Chipped

When I serve myself dinner, I inevitably use one of a certain set of plates. Saying that they are not fancy, is not false modesty, they are metal plates covered in a grey enamel. Well made, durable, but not what you break out when you are expecting company.

Just as I usually use this set, I invariably choose the chipped one. It’s not always the one on top in the cupboard. I choose that one. This made me ponder, “Why do I do that?’

In my childhood, I had an affinity for broken toys and such. Not to say I deliberately broke my toys, (lets chalk those up to accidents or perhaps some were poorly constructed) but seeing something with a defect evoked sympathy in me. I recall one incident, where I was with my mother in a Christmas ornament store and seeing a one-eyed lion yarn lion. I pleaded with my mother to buy it, knowing that if we left without it, that no one else would want a one-eyed lion.

We did not get the one-eyed lion, but one that had little problem with depth perception. I hope that someone else bought that cyclopean king of the beasts, but I still hope it found a home and is cherished to this day.

Do I choose the chipped plate because it would feel sorrow that no one wants to use it? It’s absolutely absurd to think that an inanimate object has feelings. Especially a plate. With no images on it. Just a grey plate. And yet, it’s my first choice. I think I might feel bad using one of the other ones.

I wonder if I choose it because I think we are alike somehow, a little chipped around the edges? If I’m being honest, were I a plate, being chipped might be bottom on my list of defects. Is picking that plate aspirational? Do I think I’m somehow less than a chipped plate?

Maybe I think that’s all I deserve, a chipped plate. Like the rest of humanity, I wrestle with the idea that I don’t deserve to be happy, or to be loved or that I have any worth. To keep you from worrying about me overtly, these are not a constant battle but like everyone, these thoughts do go through my brain.

Perhaps there are people that find joy in all aspects of life, from the successes to the heartbreak. I’m sure it’s a profound way to exist and you are richer for it. I wish I could say I’m one of those people, but it’s not the way I’m wired. Good for those of you that are.

So in the end maybe I find that even if something is imperfect, it still has value. Everyone wants things to be perfect but nothing is. Life is ultimately unfair, but I take comfort that even a flawed thing can be useful and loved. It gives me hope for the future.

And if you’re one of those people who’s life if filled with joy, no matter what, and sees even setbacks as a lesson and a gift from the universe, know this. Everybody else thinks you’re an asshole. Thank the universe for that nugget of wisdom.

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Posted in Thoughts

Verlorener Traum

There’s a point between getting inspired to feeling as though what you thought of is stupid or boring or it’s been done a thousand times before. I’m sure the Germans have a word for it but I don’t know what it is.

Is it our, and I suppose that I mean my, neurosis that takes that brightly burning ember of eureka and plunging it in to the cold, dirty waters of “That’s dumb”? How many times have I thrown away a good idea because my demons (metaphorical) got the better of me?

Not every idea is good, all you have to do is watch the news every day to know that. But it makes me wonder if there is an expiration date for starting a new project. Do you need to start almost immediately in order to bring life to your new idea?

I know that I’ve told this story before, but then I had my inspiration for my novel, “Chosen”, (still available on this site for your perusal) I was on a bus with three heavy bags of groceries. Hardly the idea moment, but that seems the way these things work, at least for me.

As soon as I got home and put everything that needed refrigeration away, I sat down and banged out the basics of my idea. I think if I hadn’t, much like the ice cream I had just bought, it would’ve melted and become an unpalatable mess.

Perhaps inspiration is something to nurtured, or is it a white-hot piece of steel that needs to be immediately beat into the shape you want, or maybe it’s a block of wood that you have to carve away everything that isn’t a bear but you need to start right way or you’ll just be stuck with a big hunk of wood.

I’m using a lot more metaphors than usual this week. Strange.

It’s a good thing that I wrote all this down as soon I thought of it, or else, it may have been lost to the ages. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it’s a thing and that will have to be good enough.

By the way, Lost Dream in German is “Verlorener Traum.“

Auf Wiedersehen.

Posted in Thoughts

This & That

Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D as it’s more frequently referred to, is the most popular and the first tabletop role playing game. The alliterative name spawned many games that followed that specific convention.

There was T&T (Tunnels and Trolls), V&V (Villains and Vigilantes), S&S (Starships & Spacemen), and M&M (Mazes and Minotaurs). It’s a title style that has generally fallen out of favor, with some exceptions, but I think the RPG community might benefit from revisiting this as a source of inspiration. Here’s some ideas I’ve had.

C&C (Copies and Collocating)
Set in the 1980s, you play temp workers in office of a huge corporation who must compete against each other to duplicate a never-ending pile of documents that must be filed exactly in brown cardboard boxes. This is ceaseless work and will cost you WTL (Will To Live) Points. Lose too many and you will not get your time sheet signed. You can recharge by hiding the storeroom and napping but beware the dreaded Middle Manager!

G&G (Gin and Ginger)
There are no dice in this game, it’s just to see how many gin and ginger cocktails you can drink in a single sitting. You cannot get up to pee, pass out or vomit. The last one who is at least semi-coherent is the winner. Full disclosure: this maybe just be an excuse to binge drink.

R&R (Of Remembrance and Robots)
Players are mechanical beings programmed to debate deep philosophical issues and the nature of the soul. They infiltrate prestigious universities and try to overcome the entitled notions of pretentious graduate students. Roll handfuls of dice to see how well you crush their preconceived notions. (I acknowledge that technically it should be OR&R but lets just say that the O is silent.)

L&L (Losing & Looking)
Place all your minis and dice on either the dining room table or coffee table. Leave your home with a cat inside. Come back and try to find your minis and dice that have been scattered by the cat. If you can find everything quickly, your cat is not trying hard enough. In that case, get a new cat.

H&H (Hammer and Harlequins)
Evil clowns (redundant I know) have invaded. How many can you dispatch with a mallet? Fun for anyone who hates clowns. So everybody. This also works as a LARP

C&C (Cheese and Crackers)
In this game you watch the news and try to use non-obscene exclamations, such as fudge nuggets, son of a Brooklyn Bridge, dagnabbit, and go lick a duck! Every time you slip up, you have to take a drink. Sorry, get to take a drink.

Z&Z (Zebras and Zombies)
You ride zebras in a zombie apocalypse using a variety of weapons. The twist, the zebras do NOT want to be ridden. This maybe the shortest of the games presented.

M&M (Mansplaining and Murder)
All the PCs are female who resist the urge to not kill men who try to explain the rules to them and there are a lot of rules!

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J.R.R. and I

I’m a huge Tolkien fan and have been since I read The Hobbit at age ten. In re-reading his work, I always find something new. I’ve delved into supplemental books that catalogue his characters, lands and history. I cannot claim a scholar’s knowledge of Middle Earth, as Barliman Butterbur would say, one thing pushes out another, but I do love it and have a decent awareness of the goings on in the Shire and the wider world.

I’m fortunate enough to live in New York City and a few days ago, went to see at the Morgan Library and Museum, this exhibit, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. If you are in NYC and are a fan of the Professor’s work, please do yourself a favor and go! And here’s a life hack, if you go on Friday night after seven, admission is free, otherwise, it’s twenty-two dollars to see the exhibition. I’d advise arriving before seven as there will be a line and entrance to the exhibit is not guaranteed.

The first thing to say is that is totally worth your time, they have original artwork by Tolkien, some of which you have seen, others you have not. His early abstract doodles, some on newspaper, are in a word, trippy, not what you would expect from an Oxford academic. Some of them were Númenorian designs, a thing I didn’t know existed.

Secondly, it is not nearly as large as I’d desired, filling only one gallery. If they filled an entire building with Tolkien artifacts, it would probably seem too small. That being said, it is still a delight

And there were maps! Like a certain Hobbit, I love maps, specifically of made up places. Some of these were roughly drawn, not for publication, but for reference as he wrote, with notes scribbled on the sides. (More on that later) There were also, not spreadsheets exactly, but charts of where the various characters were and what they were doing at any given time. Since everybody dispersed at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring, it’s a good idea, considering how long it took him to write the Lord of the Rings.

In a case, they had a reply he had written to someone who had a number of questions about Middle Earth and the languages used by the inhabitants. It was full of fascinating details. Did you know that Orc is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning demon? Well, now you and I both now know that. It was five or six pages long and being a completist, I read the whole thing, even the paragraph about the various pronunciations and spellings of the name Olaf. Spoilers, there more than you thought.

Aside from all the wonderful illustrations and history there were two things I came away with after leaving. One, his handwriting was atrocious, and two, he made typos.

These are not criticisms, not at all. It made me feel closer to him as result. The letter I just wrote about had multiple corrections by Tolkien, because re-typing letters is a long a tedious process and he didn’t have a laptop. I’m the king of typos, and need my writings to be proof read. If any are still there, that’s on me.

While I know that Tolkien was a human being, prone to the failing of all people, it still makes me feel better to know he shared this flaw with me. Full disclosure, he made far fewer typos than I would using a typewriter.

As for the handwriting, we’ve seen his beautiful letters on his maps, easily read and evoking the magic of Middle Earth. Well, when he was making notes, it’s quite another story. I tried to read everything there but some of it was just illegible.

My handwriting, such as it is, seems more suited for a rambling manifesto or the ravings of a madman, and I’m not talking about Don Draper. In my youth, attempts were made to correct this but with no success. This is why I’m happy to live in the time of word processing.

Of course, I know that some typos and scribbles do not make me anything like Tolkien. However, it is comforting that he had some of the same foibles that I do, even if they are of a lesser degree than mine.

Now if only I knew the correct way to pronounce Olaf.

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Lent me a feeling

Lent begins this Wednesday and though I’m not Catholic, I have a few suggestions on stuff to give up.

1- Schadenfreude. Also known as “Shameful Joy”, this is when you enjoy other people’s suffering. I know that will be especially difficult during Lent when Mark from accounting gave up caffeine and is twitchy as hell. Sure it’s funny to see him detox before your very eyes, but try not to record it and put it online for the whole world to see. Do that on Easter.
2- Defending the indefensible. Sure you stretch your creativity when you stand up for ideas that are clearly wrong and probably illegal. Some people spin a fantasy so incredible that would put George R.R. Martin to shame. While I can appreciate the work you all do, not you George, we’re still waiting for books six and seven, it has to be exhausting. Just say, “You’re right, that’s clearly a crime and probably racist to boot.” See how good that feels? I know Lent is supposed to be a sacrifice but some good can come from it as well.
3- Switch your dietary lifestyle- Meat eaters become vegans, and vegans eat meat. In this way, a carnivore will no longer feel like they are on the top of the food chain and vegans will no longer feel like they are better than anyone else. It will be tough on both of you but in the end, everyone will be unhappy. Mission accomplished.
4- Animal videos. This will be really tough. These videos are God damned adorable. Kittens riding turtles? Dogs being friends with goats? Otters delivering hot meals to the homebound? It’s all gold. It refreshes your soul and lets you know that there is still something pure and sweet in the world. Too bad Lent is about suffering or maybe it’s about sacrifice. Either way, don’t watch.
5- Easter candy. It’s delicious and 50% off the day after Easter. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Note: this might be cheating but do you really want to give up beer? I didn’t think so.

Just remember, if you’re enjoying Lent, you’re doing it wrong. And that’s coming from an agnostic.

Posted in Thoughts

Procrastination Nation

Procrastination has a bad reputation, but I’m not sure it’s deserved. Sure if you do something right away it will give you piece of mind but what about the thrill of racing against the clock? Paying your credit card bill online minuets before the deadline will make you feel like an action hero defusing a bomb! Is your pulse racing? Does a single drop of sweat roll down your forehead? Those who set up auto-payment will never know that true excitement!

Barbecue is based on low and slow. Sure that sounds good, but that involves a lot of planning. Ugh! A hard pass on that. Do you need to make a meal for family or friends? Time for high and fry. Super high temperature frying. Everything tastes better fried. Chicken, fish, pasta, even soup. Mmmm. Crunchy soup is the best!

To say nothing of inspiration. When your back is against the wall, your true creativity will not just spark it will be an inferno! Did you know that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace over a long weekend? Well he did, and no rewrites were needed. Amazing, but totally true. No need to research it.

But there is one secret about procrastination that few know. Something so profound that it will shift your worldview and flip everything you know upside-down. When you read it, you’ll wonder how this didn’t occur to you before. It’s simplicity and insightfulness will change your life. Are you ready? Really ready? Brace yourself, because here it comes.

Wait, sorry, I just got a text. Just hold on.

Posted in Thoughts

Write What You Know

The blank page can become anything, a wide vista full of beautiful scenery populated by a never ending parade of characters, each unique, from commoner to queen with plot twists that can surprise even most cynical reader.

Today, he thought, it is an endless void, filled with nothing, except perhaps the hollow, mocking laughter of self-doubt and fear that he had nothing left to say. The blinking cursor taunted him with metronome-like precision.

Perhaps some mindless chores. It would be as a meditation. Perfect. A few hours later, he still had no idea of what to write but at least his clothes were clean.

Maybe he just needed something to eat. Opening the refrigerator did not provide any insight, or a different selection of food. Wait, there’s a Chinese take out container! Damn, empty… Why didn’t he throw it away before? The sound it made dropping into the garbage brought a momentary satisfaction, but no new ideas.

Inspiration must lie somewhere. Picking a volume, he begins to read. Words flowed smoothly and easily, a river of ideas that seemed effortless. While he knew, in his heart of hearts, that writing is rewriting, it only reminded him that he had to write before he could rewrite.

His eyes glanced toward his TV, perhaps something to distract him. Tempting, oh so tempting! Something mindless! You must empty the vessel to fill it! Just a little Netflix. NO! That way lies binging. It is a trap.

Music, that’s just the thing. Let the notes flow over and around. Something will spark. Just close your eyes and…

A refreshing nap and a dream! A house made of… Damn, it’s gone. It was weird but maybe it could’ve been a start. Now restlessness has set in.

Time for a walk, being outside will bring a new perspective. The world is filled with stories, so it’s said. Leave the phone, the internet is the most perilous, a devourer of time and a distraction without equal. Back in the charger you go.

Maybe something in the world will motivate. Just have to listen and be open what is there, he says to himself silently. That of course, is that trick.

Posted in Thoughts