29 December 2011

Grey Falling

This time of year never ceases to strike me with a wicked sense of melancholy. The setting of the seasons brings another hue of grey to a constantly-darkening world, and the new year promises darker than the last.

When I was younger, life was easily explained in black and white. Good always won, evil always lost. I was content to let my parents talk softly in the kitchen, because they were adults and adults always become concerned over things that warrant no further contemplation. Bad things happened in the world, and I was content to let them remained unexplained.  People are always defined by what they say, they always act in absolutes, they're always logically consistent with themselves.

Of course, being younger, I couldn't express this coherently: I just knew. The world works in one way and in one way only. But that is no longer the case. This darkening sky grows deeper daily, weekly, yearly, and I, as an individual, am powerless to stop it.

People are no longer merely black and white. Sometimes evil men do things and get away with it. "Good" applies to no one, and sometimes evil men do good things, much to the dismay of my simpler self. Now I know what my parents softly discuss, and even worse, I know why. Bad things happen in the world, and there is no explanation. 

And every year, things get more complicated. With whom do I spend my time? Who are my confidants? How do I express myself? How will I spend the next 60 years of life? But even more importantly, how will I spend the next minute? The next hour of life?

Where will I go to college? What about dating? Do I support my spoken-for friends? Are their relationships more important than my friendship?

Am I willing to sacrifice for a cause greater than myself? How much is too much? Does that sacrifice even matter in the grand scheme of things? How much of a difference can one teenaged, angsty, sheltered, shy, reserved, and timid girl make in her lifetime?

"What if it was true, that all we thought was right, was wrong?"

I used to read many books with courageous, plucky heroines, hoping that their bravery and  fortitude would help me find mine. Increasingly, I find myself more like Peregrin Took, swept up in an adventure... quest... thing...

...With only my good intentions and bumbling nature to help me out. And try as I might, good intentions nearly always bring more trouble upon myself and others.

I realize this is not a terribly encouraging thought to end 2011 with. It suits, though. Overwhelmingly, 2011 has been the year of indecision.

07 December 2011

We are gathered together today to mourn the passing of an new acquaintance, Fall Quarter 2011. When this post goes live, I will have completed my last final, and consequently, last class until 2012. This morning, loaded up with little sleep, plenty of feel-good substances- in the form of peppermint hot chocolate and a magnesium supplement (squee!) - and a whole lot of shambling-zombieness, I stumbled onto campus to meet an entirely different beast.

Public transit and college campuses at night are very different from the day time. Compared to night rides, a day trip on the bus feels positively communal. And my campus? Well, let's just say it's the perfect setting for a slasher movie in the dark.

Ahem. So another one bites the dust. I'm officially starting Christmas break. Which means college applications, reference requests, a health class, and catching up with friends. Am I ready? Two words: BRING IT.

But maybe after I get some sleep.

05 December 2011

Living in Interesting Times

It may intrigue my readers to learn that, in fifteen minutes, I will be leaving for an appointment with an acupuncturist.

02 December 2011

Carpets of Rust

You may recall my post from a few weeks ago, Excruciating Apathy, and the sort of day where this apathy strikes the most. Yesterday was one of those days. I was walking around the college campus literally expecting to see a unicorn poke its pointy head out from around a corner.

In terms of scenery, yesterday was perfect. A thick fog heavily draped itself around everything outside, and once the sun had risen, shafts of liquid yellow hung suspended in it, waiting where the sun had left them lying between the trees. There were carpets of rust everywhere I looked, and bare branches defiantly challenged clear sky escaping from the fog. Here and there, a few hopeful trees clung on to their leaves, lifting arms filled with color high into the air. As the sun hit them, the leaves turned to flames, lighting the trees from within. The evergreens stood stolidly by, gaunt and stark but ever so graceful. When the fog burned off, it left a ghost of itself to waft through the crisp, cold, clear autumn air.

I love the Northwest.

29 November 2011


for now, at least. After 29 days of writing day and night (actually it was mostly day except for the time I wrote 10,000 words long hand on an airplane), I am now the proud owner of a 59,998 word monstrosity.

National Novel Editor's Month, here I come. Though, maybe after my finals.

17 November 2011


The moon shone down on the clearing in front of me, illuminating the guards on border duty. They paced up and down the boundary, bodies relaxed but eyes watching for the next enemy attack. My feet crushed the long, wet grass at the border's corner, releasing a sweet smell into the chill night air. I shivered as I surveyed my responsibility, wondering where my enemy would come from. As I crouched, leaning in towards the border, I hoped that she wouldn't come near me. The raid had been entirely unexpected, and I'd had no time to prepare for my duties.

An indistinct shape detached itself from the gloom across the clearing and slowly moved my way. I could hear it -- no, her -- breathing quietly as it crept ever closer to my border. Her furtive movements were betrayed by a rustle of clothes. I tensed, sinews tightening below my skin in an altogether pleasant manner, ready to spring into movement at the slightest provocation. Above all, I could not allow her to endanger our center of operations, the priceless item we had been charged to protect. 

The moon cast indistinct shadows across the wet ground, obscuring the terrain so that when my enemy finally darted towards the border,  I paused momentarily to ensure I wasn't running after a mere shadow. Our feet pounded moistly as I pursued her across the clearing, and my heart began beating a fanciful cadence at the sudden motion. Yard by yard, we grew closer to her objective, and I could hear the cries of my comrades as they fought their own enemies. I had no back-up, no support should she capture our prize.

My feet began slipping on the dewy leaves - there was not much time before I would lose control of my momentum. She was getting dangerously close to my responsibility, and I quickened my step, hoping to outrun the inevitable. There were ten yards, five yards, and I felt my feet sliding from under me. With one last burst of energy and speed, I threw myself into the air. The wind rushed past my face, whipping bits of my hair at my eyes with a vengeance. I could no longer see her, but just as I thought I had missed her in the dark, my hands made contact with her back. My entire body careened at hers, and we both crashed to the ground, sliding several more feet to stop at the foot of the flag.

It's the simple things in life that matter;
like tackling Gray during a night game of capture the flag.

15 November 2011

Whirling Dervish

This weekend was so jammed with awesome that I can barely think coherently as I try to type this post out. On Friday, I went to the Christian Musician's Summit, and had a Big Idea about hypocrisy and joy. On Saturday, I judged a noviceling debate tournament, and flew to California to chill with Milan and SirSarcasm. During the flight, I had a big idea about perspective and about weighting values. Then, on Sunday and through Monday, I found the words to express a Third Big Idea that has been in the works for a couple months now.

Normally, when I have a Big Idea, I will write a blog post about it. But as it is, I have far too much swirling through my head. Caffeine, sleeping aid (because I didn't actually go to bed until sometime this morning), three Big Ideas, and some worries about class. So I think I"ll just shamble off with my coffee and try not to fall asleep in class. However, expect some more Ideas to be up soon.

10 November 2011

"Just Friends" part 2

A quick caveat: this post contains some content slightly more mature than my usual fare. I know that I have younger followers, and I don't want to catch you unaware. You have been warned.

Last year, during my final year as a competitive speaker (and debater), I went out on a limb and asked Calvin to do a duo interpretation with me. If done well, duos are the most amazing thing ever. Two people act out a piece of literature without the aid of costumes, eye contact, or physical contact between the two.

Calvin is a pretty incredible person. He is funny, creative, musical, and I guess people would say that he's good looking. I don't really remember registering that because I don't buy into normal ideals concerning beauty/attractiveness. You could say he fits into the iconic "tall, dark, and handsome" category. Least you get too positive impression, he does have his faults: Coca-Cola may well be his Achilles' heel. I don't think I've ever seen him turn a bottle of it down, and have memories of him carrying a two-liter around with him at tournaments.

Overall, he's a pretty neat guy. As duo partners, we ended up spending quite a bit of time around each other - both at coop and sometimes on the weekends. I remember joking once that "you know your social life is messed up when you invite your duo partner over more than your close friends." Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed hanging with Calvin, and did indeed consider him a good friend, but the fact remains. I saw him more than pretty much any of my friends.

I never directly experienced this next detail of my introduction, but Wrath, Calvin's younger brother (also a friend of mine) would recount to me how multiple people had asked him (Wrath) if he(Calvin) and I were dating. Why? Because every week at school we'd cloister ourselves in a staircase to work on the speech. No more, no less. It is at this point that I should mention the gratuitous endearments in our piece: "Sweetie-lambkin," "Darling," "Angel" and "Precious" all make frequent appearances in the piece.

I found these reports, and the funny looks from girls (who felt who-knows-what about these disappearances) rather funny. While Calvin wasn't in a relationship at the time, the mere idea that two such people as ourselves would ever be "compatible" was laughable to the extreme.

But let me add on final element to this introduction, and it shall be complete. There is a long-standing tradition (or at the very, least, a firmly established predilection) that duo partners of the opposite sex and entirely unrelated to each other tend to: a. be seeing each other and/or b. will eventually get married.

And homeschooling mothers doing what they do best (A wedding?! When? Who? You don't say! How exciting!), both Calvin and I inevitably had to face certain ... pointed inqueries from parents in the league. To this day, I am left wondering what they thought of a match between a tall-dark-and-handsome guy and a short-blond-and-not girl...

My usual response was something along the lines of this: "Calvin? Oh no, we're just friends. I mean, come on, we'd kill each other within a week."

I hated having to say "we're just friends." But let me put any skewed interpretations to rest. I wasn't pining away in a corner, hoping that one day he'd look my way or whatever mindless drivel you think I meant by that statement.

We're just friends.

As if there is something dishonorable, diminishing about that fact. As if, the worth of relationship would suddenly increase if you add a little snogging to the mix. 

"Just Friends" implies a certain contempt for purely platonic, unadulterated (in the most literal way possible) friendship between chaps and chapesses. I mean, we already get a great level of brainwashing in regards to any young woman'sworth.

If you pay attention to the pressure of mainstream society, women (ie, teenagers and twenty-somethings because they're they only women that matter and count anyways) are only good if the fulfill these criteria: 

They're well-endowed (perhaps artificially), promiscuous creatures who go through boyfriends faster than I can tear a hole in my nylons. Their worth is found in seducing brutish men with animal like instincts (seriously,  men, you can take *a little* time on your personal appearance and not come off like a sissy). They finally conquer "the system" by living with a boyfriend who acts more like a boy than a grown man. They're not afraid to show off their bodies to the best possible advantage, by which I mean altering the appearance of their faces with heavy cosmetics, squeezing themselves into uncomfortably tight clothing and practically starving themselves all for the sake of a few passionate nights before they hit the mundanity of middle age.

If a girl like myself chooses she doesn't want to date around and enjoy this amazing utopia of youth, and instead wishes to enjoy honest friendships with quality young men, she is regulated to the dust bin of the "just friends." How demeaning is that?

Oh, you're not good enough for that guy? You're only friends with him. Must have left the push-up bra at home when you met him. Just not girlfriend material, I'm afraid. Too bad. We'll have to do better with the next one. Learn from our mistakes - always be prepared in case of an emergency.

How can friendship be despised like this? Why is a relationship, not based on sex, so -- well, threatening, in a way - that  people must belittle those who don't bring seduction into their equation?

Since when is a coarse twice-over a good substitute for a genuine smile?

Why is a random, five minute flirtation with a mildly good-looking stranger more valuable than a good hour spent with an ugly friend?

Why should a relationship be measured by the depth of a french-kiss than the depth of the conversation?

And since when do I, as a young woman, need to demean myself and my body to a group of lascivious, lecherous, lewd, and carnal punks in order to gain any sort of self-fulfillment?

The people in my generation must be incredibly prosaic if they feel they have no other basis for a relationship other than the biological fact that one is a boy and the other, a girl. Can we really find no other common ground, no starting spot for friendship, than biology?

Friendship is more than a mere placeholder until a more salacious relationship. I have major issues with the phrase "we're just friends," because, as an idealist, I strongly and firmly believe that a friendship is innately beautiful, in and of itself; that the worth of a relationship is measured in how much I can encourage and support my friends; and that the worth of a friend is found in their being, not their body.

09 November 2011

Ex Machina

Have I mentioned that I'm super excited about my NaNovel? Well, I'm pretty sure I've posted this excerpt on my blog before. However, I repurposed it for my book, and since I'm currently stuck on a point in my writing, I figured I'd take a break and re-post part of the prologue from my book. A brief caveat: if you have a problem with gore/disgusting stuff, stop reading now.


It was a room of broken glass. Two partially decayed cadavers in now grey lab coats were slumped by the door. One was twisted, hands grasping for purchase on the smooth wall. Decaying skin and tendons fell away from moldering bones. In some areas, the clothing was falling apart, and a light coat of dust had settled on it.
The cadaver’s companion was in no better condition. It sat slumped in a chair nest to a desk, a little way away from the door. A small hole in its skull was visible on the left temple, and the right ear and side of the face were obliterated. A spray of gore lay dried on the table and floor. A hand gun, dropped from the hand of the scientist, now rested on the ground. In the blood left from his suicide, a bullet mingled, half obscured by a fragment of bone. Beyond the dead scientists, pedestals three feet in diameter were arranged in a grid. Shards of glass were scattered across the floor, lying where they had fallen when they had broken. On some pedestals, remnants of glass tubes still stood, wires and drips dangling over puddles of crystallized fluid.
A few corpses or parts of corpses were held aloft by more firmly attached life support systems. They dangled like broken marionettes over a thick carpet of decaying bodies. Here or there an arm, still attached to the wires, rose from this putrid sea.

She saw it all, and wondered. A faint pulsing came to her attention. She moved over the glass, liquid, and contorted bodies toward the vibration. It came from a far side of the room.
In a corner, blue-green fluorescent lighting replaced the sterile white of the room. On last pedestal stood alone, away from the ordered chaos of the grid. Liquid still filled part of the unbroken tube, but did not reach the top. Another rotting corpse in a grey lab coat rested thigh deep in fluid, held upright by wires and medical tubes. The throbbing came from inside the pedestal, apparently powering the useless life support system.
She drifted closer. As she moved, the knowledge of her surroundings changed. She felt something. Experienced something in the way she hadn’t for a long time. She was startled. She hadn’t felt anything since she became what she was.
It was startled too. No, not an ‘it’. He. He was startled as well.

08 November 2011


I am writing this post on the bus in one of my many surplus journals. You might wonder why I have so many: I certain do. I usually blame it on a group of friends who give me them faster than I can use them up. This post will be transferred to the web sometime this evening, and if I'm feeling terribly obnoxious, I'll upload this prelude as well just to mess with you.


For the past few weeks, I have been conducting an informal survey of my friends and acquaintances concerning the recent death of Libya's Colonel Moammar Gaddafi. More specifically, I have been straw polling them on their opinions about the transitionary government's handling of Gaddafi's old government and supporters. For information, follow these links to the BBC.

The reason behind this line of questioning was two-fold. First, I needed to remind myself with whom it was safe to discuss politics (or entertaining, as an alternative), and to prepare for this post. If I didn't ask you and you feel terribly left out, just jump down to the comments and raise your voice - don't forget to leave your opinion. Do you see what I just did there? If you did, comment.

Here are the facts, as I understand them. Many officials within the late Colonel Gaddafi's government, including his son Mutassim and defense secretary Abu Bakr Younes died under murky circumstances, often connected with capture by the rebels. Gaddafi himself was seen, living, in a viral video taken just after his capture, but was reported deceased later that day. Since August, sites filled with the remains of mass murders against Gaddafi supporters have been found throughout the country. The provisional government currently has one of his ministers and his personal driver in custody, awaiting trial.

When conversing with these friends, I got a wide display of reactions. There were a few "They totally got what they paid for! It's freaking awesome that they're dead;" quite a lot of "that's really for the Libyans to decide;" a few "It wasn't ideal but they deserved it;" and one "should I know that name?"

Far and away the most interesting answer was from a new friend from school. This friend, who, in my notes was given the blog name River because it amused me at the time and he was important enough to this post to deserve a name, said something along the lines of this.

"It wasn't ideal, but then again, I"m not sure what else they could have done. It doesn't really set a good foundation for their government, especially if they want to claim to be a democracy."

I found this sentiment interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that he put into words something that I'd been unable to vocalize for a while.

I am going to totally ignore the fact that the Libyan militia is not disbanding for fear that politicians will disappoint yet again. While tangentially related to this topic, I'm not here to talk about keeping politicians honest. As an American, I am hardly one to talk.

The way the provisional Libyan government handled the transfer of power had bothered me ever since I learned of Gaddafi's demise. I'm going to make a logical leap here that you might not follow at first.

At the end of World War Two (observe how very carefully I avoid the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy) , the Allies ended up capturing a bunch of senior Nazi officials who needed to be held responsible for the atrocities that some of them helped commit. I say "some of them" because not all of them were responsible for the Final Solution and it's rather detrimental effects.

The Allies selected the US attorney General, and later Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson to draw a code governing the trial that would ensure all accused men really received justice, not revenge. How this man managed to draw a code that avoided both the trap of post facto law and stopped the Nazis from merely hiding behind "I followed orders and nothing more" is a really heroic story, but one for another time. My point in bringing this up is to point to an historical example where people were out for blood but still managed to do the right thing -- namely, extend justice to oppressors.

Do you see the link?

Now, especially considering my debate case from last year (self-determination ring a bell, anyone?), I will firmly uphold the Libyan provisional government's right to deal with law breakers under and through the law. However, what bothered me was a lack of trial for Gaddafi and his leaders. Yes, they may have deserved to die, but they also deserved to have charges formally brought against them and the opportunity to defend themselves from those charges.

Is it really such a good foundation for a democracy to rest upon the murdered (note: not executed) bones of the previous government? I would say that no, no it is not. I think my friend really got it, but I don't know what else they could have done. In this instance, I merely point an accusatory finger and offer no solution.

There was another aspect of these past few weeks that disturbed me greatly. It was the opinions of my peers regarding this particular subject. To quote one of the first people I asked and who shall go unnamed because I agree with Thumper: "Good riddance. He and they were all evil men and the earth is better off without them. They knew what they were doing, so I applaud the fighters for doing away with them. Sic Semper Tyrannus."

Friends, this statement should make you cringe inside. America has long held a light of sorts regarding the importance of criminal trials and the idea of "innocent until proven guilty." While in practice, we have been known to fall short, the fact remains that these are our ideals, and unlike Groucho Marx, we have no others. We should be sticking to the values we hold dear.

I was deeply, deeply disturbed to hear so many of my friends express themselves in support of a regime that does not even bother with a kangaroo court and simply skips to the bit about executions.

What does it say of Americans if we are so willing to abandon the ideals of justice and support mere, base revenge? And please don't give me the real politik answer and tell me that it's in America's best long term interests to prostitute her ideals for a little support in Northern Africa. We did nothing to stop this from happening.

While there is a valid argument to be made that United States forces and weaponry should not have been deployed in Libya in the first place, the fact remains that NATO was there. NATO was originally founded to protect Western Europe and its values, and last time I checked, these values included the right to a fair trial.

Why do we love stories about Robin Hood? He was a thief who stole from people. He was no mere thief, though, because he did the right thing. While he stole from wealthy people, he returned the money to the people who originally possessed it.

The people of Libya, especially Eastern Libya, rebelled because their government was not upholding justice. Gaddafi executed his political opponents en masse, and other basic freedoms were denied to the people. Be this as it may, the way the rebels dealt with the government, once overthrown, was no better than the previous administration. A democracy built upon that foundation cannot stand for long, nor will one whose citizens so openly approve of state-sponsored revenge.

There you have it: my rant for the week. I'd love to hear any and all feedback on this. 

04 November 2011

NaNo Update

I've decided to do something a little different with NaNo this year. Because Tuesdays and Thursdays are obscenely busy days for me - I have a spare hour in the middle of the day, which isn't enough for me to plink out 1,667 words in - I've decided to take an alternate track to writing SubRosa. By the way, I've decided to change the novel name. Why? Because SubRosa doesn't adequately foreshadow the problem. From now on, my NaNovel will be called Ex Machina, which, if you are one of the nonexistent lucky people to read it, will make considerably more sense.

Ahem. As I was saying, I'm taking an alternate track to writing Ex Machina. I plan on writing 2,381 words on every day but Tuesdays and Thursdays. And based on that solution, I am actually ahead of schedule. I have written (notice the number on the handy sidebar) 5593 words in two days of writing, while I only needed to have written 4,762. You can imagine the great sense of accomplishment I feel.

My chapters are turning out to be shorter than expected, with more telling and not enough showing, but I plan on coming back and elaborating on that once I have the story outlined in a draft.

03 November 2011

In Defense of Facts

I have the sinking suspicion that, were I to die tomorrow, the thing most of my friends and acquaintances could agree on is that I know a lot of trivia. It makes me terribly self-concious.

02 November 2011


"If a Wrimo is a measurement of literary quality, how good is a NaNoWriMo?"

I fancy myself an author, from time to time. The past few years, I have, unsuccessfully, competed in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writers Month. For the very few of you who may not know what this is, during NaNoWriMo, writers from around the world attempt to write 50,000 or more word novels in the course of 30 days.

I completed it, once. It was a great piece of avant-garde fiction. It made little to no sense, but I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

I had no plans to compete this year. My horror/supernatural novel from last year, Sub Rosa, petered out right around day 10, when I realized that I had made my Eldritch Abomination so powerful and so sneaky that: 1. My active hero had no way of discovering what the problem was, and 2. had no way of solving the problem.

And that, folks, is a huge problem when it comes to writing novels. If you can't unveil the conflict, let alone solve it, you're in for a really bad book. Not, of course, that this year's book will be any better.

But I have an exciting announcement to make. Last night, I had a case of reverse Fridge Brilliance. If you don't know what that is, go to tvtropes.org and look it up. Anyways, last night, I had a flash of inspiration. Yes, you've got it, friends. I figured out how to defeat the Abomination.

Don't mention the fact that I have no names for the characters in my story. Don't mention the fact that I just lost a valuable NaNo day by not writing. No. I am going to give this story my best shot. And for the record, my word count is now 2,169.

I'm on a roll.

01 November 2011

Excruciating Apathy

I like the cold. There is something peculiar about it that seems to wake me up, gasping for air. Just walking outside on a day like today makes things seem ... vibrant; colorful; alive. The cold breaks my illusions of apathy.

Did I say apathy? It's excruciating. Everyone gets grey days once in a while: days when everyday tasks lose all sense of meaning and when the only thing worthwhile is sleeping in a warm, dark room. Or watching reruns of Dr. Who. But this apathy isn't a mere grey day. It's misty - the way the Cascades get in late autumn when the leaves are drifting off the trees like flakes of rust. When trees and cars and ladies walking their dogs loom out of a slight haze along a deserted road. Those days it's possible to believe that unicorns exist, that chivalry never died, and that distressing damsels may hike along the path enjoying the peaceful death of summer and suddenly find themselves swept up in an adventure.

I feel like one of those damsels right now, and have for a while. The things that, by all accounts, I should be concerning myself with simply hold no sway over me. College applications? Yeah, I should start thinking about those. Take the SAT again? That too. Scholarship essays or competitions? They'd be good to prepare for. Oh, and a job. I should get a regular job.

I simply can't stop stargazing to worry about the insects.

If life is an adventure, then the teenage years must be like climbing a mountain to get to the valley of middle age. I have nothing against the valley. It must be pleasant, or else so many people wouldn't be heading down into it. I can even see some stray adventures lurking behind copses and below bridges.

But I'm enjoying the difficulty of my climb. I just want to keep climbing, until I reach the top, and then the stars, and then universe. Some people, when they've gotten this far, bound up the final rise to enjoy the view from the top of the mountain. Not me. I enjoy the trees and the rock piles more.

I feel like something's wrong with me. There are certain people in my life who are trying to pull me ever on to the path, but the open mountainside is calling me: I want to climb. Get out of my way, I'm going up.

There's nothing wrong with going to college, getting a "real" job, getting married, joining the PTA. Except, I don't have the practical dreams that will adequately prepare me for a future filled with jobs, marriage, the obligatory minivan.

It's fine if you have those dreams. There's a reason we have that tradition. But I want to live in the cold. I want to live in the frigid, breath-stealing, vital, exuberant cold of life. 

And so, these certain people, many of whom I respect immensely, do me a great disservice. The path is comfort, the path is warmth, the path is complacency and decay and the surrendering of the undisclosed desires in my heart.

I have this excruciating apathy about the things that should matter to me. Increasingly, I've come to the realisation that I will never be content in the warmth of the expected. Yesterday on the bus, a man noticed my violin case. He asked if I ever played on the street for money.

"Why play for money when you could play for joy?"

I want the tingling, burning, pleasant touch of frost upon my face. I want to join my dreams in the stars, not content to summit the next rise, but to summit my own Everest. I want to live in the cold for the rest of my life.

31 October 2011

A Perfect Illusion

Today is Halloween, in case you hadn't figured that out by now. It's the day where ordinary citizens enjoy dressing up as things they would never want to be in real life. Wander into any costume store and you'll find all the equipment to transform yourself into pretty much any unsavory character to party the night away.

Granted, today Halloween falls on a Monday, which would suggest that people, perhaps, partied the night away on Saturday rather than tonight. This certainly seemed true then, while I was wandering the streets of Seattle in search of an elixir of youth. But this is all entirely aside the point.

When I went into one such costume shop earlier this autumn to acquire a fake mustache (It was my birthday, and I did what I wanted to), I found a veritable cornucopia of cheesy costumes. There were vaguely Gothic looking plastic swords, maces, morning stars, and num chucks. We had the creepy-doll masks, the Phantom of the Opera style masks (which, ironically, cost more than a full face, blank white mask), we had hoods that made it look like we had no heads. There were plastic knives with red goo inside that dripped, vaguely like blood, when inverted. There was fake scar tissue, vampire fangs, fake blood and pus. In short, a rather typical costume shop just prior to Halloween. Of course, this brief overview would not do without the mention of the obligatory sexy nurse, nun, firefighter, paramedic, vampire, werewolf, adventuress, Egyptian, [insert your poison here], mobster, angel, demon costumes for young women desiring to raise men's heart rate from more than mere fright.

The point that I am rather unsuccessfully driving at is this: No one really wants to be scared at Halloween. Not really. The kids are in it for the candy, the middle aged men with slight bellies are in to surprise the kids, the eligible young twenty-somethings are in it because it's the only time that dressing in incredibly provacative, still strangely fantastical, costumes and partying hard is an expectation.

On an entirely unrelated sidenote, this is why I can't stand traditional Halloween celebrations. Not what Thursday and Laura and Qwip and I have done on occasion re:Creepy Caroling. I hate the extra pressure women get to dress seductively during this time. Because, after all, if your costume doesn't expose a certain amount of skin, you will never be the life of the party. And that's the only thing women are good for nowadays. Decoration.

Ahem. As I was saying. No one really wants to be scared at Halloween. Those plastic "knives" dripping "blood" are patently unrealistic. So are the "velvet" robes and the "faceless" masks. When we open the door on some teenagers, let's forget the fact that they're a wee bit too old to be trick-or-treating, and find ourselves confronted by some ghoul with blood running down its face and the hint of glasses behind the eye-holes, the first impulse is not to faint or slam the door. No. We give them candy.

Imagine with me, if you would, a different scenario. Say that, on one night of the year, a man comes to your house after dark. His face is hidden in shadow, he doesn't speak, and you see he's holding a knife that looks pretty wet with something, you can't see what in the dark, but you get the general impression it's red.

Imagine with me, that this man steps up to the very threshold of your house, and holds out his hand. As he comes in to the light a little more, his eyes glitter inside his hood. But still, you see nothing inside.

Now, let me ask you a question. At this point in a movie, ominous music starts playing, and you'd probably be laughing at the cheesiness of it all. But let me ask you a question. If this happened to you in real life, would you be scared? If you found a stranger on your porch, bleeding viciously, would you decide "hey, this is fun, we should start doing this every year"? If, for those of you in Washington, the Green River killer so much as escaped, let along showed up on your doorstep, would you feel the clammy presence of terror?

I would. People don't want to be scared on Halloween. They want to feel smug. After all, if we can bravely face down a group of teenagers in cheap costume makeup and some plastic knives, we can certainly weather whatever storms life must throw at us. Halloween is just another way that our culture drives itself to complacency.

There were times in the past when the things we dress up as for jokes were very real terrors. When witchcraft, or vampirism were panic inducing. Need I remind you of the Bluebeard, or most of the Grimm Brother's fairy tales? The fears Odysseus faced during his 20 years at sea. Or look to Foxe's Book of Martyrs for examples of the awful things humanity is capable of.

And then tell me that dressing up as an executioner on Halloween is such a laugh. Halloween is not a celebration of fear, it's a celebration of false courage: yet another way that we try to lie to ourselves. The American Dream is, of course, not complete without a lack of fear. And if we can delude ourselves that monsters do exist, we can tell ourselves anything.

"He who battles with monsters must take care lest he also become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." Nietzsche

29 October 2011

A State Resembling Intoxication

"The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication."

This quote is attributed to Aristotle, but Problematic is too tired to verify that fact at the moment.

I want to update my dearly beloved readers about the current state of my resolution, the details of which you may find a few posts ago in my archives. This past Wednesday was a planning day at the college I attend, and because I suddenly found myself without anything to occupy my time - aside from studying for two midterms - I decided to occupy myself with something else. It was thus that I found myself calling her to propose a morning of vagrancy in the town of Issaquah. My delight was enormous when she agreed, and was only improved upon by the prospect of making music with her.

So last Wednesday, I headed down to Issaquah, Ignatius in tow - you can tell this was important because of his presence - and had an absolutely wonderful time bumming around town with her and Matthias. Enough jollity ensued that it did seem, at least for a while, that we were in a state resembling intoxication.

In my defense, chai tea lattes, music, and a good friend tend to have that effect on me.

Anyways, I would like to point you over to Gray's blog, where you can both read about our minor adventure and listen to one of our creations.

Here's the link. 

26 October 2011

The Tempest and the Tea Kettle

I've been thinking a lot about death recently. And not merely the affect one's death might have on oneself.  Death: the termination or extinction of something. The death of a season, of a mood or a period. The death of a relationship, of a friendship, of a hero. The termination of an adventure or a hope. The passing of summer into autumn, from life and vitality to lethargy, decay.

But on a much smaller scale, I've been thinking about the death of an individual. Setting aside all thoughts of life after death, why does death affect us so much? It is not so much the snuffing out, the abandoning of natural life for a new existence. It is the absence we feel the most, and I've struggled with writing this post for weeks. How do you eulogize someone you love dearly?

My grandfather died two weeks ago. His memorial service was held one week ago. Yet, despite the time slowly trickling in to fill the gaps, I feel as if I have not mourned him properly. My thoughts are like the tempest, trapped inside an egg-shell thin tea pot with no chance of escape. Since his death, I've found my thoughts becoming more and more scattered, like the rubber shavings from a partially erased drawing.

Even now, I can feel that I am not doing this right. So bear with me as I attempt to describe why the Major meant so much to me.

My earliest memories of him go back to the time when they are mere impressions and snippets - polaroid snapshots, not high-definition film. I remember the kangaroo on the back of the RV he and my grandmother stayed in when they visited us. I remember the feel of gravel shifting under my feet as I make my way to the steps where they stood. I remember vague impressions from my Dad that the Major was a Good Man. And I remember the firm, fully engaged yet completely relaxed "thereness" when I sat in his lap.

Every year on my birthday, I call my grandparents to thank them for their birthday gifts, and every year, the one I look forward to is the Major's call. The Baskin and Robbins gift cards slowly transitioned into Barnes and Noble or Borders cards.

And I was growing up. One year, I called the Major, and asked him to tell me his story. It was for a class assignment: I had to interview someone about their life, and write a paper. The Major was the only one I was brave enough to call.

He was born in 1922, but lied about his age so that he could enter World War Two, carrying on his family's tradition. The Major (though he was not one yet) was set to work supervising the building of air force bases in the Pacific Theatre. In one notable instance, the base he was assigned to build in 30 days was completed four days ahead of schedule because of his ingenuity.

When I asked him about his most vivid memory, the Major spoke softly about the October of 1944. The ship he was stationed on was stuck on a sandbar in the Phillipines, carrying a load full of highly flammable and/or explosive materials. Included were tinfuls of carbite, a material that, when exposed to water, releases highly explosive gases. Due to an incredible "coincidence," the Major was not in his bunk one evening when a kamikaze struck that portion of the ship. Flames spread to across the deck and into the hold, endangering the gasoline, oxygen tanks, dynamite, grease, rags, and other construction materials stored above and below decks. The Major was tasked with taking care of the 90-some men burned by the attack, who, as he recalled later, were so badly burnt they didn't realise they were injured.

The Major re-enlisted after the war, and was eventually placed in charge of a battalion of the Army Corps of Engineers. During the Korean War, when his battalion was sent overseas, the Major was placed in charge of building the only nuclear power plant in Alaska. He retired from active duty in 1961, continuing to serve in the civil service until 1972.

By the time I entered the scene as a squalling infant, the Major had retired into a comfortable, if quiet, life of Tom Clancy novels. As I grew older, we began to connect over books. We began recommending books to each other around the time I was ten, with the knowledge that the other was extremely unlikely to ever read the recommendations. After all, I could hardly expect a World War Two veteran to read poorly written pulp fiction about girls and their horses, and he could hardly expect me to read brutally written books about political manoeuvring and war. But as the years passed, I started to read his type of books. I'd tell him about the Communist Manifesto, or the Wealth of Nations, or another book that I'd started to read. He took a great deal of interest the year I was debating about US isolationistic policies. The fact of the matter is, the Major and I had a strong, if quiet and often overlooked, connection.

I remember when he came to the Northwest for my brother's graduation and Eagle Scout ceremony. I remember driving with my parents past the house the Major used to live in just outside of Forks, Washington. I remember, this last summer, visiting him in Florida.

He told me I could look through his book shelf and see if there were any I was interested in. But he couldn't part with the ones I requested when the time came. I remember the last thing I said to him. "I love you, Grandad. Be good."

I've been thinking about death a lot recently. Death of a relationship, death of a presence. The Major wasn't so much as a constant figure in my life as a comforting, strong presence always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. When I hear military news and scandals, something inside me always asks 'what would he think?"

And now, that presence is gone. I can't carry on as I once did. I find that I miss him terribly.

19 October 2011


I'm going to go out on a limb and write about another confession. I know what your reaction is going to be, even as I write this. About half of my dear readers will lean towards the screen, raveningly eager for yet another glimpse into my psyche. Another group, overlapping with the first, will pull out a text book and begin yet another psychological profile of Problematic. A few of you will lean back, concern written over your face, and wonder what new thing you'll be having to pray about in Problematic's life.

And I can practically guarantee you that a couple will have stopped reading at this point, and gone to do something far more fulfilling with their lives than waste another 5 minutes reading my jumbled thoughts. They might be smarter than any of us.

No matter. This reaction has yet to convince me not to write. I am, above all else, an ineffably optimistic authoress with no qualms over inflicting an uncaring world with my musings. There are over 6 billion people on the earth, so I know that at least one of them will like what I have to say.

Enough of the introduction. I have a confession to make, friends. Perhaps "confession" is not the correct word. Declaration? Statement? Proclamation? They are all correct.

Friends, I have an announcement. It hinges directly on the fact that I recently became a legal adult. Now, a lot of my friends went through a slump after turning 18. I understand the logic. We are adults now. We must behave. When I was a child, I thought and acted like a child: Now that I am grown, I must act like one.

Oddly enough, of all the people I know to get this post-18 complex, the Peter Pan syndrome one didn't. Yes, that's right. Despite my complete dislike of the concept of growing old, I felt no sense of depression or despair at turning 18. In fact, I felt no new compulsion to act my age.

This is where my declaration comes in. 

This year, during my 18th year, I will do stupid things.

 I can feel your interest rising from here. You really must learn to control yourself. And for the many dubious among you, let me explain myself.

I have spent my entire teenage existence worrying about not being a teenager. I avoided impulses. If I got the urge to do something, I'd do the entire opposite thing. If there was the slightest possibility that my parents might not completely approve or might shake their heads knowingly at my folly, I would put all thought of it from my mind. I would NOT be the typical teenager, pulling pranks and causing their parents many hours of amusement, if not worse. NO SIR. Not I. 

I blame the Rebelution for ruining my childhood. I went to it shortly before my 12th birthday, and ever since then, viewed my adolescence as a time for defying all stereotypes. I became a kind of walking killjoy for all my less-inhibited friends.

This resolve was, to a large extent, the root of many of the problems you've seen documented on this blog in recent years. 

But then, I started comparing my life to my friends'. The worst thing I had done, in 7 years, was to go to a tattoo parlor to get my ears pierced. Because my mother went with me, that hardly even counted. My friends had: dumped trash on someone's car in revenge for a prank; driven themselves into Seattle to bum around town; fought airsoft battles into the wee hours of the night; and generally lived their lives to the fullest. 

Me? I emptied the dishwasher. I went to Pike's Place once or twice a year and NEVER gave money to street musicians. I stayed up in the wee hours of the night studying for test, and generally lived a life of quiet desparation, fulfilling my need for adventure and excitement through countless read-throughs of Sherlock Holmes and the Lord of the Rings. 

For years, my favorite book was "The Club of Queer Trades" by GK Chesterton, specifically the one about the Adventure and Romance Agency, Limited. Why? Because I hoped that one day, one year, I'd discover the offices of the Agency and could at least hire myself an adventure.

These comparisons really came to a head when I went on a missions trip this summer to Gleanings for the Hungry. They have this rule about "no throwing fruit," so kids were throwing rotten peach goo instead. They'd drink 2-4 energy drinks on a shift and see who could sing the highest, for longest, and loudest. They Sharpie'd my hair green. They ignored curfew to go out praying. And no, praying is not a euphemism. 

I was kind of like a deer in the headlights. I had no idea how to react to any of this. It was so entirely outside my realm of experience, I had to either throw myself into it or shrivel in a corner and bewail the state of my generation. 

So when they Sharpie'd my hair green, I peppered their beds, and soaked their wallets in my garishly cheap and awful smelling perfume. I had a taste of what I had determined not to do for so many years. And friends, I'd never had so much fun in my life!

That is why this year, I have resolved to be stupid. I want to learn how to Airsoft, and I want to stay up all night doing it. I want to hike through the Cascades barefoot. I want to go out and dance in the rain, not just walk and insert a couple of small, furtive dance movements into my stride. I want to go to Folklife, and Sasquatch, and go listen to my favorite bands in concert. I want to have a real, down-to-earth conversation with someone I disagree with.

I want to learn to ride a motorcycle, and go on more roadtrips with my friends. I want to make those Sharpie highlights a more permanent fixture and dye my hair with green or blue streaks. I want to get a second piercing in my ears. In essence, this year, I am resolving to be stupid, have tons of fun, and ignore the consequences. 

The best part is, I've already begun. I wrote a song for my friend for her birthday, and mixed the awfully sung (on purpose) song onto a CD for her. I now have golden chain extensions in my hair. And I finally worked up the courage to buy the combat boots I've wanted for years. I plan on getting more steampunk stuff, not just classy jewelry, but in-your-face, deal-with-my-gears-or-else hats and goggles and gloves.  I'm going to be impulsive, and not stifle the discussions I want to have.

I resolve to be stupid. And to enjoy every minute of it.

I will be posting my bucket list shortly for any fans of my new resolution.

I will be posting again in a couple of days, but in the meantime, here's something to keep you thinking.

I recently ran across a blog that, to be brutally honest, I am falling in love with. The posts are interesting, pointed - but nuanced (!) - and just a little bit wry. It's such a shame that this blog has only 4 followers as of the time I write. Almost an awful waste. So, as you sit and wait for my next post, you should head over to A Deeper, Darker Ocean Green and check out Kyle's writing.

Especially this post.

13 October 2011

Look at all the pretty things

that steal my heart away. I can feel I'm fading.

I ride the bus in to college every morning. Usually, I put on my iPod and am effectively dead to the world for an hour. But today, I started doing something differently. Since I've started college, I haven't had as much time for devotions as I would like. As a result, I decided to bring my Bible on the bus and have my quiet time while riding. It is a good time, since no one pays attention to anything outside of their electronics. The bus is generally silent as a grave.

After I did my devotions and prayers, I turned on one of my favorite bands: Tenth Avenue North. And as I sat there, I got ... well, I'm not sure exactly what I got. Suddenly, an image popped into my head.

Now, if you're a follower of my friend Hannah, you know she wrote an excellent blog post about the song All The Pretty Things. If you haven't read her, you should check her out here.

As I sat on the bus, I looked around me. A lot of people were sleeping, or just shutting their eyes until their stops. There was a beautiful sunrise outside. The sun was brushing the tops of the trees with this golden light,  like how I might brush egg yolk on top of a croissant. It was absolutely gorgeous, and yet no one on the bus had eyes to see it.

We are, we are, we're caught in the in between
Of who we already are and who we are yet to be
And we're looking for love but finding we're still in need
It's only what we have lost will we be allowed to keep

And we're waiting but our eyes are wandering
To all this earth holds dear

Look at all the pretty things
That steal my heart away
I can feel I'm fading
'Cause Lord I love so many things
That keep me from Your face
Come and save me

We run we run to finally be set free
But we're fighting fighting for what we've already received

So we're waiting but our eyes are wandering
To all this earth holds dear

Look at all the pretty things
That steal my heart away
I can feel I'm fading
'Cause Lord I love so many things
That keep me from Your face
Come and save me

We are we are caught in the in between
But we're fighting for what we already have received
We are we are caught in the in between
But we're fighting for what we already have received

Look at all the pretty things
That steal my heart away
I can feel I'm fading
'Cause Lord I love so many things
That keep me from Your face
Come and save me

This is what I saw in that moment. We are all riding on a bus, which winds its way through many neighborhoods, ultimately leading to one destination. We don't open our eyes, because it's just so easy to close them and let stream of life take us where it will. We become complacent - the cushions are just so comfortable. Why get off them and risk exerting ourselves? So we sit, and sleep.

But God isn't content to let us sleep ourselves to Death. He wants us off that bus, running towards Him, not riding away. He opens our eyes, and we get off the bus. But as we run, we pass so many buses heading back to Death, and they all look so appealing. It would be so easy, to just get on one of them, and rest a little bit. It will be alright, we convince ourselves. I'll only rest for a little bit, just to catch my breath. And then I'll start running again.

But God doesn't want us to rest. He doesn't want us to become complacent, distracted. He wants us to fight for "what we already have received." Every time we stop, we go backwards. And every time we get on, it gets that much harder to get back off and keep running.

Are we becoming spiritually obese?