    Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
    Although she knows my days are past the best,
    Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
    On both sides thus is simple truth supprest.
    But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
    And wherefore say not I that I am old?
    O! love’s best habit is in seeming trust,
    And age in love loves not to have years told:
    Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
    And in our faults by lies we flatter’d be.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

25 Things Meme

This is not a return to blogging, just reposting the Facebook meme here.

25 Things You May Not Know About Me

1. I like listening to Country music. Commercial country, old country, whatever. The cheesier the better. Hank Williams, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Loretta Lynn, Brooks & Dunn, Carrie Underwood, Charlie Daniels – all on my iPod right now.

2. I am an Eagle Scout, and it is the one thing I have on my resume / CV from before college. It is also the oldest thing I have on my CV that isn’t my name, as I first put it on there when applying for a job in high school.

3. Although a flaming liberal in almost all of my opinions (by American standards, anyway) I believe strongly in the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms. Part of this comes from the belief that if there is a populist, communist or anarchist revolution, we stand a much better chance of success if we’re armed with fully automatic weapons.

4.I have suffered from (and been treated for) depression on and off for my adult life. In the last six months, I’m doing better than I have been since I was in my late teens. The prior six months were probably the worst in my life in this regard. If you’re depressed, seek counselling. It will help. I promise.

5. I thought Grand Theft Auto 4 was an unfun piece of shit. I thought Grand Theft Auto 3 was an unfun piece of shit. On the other hand, I thought Vice City and San Andreas were awesome. Go figure.

6. I called the last of the Final Five Cylons a year ago. I also used to infer from clues what mythical creatures or pulpy homages Mulder and Scully were facing on the X-Files before they were revealed. Often during the opening teaser.

7. I’ve been bungee jumping, and it was the closest thing I’ve had to a religious experience.

8. Speaking of, I envy people who have strong religious convictions as I have none whatsoever. It’s not that I disbelieve in a higher power (an atheist I am not), but I have seen no compelling argument for belief in one either – even though sometimes I desperately want to. One of my friends is a very devout Jew and many of my family members are devout Christians, and I look at their experiences and faith and wish I could believe something so strongly as well.

9. I enjoy playing through old classic adventure games from my youth. I play through Hero’s Quest and King’s Quest 6 at least once a year.

10. I was terrible with math in school. Algebra II was my worst subject (and as far as I made it down the Great Highway o’ Math), and was my only D in high school. The one exception to this was the semester in Geometry that focused entirely on proofs and theorems; during that time, I scored higher than 100% with all the extra credit. To this day I’m not sure why I was much better with Geometry.

11. I cannot abide working with people who I feel have nothing to offer me, especially when they are in positions of authority. I want to work with people from whom I can learn, or with whom I can be creative. When someone is neither, they’re wasting my time.

12. There was a point in my life when I watched Jerry Springer daily.

13. I own a full-on (and about 90% authentic, in terms of the materials and clothing patterns) pirate costume for cosplaying, but have never used it for cosplay – yet.

14. I have purchased more pairs of shoes for myself in the last year than I have in the previous seven.

15. My favourite superhero is either Captain America or Hellboy, and I like them both for many of the same reasons.

16. As a kid, I had strep throat a lot. I’m not sure how many times but if I had to hazard a guess it was thirty or so. I have never had it since I was about 13, despite having been exposed to it several times. I secretly believe this is because I am now immune to every strain of strep on the planet.

17. I have a recurring nightmare where my friends or family are in trouble, typically from some massive threat (zombies, war, etc.) and I’m trying to tell them to run or prepare and they ignore me until it’s too late. Yes, I’ve told my shrink about this nightmare.

18. My ideal video game is a sandbox-style Jurassic Park game, where you could play as a variety of dinosaurs as well as a human. Why someone hasn’t made this yet I don’t know. Dinosaurs! Guns! Vehicles! Missions! Come ON, people!!

19. I am an optimist, almost to a fault. My optimism has only increased since moving to London and seeing some of the incredibly nice things people have done for total strangers in such a large city.

20. The very first ‘adult’ (i.e., not intended for a younger audience) novel I read was either The Lord of the Rings or The Hunt For Red October – I cannot remember which, and I read them right around the same time.

21. I love watching horror movies but cannot watch them alone as I get genuinely terrified.

22. Although I’ve never made a secret about this, I don’t actively talk about it either. So a lot of people don’t know that I interned for Michael Moore on the second season of his TV show “The Awful Truth.”

23. Which is because it was my dream to become a filmmaker. I made my first movie when I was about 8 or so. I made movies throughout high school. Now, I’m in PR and occasionally I do PR for other people’s movies. Sigh.

24. Similar to #1, I also enjoy hardcore gangster rap, but only when it’s political in nature. I think Eminem’s political rhymes are some of the best rap of the past 10 years.

25. I enjoy memes like this and I was secretly hoping someone would send it to me so I could do it. In fact, I was probably going to do it anyway just for the hell of it.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Curtains Down

This is going to be the last post on the Puppet Show for a while. Possibly quite a while. Here's why.

I have several things I'm trying to do with my life: sort some things out, get healthy, get into writing again. In fact, these have been goals of mine for some time now, and I have felt like I'm under pressure to do all of them and haven't been able to fully devote time to any of them - and the result is that I feel as though I've come up short of my goals. If I had spent one year concentrating 100% on getting healthy, than another year concentrating 100% on writing, I'd have another novel and I'd be a lot healthier.

So that is my new personal experiment, and if I have to prioritize things in my life my health is most definitely the most important thing for me. So the Show will be going on hiatus for a while while I concentrate more fully on my health. Eating well, and getting in shape.

I've registered for a 10k run in July. That's my short-term goal: to be healthy and fit enough to participate and finish. And I've got a ways to go.

I will still maintain my other blog, A Yankee In London, with tales of my life in L-town. But the Show will be down for at least six months. I am also going to mothball my current writing projects so I don't feel so pressured to complete dozens of things and end up completing none.

I've worked on this blog almost continuously for more than five years, and I will be back someday. But other things in life need to take precedence right now, otherwise I'll be in the exact same place in two years with the same general regrets and the same problems.

See you all on the flip side. Thanks for being my loyal Puppeteers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thought of the Day

One of the most humbling moments of your life is when you realize there are books you will never read, games you will never play or finish, places you will never see, trails you will never hike, mountains you will never climb, stories you will never write. Planets you will never visit and conversations you will never have.

Accepting and even enjoying this seems to be a necessary phase of what the experts call 'growing up.'

Me? It just causes the landscape of my particular life to come into sharper focus, to enjoy the relationships and experiences already gone and those to come.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Peace In Our Time

It is hard to avoid the steady flow of information about and from Israel and Palestine about the Gaza War, or the War on Gaza if you prefer. And I've tried. People bring it up in conversation, and my Twitter stream is practically humming with news, statistics, death tolls, opinions. Wasn't the web supposed to be an opt-in experience? Is there a browser plugin to simply block it all out?

Before you accuse me of burying my head in the sand, please understand: I have friends and family members all over the spectrum of this issue. Pro-Palestinian people who view Israel's very existence as the latest affront (or certainly the worst) in a long string of European imperialism in the Middle East. People who believe Israel should exist because the Jews are God's chosen people, and more importantly it must exist for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to occur, and therefore support anything Israel does. Jewish people who are not violent or supportive of wars, but who see the very real need for Israel to defend itself against threats and terrorism. Other Jewish people who believe the Palestinians should be expelled once and for all to make Israel safe. And even other Jewish people who think that Israel's actions are wrong in this instance. And a whole host of people who don't know what to think.

I don't pretend to be an expert on Middle Eastern affairs, and I see validity in many of the positions above. There are many forces at work: the remaining fallout from imperialism both in Palestine and other parts of the Middle East; religious hatreds that are far beyond my understanding (on both sides); the history of the Jews' oppression by other powers; the Holocaust; Western and specifically American guilt and sympathy (again, on both sides); some fundamentalist Christians' exploitive support of Israel; people still living in refugee camps sixty-some years after they were forcibly removed from their homes by a UN mandate; the list goes on.

There is an incredibly compelling argument for Israel to defend itself against Hamas, and Hamas no doubt timed these recent attacks at a point when America's leadership is changing. But Hamas is not a government; it is a terrorist organization, or (perhaps a more appropriate analogy) - an organized crime syndicate. The reason Hamas receives so much support is that, like a mafia family, it does favors for people - it supports the building of schools, hospitals and infrastructure. It offers protection for people. And when people whose lives have been helped by Hamas are then in trouble or called upon to act, especially when they tend to view Israel as the cause of their troubles, it is not really a mystery why they are supported and loved among those who are or see themselves as oppressed.

So while Israel is well within her right to wage war on Hamas and defend herself, the question is what will this all do long-term. I challenged myself the other day to name one instance when a military power fighting a terrorist organization has actually succeeded in wiping it out. I drew a blank. I could list all the counter-examples, but is that really necessary? No. But I thought of something else that's interesting and worth mentioning here.

The UK fought its own long, protracted and extremely costly (in terms of money and lives) war against a much-loved and highly political terrorist organization who fought for the freedom of an area occupied by another power. The Irish Republican Army, in one form or another, carried on this fight for almost 100 years. You are reminded of this every time you look for a trash can on the Tube; they don't exist because they used to make such a nice place to deposit bombs. And yet, in 1997 after the Belfast Agreement, the terrorists stopped the killing - and they have laid down their arms, having won both political clout and a vote for Northern Ireland's independence (which did not pass - and they abided by that decision.)

It is not a perfect parallel of course, but the similarities are remarkable. And more importantly, while the UK government maintained that 'it did not negotiate with terrorists' in the public sphere, it was in fact engaged in negotiations with the IRA and various other Republican groups throughout the 1990s - negotiations that lead to the Belfast Agreement and the eventual end to terrorist activity by the Irish Republicans.

I could take a moral high ground and say that violence is wrong no matter what. I believe this. I could take the logical high ground and say that killing people - mothers, fathers, children, uncles, cousins - only creates hatred and resentment, the exact kinds of things that lead people to pick up guns, bombs and rocks and become terrorists. I also believe this, and I believe this is the exact reason why the war in Iraq was wrong (and justified for the wrong reasons.) I could harp on the historical example above, and say that the the only way to truly defeat terrorism is to listen to the reasons people are acting so horribly and give them a seat at the table and actually take action to address their concerns. I also believe this.

As the song says, nobody's right if everybody's wrong. Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King achieved great things through non-violent resistance. But the Middle East is neither Imperialist India or the American Civil Rights movement. The fact of the matter is, I could say a lot of things, and I have - but I don't know what's right. I don't know what the solution is here.

All I know is that something isn't working. Nobody's right, because goddamn everyone seems to be wrong here.

Maybe it's time to sit down and talk all this out like civilized people. Or at least start there.