Dr. Jenlove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fail

(Note to my WordPress followers: this is based on a Twitter conversation with @GameplayJenny, so it might be a little strange out of context – or in context, for that matter.)

Welcome, viewer. You have entered the YouTube channel of GameplayJenny. Your place at the Mad Hatter’s table has been set.

You may be disoriented right now. What is a GameplayJenny, you might ask. How did I end up here? And what is behind her obsession with cheese? Do not fret, viewer. That is why this guide has been created – to orient the new viewer to the unique world that is Jenny.

The first step to acclimatizing yourself to the Wonderland that is GameplayJenny’s channel is to unlearn what you have learned. Do not think in terms of efficient leveling, equipping a character in gear that has the best stats, making sensible roads that don’t meander worse than San Francisco’s Lombard Street only to end up at a dead end. Upgraded spells? Those are for suckers. Maximizing the resources in a city? Not when more posh places and giant spinning hamburgers can be erected. Healing crippled limbs? There’s a guy hanging on a cross that needs to be looted first—after he is discreetly knocked unconscious, of course. You’re in Jenny’s world now, and it’s always 6:00. Now wake up the dormouse because it’s time to switch seats.

Next is learning to see the world through Jenny-colored glasses. Has Jenny just dropped some valuable ebony armor on the ground to make room for cabbage? Has she “wasted” a bunch of time picking mushrooms she’ll never use in a potion on her way to confront a dragon priest? Does she place a water tower on a space with no water in SimCity just because it goes better beside the powdered milk factory? Don’t focus on what the game mechanics demand, focus on what Jenny demands. Then enjoy the show as a robe-wearing Jenny shouts Kyne’s Peace at a dragon while shoving 50 bowls of apple cabbage stew down her gullet as she tries to defeat it with a spork in one hand and the spell Flames in the other.

Do not worry if the path to Jenny bliss is difficult. Be patient, and watch the videos nonetheless. Before you know it the barriers of sensibility and logic will fall to the wild and wacky antics of the Mad Gamer herself, and you may just find yourself getting upset when she fails to notice a perfectly good set of calipers lying on a table in Oblivion, or crafts enough potions to keep her from having to eat the entire cheese aisle of a grocery store just to stay alive in Skyrim, or actually finishes a quest in Fallout: New Vegas instead of blindly wandering into a deathclaw den, or makes a freaking straight road in Bendypondtacoville. When you arrive at that point, congratulations. Your Alice has become the March Hare, and there’s no getting out of the rabbit hole.

Coming Out

Folks, I have an announcement to make. I have thought this through long and hard. I’ve never talked about this to anybody over the years, all throughout my life. I think the time has come to reveal my secret to the world.

 

I am heterosexual.

Now, I fully expect the media to come around and hold extensive interviews with me. This is big news, after all. This defines me as a human being. This is what matters when it comes to who I am and what contributions I can have to society. So I will sit here patiently and await the presumably short time it takes for the press to read this and come calling.

Anybody?

*crickets*

Okay, well, maybe not. I guess nobody cares about my sexual preference. Despite my previous act, I’m not surprised that this gets no attention for a two very good reasons. a) It really is nobody’s business besides my own and b) I’m a nobody, an unknown schmuck who has very little exposure or celebrity at this point.

Now, in case you haven’t heard, Jason Collins is gay. Who is Jason Collins, you ask? Don’t worry, I didn’t know either until recently. He is, apparently, a fairly mediocre basketball player. Probably would have barely registered in most search engines and on sports news broadcasts. But now everything is Jason Collins. All because he told us he’s attracted to men.

I greeted the news of Jason Collins’ coming out party with a particularly hearty yawn. Didn’t care, still don’t. The news folks are gushing all over it. Historic, it seems. The first openly-gay active player in major professional sports and all that. What an accomplishment! So brave in this day and age to tell the world who you like to have sex with. Thank God we’ve progressed so far as to be fascinated by people’s sex lives! Why, the President even called him to congratulate him. The first black president called the first openly-gay basketball player. Whoopee!

Maybe I’m missing something, but how exactly does this relate to his basketball career? What difference does his sexual life have to do with anything that is any of our business? Do people think that his sub-par performances in games should be ignored in favor of elevating him for his sexuality? I hope not, but it sounds like that’s the case.

I suppose I’m just baffled by this because I’ve never understood the bigoted mentality. I’ve never understood the thought process that places different worth on human beings based on sexuality, skin color, religion, gender, etc. I’ve always been taught to love my neighbor, not to favor one group of people over another, and that all people are created equal. As such, I wish Jason Collins and anybody else would keep their sexual lives to themselves. It’s none of my business, and they have no business shoving it in my face, either. I wouldn’t call to congratulate him any more than I would call to chastize him. It’s neither good nor bad – it just is. So freaking what?

I see so much of it. Someone “comes out” on a late-night talk show. Gossip magazines have articles about whether certain celebrities are gay or not. Co-workers come up to me saying, “Do you know so-and-so is gay?” To all of which I say, “Who cares?” I don’t care. Newspeople, stop encouraging this. The more we place emphasis on something irrelevant, such as a basketball player’s sexuality, the more we feed the flames of bigotry. Placing emphasis on sexual preference is the opposite of what an unbigoted society should be doing. Jason Collins as a basketball player should be judged solely on his on-court actions and abilities. Jason Collins as a human being should be judged equal to any other human being on the planet. Jason Collins as a lover should be judged by his partner, and none of us. I wouldn’t be surprised if this announcement gets Collins some endorsement deals and perhaps even more play time than his basketball performance merits. All because he’s attracted to men.

This transcends even homosexuality. No human being should be defined by sexual preference, race, gender, etc. Genetic differences do not equal differences in worth. Until we stop treating these unimportant things as important, we will never attain a truly unbigoted society. The media should be concerned with two things only regarding Jason Collins: his basketball performance, and the fact that he is a human being. Anything else is and should remain irrelevant.

Our Thoughts and Prayers

There’s a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot of lately. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.” I hear that same phrase during any major disaster or massacre. Sometimes it seems almost obscene how readily people thrust themselves in front of the camera to utter those words. It has sadly become almost clichéd.

I don’t say this to be critical or unfeeling. I know that even the clumsiest of these attempts is heartfelt and well-meaning. During a time of trauma people have a general tendency to sympathize with victims and anyone else affected by a tragedy. There’s really little else most of us can do. I am across the country from Boston and I have no way of providing any substantive assistance to anybody there. As a matter of fact, they probably have so many people in the area anxious to help that I would be nothing but a fifth wheel.

That phrase carries with it a few things. This first is the aforementioned sympathy. Who can look upon such destruction and not feel something? I can only imagine competing in a grueling marathon only to have my supportive loved ones harmed in a senseless act of destruction. The pain and suffering and sorrow would probably be a near-impossible burden to bear. It is an event that refocuses our eyes with sobriety on the terrible toll of human suffering enacted every day by the malicious or negligent among us.

The second thing that phrase evokes is a sense of frustration. Thoughts, no matter how fervent, will do nothing to help anybody affected by this tragedy in any substantive way, except for those who might possess the power of telekinesis. Prayers could be said to be helpful, but their benefit is nebulous at best. They certainly don’t hurt, but the real power to help these people lies with those who are physically near the victims and their families and who have the training or ability to provide benefit. I have to face it – as much as I’d like to be Johnny-on-the-spot during these tragedies, I am forever relegated to the role of spectator.

In fact, acts of terror like the Boston incident tend to remind us all too well how helpless we truly are. One of the striking realizations is how many security personnel were in the immediate area. They were so close that they were already congregating on the victims in the matter of seconds between the two bomb blasts. I have heard of no egregious lapses in security. What could they have done, after all? Without giving up a frightening amount of freedoms, attacks like that probably can’t be completely avoided. It’s scary to think about. Terrorists aim to strike fear into the hearts of their victims and to demoralize them. Sometimes it seems like their tactics are effective and the evil worshippers of death and destruction are winning.

But then I look at the people involved in these incidents. I see terrified people, sure, but I also see people running to the place where a bomb just exploded without thought of their own safety. I see people who are undoubtedly dehydrated and exhausted from running a marathon digging deep and thinking nothing of themselves and wholly of those who stand in need of help. And I realize after seeing those images that they, like the phrase I mentioned, are also something I have seen over and over again. Only this isn’t clichéd. This is humanity at its strongest.

How many heroes have emerged from tragedies? How many people’s first instinct is to run toward the bomb blast and pull debris off of victims, or to dash up the steps of a burning skyscraper that’s in danger of falling apart? How many people who might otherwise flip someone the bird for cutting them off would claw and scratch until those same fingers were bloody and bruised in order to save a total stranger who is buried in rubble? How many mild-mannered businessmen would tackle an armed hijacker on a plane, or throw themselves in front of a child to take a bullet? There has never been a tragedy that I have witnessed that hasn’t produced far more heroes than victims. When I see people extending their thoughts and prayers, I see people who desperately wish that they could be there, doing something, getting their hands dirty, just to be of assistance to people they don’t know from Adam.

What I see is the opposite of demoralization. If these wastes of skin wish to break the will of the people they attack, they are doing a piss-poor job of it.

MODF

I would like to propose a new acronym. Much like LOL, LMFAO, BRB, and the dreaded YOLO, I will throw my hat in the ring of the Digital Age’s penchant for making acronyms of anything and everything so that teenage thumbs can quickly insert them into their cell phones while the other hand holds the steering wheel. My new acronym is MODF. What, pray tell, does MODF mean, you ask? Well, MODF means My Own Damn (or Darn, if you prefer) Fault. Inspired and ripped verbatim from Jimmy Buffett’s song “Margaritaville,” it is a statement of responsibility. To quote the song, “Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s my own damn fault.”

This is not about a woman, and it is also not about blame. I don’t propose this Internet-worthy acronym so that we all can mull on the fact that a certain problem is due to nobody else but ourselves. Blame is not constructive if it ends there. If I decide that something is my fault and then proceed to beat myself up over it endlessly, that gets me nowhere. If I use it to belittle myself, to believe that I am worthless, or helpless, then it is counterproductive. MODF is not a declaration of defeat in the sense that I want to present it; it is a declaration of empowerment.

Metallica stated, “This thorn in my side is from the tree I planted.” Creed lamented, “I’ve created my own prison.” Mad Season said “My pain is self-chosen.” When I use the acronym MODF, I am not using it to establish blame but rather ownership. I planted the tree, I created the prison, and I chose the pain. If I did all these things, then I have power, and I can do other things that rid me of the thorn, the prison, and the pain. Those who have read my other blog articles may notice some similarities between this and a previous post, including the reference to Mad Season. It is all part of an evolution of thinking that was set in motion when I was laid off in 2011.

I love Mad Season. If you haven’t read my aforementioned blog post, I will tell you who they are. Mad Season was a collaborative effort from the mid-nineties of some of the members of Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Screaming Trees. Layne Staley from Alice in Chains was the vocalist. Staley has always used haunting and somewhat depressing lyrics and imagery in his music, probably due to his ultimately unsuccessful battle with drug addiction. But one thing I’ve noticed is that he also shines a light of hope within the despair. As for the above Mad Season quote, taken from the song “River of Deceit,” Staley sings,

My pain is self-chosen

At least I believe it to be

I could either drown

Or pull off my skin and swim to shore

Now I can grow a beautiful

Shell for all to see.

For a song that started out bemoaning the fact that, “A head full of lies is the weight tied to my waist,” Staley brings it to a higher place – a place of empowerment. He has a choice, a classic, almost clichéd choice: sink or swim.

My current circumstance brought this musing on. I am unemployed again. As I stated in the first blog article, when I was initially laid off of my job of thirteen years, I was devastated. I found a job a year later, but now it’s over. The contract expired and I haven’t heard back from them. Worse yet, I am worse off financially than if I had never taken the job in the first place. In short, it sucks.

What does this have to do with MODF? Neither case was my fault. My first layoff came as a result of mismanagement of the bank where I worked, which I had no control over. The second one was possibly a budgetary thing. I have no idea. Whatever the case, I did what I was supposed to do and just got the shaft. This is clearly not a case of MODF, is it?

No, it isn’t. But it is, at the same time. While I didn’t cause my downturn, I did cause the difficulties that followed. When I was laid off I found myself with thirteen years of experience and yet none of my skills meant Jack in terms of employment. I don’t have a college degree or certification. I was never a manager, supervisor, or president – in fact, I shunned such positions of authority. My ambition and drive to improve myself were nonexistent because I was comfortable. I was making plenty of money, had enough to do all the things that I wanted, and I was satisfied. I could have spent the time bettering myself – finishing my education, creating a writing portfolio, etc. Instead I squandered that time, so when I lost my job I was left unprepared for unemployment. THAT was MODF.

I could spend all my time kicking myself – and believe me I have – but that doesn’t help me. What MODF does is show me the path to climb out of these holes I find myself in. Not the same-old same-old path, but the uncomfortable path. A path that might get me into debt again, or make me push myself to my limits. I’m afraid of that path. I’ve spent thirteen years ignoring that path, sinking into my comfortable hole, content that I could sustain my status quo forever and never have to grow or change. I’ve been deep in debt before. It was debilitating. I don’t want to go to that dark place again, so I use it as an excuse to avoid all things that would bring debt but might otherwise help me. I’ve had no success with love, and my experiences trying to woo the fairer sex have only served to shatter an already fragile self-esteem. I’ve felt happier and better about myself when I have given up on finding love. That has been an excuse, a self-made limit to keep me from experiencing that pain again.

For a long time I have convinced myself that I am limited. I have led myself to believe that I can only do so much. I don’t aspire to greatness not only because the path is hard but because cresting that hill puts me in the crosshairs. When I strive for greatness I bring responsibility upon myself. I don’t like responsibility. I like to be the unknown peon who does his job and gets enough money to live a simple but comfortable life. I hold myself down because I am afraid of what will happen if I rise up.

So here I am, back to MODF. It started as a way to beat myself up for my failures. It has morphed into an impetus. If I can cause my problems, I can solve them. Even those things which can’t really be said to be my fault can be. My unemployment is a result of decisions I made. The hole I find myself in was dug by my own shovel. I’m not helpless, and I need to stop pretending that I am. I’m not the victim, I’m the future victor.

During these times of unemployment one thing has remained constant: my father. When I first lost my job and came to live with my father and my brother, my father had been falling a lot. In his old age, and after a stroke or two, his motor and speech functions are iffy. My first bout of unemployment came exactly at the right time – just weeks before my father had to have 24-hour care. I have been able to play a significant role in my father’s life, and it has been amazing. When I look upon him, I see someone who is truly helpless. Without the funds to pay for professional in-home care or to move into an assisted living facility, my father has no choice but to rely on his family. I have a living, breathing example of helplessness in front of me every day. How dare I pity myself? I should be ashamed every time I sit at the bottom of my hole and mope about how stupid or weak I am. I have a choice: drown or swim. If I can lift my father up, I can lift myself up.

This MODF concept seems tangential to the main message of empowerment. I don’t know if it was the right way to present the subject, but it was how I arrived at it. Owning the problem made me realize that I could solve it as well. Perhaps it just takes a little pity party at the bottom of a dark wet hole to make a person realize that he has power. I have fingers. I can claw my way upward. Sure, a shovel would be nicer, or a ladder, but that ship has sailed. If I can dig the hole I find myself in, I can fill it too.

I hate burdening others with my personal baggage. This blog has served as a sounding board for me, a way to work out my thoughts and feelings during a time of crisis in my life. I never really approached it as a presentation to the world at large. I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself. Some I’m proud of and others I’d rather bury while I’m filling up that hole I dug. I am surprised if my mad ramblings have any significance to others. But maybe they do. Maybe like Layne, my journeys into the depths of my psyche can serve to propel others out of their own dark places. I hesitate to allow myself that conceit, but I do appreciate everyone who follows my blog and enjoys it. To you I offer my profound thanks and well-wishes.

The Director

Having recently posted an article that I really liked and seemed to be popular, I figured it might be cool to show everyone the story that spawned it – the one that got rejected. I wrote this originally as part of a job application to Bethesda Softworks, a video game company. Among the usual resume and such they wanted a writing sample of no more than five pages with an emphasis on dialogue. Since I don’t like writing incomplete stories, I tried to fit a full, coherent story that was heavy on dialogue into the page limit. This, modified after the page restriction was lifted, was what I came up with. Enjoy.

 

THE DIRECTOR

Copyright 2012, by B.K. Price

“If you ask me, he had it coming.”

I sit stone still in the passenger seat, but my heart races. My pale-knuckled fingers cling to the dashboard. I stare at the jumble of gray fur and red guts through the windshield. “What could that poor little thing have possibly done to deserve this?” My voice quavers.

The Director looks up from the dashboard. “What?” He follows my gaze outside. “I wasn’t talking about the squirrel. I was talking about Dolan Gryk.”

“Who is Dolan Gryk?”

“Haven’t you been paying attention? He’s the CEO of MegaCorp. It’s all over the vidscreen.” I look down and see coverage of the divorce proceedings sandwiched between blustering salespeople trying to convince me that I can’t possibly live without their latest and greatest gizmo. “He’s a good man at heart, but a bit of a self-absorbed workaholic. Pair him up with a sexually repressed secretary with daddy issues and you’re just asking for trouble. It’s just like I would have done it. I could see this mess coming from a mile away.”

I pop my door open. “Too bad you can’t say the same thing about the squirrel.” The word feels strange in my mouth. Squirrel.

The Director swings himself out into the unusually humid desert heat. “Do you need a moment to cry about it?”

I grab two shovels from the back. “You know, for the Director of the Galactic Intelligence Agency you sure are an ass.”

He takes the shovel that I hold out to him. “And for a highly trained agent you sure are a crybaby. It’s a stupid squirrel. Let it go.”

We start walking across the purple and brown splotched landscape. “I guess I’m just flustered because of all the changes.”

“What changes?”

“Well, there’s that thing back there,that squirrel, as you call it. I’ve never seen an animal like that before. Klaxxon IV has two native animal species, and that squirrel thing isn’t one of them.”

“Two species? On the whole planet? Talk about lazy!” The Director thinks it over. “There are plenty of squirrels on Terra. Maybe someone brought it over and it got loose.”

“Maybe, but there’s more. The land is changing color. It’s usually just purple, but now it’s starting to turn brown, and outside the Containment Zone it has all turned brown. I think whatever happened out there might be spreading.”

The Director smiles. “Don’t worry. As soon as we find the device things will get better.”

“You can’t possibly know that.”

“Trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

“Besides that squirrel back there, no.”

“Would you shut up about the squirrel already!”

We come to a place where an abandoned survey station lies in ruins, along with another run-down building of unusual architecture. They intersect in places, and where they intersect the walls of the unusual building seem to cut through the survey station’s walls. I stare at the ruins. “Is this the place?”

The Director is looking at something clamped to his belt and shaking his head. “This is where he said it would be, but if the device is here this thing should be beeping and blinking.”

“Maybe we should go back.”

“No, the signal could be cloaked, or this thing might not be working. We should look around first.”

We look around but find nothing. Then we dig until our shirts are off and the area is pockmarked by holes. The Director stares down at the last hole, breathing heavily. “That psychopathic bastard lied to us.”

That “psychopathic bastard” is Ploog Zolock, a notorious intergalactic crime boss. I shove the tip of my shovel into the ground and lean on it. “Are you surprised?”

“No, just pissed off.”

I pick up my shirt. “What now?”

The Director slides his shirt over his head and we start to walk back. “I don’t know. We need to find some way to convince Ploog to tell us the truth.”

“Guns are pretty convincing.”

A sly smile creeps over the Director’s face. “You have guns?”

“Of course. I’m an agent, aren’t I?”

“I suppose you are, although I don’t even really know who you are.”

“I told you, I’m Agent 69.”

“Yeah, I know. I mean your real name.”

We’re back at the car now. I put the shovels in the back. “Wow, I haven’t used my real name in so long I wonder if I can remember it.” I grab two pistols from the back and hand one to the Director. “Here, take this. Um, right, my name is Joe Blow.”

The Director looks incredulous. “Seriously? Joe Blow?”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve heard all the jokes a million times. Not much you can do with a last name like that.”

“I’ll bet.” The Director opens his door and memories of our terrifying trip out here flood my mind.

“Mind if I drive?”

Fortunately the Director doesn’t object. He just stares at the featureless landscape while I start the engine. “Boy, I’ve been so focused on the Terran system for so long I’ve neglected the outer systems.”

I speed along a road I don’t remember and then turn onto a road I do remember. “Well, you’ll be glad to know the GIA is alive and kicking out here in the ass end of the galaxy.”

Night is falling as we enter Klaxxon City, the only population center of any significance on the planet. We’re starving, so we head downtown to a diner that is used to serving humans. Native food tends to make humans sick.

I sit across from the Director, dipping my toast in my soup. “So why’d you come here yourself? You could have just sent Daxx Lightspeed to get the device.”

The Director looks up at me in alarm. “You know Daxx?”

“Of course I know Daxx. Everyone knows Daxx Lightspeed. He’s the most decorated GIA agent ever. Hell, even Ploog knows him, especially after Daxx busted up that plot of his not too long ago.”

“Oh, yeah. The Klaxxon Conspiracy. That explains why the device ended up here.”

“You think Ploog has hatched some devious plot involving your device?”

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t.”

We eat in silence for a while. “So tell me about yourself, Agent Blow.”

I chew a couple of times before answering. “What’s there to say? I’m just an average agent out on a jerkwater planet.”

“How about your life before the Agency?”

“You mean childhood and stuff? Well, gee, I really couldn’t tell you much. I never knew my parents, and my childhood was a blur. I remember a puppy somewhere. My favorite color is blue, if that helps.”

“Not much of a history.”

“Yeah, well, we agents don’t always lead glamorous adventure-filled lives like Daxx.”

“You sound a little resentful of him.”

“Not really. I just don’t like his type very much. He’s a bit of a douchebag.”

The Director chuckles. “You don’t know what a squirrel is but you know the word douchebag.”

“How about you? Who’s the man behind the Director?”

“Oh, nothing exciting. I just like to write stories and invent new devices and such.”

“You don’t say. Invent any cool gizmos for the Agency?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that. Just personal projects, usually things having to do with what I’m writing about. I’m working on a tactile holography device right now. It projects solid holograms.”

“I know what tactile holography is. That was invented long ago.”

“Yeah, uh, I know, but, you see, well, I just…” He leans in close. “I’m just an amateur. I have to start somewhere, you know.”

“Ah, gotcha.” I can’t really judge. I don’t know the first thing about inventing. Must be hard coming up with ideas.

We pay the bill and head out to Ploog’s place. We don’t need to drive—he’s only a few blocks away from the diner, at a strip club. “You know, I’m surprised. Most people who visit Klaxxon IV tend to stare at the yutta.” I’m referring to the native intelligent species, strange yellow blobs with seventeen tentacles.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve heard a lot about them before. They’re pretty much like their descriptions—ugly yellow blobs of goo with a bunch of tentacles. I never could figure out how they handled locomotion.”

I shrug. “However they manage, they do it well enough. Some of those goo bags can be pretty damn fast.”

Luuri is perched beside the door when we arrive. I come in closer to the Director so I can whisper. “That’s Luuri, Ploog’s best enforcer. See all those things strapped to his tentacles. They’re twitch cannons. They fire based on muscle movements since Yutta don’t have fingers. Watch out for him.”

Luuri’s not a yutta of many words, and today is no different. “No entry.” His bubbling voice is firm. He shifts his body between us and the door.

“Luuri, old pal. Why so rude? We just want to see the show.”

“I’m not your pal, and the day you want to see yutta get naked is the day gouurta fly out of my drelakk.” A drelakk is the yutta equivalent of an anus, and let’s just say that having an animal as large as a gouurta fly out of it would be very uncomfortable.

“Oh, if only we could be so lucky.” I pat Luuri on his…goo and I lean toward him so that I can whisper. “We just want to have a little talk with your boss.”

Yutta value personal space. Invading that space is nothing short of an affront, and gets them very agitated, and when yutta get agitated they tend to tense up. All six of Luuri’s eyes spread wide open, and his body elongates. His tentacles have been waving about all the while, and one suddenly stiffens and points straight out. That’s my chance.

I dart my hand under his tentacle, grab a spot at its base, and squeeze. Luuri spasms, then falls unconscious. I motion for the Director to come with me through the door. He stares at Luuri as we go inside. “That was incredible. How did you do that?”

“Yutta have a nerve cluster at the base of each tentacle. I don’t know what it’s called, but if you squeeze it hard enough they black out.”

“Right. Isn’t that how Daxx…”

“Yeah, yeah, Daxx Lightspeed used that maneuver to escape when Ploog captured him. You do what you can, even if it isn’t original. Cover your eyes.”

The hall we’re rushing along opens up to the main area of the club. Humans tend to vomit when they see naked yutta exposing their genitalia, so we keep a hand over our eyes for as long as the strippers are visible. The Director stumbles and grabs my shirt to guide him while his visibility is limited.

“I remember that scene…er, report. But what you did out there was so much more. That was clever. Daxx got lucky when he did it, but you goaded that thing into giving you an opening. Even I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

The danger has passed, and we lower our hands. “I wouldn’t expect you to. You’re not an expert on the yutta.” The Director flashes an inscrutable smile after I say that.

We reach the door leading to Ploog’s headquarters. The Director grabs for his pistol, but I restrain him. “We can’t go in there with guns blazing. These guys have tentacles filled with cannons. They’d take us out in seconds. Keep your weapon hidden unless things go south. Got it?”

He nods. “Sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out in the field.”

“It’s okay. Just follow my lead.”

I calmly open the door and step inside. Yutta take well to calmness and politeness. It’s the best way to avoid stirring up trouble.

Ploog is reclining in a special hemispherical chair the yutta absolutely love. For some reason it looks funny to me. It makes Ploog look like a yellow hardboiled egg. To the untrained eye he seems to be alone, but a quick scan of the room reveals four bodyguards hidden in niches. My mind races to calculate the best trajectories to take them out. Off to my right is a planter box that could serve as cover in a pinch, but otherwise we are dangerously exposed. At least Ploog’s tentacles are restricted by the chair, and he seems fixated on a vidscreen behind us.

“Gentlemen, I thought our business was finished.”

The Director sidles calmly across the room. “We’re not finished until you tell us the truth.”

“Oh, but I have. If you did not find what you were looking for then you either looked in the wrong place or it was stolen. The desert is thick with thieves.”

“So is the city.” My jab causes Ploog to bend his face and pucker his mouth hole in a Yutta sneer.

“Nevertheless, you will not find what you are looking for here, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, we damn well will!” Then, to my horror, the Director pulls out his pistol.

Fortunately, Ploog holds up a tentacle, and although his men pop out of their niches they don’t fire, even after I draw my own pistol just in case.

“Gentlemen, let us be civilized. I have no desire for bloodshed today. Put those weapons awa…” The Director takes a step and the device on his belt beeps, flashing a green light. He looks down at it and all Hell breaks loose.

Guns blaze in all directions. In a flash I grab the Director’s arm and pull him down behind the planter box, but not before he gets a slug to the shoulder. It isn’t the best cover, but I hope I won’t need it for long. I spin around over the box, my main pistol in one hand and a smaller pistol I keep hidden on my body in the other. The trajectories are in my mind, and four shots later the bodyguards are down, although I’ve gotten a few slugs for my efforts.

Bleeding, but not mortally wounded, I bring my pistols to bear on Ploog. He has a tentacle free, with five twitch cannons fixed on me. The Director has smartly gotten a door in the back open and is crawling into better cover. It doesn’t bother me; I know I am the expendable one.

“He calls himself the Director, doesn’t he? It’s a lie.” Ploog inclines his head toward the vidscreen behind me.

I allow a glance behind me, enough to see footage of the Director giving Daxx Lightspeed some kind of medal. Only it isn’t the same man I came in with.

I dip my gun down, looking dejected, and that sets Ploog at ease. “Are you really willing to die for a decie…” Up comes the gun and I cut Ploog short with a bullet to the brain. Ploog has always loved the sound of his own voice. He never did know enough to shoot someone as soon as he has him dead to rights.

I stagger into the back room. My companion has a device in his hand…the device. It’s disc-shaped. “That was amazing what you did in there. You deserve a comm…”

“Can it. I know you’re not the Director. Who are you?”

He smiles. “Nobody in particular. Just an inventor.” The device flashes a green light. He presses a thumb against it. “It’s time for you to get back in my hea…” And just like that he’s gone.

I shiver momentarily as I step out through a back door into the cool night air. The city is full of light and activity, more so than usual. Cars bearing vidscreens scream by with breathless anchors reporting the sudden end of the ecological crisis. Everything is nice and purple again, it seems. My mind is buzzing with thoughts, memories. I get the car and drive home. More newsvids report the amazing discovery of thousands of new species on Klaxxon IV. The Galactic Council is voting on whether to include the planet in their ranks. Best of all, Daxx Lightspeed has been relegated to a desk job. I pour myself a drink. My communicator buzzes. It’s a message from the top brass of the GIA. I’m up for a promotion, for “exceptional bravery and skill in bringing down a notorious crime lord.” My mind is clearing. I know my past. I see my parents. My puppy’s name was Star.

I look up at the ceiling. “Nobody, eh?”

A Love-Hate Relationship

This morning I woke up to the blinking green light on my phone telling me some e-mail messages had come in overnight. Aside from a family issue, it was mainly useless stuff except for one more thing: a message from the magazine where my short story submission was pending. I cautiously opened it, waited for my eyes to clear up a bit from the sleep blur, and was immediately fixed on the “we regret to inform you…” bit. I didn’t have to read beyond that. Nobody ever regrets to inform me that they really enjoyed my work and want to publish it.

Despite the fact that I’m immediately running to the arms of my blog for comfort, it wasn’t a surprise nor do I disagree with their decision. Sure, any rejection stings a bit, but that’s the nature of rejection. This was not some amazing work I had been laboring years upon years to perfect. It was not the pouring of my soul onto the page. It began as a job application, an attempt to fit a coherent and complete story into the five-page minimum the employer demanded – with an emphasis on dialogue. It was a video game company I was applying to. I got the sense that the dialogue was the key part. They weren’t expecting Shakespeare or anything.

I actually believed and still believe that for the most part it was done well. The ending was a little quick and easy, but taking it farther would have been more trouble than it was worth. Besides, it fed into the theme pretty well. Yes, my five-page story had a theme. Rejection or not, I think it was a good story, but that was all. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t passionate. It wasn’t me opening a vein and bleeding onto the page. It was just a fun little story. I took it as far as I could and I’m satisfied with that. Submitting it for publication was just a “might as well” sort of thing.

Yet as with a story I’ve poured my heart into, this rejection still hurt. I mean I was glad, after four months in limbo, to finally have an answer, but obviously a yes would have been more welcome. This is ultimately why I sat down to write this article. For me at least, writing is a very intimate act. It is vulnerability defined. Writing is a tough mistress, especially if you’re a bit under-confident like myself. Unless you’ve put your heart and soul into a piece it’s probably going to suck, but by putting your heart and soul into a piece you open yourself up to the tearing apart of that core.

What makes it even worse is that writing is also a very unforgiving mistress. She doesn’t hold your hand when you’re out of ideas. She doesn’t soothe you when you’re convinced that every word you drop onto the page is pure and utter trash. She just stands there, stone faced, while you writhe in agony. That is, of course, what makes great writing what it is – the authorial struggle as they bite and claw their way through the morass of jumbled words to a brilliant and insightful tale.

There have been times when I’ve considered quitting. Bugger it all, the aggravation isn’t worth it! I sometimes think writing is the hardest thing in the world, and it may be. So somebody climbed Everest. They always had the slope ahead of them to follow. They could always feel their progress in the ache of their legs and the agony of their labored breathing. All I have is whiteness. A blank page – and me. This is me against me, trying to coax my innermost self out of an unwilling subject. (By the way, I wasn’t putting down mountain climbers. Those are representative of the thoughts I have while writing.)

I come back again every time, all sorrys and I-love-yous. In the end I don’t write because it’s profitable or because I crave the adoration of my fellow man. I write because it’s in my genetic code. If I didn’t write I wouldn’t exist. I hate to take a turn for the melodramatic, but I write to live. Without it I would be an empty miserable shell with no purpose. Even if my fears were all well-founded and I received incontrovertible proof that my writing was not worth the page or electronic bytes it was printed on, I would still write. It’s not just a hobby, it’s a need.

As I write this I’ve been tearing up. I often do that when I’m engrossed in the subject of writing. There’s no rational reason for such an emotional show. It’s not due to the rejection. I’ve pretty much forgotten about that by now. I just get that way when I talk about things that are impactful to me. The only other subject that brings out that reaction is my many bad experiences with women. That opens up deep emotional wounds. Writing does the same thing. It is at once my torturer and my catharsis. It can at one moment have me balled up in fetal defeat and at the next moment stretched out in the luxurious euphoria of the perfect prose. It is my dichotomy, my split personality. Writing is the Hyde to my Jekyll, or maybe vice versa. It is my sadness, insecurity, pain, suffering all poured out into an ugly mess. But it is also my joy, triumph, love, and hope at the same time.

God I hate writing, but I love it!

A Year of Resolution…or Not

thCADYUVBTWell, here we are. Another new year. Last year I was unemployed, without a significant other to be with on New Years, and unpublished as a writer. This year…well, to quote Herman’s Hermits, “Second verse same as the first.” Or in this case, “Second year same as the first.” I don’t even know if I bothered making resolutions last go around. I think I’ve learned by this point that there is no magical transition that occurs on midnight of January 1st that will suddenly make me have the discipline, will, and resolve to do the things I so naïvely hope to accomplish when the year is approaching. The only resolution I could possibly make that I stand any chance of keeping is “Break all of my other resolutions.” However, it’s not really a resolution if you’ve already mastered it.

So what? The Can’t Keep a Resolution Club is a vast one indeed. I’m not upset that I can’t keep resolutions. I’m upset that I keep falling for the silly notion that the arbitrary division between years that serves mainly agricultural purposes would have any sort of impact on me. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t have anyone to kiss or propose to at the stroke of midnight, and I’m not at all enthused by fireworks. New Years has little attraction for me. So why have I had the tendency to fall into that trap of making resolutions? I can’t even keep a resolution to stop making resolutions.

I’ve made the traditional resolutions before: get in shape, finish school, stop smoking, stop robbing liquor stores at gunpoint. Okay, the last two have never been resolutions of mine – I’ve never smoked and I don’t own a gun. I’ve even made resolutions where I tried to stack the deck in my favor: “Finish a few video games,” for instance. I figured the momentum from an accomplished resolution might springboard me into meaningful life changes. Hah!

The most realistic resolutions have been about writing. Finish a project, submit something for publishing – it all seems doable. And it is. But no matter what the resolutions are, they don’t change the fact that the dreamy-eyed idiot feeling excited about the New Year after watching some sparkly ball drop is the same idiot who was such a loser a few minutes earlier that he had to make those broad resolutions in the first place. Did the Earth’s latest swing around the Sun suddenly knock some sense into my thick head? I highly doubt it.

No, what I need to resolve to do is come to grips with the realization that change – realistic change – is a slow process. People can change, but not in an instant, and certainly not cleanly or easily. What I need to resolve to do is stop giving up at the first failure, to stop saying, “To Hell with it!” whenever my resolve is tested. What I need is to stop relying on astrology and ancient calendars to determine my destiny. The only way change comes into my life is to push myself harder in those areas that dissatisfy me. I sit here at the end of each year wondering where my good intentions went. Well, they fled with the giddiness that accompanied the New Year, feelings that thrived for that brief instant before I realized the arm of a clock had clicked upward and a glittery ball had succumbed to gravity and nothing had changed.

So pish to resolutions! Bah humbug to dreams of change! There will be no resolutions for me. I am who I am, and I either have to live with that or find that thing deep inside me that will push past the old habits and start to form new ones. I know what I need to do. No fireworks or confetti or verses of Auld Lang Syne can lull me into a false sense of hope. I have to understand that this is serious. I can and should set goals, but I need to stop relying on the whirling of planets to give me the drive to accomplish them. Nothing out there in the cosmos will give me one sliver of resolve to accomplish the goals I have set for myself. What I have to do is man up, take responsibility, and stop falling for the usual excuses for failure. What I need to do is claw and scratch my way forward until the little successes build to big habit changes. After all, I’ve gone from rarely typing a word into my computer to maintaining a semi-regular blog, all with nary a resolution in sight. Maybe I can get this done without the help of that spinning ball I’m standing on.

Journey: A Love Letter

pricebk:

Concise, well-written piece, although I haven’t been able to play the game yet, she’s definitely put it on my radar.

Originally posted on meginterrupted:

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I’m a leaf on the wind…

When I was little, I remember running as fast as my legs would carry me around the playground in spring. My arms were outstretched as far as I could reach them. My eyes were closed tight. Occasionally I would bend my knees, dip and swoop my body as I streaked across the tarmac. Introducing a few spirited leaps and turns, the fresh air would coolly rush over my skin and through the spaces between my fingers; it would whip and snatch up my hair in its torrents. In my mind –and imagination- I was soaring high from the clear blue hues of daytime through to the pinkish wisps of cloud hanging in the dusk sky. I was flying. But what I remember most about this ‘pretend’ was the very real feeling that swelled up in my chest; it felt a bit like awe, only…

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Unbreakable: A Masterpiece in Glass

pricebk:

Great analysis from one of my favorite bloggers concerning a movie I really liked.

Originally posted on meginterrupted:

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I consider myself a fairly easygoing person when it comes to opinions. Hell, I even talked at length about just how meaningless opinions are in a previous blog post. But -and this is quite a big, contradictory but- there are and always will be a few things that have me fervently arguing my opinion like a loud and untiring child, one of which is the M. Night Shyamalan movie Unbreakable (2000.)

Now before I get started I want to say that I didn’t know the general feeling of audiences at the time of the movie’s release. The first time I saw Unbreakable was a late-night re-run on ITV Movies a few years ago. I have of course heard the stories of audiences booing during the final ‘twist’ scene, the kind that M. Night has become both famous and ridiculed for. I also read reviews citing the poor marketing, which I…

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